Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Bam Adebayo Sets Career Milestone in Heat’s Win Over Hawks

The Miami Heat’s second road win of the season came 32 days after the group’s first dub away from home.

Undermanned and undersized, the Heat rolled into State Farm Arena struggling early and found themselves down nine points at the intermission. Although, there were a few bright spots.

Atlanta was lighting it up from deep, making 5/10 triples in the opening period and holding Miami to 39.1% shooting from the field. Max Strus and Bam Adebayo were the only productive offensive players in this stretch for the Heat. They were a combined 7/12 from the field, while the rest of the outfit shot 2/11 from the floor.

It wasn’t like Atlanta was doing anything special contesting on kick outs to the perimeter. Miami missed four makeable 3-point shots that weren’t challenged in the first quarter, deepening their hole.

The Hawks’ defensive game plan was to limit the Heat’s action in the interior. It worked for the first quarter by only giving up eight points in the paint and sending their guests to the line just once through the first 12 minutes.

Slowly but surely, Miami adjusted on both sides. In the second quarter, they nearly doubled their paint production to 14 points and held the hosts to 28.6% efficiency from deep by disrupting the offense with the 2-3 zone.

On one play, Dejounte Murray caught a pass in the right corner, and Kyle Lowry instantly closed out. Kyle trapped his matchup and pressured him into throwing a reckless lob toward the elbow that Haywood Highsmith intercepted.

When the Heat doubled Trae Young on the right wing, he passed to an opening on the left side of the arc. Tyler Herro, one of the backline defenders covering the paint and corner, sprinted forward for the contest, influencing the miss.

On a pick-and-roll play with Murray and Frank Kaminsky, Miami iced the ball handler as he wrapped around the screen. This left Hawks rookie AJ Griffin open on the left wing. Herro, again, came in flying in from the middle like an F16 fighter jet and forced the miss.

Miami came out of the recess in a hole, but it quickly dug itself out and pushed Atlanta in. Bam Adebayo had 14 points in the third quarter, matching his output for the first half. He ruthlessly attacked the basket, making all five interior shots in the period, plus four free throws.

Three of his finishes were set up as a result of PNR. Herro designed the first two and Lowry the third. His fourth basket came after he was fed in the dunker spot. Lowry’s drive in transition attracted the help of Adebayo’s matchup, John Collins, leaving Miami’s big man open. Bam caught the pass, took one dribble and faded in the lane for two.

Against Atlanta’s feeble zone, Lowry passed to Adebayo in the center as he was guarded by Griffin. Bam posted up, dribbled once, and turned for a seven-foot hook shot that pecked the front of the iron before dropping in.

Adebayo finished the game with 32 points on 13/20 attempts with eight rebounds, one assist and one rejection. It became the first time in his career that he broke 30 points in consecutive games, per Basketball Reference.

In the previous outing, Miami’s win at home over Washington on Friday, ”No Ceiling,” powered the Heat to a dub with 38 points and 12 rebounds.

This version of Adebayo, the two-way wrecking ball averaging better than 25 points and 10 rebounds over the last six games, looks like a top-three big man. He doesn’t play outside of himself. Against the Hawks, he took two tries outside of the lane and missed both, yet in the paint, he shot 72.2%, and that’s where 26 of his points came from.

Bam has ascended to a level that impacts the game as much as his All-Star teammate, Butler. Holding this together forever is the next step to finally unleashing #13.

*****

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: No Ceiling for Bam Adebayo

It was the third encounter in a week between the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. Each outfit had copped a win at home, and habits and weaknesses were understood by both sides heading into Friday night’s game. At this point, it was a battle of wills.

 

Observations

 

The Heat rolled into their 20th game without Jimmy Butler, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson. The starting lineup was Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, Nikola Jović and Bam Adebayo.

 

The boxscore is not kind to this rotation. Through two games, they score 28.5 points on 52.3% shooting from the field, but the opponent (Washington) scores five more points on 60.5% efficiency from the floor, per NBA Stats.

 

Yet, the team is 2-0 in the games they start.

 

A few factors contributing to the rough defensive numbers are A. Miami is using a rookie, Jović, out of necessity with so many guys out.  Despite his unmistakable feel for the game, he is still raw, and someone defenses will likely target first. B. Herro finally returned over the past two wins after missing eight straight nights with a hurt ankle.  C. The Heat have no choice but to rely heavily on the 2-3 zone because the guys available, aside from Adebayo,  Martin, and maybe Lowry, can’t be counted on to get a stop by themselves.  

 

Nonetheless, this five-man unit produced 39 of 110 Heat points in 14.5 minutes on Friday.

 

But what won Miami the game?

 

The Heatles were much sharper in the zone than the Wizards.  Both squads shot below 30% from deep, but the home team managed to close off the lane more effectively.  The hosts gave up only 46 points in the box to their rivals.

 

Contesting the 3-point line, Miami had length covering the baseline and corner.  On one play, Bradley Beal curled around a Kristaps Porziņģis dribble-handoff and broke into the square as he was iced by Herro and Adebayo.  He then dished to the corner, but Jović closed out perfectly on Deni Avdija in the corner, forcing the miss.

 

In another instance, Washington had a mismatch in transition as Dewayne Dedmon matched up with Corey Kispert. Barton passed to Kispert, who was running towards the right wing, but Dedmon only stayed a step behind the arc.  Unwisely, Washington’s 3-point specialist hoisted a triple over his 7-foot tall defender, kissing nothing but the front of the iron.  

