Sun Jun 23 10:26am ET
By KEITH JENKINS
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) Christian Yelich first met Giannis Antetokounmpo last month in downtown Milwaukee.
The encounter happened inside a hallway at Fiserv Forum after Antetokounmpo and the Bucks eliminated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The meeting of the Milwaukee stars occurred about six months after Yelich won the 2018 NL MVP award.
Now, Antetokounmpo could bring another MVP trophy to the city situated on Lake Michigan's western shore.
The Bucks forward is a finalist for NBA MVP along with Oklahoma City swingman Paul George and Houston guard James Harden, who won the award last season.
The winner will be announced Monday night.
''Obviously I'm happy to be one of the three finalists,'' Antetokounmpo said two days after losing to the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. ''Hopefully I get it. If not, I have many more years to be able to help my teammates be successful and put me in a situation that we can get it.''
Antetokounmpo set career highs by averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading the Bucks to a league-best 60-22 record in the regular season. The 6-foot-11 first-team All-NBA performer is just the second player in league history to average at least 27 points, 12 rebounds and 5.5 assists, joining Oscar Robertson during the 1961-62 campaign.
The 24-year-old Athens, Greece, native would be only the fifth international NBA MVP, joining Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Yelich won the NL MVP award in near-unanimous fashion in November after becoming the first Brewers player to win a batting title. He finished two home runs and an RBI shy of the NL's first Triple Crown since the St. Louis Cardinals' Joe Medwick in 1937.
The Thousand Oaks, California, native garnered 29 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to win in a landslide over Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs and third-place finisher Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies. The other first-place vote went to New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who finished fifth in the MVP balloting a day after winning the NL Cy Young Award.
Yelich, 27, called his MVP victory ''mind-boggling'' and told The Associated Press he's rooting for Antetokounmpo to bring the NBA's top individual honor back to Milwaukee.
''It'll be cool,'' said Yelich, who is in the midst of yet another MVP-caliber season. ''It's definitely unique. It doesn't happen all the time when you have two guys that have won an MVP in the same city in different sports. It's definitely exciting times for Milwaukee and sports fans here.''
Having the NBA and NL or AL MVP award winners in the same city at the same time isn't the rarest of occurrences.
Harden and Jose Altuve accomplished the feat in Houston in 2018 after the Astros second baseman won the 2017 American League MVP. It also happened for Houston in 1994 with Olajuwon and Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell.
Chicago also has seen it happen a couple times: Michael Jordan and Sammy Sosa in 1998, and Andre Dawson won the NL MVP in 1987 followed by Jordan taking the 1988 NBA MVP honor.
Roger Clemens and Larry Bird did it in Boston in 1986, and Mike Schmidt and Julius Erving were the toast of Philadelphia in 1981.
The script also worked out perfectly for Los Angeles when Kirk Gibson won the 1988 NL MVP and Magic Johnson captured the 1989 NBA MVP.
But all of those most valuable overlaps occurred in major media markets, and Milwaukee is one of the smallest markets in major North American professional sports.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, said having both the NL MVP and NBA MVP in Milwaukee would be a huge victory for a city and a pair of fan bases that saw both the Brewers and Bucks fall just short of winning world championships in the last few months.
''We're all hoping for it,'' he said. ''I think everybody in the state's hoping for it. I know Milwaukee's hoping for it. It would be really cool. As a sports fan, we're lucky to be able to see two of the best doing their jobs in their profession in our city. It makes both teams exciting.''
Antetokounmpo would be only the second Bucks player to win the honor, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won three of his record six MVP awards while playing for Milwaukee in the early 1970s.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who is a finalist for NBA Coach of the Year, said Milwaukee is fortunate to have a player like Antetokounmpo, who is also a candidate for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
''For our fan base and for our organization to have an MVP, it's very rare, and hopefully we all appreciate it and enjoy having a great, great player like Giannis,'' he said. ''It's just incredible what we have in Giannis.''
As for any advice Yelich may have for Antetokounmpo if he wins: ''I don't think he needs any advice from me,'' he said. ''He's a great kid. He carries himself really well. Just from the times I've gotten to interact with him, he seems great. He seems like he's going to handle it very well.''
Memphis Grizzlies power forward/center Brandon Clarke provided an excellent boost off the bench, but his club still fell short to the polished Celtics. Clarke scored 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting and added six rebounds and a block in his 29 minutes. Clarke has stepped with the injured Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) out and is posting 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists while shooting a sizzling 63.3% from the floor over his last three games. Keep him on your radar for Thursday as he has been quite reliable over this stretch.
Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas did all he could on Tuesday to try to help his club keep their postseason hopes alive, but it was not enough in the loss Boston. Valanciunas netted 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes but the big man was a minus-22 while on the floor. Gorgui Dieng also provided a solid spark off the bench with 10 points, five boards, and three steals and was actually a plus-seven in his 23 minutes. The Grizzlies have one last try to attempt to secure that their season resumes on Thursday and the Grizz will need their best out of JV in that one.
Memphis Grizzlies rookie guard Ja Morant brought his prime game on Tuesday as he exploded for a monster line, yet it was not enough in the loss to the Boston Celtics. Morant tallied 26 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor while connecting on 11 of 15 from the line. Morant also found his teammates by handing out 13 assists with four rebounds and two blocks with a steal for one of the lines of the night. We can assume Morant will have another high-usage outing on Thursday in hopes to keep his club's season alive against the Bucks, who we can assume will be resting many starters.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum continued his elite form on Tuesday in the win over the Grizzlies. Tatum shot an incredible 10 of 13 from the floor en route to 29 points in 29 minutes of action. The young stud did not stop there as he added six boards, two assists, and a steal while committing five turnovers. Tatum looks to be back to where he was before the break and he will be a force come the postseason. The Celtics go again on Thursday and we can assume Tatum will be limited it he does indeed suit up in that one.
Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart looked great in 29 minutes off the bench as he scored 11 points and added nine assists in the win over the Grizzlies. Smart connected on 3-for-7 shooting from the floor and added three rebounds with a steal in this one. The Celtics are healthy entering the playoffs and Smart has been distributing the ball at an elite level over his last four games (7.3 assists a game in that span), which adds a whole new dimension to the Celtics already efficient offense. The Celtics close out the regular season on Thursday and stay tuned to see if Smart suits up in that one, or if he gets the night off.
Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker needed just 10 shots (making seven of them) to record 19 points in the win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Walker also nailed two triples to go along with four boards and three steals in the fine-tuning game for the Celtics. Walker and the Celtics take on the Wizards on Thursday to close out the regular season. If Walker does suit up in that one, we can assume he will play limited minutes to rest up for the postseason, so there will probably be better options out there.
Sacramento Kings power forward Nemanja Bjelica played a heavy 33 minutes and made the most of his time by filling up the box score in the six-point win over the Pelicans on Tuesday. Bjelica scored 13 points while adding five rebounds with two assists and two steals with a block. We know when the Serbian gets the minutes he will produce and this could be a similar case on Thursday in the meaningless season-ending game against the Lakers. Thursday is going to be a wild one in the DFS world but put Bjelica on your watchlist as we could see similar production from the big man.
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes took on the extra workload with De'Aaron Fox sitting out this one. Barnes connected on 9-for-19 shooting en route to 25 points and added eight boards with two assists and two blocks without committing a single turnover in 37 minutes in the win over the Pelicans. We can assume Barnes will take on a similar role on Thursday in his club's season finale against the Lakers - add him to your watchlist, especially if the Kings decide to rest some players once again.
Sacramento Kings power forward/center Harry Giles recorded his first double-double since February 22nd in the win over the Pelicans on Tuesday. Giles was not so efficient from the floor as he connected on just 6-for-17 shooting, but he still managed to record 12 points while gathering 11 boards with three assists to go along with two blocks in 25 minutes of action. The Kings' last game is on Thursday against the Lakers and we can assume he will get some solid minutes in that game, making him worth a look as a cheap punt play.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball was the only regular starter in the lineup on Tuesday for the Pels and he started hot with 10 early points but cooled off to finish the game with 16 points across 29 minutes. Ball added four assists with three rebounds and two blocks with four turnovers against the Kings. The Pels go again on Thursday to close out their season and we can assume many regular bodies will not return for that one and if Ball does play, he will most likely be limited with nothing on the line. Frank Jackson and Josh Hart could be intriguing backcourt play for that one.
New Orleans guard Josh Hart struggled to get his shot to fall, yet salvaged his night with some solid supporting numbers on Tuesday. Hart managed to make just one of his eight shot attempts to record just three points. He was able to grab 10 rebounds while adding an assist with two steals and if his shots were falling, it would have been a nice line for the versatile wing. The Pels play one last time on Thursday and we can assume many starters will be sitting that one out making Hart a solid low-end play with his abilities to fill up the box score even his shot isn't falling.
