Erik Spoelstra, The Reason for the Success

The Miami Heat are currently 10-1 in this year’s post-season, but who is the main reason for that?

Is it Jimmy Butler’s late game heroics?

Is it Bam Adebayo’s unbelievable impact?

Is it Goran Dragic’s terrific scoring stretch?

Although these are viable options, it seems as Erik Spoelstra deserves a lot of the credit.

Game two of the Eastern Conference Finals definitely put a stamp on that, when Spo not only made huge adjustments, but got this team focused. The Heat were playing like a team up 1-0 in the series during the first half, which is very unlike them to do so. But it seemed as if every player came out of the locker room at halftime with the same exact amount of energy. They were back to Miami Heat basketball.

Spo then made the adjustments that ultimately won them this game. He inserted Derrick Jones Jr in the lineup in the second half over Kendrick Nunn, and it worked as you’d expect. Derrick matches up well with this Boston team defensively, since he can guard any of Boston’s iso players one-on-one. But he didn’t need to play much defense one-on-one, since Spo adjusted to the 2-3 zone defense, which is where DJJ fits perfectly. Not only because of his quickness and length to get steals, but just the discomfort that he gives guys with the ball in their hands.

He also adjusted some offensive schemes as well, utilizing Bam Adebayo on the pick and rolls. They know Bam is not going to take Boston’s bigs in the post on the offensive side, but he will play above, around, and under the rim.

This is just a one game sample size of the things Spo has had to do to come away with wins.

He had to make some tough decisions entering the playoffs as well. Benching Kendrick Nunn for Goran Dragic, removing Meyers Leonard from the rotation, and even giving Tyler Herro the reigns of the offense late in big playoff games. But ultimately, this has a little something to do with Spo knowing his personnel.

He knew Goran would step up to the plate to give him quality starting minutes, and he knew Meyers Leonard would step down and still utilize his voice and leadership on the sideline. That’s because these guys share the same mentality as Spo, they just want to win.

Jimmy Butler said to media after game two, “He makes everybody feel comfortable. Hell, I’m glad he’s my coach.” Even Heat legend Dwyane Wade talked about the success of Spoelstra, saying “He’s a great coach man. He won’t get the respect from the outside, but from all of us who really know, he got it.”

Erik Spoelstra and this Heat team are now two wins away from the NBA finals. And if you don’t think that Spo has something else up his sleeve to close out this series, you are absolutely wrong.


Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) is a regular on Five on the Floor properties.

Houtz Special: Dolphins should ‘stay the course’ with Tua Tagovailoa

Last night, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 35-30 in an exciting primetime game.

This game had everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING.

Odell Beckham Jr. made big plays. Cleveland utilized their two-headed monster in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And we got a preview of Baker Mayfield vs Joe Burrow. We also got this.

(P.S I miss you Jarvis Landry. #LandryGangGang)

Dolphins can learn a lot from Joe Burrow; Bengals

It was a good night of football.

But my biggest takeaway from this game–besides realizing how foolish it was to sit Kareem Hunt this week for broken Miles Sanders–was that the Dolphins need to stay the course with their young signal-caller.

Because yes, Joe Burrow looked impressive as hell completing a rookie record 37 passes on 61 attempts.

But he also got his ass-kicked, enduring 17 punishing hits throughout the three-hour slugfest.

After the game, Burrow said he was fine. But as we’ve seen first hand in Miami over the years, this type of abuse is not sustainable.

Furthermore, making Burrow throw the ball 61 times is not something we thought we’d see on this day. And behind indubitably the worst offensive line in football, this isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

Now, I know what the first thing is you’re going to say:

bUt MiAmI’S oFfEnSivE LiNe Is BetTeR tHAn CiNcInAtTi’s

Yes, this is true.

But it is also true that Miami has only played ONE game.

Offensively, the Dolphins line played solid. And if younger players like Solomon Kindley, Austin Jackson, and Robert Hunt continue to step up; and the veterans build continuity, there’s no reason why this offensive line can’t rank middle of the pack–at worst.

So, yes I concur that Miami’s offensive line is superior. It’s hard not to be.

Fitzmagic or Fitztragic?

Then there’s also this older, bearded guy on the roster named Ryan Fitzpatrick– whom is playing in his 16th NFL season. Not only did he lead the Dolphins to five wins in 2019 but he’s again reunited with 68-year-old Chan Gailey. Whose offense in week one, admittedly, looked like it hasn’t aged in a few decades. And in their first time together since 2016, there were plenty of kinks to work out.

On Sunday, Fitzpatrick looked much more like his alter-ego FitzTragic–throwing three interceptions in a losing effort. But in 2020, the leash for Fitzpatrick could be longer than a season ago– as Chris Kauffman of 3 Yard’s Per Carry notes in this elegant thread:

And the most important variable–other than health– is how well does the rookie understand Miami’s offense?

After all, we heard all offseason how it’s much more simplified than Chad O’Shea’s from a season ago.

We also know how similar Gailey’s offense is to what Tagovailoa ran in Tuscaloosa.

But in his first taste of the NFL glitz and glamour, Tua did everything asked of him on the sideline. And whether that be communicating with coaches and players, or buckling his chinstrap on every offensive position, The Left Arm of God appeared ready and eager to get out there.