 

 Miami obliterated Washington’s interior, scoring 62 paint points.  Trays weren’t falling with ease from deep for the Heat, but they managed to get inside the teeth of the opponent’s zone for a shot inside without much resistance.

 

Adebayo finished with 38 points, making 68% of his attempts, with 12 rebounds and three dimes.  His two-way production guided them through 36 minutes.  His fourth-quarter mastery catapulted the Heat to victory.

 

With Miami down six points in the final period, Adebayo ran a DHO with Herro on the left wing.  As both defenders blitzed Tyler, he snuck a bounce pass between the coverage into a rolling Adebayo for the jam.

 

On his next bucket,  in transition, Adebayo dribbled downhill past Kyle Kuzma for a soft finish at the cup. 

 

For his third, fourth-quarter basket, he posted up Anthony Gill in the low post and backed him down into the lane.  Adebayo then turned for a right-handed five-foot hook shot.  

 

As the roll man after a pick set for Martin, Adebayo trailed the cutting ball handler, who missed at the rim.  #13 went up for the putback and forced a goaltend.

 

On his last field goal, the Lowry-Adebayo pick and roll was run flawlessly.  With the Heat up a point and 28 seconds remaining, Adebayo set a high screen for Lowry to shed Beal. Kyle cut right as Bam rolled left, attacking the drop coverage.  The bounce pass was delivered into the pocket as “No Ceiling” kept cutting and finished through Porziņģis.  

 

In the fourth quarter, Bam scored 12 points, making 5/7 shots.

 

Adebayo Recently

 

Over his last five games (Heat are 3-2), Adebayo is averaging 24.2 points a night on 48% efficiency from the field, plus 10.6 boards and 2.8 assists, per Basketball Reference.  Butler only played in one of those games- Miami’s one-point win at home over Phoenix on Nov. 14. 

 

Also noteworthy about this minuscule sample size is that Adebayo is making 7/8 free throws a  night.  Getting to the line more than a few times a game helps a team by giving the players a breather, and they can get into defensive position much easier following the last freebie.  

 

With the team undermanned and some personnel in different roles than last season, Adebayo must continue this stretch of brilliance when Butler returns to the lineup.  He and JB are the squad’s best options for creating pressure inside.  The best way to make sure the group’s snipers are left alone or poorly defended is if the two of them inflict maximum damage in the lane.

 

To his credit, Bam has shown up yearly with improvements to his scoring arsenal.  Last season, 60.8% of baskets were assisted.  Through 18 games in this campaign, only 52.9% of buckets come with help, per Basketball Reference.    

 

 

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Bam Adebayo to the Rescue (Alive, They Cried)

The Heat’s pulse-dropping win over the burning Suns boosted its record to 7-7, and for the first time this season, the group is at .500.  

 

As the road team retreated to the locker room, the home crowd gave their squad a feverish standing ovation.  Although, with fewer than eight minutes left, the game was trending toward the opposite outcome.

 

Miami was ahead by a point at the half (58-57) and didn’t see the lead again until the last two minutes.  The Heatles suffered another notorious turd quarter and were outscored by eight.  The slippage hit its climax in the fourth as Phoenix ascended to a 13-point lead.  

 

The hosting unit had shot 1/8, four minutes into the final period, only scoring five points, while Phoenix buried a quick 11.  Next, Jimmy Butler was inserted for Gabe Vincent, and, alive, they cried.

 

On their next possession, Kyle Lowry stood on the left wing, guarded tightly by Devin Booker.  As soon as his defender’s left foot moved a step back, #7 had his opening.  Lowry then put the ball on the floor and darted to the middle, but his man didn’t give up on the play. Booker managed to seal off the lane after a couple of steps into it, but Kyle hit a seven-foot floater over the defense.

 

The Suns came back the other way seeing the Heat’s 2-3 zone.  Booker passed to Bismack Biyombo, posting Butler in the lane. Biyombo couldn’t get more than a dribble off before JB’s left tentacle reached around, poking the rock free for Bam Adebayo to recover and take off on the break. 

 

As Adebayo raced downhill, Booker backpedaled with him and reached for a strip at the ring wing. Bam casually spun past him for an acrobatic layup outside the restricted area while taking contact from Torrey Craig.  

 

Max Strus scored the next bucket for Miami. He breezed past Booker at the top of the key and beat Deandre Ayton, in drop coverage, to the cup for the finger roll.

 

On the following possession, Caleb Martin batted away Ayton’s pass to the corner, over to Butler. The 3-2 fastbreak started with Jimmy dribbling up the middle, with Kyle dashing to his left and Bam gliding to his right. Booker and Mikal Bridges were the only Suns tracking the play and managed to seal off the restricted area from a cutting Adebayo, but he just took a foul and hit a runner over the defense.  The Suns called a timeout, but their lead was cut to three following Bam’s made free throw.  

 

With fewer than five minutes left, Bridges lost the ball in the paint, and Adebayo took off the break.  He ran and give-and-go with Strus cutting right and was fed back in the lane for the slam.  

 

Butler scored the next pair of points at the line.  He earned the trip to the charity stripe by taking a smack from the helping Ayton on the arm.

 

Then Martin got involved in the action by hitting a triple in the right corner as he faded to the left. Craig’s contest was weak because he bit on the pump fake and had to reenter the shooting space.  

