Danny Ainge got heckled by fans in Greece when he went to scout Giannis Antetokounmpo
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Danny Ainge got heckled by fans in Greece when he went to scout Giannis Antetokounmpo

Every team in the NBA had Draymond, Giannis, and Jokić high on their draft board. At least that’ what they tell us. While some say they were “one pick away from making a move,” others are at least honest about missing out on these guys. The top of that list is the two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. As always, the worst Giannis draft story belongs to the New York Knickerbockers.

We start contacting NBA scouts and GMs, but again they were “Mmph.” So we caught up with Jonathan Givony. So after Jonathan came and his footage was out on Draft Express, scouts started flying to Greece. Every day, at practice, at games, executives, GM’s, assistant coaches. Every team came, you know. 29 teams, except Knicks…New York Knicks.

“Finding Giannis,” TNT

Funny how a guy who suggested he coaches only home games and tried to be a GM of a New York team from Montana didn’t feel like flying to Greece in January to watch a skinny kid play in a gym with no heating. Phil Jackson really didn’t need the Knicks episode.

Danny Ainge may not have been great as Boston‘s GM in the past few years, but he still has an amazing track record altogether. Unlike Jackson, Ainge made the trip to Greece and saw a kid with a lot of potential. He also encountered the passion and energy of Greek basketball fans.

“Danny Ainge came to Greece and he came to a road game in a place called Volos. The fans were heckling him. They don’t know who he is at first. They think Danny Ainge is an opposing Greek [general manager]. Then they find out he’s Danny Ainge, and then they start screaming insults and curses, and then they start screaming ‘Lakers,’ and then he realizes they’re making fun of him because they realize he’s Danny Ainge.”

Mirin Fader, Boston.com

Ainge saw a kid with a lot of potential but decided to go with Kelly Olynik in that draft. Why? One of the rare honest teams about that decision, the C’s just felt Giannis was too raw and had a lot of ground to catch up before becoming a legitimate NBA starter.

“Austin Ainge told me, ‘Look if we had known Giannis would grow like two inches once he got to the NBA, obviously this would be a different story. He would not have fallen where he had fallen to [in the draft].’

Mirin Fader, Boston.com

Giannis actually grew a couple of inches and gained 10-15 pounds from January when the Ainges’ scouted him to the Draft. He then grew some more after the Bucks drafted him and put on a significant amount of muscle. Still, his basketball growth was the most unbelievable – for someone who started to play the game in 2007 to develop so much while going through a huge growth spur is incredible.

The story about Greek fans is a window into the basketball community Giannis comes from. A lot has been written about the fact Giannis, unlike Ben Simmons, isn’t a wallflower and doesn’t shrink in the moment trying to avoid the free-throw line. If you still think the US has the toughest basketball upbringing, here’s a video that explains Greek basketball.

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