After Giannis Antetokounmpo's 2018-19 season was capped off with a first – winning the MVP award – the Milwaukee Bucks star completed yet another first in a completely different sport.

Antetokounmpo had never before touched a baseball, but that changed at Yankee Stadium on Monday.

The forward towered over the Yankees' players as he got to see the field and also take a few swings in the batting cage.

It took a few tries at first. Antetokounmpo swung and missed and barely made contact on his next few attempts, but then he finally hit the ball off the tee, which caused the players who were watching to cheer.

Antetokounmpo, who was in town with his brothers promoting his new signature shoe, also watched the team's batting practice as New York prepared to host Tampa Bay.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said he is yet to reach his full potential, despite an NBA MVP-winning season.

Antetokounmpo capped off his sixth season in the league with MVP honours after edging James Harden and Paul George.

The 'Greek Freak' led the Bucks to the Eastern Conference Finals before Milwaukee fell to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors.

"There's a lot of things I can improve on," Antetokounmpo told ESPN. "First of all, [I have to] look at myself before I look at anybody else. Try to self-improve as much as possible. There are a lot of things that I got to work on in my game.

"A lot of people say, 'You are the MVP, you are one of the best players in the league, you are so dominant. But I think I can get better. I think I am at 60 percent of my potential, as good as I can be. I just want to be better. If I am in the same situation again [in the conference finals], react better, play the game better, play better, execute better."

Despite the disappointing playoff exit to the Raptors, Antetokounmpo made a strong case for himself when he helped Milwaukee to the NBA's best record at 60-22.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game.

He shot 57.8 per cent from the field but just 25.6 per cent from behind the arc in the regular season.

Antetokounmpo nearly bested his regular-season averages in the playoffs, recording 25.5 points and 12.3 rebounds throughout the postseason for the Bucks. But he struggled at times as Toronto zeroed in on him during the conference finals.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has called the roster changes around the NBA "insane" after a stunning series of trades and free agency signings.

Star names Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and Paul George have been on the move in a sensational off-season.

"A lot of star players have a lot of power right now. This is the league we live in," Antetokounmpo told ESPN. "Like people ask for a trade and a trade happens. Players ask for a trade, 'I want to get traded there', and players go there. It's insane."

Leonard opted to join the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency, shaking up the Eastern Conference after he had led the Toronto Raptors to their first title in the franchise's history.

"For me personally, I would love for Kawhi to stay in the East and stay in Toronto because I would love to go through the series [with them] again," Antetokounmpo added.

"But unfortunately, this is the NBA we are talking about. Moves happen. People change teams. But we [have] got an opportunity right now. We [have] got to take advantage of it, and hopefully we can seize the opportunity and make big things happen.

"You can see a lot of stars all over the place. Clippers, Lakers, Brooklyn, Sixers, Boston ... it's good."

Despite the number of moves throughout the league, Antetokounmpo, entering his seventh season with Milwaukee, believes he can stay with the Bucks and win a championship.

"I want to be a part of a winning team," Antetokounmpo continued. "As long as we have the same mindset and same approach to the game, there's no reason for me to move and not be like Steph [Curry], not like be like Dirk [Nowitzki] or Kobe [Bryant] or Tim Duncan.

"I think it's good to control your own destiny and your own career."

The balance of power continues to shift in the NBA, as Kawhi Leonard's decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers makes the league a lot more interesting.

At the beginning of 2018-19, many seemed to believe the road to the NBA Finals ran through the Boston Celtics. Then the Milwaukee Bucks posted the best record in the league just a year removed from finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. 

But it was the Toronto Raptors who dethroned the
Golden State Warriors in the end, and now they will have a new look without their superstar. Plenty of other teams are hungry for glory and now is the perfect time to strike.

Here are three teams that could now take over the Eastern Conference:

 

Milwaukee Bucks

The Eastern Conference is now wide open, but the Bucks are ahead of the pack. After all, they retained two All-Stars — one being reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee underwent a serious transformation under Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer last season. Antetokounmpo has put up historically strong numbers in the paint, but the Bucks were also among the league leaders in three-point attempts.

Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will likely be constants, but it remains to be seen how the chemistry will be after losing Malcolm Brogdon.

