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What Bucks’ flurry of win-now moves may say about Antetokounmpo’s future – Sportsnet.ca

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While you were likely sleeping, the NBA off-season got off to a blistering start, with the Milwaukee Bucks making a couple of significant moves to bolster their championship odds for next season.

The Bucks first made a big splash Monday evening by reportedly swinging a deal for one-time all-star, and two-way terror Jrue Holiday in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and a slew of first-round draft picks and pick swaps.

Then, about two hours after that initial volley, they followed that up with a reported second salvo move, acquiring sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Sacramento Kings in a sign-and-trade deal that will see the likes of Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson heading to Sacramento.

These are league-shaking maneuvers that figure to set up the Bucks, the holders of the best record in the NBA for the past two seasons, for a possible trip to the Finals — and maybe even a championship after back-to-back playoff disappointments.

Milwaukee will now feature a star-studded projected starting five of Holiday, Bogdanovic, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and, of course, two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

That’s really strong-looking on paper and the work that Bucks GM Jon Horst did to create this kind of lineup is worthy of praise — especially if the season ends with a title, as these kinds of win-now moves always hope to end in.

But more pertinently, however, is what these trades may say about the future of Antetokounmpo.

The Milwaukee superstar has until Dec. 21 to sign a supermax extension. If he were to do so, it would alleviate all the anxiety over him potentially hitting the open market in the 2021 off-season. A closer examination at what the Bucks gave up to build their new starting five might provide insight into how confident they are in retaining Antetokounmpo’s talents beyond this coming season.

There are two schools of thought here when it comes to this: Because Milwaukee gave up so much in these trades, that means he’s either definitely going to sign an extension and these moves were made as a show of faith to him, or the Bucks are simply so desperate to try to convince him to stay or win with the Greek star that they opted to completely leverage their future to do so.

Here’s a closer look at both thought processes and how each may affect the planning of potential Antetokounmpo free-agent suitors, such as the Toronto Raptors.

Bucks are confident Giannis is staying

The reason for optimism if you’re the Bucks is really simple: Why else would you give away so much of your future if you’re sure Antetokounmpo was sticking around?

To put this into clear perspective, take a look at the draft pick compensation Milwaukee gave up to acquire Holiday, via ESPN’s Bobby Marks:

That’s three first-round picks and two pick swaps, essentially a completely leveraged future in a similar vein to the deal the Brooklyn Nets made with the Boston Celtics all those years ago to bring in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Surely the Bucks wouldn’t be so foolish as to throw the baby out with the bathwater without some assurances that their franchise cornerstone would be coming for the long haul, right?

Well, even before the Bucks made their big splash Monday night, there was some reporting from The Athletic’s Sam Amick that the Bucks were feeling very optimistic that Antetokounmpo would sign with the team long-term.

And if that’s the case, then suddenly the fact that Holiday is on an expiring deal doesn’t hurt as much because he’s a piece of business Milwaukee could sort out later, in addition to however long Bogdanovic’s new contract may be, marking a new era of Bucks basketball that has the potential to see this core terrorizing the East for the next three or four years.

For the Raptors or any other team pinning their hopes on Antetokounmpo next off-season, this scenario would throw a serious wrench in their plans — but wouldn’t completely derail them.

Obviously many teams will be hoping for any intel to decide on what Antetkounmpo is going to do and then plan to keep as much financial flexibility to have a max slot open for him next off-season, and the decisions they make this off-season will certainly dictate that.

With that said, even if Antetokounmpo opts to remain in Milwaukee it’s not like squads need to completely change their strategies of keeping that cap room open for the 2021 off-season as, unlike this year, next year’s free agency class still looks to be killer with big names like kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Victor Oladipo, among others, expected to be available on the open market.

It’s logical to believe that Antetokounmpo will stay in Milwauke, particularly after this kind of short-term commitment to trying to to win shown to him, and as such, if teams weren’t already planning for this scenario for 2021 they probably are now.

Bucks are convinced Giannis is heading for free agency

The counterpoint to all that was just said is that the Bucks are, indeed, just so desperate and afraid Antetokounmpo wants to leave that they’re now pushing all their chips in for this one season to try to win it all and, hopefully, convince their star to re-sign with them.

As logical as the first argument we went over is, this idea would seem to be on equal footing.

Again, looking at what was given up and the fact Holiday is an expiring deal, there’s good reason to believe the Bucks are acting desperately after two seasons of disappointment.

Bringing in Bogdanovic figures to help solve the issue of needing more three-point shooting around Antetokounmpo as he’s an efficient, high-volume three-point shooter with plenty of big-game experience dating back to his professional career in Europe.

And as for Holiday, he’s among the best two-way players in the league and figures to be a demonstrable upgrade at point guard over Eric Bledsoe, who had fine regular seasons the past two years but came up short in each of the last two post-season runs, contributing to the past two doomed playoff efforts from Milwaukee.

