E-5: Madden developers promise needed change to franchise mode

Welcome to the debut of E:5, the new multi-media ESports platform on the Five Reasons Sports Network….



Will EA make necessary changes to franchise mode in Madden 21? Or will fans have to wait another year?

Over the last several days, Madden 21 has been trending and not in a good way.

In EA’s latest update to their gridiron notes series, the Madden 21 developer team released what gamers can expect from Face of the Franchise and ‘classic franchise mode’. And while FOF received several updates and the addition of several celebrities, franchise mode did not.

Which led the gaming community to drop the #fixmaddenfranchise hashtag.

After all, EA has said for years they were going to listen to the fans and help make franchise mode great again. But like many promises, this one remained hollow at the core. Here’s a look at the minimal updates EA has made to Madden 21’s franchise mode.

  • The new X-Factors make their way into Franchise. More details on X-Factors in Madden NFL 21 coming soon!
  • Franchise has an expanded Wild Card Playoff round to match the real-life NFL which now features 3 games for each conference instead of 2.
  • Updated all rookie contract amounts to be more authentic to the actual Draft rookie contracts for all 7 rounds
  • Retuned every position’s available Abilities to better consider in-game effectiveness of the ability and archetype authenticity. Also made the 2nd ability unlock for most positions 85 OVR (was 80 OVR in Madden NFL 20.)
  • Fixed multiple cases in logic of players considered for a Dev Trait upgrade at the end of the season not checking the correct stat types.
  • Updates to all team back-end depth chart philosophies so they match the team’s scheme.
  • Added position-specific Offensive Lineman archetype progression buckets for OT, OG, and C to capture variance in OVR formulas based on positional expectations. Previously, all OL were pulling from the same progression bucket.
  • Fixed issue where defensive playbooks and schemes for our fictional coaches would be misaligned (e.g. 3-4 playbook with a 4-3 scheme.)

Once the #fixmaddenfranchise started to trend globally, EA had no choice but to do damage control. This was the statement released by executive producer Seann Graddy:

Like with anything, all anyone wants to see is change. And with Madden 21 set to release on August 28th, I find it extremely unlikely that fans will get the type of changes they desire. But that doesn’t mean short-term fixes can’t be added with patch updates and other means. What seems most likely, however, is that diehard fans of franchise mode won’t see real change until the next generation of gaming. And even then, with EA starting–for lack of a better word from scratch–the changes fans really want probably won’t be implemented until Madden 22 and beyond.

But in less than a week, the Madden gaming community made their voices heard. We waited nearly a decade for franchise mode to be great again. I guess one more year won’t hurt.

Want to see Dolphins’ QB Tua Tagovailoa in Madden 21? 


As Five Reasons Sports continues to make its mark on the E-Sports industry. I will bring you the latest news and notes on Madden and other sports video games.

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Cancel Culture: Abandon This NBA Season

Just cancel the season now.


I’m referring to the NBA but really you can apply this to just about every sport or at least all team sports out there. I’m even saying to cancel the season for the American Cornhole League, even though my appetite for the unnecessarily weird and stupidly irrelevant will not be sated.


More players are testing positive for COVID. More players are opting out of participating due to concerns about COVID. A major player (Damian Lillard) has been vocal with his concerns with regards to all players following the very rules meant to keep them safe and from spreading COVID while quarantined in the NBA bubble.


I get that the league and the teams will lose a ton of dollars. I get the direct and indirect economic impact that the NBA has. But the reverse of that is the league spending millions of dollars ($150M according to Brian Windhorst) to create an environment that will allow players to play and for the season to continue. Then there’s all the choreography behind the scenes to keep everyone distanced, fed, and entertained. I understand that as a result the league is more than likely going to have a greater return than any amount that they invested in by getting this season started back up. But at what human cost?


I may be in the minority, but to me there are some things that are just more important. Can the money being spent to restart the season be redirected to other worthy causes instead? There’s the cancer thing, the AIDS thing, the affordable healthcare thing…all sorts of worthy things would benefit.


Using this restart as a platform to call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement is an admirable one. But many of these athletes are of a high profile. They don’t need a court emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” to help keep the cause going. And as much as it would’ve been cool to see, they don’t need jerseys that allow them to have messages supporting these causes in order to actually advance said causes. These players have a platform. They have access to channels to keep the movement going and, if they so choose, even have the means to create a platform or channel to keep the movement going.


PS, order your Light Skinned Opinions BLM shirt, the proceeds of which go to the Know Your Rights Camp.


And by the way, this is being held in Orlando which is in a state that has shown one of if not the greatest increases in COVID cases in the last week. I guess in the standings and win/loss columns, we are winning. The NBA is driving towards and not away from the fire that Gov. DeSantis has stoked. This is a governor whose own stubbornness and ineptitude is rivaled only by the stubbornness and ineptitude of the governors whose own states are leading in infection rates.


But back to sports.


It’s an odd circumstance. Let’s face it, there will be a debate as to whether there should be an asterisk next to this championship if the season even continues. Hell, Phil Jackson might even wander in from the plains of Montana to find dial-up internet just to give his gravelly-voiced opinion. Does anyone remember his thoughts on the first of many San Antonio Spurs championships? It came during a shortened season. His Phil-ness felt it tainted because: 1. it was shortened and 2. Michael Jordan had retired and he wasn’t coaching. Probably he thinks it’s mostly because he wasn’t coaching.


