Will he stay or will he leave?
What Instagram post commented on it? What tweet did you like?
what does that mean?
One of the most consistent drumbeats in the NBA — whether it’s off-season or not — is the constant discussion surrounding contract status and potential player movement. Those conversations about the future and what might replace the present can be argued for and the day-to-day playground-based games.
The Milwaukee Bucks They are no stranger to this of course. One need only remember the vitriolic monotony surrounding Giannis Antitokonmo before signing his extension in December 2020.
more:Focusing on the Present: How Giannis Antitukonmo’s Vision of Ego and Humility has inspired people around the world
more:How will his EuroBasket experience help Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo this season?
But this season, not much has been made (at least in the broader NBA discussion) from a three-time All-Star and an all-defensive team, a big three-point shooting man potentially heading to free agency. Chris Middleton has a player option to decide and Brooke Lopez is in the final season of a four-year deal signed in 2019.
Of course, the lack of noise about the pair and their future makes sense.
There is no basketball stage where Middleton was not a pro, but he is a human accelerator. He rarely posts on social media. Lopez has a unique personality in the Bucks but he doesn’t quite run to the cameras and isn’t evident in his use of social channels, even if he’s on any of them.
“Ah, I didn’t quite realize this was a decade,” Lopez said on Tuesday. “I didn’t know last year, like, I didn’t know what year, what part of the deal it was or anything like that. That’s not who I am now. I’m going to be the same player whatever year, regardless of all that stuff.”
Then there’s the fact that Middleton turned 31 coming off the twisted knee that knocked him out of the playoffs and is currently recovering from off-season wrist surgery. Lopez is 34 and had her back surgery removed less than a year ago.
This is Middleton’s eleventh season in the NBA, and Middleton’s fifteenth season. Including this season, they have been in Milwaukee for 10 and 5 years, respectively. Perhaps in these phases the general population feels they are already destined to stay in Milwaukee, or perhaps there is a sense that the veterans are back in the “proof it” area once again.
If so, proving anything has more to do with running in another tournament than any other individual achievement.
more:Chris Middleton remains firmly rooted in his hometown Charleston as he looks to add to the Milwaukee Bucks legacy
In an interview with Glos in August, Middleton said, “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that winning is going to take care of it. The way I handle this is, in the off-season, I do what I’m supposed to do, I try to make myself better, to be at my best.” A form I can play this season and then just focus on winning. That’s the only thing that matters. If you win, everyone wants you. Everyone.
“I mean, I’m not KD (Kevin Durant), Giannis, LeBron (James) as he’s one of the greatest players ever and no matter what – you can have a bad season – everyone wants you regardless. I mean, I’d put myself in those conversation, but realistically I know if I win, everything will take care of itself.”
The duo may be underestimated, but the league clearly knows how good they are.
Middleton has appeared three All-Stars in the past four years and has had a legitimate feud with his lack of participation in 2020-21. And if the MVP Finals existed the year the Bucks won the title, there’s no doubt he would have achieved it with his dominant showing against Atlanta. He remains the 19th highest paid player in the game with an average wage with an option of $40 million next season.
It is not lightweight.
From the potential free agent class next summer, the only other players with at least three All-Star trips who could be available are Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Love, Al Horford, Kemba Walker and Russell Westbrook. Only Irving, 30, is younger than him.
Lopez was a member of the 2019-20 defensive squad and was an anchor on the Bucks’ defense whenever he played – and last season showed how valuable he is in that regard when he missed 69 games with a back injury. He’s 34.4% become a three-point shooter with the Bucks, and while he’s probably been the fourth or fifth choice in attack over the past two years, he’s shown that he can revive “Brooklyn Brook” by scoring at least 18 points on 13 different occasions.
While it’s only fair to hit the brakes on any extension speculation given his still-recent back problems, it’s hard to imagine Lopez has no place in the league if he’s healthy.
“He’s been really good,” Lopez said, noting that he’s had rehearsals in Milwaukee, Orlando and Los Angeles. “I felt healthy, and I felt good. So it was a good season.”
Despite his wrist injury, Middleton said his legs feel great after an entire season too.
And if Middleton says a win will help define his future – and if Lopez insists he won’t have to worry about it – it just puts the pair (and the team) poised for ultimate success. And at this point, everyone will be talking about it.