In all likelihood, Thanasis Antetokounmpo will never play another game for the New York Knicks. Greek Freak: The Sequel played on Broadway for all of two games during his 10-day contract. He played six total minutes and knocked down three shots, including this one in his NBA debut:
And then he was gone, quickly overshadowed by the circus that was the Jimmer Fredette 10-day contract. Thanasis failed to capture the attention of the drunk, bitter MSG crowds to quite the extent that Jimmer did, which is a damn shame. The kid from Athens put his heart into this organization for the past two seasons.
Two years ago the Knicks joined the latest NBA trend by creating their own D-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks. Thanasis, the kid with the famous last name and the ferocious dunks, was the main attraction that first season. He was on the MSG commercials, he made the public appearances. The Knicks decided against signing the second-round pick to the big club and burning his rights, despite the fact that the 17-65 Knicks would have provided ample opportunity for a young player to test himself against NBA talent. Perhaps we should have seen it as a sign of the organization's lack of faith.
The front office finally did sign Thanasis before the start of their 2015-16 ... and promptly cut him before the start of the regular season. Thanasis kept plugging away in Westchester before a spate of injuries prompted New York to sign him. Was it merely a "thank you" move, for all he's done for their nascent farm team? Perhaps. But the kid got to live out his dream regardless.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo still lacks a reliable jump shot and the preternatural basketball sense of his younger brother. For right now he is what the baseball world refers to as "quad-A" player -- he is of one organization, but caught between the Majors and the Minors. Players like Thanasis are the next step in the evolution of the NBA/D-League partnership. When the NBA club and its D-League affiliate work in harmony, a player like Thanasis already knows the system and can step in right away in case of injury. This is especially important to the Knicks, who run the complicated Triangle offense. It's nice to see the MSG brain trust -- not exactly known for forward thinking over the years -- to take a proactive stance on the New York/Westchester relationship.
But the NBA is not baseball. The Knicks have his D-League rights this season by designating him an affiliate player, but another NBA club is free to sign him at any time. And there is always Europe, which could be enticing for a player who knows his NBA chances are slim.
If Thanasis Antetokounmpo decides to try his luck with another organization's Summer League squad, or even head overseas, it won't mean much to most Knicks fans. But he will be missed in Westchester.