SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The Milwaukee Bucks fell two games short of the NBA Finals.
They won big at the NBA Awards.
A tearful Giannis Antetokounmpo earned Most Valuable Player honors and Mike Budenholzer won Coach of the Year on Monday night in Santa Monica.
Antetokounmpo, a 24-year-old forward from Greece, beat out Paul George of Oklahoma City and James Harden of Houston, who won last year.
Antetokounmpo was a resounding winner. He received 941 points and 78 first-place votes in the balloting — 165 points more than Harden.
Harden finished second with 776 points and 23 first-place votes.
“MVP is not about stats and numbers, and obviously James Harden had unbelievable numbers and Paul George also, but obviously it’s about winning,” Antetokounmpo said backstage. “We created great habits throughout the season and were able to stick by them, and that’s why we were able to have a chance in every single game we played and were able to win 60 games.”
The show had an international flair, with three international players besides Antetokounmpo winning.
Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds while earning All-NBA first-team honors this season, his sixth with the Bucks. He led the franchise to the best record in the regular season and the Bucks reached the Eastern Conference finals.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as Antetokounmpo thanked his mother and brothers in the audience at Barker Hanger. He credited his late father for pushing him toward his goals and his teammates and coaching staff for their help.
“We started from nothing as a family,” he said, “and we are going to be in every stage that we can be as a family.”
Antetokounmpo said backstage that he had vowed to his family he wasn’t going to cry.
“When you hear your name up there on the stage and then you realize these years of hard work, what you did in the past, then you start getting emotional,” he said.
Budenholzer also got choked up while thanking his family after his second coaching honor. He earned the trophy for the first time with Atlanta in 2015.
He guided the Bucks to a 60-22 record in the regular season in his first year with the franchise, leading them to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to eventual NBA champion Toronto.
“What they did on the court this year, including the playoffs, was special,” Budenholzer said backstage. “We weren’t good enough in the end, but we certainly feel like we have enough talent, we have enough character to be a team that’s playing in the finals and winning a championship.”
Budenholzer also coached Team Giannis in the All-Star Game last season.
He beat out Denver’s Mike Malone and Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Bucks General Manager Jon Horst was named Executive of the Year, the second general manager in team history to win the award.
“We congratulate Jon on earning this well-deserved award,” Bucks owners Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan said on the Bucks’ website. “Jon has played an instrumental role in building the Bucks into a championship-caliber organization and we are thrilled that his fellow team executives throughout the league recognize his great work.”
In his second season as the general manager, Horst hired Budenholzer and assembled a team that went on to have the best record in the NBA at 60-22.
Milwaukee was the top scoring team in the NBA in 2018-19 and finished the regular season with a top five offense and defense. The Bucks also advanced past the First Round of the playoffs, and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, for the first time since 2001.
The Bucks are now 104-60 (.634) over the last two seasons with Horst as the team’s general manager, having made the playoffs in each season. Horst is the second Bucks general manager to earn NBA Executive of the Year, joining John Hammond who won the award following the 2009-10 season.
Lou Williams was voted the Sixth Man of the Year for the second season in a row and third time in his career, tying former Los Angeles Clipper guard Jamal Crawford. The guard won for the first time in 2015 with Toronto.
Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz won Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. The 26-year-old center from France beat out Antetokounmpo and George.
Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks easily won Rookie of the Year. The 20-year-old small forward from Slovenia accepted his trophy from RJ Barrett, who went to the New York Knicks as the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft last week.
The Atlanta Hawks traded Kent Bazemore to the Portland Trail Blazers for Evan Turner is a swap of high-priced players heading into the final year of their contracts.
Bazemore was the last holdover from the Hawks’ 60-win team in 2014-15. The 6-foot-5 swingman lost his starting job midway through last season and is set to make nearly $19.3 million in the last season of a four-year, $70 million deal. The drafting of De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish figured to cut into Bazemore’s playing time even more, leading to Monday’s trade.
Turner, the second overall pick in 2010, fills Atlanta’s need for a backup point guard behind rookie star Trae Young and is essentially a wash in terms of costs with $18.6 million left on his contract. The Hawks will be Turner’s fifth team in 10 seasons.