 

On their next turn with the ball, Lowry was in the right corner when he noticed his man, Booker, was overcommitted, guarding the post with his back toward the shooter.  Lowry shifted to the wing and fired away for three.  Booker’s contest was a second too late, and now Miami had its first lead since the opening minute of the second half.

 

Phoenix refused to go away quietly.  On their next possession, Booker came out from the middle, curling to the right-wing Butler on his tail.  Ayton set a weak pick, and Butler went over it, getting a handoff in Booker’s grill as he launched away.  It was a solid contest but against a greater offense.  The Suns were back up by one (110-109).

 

The shootout continued with Lowry cutting left as Adebayo split his screen and rolled to his right.  Miami’s QB caught the help of Ayton and Craig as he entered the post and attempted a floater that bounced too high off the glass.  Adebayo kept rolling and soared through the air for the putback lay-in.  

 

The pendulum swung again towards the home team, but for a mere 12 seconds until Cameron Payne and Ayton ran PNR to switch Martin off the ball.  Adebayo stayed with his matchup, but Phoenix’s big-man had shed Caleb, and Payne took an open path to the paint and hit a floater over Butler. 

 

The crowd was delirious. Coach Spo then called a timeout and relayed his instruction.

 

The Heat inbounded with a full shot clock from the sideline and went to work with some Lowry-Adebayo PNR.  Bam caught the pass on the roll behind the line, attempted a runner, and was fouled by Ayton.  He buried his freebies, giving Miami a 113-112 lead that it wouldn’t concede.  

 

Guarding the next play, Miami was fortunate Payne bricked his uncontested driving layup through the middle.  Yet, Ayton recovered the miss and passed outside to reset.  Ten seconds were left.  Butler guarded Booker at the top of the key and forced him to drive right.  Booker pulled up at the elbow, got rejected by #22, and picked up his miss. Frantically, he got off the next shot he could, fading on the right wing with Butler perfectly contesting.  

 

The ball hit the side of the iron as the final buzzer rang.  The Heat survived and extended the club’s winning streak to three games—Miami’s longest stretch of decent play for the season.

 

When Butler checked in with 7:44 left in the game, ESPN Analytics’ chart said Phoenix had a 97.9% probability of winning.   His influence on the rest of the squad activated them as if Frankenstein’s Monster had come to life on the operating table.  

 

Adebayo dropped 14 points, making 80% of his field goals in all 12 minutes of the fourth.  Lowry and Strus were the next leading scorers for Miami in the period, with five apiece.

 

Off to Toronto, the Heatles go for the third matchup of the season with the Raptors on Wednesday.

  

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Positives and Negatives of the Heat’s Week Four

The Heatles improved to a 6-7 record entering the fifth week of the NBA season.  In week four, Miami played three games at home, losing one to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday and beating the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday and Saturday.

 

During these three games, the Heat flashed moments of their former selves.  They also demonstrated a handful of bad habits.  Let’s examine the positive and negative aspects of the Heat through week four.

 

Positives:

1. Seizing the passing lanes

 

Miami came away with 27 steals and forced 52 turnovers in their last three matches at home.   Jimmy Butler was responsible for a third of the takeaways. In total, the Heat scored 67 points off turnovers  Yet, the high volume of interceptions in the passing lanes and forced errors skewed their rebounding numbers.

 

Yes, Miami was beaten on the boards 50-38 in their overtime win against Charlotte. But the Heat would have had more opportunities to recover the ball off the glass if the other team didn’t lose it 20 times.  

 

Nonetheless, these repeated instances were a reason why Miami took more field goal attempts in all three games.  

2. Dependable at the line

 

In week four, Miami averaged 24 free throw attempts a night but more impressively converted 83.4% of their shots.  Butler, as usual, was the Heat’s most reliable option to get to the “welfare line.”  He logged 26/28 freebies, helping his squad by cutting the flow of the game and giving his teammates a break on defense.  

 

When Butler wants to, he can get to the line at will.  He’s currently averaging the third-highest volume of attempts in his career (8.3) that come as a result of his consistent pressure in the lane.  This season, Butler is averaging 66.7% of his tries from 0-10 feet from the hoop, a new career high.  

 

As a unit, the Heatles shoot 86.7% for the year, which puts them at  #1 in the league.  Counting only the players who qualify for league leaders, Miami only has one guy who shoots below 80% at the line, Caleb Martin (72.7).  

 

3. Money in the paint

 

Over three nights, Miami made 75/123 (61%) interior shots with a combined 150 points in the paint.  

 

Even on a night where they couldn’t hit anything from outside the square, like on Thursday against Charlotte, Miami was still sharp attacking the box, cashing 63% of their attempts in the non-restricted area.

 

Miami’s best options at attacking the interior are Butler and Bam Adebayo.  Their quick recognition of their opponent’s 2-3 zone coverage did not deter them from breaking down the scheme by attacking the middle, clenching the defense and giving extra space to shooters on the perimeter.  

 

4. Crisp ball movement without a starter + a role player filling big shoes

 

Tyler Herro hasn’t played since Nov. 4 in the Heat’s loss at Indiana.  Despite his absence, Miami still logged a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio with Max Strus inserted into the starting rotation. In the first quarter against Charlotte on Saturday, 11 of Miami’s 14 baskets of the period were assisted.  

