The Greek Freak Is Freakier Than Ever
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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.

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ACC Hoops Roundup: Week Of 1/16

Breaking down the nation's premier conference.

This is the ACC Roundup. Every Monday, I'll be breaking down the previous week and previewing the coming week. As the season winds down, analysis will include ACC and NCAA tournament implications.

Most impressive week: Notre Dame
Sure, the Irish didn't get a marquee win to match the big home wins scored by Louisville, UNC, and Florida State. But winning on the road has proved to be difficult for everyone in the ACC, so winning at Miami and at Virginia Tech made for an impressive week for a Notre Dame team that is quickly exceeding expectations.

Least impressive week: NC State
Duke contended for this position, but I'll give them a pass since both losses were tough road games without Amile Jefferson. For NC State, things are going downhill fast. NC State wants to be a tournament team, but losing to Boston College and Georgia Tech (at home) will do serious damage to those tournament hopes. NC State will have to turn things around quickly to save not only their postseason hopes, but also coach Gottfried's season.

Best player: Jamel Artis
It's tough to give this to a player who was a part of two losses, but Artis deserves some recognition for keeping this Pitt team competitive. He put up 43 on a stingy Louisville defense, and while he followed up with only 15 in the Miami blowout, he still had a very efficient week worthy of respect. He's going to have to keep filling it up to get Pitt back in the win column.

Best play: Matt Farrell steal and assist to finish off Virginia Tech.
Not the flashiest play, but I love the creativity, hustle, and importance. Some will pin this play on the Hokies, but I think very few players could make this happen. Credit to Farrell for literally laying it all out on the floor to not only get the steal, but also for making a great pass rather than forcing a contested layup.

This week's five best matchups:
5. Miami at Duke (Saturday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN)
By the time Duke takes the floor for this matchup at Cameron, it will have been over two weeks since they've won a game. A tight game shouldn't be anticipated, but assuming that Amile Jefferson will still be out, the Blue Devils will need to prove that they can beat a solid team without him on the floor. Miami is coming off of a blowout win at Pittsburgh, and should they win at Wake Forest on Wednesday, they will certainly have more confidence than most teams coming to Cameron.

4. Virginia Tech at Clemson (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., ESPN)
While Virginia Tech has looked far better than previous years, their road woes have persisted so far in ACC play with blowouts at NC State and Florida State to get things started. Clemson has looked great at home, taking UNC to overtime and falling narrowly to Virginia. Both teams will be hunting for a win to take some pressure off to keep their records looking pretty.

3. Clemson at Louisville (Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
This should be a win for Louisville, but as previously mentioned, this is a week low in Top 25 matchups for ACC standards. Clemson will eventually need to win a big one to solidify their resume. Louisville has already fallen in ACC play at the KFC Yum! Center, so this may be Clemson's best chance at a signature road win in ACC play.

2. Louisville at Florida State (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
Arguably a more intriguing matchup than Florida State's weekday showdown, this matchup should be kept close due to each team's length and athleticism. This is the last of six consecutive ranked matchups for Florida State, and should they win both matchups this week, the Seminoles should solidify themselves as a legitimate contender for a NCAA Tournament top seed.

1. Notre Dame at Florida State (Wednesday, 7 p.m., ACCN)
Surprise! After unexpected great starts in conference play for each team, their combined record coming into this matchup is 9-1. Neither was considered to be in the top tier of the conference to open the season, but this matchup may solidify one of them as a legit ACC title contender. Notre Dame looks to remain the lone undefeated in ACC play, while FSU looks to bounce back from a loss in Chapel Hill.

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Is FIBA Better than the NBA?

A definitive comparison.

Have you been wondering why Olympic basketball has such a strange feel to it?

I'll be honest: That's probably because it's like watching a Texas high school basketball juggernaut compete against a third grade rec team from a Portland suburb night in and night out, but not so fast!

The FIBA international basketball rules play a huge role in this too.

But while these weird international rules may be foreign to most NBA fans, does that mean that they're necessarily worse?

So let's stop wasting time and do what America does best: Try to validate our own way of doing something even though literally the entire world does it differently. Because even though the international field stands no chance of beating the USA on the court, maybe they can best us in the rule books (nerds).

Game Length
The first time I watched olympic basketball, I thought that it was just shorter because nobody plays defense. Then I realized that olympic basketball is literally shorter by a whole eight minutes.

Because while the NBA plays four 12-minute quarters, FIBA rules dictate there be four 10-minute quarters. And you know what? Nobody really gives a shit. So let's keep this one short.

Advantage: Nobody.

The Three-Point Line
Thanks to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and the rest of the 2016 NBA runner ups out in the bay area, the three point arc has had a recent resurgence in the realm of basketball. So much so that some have actually suggested moving the three-point line back a few inches just to make things harder for teams who rely too much on outside shots.