Miami’s starting QB agreed:

“He asked some really good questions. It seemed like he saw the game pretty decent from the sidelines in terms of the stuff that we were talking about and the questions he was asking. It was good. It was a good start just to build on that communication now, just being another set of eyes for me to be able to trust. I thought he did a nice job.”

The Final Yard

Ultimately, it is up to head coach Brian Flores on when he will decide to usher in the new era in Miami.

An era, that many have dreamt about in their heads since the GOAT Dan Marino rode off into the sunset.

And despite all these words I just took an hour to type out, everything could change with another lackluster performance from the veteran Fitzpatrick.

Yes, this is a unique season. But the Dolphins have already been clear that Tua is healthy and able to play. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have sent Josh Rosen packing with a handful of money. Or removed Tagovailoa recently from the team’s injury report.

In the end, no one knows when the Tua Tagovailoa Era will begin in Miami.

But as we saw last season, all it takes is a few costly mistakes and Brian Flores is ready to make a change.

A change that Dolphins fans have desired for most of their life.



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Heat Prove They are up to the Challenge

Rarely has a playoff matchup been introduced with this much uncertainty. Given the unprecedented bubble environment and lack of past matchups between the two teams as presently constructed, there weren’t many voices around the NBA willing to confidently predict how the Eastern Conference Finals would play out. ESPN experts were split down the middle, with 11 people picking the Heat and 11 picking the Celtics, everyone agreeing that the series would last 6 or 7 games. The general consensus seemed to be that the series could go either way. 

Still there were people who doubted whether the Miami Heat belonged, people who doubted whether they could challenge the Boston Celtics as much as the Toronto Raptors had the series before. These people took the Heat’s dominance over the top-seeded Bucks as proof of Milwaukee’s fraudulence rather than evidence of Miami’s prowess. Paul Pierce (an unbiased voice, no doubt) went as far as to say that the Miami Heat hadn’t been “tested” yet. There were some legitimate questions about whether the Heat had defensive personnel to contain Boston’s array of electric offensive players. Would Kemba be the guy to finally exploit Miami’s point of attack issues on defense? Would Crowder be able to keep up with the Celtics’ young wings? As cocky as Miami fans acted and as divided as opinions were on the conference finals matchup, there were whispers about whether this would be the round where this unlikely, unexpected Miami Heat team would be exposed and outmatched. After a dominant first quarter from Boston, people had to wonder whether Miami would get run off the floor. 

If the following three quarters of game 1 proved anything, it’s that nobody should be worried about whether Miami is up to this challenge.

With a bit of zone, plenty of trapping, and a lot of Bam flying around the court, the Heat did an incredible job of shutting down Kemba Walker and disrupting the rest of Boston’s offense. Despite a typical star scoring performance from Jayson Tatum and the odd hot shooting night from Marcus Smart, Miami’s defensive personnel showed that they could keep up. Crowder looked plenty capable of sticking to Boston’s best wings and guys like Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro weren’t the defensive liabilities some worried they may be in this series.

On the offensive end, Goran continued his all-star level playoff play, getting the Heat running and pulling the team out of their first quarter slump. Boston’s number 1 defense didn’t stop Miami from getting into a rhythm and finding their shots. Herro and Adebayo displayed a level of patience, poise, and awareness uncommon in players their age, ending with 9 assists each. Never looking outmatched, Miami found open shooters, attacked the paint, and got Boston into foul trouble. The teams seemed as evenly matched as it gets, but down the stretch of a competitive game the Heat’s leaders didn’t flinch a bit. They climbed back from a 12 point deficit entering the fourth quarter, overcame a questionable off-ball foul that sent the game to overtime, and weathered a huge clutch shot from “Cardiac” Kemba, to come away with a huge game 1 win (on the road!). All it took was a couple of clutch plays from 20 year old Tyler Herro, a couple of clutch plays from Jimmy Butler, and a game saving block by Bam Adebayo that Magic Johnson called “the best defensive play [he’s] ever seen in the playoffs”. This not-so-humble 5 seeded Heat battled Boston to the last second and never blinked. 

There are concerns, of course. While Duncan Robinson was able to get more open looks than he got in 5 games against the Bucks, he was limited by foul trouble and couldn’t find his rhythm. Kendrick Nunn continued to be a liability for the Heat, which means more weight falls on the shoulders of 34 year old Goran Dragic. Kelly Olynyk struggled, and if he can’t turn it around, the Heat will have a hard time surviving minutes where Bam rests. The Heat fell into the same offensive lulls that we saw against the Bucks and Pacers, but it looks like the Celtics have the offense to make them pay for them. The margin of error for Miami is razor thin, and Boston will punch back in game 2. Meanwhile, the recovering Gordon Hayward looms and Celtics fans have to hope that his return can tip the scales of a mostly balanced matchup. 

The Celtics aren’t the Bucks. They certainly aren’t the Pacers. Brad Stevens will adjust, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown will get going. It looks like Erik Spoelstra and the Heat will need everything they’ve got if they’re going to win the East. The outcome of the Eastern Conference Finals is not much more certain than it was a day ago, but here what is clear. Spo isn’t scared. Bam isn’t scared. Herro, Crowder, Dragic, Butler certainly aren’t scared. Riley sure ain’t scared. Nor should you be. 


