What's Greek for MVP? Could be Giannis Antetokounmpo

What's Greek for MVP? Could be Giannis Antetokounmpo

MILWAUKEE – After the Bucks’ practice, Tony Snell, ex-Celtic Jason Terry and coach Jason Kidd were having a 3-point shooting contest.
In between them taking shots, you would find Giannis Antetokounmpo knocking down mid-range jumpers from the corner and then taking a step back to drain corner 3’s.


There was a level of focus and seriousness to his after practice routine that served as a reminder as to what this season is about for him – daily improvement.
Despite being just 22, Antetokounmpo is the undeniable face of the franchise.
And while the Bucks have played just four games this season (they're 3-1), he has been the pacesetter in the NBA this season when it comes to the MVP race.

“It’s a big compliment, but I have to keep doing what I’m doing,” Antetokounmpo said. “I have to play hard, help my team win...it’s a long season. I can’t even think about that right now. By playing hard and by winning, everything will take care of itself.”
Antetokounmpo will look to continue on his MVP-esque pace Thursday night when the Bucks host the Celtics (2-2), who come in having won two in a row.
The Greek Freak has been flat-out dominant this season, averaging a league-best 36.8 points per game, which includes a 37-point-in-37-minutes performance in Milwaukee’s 108-100 win in Boston last week.
Kidd, who was a runner-up to Tim Duncan in the MVP race in 2002, knows better than most the challenge awaiting Antetokounmpo if he continues to put up major numbers and the Bucks steadily rack up victories.
But such talk, Kidd says, doesn’t mean much considering how early in the season things are currently.

“It’s only game four; I think we played four games,” Kidd said. “Anything that’s talked MVP is way too early. For him, he has a job to do. Up or down, he has to go out and execute the game plan and he’s doing that right now. We’ve talked about, there’s going to be a time when the ball doesn’t go in the basket, but you can do other things. It doesn’t change his game. He’s gonna play both ends. It’s kind of what we need him to do. He’s playing at a very high level.”
In Milwaukee’s 113-110 victory over Portland, he tallied 44 points but, more important, he came up with a huge block, steal and dunk in the final minute.
One of the keys to Antetokounmpo’s growth as a player has been his never-ending desire to get better. He came into the league with a scrawny, stick-like physique.
He’s ripped from head to toe, which has enabled him to rip apart defense after defense due to the conundrum his size, length, athleticism and improved strength presents on a nightly basis.
Just a shade under 7-feet, he’s too long and athletic to put a guard or even a small forward on him full time. And bigs don’t have the mobility or lateral quickness to defend him adequately.
It’s adding up to video game-like numbers for Antetokounmpo.
“As a team, we’re playing hard, we can get a lot better,” Antetokounmpo said. “Of course, get better get to the next level. For me, just try to play hard. I expect before the season to play hard and I just play hard.”
And it is that mindset that will guide the Greek Freak to positions of prominence in the NBA that few envisioned would be forthcoming to Antetokounmpo.
The game will be played at “the Mecca”, where the Bucks played from 1968-88. Some of the greatest games ever between Boston and Milwaukee occurred on the same floor that the current players will play on Thursday night.
As much as folks love the idea of taking a stroll down memory lane, it is Milwaukee’s present that should have fans excited.
He comes into the game having scored at least 30 points in each of Milwaukee’s first four games. The only Bucks player who has done that more than Antetokounmpo is Marques Johnson, who did so six times in 1978.
Antetokounmpo has fully embraced the history of the building and the flooring which both he had his coach talked about being ahead of its time as far as arena flooring is concerned.
And he has his own idea of how to pay homage to the greats that came before him, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“I’m going to try and do what Kareem did; get buckets,” said Antetokounmpo, with a chuckle.


Celtics notebook: In All-Star Game, LeBron James asserts his command

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics notebook: In All-Star Game, LeBron James asserts his command

LOS ANGELES – With the all-star game a thing of the past now, those who participated in the game will get a couple days of rest before the NBA grind of a season starts back up.

Meanwhile, their teammates and the rest of the league will return after nearly a week without games, seemingly enough time to recharge and re-focus for the remainder of the season.

All-stars like Stephen Curry will try to maximize the next couple days which will serve as their all-star break.

“I think that’s kind of a double-edged sword of being an All-Star,” Curry said. “It’s an amazing accomplishment, an amazing honor, but if you’re thinking about it in the perspective of getting rest and really taking advantage of the full slate of All-Star break, it doesn’t really start for us until (after Sunday’s game).”

But it’s not just getting a chance to recharge physically, Curry said. 

“That’s a big part of it too,” Curry said. “Not even just your body, but get a refresh mentally to know that when you get back to practice on Wednesday that that’s when the real grind starts.” 

A ‘Horford-like’ all-star game

It wasn’t a big shot or a dunk or any other offensive play that decided the outcome in Team LeBron’s 148-145 all-star game win over Team Steph.

On the final play, it was a game decided by the little things such as a last-second double team or a clutch rebound or a “hockey assist,” the kind of plays that we often see made by Al Horford which made Sunday’s all-star game on some levels, have a Horford-like feel.

“Guys were looking for each other. It was good to see,” said Horford, playing in his fifth all-star game. “It was good basketball. You obviously have your one-on-one plays. But probably for the first time I’ve played in this game, I felt it was more of a game. So that was fun to see.”

