Giannis Antetokounmpo is LeBron James now. The sooner you accept it, the better. Tom Ley at Deadspin appears to have the been the first to recognize this fundamental truth, and it changes things dramatically in the NBA. Without getting into the nuts and bolts, the gist is that Milwaukee has a good coach now in Mike Budenholzer—another of the Popovich disciples that will soon, I have to assume, control every team in the NBA—and they're using Giannis in that hybrid, sometimes point-guard role that not only showcases his talents, but makes teammates like Brooke Lopez look like Steph Curry. (Seriously, Lopez is shooting 41 percent from three right now, compared to 33 percent for his career, and it's entirely because of Giannis getting him wide open looks from the wing and corner.) And it's instilling a crazy amount of confidence in everyone that extends beyond the Giannis set-ups. Just watch this solo action from Lopez, which is both awe-inspiring and kinda hilarious:
He's like Steph Curry's dad! Or maybe grandpa?
The Bucks are 6-0 now, one of the last two undefeated teams in the NBA, and on Monday night they'll play Toronto, the other undefeated team. Beyond local TV, it's only available on League Pass, and it's completely unmissable. Which leads me to my big pronouncement:
To repeat, the Milwaukee Bucks are the league pass team of the season
I wasn't going to get League Pass this year, and I managed to hold out for approximately five days before the Bucks dominated the Sixers Wednesday night and Steph Curry simultaneously scored 51. That broke me—I'd forgotten what a great product this is. And while one of the chief pleasures of League Pass is flipping between games frenetically like a one-man NBA Red Zone producer, the other chief pleasure is finding that one team that earns your loyalty for the whole season. (I'm an NBA mercenary fan, at least until the Knicks get a new owner.) Choosing the Bucks was pretty simple for me. First, there's Giannis. Look at this guy:
And like LeBron, he's a great passer. Check out this piece of dark magic:
How about some defense...here he is looking like he's playing against a 10-year-old in the T-Wolves game:
I could go on all day. Instead, I'll tell you why the Bucks beat out the other contenders. The Raptors are really fun, especially with Kawhi, but until they stop choking I can't invest any emotional energy in that team. The Warriors are living gods—more on this in a moment—but they're always on national TV so it's hard to think of them as a "League Pass" team. Screw the Lakers. Brad Stevens is trying to ruin NBA basketball, so screw the Celtics. A slew of western teams—Blazers, Pelicans, Nuggets—comes closest to capturing that slightly off-mainstream League Pass feel, but none are as perfect as Milwaukee. The Bucks are legitimate title contenders, but their midwest location and the newness of Giannis' greatness will keep them a little esoteric (they're ninth in nationally televised games this year, with just 24) in a way that rewards your League Pass fandom. Also, they're not on the west coast, so east coasters like me won't have to stay up til 1 a.m. to partake.
Finally, a quick mention of the supporting cast: Malcolm Brogdon, who ACC fans already know as a do-everything basketball savant, is averaging the most minutes on the team and is literally always in the right place. Khris Middleton has come out of nowhere to be one of the NBA's best...shooting guards? Small forward? I don't know, but watch him eviscerate the Knicks:
Then there's Lopez, and Eric Bledsoe, and a ton of fun role players including Long John Henson, who was kinda annoying at UNC but is an ideal bench personality.
Okay, I'm rambling. You get the point: WATCH THE BUCKS, COWARD!
NBA Closer God of the Week: Kevin Durant
The Knicks, to their credit, managed to hang with the Warriors for three quarters at MSG on Friday night. That is three quarters more than any sane person could have expected. And if you told them at the start of the fourth that Steph Curry wouldn't be a factor—would, in fact, barely score any points—and that Klay Thompson would stay cold, they might have entertained a thought or two of actually winning. But sweet merciful God, look what Kevin Durant did to them:
He scored 25 POINTS in the fourth quarter alone. The Knicks went from leading by three to LOSING BY 28. Sorry for all the caps, but watch that video again, and bask in the pure genius. (Also bask in the pure unfairness of the Warriors having this many weapons, and essentially guaranteeing that the only way they fail to win a title is if someone important gets hurt at the wrong time.)
Football Revenge God of the Week: Matt Colburn, Wake Forest
Here's a story in four parts:
1. Extremely good football player signs with Louisville.
2. Louisville pulls his scholarship two days before signing day, generously offer him the chance to be, basically, a walk-on.
3. Player says "screw you, I'm going to Wake Forest."
4. Player spends entire career terrorizing Louisville.
Matt Colburn, now a senior, finished off his revenge odyssey with an outrageous 243 yards rushing at Louisville as his team rolled to a 56-35 win. His previous career best? Last year, also against Louisville, also in a win. Here was Colburn's biggest run on Saturday:
This is a great story on its own, but the fact that it happened to a skeevy football creep like Bobby Petrino makes it even better.
Confusing Pep Talk of the Week: Chris Sale, Red Sox
In the aftermath of Boston's game four win against the Dodgers Saturday night, a slew of stories came out about a "pep talk" given by Chris Sale in the dugout after the sixth inning. Here's Yahoo's version:
And from ESPN:
Sale stepped down, kept on shrieking and raised his right hand, his head bobbing up and down and a fire in his eyes like a Shakespearean king exhorting troops into battle.
"It scared me a little bit," Rafael Devers said, "because I had never seen him yell like that, and the words that he was saying, I had never heard that come from him before. But you know, we came out sluggish and that moment helped us get motivated for the rest of the game."
It already seems a little weird—I'm not sure how I'd respond to a pitcher screaming at me to hit better, especially against a pretty good pitcher like Hill—but when you watch the video, it gets even stranger:
I mean...it basically seems like everyone's ignoring him? He looks like a crazy person ranting about the apocalypse on a city street corner while everyone else looks at the ground and contemplates moving to the suburbs. Was this really motivational, or was it just easier afterward to say it was motivational...when it was actually bizarre?
Whatever the case, it "worked." Boston started hitting, took a three-games-to-one lead, and went on to win the World Series.