Jack Alfonso can be found at @AlfonsoHoops. Photo courtesy of @MiamiHeat on Twitter.

Marlins should take their own advice and continue paying attention

The difference between being under .500 and on the outside looking in and above .500 with a playoff spot for the first time in 16 years — as well as being within striking distance for the first time in franchise history — is making the Philadelphia Phillies their whipping boys.

The fact that one of the best catchers in baseball wanted to leave Miami via trade because he wanted to win, only to go to a team with bloated expectations and being dominated by the very team he didn’t believe in, is delicious enough for Marlins fans.

Going 7-3 against a team lead by JT Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Didi Gregorious and taking back second place of the NL East has led to the Marlins feeling themselves a bit. The social media team asked the nation and its media if they were finally paying attention to the franchise formerly known as “bottom feeders.”

As great of a story it is, the Marlins should take their own advice and continue paying attention to the road ahead. What lies in front of them is eight straight home games against the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals, both teams are currently last in their respective divisions. After which, the Marlins finish the regular season on the road against Atlanta and a desperate and volatile New York Yankees team.

Should anything go wrong and the Marlins will return to being the laughing stocks of baseball. It can be easy to forget that this was teetering around .500 and barely clinging on to the bare minimum of playoff qualification before they were scheduled to play with their favorite punching bag again.

When the Marlins won, it was either with dominant starting pitching or resilient hitting. When they lost, it was in horrendous fashion. They gave up double-digit runs in both losses against the Phillies and their last game against the Braves was a 20-run loss. I say that to say, as good as the wins have been for the Marlins, it can all turn on a dime.

That being said, the Marlins have every right to puff out the chest and thumb their nose in the face of the national media. Don Mattingly started his first press conference of spring training this year saying he would like to meet any national media member that didn’t pick the Marlins to finish last in the division. He also said that whatever respect they where to gain had to be earned and it looks like they believe they have earned it.

“Nationally, before the season, nobody was really thinking about the Marlins at all,” Mattingly said. “but I think we felt pretty good about ourselves. I think we’re doing what we believe we could do.”

After two years of rebuilding in the cellar, the Marlins fortified their lineup with a slew of veteran free agent additions. After last season, any new set of names in the lineup would be considered an improvement. They got Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar for basically an empanada. Aguilar, batting .295 with six home runs and 29 RBI, looks like he returned to All-Star form. Once Villar proved to be a glorified version of Jon Berti, he was traded to the Blue Jays for prospect Griffin Conine.

The national media truly took notice when the Marlins traded for Starling Marte. He was already batting .300 at the time of the trade but after over a week of clutch hits (3HR and 11 RBI), it was clear that he was going to be the difference maker for the Marlins.  

“Starling’s been huge for us because he brings that energy,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “He’s such a dynamic player that can do a lot of things in the baseball field. I’m really excited about him and hopefully we can have him here for a very long time.”

“He solidifies centerfield,” Mattingly said. “He’s gotten big hits for us. The hit today with two outs was huge. He’s been great for us and he’s solidified that one spot for us which allowed me to now do a lot of different things in the corners and knowing that spot in the order is kind of set.”

Rojas batting .370 and the veterans providing the pop masks the glaring fact that their young hitters are not ready yet. Isan Diaz, Jazz Chisholm, Jesus Sanchez and Monte Harrison have all gotten big league opportunities but none of them have stood out yet.

Lewis Brinson, in his third year, has seemed to have finally found a niche against left-handed pitching. In 36 at-bats, which is half of his at-bats for the season, he is batting .306 with a .915 OPS against southpaws.

The pitching on the other hand, made the rebuild a success. Sixto Sanchez is out there looking like Pedro Martinez, with a 1.69 ERA in five starts. Sandy Alcantara is as good as he was last year and Pablo Lopez finally reached his potential. These three starters alone makes a Marlins a team to fear in the postseason.

“I kind of hope people are giving us more credit because we do have a good team,” outfielder Matt Joyce said. “You kind of get labeled and branded something because of the past. It’s not the same team, not the same organization. You have a chance to win every night.”

There’s plenty of reason to be confident and optimistic, but no reason to be arrogant just yet.

Season Ticket: It’s Heat vs. Celtics, Riley vs. Ainge, as it should be

Everyone always is asking for moments, the behind the scenes stuff that made the Big Three era of Miami Heat basketball so unique, so special, so surreal, a spectacle never to be repeated in any sport at any level. Most memories are hazy now, more than six years out, with all gone from the Heat roster but the Miami Methuselah himself, the venerable Udonis Haslem, and the world changed in virtually every other way. But I always return to New Orleans, on the 29th of March, 2013, for the moment when it most felt like it would never end.

The Heat, at the peak of their powers, and on the strength of a beer-addled Shane Battier bus speech on Super Bowl Sunday in Toronto, had just ripped through the NBA for 27 straight victories, some dominant, some miraculous (poor Cavs and their 27 point lead), most running together now in retrospect. That streak, however, had ended two nights earlier in Chicago, on a series of Kirk Hinrich hip checks and 45 combined points from future Heat players Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler, with LeBron James — who has never played better basketball than during that three-month stretch — complaining in the United Center locker room about the Bulls’ cheap shots.

