July 16, 2021
Q. Obviously I know you don't pay attention to what we do.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I do pay attention (smiling). I pay attention very carefully. I just don't read it. But I pay attention to what you do (laughter).
Q. The other day I asked Brook and Jrue about the idea that it's rare for someone to score 40 points in an NBA Finals game. You did it twice. "Since Giannis is so great so often, do we not appreciate it enough?" Khris put up 40 last game. What does it mean for you to see Khris continue to shine on this stage?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's amazing. It's a lot of hard work that paid off for Khris. I know how great he is. I feel sometimes he doesn't get appreciated enough. He's a great freaking player. He scored 40 in the NBA Finals and he wasn't an All-Star this year. What are we talking about?
Man, he's great. You see moments on the court, sometimes because you're his teammate you take them for granted. Going down the last two minutes and scoring eight, 10 points in a row? That's greatness. Not the first time I've seen him do something like that. I saw him do it again. I saw him do it in Atlanta. Multiple times during the regular season.
We need him to keep doing this. Need him to keep closing out games. He is really good at it. I'm proud of his journey, from where he started to where he is right now. But we got to keep going. We cannot focus on the past. We got to keep getting better each day. Hopefully we can get the job done because the job is not done.
Q. You played the Heat last year. Went down 2-0 in that series. You weren't able to answer. What is it different about this team that you keep going down in series and keep being able to answer?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I think we worked extremely hard throughout the year building winning habits. Just every game competing. I feel like when you compete every game, you put yourself in a position to win.
We don't worry about the outcome. We don't worry about the score. We just worry about going out there, making many plays, competing as hard as we possibly can, doing it together.
Sometimes when you are down 0-1 or down 0-2, whatever the case might be, you don't really care about that. You care about how can you get one, how can you get a second one. Then you kind of build momentum and good things happen.
So I think we got to give credit to all the winning habits we built throughout the year that we are able to know that when we're down, we still figure out ways to win games.
Q. You're now the owner of one of the signature plays in Finals history with your block on Ayton. Over the last couple days, have you watched the replay? Have you moved on from it entirely?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Haven't watched it. I think the first time I kind of watched it was today in the film session we had.
Great play. It's incredible what your body is going to do. When you think about winning, you go to extreme. I cannot explain the play, but at the end of the day that's in the past. When you talk about the past, that's your ego talking. It's in the past, over with. I got to move on. I got to keep making winning plays. I got to keep competing. I got to keep finding ways to help my team be great.
Great moment. I appreciate the moment. Great moment. We got to move on.
Q. After you got that cramp in Game 2, Pat talked about how sometimes you can run yourself into the ground. What is the balance between leaving it on the court and making sure you're not pushing yourself too hard?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: No, no. I'd rather get cramps. That means I pushed myself too hard. I'd rather get cramps in the fourth quarter, whatever the case may be. I know when I can go back home, I can sleep at night. I know that I gave everything.
I don't recommend it, though. Do not work out so you get a cramp. If it happens, be happy with yourself that you went extremely hard (smiling).
Q. Game 4 was your first Finals game that went down to the wire, was tight. What was the feeling like? What were your emotions in the final two minutes of the game? How different was that feeling than maybe, say, three minutes left in the first quarter?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's different. It's different because that's an NBA Finals game. Obviously, you know the ball can get a little bit heavy down the stretch because both teams really want it bad. Both teams are competing at a very high level. It comes down to really details (to determine) who is going to win the game.
But what was going through my mind is try to just keep making plays defensively, offensively, set screens, roll, execute. Whatever I could possibly do to help my team win.
But in that specific game? Yeah, I give the ball to Khris and get the heck out of his way.
Q. Do you feel nerves?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Oh, hell no. Obviously, as I said, the ball gets heavy. But if you are only thinking about winning and you don't think about what's going to happen next, it can get heavy. Because you want to win so bad, you know?
So it can get heavy. But if you go back and think about the specific three minutes of Game 2, Game 4, and it could go either way, now the environment kind of gets heavy.
But at that specific moment, I wasn't thinking about what's going to happen at the end of the game. I was thinking about that specific play. How can I set a good screen for Khris, how can I block a shot, how can I rebound the ball, how can I run, how can I get the easy layup, what can I do to help the team win?
So my mind is so occupied by that that I don't think about the pressure, all that.
