ROBBINS NEST, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
By Lenn Robbins
There is smart, original smack talk and there is stupid, uncreative nonsense.
Sad to say that, “Ref you suck!” remains a staple of fans across America.
Smart original chatter catches on like a kindergarten cold. Nets fans, for example, began the “Giannis Count,” when Giannis “One! Two! Three” Antetokounmpo went to the line. Sixers fans and now Suns backers, some of whom deserve extra praise for counting down the Greek Freak in Milwaukee, picked up on it. How those fans weren’t shouted down is a, or validation that people in Minnesota will apologize when you step on their foot.
But Giannis has made 63.6-percent (35-of-55) of his free throws against the Suns, a marked improvement from the 53.5-percent (15-of-28) he made against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals and the 48.3-percent (29-of-60) he made against Brooklyn. It’s time to try something new, something smart, something original.
When Giannis goes to the line Saturday night in Game 5 in Phoenix, Suns fans should spell out his name: A! N! T! E! T! 0! K! O! U! N! M! P! O!
That’s 13 letters which, even if shouted at the faster than 10 seconds pace that fans do the “Giannis Count,” would clearly be a 10-second free throw violation. If the ball hasn’t left Antetokounmpo’s hand before Suns fans finish spelling out A! N! T! E! T! O! K! O! U! N! M! P! O! it’s a violation. No replay needed.
This calls for a serious commitment from Phoenix fans, probably less than 13-percent of whom can’t spell the Greek Freak’s name. No, spelling Giannis isn’t what we’re going for here. Yes, we’re not the slightest bit confident that Phoenix fans have enough time to memorize A! N! T! E! T! O! K! O! U! N! M! P! O!
Maybe Giannis will figure out what Phoenix fans doing when he gets to the line. Maybe he won’t. But it’s clear Suns fans have to adjust – isn’t that what Jeff Van Gundy is often shouting about up in a series?!
“Here’s the thing Mike [Breen], the Suns won the first two games,” Van Gundy can be heard saying. “The Bucks made some adjustments and won the next two. Now it’s up to Monty Williams and the Suns to make adjustments. That’s what playoff basketball is all about.”
“You sound like a coach,” Mark Jackson chimes in.
Imagine what 18,442 fans spelling out A! N! T! E! T! O! K! O! U! N! M! P! O! will sound like in Footprint Center. Yes, smack dab in the middle of the NBA Finals, the Suns announced they have changed the name of their home arena to Footprint Center, named after an Arizona-based, plant-base technology and materials company.
Maybe that will confuse Giannis enough for him to regress back into the airball-shooting free thrower he was against Brooklyn and Atlanta. Maybe he’ll think the previously named Phoenix Suns Arena, which wasn’t a very creative name for a venue but at least it didn’t lead one to believe this is the world’s largest pedicure salon, will be disorienting.
Here’s what has not been disorienting at all about this riveting series. It doesn’t have a team from L.A. or N.Y. or Boston or Chicago. It doesn’t have a championship MVP such as LeBron or Kawhi.
But man, does it have A! N! T! E! T! O! K! O! U! N! M! P! O!
He has been the one consistently great player, averaging 32.5 points on 60-percent shooting from the field, 14 rebounds and 5.5 assists. There has been no first Finals experience flinch; no Buck in the headlights look in his eyes.
Even in Game 1, after missing Games 6 and 7 against the Hawks with the most awful looking, non-serious knee injury in the history of playoff basketball, Giannis went for 20 points and 17 rebounds. He has been the best player on the court and needs to be mentioned in the conversation about best on the planet.
Chris Paul was remarkable in the Western Conference Finals and in Game 1, but since Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer switched Jrue Holiday on CP3, he’s been a turnover machine. Devin Booker is establishing himself as a star but he went AWOL in Game 3.
Khris Middleton was equally remarkable in the Eastern Conference Finals and in Game 4, but he went missing before Booker in Game 2. Holiday has been a tormenter on defense but his offense has tormented Bucks fans.
Jae Crowder has had some terrific moments for Phoenix, as had Pat Connaughton for Milwaukee. Mikal Bridges shows signs of stardom and it sure would have been nice to see his former Villanova teammate Donte DiVincenzo (ankle) perform in this series.
The one greatness constant has been Giannis. He goes from the top of the key to the basket in two strides with no pogo stick. He didn’t choose the bright lights of New York or the hot night life of Miami or the lights and life of L.A. when free agency arrived. He’s chose Milwaukee. He chose the Deer District.
There is a push for Luka Doncic to be the next face of the league but we know the name of the best player competing in these Finals. A! N! T! E! T! O! K! O! U! N! M! P! O!