 

One play that stood out during the Heat’s most recent victory was Kyle Lowry’s eighth dime of the night.  At the top of the key, he noticed Robinson on the left wing with his defender, James Bouknight, wholly turned away from the ball.  Robinson, not known for attacking inside, darted to the basket with his man draped all over him. Lowry still hit his man on the run, and Robinson finished with Bouknight behind his hip.  

 

Another sequence worth mentioning occurred with fewer than six minutes left in the same game.  At the top of the key, Gabe Vincent was matched up with LaMelo Ball.  Adebayo then came in, splitting a screen, and rolled right to the basket as Vincent went left, attacking the drop coverage.  A couple of steps into the lane, Gabe lobbed up the rock as Mason Plumlee was caught in no man’s land.  Adebayo reached into the heavens and powered the rock through the cylinder.  

 

For the week, Miami turned the ball over 10.7 times a night.  Passes were executed with precision when the opponent overcommitted on the Heat’s rim attacks or when a mismatch was identified.   

 

This year, Herro is a near 20-point per-game scorer.  Filling in for #14, Strus averaged 19.6 points on 42.4% shooting from 3-point range on 11 attempts a night.  Mad Max put constant strain on the opposing defense by having his man actively trail him + curling around screens and firing away in the openings of the zone.  

 

5. Offensively productive second unit

 

In week four, Miami’s bench was relied on for 35 points a game, outscoring all three of its opponents by an average of five points.  For the stretch, the Heat’s strongest reserve was Vincent. 

 

In overtime on Thursday, he took a pair of trips to the line and was immaculate.  On Saturday, both his buckets in the fourth quarter were difficult shots.  The first materialized from a left-wing drive.  Vincent circled toward the left low post, turned, and hit a fadeaway jumper over the taller Ball to give Miami a 13-point lead.

 

On his next basket, Dedmon ran a dribble hand-off on the right wing for Vincent, and Ball went under the pick.  As Vincent turned the corner of the screen and entered the lane, Ball was back on his right hip but was thrust backward by Gabe’s strong side.  Vincent picked up his dribble, faded and hit the nylon.  

 

Now for the other side of the coin.

 

Negatives:

1. Paint Coverage

 

In the past two seasons, the Heat were #1 in opponent scoring in the paint, giving up only 42.1 points in the area both years.  In this campaign, Miami has dropped to fourth after a three-game stretch conceding 51.3 paint points.  

 

When Miami went to the 2-3 zone, Charlotte’s Kelly Oubre had no issues getting to the middle past Robinson or Strus and finishing.  Ball, in single coverage with Martin or attacking through PNR, was also able to get to the box on his terms and convert.  

2. Inefficient catch-and-shooting 

 

The Heat are too skilled from deep to be shooting 33% on catch-and-shoot triples for the season and over the last three games.  

 

Lowry took six of these shots on Thursday, some with the help of a screen and missed five.  The lift on his legs looked fine, but he was missing makeable looks and wide-open trays.  

 

Robinson had the same issues all week, launching away from deep. When a pass from a teammate beat the closeout defender, he was still off target.  Against Portland, when hit with a pass by Butler on the right wing, Robinson unthinkably fired away over the much shorter Damian Lillard by fading to the side.  Clank. 

3. Not capitalizing enough on the break

 

Miami did make its rivals pay when they committed a lousy pass, having 18.8% of its total points for the stretch attributed to scoring off turnovers.  Although, only 9.8% of their output was created on the fastbreak.  

 

In the future, the Heat must maximize these opportunities by out-hustling the opponent, so they have easier chances to score on 3-on-2, 2-on-1, or any break upper hand.  Usually, the starting lineup features four players who could get down the court in a hurry.  It also has a distinguished veteran QB who is highly proficient at launching hit-ahead passes that leave defenders out of the picture.  

 

For the season, Miami is 25th in the NBA in this category at 10.2%.  In week four, the Heat were 18th best in the NBA in this stat, yet they had a lower percentage (9.8) than the yearly average.

 

4. Opponents shot well from the field

 

Through three games, Miami’s defensive rating was 111, and opponents recorded better than league-average efficiency from the field (50.9%, LA- 46.5%).  In the future, everyone not named Adebayo, Butler and Martin will need to show more consistency staying in front of their man and closing out to shooters on drive-and-kick plays.  

 

5. Too dependent on Butler to get to the line

 

Despite the Heat’s stellar shooting at the line, players other than Butler are not getting there enough.  JB was responsible for 43% of Miami’s free throw points during week 4. He took 9.3 charity shots, and his teammates tied for next in attempts were Adebayo and Vincent, each averaging 3.3 tries. 

 

That volume is too low for Bam, and it’s below what he logs for the year (4.2).  Adebayo’s percentage of shots taken from 0-3 from the cup has dropped 5.8 points and his efficiency in that spot has fallen 7.7 points as well.  

 

Weekly Grade: C+

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Evolution of Max Strus’ Game

Max Strus is a dangerous sharpshooter who has become the perfect role player. His combustibility from beyond the arc earned him a spot in the starting rotation at the end of last season and made him again one of coach Spo’s trusted eight this year.

Strus is not a one-dimensional player. His primary role will likely always be as a premium deep threat, but he has made noticeable improvements scoring inside the arc through the Heat’s first 10 games (4–6).

Last season (2021/2022), Strus took 78.4% of his shots from 3-point range. His volume from that area has dropped to 64.1% this year. Despite a lower frequency, he has become harder to guard because his efficiency has risen on two-pointers.

