New York Knicks second-round draft pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo turned down a two-year contract worth $550,000 with Italian club Varese to play for $25,000 in the NBA's D-League, his agent Tim Lotsos told the New York Post.
Antetokounmpo also received offers from Greek club Olympiakos and Spanish club Sevilla, and the proposed contract with Varese included an opt-out to join the NBA after one year.
“Amazing isn’t it?,’’ Lotsos told The Post in a phone call from Greece. “To my surprise, he passed on it. He’s very ambitious and determined to make the NBA. It’s a big sacrifice. It could’ve really put him ahead of schedule in his career. I didn’t try to force him. I wanted him to make his own decision.’’
The Knicks don't have an available roster spot for Antetokounmpo, who won't be allowed to participate in the team's training camp because he's not on an NBA contract.
New York drafted Antetokounmpo with the intention of stashing him in Europe for a season, but team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills convinced the rookie that playing for New York's new D-League affiliate in Westchester would be more helpful to his NBA career, according to the Post.
The Knicks selected Antetokounmpo with the No. 51 pick after taking Wichita State product Cleanthony Early at No. 34. The team also picked French forward Louis Labryie at No. 57.
Antetokounmpo, 22, averaged 12 points and 4.3 rebounds in 50 games with the D-League's Delaware 87ers last season and 3.0 points in five summer league games with the Knicks in July. He is the older brother of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Thanasis was reportedly "leery" of playing for a European team after his family moved from Greece to Milwaukee.
- Chris Johnson