Milwaukee simply have the centrepiece every other team wish they had in Antetokounmpo, so there is no reason to count them out just yet.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers may have lost an All-Star-calibre player in Jimmy Butler this offseason, but they will be just fine.

Philadelphia were one circus buzzer-beater away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are bringing back plenty of talent in 2019-20. The 76ers flipped Butler to the Miami Heat in exchange for Josh Richardson and lured Al Horford away from the Celtics, giving them what might be the best defensive line-up in basketball.

Small Ball? Philadelphia have never heard of it, as the shortest wingspan on their current roster is 6-10. 

The 76ers' starting group will likely feature Richardson, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Joel Embiid. And then there is second-year guard Zhaire Smith, who was voted the most athletic player in the 2018 NBA Draft by his peers but missed most of last season due to an unfortunate allergic reaction.

Philadelphia have size, playmaking, strong defense and four players that could get legitimate All-Star consideration in the coming season. Embiid's questionable health could be a facto but getting a versatile big like Horford that can fill in if he goes down will definitely keep the 76ers in contender conversations.

Brooklyn Nets

Even if Kevin Durant cannot play until 2020, the Nets should be better this season. They lost D'Angelo Russell to the Warriors, but Kyrie Irving can be a considerable upgrade if the pieces come together just right.

Both Russell and Irving are high-usage guards, but Irving is more efficient and poses the kind of threat that makes every player on the opposing team watch him when the ball is in his hands. 

Brooklyn added veterans in DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple that should pair nicely with returning pieces like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris, who was one of the most prolific three-point shooters in 2018-19 — converting 47.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

But the wild card is Caris LeVert, who arguably was the Nets' best player before a leg injury sidelined him last November. The 24-year-old guard was establishing himself as Brooklyn's go-to guy and now he has had a whole offseason to recover after showing flashes of his potential in the 2018-19 playoffs.

Adding Durant to a group like this could prove to be lethal and would certainly make the Nets a force to be reckoned with.

Nikola Mirotic has left the NBA to sign with Euroleague club Barcelona, the team confirmed on Saturday.

Mirotic, formerly a Real Madrid player, had been expected to be one of the top NBA free agents on the market this week after leaving the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks linked.

It was reported he would have received offers of more than $45million had he stayed in the league, but it was also speculated he wanted a bigger role than would be on the table.

Former Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans forward Mirotic has instead signed a deal to keep him at Barca until 2022, with the option of a fourth season.

Veteran free agent Pau Gasol is ready to get back on the court.

Gasol, who became a free agent on Sunday, wants to return to the NBA next season.

The 38-year-old told ESPN he was progressing well from the left foot procedure to repair a stress fracture that cost him the tail end of 2018-19.

"My recovery from surgery has been smooth and I expect to be fully cleared for basketball activities in early August," Gasol said.

"I cannot wait to start training again."

The six-time All-Star was bought out by the San Antonio Spurs in March before he signed on with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Gasol told a Spanish newspaper, Mundo Deportivo, in mid-June if his recovery goes well, he can "continue playing at a high level".

He previously stated he wants a chance to win a championship with the Bucks and has a strong desire to play in Milwaukee.

"Having continuity in the Bucks is something that I think would be positive and that I would like," Gasol said.

"I made the decision to leave San Antonio to join this project that I believe has real potential to win the NBA title. This season we were close."

Gasol wrapped up his 18th year in the NBA this past season and has won two titles as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gasol has career averages of 17 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo completed Kobe Bryant's first challenge by becoming the NBA's MVP on Monday - and now the former great has told him to win a title.

Antetokounmpo beat James Harden and Paul George to his first MVP award after an outstanding season in which he led the Milwaukee Bucks to the league's best regular season record.

The Greek had been challenged by Los Angeles Lakers icon Bryant to earn the individual honour on Twitter two years ago and the 40-year-old took to his social media account again to congratulate the MVP.

Quoting his post from 2017, Bryant wrote: "My man....M.V.P. Greatness. Next up: Championship. #MambaMentality"

Antetokounmpo was asked about Bryant's first challenge in his post-awards news conference.

"Definitely it was really motivating," he said. "Kobe saying that I can be the MVP of this league, that should be my goal, that definitely motivated me and wanted to make me a better player.

"I think my motivation came after my dad passed away and after the support system that I had with my family. But definitely Kobe, he's the one that started the flame, definitely."

