The Greek Freak Is Freakier Than Ever
Sports |  Source: si.com

The Greek Freak Is Freakier Than Ever

It's time to start calling him what he is: a superstar.

The NBA is buzzing right now with the high quality of play from the league's top players, in particular Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But another player may be vaulting faster into superstardom, and is only just getting the recognition he deserves. Because his name resides in the Mike Krzyzewski tier of spelling difficulty, let me just introduce the NBA's newest superstar as the Greek Freak.

Just a month after his 22nd birthday, Giannis Antetekounmpo is playing better basketball than every player in the Eastern Conference outside of Cleveland. As Bill Simmons put it, Giannis is part of the new class of NBA "unicorns": his game is unique in comparison to both the present and the past. Standing at 6-foot-11, he has the handles of a point guard, the athleticism of a wing, and the wingspan of a center. He covers ground like no other player in the league.

This lethal combination has led to rapid improvement that has shown no signs of slowing down. This season, he is averaging career highs in points (23.9), assists (5.8), rebounds (9.1), steals (1.9), and blocks (2.0) per game, each of which is at least an 18 percent increase over last year's respective numbers. He leads the Bucks in all five categories, and would become the first player to do so for any team since LeBron James during his first stint in Cleveland.

Giannis is far from just a stat stuffer, and the advanced metrics may arguably be even more impressive. As of Jan. 6, he has the second highest Player Efficiency Rating (28.27), third highest Value Added (328.9), and third highest Expected Wins Added (11.0), trailing only Westbrook and Harden in either of these categories. His impact was no more apparent than earlier this week, in which the Greek Freak drained his first career buzzer-beater in none other than Madison Square Garden.

One reason Giannis has not gotten more attention, besides the fact that he is playing in small-market Milwaukee and is subsequently not appearing on national television often, is that he is not playing for an elite team. Sitting at 18-16, the Bucks are only two games ahead of the ninth seed in the East.

However, their point differential of +2.5, third best in the East and eighth best in the league, signals that the team may be better than their record. The team ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, a common trait among NBA title contenders.

This has all come despite the Bucks having been without Khris Middleton, their leading scorer from last season. His eventual return should give the Bucks a boost that could help make for a competitive playoff series against conference heavyweights Cleveland or Toronto.

As the NBA season nears its halfway point, the talk of this year's elite players will continue to be dominated by Harden, Westbrook, LeBron James, and the Golden State Warriors. But if he gets the respect he's due, the question should not be whether Giannis should be an All-Star and All-NBA, but what position he should be considered as on those teams.

Every player who reaches superstar status in the NBA has a nickname. There's King James. Russ. Steph. KD. The Beard. CP3. And then there's the Greek Freak.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: usatoday.com

What To Watch For In Sports This Week (6/6)

Other than the NBA Finals, of course.

Don't act like you don't know what's in store for this week.

Already down 2-0 to Golden State, LeBron James is two losses away from a 2-5 NBA Finals record -- which would make him just the second player in history to lose five finals next to Lakers legend Jerry West (1-8).

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh holds a 2-1 lead heading into a pivotal Game 4 at San Jose. The Penguins have an opportunity to steal another on the road before heading back home to close things out for their first Stanley Cup since 2009.

This is the only time out of the year where the absolute best basketball and hockey in the world is being played. Why miss out on that kind of opportunity?

Monday, June 6

NHL: Pittsburgh at San Jose, Game 4 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)
"We've battled through a lot this season,"San Jose forward Logan Couture told SI.com. "When we're pushed, we've pushed back. We know in our room we didn't play well at all last [game]. We made a lot of mistakes that we haven't been making throughout these playoffs. But Game 5 is a new opportunity for us."

Sustaining longer possessions and avoiding turnovers will be key for the Sharks in tonight's Game 5. Can they even the series out before heading back to Pittsburgh?

Wednesday, June 8

NBA: Golden State at Cleveland, Game 3 (9 p.m. ET, ABC)
Even if you predicted Golden State to win the first two games of the NBA Finals, it's unlikely you saw two blowouts like that coming. Cleveland followed up its 15-point loss in Game 1 by getting embarrassed, 110-77, on Sunday night.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who did not play in last year's finals, have combined to shoot 35 percent. LeBron James is 16-of-38 (42.1 percent) thus far. The Cavaliers are shooting 36.8 percent as a team, and less than 28 percent from the 3-point line. That's not a winning recipe; especially against a Warriors team that won an NBA record 73 games during the regular season.

