Basketball: Giannis Antetokounmpo's EuroBasket absence causes consternation

Greek basketball players, brothers Thanassis (left) and Giannis Antetokounmpo attend an event at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, on June 24, 2017.
Greek basketball players, brothers Thanassis (left) and Giannis Antetokounmpo attend an event at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, on June 24, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Athens (AFP) - The Greek Basketball Federation on Saturday blamed the Milwaukee Bucks for engineering rising National Basketball Association (NBA) star Giannis Antetokounmpo's withdrawal from the upcoming EuroBasket, disputing his announcement of a knee injury.

Panagiotis Tsagronis, general secretary of the federation, told the state-run ERT TV network that Antetokounmpo was healthy enough to play for his country in the continental tournament that starts on Aug 31.

"We have taken X-rays of Giannis that shows that his leg is OK and we have sent it to FIBA (International Basketball Federation)," Tsagronis said.

"That which is claimed by the Bucks is not reality, but something else is happening."

Antetokounmpo, who finished in the top 20 in the NBA in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks last season, announced via Facebook on Saturday that he wouldn't suit up for the national team.

"This is by far the biggest disappointment that I have felt so far in my career," the player dubbed the "Greek Freak" for his uncanny blend of size and skill said.

"I want to wish the best from the bottom of my heart to my teammates and coaches."

Antetokounmpo, whose four-year, US$100 million (S$136 million) contract extension with the Bucks goes into effect this season, said he had been trying to train through pain when his team organised tests on his knee while he was in China.

He said he was unable to complete the exercises he was set, and would focus now on getting back to full strength in time for the start of the upcoming NBA campaign.

A statement issued by the Greek federation said they weren't surprised by the news.

"A series of events particularly worried us about Giannis when he arrived in Greece for the start of the preparation of the team which created the conviction of an organised and well-planned project by the NBA team in which Giannis plays, with full knowledge if not the encouragement of the NBA, which put the player in trouble and forced him to inform us that he is no longer a member of the national team," the statement said.

While federation officials prefer to focus now on the team's preparations for EuroBasket, they added, "we reserve the right at the right time, to make all of its aspects known".