So now two days had passed, and word had gotten to James, as it always did, about someone taking another sort of cheap shot at him. Apparently, Danny Ainge, one of the NBA’s all-time irritants, had injected himself in the discussion by blasting James on WEEI-Boston for whining too much: “I think it’s almost embarrassing that LeBron would complain about officiating.” As the Heat’s morning shootaround ended, before he exited Smoothie King Arena, James corralled a couple of hungover reporters to engage in conversation about Ainge’s comments.  He was smiling, but serious.

“Who the f— he think he is? Mind his own f— business.”

That night, the Heat were scheduled to face the Hornets, the team that would become the Pelicans, featuring Anthony Davis, who now is James’ teammate with the Lakers. Four of us gathered in front of the visiting locker room at Smoothie King Arena to hear from Erik Spoelstra about starting a new streak and finishing the season strong. That’s when Tim Donovan, who has run the Heat’s media relations since Pat Riley arrived in 1995, emerged from the locker room with a message, scribbled on a napkin or a small sheet of paper or something.

“This is from Pat.”

Well, OK.

“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team.”

Come again?

We can tweet that?


So we did, and then a few minutes later we were allowed to enter. There was James, as always, sprawled out in the center of the floor, his trainer Mike Mancias stretching him as he furiously scrolled through Twitter, the broadest smile you’ve ever seen at the show of support, before sprinting to the court and sinking six three-pointers in the first half on the way to an 18-point win.

James was never leaving.

Riley, using Ainge to his own ends, was never losing.

The Heat’s success…. was never ending.


It did end, of course, if not until after another championship and another NBA Finals appearance.

James did leave, of course, ultimately bristling at Riley’s control, among about 30 other factors.

Riley did lose, not just James, but franchise icon Dwyane Wade, and enough games to miss the playoffs in 2014-15, 2016-17 and 2018-19, three of only six times that’s happened in a quarter-century. Worse, he lost his way, forgetting who he is and what his franchise represents, overpaying average players rather than merely developing them, blocking the path for the truly elite to arrive. As he put it so succinctly after too many run-ins with the likes of Whiteside and Waiters, “I let the culture slip.”

But here Riley is, literally perched up in the rafters to watch a Bubble team that embodies that culture better than any in his entire Heat tenure, a collection of hoop junkies pushed by four grizzled veterans, two of whom (Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic) told their families to stay away because this was a bleeping “business trip,” one of which (Andre Iguodala) is best known for ripping a Finals MVP from James, and one of whom (Udonis Haslem) is somewhat responsible for anyone still playing at all, since he’s the one with the cred and guts to stand up to James and others in a tense NBA players meeting and tell them how things needed to be, how they needed to use their platforms. Riley’s here with a team filled out by young grinders, two of them (Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo) also part of Bluegrass Nation, both more talented than he was as a player, but with the same rugged mentality as when he hounded Jerry West in practice. He’s here with a squad carefully molded by a coach, Erik Spoelstra, who is now even better than he ever was, but stands as a testament to the stability and consistency and trust of the organization Riley established.

And look who stands in his way.

“The biggest whiner going when he was playing,” Riley also said of Ainge in that statement, on Miami Heat letterhead (!), in 2013. “And I know that because I coached against him.”

Whiner isn’t that far removed, in terms of letters, from winner.

And Ainge, like Riley, is that too. As a player. As an executive. As a team-builder. As a rival. That is why he gets under Riley’s skin so much, because not everyone earns that insertion. Riley’s Lakers took two of the three NBA Finals meetings between 1983 and 1987, but it was never easy. And while the Celtics were largely dormant in Riley’s first decade with the Heat, missing the playoffs the first six seasons while coached by ML Carr and Rick Pitino, they have been a force in most of the seasons since.

This is the Celtics’ sixth Eastern Conference finals since he assumed control of the front office in 2005.

Only one East franchise has been here more since.

The Heat, with seven.

Riley has been the ultimate scavenger during his Heat tenure, even winning titles with two players Ainge no longer really wanted, Antoine Walker in 2006 and then Ray Allen in 2013. Now he has Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder, both discarded by Boston in the accumulation of other assets. But there is no denying Ainge has done something significant in Boston, learning from the decline of his own dynastic 1980s team by swindling the Nets in dumping the declining Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on them — just in time for Riley’s Big Three to render them impotent in Brooklyn — for a slew of selections; robbing the LeBron 2.0 Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade; then recovering from Irving’s implosion by replacing him with the more pliable, amenable Kemba Walker. He and Riley haven’t done everything the same, but they are more similar and successful than any other executives in the Eastern Conference for the past 15 years, with only Toronto’s Masai Uriji close. Neither believes in following a fickle, bogus Process, and both made the 76ers look silly with recent transaction, Ainge scooping up an extra first rounder to slide down and take franchise cornerstone Jayson Tatum instead of Markelle Fultz, and Riley taking Jimmy Butler from the 76ers for a nice but replaceable player (Josh Richardson) he took 40th overall.

And so they both here, after the ebbs and flows, both positioned to stay atop the East for a while, or at least as long as each continues in his current position. Ainge is 14 years younger, but greybeard Riley has appeared equally vibrant of late. He has a team he loves, a coach he trusts, cap space he craves. He has a strong stable of minds in his front office and on the sidelines, so strong that every team in the league with an opening is trying to steal the likes of Dan Craig and Adam Simon and Shane Battier, and no one seems to want to leave. He has his reputation back. And he has a star in Butler who shares his f-the-world ethos even more than James does, and who would absolutely say the same to Danny Ainge or anyone else without thinking twice.