Trying to eliminate something that's actually making the NBA way more fun? It's almost like the NBA is taking some notes from the NFL's playbook. However, that's beside the point.

What really matters here is that the FIBA three-point line is about .5 meters closer to the basket (.15 meters in the corners).And even though that only translates into a difference of around one and a half feet, we can get up on our high horse here like Americans do so well:

What's the matter, every other country in the world? Can't handle and extra foot and a half?

Advantage: NBA

If you're anything like me, you universally despise the time out. I want to watch sports! Not a bunch of fat, bald old men yelling at a clipboard while their teams completely ignore them.

They ruin the pace of the game!

And in the NBA, they really ruin the pace of a game. Each team gets six full timeouts a game, two twenty-second timeouts a half, and an additional three timeouts should the game go into overtime.

That's why the last minute of a close game can feel like torture. Inbound. Timeout. Inbound. Timeout.

However, FIBA does things right: You get two full time-outs in the first half, three in the second half, and an additional one in overtime. None of that twenty-second BS. And the possibility for more of this.

Advantage: FIBA

Jump Balls
Over the course of NBA history, the jump ball has given us some extremely comical moments. Poor Nate. He never stood a chance.

But that's what makes the NBA great - whether or not Nate Robinson had a chance to win the tip, there's no way he was going to back away from a challenge. He's tough. He's scrappy. He's determined. He fights for everything that he earns. And what's more American than that?

If that had been in a game being played by FIBA rules, the ball simply would have gone to the team that didn't get it during the last jump ball. Yep: jump balls are simply dictated by alternating possession starting with the team that wins the opening tip.

Kind of sounds like one of my 10-year-old sister's CCD-league games. And let me tell you: Those things are torture

Advantage: NBA

Fouling Out
While I may hate timeouts, I am a huge fan of fouling. I always love to see the creative and strategic ways that coaches use their fouls. Hacking at an opposing player, sending some bench-warming scrub out for the sole purpose of committing a foul, you name it.

I love it.

The only gripe I have is the fact that all fouls in the NBA aren't created equal: while six personal fouls will send you packing, it takes just two technical fouls to create the same result.

But in FIBA, technical or personal, it doesn't matter. You get five of them. And given the lack of defense played in Olympic basketball, players probably have a lot more leeway in the technical department. Just imagine if this guy could commit up to five techs per game.

He would literally have the power to send opposing players and referees home crying. I don't know about you, but that seems pretty fun to me.

Advantage: FIBA

Zone Defense
Ah, zone defense. A staple of whiny pickup basketball babies everywhere.

Is there anything worse than when you're trying to have some fun on the basketball court, only to have some gigantic schmuck planting his ass right under the basket, body-checking and fouling anybody who tries to get to the rim? Thankfully, the three-second rule eliminates the possibility of such a schmuck being present in an NBA game.

FIBA, on the other hand, leaves the door open for nonathletic oafs everywhere: Zone defense is 100 percent legal, and a defender doesn't have to be actively guarding an opponent to just sit in the lane.

Advantage: NBA

Goaltending/Basket Interference
It's a universal rule in the basketball world that the ball cannot, under any circumstances, be disturbed while on its downward trajectory towards the basket.

And in most leagues (NBA, WNBA, and NCAA), there exists an imaginary cylinder above the rim as well, dictating when a ball can actually be touched if it's above the rim.

In these leagues, if any part of the ball is within that imaginary cylinder, it's hands off.

Now, if that was a FIBA game, somebody could just reach up and slap that stubborn ball out of there, because the cylinder doesn't exist in international play. Once the ball hits the rim, it's fair game.

And at first glance, that actually seems pretty cool... if your favorite team has a beast like Deandre Jordan or Demarcus Cousins manning the boards. But if your team isn't blessed with an enormous, athletic freak of nature, then this rule would probably make you pull your damn hair out.

Imagine watching Boban Marjanovic reach up with one of his yeti-like hands and just pull shot after shot off of the rim for four quarters.

Not that cool now, right? So for the sake of small ball dominate teams everywhere, we'll have to wag our fingers at FIBA on this one.

Advantage: NBA

And the winner is... with a final record of 4-2-1... the NBA.


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Time For Steph Curry To Be Superman Once Again

It's the Chef's time to shine.

The Golden State Warriors' fairy tale march to the 2017 NBA Championship title finally has its first bump in the road.

Kevin Durant is going to miss a month of basketball after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise, the team announced Wednesday. The Warriors said he is out "indefinitely," and he'll be re-evaluated in four weeks. The team also said he could theoretically return before the end of the regular season.

The Warriors, currently sitting pretty atop the Western Conference at 50-10, have 22 games left this year. Fifteen of those games fall under the four-week window the team has set out, a good chunk of action.