New Orleans center Jahlil Okafor came off the bench to fill up the box score in the six-point loss to the Kings on Tuesday. Okafor tallied 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting while chipping in four boards, one assist, and two blocks as he caught fire in just 25 minutes of action. We haven't seen Okafor come to life in some time and we can assume on Thursday that he will get similar minutes in the meaningless game against the Magic. If you are looking for cheap punt play, Okafor could be your man for Thursday.
Philadelphia 76ers power forward/center Mike Scott took advantage of some extra run with many 76ers players' sitting this one out on Tuesday. Scott scored 17 points with three makes from three while adding four rebounds with a steal in just 22 minutes of action. Raul Neto also came to life off the bench with 22 points and four assists in 25 minutes of action. The 76ers should have Al Horford (knee) and Tobias Harris (ankle) back on Wednesday, meaning Scott and Neto will be pushed back to lesser minutes.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Alec Burks was able to pace his club with 23 points on Tuesday, but it was not enough in the 130-117 loss at the hands of the Suns. Burks connected on a solid nine of 17 shooting and added four assists with two rebounds and a steal in 28 minutes. Burks has come to life in the absence of Ben Simmons (knee) with averages of 21.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and just 0.7 turnovers a night over his last three outings. If his price tag is still friendly on Wednesday when his club takes on the Raptors, he could be worth playing to ride out his hot streak.
Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. shot 6-for-11 from the field and 9-for-9 at the line in Tuesday's loss to Portland, finishing with 24 points, four rebounds, and three assists. The 28-year-old sniper has now posted back-to-back 20-point games after going through a bit of a slump with a pair of eight-point duds. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been very inconsistent in Orlando, so it's very tough to trust him in DFS competitions. He kicked off the restart with a nice 24-point game against Houston but then had a miserable two-point performance straight away against the Suns. The Mavs take on Phoenix again on Thursday in their final seeding game.
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic had a quiet game by his recent standards but still delivered a good fantasy line in Tuesday's loss to Portland, notching 25 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds. Doncic's shot was a bit off in the game and he also committed six turnovers. He will be in a good spot to bounce back on Thursday against the Suns, who have already given up 40 points to Doncic in one bubble game. Across three appearances during the whole season, Doncic has averaged 34.4 points, eight assists, and 7.7 rebounds per game against Phoenix.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Shake Milton was a popular play on Tuesday for his shorthanded club, but the young guard failed to get things going on offense as he connected on just 4-for-12 shooting in the loss to the scorching Suns. Milton finished the night with eight points while handing out seven assists with two boards in 31 minutes of action. Milton has been struggling and with many bodies absent for the 76ers, the extra attention from opposing defenses seems to be taking a toll on him. He is tough to rely on at the moment and you may want to look elsewhere at the guard spot.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker continued his case for the Bubble MVP on Tuesday when he led his squad to a 130-117 victory over the 76ers. Booker filled up the box score with nine boards, seven assists while adding a steal, and just two turnovers to lead his squad to its seventh straight win in Orlando. Booker looks to be a no-brainer play on Thursday when his club could potentially be playing for a spot in the play-in tournament in the West. He has been clutch in Orlando and if the game has the Suns' season on the line, have the sniper in your lineups.
Dallas Mavericks forward/center Kristaps Porzingis had a great offensive game on Tuesday against Portland, scoring 36 points on 12-for-17 shooting before fouling out late in the game. He was immense from downtown with 7-for-9 shooting, adding six rebounds and two blocks. The Unicorn has now scored 30-plus points three times in six games since the season restarted. He's a very difficult guy to stop for opposing bigs, and Phoenix will get to see it next. The two teams have already met once in Orlando, and Porzingis had a 30-point performance in the game on 50 percent shooting.
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton would have been a popular play on Tuesday with the 76ers missing their stud in the middle, Joel Embiid, yet Ayton somewhat disappointed in the win. Ayton scored just eight points on 4-for-10 shooting and added 12 rebounds with two assists across 32 minutes of action. Ayton has cooled off a bit as of late with averages of just 9.0 points and 9.0 rebounds over his last two games and the big man has not registered a defensive stat in three games. He will look to get back on track on Thursday against the Mavs.