At shootaround Tuesday, Bucks coach Larry Drew told reporters that Giannis Antetokounmpo was “going to get his feet wet” against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Milwaukee’s preseason opener.
That turned into a gigantic understatement.
Milwaukee’s first-round pick played a game-high 29 minutes and scored 14 points with four rebounds and three blocks in a 99-87 exhibition loss to Cleveland.
Were there mistakes? Plenty of them. But the talent Antetokounmpo possesses shined through the rawness in the 18-year-old’s NBA debut.
One performance against mostly backups and players fighting for a roster spot isn’t going to suddenly thrust the expectations for Antetokounmpo’s rookie season through the roof, but the Greek forward proved there’s plenty to work with. Bucks general manager John Hammond wants fans to see glimpses of the vast potential, just to prove the patience will be worth it.
Surprisingly, Antetokounmpo doesn’t seem as overmatched as expected. His poise and confidence are impressive for a kid his age, especially one who hadn’t set foot in this country until the draft. There were glimpses of his potential to be a great passer, he ferociously blocked a shot solely because of his length and hit a couple of jump shots.
There’s still a long way to go. Antetokounmpo committed five turnovers, many of them very avoidable in the future. He stepped out of bounds while bringing the ball up the court, made careless passes he might have gotten away with previously and committed offensive fouls that will go away with experience. Antetokounmpo’s defense needs the most work and that was on display, as well. He was slow on rotations and struggled defending the pick and roll.
This was just a step on in a potentially long learning process, but Antetokounmpo’s debut went about as well as it could have.
Ersan leaves early: Bucks power forward Ersan Ilyasova left Tuesday’s game with 7:39 left in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle and did not return.
Ilyasova went up in the air to contest a shot and came down on the foot of Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack, rolling his right ankle. After a couple of minutes on the court, Ilyasova was helped to the locker room.
According to FOXSports.com’s Sam Amico, Ilyasova left the arena on crutches and will have the ankle examined further Wednesday in Cleveland.
“I’ve twisted that ankle before, but never that bad,” Ilyasova said. “It really hurts when I step on it. It’s disappointing.”
Prior to spraining his ankle, Ilyasova scored six points and hit three of his four shots in nine minutes of action.
The Bucks played without forward Ekpe Udoh (right knee), center Zaza Pachulia (Achilles) and forward Carlos Delfino (right foot).