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Thanasis Antetokounmpo was “close” to rejoining the Knicks

Whoever sews the names on Knicks jerseys dodged a bullet.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New York Knicks Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview posted today at, Thanasis Antetokounmpo discussed the interest he had received from the New York Knicks during his free agency. Here are the relevant bits:

Many were surprised by Shams Charania’s report suggesting you were getting some big interest from the Knicks. Just how close were you to leaving Milwaukee for New York?

Close. Obviously, Giannis is my brother, and obviously, I love Milwaukee. I love Milwaukee. But at the same time... I want to play. You always want to play and feel important. And at the same time, you want, like... It’s just because of how I am as a player. That would be different if I were in Europe and any other team. But now it became a little bit more like, oh, okay, he’s on the team because...

But I was like: you know what? No. Why would I do this?

Ultimately, I sat down with the new coach [Adrian Griffin]. During the free agency, I was off in Greece. But I sat down with the new coach and talked with him. He said he appreciates the way I play, he values my game. You know, every coach has a different opinion of everybody. But when I picked the teams, hearing the coach and everything... I thought this was the place for me. […]

What ultimately was the deal-break that you decided against moving to the Knicks?

I wouldn’t say it was a deal breaker...

Was there a specific conversation that had a major influence on your decision?

I was in Greece all the time. So, while I was in Greece, I didn’t talk about free agency...

So, only Giannis had the power to influence your choice...

No, but not only Giannis... We have a great culture in Milwaukee. We have great stuff. And just with the change and everything... Two years ago, when I hit the free agency and signed a two-year deal, many teams wanted to give me an opportunity. And back then, I thought I was part of a winning culture and a winning team. But at the same time, I wanted an opportunity to help the team in any way that I could.

Thanasis is, of course, brother to two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. A power forward hailing from Greece, Thanasis was picked 51st in the 2014 draft by the New York Knicks. In the 2015-16 season, he appeared in two games for the club. He also logged time in the D-League and on international clubs before signing with Milwaukee in 2019.

The Knicks were most likely looking for a big body to pick up spare minutes behind Julius Randle, New York’s starting power forward. Randle’s previous understudy, Obi Toppin, was dealt to the Indiana Pacers this summer.

Thanasis re-signed with the Milwaukee in late July, however. Over the last four seasons with the Bucks, Thanasis averaged about eight minutes, two points, and two boards per game. He appeared in 162 contests and started 11 over that span. For the Knicks, he most likely would have been a “Break in Case of Emergency” guy.

You can read the full interview here.