Mavs Story To Follow As Giannis Just 'Unfollowed' Bucks

Mike Fisher

DALLAS - When it comes to Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Dallas Mavericks are tied for first in one category: All 30 NBA teams covet him equally. but beyond that?

Yes, "The Greek Freak'' has a Dallas tie. And it's at least a bit compelling as, via social media, he seems to be untying himself from his Milwaukee Bucks employers.

Milwaukee flopped in the NBA Playoffs again this year. But Antetokounmpo can still re-up with the Bucks on a long-term deal (a five-year, $253.75 million supermax extension) before his contract expires after the 2020-21 NBA season.

Or, he can sign nothing now and wait until he's free then. At which time he can explore all options.

And yes, there is a reason for Mavs fans to believe, if only a little bit, that Dallas would be an option.

Or, better said, there are two reasons. Or three. Or four. And the way the NBA works, Giannis doesn't really have to wait until free agency to seek his "freedom.''

One of the reasons for Mavs GM Donnie Nelson's long-ago affection for Giannis, who was probably 14 when he and his family began allowing relationships to develop with Donnie (and with another NBA scouting type by the name of Tony Ronzone), is his Dirk-like nature.

Qualities like character and loyalty. Giannis Antetokounmpo, after seven years in Milwaukee, has those traits and has those connections ...

Or at least he did before apparently scrubbing clean his Instagram relationship with all things Bucks. It's worth noting: Giannis' Twitter account has not followed suit. It's also dangerous to overreact to social-media junk ... but that doesn't negate the Dallas-Giannis tie.

And speaking of Nelson, Ronzone and "relationships'': They exist here. It is not difficult to envision Giannis (and any player of his MVP ilk) wondering how successful he might be teaming with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. For Dallas, this would be acquiring a "first star.'' 

READ MORE: Would You Trade KP For Giannis?

Giannis would be at the top of the most impressive three-man totem pole in the NBA. ... with a "Dallas, Europe'' feel to it all that might be a source of pride to them.

(Sidebar: It is the view of Luka Doncic's father that Dallas is an inviting place for any Euro player because the Mavs seem to know how to create a comfortable environment for such a player. See: Nowitzki, Dirk ... and many others, now including Luka.)

So put "official free agency'' aside; Giannis could announce TODAY that he wants out of Milwaukee NOW ... and the organization would essentially be forced to acquiesce. 

That action might fly in the face of what the Bucks think; Bucks GM Jon Horst recently said, via ESPN: "At the end of the day, I have full confidence in my personal relationship, our league's relationship, our coach's relationship, his teammates' relationship with Giannis in what we're doing and what we're about.''

But again, to "relationships.'

In the spring of 2013, Dallas GM Donnie Nelson neared the payoff of a plan that had been in the works for years. Yes, you know about how the plan failed when his advice to owner Mark Cuban went unheard, Cuban making the decision to pass on Giannis with the No. 13 overall pick in that NBA Draft to instead save a few hundred thousand dollars (of cap room) or so by trading down ...because that extra dough was earmarked for free-agent target Dwight Howard.

Cuban's plan didn't work. Nelson's vision of Giannis as a star did.

What not everybody knows is that Donnie Nelson basically moved to Greece that spring in order to maintain his close ties with the Antetokounmpo family - ties that began being knotted back when Giannis was just 14 years old.

The joke around Mavs HQ was that "Donnie moved in with the Antetokounmpo family.'' We've always assumed that was an exaggeration. But pitched his tent right across the street in Giannis' native Greece? Yeah, something like that.

Additionally, 2012-13 was the year the Mavs (re-)hired Ronzone, who alongside Donnie might be the most connected international scouting mind in the world. And guess who else was friendly with the Antetokounmpo family?

That would be Tony Ronzone.

Is Giannis really severing his relationship with the Bucks? A social-media scrub doesn't automatically mean that. But is he interested in someday moving to a place where relationships are key?

The Mavs' twin tandems of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis and Donnie Nelson and Tony Ronzone absolutely offer him that.