The 24-year-old appears more than happy to take on Bryant's next task, too, having said in his acceptance speech: "My goal is to win a championship."

Expanding on his comments to the media, Antetokounmpo added: "Definitely the journey hasn't ended yet.

"There are a lot of goals that I have set for myself and for the team also, and I'm a guy that whenever I set goals I try to accomplish them, no matter what.

"At the end of the day, I'm going to stay hungry. I have the guys that support me on a daily basis and, as long as they're there for me, I'm going to stay hungry and chase my dreams.

"I'm always going to chase my goals because that's what my family wants me to do, and that's what people that know me want me to do."

Giannis Antetokounmpo was overcome with emotion as he delivered a heartfelt speech after being crowned the NBA's Most Valuable Player.

Milwaukee Bucks star Antetokounmpo was named the 2018-19 MVP ahead of James Harden and Paul George at the NBA awards in Los Angeles on Monday.

Antetokounmpo joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the second Bucks player to win the MVP, capping a stellar season for the 24-year-old Greek sensation in Milwaukee.

"Obviously my dad is not here with me..." Antetokounmpo said as the crowd encouraged him with applause.

"Two years ago, I had to go in my head that I'm going to be the best player in the league, that I'm going to do whatever it takes to help my team win and that I'm going to win the MVP and every day that I step on the floor I always think about my dad.

"That motivates me and pushes me to play hard and move forward even when my body's sore, even when I don't feel like playing I always go show up."

Antetokounmpo, who finished his sixth season with the Bucks, was a favourite heading into the night, along with 2017-18 recipient and Houston Rockets star Harden.

He made a strong case for himself when he helped Milwaukee to the NBA's best record at 60-22 before a run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo's efforts — 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game — saw him honoured as the league's best player.

"MVP is not about stats and numbers. It is all about winning and all about making sure you go out there and do everything you can to win," Antetokounmpo – who became the youngest winner since Derrick Rose in 2010-11 – said. "I think that is what we did as a team."

Antetokounmpo added: "This is just the beginning. My goal is to win a championship, as my dad taught me. Always want more and never be greedy. My goal is to win a championship and I will do whatever it takes to make that happen."

The 2019 NBA awards took place on Monday, and some of the biggest names in sports were honoured.

Current NBA players, basketball legends and others received recognition for their efforts on and off the court.

Here are three takeaways from the 2019 NBA Awards:

 

There were no real surprises

Monday's events went like most people expected them to.

The players that were supposed to win did just that, so there were not any shocking reactions.

The best the NBA had to offer were simply dominant in their respective categories. 

 

TNT tried to mix things up

Shaquille O'Neal hosted the NBA awards and TNT made it a point to use his larger-than-life personality to amp up the crowd.

The 7-1 Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers icon, actor and analyst danced, sang and was even replaced by an imposter for a few minutes. It was interesting to say the least.

The coverage probably lasted a little bit too long, but at least there was an effort to make it entertaining.

 

Giannis was emotional for first MVP

Giannis Antetokounmpo clearly appreciated winning such a prestigious award. He broke into tears while delivering his acceptance speech.

The Milwaukee Bucks star entered the league as a raw, lanky teen as the 15th overall pick in 2013. In just six seasons, he developed his skills and became the MVP.

Antetokounmpo is now part of an elite group.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and his MVP success headlined the NBA awards.

Antetokounmpo capped a stellar season to be crowned the league's most valuable player.

The 24-year-old averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists this season. He shot 57.8 per cent from the field and added 1.5 blocks per game.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was named the Rookie of the Year, while Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam secured Most Improved Player.

Here is a complete list of the 2019 NBA award finalists and winners:

 

Most Valuable Player

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Other finalists: Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder), James Harden (Houston Rockets)

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

Other finalists: Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)

Coach of the Year

Winner: Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee Bucks)

Other finalists: Michael Malone (Denver Nuggets), Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers)

Sixth Man Award

Winner: Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers)

Other finalists: Montrezl Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) 

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)

Other finalists: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Most Improved Player

Winner: Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)

Other finalists: De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings), D'Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)

NBA Cares Community Assist Award

Winner: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

Other finalists: Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets) Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Dwight Powell (Dallas Mavericks), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)