In Miami’s win over the Sacramento Kings, Strus hit 2/5 from deep while converting a pair of shots in the restricted area. On his first made two-pointer, he beat everyone on the break, catching a pass launched by Kyle Lowry in the backcourt. Strus caught the rock just outside the restricted area, gathered, and came up for a layup with Keegan Murray on his tail.

His other inside finish came in the halfcourt. From the top of the key, Strus cut inside, curled to the left baseline, and dusted Kevin Huerter on the dive back to the basket, assisted by a bounce pass from Bam Adebayo for a layup.

In Tuesday’s win at home against the Golden State Warriors, 10/17 of Strus’ attempts came from the outside (4/10), but he consistently put pressure on the rim too.

In transition, he caught a hit-ahead pass from Adebayo as Kevon Looney closed out to the right wing. Strus faked a dribble pick-up, freezing Looney while he dashed inside for a soft lay-in.

On the next inside score, Strus caught a pass on the left wing and immediately darted past Andrew Wiggins, hitting a floater over Draymond Green in the low post.

The trend continued for Miami’s ignitable marksman in the Heat’s narrow loss in Indiana on Friday. Half of Stus’ makes came in the restricted area, but two of those scores stemmed from steals.

Covering the left wing in Miami’s 2-3 zone, Strus recognized that Myles Turner was about to pass to Tyrese Haliburton up top the moment a pindown was set by Jalen Smith. Max blew up the play by bursting forward, intercepting the rock, and slamming it through the cylinder on a none-on-one fastbreak.

On the next two-point play, Strus closed out to the right wing as Bennedict Mathurin caught a pass. Indiana’s rookie put Strus on his back hip but was stripped in the lane because he shifted his dribble back to his right hand. Strus recovered the ball and took it to the cup, finishing past a contest by Haliburton in front and Turner behind him as he converted the finger roll.

His final inside score came in the halfcourt. Caleb Martin crossed over Turner in the right corner and cut through the baseline. Strus, standing at the left wing, noticed the defense ball watching the breakdown and not sending help. He then cut through the lane, received the pass, and layed it up softly.

On shots from 3-10 feet from the rim, Strus is shooting 50% from the field. In 2021/2022, only 5.3% of his attempts came from that zone. This season, he has nearly doubled his shots from that territory while also raising his efficiency by 6.3%.

Through 10 games, #31 has finished five dunks. Last year in 68 matches, he slammed seven.

Currently, he’s averaging 14.2 points on 44.8% shooting from the field and 37% from deep. Plus 4.6 boards and a couple of assists a night too. But Strus is more than that.

He’s turned into the ideal role player- an egoless and complete teammate. He produces on the court, never throws anyone under the bus, and accepts whatever duty is shouldered on him.

Strus is a guy who keeps polishing his game because still has the hunger that comes with going undrafted. His work ethic is unteachable. People like him are special.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Nets Can’t Do Anything Right

The Nets’ public relations disaster ended with Kyrie Irving and the team pledging to donate half a million dollars each towards causes that work to eliminate hate in the community. I award the team and Irving zero nobility points -irreversible damage has been done.

 

According to the FBI, the Jewish community is the most targeted religious group in the United States.  Just in 2020, there were 683 recorded hate crimes against them.  What Irving did is serious and would be enough to cost him his job in most places outside of sports.  Promoting those views on his platform makes it unsafe for Jewish people.

 

The excuse that the idling Nets were waiting for the counsel of the ADL will be accepted by many. Brooklyn should’ve suspended Irving the moment he promoted antisemitic propaganda. Letting him play signaled to the public the Nits didn’t think it was a big enough issue until they had more information. Essentially it means they don’t know how to take charge of their organization. 

 

It’s inconceivable how Joe Tsai became a boss when his word doesn’t mean anything.  Supposedly he was going to have Steve Nash and Sean Marks’ backs, but one of them was already sacrificed on the altar of a poor start of the season.  Nash was canned and Ime Udoka, the man, the Boston Celtics, suspended for an inappropriate relationship, has emerged as a strong front runner.  The Celtics weren’t clear on nature of the improper relationship. 

 

It isn’t fair to Brooklyn’s women and Jewish fanbase how they have handled these matters.  Irving’s views, which were backtracked, are, at best, dangerously misguided and, at worst, intentionally cruel.  

 

Fact: Kyrie didn’t even apologize.  The best he could do was say through a press release, “I am aware of the negative impact of my posts towards the Jewish community, and I take responsibility.  I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles…”  

 

Then on Thursday, when he was asked by a scrum of reporters about the joint statement, Irving wouldn’t answer if he was apologizing.  When peppered by ESPN’s Nick Friedell on if he has antisemitic beliefs, all he could say is that he embraces all walks of life and he couldn’t be antisemitic because he knows where he comes from.

 

I’m glad he said, at least on the record, that he doesn’t share every view of the filth he endorsed.  It shouldn’t be swept under the rug that the book the film is based on despicably denies the Holocaust.  The “documentary” itself promotes garbage from Adolf Hitler too.

 

 There was no “I am sorry” in Irving’s statement.  How remorseful can this pointless contrarian really be?  Forgive me if I am a bit suspicious of his intent to soothe the emotions of observers.  He hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt to say the Nets didn’t pressure him into doing this.  

 

Before the Nets, Irving and the ADL released their joint statement, insufficient press releases were made public by NBA Communications and the NBA Players Association.  Neither of these declarations named the problem:  Irving.  Instead, they said the bare minimum. 

