Image courtesy: EPA

As the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks were sitting in a peculiar place — under .500 winning percentage before their recent dub against the Detroit Pistons — franchise superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo had something to say. 

“Appreciate your teammates.”

And the focal one of the given line is none other than Brook Lopez. 

Speaking after a dominant 117-89 thrashing in Motor City, Giannis joined the media, pleading to appreciate the big man out of Stanford University.

“We have to appreciate Brook, what he does for us,” Giannis said. “I always talk about Brook, people are going to think I’m in love with him … appreciate your teammates. Sometimes he doesn’t block the shot but they’re scared of him. He’s boxing out. I appreciate Brook.”

The champs are shorthanded without their other two best players — Khris Middleton, who contracted the COVID-19 virus, and Jrue Holiday, who continues to recover from an ankle injury. Yet, the absence of Lopez from a back injury further added a problem to the team, pushing head coach Mike Budenholzer to run a small ball lineup often with Antetokounmpo sliding at the center. 

Lopez’ absence diminished the solid paint reputation of Milwaukee. From facing the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz from the past few games — teams that are known to have their very own solid 5 player in the likes of Bam Adebayo, Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert — Giannis was bombarded and unable to anchor alone the inside presence that the team badly needed. As such, Lopez’ modern big abilities in stretching the floor and blocking shots are underappreciated by some of the fans — as these things truly mesh well on the back-to-basket, slashing type of game of their two-time MVP. 

Upon arriving in the Cream City way back in 2018 offseason, Lopez offered solid contributions that are critical to the sustaining success of the squad. His shooting, interior defense and positive demeanor have always helped the Bucks in reaching greater heights in the NBA. Once a main player for the Brooklyn Nets, he sacrificed a lot for the fruitful achievements of the franchise.

So far, there is no timetable yet on the return of the center. The Bucks are set to battle the New York Knicks without him for the eight-straight time on Friday inside the Fiserv Forum.