Regardless, there will be endless debates simply because the circumstances are so unprecedented. Unlike the 1999 or 2012 shortened seasons that at least went from commencement to conclusion without pause, this stoppage can be argued that the interruption came at the benefit to some and a detriment to others. Some teams needed the break to rest up players and heal their Joel Embiids. Other teams were rolling and now have to get that momentum back as they incorporate their JR Smiths. Still, there is the terrible reality that players are testing positive while others are simply opting out. These aren’t end-of-bench guys either. DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley, Davis Bertans, Trevor Ariza and others. With a variety of teams affected, can it be argued that the best team actually won? Sure. Can the counter be that those players would’ve had a negligible impact on winning even if they participated? Sure. And so I offer you Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers to fill out your bench.


There will certainly be endless debates based on “What ifs” should a champion be crowned. But that’s much of what spirited debates are centered on, right? What if the Dolphins had a running game? What if Jamal Mashburn didn’t pass off to Clarence Weatherspoon? What if the ref didn’t make a ridiculous pass interference call against UM in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl? What if Hillary didn’t take Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania for granted?


I am not anti-sports, as if you need proof of this as you read this piece on a sports site. And truthfully I will watch if the games are played. I understand there could be a certain hypocrisy to this. But when stacked against other hypocrisies such as social injustice and economic inequality…I’ll comfortably ride or die with mine.


But, for a hot second, dismiss the aspect of needing sports as a distraction. Is this really a time when we need a diversion considering all that is going on? Can we not instead refocus on bettering ourselves as human beings or at least as valuable members advancing society? I’m of the science believing camp that takes this pandemic seriously. Personally, I have family who are elderly and who have underlying conditions. I’m all in no matter what any Karen screams about. Rightly or wrongly, I put a greater degree of emphasis and importance on human capital instead of capital capital. It’s why I feel the NBA should cancel the season.


It sucks. I know. My favorite teams have such unbelievable stories and actually matter. Jimmy. Tyler. Tua! I am rooting for them no matter what because I am a diehard fan. Want proof? I actually once said out loud, “Tyler Thigpen? Yeah I can root for this team if he’s the starter.”


Ultimately I believe that team sports will return. But folks we probably just don’t need it right now. Teams need to (and perhaps they have planned for this) see that the expected monetary gain could be nothing compared to the prospective integrity loss should the pandemic strike someone who is—let’s say—a very recognizable and significant piece to the overall NBA machine. It shouldn’t get to that point. In one of the rarest if not only appropriate uses of this, “All lives matter” when it comes to caring for the superstar to the end of bench fill-in.


Though it’s not likely, I hope the league does the right thing. I hope teams do the right thing. But at this moment, the only team I’m rooting for is Team Fauci.


One last thing: Wear a mask.


Five X-Factors for the Miami Heat’s Playoff Run

Merriam-Webster defines an X-Factor as a circumstance, quality, or person that has a strong but unpredictable influence.

You can also tack this definition on to the Miami Heat because they epitomize the essence of the X-Factor.

Their presence in the Eastern Conference is strong and unpredictable. Before the NBA suspended play in March, Miami held the fourth-best record in the conference at 41-24. Currently, they are within striking distance of the Boston Celtics for the third seed.

Given the circumstances and conditions of the reboot, there is no reason why the Heat can’t come out of nowhere and shock the league. If the Heat goes on a run during the reboot and carry that same momentum in the playoffs, look for these five X-Factors.




The Heat didn’t acquire SF Andre Iguodala for the regular season. They acquired him for the playoffs, and betting on him being a huge X-Factor in their success.  His value on defense is priceless. He is a versatile wing that can guard multiple positions. Don’t be surprised to see him paired with Bam Adebayo in certain lineups and situations. A duo of Iguodala and Adebayo switching on opposing offenses, locking down the perimeter and protecting the paint would be scary for the opposition.

Iguodala will also fit seamlessly with what coach Spo wants to do . The six years in the Bay setting the table for  Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will serve him well in the second X-Factor to watch.




Miami leads the NBA in dribble handoff efficiency (1.06 points per possession) and frequency (8.8 percent over 9.6 possessions).  The Heat’s MO for the DHO can be found in transition and in the early stages of their offensive sets. In this situation, they look for the high percentage shot. Preferably, whoever shooting and knocking down efficient threes.

Pay attention when the Heat snags a rebound, and throw an outlet pass up court. Passing it up court creates space therefore making the DHO tougher to defend. Why? because a quickened pace makes it tough for the defense to set.

Watch Adebayo specifically in these situations. Let’s say Jimmy Butler comes up with the rebound and Adebayo sprints up the court to receive the pass. Adebayo catches it and go right into the DHO with a well-timed pass and a backscreen. Opposing defenses will struggle here because the defense has to decide what to give up. A three or the paint.  The third X-Factor should be feasting out there with the different ways the Heat will use the DHO.