He has Danny Ainge’s Celtics in his sights, with LeBron James and the Lakers possibly on the other side, since everything in the NBA always comes full circle. He has shut the f— up and managed his own team this time, staying mostly behind the scenes, letting Spoelstra shape it into a modern masterpiece, with ball movement reminiscent of the Spurs squad that ended James’ Miami time But so has the other guy, the guy in green, the one he respects as much as loathes, the one who has his own solid veterans and his own young stars and his own amiable, creative young coach in Brad Stevens. Now we see, once again but probably not for all, who has f—– managed better.


Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick @5ReasonsSports) has covered the Miami Heat since 1996 and is the CEO and Chief Content Editor of Five Reasons Sports. 

We’re Miami Heat fans, and you may not understand

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It’s been nearly 30 days since I last did what I vowed to never do and what I proactively try to avoid and that is get into a protracted exchange with someone on Twitter. And I could have left well enough alone but, God help me, I just could not. It’s like Michael Corleone in the terrible Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”


Just a little programming note, this is not going to be a breakdown of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. Heck, it’s not even about the playoffs. Folks far smarter than I have that well covered on the latest episode of Five on the Floor. Or get a recount of the Heat’s presser courtesy of Brady Hawk.


Truthfully, this piece will be a bit selfish. Well, plenty selfish.


So this began a couple days ago when writer Chris Haynes reported that Giannis Antetokounmpo was meeting with Milwaukee Bucks ownership to discuss his future and the team’s direction. Of course, many in the Twitterverse weighed in. Writer Kevin O’Connor replied with a smiling Jack Nicholson meme and wrote simply, “Pat Riley right now.” 


Oh how I loved it.


Naturally, many people commented. But one in particular got my Irish up. I’ll refrain from sharing his Twitter handle to save him from any embarrassment because, really, it was rooted in foolishness. In order for you to keep up, let’s just call him, “Stu”.


Stu provides several scenarios that go on to mock what teams would feebly offer Milwaukee in return for the Greek Freak. He offers his assessment as best as anyone can in 280 characters and a natural reaction to chime in within seconds of the Tweet he just read — misguided, uninformed, and half-cocked. 


Stu cites Miami as having nothing but a, “…glorified role player that you’ll have to pay 20 million plus, some role players, and a shitty first.”


Of course, Stu is referring to Bam Adebayo as that glorified role player. Hell to the no, he didn’t just go there.


Our exchange featured me weighing in with the usual Miami Heat stan talking points:

  1. Great front office.
  2. Great player development.
  3. Great coach.
  4. Great organization.
  5. Great track record.


As you can see, everything is great because it is.


Stu’s reply is that the Bucks will want someone under 25 and that Bam is not. He continues blaspheming by saying that Bam is not, “…a blue chipper.” I became enraged. The gall of him to not only get it wrong but to add years to our guy. So unnecessary. 


I correct him that Bam is under 25, is a first time All-Star, and is blossoming. He blows right by the correction of his erroneous take. We essentially go back and forth. 


I’m touting Pat Riley, Andy Elisburg, Erik Spoelstra, and a partridge in a pear tree. His only retort is that the Bucks will want something significant in return in exchange for their guy, which I don’t disagree with. It’s Stu’s contention that the Heat have nothing to give, which he is not entirely incorrect. And though Stu’s Twitter bio simply says, “Hoops fan”, he has a George Mikan headshot as his profile pic, and has, “Hoops” in his handle, I am getting the feeling that his exposure to “hoops”, as he would say, is whatever happens to crawl across his telly on TNT or ESPN. I write this because he is utterly dismissive of Riley and company, replying condescendingly that he appreciates my fandom and that I’m acting “…like Miami is the only decent FO and because of that their getting him.” Yes I just wrote exactly what he typed.


Firstly, ladies and gentlemen, please make sure you know the proper uses of there, their, and they’re. It’s like to, two, and too. These things annoy the bejeezus out of me. it feels like Stu knew this and did it purposely just to annoy the hell out of me.


Anyway, my counter is that with this front office, I…have…seen…some…ish. We all have.


We can go back to the acquisition of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. We can talk about the acquisition of Shaq. We can talk about the offloading of Shaq. We can talk about the offloading of the Horrible Contracts That Shall No Longer Be Spoken Of. And this is just some of the highlights. Stu can use Google if he wants the other great points.


I finish off by sharing with Stu a recent episode of the Lowe Post podcast where ESPN writer Zach Lowe spends an hour plus with Dan Le Batard and is just gushing over Heat culture and their wonderful front office. Side note, you can get the comments directly at the 10:00 and 55:00 minute marks! Stu can hear from a more reputable source echoing my opinion if he so chooses. 


