(Reuters) - Giannis Antetokounmpo has learned to speak kindly to referees when calls do not go his way, the Milwaukee power forward said after the Bucks outlasted the San Antonio Spurs 135-129 in the NBA on Saturday.
Antetokounmpo’s penchant for driving to the basket means he draws physical contact more often than most, and while officials do not always whistle a foul, they come around eventually if spoken to respectfully, he says.
“I think I’ve grown as a player to be able to relax and not show my frustration,” the 23-year-old nicknamed ‘Greek Freak’ told reporters after scoring 34 points.
“I tell them ‘look I think I was fouled in that play’. I try to talk to them as nice as I can. I think it always works back in our favor when you’re polite to them.”
Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo’s attitude invariably rubbed off positively on the entire team.
“Giannis seems like he’s always in attack mode,” Budenholzer said.
“We feel like he could get more calls — there’s a lot of contact on his drives — but the thing Giannis impresses all us with is if he doesn’t get the call he keeps playing.
“That’s a hard characteristic to have. His ability to go to the next play on tough no-calls, it really helps us as a team, helps us hold everybody accountable.”
Antetokounmpo not only drew plenty of fouls on Saturday, but converted 16 of his 20 free throws. As well as scoring 34 points, he pulled down 18 rebounds and dished out eight assists.
His stellar performance helped the Bucks improve to 14-5, second behind the Toronto Raptors (16-4) in the Eastern Conference.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Tokyo; Editing by John O'Brien