MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Bucks juggernaut rolled on Thursday morning, blasting the Washington Wizards for the second time in four days, 148-129.
The point total was the Bucks’ highest regular season score in a non-overtime contest since March 14, 1979. With 3-point baskets raining and the Fiserv Forum crowd as hyped as ever, it felt like business as usual in Milwaukee until you entered the locker room.
One would usually find Bucks MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo deep in conversation with Thon Maker, who occupied an adjoining locker. On this occasion, Maker’s locker was closed, as news broke that the Australian would be traded to the Detroit Pistons soon.
Just over a week had passed, since news leaked that Maker’s camp had requested a trade, preferably to a team that would offer more playing time for out-of-favour big man. The news hardly came as a surprise, but it was still a difficult day for Antetokounmpo, who lost his teammate of three seasons to a division rival.
“Thon’s my little brother, he’s always going to be my little brother. We are always going to stay connected and stay in touch,” Antetokounmpo said.
“It was great having him on the team, great guy, amazing energy, always positive, he was the heart and soul of this team, the glue of this team.”
Antetokounmpo revealed that he found out about the trade via a phone call from Maker, and said he thought the trade may be a good move for Maker moving forward.
“At the end of the day, it’s business, the NBA is business and the team is going to look out for the best interests of the team,” Antetokounmpo said.
“It’s a great opportunity for Thon going to Detroit. He’s going to get a lot of minutes there and he’s going to keep getting better.”
Head coach Mike Budenholzer was unable to speak on the trade at great length, given its non-official status, though he did heap praise on the character of the Australian.
“He's just a great human, he's got great characteristics, his work ethic, his energy. Everybody loves Thon,” Budenholzer said.
“You guys [the media] have been around him for a few years getting to know him. He's been phenomenal, he's a great worker, and a great competitor so he's been very popular with his teammates and coaches.”
Bucks' point guard Eric Bledsoe kept it short and sharp when asked about Maker.
"Thon was one of the best teammates I've had," Bledsoe said.
A feature of Bucks victories at home has been the pumping music post-game, with Maker's playlist more often than not. Pre-game, second-year Bucks’ Sterling Brown and DJ Wilson could be heard questioning who the source of the music was on this night.
Post-game, Antetokounmpo echoed disappointment, when asked how Maker’s presence would be missed in the locker room.
“First of all, we should start with the music. Thon was in charge of the music, he was our DJ. I walked in tonight and the music was terrible,” Antetokounmpo said with a smile.
The scoreboard told a familiar tale in Milwaukee, who improved their NBA best record to 40-13 on the season, but at least for now, there will not be an Australian on the Bucks roster for the first time in a long time.
That, will be not so familiar.
The Milwaukee Bucks face Ryan Broekhoff on Saturday - Tip-off at 12:30pm