To me, I feel like it’s a good little capper to my exchange with Stu. I feel like I’ve taken his lunch money, his Trapper Keeper, and his extra bag of Doritos.  I imagine that if Stu is actually listening to the episode that he’s trying to figure out exactly how to respond. I imagine it’s a lot like Kayleigh McEnany looking down at the podium and rifling through papers whenever presented with irrefutable evidence of stupidity that she needs to answer for or meanderingly explain. And like Kayliegh’s reflex is to desperately search for a coherent retort, so too is Stu’s. He’s likely to miss the point and just reply with something rote like, “The Heat have no players the Bucks want.”


And with that, this entire exchange would be all for naught. Insert face-in-palm emoji here.


The reason I share this story is to lend more credence to the narratives that everyone hates the Heat and that we Heat fans are easily triggered. Well, at least this Heat fan is. Nothing gets me going more than anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and, now, anti-Heaters.


We can all agree that this team has overachieved and exceeded our often lofty expectations because they have. Talking about lofty expectations, I used to talk up Mark Blount! 


Heat fans, we have become emboldened not just by this moment, but by the sum of all the moments where our team seemed out of the running or down for the count or Stephane Lasme and have come triumphantly out the other side like Andy Dufresne crawling through miles of shit in Shawshank Redemption. 


Heat fans, we are excited that regardless of the result of this series against Boston, this past season would be just the appetizer preceding the main course that is the summer of 2021 or whenever we get back on track from COVID. And that is when we will truly feast!


Was this exchange necessary? Likely not. But our team–our Miami Heat–is in the Eastern Conference Finals. Nobody defecates on our team, not the least of which someone who had the temerity to call Bam a role player or dismiss the power of our team’s culture.  Not now.


Stu did give a valiant effort, but ultimately he should go home and get his shine box. So in honor of the brave educators out there caring for our children and our future, Stu gets an “F”. 


Yes. S-T-U can now S-T-F-U.


Thanks for reading. Wear a mask. Let’s go Heat.


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Bam Adebayo Looks to Dominate ECF vs. Celtics

It’s continually been clear that Bam Adebayo is the constant energy that keeps this Miami Heat team going.

But it seems even more essential against the Boston Celtics.

For starters, he will have the ability to utilize his full offensive package with the match-up of Daniel Theis. If he can get his mid-range jumper going early, this will slowly lure Theis out of the paint, which is what Bam ultimately wants. This then allows him to take him off the dribble to the basket, and since Theis is super aggressive on shot contests around the rim, there’s a good chance that he gets some free throws off of that.

He should be able to take advantage on the offensive glass, since he did that in all of the games with Boston. And this gets his confidence up a bit, which is something that holds much importance with Bam, since his aggression is based off his offensive flow.

He will also be a huge factor for Miami’s lethal shooter Duncan Robinson. Duncan hasn’t been able to breathe in the playoffs thus far, and it’s going to be the same exact situation against the Celtics. But with Bam Adebayo’s elite screen-setting and Daniel Theis’ inability to switch on Duncan off of screens, this will be essential.

And while discussing the offense, Erik Spoelstra will most likely run a lot of lineups with Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk on the floor. These two on the court together pose a lot of mismatches for Boston defensively. It means that Daniel Theis gets brought out to the perimeter due to Kelly’s elite shooting, and that Bam can take advantage of the smaller Jayson Tatum on the block. Jaylen Brown even had some minutes on Bam when Kelly was on the floor, which is even more of a favorable match-up.

And now to the defensive side of the ball, which is where he will absolutely dominate the series. It’s obvious that Bam is an above average defender on the perimeter, and can hold his own on opposing guards. And well, he’ll be seeing a lot of one-on-ones with guards in this series.

The Boston Celtics run a lot of stuff through the high pick and roll, which ultimately allows Kemba Walker to get to his strengths. Kemba has the option of shooting a pull up three or his go to step back mid-range with the opponent on their heels. But now with Bam most likely switching on Kemba on the perimeter, this will give him major trouble. This means that Kemba will be kicking it to one of the corners, one with Jayson Tatum being guarded by Jae Crowder and the other with Brown being guarded by Jimmy Butler. This does not mean that these guys aren’t going to continue to score the way they have all season, but it’s something that will be a game changer down the stretches of close games.

Ultimately, Jayson Tatum is going to get his and Jimmy Butler is going to get his. But each team’s second option will give their team the edge in this series. Boston’s second option may be Kemba Walker. It may be Jaylon Brown. But what is guaranteed is that Bam will be that second option for Miami, and as he said in his press conference, he will look to take more of an offensive load.

Bam Adebayo. You now have the keys to this team.

You’re one series away from reaching the NBA Finals. Go prove the haters wrong.


Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) contributes to Five on the Floor on the podcast and streaming shows. To sponsor his work, contact 

THE EXTRA YARD: Week 1 Dolphins Grades

After every Dolphins win or loss, I will provide grades for each unit on the team, including coaching.

