NBA: Giannis wants to ‘expedite’ Lillard chemistry with Bucks


Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton and head coach Adrian Griffin pose for a picture during the NBA basketball team’s media day in Milwaukee Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to focus on film study with new superstar teammate Damian Lillard so they will have chemistry before ever taking the court together for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Even as Lillard was declaring it was the right moment for him to arrive on an NBA title contender after last week’s trade from Portland, two-time Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo was working to maximize them as a deadly combination.

“Having a guy like Dame on the team, it’s unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo said Monday. “Plays at a high level, built from the same cloth, wants to win. He’s extremely hungry.”

The 28-year-old Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their first title in 50 years in 2021 and with 33-year-old guard Lillard adding a talented pick-and-roll partner and outside shooting threat, a second crown in four seasons isn’t out of reach.

“We’ve got to watch film together because we have to expedite our chemistry,” Antetokounmpo said.

“We cannot just wait to play in training camp and first pre-season game and figure things out. We’ve got to get in the film room and try to track with one another, see how can we click, how can our games come together.

“At the end of the day I know we’re both willing to be ourselves and let the other guy be himself because I need Dame to be Dame and I think he needs me to be me.”

Oddsmakers like the combination, moving the Bucks to the most fancied of NBA title contenders for the campaign just over three weeks away.

“I believe, and people believe, we’re one of the best teams in the East,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s not about what we believe or what people believe. It’s about what we do.”

Lillard likes Milwaukee, from the reception he received at a rally to welcome him Saturday to the inner workings a team that has won a title, a feat he has never achieved.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Damian Lillard Bucks NBA

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard pose for a picture during the NBA basketball team’s media day in Milwaukee Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“In this moment, this is what it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to be here. I’m excited for what’s to come,” Lillard said. “I wouldn’t do anything differently. I’m here at the time I’m supposed to be here and I’m excited for this moment.”

Lillard, a seven-time All-Star with the Trail Blazers who helped the US team win Tokyo Olympic gold, says tribulations over 11 NBA seasons all spent in Portland made him ready for this chance.

“I’m ultimately prepared for this time. I’ve had success and failure, good and bad moments. I’ve had enough experiences to shape me to be ready for this now to where I can handle it,” Lillard said.

“Mentally and as far as where my game is, I’m prepared for it.”

‘Boost of energy’

Lillard was ready for a change and a next step in his evolution as a player.

“They want to win equally as bad as I do. I couldn’t be more excited, I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity, to play alongside the best player in the league. It’s going to be fun,” Lillard said.

“To walk in with something like that (rally) was special. It was a great welcoming and it’s something I really appreciated. It has only made me more excited to be here, more excited to get to work.”

Lillard called his new club “a boost of energy and focus and excitement.”

“You make your way around and you start to see the level of the organization,” he said. “They won a championship so it’s the standard.

“I’ve been striving for that. That’s something I’ve been wanting to get closer to, so to walk into that type of environment and complement that environment so well, for it to be a humble environment, small market similar to what I’ve been in, it feels safe.”

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Watching others win titles pushed Lillard to escape the familiar.

“How much I wanted to opportunity to win just became more powerful than me worrying about other things,” he said. “I want to win and the way it affects me, when I watch other people win, I was like, I just have to have the opportunity to do it.”

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