After a 50-year gap between the franchise's first and second NBA titles, the Milwaukee Bucks plan on a much shorter wait for the third.
That was the overall message Monday as the champions reconvened for the team's pre-season media day.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the charge for that mindset, looking forward rather than back at last season's triumph.
"I'm not satisfied. I'm not even close to being satisfied," the Greek star told reporters.
"As the leader of this team, that's the tone I'm going to set. We understand that teams are coming for us, but we're going to be ready."
Year 9 pic.twitter.com/5EuMaPYgHq— Giannis Ugo Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) September 27, 2021
While acknowledging that inevitable target on the team's back, Antetokounmpo sought to maintain the underdog mentality that drove the Bucks last season.
"We know we were the 2021 NBA champs, but right now we're just the Milwaukee Bucks again that nobody believes in us," he said. "And nobody believes that we can do it again."
Their hopes of repeating will of course rest largely on Antetokounmpo's shoulders, and there were questions about his health Monday.
He and head coach Mike Budenholzer indicated they will take it easy on the NBA Finals MVP, who is still recovering from the knee injury he suffered in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks.
"I think Giannis’ health and Giannis being at 100 or as close to 100 per cent for as much of the season is important to us," Budenholzer told reporters.
"I think now is the time when you can err on the side [of caution]. We’re always on the side of caution but whatever the other side of that is and just get him strong and physically ready for an 82-game season and a playoff run.
"But it’s the whole group. I think there’s a real awareness that we need to be very conscientious of just trying to do things that make sense given where we are and coming off the season that we had."
Antetokounmpo is on board with that plan, emphasising that the playoffs were a time to play through pain, but the situation is different now.
"I'm good to go," Antetokounmpo said. "But if I feel like I'm in pain again or whatever the case might be, I have to listen to my body. When you feel pain, it’s your body telling you that it’s protecting you, that you can’t go anymore.
"I've played through pain. I don't think now is the time to risk that. It's too early in the season."