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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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.

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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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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.

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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 "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

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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.