We have unfinished business here in Milwaukee.
This season was a stepping-stone for me personally and for us as a group. I achieved so many firsts on and off the court: I earned my first All-Star appearance; we made the Eastern Conference finals; I became a father.
But I am not done. We are not done. The goal wasn’t to reach the Eastern Conference finals — we are on a mission to win a championship. I want to be a part of that mission, which is why I am staying here in Milwaukee for the next five years.
It wasn’t so long ago that we were a 15-win team (2013-14). When you dream of playing in the NBA, those aren’t the seasons you fantasize about. I was 22 years old and it was tough.
You would think that a 15-win season would’ve been my lowest point, but it wasn’t, because we played as hard as we could. We were just young, green and not quite good enough. At the end of the day you can respect giving it your all and just not quite having the talent yet.
No, the lowest point for me as a member of the Bucks was after we lost Game 7 to the Boston Celtics in the 2018 playoffs. That year, we felt like we could make a lot of noise, and we were so close. We had every opportunity to win that series and we just couldn’t quite get over the hump.
It was hard for me to look myself in the mirror after that series. I don’t remember anything I said immediately after that game. I don’t remember walking off the court, going back to the locker room or our flight home. I was just numb. But instead of letting it consume me, I used it as fuel. That loss gave me a new sense of urgency. I promised myself I would come back better — that we would go further the next time around.
And we did. We came back and got out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001. We beat Boston. We made it to the Eastern Conference finals. We just fell a little short.
It means a little more to me to work to win a championship with this group in this city because I was there for those darker days. Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and I have been through it all together. We have been at the very bottom and close to the top. When you rebuild a franchise brick by brick like that, it means a little bit more because you have literally put your blood, sweat and tears into improving. We have been called the worst team. I have been called the worst player in the league.
I know now that I am a part of something special. It is not every day that a team wins 60 games. Some players will never get to say they accomplished that.
I want to win a championship for this city. I’ve already gotten back in the gym this summer and am determined to make next season special. This team is on a mission to win it all.
As told to Malika Andrews