Reports: No ‘Structural Damage’ To Antetokounmpo’s Knee, But Return Unclear

Milwaukee Bucks' Star Injured Left Knee In NBA Playoff Game

Giannis Antetokounmpo is injured during Game 4 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, and Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela fall to the court during the second half of Game 4 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals Tuesday, June 29, 2021, in Atlanta. Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

There is “no structural damage to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s left knee” after he left Tuesday night’s NBA playoff game with an injury, two senior NBA reporters said Wednesday afternoon, but it’s still “unclear” how long the Milwaukee Bucks star will be sidelined.

In a statement, the Bucks said Antetokounmpo had undergone and MRI and medical evaluation that confirmed that he hyperextended his knee when it buckled as he fell hard on it during a defensive play in the third quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks. He is listed as “doubtful” for Thursday’s Game 5 in Milwaukee.

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The news came after Bucks fans had spent the day collectively holding their breath awaiting word about the seriousness of the reigning MVP’s injury.

Antetokounmpo is reliably the Bucks’ best scorer and a defensive powerhouse, so any injury would force the team to reshape its approach on both ends of the court. The most serious possibility was a torn ACL, which is an injury to a knee ligament that can require surgery and months or years of recovery time. But even a mild sprain from a hyperextended knee can take weeks of recovery.

Antetokounmpo was able to walk off the court Tuesday, supported by his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and a team trainer. He briefly returned to the Bucks’ bench during the game before exiting.

The Bucks trailed the Hawks throughout Game 4 before the injury, and ended up losing, 110-88. That left the best-of-seven series tied 2-2.

Jim Owczarski, who covers the Bucks for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said Wednesday’s news might count as the “best case of all scenarios” for Bucks fans.

“The way it looked, it definitely appeared that there could have been ruptured ligaments, which would of course have ended not just this season, but potentially put all of next year in jeopardy,” Owczarski said.

That doesn’t mean it’s likely that Antetokounmpo will return, at least during the remainder of the Hawks’ series, he said. With strong performances by Khris Middleton and Jhrue Holiday are able to put in strong performances, Owczarski doesn’t count the Bucks out.

“I do think the Bucks have the depth to win two of the three (potentially remaining in the series), especially when two of those games are at home,” he said. “Now, the NBA finals might be another conversation to have.”

Antetokounmpo being out is the latest way injuries have reshaped the NBA postseason this year.

In the conference semifinals, the Bucks beat the Brooklyn Nets in seven games. Two of the Nets’ three biggest stars, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, missed games in that series as a result of a hamstring injury and an ankle injury, respectively. Hawks’ star Trae Young missed Tuesday night’s game with a bone bruise in his right foot.

Elsewhere in the league, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell are among the players who’ve suffered injuries during the playoffs.

An ESPN report in early June found data suggested injuries had skyrocketed during the 2021 season.

At least one superstar player, LeBron James, has placed the blame on the NBA’s decision to shorten its offseason after the coronavirus pandemic scrambled its 2020 schedule.

“They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season,” James wrote on Twitter in mid-June. “I knew exactly what would happen. … These injuries (aren’t) just ‘PART OF THE GAME.’ It’s the lack of PURE RIM REST rest before starting back up.”

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said the team “will be ready to compete and play,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“We’ll evaluate it, and we’ve got a heck of a team, a heck of a roster,” Budenholzer said. “That’s what it’s about. So we’ve got a Game 5. We’ll watch the film. We’ll prepare. We’ll get ready.”