 

NBA Coms said, “Hate speech of any kind is unacceptable…”

 

The Players Association said, “Antisemitism has no place in our society… We will continue to work on identifying and combating all hate speech wherever it arises.”

 

The NBPA’s statement is BS.  Irving is still incomprehensibly a vice president of their union.  One of their own validated bigotry, and they didn’t hold him accountable.  

 

Imagine if NBA personnel were held to the same standard people outside of sports are.  It was just 16 months ago that Google fired Amr Awadallah over his antisemitic views.  In 2020, Beverly Hills police chief Sandra Spagnoli was forced into early retirement after lawsuits alleged racism, antisemitism, and harassment.  In 2019, the Palm Beach County school board fired principal William Latson from Spanish River Community High School because he wouldn’t acknowledge the Holocaust as factual.

 

Irving is fortunate he still has a gig in the NBA, but this is the last year of his deal.  Even before this nonsense, I couldn’t imagine any team outside of the Lakers soliciting for his services owing to the fact that he’s overpaid and undependable.  This latest headache is the icing on the cake.

  

As for Udoka becoming a front runner, he has an adequate understanding of the game and has earned respect on that front.  It’s evident by the fact that his Boston team managed to claim the second seed after a poor start to the season and came two wins away from a title.  But a coach is supposed to be a leader of a group.

 

His conduct was unbecoming of a teacher, and it remains to be seen the ultimate impact of how the mess ended in Boston.  It’s no secret that athletes and their colleagues fool around.  I am not excusing that wicked behavior, but you shouldn’t be untrustworthy at work.  Udoka couldn’t follow protocol and reportedly sent more inappropriate messages to other women in the organization.

 

The Nets considering Udoka makes it clear that winning is a priority over keeping a respectable workplace environment.  

 

If he gets the job, good luck to Udoka dealing with Irving.

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Not Enough From Joel Embiid in the Season Opener

It’s indisputable the 76ers are a loaded squad. After the regular season, it wouldn’t be a shocker if they were the one seed. Yet it remains a mystery if Doc Rivers can unleash them.

Joel Embiid was second in MVP voting in back-to-back campaigns, but he emerged in the season opener with an atrocious shot selection that hindered his club. Anytime the opponent can force Philly’s center into playing mainly from the perimeter, it will likely translate to an extra mark in the win column, as it did for the Celtics.

Thirty-six minutes passed, and the 76ers only attempted 21 field goals in the paint, with a scarce three tries by Embiid in the box. Credit to him for feeling assertive in the fourth quarter, where he registered 5/8 of his close-range shots, but he was rewarded with one free throw by the refs’ whistles in that period.

Embiid’s box score numbers are eye-catching- 26 points on 50% efficiency, 15 boards, 7/9 at the line, etc. Statistically, it was a solid night for Joel. But, anyone who has seen him overwhelm the paint knows the version of him that took the court against Boston resembled a lapdog more than the ferocious wolf he’s capable of being. At TD Garden, he fell into his bad habits.

A third (6/18) of #21’s attempts came from behind the arc, and he only cashed one. Some of these came with a smaller defender in front. Instead of overpowering a mismatch, Embiid took a pair of triples defended by Malcolm Brogdon and Jaylen Brown. As the ball bounced off the iron both times, it dawned on me, why can’t he play smarter?

In the six seasons Embiid has suited up for, he logged over 50% shooting just once. That was in 2021 before Rivers ran Ben Simmons out of town.

Defensively, Embiid was a shell of himself. A couple of fouls picked up in the first quarter reduced his willingness to sufficiently contest. In Boston, the opponent shot 11/19 (58%) from the field, with Embiid as the closest defender.

It was Philly’s first game of the year. Much of their inadequacies- Tyrese Maxey not receiving enough touches, getting beat on the boards, lax rock protection, and poor shot selection- are fixable. But it all starts with the guy towering at seven-feet tall who commands immediate help with the ball in his hands near the rim.

Rivers has to make sure Embiid gets the rock back more often as he rolls to the cup, while James Harden is iced in pick and roll. No more than a fifth of his shots should come outside the arc. He is too streaky from that area, and he can impose maximum affliction on the defense by pushing an opponent with his back.

If #21 focuses on his strengths, the 76ers will turn into a team that can’t be stopped but rather outscored. Harden and Maxey were creating separation without screens. That’s a massive upgrade over their capabilities last Playoffs because then the Beard couldn’t get by anyone without help.

The backcourt’s ability to break down a defense on rim attacks will leave open looks for a cutting Embiid. It’s on the team’s MVP candidate to ensure the group never scores below 50 points in the paint again.

Miami Heat

Five Reasons Sports: Five on the Floor 2022-2023 NBA Predictions

Thirteen contributors from the Five Reasons Sports network — including contributors to the Five on the Floor podcast — made their predictions for the upcoming NBA season.  You can view the individual predictions from Ethan, Greg, Brady, Bryan, Tony, Ricky, Gad, Timmy, Marco, Alfredo, Alejandro, Mateo, and Sean HERE or an overall summary below.

 

Miami Heat Predictions:

The panel predicted the Heat to finish 4th in the East with a predicted average of 49.7 wins.  Nearly 54% of the experts had the Heat returning to the Eastern Conference Finals and 61% had them representing the East in the NBA Finals.  Only 23% have the guts to predict their 4th NBA championship, but the panel seems confident after a quiet offseason.  Only 31% of the panel believes Duncan Robinson will finish the season on the Heat’s roster despite a strong showing in the preseason.  After showing off his outside shot this summer and in the preseason, our experts predicted an average of 25 three pointers made by Bam Adebayo this season.