This was a poor effort by Ryan Fitzpatrick. His first of three interceptions was a bad decision compounded by Preston Williams falling down as Stephon Gilmore picked it off. His second interception was the poorest of decisions on this day, as he threw right into a closed window, before his target, (Ford) could clear the zone. His last interception, I chalk up to a P.I. no call and is not his fault. Nonetheless, only two trips to the red zone, and three turnovers gets you a bad grade. Only positives where his command of the huddle, and efficiency in getting his team lined up correctly.-D

Myles Gaskins had a productive day with 66 yards on 13 touches, and some good pass pro on tape. Jordan Howard ran out of 12 and 21 personnel, and was given some lead runs, power and inside zone runs that he found no success with. The team looked much better with what Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida were asked to do.-C-

DeVante Parker was good while he lasted, as his hamstring injury flared up and he left the game in the first half. Preston Williams was erased for all intents and purposes by several patriots, but mostly by Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson. Isaiah Ford was a non-factor. Jakeem Grant showed some promise, and did pop open for a big one (Fitzpatrick didn’t see it) in the 3rd quarter, and he was the lonely bright spot on the unit. Mike Gesicki had 5 targets and probably should have drawn two pass interference penalties.-D


Some good on this unit. If I told you Austin Jackson played a clean game against a Bill Belichick led defense, that was actively throwing the kitchen sink at him, what grade would you give? The other rookie Solomon Kindley had some moment sin inside zone, and stood up pretty well in pass pro. Pass protection was not an issue. Running out of 12 and 21 personnel was. Flowers had a costly penalty that stifled a drive, and Kindley blew a counter play, but the main issues came when trying to hit their double teams on lead runs, as there was a lot of whiffing going on. You subtract their lead iso plays, and everything they ran out of 12/21 personnel, you get a very different story, but you can’t do that. Run Blocking hurts the grade.-C+


Christian Wilkins was very good, and active as he shot the B gap consistently all day. The rest if the DT’s sprinkled in moments, with Raekwon Davis noticeably over-running assignments and having his aggressiveness used against him. Ogbah and Lawson were terrible setting the edge, and consistently mis-played Cam Newton’s zone read runs. These guys are much better than what they showed. Other than quarterback, this was the unit deserving the most blame for the loss.-D+


Jerome Baker was everywhere. 16 tackles, 1 sack. Kyle Van Noy was the only guy that had a beat on Cam’s zone read, but nonetheless missed a couple of consequential tackles. The group had 4 TFL’s, and each and every one was from smart/good effort. The problem comes when the statistics against you don’t match up with the actual play. The unit didn’t play bad, but they weren’t part of any solutions on this day.-C+


Uneventful. The Patriots really didn’t try to threaten the secondary, as they had much success on the ground. Rookie Brandon Jones was noticeable, as he had a flashy debut. Xavien Howard played limited snaps, Noah Igbinoghene impressed in spurts, and Bobby McCain was not asked to do too much as the secondary was mostly in run support all day, or reacting to play action, as the Patriots ran, or used play action on 83% of their plays.-B+


Matt Haack was very good with a 50.7 yard average (no return yards), and Jason Sanders made his only opportunity from 46 yards away. There was no kickoff coverage.– A


Not good. Late to adjust to the zone read. DC Josh Boyer kept on calling run stunts, when Josh McDaniels ran outside zone, and then called stack, when Josh McDaniels ran inside zone. It was as if Josh McDaniels knew what Boyer was calling on each and every play. Masterful play calling performance by McDaniels. Chan Gailey seemed to abandon his lead iso/12/21personnel packages when they saw no success in the first half. Can only get better from here.-D

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that produces the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins says the Dolphins need to come together as a team after loss in opener.

Pressure Point: Dolphins have much to fix after sobering loss in opener

First thought on the Miami Dolphins’ season-opening loss at New England, you’ve just got to tip your hat to Bill Belichick.

The Patriots coach let the GOAT quarterback walk, shrugged off eight players opting out of the season and he simply schooled former pupil Brian Flores’ team all day long in a 21-11 clinic Sunday at an empty Gillette Stadium.

The Dolphins gave themselves a chance with a big-time strip of N’Keal Harry by linebacker Jerome Baker to force a turnover at the Miami goal line, followed by an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 14-11 in the fourth quarter.

That was the high-water mark for Miami. Cam Newton and the Patriots offense then asserted their will as they did all day with a 75-yard scoring drive of their own.

Brian Flores the man of the moment for Miami Dolphins this season.

Any hope of another Miami Miracle was stifled when Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third interception of the day put the cap on a sobering opener.

So, Belichick moves a win closer to Don Shula’s all-time record, now 42 behind with 305. And the Dolphins move another game closer to Tua time.

That won’t come at next week’s home opener against Buffalo. Nor should it.

Fitzpatrick’s 3 interceptions crippling

But Fitzpatrick’s 44.6 passer rating with no touchdowns and three picks wasn’t up to the standard he exhibited in leading the Dolphins to five wins over the final nine games last season.

“I would say their secondary played better than I did today,” Fitzpatrick said.

That couldn’t be blamed on lack of protection. The rebuild offensive line, with four new starters including rookies Austin Jackson (left tackle) and Solomon Kindley (right guard) was arguably the most encouraging aspect of the Dolphins performance.

There was one sack on the final drive. But Fitzpatrick wasn’t running for his life as was often the case for Miami quarterbacks last season.

“I didn’t really get touched a whole lot back there,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just in terms of their mood and mentality and the way they were in the huddle, I thought that was all really good to see. Definitely a different vibe out there with no fans, but those guys were into it, and from what I can tell I thought they did a nice job.”

The line’s performance on run blocking left room for improvement, with a 3.2-yard average and 87 total yards.

