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Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for Greek national team and try to qualify for Olympics

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for the Greek national team this summer – beginning with an Olympic qualifying tournament in Greece from July 2-7. It is an expected decision, as the 29-year-old has played for Greece when available and spoke about doing so many times last season.

Greek national team coach Vasilis Spanoulis confirmed to local media in Europe that Antetokounmpo would be playing.

Antetokounmpo missed the end of the Bucks’ regular season and entire six-game, first-round playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers after straining his left soleus (calf) muscle April 9. Before that, he first felt soreness in his left hamstring March 10, an injury that worsened just before the calf strain.

Antetokounmpo did not play for Greece in the 2023 World Cup after undergoing surgery on his left knee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo plans to play for Greece in its Olympic qualifying tournament in early July. Greece must win the tournament to advance to play in Paris.
Giannis Antetokounmpo plans to play for Greece in its Olympic qualifying tournament in early July. Greece must win the tournament to advance to play in Paris.

Greece did not automatically qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, so it must win a four-game tournament over a five-day period in Piraeus, Greece. Other nations in the tournament include Egypt, Slovenia, Croatia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic.

Greece will face the Dominican Republic on July 3 and Egypt on July 4. The semifinals will be held July 6 with the final July 7.

Slovenia is considered Greece’s top competition for the lone Olympic spot out of the tournament, but star Luka Dončić is currently playing in the NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks. It is unclear if he would head immediately overseas, as the finals could last until June 23 if it goes to seven games.

Antetokounmpo played 73 games for the Bucks last season – his most since 2017-18 – becoming the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points per game (30.4) while shooting at least 60% (61.1%) from the field.

He admitted after the season that he would examine how he prepares his body in the offseason, as he has now missed eight of the Bucks last 11 playoff games with injuries.

“Maybe I do follow a different pattern,” he said after the Bucks season concluded. “And maybe try different things. I don’t like the word ‘rest.’ Like, if I can play I will play. I if cannot play I can’t play. So this is what I always believe. If I can move and I’m available, I’m going to be available. I don’t like when I oh, you miss a game in November so you can be available in April because still you don’t know you’re going to be available in April. Then you go and get to April and you’re not available and you’re like, why did I miss all those?

"I’m for sure gonna to sit down and think about it, of how my summer is going to look like and how next year is going to look like, and I’m thinking with my physio and the staff and I’m going to try and make the best decision possible for me to be available. It’s something you cannot control.”

More: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard are committed to Milwaukee and their partnership with the Bucks

Antetokounmpo last played for Greece in the 2022 EuroBasket tournament, in which it finished fifth. Antetokounmpo averaged 25.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Greece has not played in an Olympic Games since 2008, when it finished fifth in Beijing. In four Olympic tournaments, it has never medaled.

Giannis’ younger brother Kostas is also on the Greek national team. The former Dominican High School star recently helped Panathinaikos win the EuroLeague championship. Their older brother Thanasis is also part of the Greek national team, but he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during a workout after the Bucks season.

More: Thanasis Antetokounmpo had surgery to repair a torn Achilles, an injury that usually requires a long recovery

Should Giannis lead Greece to the Olympic Games, it would be part of Group A – one of the strongest groups in the Games. Greece would open against gold medal contender Canada on July 27. Greece would also play the winner of the qualifying tournament held in Spain – which should be the Spaniards. Spain is currently the No. 2-ranked national men’s team in the world behind the United States.

Greece is also scheduled to play fifth-ranked Australia on July 30.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks' Giannis will play for Greece and try to qualify for Olympics