The world champions are back in action this week.

Coming off their NBA title, the Milwaukee Bucks will play their first preseason game on Tuesday, Oct. 5, taking on the Memphis Grizzlies in their first of five exhibition contests.

Milwaukee’s regular season starts on Oct. 19 with a high-profile matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. The Bucks and the Nets faced off in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. The series came down to the wire with Milwaukee winning Game 7 in overtime.

The Bucks will host the Nets at Fiserv Forum. They’ll receive their championship rings and drop the banner that night, too. Then it’s back to business.

"I think it was a storybook ending for us last year, but stories have sequels, stories have trilogies. At the end of the day, it’s about continuing the next story, continuing the next book," shooting guard Pat Connaughton said last week.

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PREVIOUSLY: Freak Show: Giannis Antetokounmpo's 50 deliver Bucks NBA title

One of the big questions going into this season relates to the health of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. The power forward has said he’s still experiencing soreness after injuring his knee in the playoffs.

"I feel good. Obviously, I’ve got to do my treatment like always, take care of my body and just manage it," he told reporters last week. "If I feel pain again, or whatever the case may be, I have to listen to my body. When you feel pain, it’s your body telling you it’s protecting you, you can't go no more."

It’s too early in the season to risk playing through much pain, Antetokounmpo said, but he’s working his way back to 100 percent.

There will be some changes to the roster this year, including the return of guard George Hill. Milwaukee also added guard Grayson Allen from Memphis and power forward Semi Ojeleye from Boston.

"I think that we’ve added shooting. We’ve added playmaking. We’ve added size to our team," said general manager Jon Horst.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Trophy after game six of the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports
Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Trophy after game six of the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today Sports

Meanwhile, several returning players reminisced about their time with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy during interviews last week.

Center Brook Lopez surprised his old high school in California by bringing it along to a ceremony held to retire his jersey. He especially enjoyed showing it off to his brother Robin, a former Bucks player who wasn’t on last year's team, he joked. Center Bobby Portis took the trophy to his hometown in Arkansas, where he operates a foundation to support single moms, which held a special event to celebrate.

For his part, Antetokounmpo was disappointed when he had to give up the trophy after taking it to his native Greece, he said. He brought it to visit the Acropolis and his old neighborhood in Athens. But now he’s looking ahead.

"I don’t want it no more. That’s in the past, it’s over with," he said.

The 'vast majority' of the team is vaccinated, including Antetokounmpo

Ninety-five percent of players across the NBA have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to ESPN. That includes most of the Bucks, team owners said last week.

They voiced their support for the vaccine at Milwaukee’s media day last week, as did head coach Mike Budenholzer and Horst.

The team and the National Basketball Players Association have both provided information on the virus and vaccine, said point guard Jrue Holiday, who played an active role in the NBA’s vaccine initiatives.

And Antetokounmpo said that he’s been vaccinated — a choice he made to protect his family.

"I thought it was the best decision for me to be safe," he said. "I have kids."

It could be a tough season for players who’ve declined the shots. In some NBA cities, including New York and San Francisco, ordinances prevent unvaccinated athletes from playing indoors. Players won’t be paid for games they miss due to their vaccine status, the league said.

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