Triangle All-Stars: Greek Meek, Greek Freak, and the Second Unit
The Triangle All-Star team is a way for the Triangle blog to celebrate our favorite players. This week we will introduce you to the people’s Dream Team — the crazy characters, untapped talents, and head cases who make the NBA our favorite thing to watch. Today, meet the second unit.
Nick Calathes, G, Grizzlies
Why We Love Him: Because Nick is continuing a long tradition, intricately woven through Greek culture going back thousands of years, to the great dramas of antiquity. From Oedipus to Antigone to Calathes, the Greeks have always been fascinated by stories of people who try to defy the iron grip of fate, to uniformly tragic effect. Old King Laius sought to thwart the prophecy that said his son Oedipus would murder him and marry his wife, only for a mix-up on par with The Parent Trap to result in just exactly that thing happening. Antigone listened to her conscience instead of the state, and ended up buried alive.
Calathes was damned by the fickle cruelty of genetics to be, though only 24, bald as a rotten peach. Unhappy with his fate, as any young man with money and not yet at the peak of his physical powers would be, Nick sought to change it via modern chemistry. Forgoing the savage digging and drilling of plugs, Calathes acquired some kind of over-the-counter Rogaine-type concoction, slathered it on his shy, ragged scalp, and let the magic happen.
Unfortunately said potion contained the chemical tamoxifen, which is considered a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency because it can be used as a masking agent for PEDs and raises testosterone levels. Thus, just like Antigone, Calathes was suspended for 20 games starting in April 2014.
It was, in the words of the acting players’ union president, “a true injustice.”
This NBA season, after a solid showing for Greece in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, will be Nick’s redemption. After 13 games, that is, which tidies up the outstanding balance of that initial suspension. Then, at Game 14, BOOM, it’s on like Donkey Kong. Look out, NBA.
But maybe you’re thinking, Raw deal for Nick the Greek, sure. But is he even that good? The Grizz have a playoff hero, Beno Udrih; why do they need Calathes? To which we would reply: He’s really a perfectly OK bench basketball player! 10 points and 6 assists per 36 minutes, shoots 45 percent. Only a 31 percent 3-point shooter, but managed a quite respectable 37 percent from the arc in February of last season, when he was a starter for seven games. Plus Beno is 32, though you’d never know it from that lustrous mane of his.
Oh, and the Greek Meek has some Billy Hoyle–park-run-hustler flash to his game. To wit …
Video Evidence: This is our man, Nick Calathes, getting live and loose at an Orlando pro-am in 2013. Adam Silver, will you please let Nick Calathes eat.
Great Moments in Social Media History:
Why Some People Don’t Love Him: The “Some People” in question are the Grizzlies fans during the early part of last season who booed him during a December 11 loss to the Thunder.
Final Word/2015 Predictions: Solid backup guard play, perfectly fine caretaker playmaking, a shaky 3-point shot, and eventually, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure by which hair from the back of the head and neck is transplanted to other areas of the scalp.
Jeff Teague, G, Atlanta Hawks
Why We Love Him: When we told our coworker David Cho that Jeff Teague was a Triangle All-Star, Cho incredulously shouted, “REALLY???” Here’s the thing: Cho WENT TO WAKE. Even people who are predisposed to root for Teague are a little ambivalent about him. He’s just kind of there, right?
This isn’t to say Teague can’t ball. If the Hawks are truly trying to build a Spurs East, Teague is their Tony Parker. He had a pretty good audition for the role during the playoffs, when he torched the Pacers, averaging 19 and 5 in a losing effort. That was Act I of the Pacers postseason tragedy, so it’s easy to forget that Teague was a blur of floaters, 3s, and timely assists.
So why is he a Triangle All-Star? Because this team needs some chill. Jeff Teague is Iceman. Let Boogie and Dion be Mick and Keith. Jeff Teague is Charlie Watts. Sometimes, you just need a timekeeper. Some players are zeros, some are 10s. Some 3s think they are 8s. Teague is a 7 who knows he’s a 7. And he is a fun-to-watch 7. Jeff Teague is really good, but his inclusion here is as much for balance as anything else.
Video Evidence: This was the game where we fell for Teague:
Great Moment in Social Media: He tweeted this after the Wiz beat the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals:
Why Some People Don’t Love Him: Some people don’t like cereal either. I don’t know what to tell you.
Final Word/Predictions for 2015: It’s hard to find Teague a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, what with Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and eventually Rondo marshaling their respective squads. But he’s close. If he can consistently be the dude he was against the Pacers in the playoffs, the Tony Parker comparisons might not seem that crazy.
Also, since he’s on the Triangle All-Stars, I fully expect him to grow his hair out, record his own version of The Love Below, and appear on Shark Tank.
The Brothers Plumlee, Forward-Center, USA
Why We Love Them: No matter what happens in this world, nobody will ever be able to tell the Plumlees apart. It’s a comforting tradition. There’s the skinny blonde-haired one in Brooklyn — he looks like a guy named Miles, but that’s Mason. And then there’s the thicker one in Phoenix — he looks like a Mason, but that’s Miles. That’s why this is so complicated.