Holiday doesn’t have a ton of playoff experience, but the last time he played post-season basketball in 2018 he managed to raise his game over the level he showed in the regular season. At the very least, given his size, he will be a more valuable defender than even Bledsoe was due to the fact he can comfortably check both guard spots and even some threes.

It’s unknown how long the Bogdanovic deal might be for as his contract can’t be signed until Sunday at 12:01 p.m. ET, but it’s likely he’ll be in Milwaukee for a little longer. Holiday, as mentioned before, is on an expiring deal with a player option for the 2021-22 season worth about $26.3 million.

Now there’s certainly a scenario where Holiday opts in, but if he ends up having a big season he will almost certainly opt out and look to command a new max deal — a price tag that may be out of the Bucks’ budget.

Horst and Co. had to have weighed this scenario. But they pulled the trigger on the deal anyway, trading Bledsoe, a good reserve point guard in Hill and, essentially, their entire draft future for just a one-season rental of a very good player in Holiday, but not one who’s a superstar.

That’s just foolhardy business, but becomes necessary if you’re trying to convince, arguably, the best basketball player on the planet to stay rather than take his pick of the litter.

And if you’re one of those other teams who Antetokounmpo might bolt to in free agency seeing the Bucks make this all-in move you’re probably laughing because, sure, Milwaukee will be more formidable for this one season, but beyond that? The careful building that’s turned Milwaukee into a power in the East just went by the wayside and this is a team that’s going to be a non-factor for years to come — if Antetokounmpo leaves.

Without Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee won’t be much of anything, nor will it be able to rebuild itself without any draft picks to take advantage of the inevitable losing that will come.

So if you’re the Raptors or any of the other teams pinning their hopes on Antetokounmpo then go ahead and tip your hat to the Bucks for this season, because it may be the last one we see from them for a while.

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In Pictures: Grief and shock over Maradona's death – Aljazeera.com

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Hundreds of people have begun filing in to see the coffin of Diego Maradona in Buenos Aires’s Casa Rosada after the football legend died at the age of 60.

At a slow pace, people on Thursday passed in front of the coffin that was draped with the Argentinian flag and his number 10 jersey.

Scuffles briefly broke out as crowds jostled as they queued to enter and police had to hold people back.

Maradona’s family and closest friends came at dawn before the start of the public wake.

Tens of thousands of people spent the night in a vigil in the Plaza de Mayo, singing songs in tribute to Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986.

Stunned fans gathered outside the humble home where he was born and raised in the Villa Fiorito neighbourhood.

Fans also went to the stadium of Argentinos Juniors, where he started as a professional footballer in 1976. They stood at the historic La Bombonera stadium of his beloved Boca Juniors.

More were at the headquarters of Gimnasia La Plata, the team he was coaching.

“I am touched. I can’t understand it, I can’t see the reality. Diego will never die, today is the birth of the Maradona myth,” said Dante Lopez, a physician who went to the Argentinos Juniors stadium, which carries the beloved player’s name.

Fans put candles and flowers along the wall around the field.

“Diego was Argentina in the world. He gave us joy and we will never be able to repay him for so much joy,” said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who issued a decree for three days of national mourning and offered the presidential palace for the funeral.

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Raptors waive centre Dewan Hernandez, open up additional roster spot – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Raptors have waived centre Dewan Hernandez, the team announced Thursday.

The 23-year-old battled injuries throughout his time with the Raptors organization after being selected 59th in the second round of the 2019 draft, and spent the vast majority of his on-court stints with Raptors 905, where he posted career stats of 13.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 40.8 per cent shooting in nine games.

Waiving Hernandez, whose deal was set to guarantee this coming weekend, also opens up an additional roster spot for the Raptors, who will likely use it on Canadian forward Oshae Brissett (he had a nice season on a two-way contract with the team last season) or a standout training camp invitee.

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Report: Ravens record more positive COVID-19 tests – theScore

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The Baltimore Ravens recorded multiple new positive COVID-19 tests and will continue to work virtually Thursday, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

The positive tests from Wednesday include one player, one position coach, and one staff member, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Baltimore has reported multiple new cases every day since Sunday.

The Ravens’ Thanksgiving matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed to Sunday amid the team’s ongoing outbreak.

Baltimore has seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list and an unconfirmed number of positives among coaches and staff.

The AFC North club disciplined a strength and conditioning coach Wednesday for failing to report symptoms, or wear a mask or tracking device consistently, which may have led to the outbreak.

If the game can’t be played Sunday, it’s possible the NFL will have to use its contingency plan of adding a Week 18 to make up delayed games.

If the NFL does add Week 18, it could push back the start of the playoffs or eliminate the extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.

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