SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Olympus has fallen - at least slipped a little. The Milwaukee Bucks clobbered the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Thursday, 134-111. And also, where are all the premier franchises in the NFL? Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you doing?
SIMON: I'm fine. And as they say in Milwaukee, fear the deer.
BRYANT: (Laughter) Fear the deer.
SIMON: Was that a fluke on Thursday? By the way, the Bucks have an absolutely great player - well, more than one, but absolutely great player. He has an unfortunate name that owes to his Greek heritage. And I know you're a classical Greek scholar, so I'll leave you to say Giannis' name.
BRYANT: So you're going to force me to say Giannis Antetokounmpo? Yes, I did...
SIMON: Way to go, Howard.
BRYANT: ...I did it right. That's two in a row - exactly. He is the Greek Freak. He is a spectacular basketball player who was really passed over by virtually every team because they didn't think his game was polished enough. And then, boy, he took over and really raised his level of skill. I mean, he's an unbelievable basketball player.
And what happened the other night in Oakland is not a fluke. Sure, Golden State did not play very well, that's for certain. But last year, we saw it in the seven-game series between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks, and Milwaukee is knocking on the door. They're one of those teams that you're going to have to watch out for because LeBron James isn't here anymore. He's in the Western Conference with the Lakers.
And so we like to talk a lot about how the Boston Celtics are the favorites and how this team is supposed to be the one that's going to match up best with the Warriors, but I really enjoy what's taking place in the NBA right now, especially in the Eastern Conference because you've got Toronto that now has Kawhi Leonard, who got traded over from San Antonio. You've got the Celtics, who are a wonderful ensemble cast who haven't really put it together yet. They got hammered last night in Utah. And you've got Milwaukee, who had this fantastic win. They lost in Boston last Thursday. And then they come into Oakland, and they beat the best team in the NBA.
So certainly, there are a lot of teams to look out for. And, believe me, Milwaukee is definitely one. Fear the deer, indeed.
SIMON: Yeah, fear the deer.
Let's talk football for a moment. We're past the halfway mark of the NFL season. Maybe the LA Rams, but other than that, not a breakout team, right?
BRYANT: Well, you know, for everything that we talk about with the Golden State Warriors and the Warriors being this team that nobody can beat and that there's no suspense, there's plenty of suspense in the NBA. But when it comes to football, Scott, I got to tell you, the NFL has gone out of its way to promote mediocrity.
The league is set up, pretty much, for everyone to go 8-8 this year, and maybe 12-4 next year and then maybe 8-8 the next year. And so it really does take about half a season to find out who's going to be good. And so we're starting to reach Thanksgiving. We're starting to get into that, what I call, separation time, where you're going to see who's really good.
The Rams were undefeated; the Saints beat them. I think the Saints may be the best team in football right now. You've got the NFL champs, the Philadelphia Eagles - they're 4-4. The Patriots are still really good. The Chiefs are outstanding; they lost to the Patriots. The Steelers were fantastic the other night...
BRYANT: ...Against Carolina.
But as of today, nobody's really that good. But then again, nobody is really that bad either. I'm thinking in about three weeks, after Thanksgiving, you'll start to see who's going to emerge. Last year, nobody thought that the Eagles were Super Bowl favorites, and they ended up winning the whole thing.
SIMON: Yeah. Well, we know it's hard to have - almost impossible - a dynasty these days. But it's hard, even, to put two championships together, isn't it?
BRYANT: Well, absolutely. And that's why what the Patriots have done has been so fantastic.
SIMON: Well, Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so much for being with us, Howard.
BRYANT: No, my pleasure.
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