Robinson is shooting 44 percent from three, ranking fourth in the league in three-point percentage.  He takes 89 percent of his shots from behind the arch and have been assisted on 94 percent of his baskets. Robison is a classic spot up shooter that will be very effective in the offence. Remember the Heat’s proclivity to constantly DHO? Well, Robinson and his shooting is a big reason why.

Robinson leads the league with 3.2 points per game scored off of the DHO.  Obviously, the Heat taking advantage of that will be a given.




Granted, Adebayo is one of the Heat’s main guys and in his first full season as a starter, he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds per game.  He was in the midst of a breakout season until the COVID pandemic hit. What’s worth noticing about Adebayo and his development is whether or not he added something in his repertoire over the hiatus.  Imagine him returning with an improved mid range jumper and better handles?  Defenses will have to respect that jump shot and pick and rolls will be a lot more interesting.




Coming off of a surgically repaired right knee this season, Goran Dragic was productive averaging 16 points and shooting a respectable 44 percent from the field, and 38 percent from the arc. In the reboot, Dragic will be a solid scoring option off the bench. What’s worth watching is how would his knee respond to the pressure and stress of playing eight games plus the playoffs in the bubble.  The shutdown may have allowed Dragic’s knees  to get some much needed rest, but the concern of re-aggravation  is valid.


Coronavirus and Sports: Becoming Numb

I was going to write about Inter Miami, I really was. Maybe it would have been an upbeat preview about the “MLS Is Back” schedule reveal (Breakfast with Inter Miami vs. Chicago Fire at 9 a.m. on July 14, can you dig it?) or a more serious, ominous look at the league and its protocols as we are only 2 weeks away from the start of the first tournament in the United States after the pandemic.

But then I thought “AFTER the pandemic? We are barely during the pandemic, much less past it” and I discovered I’m sort of…detached? Nah, that’s not the word. I still follow the American sports landscape and want sports to be back. Shocked? That’s not it either, nothing that has happened the past three months has surprised me even a little, and that’s saying something. Numb? Yes, that’s it. I’m numb to the developments in the sports world nowadays, and I’m pretty sure other fans, writers and even players feel similarly.

I’m numb because I saw the news about 16 NBA players (the equivalent of an entire team’s roster, plus one) testing positive for COVID-19 and my reaction isn’t “Oh my, what if they backtrack and the season is cancelled?” It’s more like “I’m fine with whatever happens, I’m just waiting to see everyone freak out when a true superstar tests positive and [insert team here] has to play an entire series without him.”

I’m numb because “43 Division I teams have been eliminated in the last 12 weeks, and more than 130 programs have been cut across all NCAA levels”, and those kids weren’t earning millions of dollars, even as some of their coaches were and certainly their athletic departments are.


New Zealand is past the pandemic with tens of thousands gathering with joy to watch a rugby match most of them probably don’t remember the final score of. Europe is crowning champions as its cases are mostly going down (hello, Sweden, we see you) and fans celebrate the end of droughts in Liverpool and Naples as the ball keeps rolling with no apparent setbacks week after week.

Liverpool fans celebrate outside Anfield.

Even South America has soccer, but that’s because they don’t really give a shit in Brazil and they are bent on living like there is literally no tomorrow and they had the most new daily cases in the world on Thursday, June 25. Seems healthy.

Meanwhile, the United States of America is looking at itself in the mirror and wonders how it all went so wrong, so quickly after three months of sacrifices that were supposed to pave the way for sports to come back swiftly and smoothly.

We are Rachel and the Coronavirus is Ross asking: “OVER you? When were you UNDER me?” while we beat ourselves up wondering what went wrong and the President compares a deadly virus to the sniffles.

I’m numb because baseball is about to be back for a lightning round of games that promise to be exciting. Why am I not excited? I should be, with every game being three times as important and the potential of a repeat of that frantic 2011 finish of the regular season that gave every baseball fan a collective heart attack.

My heart rate is nowhere near skyrocketing, though. Some experts don’t even think the season will be able to finish.

I should be pumped to witness the start of the Tua era in Miami, but then I see that the Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and the Steelers was cancelled and I’m bracing for what August and September might bring.

I’m even numb to the added crowd noise and the “virtual fans” we see at European soccer games. It’s background noise.

Maybe you read this and thought I spent 700 words being dramatic, and that’s ok. Maybe you will feel numb or jaded until 2021, and that’s ok too. Maybe this is just temporary, and everything feels a little alien after 100+ days of uncertainty and I will be all pumped up again in a couple of weeks when sports feel “real” again.

I will be waiting for that moment to come.

The Miami Heat Town Hall on Race: Observations

June 19, 2020 wasn’t just another commemorative celebration of the emancipation of the last Confederate slaves in the United States.

This particular Juneteenth hits a little bit differently than the ones in previous years. Jubilant remembrance and observance gave way to passionate and in-depth conversations about systemic racism in this country.  Helping lead the way in such discussions was the Miami Heat , as they hosted a virtual town  hall meeting.

“In many ways, this town hall is like our virtual team peaceful protest and we are protesting against systemic racism. Against the social injustices and inequalities , and the cases of police brutality against the Black community that we see far too often,”  says Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “ We’re fed up with it, just like everyone else and we want to see change.”