Twyman-Stokes Team-mate of the Year Award

Winner: Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)

Other finalists: Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder), Jared Dudley (Brooklyn Nets), Channing Frye (Cleveland Cavaliers), Rudy Gay (San Antonio Spurs), Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat), Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors), Kyle Korver (Utah Jazz), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), JJ Redick (Philadelphia 76ers), Garrett Temple (Los Angeles Clippers), Thaddeus Young (Indiana Pacers)

Sportsmanship Award

Winner: Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)

Other finalists: Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder), Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), Al Horford (Boston Celtics), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winners: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson

Sager Strong Award

Winner: Robin Roberts

Hustle Award

Winner: Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)

Moment of the Year

Winner: Derrick Rose's 50-point game against the Utah Jazz.

Executive of the Year

Winner: Jon Horst (Milwaukee Bucks)

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been named the 2018-19 NBA Most Valuable Player.

Antetokounmpo took home his first MVP during Monday's ceremony at Barker Hangar in Los Angeles.

After a run to the Eastern Conference Finals in his sixth campaign with the Bucks, Antetokounmpo beat last season's MVP James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George to the honour.

The 24-year-old Greek sensation became the youngest MVP since Derrick Rose in 2010-11 and first Bucks player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1973-74 to win the award.

Antetokounmpo made a strong case for himself when he helped Milwaukee to the NBA's best record at 60-22.

His efforts — 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game — were enough to beat out Houston Rockets star Harden for the hardware.

Harden, who has now been an MVP runner up three times in his career, averaged a league-high 36.1 points per game for the second-most in one season in modern NBA history — behind only Michael Jordan, who averaged 37.1 in 1986-87.

The Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs when they fell to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

"We'll be back stronger and better," Antetokounmpo wrote on Instagram after the loss. "Milwaukee thank you for supporting my teammates and I this entire season we couldn't have done it without you all!"

Antetokounmpo was unanimously selected to the All-NBA and All-Defensive first team.

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo insisted the Milwaukee Bucks will be "back stronger and better" after failing to reach the NBA Finals.

Top seeds the Bucks were beaten by the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals following Saturday's 100-94 defeat in Game 6.

MVP candidate Antetokounmpo addressed the 4-2 series loss in an Instagram post on Sunday.

"We'll be back stronger and better," Antetokounmpo's message read. "Milwaukee thank you for supporting my team-mates and I this entire season we couldn't have done it without you all!"

Milwaukee won the first two games of the series against Toronto. But, the Bucks then dropped four straight.

"Obviously when you're up 2-0, that doesn't mean nothing," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "You've got to learn how to come out and close out games, especially after Game 3. We've got to get better as a team, and we've got to get better individually. I think it's just the start of a long journey.

"We're going to get better. We're going to come back next year and believe in who we are, believe in what we've built this year, and hopefully we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward."

Antetokounmpo averaged 25.5 points and 12.3 rebounds throughout the playoffs for Milwaukee. The star, however, was the focus of Toronto's game plan and struggled at times during the series.

"What I did was trust my team-mates," Antetokounmpo said. "That's what I've been doing the whole year. If we lose by doing that, by trusting one another, by moving the ball, by doing what we've been doing all year, by trusting our habits, it's okay. I just tried to stay aggressive, tried to make the right play. That's what I've been doing all year, and that's what I tried to do tonight."

The 24-year-old is a finalist for the 2018-19 MVP award and has made three straight All-Star teams.

"I'm going to make sure I get in contact with the coaching staff and see what we can work on as a team and how can I get better individually," Antetokounmpo said. "It's something that I take pride in, getting better in the offseason. So hopefully now I can work on the right things, listen to my coaches and what they think I can get better on, work my butt off and come back next year and just be a better basketball player and a better team-mate."

Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledged that Kawhi Leonard's playoff experience was key to the Toronto Raptors' Eastern Conference Finals win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The series was billed as Antetokounmpo against Leonard - and the former gained the early advantage when his Bucks opened up a 2-0 lead with back-to-back victories at home.

However, Milwaukee could not build on their early advantage and lost the next four on the spin, finishing with Saturday's 100-94 reverse in Toronto that sent the Raptors through to their first NBA Finals.

While Toronto will be breaking new ground as a franchise, star man Leonard has won the title before with the San Antonio Spurs.