Cleveland needs to not only win Game 3, but win with confidence. Leaving Quicken Loans Arena without tying this series up will all but guarantee a second straight title for the Warriors.

Thursday, June 9

NHL: San Jose at Pittsburgh, Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)
Will Pittsburgh have the opportunity to finish things off in front of their own crowd, or will San Jose even the series at 2-2 in Game 4? Either way, the intensity and severity of the moment should be enough for you to have this on your TV during your Thirsty Thursday festivities.

Friday, June 10

NBA: Golden State at Cleveland, Game 4 (9 p.m. ET, ABC)
No team in NBA history that trailed 3-0 has ever won a four-game series. Even with one of the greatest players of all time in James, that's a statistic that wouldn't bode well for the Cavs.

Sunday, June 12

NASCAR: Sprint Cup Series at Michigan (1 p.m. ET, FS1)

NHL: Pittsburgh at San Jose, Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBC)*

*If necessary

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: sportingnews.com

The Best of Wednesday Night's Sports

Soccer may have been more exciting than basketball tonight.

Well, it's humpday, people. We've had two relatively unexciting nights of basketball this week, and tonight was no exception, so here's tonight's best of the best:

Richard Jefferson turns back the clock:
Old man telling father time to f*ck off for the night! For reference, Jefferson's last Eastern Conference Finals were with a team consisting of Jason Kidd and Dikembe Mutombo.

Nagbe makes his first international cap/goal count:
Darlington Nagbe is a player that US fans have been dying to see make an appearance for the national team. He finally got the opportunity tonight, and in the dying moments of a Copa America tune-up against Ecuador, he netted this beauty of a volley to win the match.

Raptors ice cold on the road:
With no player on your roster scoring over 14 points, what did you expect? Just as I predicted, the Cavs absolutely slaughtered the Raptors tonight, 116-78, and even led 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. Here's the best recap I could find of the Raptors performance tonight.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: wtop.com

The Freak Is Back in Action

Big Time Timmy Jim, The Freak, The Franchise, and The Freaky Franchise is Back!

Tim Lincecum won his first game in the MLB in almost a year over the weekend. The last win he "earned" came in relief for the San Francisco Giants, where he gave up three earned runs and two walks in less than two innings of pitching.

In his first start this season with his new west coast team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the two-time Cy Young winner pitched six one-run innings in a 7-1 win against the Oakland Athletics. As a fan, I couldn't have been happier this year. But maybe that's because I'm a Phillies fan.

As his multiple nicknames imply, Lincecum was a unique phenom when he was at his best in San Francisco. A 5-foot-10, 175-pound pitcher dominates batters, throwing in the low to mid 90s while sporting a filthy, two-seam fastball and a Bugs Bunny changeup.

Like other dominant pitchers such as Pedro Martinez and Sandy Koufax, Lincecum had short prime, before his arm couldn't maintain the All-Star level performance he put on early in his career. But at his best, The Freak entertained baseball fans in four All-Star games, two no-hitters in 2013 and 14, three World Series titles, and one World Series MVP.

Despite how skilled his was, watching Lincecum over the past four seasons has been as difficult as watching Kevin Garnett late in his career: An athlete who went from a force of nature, someone who could control his game flawlessly to a below-average player sticking around because of his past accolades.

Nothing is worse in sports than watching a player struggle to do the things that were once second nature. But unlike Garnett, Lincecum couldn't blame his problem on age or injury. His struggle was that his body couldn't handle the innings anymore, the reason he became a pretty good relief pitcher his last two seasons in San Francisco.

Still, I don't want to see Chris Paul come off the bench and play 12 minutes a game, I don't want to see Adrian Peterson being the second back in a two back system, and I don't want to see Tim Lincecum pitch an inning and a third every couple nights.

I want to see Big Time Timmy Jim pitch every five to six days, give up about two to three runs in seven innings while striking out eight. Though it was just one start against a weak offensive team in the Athletics, a guy can hope for one of his favorite players to return to stardom.

Hey, I hoped the same thing a few years back with Bartolo Colon.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: N. Leeper, businessinsider.com

The Knicks Are Actually Just Ahead Of Their Time

Does nobody else think of this?

The Knicks off-season has been tumultuous, at best. I'm not here to chronicle Phil Jackson's tenure (let alone Isiah Thomas') because Rodger Sherman already did that here, but it appears things may be on the up-and-up as an encouraging tidbit came out of the New York media earlier this week.

