OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s unlikely that anyone would look at Giannis Antetokounmpo and say the 23-year-old is out of shape. The 6-foot-11, 242-pound Milwaukee Bucks star is a chiseled, dynamic athlete — hardly the image of someone who isn’t physically fit.
But ask the man himself and he’ll share a different opinion.
“I’m kind of tired after games now, but I just have to get myself in better shape. That’s how I feel,” Antetokounmpo said. “The last game against Minnesota I told Coach I got to play more because I want to get in shape. He told me, ‘Giannis, you’re in great shape.’ I’m like, ‘Not for me. For what I can do I’m not.’ I know when I’m in great shape.
“Especially with the offense we’re going to run now I don’t want to just go through the motions. I want to be aggressive. I want to be out there dominating plays, being able to go for the offensive rebound and be the first guy back to block the shot.”
Antetokounmpo’s outlook is colored by something he heard from LeBron James last year. That’s when, after the opening game of the season, James asserted that he was “very out of shape for my expectations.” Antetokounmpo heard that and couldn’t believe it, but as he watched James over the next few days and weeks he started to understand what he meant.
For James to be at his best, he needs to be able to do everything on the court night after night. That means it’s not enough to be in shape; rather, he needs to be in exceptional shape. That’s what Antetokounmpo is aiming to do himself this season.
“Probably I’m around 60, 65 percent,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m not close, but I’m going to get there.”
Antetokounmpo was one of five Bucks players sitting out Tuesday’s preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder specifically to get rest. Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez also were held out.
That group of players, as well as injured players D.J. Wilson and Thon Maker, stayed on the court for their own extra work sessions following shootaround. Antetokounmpo outlasted all of them, staying on the court for more than an hour, first playing a game of rotating one-on-one with Middleton and Wilson then heading to the other end of the floor to work with assistant coach Ben Sullivan on his three-point shooting.