Jabari Parker praised by Giannis Antetokounmpo after 33-point night

MILWAUKEE -- Reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said he knew better than to engage in a one-on-one battle with former teammate Jabari Parker during Milwaukee's 111-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Instead, The Greek Freak relied on team basketball. He scored 30 points and 18 rebounds -- to counter Parker's season-high 33 points and 14 rebounds -- as he led the Bucks to their first 15-3 start since 1973-74.

"We did that in practice every day," said Antetokounmpo, who played four seasons alongside Parker from 2014 to '18. "At the end of the day, Jabari's such a good player one-on-one, so I try not to get out of your game because you know that he loves to do that. He wants you to play one-on-one because he's so good at it."

All-Star forward Khris Middleton returned from his seven-game absence because of a left thigh contusion to post 16 points in 20 minutes off the bench. Parker posted 25 of his 33 points through two quarters, marking a career high for a half, and Trae Young added 29 points with seven assists. However, the Hawks dropped their eighth consecutive contest after overcoming a 17-point deficit.

"I just love being here. I love the fans," Parker said of Milwaukee. "It's like a home game for me because I just love the energy, and it's just like coming back to my second home in a lot of ways, so I get excited playing here."

Ahead of Wednesday's tipoff, Parker told ESPN that he would "never" rule out a return to the first NBA organization that he called home. He faces a player option for 2020-21 with the Hawks after signing a two-year, $13 million contract on July 11.

Antetokounmpo caught wind of Parker's comments after the victory and also wouldn't rule out a reunion down the line.

"I don't think there's a player that ever leaves Milwaukee that doesn't love Milwaukee," Antetokounmpo said. "As an organization, that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to make players love playing in Milwaukee, love being in Milwaukee."

Antetokounmpo is eligible to sign a five-year, $253.75 million supermax extension with the Bucks in the summer of 2020. That would be the largest in NBA history, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. However, Antetokounmpo set the record straight during Milwaukee's media day in September, saying that all free-agency talk throughout the season would be "disrespectful" to his teammates.

"At the end of the day, I want guys to love being here, love playing for this team, love playing with me," Antetokounmpo said. "I love that if he ever finds an opportunity to come back, he's willing to come back. Who knows? We might be teammates again.

"And it's not just Jabari. I'm talking about all of the guys -- Tony [Snell], Thon [Maker], Christian Wood, [Matthew Dellavedova], John Henson, Brandon Jennings -- all those guys that I played with. I know that if the opportunity presented itself, they would love to be here. A lot of people that played with me these seven years love playing for Milwaukee, and they love being in Milwaukee."