The Dolphins did get unexpected production from second-year back Myles Gaskin, with 40 rushing yards on nine carries as well as four receptions for 26 yards. Veteran offseason acquisition Jordan Howard contributed only seven yards on eight carries in a forgettable Dolphins debut.

Parker injured again

Miami receivers had trouble getting open against the Patriots secondary, aside from DeVante Parker, who had four catches for 47 yards. But the Parker injury factor reared again when he left in the second half with a hamstring strain.

A bad hammy in Week 1 with a notoriously brittle No. 1 receiver doesn’t bode well for the weeks ahead.

On the topic of bad, there was the cringe-worthy showing of the defense, which seemed befuddled and unprepared to deal with quarterback Cam Newton’s running and sleight of hand on the read-option.

Dolphins defenders were reacting a step late rather that anticipating all day.

In addition to Newton rushing for a game-high 75 yards on 15 carries, including two touchdowns, other Patriots runners sliced through the Dolphins with alarming ease on the way to 217 total yards, averaging 5.2 a try.

Dolphins frustration was evident in a testy encounter with Newton after the game.

As much as the Dolphins concentrated on beefing up the defensive front and linebacker corps with draft picks and signings, the Patriots were still superior up front. That’s been a New England staple, and the Dolphins haven’t closed the gap.

Another running QB next week

At one point Flores could be seen chewing out his defensive unit on the sideline. They are certain to hear a lot more this week as they prepare for another running quarterback, the Bills’ Josh Allen.

“We’ve got to do a better job of run defense,” Flores said. “I’m not going to make any excuses on whether we had preseason games or didn’t — they didn’t have any preseason games either. All things we can improve on. We can improve the tackling, we can improve the run defense.”

Baker had an interesting day, good and some bad. In addition to the forced-fumble on Harry, the third-year linebacker had a sack and was credited with 16 tackles, but also committed two major penalties. Rookie safety Brandon Jones had 10 tackles but was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty that was questionable.

This Miami Dolphins season is about more than football

Christian Wilkins continued to emerge as a force on the defensive line. He had a sack, two tackles for loss and batted down two passes at the line.

But none of that added up to an effective answer to former MVP Newton in his first game as successor to Tom Brady in New England.

“Cam is still Cam, former MVP,” Wilkins said. “We definitely respected his talent on the field. … Today we got a little sloppy, we got a little undisciplined. Also, we’ve got to come together and play better defense.”

And, oh, my, how Belichick and his coordinators coached rings around Flores and Co.

“We’ve got to do a better job as a team. We didn’t do enough to win today,” Flores said.

Not even close.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Five Reasons to Like the Canes Win Over UAB

In a workman like effort, the Canes beat UAB 31-14 on Thursday Night. Here are 5 Reasons to like Miami’s performance in the season opener.

  1. The Canes Won. Look, normally a win over UAB is nothing to thump your chest over. But UAB is one of the better teams in Conference USA and Miami did lose to a Conference USA team last year. Also, looking around college football, both Iowa State and Kansas State stubbed their toes and teams overall did not look good (with some exceptions like Clemson), so the Canes winning by 17 is a good thing. Perhaps more than anything else, Miami was able to take a bit of a punch, and when threatened at 17-14, the Canes responded with consecutive TDs to put the game away. That wasn’t happening last year, even in wins (see Central Michigan).
  2. The 4-Headed Monster at RB. Miami ran the ball, and then ran the ball, and then ran the ball some more. THREE THIRTY SEVEN ON THE GROUND. While we all would have liked to have seen more out of the passing game, the Canes displayed depth and dynamism in multiple facets of the run game. Miami had 4 runners go over 50 yards and average over 6 yards per carry. Cam’Ron Harris lead the way, but D’Eriq King, Jaylan Knighton, and Donald Chaney, Jr. all contributed, all showed explosion, and you can easily see this being a challenge for future opponents to defend.
  3. The Defensive Line. Quincy Roche, Nesta Jade Silvera, Jonathan Ford, and Jaelan Phillips looked like they had been playing together for years. The stats don’t necessarily jump out with one sack. But they spent a majority of the game in the backfield while maintaining discipline. Any one can charge up the field against an inferior opponent and look good. What we saw was some really good, consistent defensive line play.
  4. The Kicking Game. It’s no secret that the Canes’ struggled on FGs and Extra Points last year. They addressed it in the offseason by bringing in transfer Jose Borregales. So far, so good. He kicked 5 times (4 extra points and a FG) and all were right down the middle. Granted, you’d expect any scholarship kicker to be able to make these kicks, but at least for a week, the kicks were never in doubt. And looking around the country, the Canes are one of the few teams that could at least be comfortable with “easy” FGs.
  5. D’Eriq King. While we wanted to see more out of the passing game, King did complete 2/3rds of his passes and threw a TD. There were also no “almost” interceptions. There was one bad miss when Jeremiah Payton was open for a TD, but overall, he was solid in the passing game. And the rest of game…unbelievable. 12 carries for 83 yards doesn’t really show how exciting he was escaping pressure, making plays, extending drives, and scoring one TD. He’s going to a problem for all opponents to defend and should allow the entire offense to open up. It’s one thing to have to account for the QB because he can make some plays with his feet. But what the Canes have is a QB that can win games with his feet, and that is a different level.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a contributor for @FiveReasonsSports and generally covers the Miami Hurricanes. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003