Which means it's safe to say Golden State is going to have to figure out a different identity for the next 15 games if they want to hold on to the No. 1 seed. The Spurs, after all, are only four games back in the standings at 45-13, and have played two fewer games.

How will the Warriors ever figure out how to survive without Durant? It's not like they did this for 82 games last season, with a very similar roster, including three danged All-Stars. And it's not like they have the reigning two-time MVP, who set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season last year.

Boy, I guess the Warriors are just doomed.

Except they're probably not.

They're probably going to be just fine. The Spurs are great, and to write them off as threats to the top seed in the West would be foolish, but the Warriors are a true powerhouse. All this does is set Steph Curry up to be the hero he was all last season.

In fact, this could end up being a blessing in disguise for Curry and the Warriors. Because, in case you haven't noticed, while Curry's had yet another great season, he hasn't been the player he was last year. In part, that's because he doesn't need to -- he has freaking Kevin Durant on his team!

But if we get away from a to-be-expected decrease in points, rebounds, three pointers, and field goal attempts per game, there are still deficiencies in Curry's game that are a little surprising.

Like, maybe, the fact that Curry is shooting 40.4 percent from deep, the lowest mark of his entire career?

And also the fact that Curry is shooting 46.4 percent from the field, his lowest mark in five years?

These aren't exactly damning stats considering, for a shooter of Curry's style and volume, those are still really darn good numbers. Anything above 40 percent from deep on 9.8 attempts per night is stellar. But consider that Curry shot 1.4 more threes per game last season, and shot an entire five percent better!

Curry's mind-boggling excellence was the reason the Warriors were the steamroller they were last year, and it still wasn't enough to win a title against one of the three best players in league history in LeBron James. So the Warriors added Kevin Durant to take out any uncertainty, but with Curry receding in a few areas, that guaranteed ring wasn't looking particularly guaranteed.

With Durant is out for a month, this is the perfect time for Curry to return to his 2015-16 form. He'll have a little more room to operate in the offense, and if he can rekindle what he was doing last year, the Warriors will be totally set to dominate, maybe even better than they've been so far this season, when Durant returns.

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Is LeBron Angling For Another Superstar?

They really don't need any more "playmakers" do they?

Here we are, about a month or so out from the NBA All-Star festivities and the trade deadline drama that is sure to follow and, so far, the NBA season has played out just as we expected.

The reigning world champion Cleveland Cavaliers have lost five out of seven games, most recently last night to an Anthony Davis-less Pelicans team (who are in the bottom half of the Western conference standings with AD).

The odds-on favorite for this years' NBA championship, the now Kevin Durant lead Golden State Warriors (I think we can all agree this team is no longer Steph Curry's) just had their seven-game winning streak snapped by the Miami Heat and Dion Waiters (of all players), a team gunning for the number one overall pick.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lead a resurgent Clippers team for awhile before both catching the injury bug that has pushed them back into the Western Conference's second tier.

Oh, and the Memphis Grizzlies are practically invincible against the NBA's top tier.

I could go on and on, but pretty much the NBA is as unpredictable as ever (just ask my bookie) and that's a good thing.

Yet, I am about to do the unthinkable right now and predict, or at least set the tone for a scenario that I believe is quickly playing out right in front of our eyes.

The New York Knicks, somewhat expectedly (?) are falling out of the playoff picture missed Melo shot after missed Melo shot, and unless you live under a rock, you've caught wind of all the drama and rumors surrounding his no trade clause.

Check this though, as I mentioned earlier, the Cavaliers are struggling right now, losers of five of seven, prompting an uncharacteristic response from the King himself.

He's been quoted multiple times requesting a "playmaker", which to most people would be defined as a point guard. But, when you look at the Cavs' recent body of work, a playmaker doesn't seem to be a problem for a team that has scored 106 PPG over that span, but is giving up 112, including over 100 to the likes of the Kings, Blazers, Jazz, Suns and Pelicans.

What I believe is really going on is that LeBron is making a play for one of his buddies. Either Dwyane Wade, who just recently expressed uncertainty about his future with the Bulls, or Carmelo, whose off court drama has just hit a career high.

Sure, it's a stretch, but there's not much evidence that supports LeBron's theory of needing a playmaker, especially when he's one of the best in the game (and fellow point-forward Giannis Antetetetetetekounpo is having a career year doing just that).

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Watch Drake Freak Out

Someone stole his (hotline) bling and he's not happy.

Don't mess with Drake, or his bling. TMZ reported that one of Drake's tour buses was robbed of millions of dollars worth of jewelry -- but don't worry, the thief has been arrested and the bling has been restored. But watch above as Drake goes off on one of his security personnel for letting the robbery happen in the first place.