A basketball team affiliated with the New York Knicks organization won a basketball game on Friday. It's true! I watched the contest unfold on my computer while simultaneously checking the calendar to make sure this was indeed a Friday -- there was no Robert Randolph playing, after all.
Yet here were the Westchester Knicks, laying the smack-down on the Grand Rapids Drive, 97-83. This Grand Rapids team boasted a roster which included Hasheem Thabeet and a Hansbrough brother (Ben), so clearly we are talking about a clash of heavyweights here.
In a sloppy, defensive struggle, the W-Knicks held the Drive to 41 percent from the field. Todd Mayo led Westchester with 20 points, and Langston chipped in 10 points on an unsightly 3-11 shooting.
Ah, who are we kidding? There's only one Westchesterbocker the fans are clamoring for: Thanasis Antetokounmpo. If you haven't seen the other Greek Freak in action, Friday's stat line pretty much sums up the essence of all things Thanasis:
11 PTS, 3-6 FG (1-3 3P), 4-6 FT, 8 RB (7 ORB), 2 AST, 4 TOV, 4 PF, 2 STL, 6 BLK
Antetokounmpo didn't shoot the ball well in his first few games, so he curtailed his offense a bit, getting many of his buckets and free-throw attempts by cleaning up the offensive glass. More importantly, he dedicated his evening to making sure nobody else go a shot off...ever. He blocked guards who had already beaten their defenders, he blocked fadeaway jumpers from forwards who tried to post him up, and when he was feeling particularly frisky, he did this:
This was Thanasis' second length-of-the court chase-down block in as many games. It's becoming routine for him at this point. Yes, I get that these are D-Leaguers he's stuffing, but there aren't many people on Earth capable of running that far that quickly, and then finishing it off by out-leaping another professional basketball player standing much closer to the rim.
For those Pablo Prigioni fans among us, Thanasis demonstrated some impressive sneakiness as well. Here he is forcing the ball out of bounds off an opponent following his own missed free throw:
This is why it is great to have a D-League affiliate so close to home -- I love the idea of Pablo and Thanasis getting together on off days to chat:
"So good to see you again, Thanasis. Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, please, Mr. Prigioni."
"No thank you...I stole all your sugar packets 45 seconds ago." -produces a handful of sugar packets-
"Well done, my boy!"
To be sure, there were plenty of head-scratching moments from our man Thanasis. He attempted a ridiculously careless behind-the-back passes in traffic and got called for an offensive foul for straight-up shoving a dude out of the way in the post. Like I said, it was the full Thanasis package.
But Lordy, can this kid defend. He possesses a combination of length, athleticism and the sheer dogged will to keep his opponent from the rim. For fans of a team who see defense as a kind of abstraction, it is a joy to Thanasis do his thing.