Late last Thursday night, the Knicks signed restricted free agent guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four year / 71 million dollar offer sheet.

Most basketball fans awoke to this news on Friday morning and did a spit take at their ESPN notification. Yes, the Knicks offered 71 million to Tim Hardaway Jr over four years.

Hardaway isn't a bad player, but 71 million dollars from the Knicks told me initially that maybe they think it's the early nineties and his first name is actually "Penny".

Bill Simmons offered his two cents on the offer sheet.

It goes without saying that the Atlanta Hawks DID NOT match the Knicks offer sheet, and Hardaway is now a Knick once again. He'll join a backcourt featuring Ron Baker, Frank Ntilikina, and... um... I don't know. Anyways. I, like most, was a bit skeptical at first. But, we're all missing the boat. The Knicks are just ahead of their time. Yesterday, Knicks beat writer Steve Popper reported that Hardaway's free agency meeting with the Knicks went something like this:

I don't know who is making basketball decisions for the New York Knicks at the moment. I mean, just earlier this week, David Griffin was interested in the Knicks' GM job, but Dolan didn't want him handling "basketball decisions." But one thing is for sure - whatever mystery man is pulling the strings right now is a true visionary.

No one has ever considered this before in free agency. Generally, GM's award players contracts based on past performance and what they think that player could blossom in the foreseeable future.

The 2017 Knicks are taking a different, revolutionary approach that will change free agency forever. They're now just threatening players to just simply get better at basketball. No, I don't understand how no one has ever considered this tactic.

Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, and Kyle Lowry all received huge paydays during the first week of free agency - but those teams (Boston, Denver, and Toronto respectively) are stupid. They should really take the New York Knickerbocker approach and just slightly overpay for lesser basketball players, and then threaten them to just get better at the sport. It's genius.

Remember Moneyball? Billy Beane threw traditional "overspending" out the window and hinged his free agency signings almost solely on "on-base percentage." Admittedly, the reasons for big-time free agents avoiding the Oakland A's and New York Knicks are completely different. Oakland, given Major League Baseball's lack of a salary cap, was at the mercy of their owner's short pockets. The Knicks don't have that problem. They made their own bed by letting Phil Jackson, a man who literally didn't even want the job, run their franchise into the ground. Free agents don't want to go to New York because the organization is in complete disarray.

But, like the A's ignited an saber metric revolution in the MLB, I expect the Knicks to employ this "Tim Hardaway Jr." tactic to all their lesser free agent singings. They just give them more money than they're worth, but then tell them they have to be better at basketball. This will totally work. It's genius.

The year is 2020. Tim Hardaway Jr. is in the 3rd year of his 4 year / 71 million dollar deal. It's March and he's averaging a triple/double on 80% shooting. Jerami Grant, who is in the 2nd year of a 4 year / 75 million dollar deal, is blocking 15 shots a game and leading the league in rebounds. Running the point is ex-laughingstock Raul Neto. He leads the league in assist-turnover ratio and is on-pace to shatter John Stockton's career assist mark in just the 2019-2020 campaign. He is on the second year of a 5 year / 80 million dollar deal.

What do all these players have in common? In free agency meetings, the Knicks made them promise to get better at basketball. They signed them to deals that, at the time, seemed outlandish, but after their promised future success kicked in, they were considered bargains. Imagine anyone telling you now that Raul Neto is worth less than 30 million a year - the Knicks have him right now for 16/year. All because the Knicks made him promise to get better at basketball. Genius.

I ripped that clip straight from a March 2020 edition of the New York Post.

This will totally work. Tim Hardaway Jr. promised he'd get better. More teams should force their players to promise.

Image Alt
Sports |  Source: espn.go.com

10 Pro Athletes Who Excelled in Another Sport

They're freak athletes.

Some people are just too athletic.