"You can tell [his experience] from the way he was playing - not just in this series but the previous series [against the Philadelphia 76ers], as well," Antetokounmpo told a news conference.

"The way he plays, he has so much patience. He knows what he's going to do, he has confidence in himself and he has the experience. He's been here before, he's been to the Finals multiple times.

"He played well and he did everything he could to help his team win. He was a tough guy to guard for our team."

Milwaukee appeared to suffer when their star player was stifled by the Raptors' defensive strategy, yet the MVP candidate had no frustrations with the way his team played.

"I don't think anything has to change," Antetokounmpo said. "At the end of the day, we just have to trust one another.

"The [Raptors'] game plan was to double-team me, make me not get a rhythm, but what I did was trusted my team-mates, which is what I've done all year.

"If, for us, we lose by doing that, by trusting one another, by moving the ball, by doing what we've done all year, that's okay."

Giannis Antetokounmpo and coach Mike Budenholzer are confident the Milwaukee Bucks will come back as a better team next season after their Eastern Conference Finals heartbreak.

The Bucks, who boasted the best regular season record in the NBA, led the Toronto Raptors 2-0 before losing the next four games to crash out on Saturday with a 100-94 defeat.

But Antetokounmpo suggested this could be "just the start" for Milwaukee, who won their solitary championship back in 1971.

"When you're out 2-0, that obviously means nothing," he told a news conference. "You've got to learn how to close out games, especially after Game 3.

"We've got to get better as a team and we've got to get better individually. I think this is just the start of a long journey.

"We're going to get better and we're going to come back next year, believing in who we are and believing in what we've built this year. Hopefully we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward.

"I've got to go back home and spend some time with my family. After that, I'm going to get in contact with the coaching staff and see what we can do as a team and how I can get better individually.

"It's something I take pride in, how I can get better in the offseason.

"Hopefully I can work on the right things, listen to my coaches on the things I can get better on, work my butt off and come back next year as a better basketball player and a better team-mate."

Budenholzer, who oversaw vast improvements in both Antetokounmpo and the team, similarly believes the Bucks can kick on once again.

"This hurts," he said. "But what they did in this playoffs tonight against a really good Toronto Raptors team - and to get to the Conference Finals - and in the regular season, a special season for us, we feel like we're just getting started.

"This is the beginning of our journey. I couldn't be more proud of our team."

Budenholzer added: "Giannis is going to get better. To think for us, we can be excited about his future at 24.

"It's the easy narrative that this is part of Giannis' stepping, but I think the thing that makes Giannis special and unique is that, in our minds, he's going to get a lot better.

"At 24, some guys are who they are. Some of the great ones were the same at 30. Giannis, we feel, has got a lot of room to grow."

Kawhi Leonard is unfazed about whether he is the best player in the NBA as he focuses on trying to lead the Toronto Raptors to a championship.

Leonard inspired the Raptors to a first NBA Finals appearance after they sealed a 4-2 series win over the Milwaukee Bucks with a 100-94 victory on Saturday.

The former San Antonio Spurs star contributed 27 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in Game 6 as the Raptors moved into the decider against the Golden State Warriors.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri labelled Leonard "the best player in the league" after the win, but the 27-year-old's focus is on his team.

"I don't really judge my game like that. I'm more of a team aspect, see what my team is doing. I just want to win," Leonard told a news conference.

"I don't care about being the best player. I want to be the best team. I've always said that.

"Just before the season when we made the trade, Masai felt that way about me. He told me how he felt and why he made the trade. It's turning out well now.

"We're in the Finals - and we're not done yet."

Leonard was traded to the Raptors from the Spurs in July last year, having played just nine games during an injury-plagued final season in San Antonio.

The 2014 NBA Finals MVP was thrilled by Toronto's run, while praising team-mate Kyle Lowry.

"It's great. I worked so hard to get to this point with the season I had last year, just always betting on myself and knowing what I feel and what's right for me," Leonard said.

"I ended up coming here with a great group of guys, a lot of talent. And I just strived with them every day. I just kind of bought into their system.

"Kyle helped me a lot with my transition, on the court and off the court, asking him questions, him just pushing me on the floor as well and letting me know what to do in situations when he calls plays.

"All that hard work just put together, now we're here and it's exciting."

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is in Toronto on Thursday.

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