It is finally here: The NBA Playoffs.
It is a moment for celebration, anticipation, and excitement. That is, it is all those things for most teams that aren't the Milwaukee Bucks, who limped their way to the postseason before being defeated in dispiriting fashion against the Boston Celtics yesterday, 107 - 113.
However, the possibility for disappointment talking just playoffs felt too high for my taste. I felt it proper to instead celebrate the Year of Giannis this week with a bevy of articles from across the national zeitgeist about the emergence of Antetokounmpo as an undeniable member of the NBA's constellation of stars. We saw it coming years in the making, but it is easy to lose sight of just how relatively quick Giannis's growth from unknown quantity to can't-miss talent has been. So, this week's roundup is dedicated to He Who Shall Always Be Praised.
The Unprecedented Rise of Giannis (Bucks.com)
What better way to begin our worship of Giannis than by looking at his year-over-year statistical growth since his rookie season? He's come a long way from averaging fewer points per game than Bucks legend Jeff Adrien, but it is obviously so much more than pure scoring; his versatility is what makes him a nigh-impossible challenge for opponents to handle.
That said, not everything is perfect: His offensive approach, though often not his fault, can run iso-heavy, he only flashes his wonderful passing on occasion, and there's certainly concerns about his knees, not to mention his general long-term health having to carry the franchise nightly.
Those concerns aside, it feels like only a matter of time before Giannis earns his first MVP award. Who would ever have predicted that?
Behind the Scenes (ESPN)
A slight dive into the tactical approach sorta-new center Tyler Zeller takes to optimize his impact on both ends of the floor, either on- or off-ball, or setting screens and rolling to the hoop.
Zeller hasn't lit the world on fire with outstanding interior play, but he's successfully vanquished Thon Maker to the bench through sheer competence and he's had a number of nights where his mere presence has given the Bucks a reliable valve to release pressure for a gridlocked offense or a defense needing inside anchoring.
Not bad for a quickly-out-of-the-league Rashad Vaughn and whatever superstar the future protected/unprotected 2018, 2019, or 2020 pick turns into.
Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe has found his way out of the desert and back to the NBA playoffs (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
It feels something like a lifetime or two ago since the basketball world was set alight by a hairdresser trip gone wrong:
I Dont wanna be here— Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) October 22, 2017
Since that fateful day, Bledsoe has moved to Milwaukee and had what could be best summarized as a so-so stint with the Bucks. He's gone from a leading force on the Phoenix Suns to figuring out a place as the third or fourth option on a team replete with shoot-first scorers. His contract runs for another ~$12 million next season, and it is unclear if he'll have a longer future with the Bucks, but maybe he'll prove his true worth through the remainder of the playoffs.
Jabari Parker on the Mil Basketball Hour (105.7 FM the Fan)
You've probably heard all about it, either through quotes or the thoughts of other listeners, but I believe it best if you're able to take the time to listen to it yourself.
Is Jabari Parker a mercurial scorer whose career in Milwaukee is quickly coming to an end? Or is this simply the dying moments of a chaotic Act I before he fully returns to the Bucks fold?
Giannis MVP Watch: Season wrap up (The Undefeated) & Antetokounmpo enters MVP conversation after terrific season (FOX)
Is there anything Giannis can't do? His name is in countless top-five MVP ballots, it wouldn't be crazy to argue the Bucks got their 43-39 record without his existence, and his media profile has exploded this season. The only things missing are a playoff-series win, a championship ring, that elusive MVP award, and his place in the basketball Hall of Fame.
Lucky for him (and us), he's got plenty of time to work on those unfulfilled credentials. With averages like 26.9 pts (with an eFG% of 54.5%), 10.0 rebs, and 4.8 assists, the sky is surely the limit for the 23 year-old.
From the Social Media Realm
With the end of the regular season comes Teutonia World's (AKA @DavidDunn21) must-watch 2017-2018 retrospective:
Giannis, welcome to true superstardom:
Opa!@Giannis_An34 makes his 'This Is @SportsCenter" Debut!! pic.twitter.com/qgZX5l0s6I— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 14, 2018
Milwaukee as a top coaching destination - confirmed:
This morning, Adrian Wojnarowski joined @GolicAndWingo. Golic asked him, "If you look at all of the places for a head coach that may have a choice, what's the choice?"— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) April 13, 2018
Here is @wojespn's response: pic.twitter.com/Hz1z1ABTDE
Shoutout to John Henson's high school reunion:
10 year high school reunion next year.. I’m washed— John Henson (@Johnhenson31) April 11, 2018
Try these at your own risk:
Milwaukee Bucks and Klement’s announce partnership for new arena. Includes ‘exclusive craft sausages.’ pic.twitter.com/SlXZ8mJ4vo— James B. Nelson (@jamesbnelson) April 10, 2018
*magnifying glass emoji here*:
hey look who made an appearance in the Hammon feature! https://t.co/KKVOz7SqpZ pic.twitter.com/akNtY7vfFh— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) April 10, 2018
We're at that weird part of the year where this could be the last roundup I write with competitive games left to be played in the week ahead. The Bucks-Celtics series is slated to play games two, three, and four this Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, respectively, so in theory this could be our swan song.
But, maybe the Bucks can simply out-talent Boston for a win or two along the way. I'm not exactly confident in Milwaukee's ability to steal the series against even an injury-hobbled Celtics team. I understand why fans would be frustrated to see them win a series they should have no business being in and flirting with the danger of a off-season full of short-sighted moves thereafter, but I've resigned myself to simply enjoying the playoffs for what they are until the ride is over.
Now, go forth Giannis, and make something magical happen.