They are big. They are strong. They are fast. They have all the skills necessary to thrive in any sport they want. In high school, they tend to play multiple sports but in college (and the pros), many are forced to pick their favorite. Not everyone has to choose though, and here is a look at 10 pro athletes in recent times who excelled in another sport.
Jameis Winston
Other than stealing crab legs and winning a Heisman Trophy during his tenure at Florida State, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers current starting quarterback had quite the baseball career. As a sophomore, Winston had seven saves as the Seminoles closer. And he owned a 1.08 ERA in 24 games while striking out 31 batters in 33.1 innings. There was pro baseball potential here too. But football has worked out pretty well.
Antonio Gates
Yeah, you probably know him as the San Diego Chargers All-Pro tight end. But at Kent State, he was better known for his skills on the basketball court. He averaged 20.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a senior. Gates didn't even play college football. At 6-foot-4, he was a tweener in basketball, which hurt his NBA chances. And he was originally a Michigan State football recruit, but Nick Saban didn't want him to also play basketball. Nick Saban screwed up there.
Brian Jordan
The former All-Star outfielder had a 15-year big league career finished his big league career with a .282 batting average and 182 home runs. Prior to that, he was in the NFL for three seasons. He was the Atlanta Falcons starting strong safety for two years, recording six interceptions. He was even a Pro Bowl alternate in his final season.
So why did he give it up? At the same time, he was a St. Louis Cardinals prospect so when he was big league ready in 1992, they gave him a new contract -- with incentive ($1.7 million) to give up football. It worked. His big league career lasted until 2006.
Russell Wilson
Before he was the Super Bowl winner (and loser) he is today, Wilson was a second basemen in the Colorado Rockies farm system. He was selected by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft and spent two summers in their system while he was still playing college football. His .710 OPS in A Ball wasn't awful, but a huge senior year at Wisconsin (72.8 completion percentage, 33 touchdowns, four interceptions) decided his future.
Mark Hendrickson
He's 6-foot-9 and left-handed. That should give this one away. Hendrickson starred in basketball and baseball at Washington State University which led to him being selected in both the NBA draft and MLB draft. Like many NBA second rounders, Hendrickson became a journeyman. He gave up the game in 2000 after playing in 115 games in four seasons for four different teams.
With his focus on baseball, he enjoyed a 10-year big league career (2002-2011). His results weren't great, going 58-74 with a 5.03 ERA. But he is one of just 12 men ever to play in both the MLB and NBA -- and the most recent.
Brandon Weeden
Ever wonder why Weeden was so old as an NFL rookie? Because he was the New York Yankees second round pick in the 2002 MLB draft. He fizzled out in high-A at 22 and then went to Oklahoma State, had an excellent career there and became another Cleveland Browns quarterback mistake when they picked him in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft. Sure, didn't excel in either league, but he's thrown more touchdowns (31) than interceptions (30) in his five-year NFL career, so there's that.
Drew Henson
Yeah. He wasn't great at either sport professionally. But it is hard to deny his athleticism. He was the New York Yankees third round draft pick in 1998 and played baseball during the summer during his college years. As a freshman at Michigan, he competed with Tom Brady for playing time -- but eventually lost. He started as a junior (2000) and threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions before quitting on the game to focus on baseball.
His lack of Triple-A and MLB success (.234 average and .697 OPS in three Triple-A seasons, 1-for-9 in his big league career) didn't inspire confidence, and the Yankees landed Alex Rodriguez as their third baseman prior to the 2004 MLB season, so Henson gave up on baseball and went back to football. He played in nine NFL games in five seasons. Maybe he should have focused on one and he would have excelled.
Bo Jackson
One of the greatest athletes ever, Jackson had 30-home run power and was a bruising NFL running back. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft. He believed they tried to sabotage his baseball career, so he signed with the Kansas City Royals instead, who picked him in the fourth round of that year's MLB draft.
He ended up joining the LA Raiders a year later when they picked him in the seventh round and owner Al Davis was willing to let Jackson play both sports. Both went exceptionally well until he injured his hip in a 1991 playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The injury forced him to give up football and he wasn't the same baseball player after.
Deion Sanders
Count track and he was actually a three-sport athlete at Florida State. Football was his major focus as he was the Atlanta Falcons fifth overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft -- and a Yankees 30th rounder the same year. The NFL Hall of Famer was an eight time Pro Bowler and two time Super Bowl Champ. He also spent nine years in the big leagues, hitting .263 and stealing 186 bases in his tenure albeit he never played in 100 MLB games in a season. Yeah. He was a pretty special athlete.
Ricky Williams
There was a time when Williams was kind of like a Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders. Picked in the eighth round of the 1995 MLB draft, he was a Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer in the springs and summers and a Texas Longhorns running back in the fall. In four pro seasons, Williams hit .211 with a .526 OPS -- not quite as good as his nearly 6,600 rushing yards and 75 rushing touchdowns in that same span. Picked fifth overall in the 1999 NFL draft, he gave up on baseball and went on to rush for over 10,000 yards in his NFL career.