 Here are some takeaways for the hour-long candid event……




When asked to share his most memorable brush with racism, All-Star guard Jimmy Butler recalled a moment when he was 16 years old. Butler and his brother was walking out of a Walmart  when a man and a boy who appeared to be no older than six saw the two and the boy said to his father ‘those are the n-words’ you were talking about.

Butler’s moment was another example of racism being taught.

“The kid didn’t know any better,” Butler said, “The first thing that popped into my head is that you (the father) taught him that. There are things that you teach kids, and you choose to teach your kid how to hate.”






    Meyers Leonard admitted that sometimes he feels uneasy as a non-Black player in the current climate of this country and how he sees his teammates treated. Leonard says that while he was raised to love all people and to differientate between right and wrong, he admits that he can’t fully relate to what his teammates are going through because of his race.

“It’s hard to understand because I’m white. I have white privilege. That is a fact. It doesn’t matter if  I grew up with nothing. I still have white privilege,” he said.

Leonard recalled an incident where despite being aware of his privilege as a White man, he didn’t use it in a way that he should have to defend and support a teammate.

“There’s been times when I was in Portland (as a member of the Blazers) , let’s just say a teammate came in and says I  got pulled over for no reason.  So I ask him about it like ‘what happened’ (He says) So I got pulled over for doing 36 mph in a 35 mph zone basically because he was a black man in a black neighborhood driving a nice car. They asked him where he was going and what he was doing. I didn’t say anything that day. ”  Leonard recalled.

During the next practice, Leonard apologized to the teammate. Whishing what he knew what to say but didn’t.  The lesson that Leonard took from that experience was to listen more to his teammates when they talk about incidents with police and other microaggressions.




One huge example of systemic racism can be found in the education. The moderator mentioned how Blacks have to work twice a hard to get as much as other culture, and asked what could be done as a society to give equality in the education system. Solomon Hill believes that it starts by making the request known.

“I think the start is demanding opportunities at the local levels,” Hill says, “When you’re in sports, there are certain high schools that you go to. You go to that high schools because they give you the best possibility  to get a scholarship and to go up against the best talent. Everyone with a little money in their pocket want to send their kids to the best school”

Hill continues to say that sometimes those schools aren’t local. He cites underfunding as an obstacle, and how they create restrictions.

“If you can’t give them a great education, then what possibilities do they have to be lawyers and doctors?”  Hill asked.



    In Leonard’s first segment, he stressed holding officers, teachers, and people in power accountable for their actions. As the forum closed, Leonard also stressed holding White peers accountable.

“It starts with holding  your friend or your peer that maybe is white or whatever, accountable. If they do something wrong or don’t see it the way it really is. The reality is that you need to tell them. “

Leonard says that not even loved ones should be immune.

“Even if it’s a family member, put their asses in check.”


Jannelle (TJ) Moore has written for SB Nation, Complex Sports and several other outlets. 

Self Or Selflessness

Kyrie Irving got me thinking.

Sports has always been a place of comfort to me. It’s what I run to when times are tough. It’s where I go to when I am stressed. I’ve cried for it. It’s a place to hide from the reality of the world. Which I thought was always a good thing.

Until I realized it wasn’t.

2020 has been a year of awakening. The internal struggle of self or selflessness. It started with the pandemic. When the world stopped. All the attention went to the virus and how we would react to it.

In my mind, it was simple.

Be selfless and protect everyone. We’re all vulnerable. Wear a mask. Keep your distance.

But from the start, the selfishness came in.

People calling the pandemic a hoax. People taking the “If it’s not happening to me, I don’t care,” approach. 

Privileged and selfish people stormed the government in Michigan to protest a “stay at home order.”

Millions of people around the world were getting sick. Dying. 

A full lack of cares to give from our government, forced us back to work. A survival of the fittest.

Then another act of police brutality happened, resulting in the tragic murder of George Floyd.

People inspiredly stormed the streets supporting the biggest fight this country has: the age long fight of black liberation.

This generation’s civil right’s movement is in full force.

For the first time ever, people are listening. The smallest of changes are starting to happen. This is arguably the most important time in our country’s history.

During all this time, I did think sports could come back and be a comfort, but it shouldn’t. We can’t hide behind sports for the time being. We need to keep the fight. There’s high profiled athletes of all races who have a bigger purpose right now.

The NBA forcing players inside a bubble in Orlando during a global pandemic and a civil rights movement, just doesn’t seem like the best idea.

We can’t just force them to entertain us so we can go back to the reality of racism and police brutality. The ignoring of the systemic racism this country has been founded upon. Enough is enough.

And yes, there is the other side. Players can use their platforms to speak on a big stage, which I hope happens.

However I, and hopefully for all of us, have to realize that we can’t hide behind the comfort level sports gives us. We can’t achieve the goal of what people who are risking their lives protesting for without being uncomfortable.

I would love to be covering my first ever NHL playoffs as a credentialed media member, but at this moment it’s not in the front of my mind right now.

To all my fellow white media members, listen to Kyrie Irving. He’s making a lot of good points.

Black Lives Matter.