Oh So Close …

If Team Steph had held on for the win over Team LeBron, there was a very good chance that Compton, Calif. native and USC alum DeMar DeRozan would have been the game’s MVP.

When told of this, DeRozan replied, “You just want to break my heart some more, huh?”

He added, “Hey, just being out there was a blessing, man, honestly. Just being able to be part of that. I’m just happy to be out there competing with them guys.”

However, being so close to home did make for a special weekend.

“I mean, it was a dream come true,” said DeRozan who had 21 points and six rebounds. “This is one of the moments that I’m going to forever live with. Being able to be a part of this, to come from where I come from and come out here and be a starter for an All-Star game in my hometown, it definitely was a dream come true.”

James takes pride in body, not proving he’s still a great player to youngsters

LeBron James remains a commanding figure in the NBA, showing no signs of slowing up even at a time when most players his age are slowing down.

And while an influx of young talent has certainly come into the league and made their mark, there’s no getting around the fact that James can still dominate games on several levels.

“What I take pride in is taking care of my body,” said James, who is 33 years old. “Taking care of my body. Making sure I’m available every night and continue to get better and better. I don’t really take it as a young guy, okay, I need to show him I’m still able to do this. I need to continue to show myself, you know, because every night I step on the floor I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level. I feel great.”

Raptor’s Casey: Coaching vs Lowry, DeRozan “was tough”

Dwane Casey was happy to be the head coach of his first all-star game, but there was a definite downside to it: coaching against his best players, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.

With the new format, Casey was coaching Team LeBron while DeRozan and Lowry played for Team Steph.

“That was tough, that was tough,” Casey said. “You look out there and you’re yelling at guys to get up on them, to push them, and to play DeMar’s left-hand or right-hand, and push him left. All those things you fight as a coach.

Casey added, “Those are the things that you feel bad about, but, again, those two have carried us and pushed us, and taken us in the conversation of being one of the top teams in the league. I love both of them as sons, and I’m proud of them for where they came from, and they’ve made themselves into multi-time all-stars.”

For DeRozan, this was his third straight all-star selection and fourth overall, while Lowry made his fourth straight all-star appearance.

New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

New All-Star format a success, but one tweak could make it even better

LOS ANGELES – Both players and coaches involved with Sunday’s All-Star game like the new format, but will surely look to tweak a couple of things.

Among the more likely changes will be the process involved in not just selecting the team, but making the selections known to the public. 

Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan has an idea, one that’s shared by some players, media and maybe most important, NBA fans. 

“Televise it,” DeRozan said. “Give the people what they want to see. I think everybody wants to see it. At the end of the day every single person that gets picked, you are an All-Star, so it doesn’t matter where you really go, so I think televise it.”

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The new format involved their being two captains – LeBron James and Stephen Curry – who picked their respective teams from the 22 remaining All-Stars regardless of conference affiliation. 

The NBA also increased the amount of money given to each player on the winning team - $100,000 – while the losing team members each received $25,000.

Regardless of what the changes may be going forward, it’s clear that players see this new format as the blueprint for how All-Star games should be structured going forward.

“This kind of changed the culture of it a lot, for the better,” said Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler. “It’s only going to get more and more competitive because guys see how it was for the last five minutes of that game. Everybody wants to compete.”

Here are five takeaways from the 67th NBA All-Star game with Team LeBron defeating Team Steph 148-145. 

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Kyrie Irving

There were others who scored more, had more assists and certainly grabbed more rebounds than Kyrie Irving. But one of the more telling developments in the game was how Irving returned to the game in the fourth down 10 points, and didn’t leave until Team LeBron emerged with the win seven minutes and 16 seconds later. Even in an All-Star setting, Irving’s impact on winning stands out. Along with his 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, Team LeBron was a +16 when Irving was on the floor – tops among all All-Star starters. 


LeBron James

The calendar says he’s 33 years old. But other than that, there’s nothing about LeBron James that even remotely looks like his time as the best player on the planet will end anytime soon. In a game full of stars on the rise as well as established stalwarts such as himself, James totally crushed it Sunday night in walking away with his third All-Star game MVP trophy after a double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds to go with eight assists.  


DeMar DeRozan

We know him as the king of the mid-range game. But as we saw on Sunday, DeRozan has a lot more offensive versatility that he’s capable of unleashing. He’s arguably the biggest reason why Toronto has the best record in the East right now. Playing for Team Steph, DeRozan tallied 21 points attacking the rim off the dribble and of course, knocking down mid-range jumpers


Jimmy Butler

A bit under the weather, Butler never set foot on the court to play. The league’s leader in minutes played this season (37.3), Butler wasn’t expected to play a ton of minutes anyway. Still, it would have been nice to see him out there even if it was for a minute or two. He’s one of the league’s best two-way players whose play has been instrumental to the Timberwolves looking very much like a playoff team this season. “I have to rest,” Butler said. “I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”


Joel Embiid

The ring leader of Philadelphia’s “Trust the Process” movement, Joel Embiid, was impressive in his All-Star debut. For Embiid, it’s one thing to believe you are one of the NBA’s best players. It’s an entirely different matter to step on the floor with the game’s best talent and validate yourself as one of the game’s best players.  “During the season, I thought I was a top-five or top-10 player in the league,” said Embiid who had 19 points and eight rebounds. “And before the game I wanted confirmation of it. I felt like I could hang with them.”