 

NBA Champion:

According to our expert panel, the Bucks (31%) edged out the Heat, Clippers, Warriors, Mavericks, and Nuggets for this year’s championship.  They are forecasting a wide open Western Conference, with five different teams (Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, Mavericks, and Suns) being predicted to finish in the NBA Finals.  In the Eastern Conference, 54% of our experts foresee a 3rd chapter in the Bucks/Heat postseason rivalry.  

 

Award Winners:

If the season plays out how our experts predict, awards season is going to be an exciting competition this year.  Luka Doncic (38%) will win his first Most Valuable Player award, edging out Giannis and Embiid (23% each).  In another tight finish, Paolo Banchero (38%) takes Rookie of the Year over Jaden Ivey (31%) and Keegan Murray (23%).  Our panel ignored national narratives and finally crowned Bam Adebayo as Defensive Player of the Year with an overwhelming 92% of the vote – with Giannis receiving the only non-Bam vote (from a certain left-handed panelist).  The panel’s high expectations for Denver led to two Nuggets being awarded – Bones Hyland (23%) for Sixth Man of the Year, and Michael Malone (31%) for Coach of the Year.  There was a wide range of responses for Most Improved Player with ten players nominated by the panel – only Anthony Edwards, Keldon Johnson, and Anfernee Simons received multiple votes.

 

NBA Bold Predictions:

In anticipation of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, the panel was split on the league’s worst team with the Spurs, Thunder, and Jazz all getting 23% of “worst team” votes.  Although some of those team’s coaches received votes, the panel predicted that Steve Nash (31%) is the most likely coach to be fired first.  Complimenting their top 5 predicted finish, our experts gave Cleveland the best offseason grade (31%) likely driven by the Donovan Mitchell acquisition.  The panel seems to expect an active trade market with ten different names mentioned as the “biggest name traded this season”, but Russell Westbrook was designated as the most likely to be changing zip codes over the next few months.  

 

Eastern Conference Predictions:

  1. Bucks (5)
  2. 76ers (5)
  3. Celtics (2)
  4. Heat 
  5. Cavs (1)
  6. Nets
  7. Raptors
  8. Hawks
  9. Bulls
  10. Knicks
  11. Wizards
  12. Pistons
  13. Magic

 

Western Conference Predictions:

  1. Nuggets (9)
  2. Warriors (2)
  3. Clippers
  4. Grizzlies (1)
  5. Mavericks
  6. Suns (1)
  7. Timberwolves
  8. Pelicans
  9. Lakers
  10. Blazers
  11. Kings

 

To view each panelist’s selections, click HERE

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Writing on the Wall for Draymond Green

When the Warriors said their habitually malignant headache would disappear for a while, they meant a week.  Never mind that Steve Kerr said the pop shot on Jordan Poole was the “biggest crisis” his team’s ever had.  The Warriors are going to sweep Draymond Green’s mess under the rug and throw accountability out the back door. 

 

Before Draymond left on Oct. 6, he said the relationship with his teammate had “splintered.” One has to wonder, what changed so quickly in a week that execs thought bringing him back was a good idea? 

 

Draymond’s quick return is risky.  On the one hand, Kevon Looney, an eight-year vet with the team, said he’s got work to do to earn back trust.  And on the other, you have Green admitting he still has difficulty approaching Poole. 

 

Yet, everything looked normal during the preseason game against Denver on Friday.  He looked in sync with the group, feeding open teammates shielded by pindowns, making cuts to the basket after the catch, and on some occasions, guarding multiple Nuggets per possession.  

 

To the naked eye, it looked like one of the team’s pillars was in midseason form, ready to defend the throne. But what the surface reveals may not tell the whole story.  It was an exhibition with no stakes behind it.  I am still curious to see how Green and Poole share the floor in a game that matters.  That will be the ultimate test to see if they can keep working together, not an abundance of quotes to the press that sound like the right things.  

 

After the game, Poole spoke to reporters for the first time since the incident.

 

“He apologized [professionally].  We plan on handling ourselves that way.  We’re here to play basketball… we’re here to win a championship and keep winning banners.”  

 

Poole is a pro who keeps it all business.  It’s impossible to know now if he harbors any resentment, but if he did, it would be warranted.

 

 It shouldn’t surprise anyone the Warriors are soft on discipline.  Six years ago, Bob Myers said he had blindspots for Green, and then Kerr shared his concerns for “tempering” him because his player might lose an edge. What? This was after #23 threatened his coach, and teammates had to get between them during halftime of a game at OKC.

 

This time, management has set a dangerous precedent for the club.  A player assaulted a teammate and basically received no repercussions.  

 

It grinds me gears the team has said the decision for Green to take his brief leave of absence, which has concluded, was a mutual decision.  Where in the world does a guilty subordinate get to decide his punishment?  Corrupt governments do not count.

 

“He’s been fined, but I won’t talk about the amount on that,” Kerr said Thursday. Green will earn $25.8 million this year. I’m sure he’ll be OK on that front.