Miami Heat one of teams that could surprise

If 2020 taught us anything at all within the first six months, it would be:

  • Nothing is surprising and…
  • Not much is certain.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended play, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks were on a collision course to the Finals. Teams such as the Clippers and Raptors were solid contenders, while the Rockets and Celtics had a ‘puncher’s chance’. Now, a Lakers/Bucks match up isn’t necessarily a given and those other contenders aren’t a sure thing either.

As the NBA season resumes in Orlando, the conditions are right for an upset. A three-month layoff with no access to gyms and courts and re-energized bodies are idea conditions for a dark horse team to come out of nowhere and out of Disney holding the Larry in October (that sounds weird, right?)

There are four teams that have the potential to catch fire, build good habits and tendencies, and build a ton of momentum en-route to the title.




    Luka Doncic’s emergence this season was not only fun to watch, it spearheaded the Mavs to a 40-27 record after missing the playoffs the year before. Currently they are within striking distance of the fifth seed-trailing Houston and Oklahoma City by 1 ½ games. They are also third in the NBA in scoring (116.4 points per game) and lead the league in offensive rating (115.8). Most of it is due to Doncic. However, Kristaps Porzingis becoming more acclimated in the Mavs’ system plays a part as well. When Dwight Powell ruptured his Achilles in January, it was Porzingis that stepped his game up-stringing together a 17 game stretch where he scored 20 points or more with 10 plus rebounds.


What to watch 

Having a prolific offense is great but when it comes to the playoffs, you have to be able to defend consistently. At season’s intermission, Dallas had a 106 defensive rating. Their biggest issue of concern? Defending the paint. Powell was ineffective in the lineup at protecting the paint. Since Powell is injured, it would be interesting to see if Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle will move Porzingis to center for the playoffs. Before his injury, Porzingis’ defensive rating was 106.7 this year, it’s 109.4. Powell does the right things defensively as it pertains to form, but he just can’t defend the paint as well. There are good defenders on the team, and maybe the source of their problems on that end of the floor has everything to do with how these players are used.

Also, watch how they manage their depth. Two years ago, Dallas had a solid lineup off the bench, and what made it work was recognizing which combination of players played the best and capitalizing off of it. For example, Seth Curry played well off of JJ Barea. Maxi Kleber and Barea were solid defensively-and it worked. In fact, the Mavs’ ‘MOB’ squad, with the role players off the bench was their best line.  They will have to find a way to maximize these players. Curry is back. Barea and Kleber are still there. So it will be worth noticing what kind of combinations Carlisle will put on the floor.




It’s crazy how the Heat has been slept on this season. At 41-24, Miami owns the fourth best record in the East. Currently, they trail the third place Celtics by 2.5 games and two games ahead of Indiana. After playing the eight regular season games, the Heat is likely to finish no higher than the third seed since the Raptors are 5.5 games ahead in second.

When play stopped, the Heat featured a near immaculate 27-5 home record, the third best mark in the league. They were also forth in the East in terms of point differential (112.2 points per game on offence, 108.9 defense).  The duo of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo has paid off nicely. Not to mention the emergence of Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson also made the Heat an intriguing wild card team.


What to watch


    The Heat has the mettle to pull off an upset. That was very evident when the Heat beat Milwaukee at home a month before league suspension. In that game, the Heat was hell defensively. They held the Bucks to 40.7  percent from the field and 20.6 percent from three. Not only did they  trapped Giannis Antetokounmpo on the blocks, they put Adebayo on him as well. That’s significant because Adebayo is one of the few guys in the NBA that could effectively match up with Antetokounmpo in terms of speed and size. He also has the length to contest.

When a big and difficult defender like Adebayo is out of the paint, it is tempting to shoot threes and long jumpers because you can’t attack the paint. Remember, Antetokounmpo’s most glaring weakness is his outside shot.

If the Heat and Bucks meet up in the playoffs, notice how Erick Spoeletra will throw different schemes featuring Adebayo at Antetokoumpo.   Miami also has an X-Factor for the run in Andre Iguodala. Added at the trade deadline, Iguodala brings playoff-savvy and experience to a relatively young team. He’s also another solid defender and a playmaker that will help stabilize a second unit.





    Portland has had an interesting year to say the least.  Coming off of a Western Conference finals appearance a season ago, it seemed as if the Blazers were projected to remain a contender this season. However, injuries to key players happened and the Blazers spent this season languishing and hustling to make the playoffs.

At 29-37, the Blazers are ninth in the West and are among the teams invited to Orlando in hopes of a play-in for the eighth seed. Damian Lilliard has done all he could do to keep the Blazers’ playoff hopes alive in the midst of injuries. Don’t bet against him and CJ McCollum carrying the team in to the playoffs and even beyond.

What to watch


Before the season was suspended, the Blazers were on the verge of getting Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injury.  A year ago, Nurkic injured his left leg, and was out for most of the season. In Nurkic, the Blazers lost a third scoring option and a solid interior defender. He was very close to a return before the shutdown-going to Santa Cruz to rehab. Now, with an additional three months of rest and rehab on his own, watch how the Blazers bring him back.  Since he hasn’t played all season, it is possible that Nurkic will be on minutes restriction for the final eight games. If he makes strides, look for coach Terry Stotts to gradually increase minutes.

