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Late lifts, The Rock and why Giannis is envious of Pat Connaughton

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Before this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo had been accustomed to turning the gym lights on at night.

Around 7 p.m., hours after the coaching staff had left and most of the players had retreated to their separate corners of Milwaukee, the Bucks forward would return to the team’s practice facility. Since he was a rookie, the evening sessions had been a private time for a fastidious man to think and to practice a few more fadeaways, just one more 3-pointer and a handful of midrange jump shots.

“I went there and Pat was shooting,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was like, ‘Oh wow. OK.'”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Pat Connaughton, a fourth-year backup guard, recalls being equally surprised to see Antetokounmpo. Why, Connaughton wondered, did Milwaukee’s $100 million franchise player need to come in for extra work? Connaughton was a journeyman who had signed with the Bucks on Aug. 1 and was fighting for playing time. Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, rivaled Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the most notable Wisconsin athlete.

At first, the evening sessions were coincidental. Then, Connaughton would text Antetokounmpo to let him know what time he planned to get his nightly shots in.3

It was the evolution of a friendship between the team’s MVP candidate and a role player. They are the Bucks’ odd couple, as different as Connaughton’s trusty Jeep Wrangler and Antetokounmpo’s sponsor-issued BMW. Their backgrounds, skill sets and tastes in cars are divergent, but they share a bond that symbolizes a team culture that’s helped Milwaukee reach the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Neither player was a lottery pick. Antetokounmpo was picked 15th by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013. Connaughton, who put his baseball career on hold to pursue hoops, was selected by the Brooklyn Nets on behalf of Portland in the second round of the 2015 draft.nfl nike jersey cheap

Antetokounmpo spent his first two years in the league sprouting a few inches, adding muscle, drinking milkshakes for the first time and working to get his feet under him. His breakout didn’t come until his fourth season, when he earned his first All-Star selection and won the Most Improved Player Award.

A conference away, Connaughton was just trying to get some playing time. His role with the Trail Blazers increased significantly from Year 2 to Year 3, but it was inconsistent at times. Still, it seemed as though he could come off the bench after not playing for two or three games and drop jaws with his vertical leap.

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