 

The Dubs failed to do the minimum in holding Draymond up to the standards of his station.  It’s unclear why he’s getting this pass when some of the worst offenses on his rap sheet, just with the team, include pissing away a championship and threatening his instructor.  A season later, former teammate Marreese Speights, then a Clipper, said Green also disrupted practice that day, and the effects lingered the rest of the year.

 

But it’s unlikely the Warriors will keep putting up with this.  Primarily for financial reasons because with the latest extensions handed to Poole and, more recently, Andrew Wiggins, the club is priced out.  With two years left on his deal (the second is a player option), Green will presumably opt in for the last year, owing to the fact that he wouldn’t get such a lucrative salary elsewhere.  If he does commit to staying for 2023/2024, Golden State’s annual bill jumps to $530 million, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

 

Judging by team governor Joe Lacob’s comments, writing a check that hefty isn’t happening.  Nobody should be stunned if the Warriors decide to put Green on the trade block this season.

 

The team showed its priorities picking the two younger players to extend.  From the outside, it sure does look like the Warriors are preparing for life without #23.  Aside from a resurgence on offense while keeping the same RPMs defensively, the only other factor that could make Golden State reconsider its eventual long-term plans is if there is a lapse in the development of Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and James Wiseman.   

 

Green has said a lot before and after his hiatus.  He can be very convincing too.

 

“Quite frankly, I like to keep my emotions in…You internalize them. I know I do.  In saying that, it’s not something I want to change because I like to keep my emotions to myself, but what I do want to change, and what I do need to work on is how they end up coming out.”

 

 That sounds like a judicious approach. The point Green also made about “actions showing your apologies” was accurate.  He has the opportunity to prove his regrets are sincere.  He could start by never disrespecting a teammate again.   

 

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Draymond Green Isn’t Worth the Trouble

“My love is there and ain’t going nowhere,” said the man who assaulted his coworker.

 

Draymond Green may be that one person who ruins it for the group, a championship squad, I’ll add. The Golden State Warriors had a nice gig going until he thought he was above it all and laid out Jordan Poole.

 

There is nothing his victim could have said to warrant such a fierce blow to the head. And somehow, Green is lucky the ramifications of his rogue hands weren’t more severe to his teammate.

 

What if Poole fell, hit his head, and died, like the victim of recently convicted Mexican actor Pablo Lyle? The deceased was Juan Ricardo Hernandez, killed after taking a punch to the face and hitting the ground with his head, following a road rage dispute.

 

Any reasonable observer can tell by watching TMZ’s video that Green committed the act of a bully. It took no balls for Dray to invade Poole’s personal space and sucker punch him when his teammate pushed his aggressor off—especially considering the size difference of about, hmm, two inches and 40 pounds. All it took was a pathetic and witless show of ego.

 

Yes, of course, Green apologized, and the Warriors said they’d handle the mess internally. But then the video came out, and reportedly, some players didn’t see the strike until it was replayed because they were doing their jobs.

 

The Dubs are trying to settle this privately. Green is taking an indefinite leave of absence, and he and the team allegedly made this decision “mutually.” Just my two cents: Green would have been sent home regardless of his willingness to take this sabbatical. I’m not surprised more reporters didn’t call BS on the member of labor who committed a crime somehow having a say in his punishment.

 

Isn’t Green sure lucky he works for an NBA team? There is not one job worth working where this behavior wouldn’t be cause for termination.

But what started this? A disagreement between the two over foul calls in practice led to Green calling his teammate a “bitch.”

 

I’ve seen this movie before. Back in Nov. 2018, Golden State’s power forward said the same thing to then-teammate Kevin Durant on the sideline during a timeout of a losing effort against the Clippers. When free agency came around, KD left.

 

Nearly two years later, Green interviewed Durant on his show Chips. He asked how much getting called out of his name drove KD to leave the Warriors.

 

Nearly nine minutes into the interview, Durant said it wasn’t the argument. It was the way the team managed its first public meltdown. Green’s lack of grace, then, created a situation to be handled in the first place.

 

This latest offense comes when both guys are looking for contract extensions. Undoubtedly, management won’t be thrilled about potentially being put in an expedited position to choose between them.

 

I empathize with Poole. Having a clip circulate online where you are getting knocked out is embarrassing.

 

Assaulting someone is a serious offense that should not be tolerated in sports. It’s true. Green isn’t the first, nor will he be the last to shamefully compose himself this way. That doesn’t change how he irresponsibly risked irreparable harm to his relationship with Poole and the rest of the workplace environment.

 

It doesn’t matter that fights between teammates happen, and usually away from spies. What Green did to his man is dehumanizing and painful. JP had no chance because he never saw it coming.

 

This wasn’t a fight. It was physical abuse. A genuine-sounding apology in front of the media doesn’t fit the accountability bill. Although, I do appreciate that Green expressed regret to Poole’s family. But maybe Draymond should check himself into some anger management meetings or schedule counseling with a therapist.

“Oh, but this happens in sports all the time.” The people spouting this nonsense must have missed the part of workplace training that instructs employees to keep their hands to themselves.

 

It’s not like Green hasn’t been told that before. He was roped by police for slapping a taunting Michigan State football player back in 2016 in East Lansing.

 

There is no way around it. Draymond is a repeat offender on the decline who is not worth keeping around at his salary. It’s one thing for his offensive play to be a detriment to the group at times because the opponent doesn’t guard him. It’s another when he forgets himself and his importance to the locker room.

San Francisco police said they wouldn’t investigate the attack— not like anyone other than Dirty Harry gets results over there.