In addition to how they will use Nurkic post injury, look for how the younger players such as Nassir Little, Anfernee Simons respond to games where the stakes are considerably higher. Those guys were thrust into playing more minutes in the season due to injuries to not only Nurkic and Collins but also Rodney Hood.  They will need to contribute to take the pressure off of Lillard and McCollum, in order to make a run.




    Remember, this is the team that pushed the Raptors to the brink of elimination in last year’s playoffs. So, it’s not surprising that the Sixers have 8-1 odds of winning the East and a 25-1 overall odds to win the championship.

Philadelphia, at 39-26 is sixth in the East, and was 13 games above .500 before suspension. They posted a league’s best 29-2 at home, but on the road, they were 10-24. In Orlando, there are no home court advantages and road records don’t matter. What matters is whether or not the Sixers have enough of talent to not to dwell on the laurels of home success and the agony of failures on the road.

Luckily for the Sixers, Ben Simmons is expected to be healthy after a back injury he sustained in February. Judging from his latest pictures floating around social media, it appears that he added some bulk as well. They also have a playoff battle tested vet in Al Hortford, to compliment the team. They have the potential to put it together for a deep run.


What to watch


Last month, Sixers coach Brett Brown said that he wants Joel Embiid to play about 38 minutes per game in the playoffs. His usage rate, post ups per game and three attempts have been similar to last season. Embiid’s production will need to increase during those minutes.

Simmons is already a tough defending point guard. In the playoffs, the question is if he can be effective offensively against a set half court defense. Is facilitating from the elbow, setting picks and rolling to the basket enough?  That depends of whether Simmons is comfortable and confident in his shot. If he isn’t he should be able to drive, create contact and hit free throws down the stretch.



Jannelle Moore (@Jannelle12)  is a new contributor to Five Reasons Sports Network. She has written for USA Today and SB Nation, among other outlets.

Dolphins coach Brian Flores says will be in for a long season in 2019 with young, inexperienced Dolphins team.

Houtz special: NFL should have followed Brian Flores

These last few months have been like something out of a horror movie.

A global pandemic—that could’ve been prevented—forced all of us who reside in ‘tHe GrEaTeSt CoUntRy In ThE wOrlD’ to seize life as we know it. Going to the grocery store felt eerily similar to an episode of The Walking Dead. And then came the horrific murder of George Floyd, which was the tip of the iceberg, in a long, unfortunate list of victims wrongfully murdered for the color of their skin.

We all saw the video.

We are ALL enraged and pissed off by the video.

And many have decided to take matters into their own hands.

Over the last two weeks, protestors have marched day and night throughout some of the largest cities in America, demanding change to the social justice system. Change, that four years prior was front and center of every paper in America thanks to the peaceful protest of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players.

The truth is, I’m a white male, who although faced with different hurdles in life, NEVER had to deal with the same racial oppression as others. I NEVER had to fear for my life while stopped by a cop. Or murdered while jogging around the block. I never have to worry about being viewed differently because of my skin tone. I could go on all day with how fucked up society is. How inconsiderate others are to human life. But whether you admit it or not, we are all aware.

We are all created equally.

But for far too long, people have been overrun with hate.

And whether we want to sit here and admit it or not, cops have been a massive part of that problem.

No, not all cops are corrupt.

But a majority of them are corrupt and ignorant. A majority of them do believe they are above the law, and it’s time for a change.

Colin Kaepernick knew this, and the entire world turned their collective heads.

The players who protest were referred to by the president of the United States as, and I quote, ‘Sons of bitches.’

Roger Goodell admitted his wrongdoing in a statement made Thursday Night. A comment which came 24 hours after several prolific football players made one of their own. On the surface, it was a step in the right direction. But after seamlessly blackballing Kaepernick for years, the apology seemed hollow at its roots.

One speech that did effectively address everything wrong in this world was the one issued by Miami Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores.

Flores is one of only four black head coaches in the NFL. He is of Honduran descent and has spoken out before about his upbringing. And how he was affected by racial profiling.

And yet, when the entire NFL was waiting patiently to figure out the right things to say or do.

Brian Flores, the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, spoke out.

The way a leader should.

Here was Brian Flores’s message from May 29th.

“I’ve had the privilege of being a part of many different circles that have included some very powerful and influential people of all different races and genders. The events of the last few weeks have brought some of the memories of those conversations back to light. I vividly remember the Colin Kaepernick conversations. ‘Don’t ever disrespect the flag’ was the phrase that I heard over and over again. This idea that players were kneeling in support of social justice was something some people couldn’t wrap their head around. The outrage that I saw in the media and the anger I felt in some of my own private conversations caused me to sever a few long-standing friendships.

“Most recently, I’ve had conversations about incentivizing teams for hiring minorities. Again, there was some outrage in the media and talks that this would cause division amongst coaches, executives and ownership. I bring these situations up because I haven’t seen the same OUTRAGE from people of influence when the conversation turns to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and most recently George Floyd. Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling or on the hiring of minorities don’t seem to have an opinion on the recent murders of these young black men and women. I think many of them QUIETLY say that watching George Floyd plead for help is one of the more horrible things they have seen, but it’s said amongst themselves where no one can hear. Broadcasting THAT opinion clearly is not important enough.

“I lead a group of young men who have the potential to make a real impact in this world. My message to them and anyone else who wants to listen is that honesty, transparency, and empathy go a long way in bringing people together and making change. I hope that the tragedies of the last few weeks will open our hearts and minds to a better way of communicating and hopefully create that change.”

On Thursday, Flores once again met with the media.

No, he didn’t have to, nor was he scheduled to. But he felt it was something he should do.

There were lots of takeaways from the 20-minute conversation with Flores, which can be found HERE. But the thing that stood out most in my eyes was this.

I’ll tell you, it’s a long road. I think it’s about each individual’s heart and where is that? And making sure people’s hearts are in the right places and there is a respect and – I won’t say admiration but just an overall respect for your fellow man or woman. I think we have a long way to go and hopefully we use this tragedy as a starting point to get to the place where you’re talking about.”

In the end, Goodell’s apology was a step in the right direction for a league that spent four years trying to brush things under the rug. But until players, fans, and the rest of America see change, the words are as empty as the stadiums will surely be this fall. The time is now for America to change. And as we’ve seen over the last several days, change is imminent. Cops need to be accountable for their actions. And we need to abide by the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

We are all equal.

Brian Flores said what the national football league should’ve said, immediately. But instead, they waited and waited and waited.

The speech was fine, but until Roger Goodell and the rest of the world live up to their end of the bargain, the same issues will remain.

And that is unacceptable.


Want to support the cause? Buy this official LSO t-shirt and all proceeds will be donated to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp.


This article was written by Josh Houtz. You can unfollow me on Twitter (@Houtz)

Jaillet’s Journal: In a changing sports world, MLB still doesn’t get it

The MLB needs to get it together.

I am not hopeful for baseball the season. just Saturday, it was reported that a July 4 start for the 2020 MLB season is a near impossibility. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noted that preparation time would make starting the season by July 4 difficult.

If negotiations were to resume and a deal was to be reached, players would need 10 days to prepare their facilities according to medical protocol. Players would also need time to report for spring training, especially those from foreign countries.

To me, this sounds like baseball is not returning anytime soon. That may be a tough pill to swallow for some people. Especially for concession workers and people who work at the ballpark, I feel terribly sorry for them. However, I do not feel sorry for the owners or the players.

The optics for the MLB don’t look good here. You could definitely pick a side. You could blame the owners for being greedy, and side with the players from wanting to get their money’s worth. I don’t blame you for feeling that way.

You could side with the owners for wanting their money, and the players for being greedy. Again, I don’t blame you for feeling that way either.

Nevertheless, the fact that millionaires and billionaires are quarreling about money, especially right now makes for poor optics. There are so many people struggling to just make ends meet right now. In a sport that has already struggled due to length of games and the cost of attending one, they are not doing themselves any favors.

I said it as soon as reports of tension between the players and owners came out. Major League Baseball is shooting themselves in the foot. They have an opportunity to capture the fans thirst for sports once again, and they are blowing it.

It’s not like Major League Baseball has an opportunity to redeem themselves while other sports are in the offseason. Football is going to be coming back, and basketball will follow soon.

The NBA calendar in particular has it so there will be basketball year-round. June 30 is when training camps will begin. July 31 is when the 2019-20 season will restart. Game seven of the NBA finals, if necessary, will be October 12. In between October 12 and December 1 the NBA draft in the start of free agency will take place.

There are basically going to be sports year-round. I’m a fan of all three of the sports that are coming back. There will be ways that I can occupy my time sports-wise. Baseball can take a backseat.

Between the prices of games, the length of games, and the fact that baseball has stayed the same in an ever-changing sports world, none of these things work in their favor.

Cue the Pat Fitzgerald rant of how kids are buried in their phones nowadays and don’t care about sports. If I sound like that, so be it. Baseball hasn’t changed, and it’s killing the game.

Baseball will be buried in the proverbial sports calendar. That’s not a good thing for the sport or the fans that it has. Then again, I don’t feel bad for the league.

I’m all set with baseball for now. Baseball is my favorite sport as a kid, so it saddens me to say that.

Unlike Major League Baseball, my tastes have changed.

What of Sports in the Wake of George Floyd?

I have a confession:  I am struggling to see a path forward from this as protests and clashes of violence enter—what day is it? And by this I mean the outrage over the death of George Floyd. And that of Ahmaud Arbery. And Breonna Taylor. Oh, and Tamir Rice. Wait, also Philando Castile.


You get it.


If you are not devastated, outraged, or feeling some combination of the two then you’ve got something else coursing through your veins and it’s equal parts Clorox and Hydroxychloroquine.


I am not here to draw a correlation between those who vote for a certain orange-tinged president and those whose stance on how athletes should behave is synopsized by “Shut up and dribble”.


Folks, that line draws itself.


I’m writing because I have to wonder, “What is the role of sports in this?”


I’m not even talking about games as a means of escapism. I’m saying this after watching countless Food Network and HGTV shows and feeling as if I’ve exhausted everything remotely interesting on Netflix. This wasn’t just to fill time during the COVID pandemic, but it was a holding pattern until sports would begin again.


And then Ahmaud Arbery happened. And Breonna Taylor. And lastly George Floyd.


I am proud that Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores stepped up to make his feelings known on the deaths of George, Taylor, and Arbery. That is great. Just about every league, team, and numerous players have issued some kind of statement. But what else is there but words? Words carry so far. There’s been action. But action has only taken things so far. What’s left?



Is this the contribution of sports? Athletes have used their fame to call attention to injustices.


There was the Jesse Owens fist raise. The Jackie Robinson breaking of the color barrier. The Bill Russell and Boston—well, Boston. Fast forward to today with the likes of LeBron James and Kenny Stills. They have been activists in their own way by parlaying their fame to draw attention to social causes. They are simultaneously modeling the way and clearing a path.


Athletes like LeBron have maneuvered themselves to not just be in a position to make contributions to their communities but to be role models for all kids. He’s been a model for carrying one’s self off the court and parlaying his talents to create something of significance. LeBron is an industry. But that still doesn’t make him immune.


Then there’s the retort, “Well they’re millionaires”. As if the money that they make is enough to shield them from the pain of seeing someone who looks like them, killed in a cruel and apathetic manner. Like us, they probably watched in shock as a man pleaded for his life while an officer pressed his entire body weight down through his knee and onto the man’s neck. The light in the man fades slightly with each passing second until it is finally snuffed out. The officer does this all while wearing an emotionless expression on his face. Somehow money might not have saved George Floyd at that moment. Or maybe it would have. Who knows?


Money isn’t everything though many believe that it is a means of influence. Perhaps it doesn’t. It brings me back to a spot on point by the great Chris Rock regarding rich and wealthy, back in 2004.


“Shaq is rich. The white man who signs his checks, is wealthy.”


So much for money.


What is the solution? I don’t know. But each advancement is followed by an even greater retreat.



The sad truth is that despite their notoriety and money, very little has advanced in terms of race relations. My feeling is that with every significant step forward there has been a couple steps back.


Colin Kaepernick used his fame and took a knee in protest over police brutality and racism. He gained attention and started a conversation and movement that inspired other players, like Kenny Stills, to do the same. One step forward. Outraged NFL fans lost their minds and threatened to boycott NFL games resulting in the league mandating that players stand during the national anthem or risk a fine. Two steps back. Kaepernick continues to donate his money and his time to various charities and causes, extending the life of his activism and thus impacting various groups and communities. One step forward. In the past few seasons there were teams with varying degrees of need for an experienced quarterback either because their incumbent is suspect or simply as an insurance policy. Despite holding workouts to prove that he still has skills, Kaepernick has still not caught onto a pro team. Two steps back.


It was 12 years ago—though it might feel like four lifetimes ago—that we had the first black president. One major step forward. It also gave rise to a number of right wing extremists and militias as a result of his election. Two steps back. It was eight years ago that Obama won re-election. One step forward. Then the current occupant of the White House was elected president and gave rise to even more extremist groups. Two steps back.



This painful choreography is going to continue and it’s going to take time. Despite such gains, they did nothing to quell the racism and hate.


The sad reality of the two examples above is that as more time goes by, Kaepernck’s window will slowly close simply because he’ll be older and his physical tools will diminish. Perhaps teams are just hoping for time to naturally close the door on him and are then bailed out of having to dodge questions about whether he is worthy of a look.  As time goes by there will be more rhetoric criticizing and falsifying details about Barack Obama and these will be taken as “truths” despite facts pointing to the contrary. The sad reality is that this will only breed a new generation of believers as well as reinforcing a devoted base that will consume these “alternative [gulp] facts”. There will be more who take these “truth tellers” seriously (because they align with their own biases), if not literally (rather than look closely to truths because they will debunk their biases).


Ultimately, to put this into sports parlance: This is a long rebuild. It’s a rebuild on top of what has already been a long rebuild. This is a long game that will feature tiny victories over many administrations, Democrat or Republican. It is long because it is having to undo many long held prejudices that are perpetuated by passing them on to their subsequent generations. I can’t even come up with an analogy creative enough to describe how entangled these hateful beliefs are within the lineage of many families. I can only assume that it is embedded in their DNA and impossible to extricate. Or is it? Insert shrug emoji here.


There is no overnight build that accelerates success.


These latest events have robbed me of the love and excitement of watching sports again. The Heat are on the cusp of something great. The Dolphins are relevant again with a player we can all be excited for. And yet I cannot take any satisfaction from any of it. As a father I have to feign enthusiasm as my son wants to discuss the potential of Bam and the promise of Tua. In the back of my mind, I wonder what of his future.


Perhaps when sports, in whatever new normal it manifests itself in, resumes it will not just be an escape but a platform. I’m talking about a platform that will allow athletes of all races, races, and sexual orientations to speak up more and more. It will be to continually speak up, tell the stories, and vocalize truths. It’s like Ricky Williams, wearing down a defense through the first three quarters until the fourth quarter the line is exhausted and yields. Then finally there’s a run that breaks for a long touchdown. There comes the breakthrough. The road to that breakthrough will be a long one.