The distinctions don’t matter, though.
The Plumdog Millionaires are here to stay.
Suns Plumdog is a starter for one of the most ridiculous offenses in basketball, and he’ll be leaned on even more with Channing Frye gone. Nets Plumdog might be the only Nets starter who’s actually getting better as the years pass, and as he plays more this year it’ll only get harder to ignore how good he’s been.
Both of them will get attacked constantly — because they’re white? Stauskas? — but the family’s been rising to the challenge so far. There’s even a third brother here to make things more complicated. They’re all on the Tri-Stars. Fuck it. NBA Vampire Weekend anchors the second unit.
Video Evidence: Game-winning block on LeBron?
Or brutal chase-down block on Boogie?
Great Moments in Social Media History: The responses when we found out Mason Plumee might make the national team over DeMarcus Cousins.
Why Some People Might Not Love Them: The Duke thing could rub some people the wrong way (probably fair), and Coach K somehow putting a Plumlee on the national team could rub others the wrong way (definitely fair).
Final Words/2015 Predictions: We can’t argue with either of those objections, so we’ll just say that the NBA gets so much more fun when you embrace the Plumlee Offensive and stop fighting it. Because the takeover is happening regardless.
Jusuf Nurkic, C, Denver Nuggets
Why We Love Him: We’ve got Boogie, we’ve got Gorgui, and now it’s time to throw in a 6-foot-11 wrecking ball from Bosnia coming off the bench to make life miserable for big men everywhere.
We picked this roster at the beginning of September. This was just a gut feeling. Maybe we put him here because Nurkic’s Dad was part of the riot police in Bosnia, thereby guaranteeing that his son will be absolutely terrifying. Maybe we put him here because leading up to the draft, Fran Fraschilla described him as a “mountain man,” which Danny Chau later amended to “a mountain man with dancer’s feet.” Maybe we did it because Danny once said, “He’s a moai of Easter Island gliding up and down the court on a dolly. He’s Zangief with Chun-Li’s legs (sorry).”
Whatever made us put him here, we’re so glad he’s here.
Nurkic isn’t just a hulking monster sent here to beat the crap out of people. He’s a GOOD hulking monster sent here to beat the crap out of people. So far this preseason, he’s already surprising people. He had 15 points on Taj Gibson and the Bulls, he had 15 boards against the Thunder (six offensive), and at 20 years old, he’s currently out-rebounding every big man on the Nuggets despite playing less than anyone. How high can the mountain man climb???
Video Evidence: You can’t stop him, and you’re definitely not gonna contain him with Taj Gibson. Look at all these layups!
Great Moments in Social Media History: Let’s all learn Bosnian.
Why Some People Might Not Love Him: Nobody knows who Jusuf Nurkic is?
Final Words/2015 Predictions: There will be plenty of forgettable nights with the Nuggets. But then there will be nights when Nurkic just destroys everyone down low, ends with a double-double, and everyone else wonders where the hell this guy came from, and by the way, why isn’t he playing more? Just wait. By the end of the year the Nuggets front office will be plotting ways to get rid of JaVale and Mozgov to clear the way for the mountain man with dancer’s feet. On this imaginary all-star team, he’s a role player. On the Nuggets, he’s the future.
Year 2 Giannis, Point Guard/Small Forward/International Sensation, Bucks
Why We Love Him: Everybody loves Giannis, but we loved him first. And, god, were we right. We picked an entire new roster for the Triangle All-Stars this year, but there were two players we just couldn’t let go. Boogie and Giannis personify this team better than anyone. They are the franchise. Our ambassadors.
Year 1 featured a thousand moments like that. In between flashing the occasional terrifying glimpse into the future, he was blogging, discovering smoothies, running through the streets of Milwaukee without a jacket, carrying food home from the players’ lounge (“You’d see him with like six or seven boxes, trying to save money — cakes, drinks, all types of stuff”) and grabbing old shoes (“He pulled the shoes out the garbage like, ‘What are you doing? These good shoes!'”), and generally just making the world a much happier place.
But now it’s Year 2. He spent the offseason introducing himself as Greek Freak, telling teammates “THIS IS WHAT I DO,” filming chocolate milk commercials in Greece, and learning to play point guard, an idea so diabolical it probably shouldn’t be legal. Last year was fun, but this season is different. He’s growing into his frame and fame all at once.
He’s going to play all over the floor this year, he’s going to bring the ball up, and together with Jabari, he’s the future of the Bucks franchise. The adorable era is over. Let the terror begin.
Video Evidence: Fast break.
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Great Moments in Social Media History: Break it down.
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Why Some People Might Not Love Him: Do not trust anyone who doesn’t enjoy Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Final Words/2015 Projections: Be afraid, get excited. There will be lots of wow.
Inline images by Robb Harskamp