Q. We've been seeing Liam in here after the games. In the bubble, he came to visit you. He was real small. You've had all these playoff series. Now that he's a little older, that age where you end up playing with him, does that make it easier to disconnect from some of this basketball chaos?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah, when I go back home, obviously it helps a lot. I feel like in the bubble, you couldn't escape basketball. Going to the hotel, the whole teams were there, everything was there.
Going to grab lunch or dinner in the restaurant, everybody was there, players. You couldn't escape that. Because I'm really competitive, I couldn't escape that competitive nature of mine.
But sometimes (between) games, especially now we have two days, you can go back home. I can play with Liam. Be with my significant other. Be around my mom; my mom lives with me. Just escape for a little bit, 24 hours, whatever the case might be. Then come back in it.
Q. The comment you made about ego. You're 26 years old. I've covered plenty of players who didn't seem like they figured the ego part out until their 30s. Who taught you about why that's important and to handle it that way?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I think I would say life. Usually, from my experience, when I think about like, Oh, yeah, I did this, I'm so great, I had 30, I had 25-10-10, whatever the case might be, you're going to think about that. Usually the next day you're going to suck, you know (smiling)? Simple as that. The next few days you're going to be terrible.
I figured out a mindset to have that when you focus on the past, that's your ego. "I did this. We were able to beat this team 4-0. I did this in the past. I won that in the past."
When I focus on the future, it's my pride. Yeah, next game, Game 5, I do this and this and this. I'm going to dominate. That's your pride talking. It doesn't happen. You're right here.
I kind of try to focus on the moment, in the present. That's humility. That's being humble. That's not setting no expectation. That's going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level. I think I've had people throw throughout my life that helped me with that. But that is a skill that I've tried to, like, kind of -- how do you say, perfect it.
Q. Master it?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah, master it. It's been working so far, so I'm not going to stop.
Q. A lot of players or teams, they're down 2-0, it's very hard for them to bounce back. For the past few playoffs, there's lessons for you to learn. When did you realize that change, that maturity for your team?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I think it starts from the environment, the leaders, the message that they push back to the team, to everybody. But we've been down before. When we were down before, we didn't act like it was the end of the world. We were like, Okay, we know what the deal is; we're going to try to go and execute. We weren't worrying about going and trying to win two games in a row. We didn't worry about that. We're going to try to go back and execute. Try to put ourselves in a position to win.
Now, if it went our way, we're extremely happy, but it could go either way. It could go the other way and we'd be back home right now and nobody would be talking about us.
But I feel like as a team we're really good at turning the page -- the next one. Okay, on this page this, this, this, this is what we got to do in order for us to be in a position to have a chance to win games down the road. I think the team has a great mindset in that. Hopefully we are going to keep doing it moving forward.
Q. When did you decide that that was a skill, that staying in the moment was something you wanted to have and to work on? The reason I ask that is because I know early you had said, I want to be great. That is a thought of the future of wanting to --
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: No, uh-uh.
Q. I mean back when you were 18, 19.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Uh-uh (smiling). That's the objective. That's the plan. Now there's steps to it, you know? You have your plan: I want to be great, I want to help my team win, I want to do this. Every day you wake up, now you do little things that take you to that, right? Imagine a line (gestures with his hand). This is where we are. This is the objective. This is the end. Now there's little things you do, which this is the present. Being in the present allows you to do those things in order for you to get there.
If you try to jump, you're going to fall in the cliff. I think I started doing this probably my fifth year in the league. I was, like, 23 years old. That's the mindset I have. I'm not saying that that is the right mindset to have. But for me, it's working. I'm enjoying my life. I enjoy the time with my family. But it might not work for everybody. Some people might be thinking differently. But I feel like once you're living in the present and you're enjoying the specific moment, you get to enjoy that moment to the fullest. Once you start thinking about the future, what's going to happen, you're kind of losing in between.
Yeah, I don't know why -- we were talking about basketball. Now we're talking about mental skills (smiling). Let's talk about basketball.
Q. It's part of it.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's part of it, sure.
Q. Did you look to someone else or see someone else or study someone else to say this could work for you, or did something happen for you in the fifth year?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: My own and with help, too. You got to invest in yourself. You got to invest in yourself. On my own, I kind of had the skill. But how can you master that skill kind of thing?
Mastering that skill is not going to make you a better basketball player. I'm not saying it's going to make you better. But it's going to make you enjoy your life more. That's the objective, to enjoy every single moment you can. You're not going to be happy all the time, but it's to have joy.
So, yeah, by myself a little bit, but then I kind of asked for help. Talk with people and vets and other people that helped me with that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports