Miami Heat Respond to Jimmy Butler’s Tebow Moment

It was a rough time in Dadeland. Fresh off winning six of seven games, the Heat lost three-straight to the Suns, Nuggets, and Timberwolves by an average of 15 points per game. Each contest saw Miami jump out to big first quarter leads only to get manhandled in the second period of play.

Then, to cap it all off, Miami fans had to watch from afar as the embodiment of Heat Culture, Dwyane Wade, traded in bunuelos for wheat bread and took an ownership stake with the Utah Jazz. Seeing D-Wade getting a standing ovation in Salt Lake City is like seeing Ronald McDonald eating a Frosty; it just did not feel right. Nothing felt right. Not until Jimmy Butler stepped in with a quote that will one day be recited when Heat scholars tell their pupils, “please turn your pages to the Book of Butler, chapters 28-28.”

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said, via ESPN. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens. I’m glad it happened to us. And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

“We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”

Heat players being soft? What’s next? Kardashians looking physically natural? Tok Tok stars acting well-adjusted to society? Samuel L. Jackson cast in a PG movie? It just does not compute. Miami responded well to the call-out from their teammate, however, as the Heat reeled off a pair of wins. On Sunday afternoon, Bam Adebayo hit a buzzer beater to take down the James Harden-less Nets 109-107 before completing the back-to-back with a 113-91 demolition of the Houston Rockets, both games without Butler.

Miami will have to take that same attitude and apply it to the stretch run. There are 14 games remaining, with only two of the next nine coming against teams currently with winning records: the Hawks and Mavericks. Then, they close out the year with a pair of potentially vital-seeding games in Boston before coming home for a tilt with Philadelphia, then road games at Milwaukee and Detroit.

While some of pointed to Butler’s quote as further proof to the narrative he is a difficult teammate, I choose to view it as the opposite. Nothing has emanated from the Heat locker room about Butler being a bad teammate, and if anyone thinks blowing big lead after big lead culminating in a loss to the hapless T’Wolves is anything but soft, then well, they’re soft. Instead, I view it as more along the lines of Tim Tebow’s “Promise” which he delivered following a home loss in 2008 to Ole Miss. Afterwards, the Gators won their final eight regular season games, all by at least four touchdowns, before defeating No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oklahoma to win the national title.

Some say in life one has to hit rock bottom before realizing they need to change their actions. If losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves isn’t basketball’s equivalent to waking up freezing and destitute in a gutter, then what is? Miami (30-28) gets back to action Wednesday night with a road game in San Antonio.

Bam Adebayo Belongs in Defensive Player of the Year Discussion

The 2020-2021 NBA season is nearing its home stretch, and there’s a lot of awards talk starting to surface. The MVP race appears to be down to Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic. The Most Improved Player award is being delivered to Julius Randle’s house as we speak. The Rookie of the Year might come down to whether or not LaMelo Ball finishes out the season with a certain number of games.

However, the Defensive Player of the Year award has been quite the topic recently among the basketball zeitgeist. You can hear the passionate pleas from Jazz fans pushing for their rim protector to win once more. You can also hear the case being made for Ben Simmons by Ben Simmons. The 76ers Point Guard has said he believes the award should be his. In a recent interview, he’s even pointed out how he thinks he’s the only one in the league who can guard guys like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Those comments sure seemed to rile up Jazz fans who believe Rudy Gobert’s elite rim protection is more than enough to warrant the award. But no one in the general NBA stratosphere batted an eye, as they (and Ben Simmons) failed to realize there’s a 6’10 tall Center with a 7’3 wingspan in Miami who has been doing those things Simmons talked about. Bam Adebayo isn’t one to toot his own horn. And he isn’t one to make an extensive campaign for a regular-season award. That’s not how he’s wired, despite being as good as he is.

He’s not going to be out here doing interviews about how he can defend Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon in the same game at a high level. Adebayo lets his game do all the talking for him. It’s a far cry from the Center Miami used to employ not too long ago. And maybe that’s why Bam has been even more careful of being a team-first guy on and off the floor. He saw how Miami dealt with Hassan Whiteside’s brashness about awards and individual numbers and didn’t want to be seen as that kind of player in any way.

But I’m not Bam Adebayo, and I’m here to let you know that this 23-year-old star needs to be in the DPOY discussion of every pundit, message board, Twitter thread, and barbershop. Adebayo is a truly astonishing defensive player to watch on a nightly basis. He puts on defensive masterclasses every game. When you watch him on every possession, he does so much to muck up the opposition’s game plan. He’s the powerful wrench Erik Spoelstra can unleash to make most offenses second guess their next move.

Rudy Gobert is an elite rim protector and can deter so many people away with his presence. But it’s not like Adebayo is a slouch on that end, allowing a -6.6 DIFF% at the rim. It may not be Gobert’s -13.8 or Myles Turner’s -13.7, but it doesn’t need to be because Bam doesn’t allow guys to get to the rim in the first place. Turner and Gobert play in systems that funnel guys into the paint for them to deter. Adebayo plays in a system where he’s out on the perimeter as the first and then the last line of defense. There is no Heat defensive system without the unicorn that is Bam.

Myles Turner is an amazing rim protector, but I’ll scoff at you if you think he should be in the conversation ahead of Adebayo. Bam has to fill the role of point of attack defender while also being the rim protector. He hasn’t been able to rely on any of his guards all year, especially with Oladipo out with injury. The defensive burden he’s had to carry this season is truly remarkable.

The man blows up so much of what most teams like to do by presenting the opposition with a Rubix cube of defensive wizardry. Coaches and offenses have to find their way around the Adebayo conundrum. Recently teams have begun to use Bam’s willingness to switch against him by getting mismatches in the post. The unnecessary switches are something Bam does need to clean up, and I’m sure he will. He has the right coach and assistants for the job.

Think of how much of a First Defensive World Problem that is? The starting Center is so elite on the perimeter that teams can’t go at him with their Guards and Wings. Teams are changing the way they play to get around dealing with him. And man, how those teams hate dealing with his perimeter defense. This is a Center that held Kyrie Irving to 0-8 shooting. On the season, he’s held All-Stars like Steph Curry to 1-5 shooting, Domantas Sabonis to 2-6, LeBron James to 2-8, Giannis Antetokounmpo to 5-13, and Julius Randle to 7-22.

Lost in those statistics are the shots they don’t take because of how pesky Bam can be. They try some dribbling and basically throw in the towel because they can’t get around a mobile wall that moves laterally. Players look like they’re dribbling the air out of the ball instead of running an actual offense. Bam stands his ground like a soldier protecting his fort. Sliding his feet in a perfect defensive stance that would make any level of basketball coach proud. The sheer intimidation he gives staring at the offensive player’s soul, knowing they don’t have a plan. He feels powerful therefore rendering the opposition powerless. They’ve already lost before they can even think about the next move.

The ones who are lucky to see the rim will still be met with a fight they’ll need to win by K.O. There’s a reason his most famous playoff moment was a stunning block on Jayson Tatum. He still has the timing of a Batman villain obsessed with clocks. Don’t think treading lightly in the paint will do you any favors. Bam works so tirelessly to keep you from the rim and if you’re lucky enough to make it there, you’ll be met with his powerful presence there too.

This is only the beginning of Bam’s journey. If he doesn’t win this year, he’ll more than likely get one before it’s all said and done. Why do I feel so certain about that? Because he’s one of the hardest workers the team’s ever had. Everyone raves about his work ethic and how much he strives to get better. Any smudge in his defensive game, he’ll look to clean up with gusto. Be grateful that this tireless leader is your franchise player, Heat fans. Players like this don’t come around often, and you’ve had the privilege of seeing both Alonzo Mourning and now his rightful defensive heir.

An heir pulling triple duty as Miami’s rim protector, perimeter wrench, and intimidating help defender. Bam’s keeping your team away from the rim and away from your usual playbook. It seems as if Ben Simmons and the DPOY voters haven’t heard of Bam Adebayo: but his defensive play is all you need to hear. The Defensive Player of the Year conversation is seen as a two-horse race when there’s a thoroughbred in the stables quietly awaiting his turn.

Jimmy Butler’s Needed Boiling Point


MIAMI, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 29: Bam Adebayo #13 and Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat prior to the game against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on October 29, 2019 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

It was an ugly night of basketball once again for the Miami Heat against the last-place Minnesota Timberwolves. It was the same story Miami had seen over the past two games against the Suns and Nuggets. A decent first quarter followed by an immediate avalanche of disappointment. All the defensive habits they had built up were getting torn down brick by brick in the past few games. Those tendencies had now spilled over to a game against a much worse team than those Western Conference contenders they faced. A wrecking ball seemingly tore down what little remained.

It was all crumbling down in front of the team in so many ways. The face on Jimmy Butler throughout the game said it all. He looked around the floor for any semblance of a spark from that same flame that used to burn so bright. A flame that allowed him to entrust the team with a portion of his genius-level athletic prime that we’ve been so lucky to witness. Butler rarely ever hides his emotions on the floor. You can always catch him laying onto guys when they’re not where they’re supposed to be — but this was different. The amount of slumped shoulders from Jimmy were eye-opening. It was as though he couldn’t recognize who these guys on the floor were. He rarely needed to go Alpha Mode for them last year – another reason he adored the 2019-2020 team.

The guys he fell in love with, like Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro, aren’t rewarding him, in the same way. But there he was going Finals mode, posting a 30 point near triple-double with that same elite defense we’ve grown accustomed to. But to need that against the Timberwolves? It seemed like he was starting to realize what everyone else could see.

Those same dreary thoughts that probably occurred on the floor seemed to have made their way onto the postgame Zoom calls. And it was jarring to hear if you’ve followed Jimmy Butler’s tenure with the Heat. Jimmy’s always believed in the guys he shares the court with — but this was not the same spiel everyone had heard before. “A loss is a loss to me. We don’t deserve to win when we take these things lightly. We look bad.” These words are a far cry from the usual “we know what we’re capable of” talk that Jimmy had kept saying in previous pressers. Now you hear stuff like “we’re just being soft” because he’s tired of coddling this group, and it could not come any sooner.

He came to Miami because he knew everyone held each other accountable as much as possible. He’s putting on his Big Boy Pants and letting the team know that the leash is getting shorter than Erik Spoelstra’s on KZ Okpala. “I don’t know what team is going to show up on any given night.” Jimmy is echoing the sentiments felt by so many of the fans and, more than likely, the front office as well.

The unquestioned leader of the Heat is taking it upon himself to hold up the mirror to the rest of the group. He’s letting them know that this isn’t going to cut it. This isn’t the same team he put his faith into. The player who famously called out the very same Timberwolves they just lost to doesn’t want those same tendencies crawling their way into the Heat. He’s already dealt with that once, and he certainly doesn’t want to put on his Rolex and embarrass Tyler Herro in practice. It’s only appropriate that he also spoke after the game about wanting more from his fellow All-Star in Bam Adebayo. “I want Bam to attack the rim because nobody can stand in front of him. I like the mid-range jumper, but he lets people off the hook.” I say it’s appropriate because this came against his former teammate in Karl Anthony-Towns, who similarly frustrated him.

Jimmy sees something more in Bam, and so does the rest of the fanbase. These comments seemingly contradicted Erik Spoelstra’s earlier ones about how Bam’s offense isn’t his main issue or the number of shots he’s taking don’t matter to him. Jimmy Butler knows it’s time to unleash that lion from his cage of passing tendencies. You could almost see the Jack Nicholson nodding gifs from the Heat fans after these comments. He’s almost as tired of hearing about the aggressive comments as everyone else on Twitter seems to be.

Jimmy Butler is in “I’m done being nice” mode. He’s finally laying it out on the table. He wants his teammates to justify his love and confidence in them. If putting on some tough love is what it takes, so be it. It feels like he knows it’s a breaking point of the season. Maybe he knows that the Victor Oladipo injury might have taken the air out of the room that was starting to regain its oxygen. “I don’t know what team is going to show up on any given night,” Jimmy exclaimed at the press conference. He wants to go back to that team he knew he could count on to give their all and instill their will on opponents. He wants that team that showed up against the Trailblazers, but consistently.

Butler is finished guessing and is trying to reignite that flame that fueled them all the way to the Finals last year. He’s tired of seeing a listless, lifeless, and sometimes disjointed team on the floor. It’s not only a boiling point for Jimmy Butler but a possible turning point for the team going forward.

These aren’t “toxic” quotes of a man who’s looking to leave — these are needed musings of a frustrated superstar. Sometimes you need to delve into the messy part of yourself as a leader. He’s put the metaphorical ball in the court of his teammates; now it’s up to them to take the ball and go home or go strong to the hole. This coming month and a half will tell us what this team is made of. Maybe they hear that Victor Oladipo is on his way back and get a lift from it, as well as the Butler comments, and proceed to go on a run. Or maybe they hear he’ll be out for another 3 weeks, and they’ll crumble like a Jenga tower during an earthquake. One thing’s for sure; Jimmy’s going to do everything in his power to raise the ceiling. It’s up to everyone else to put in their end of the deal, or there might be drastic changes to the team this offseason.

Trusting the Defensive Process of Erik Spoelstra

Erik Spoelstra is a known mad scientist when it comes to the atmosphere of the NBA playoffs. He knows what the strengths of his team are and how to maximize them to their potential. Last season, we saw the team go from a drop-centric scheme throughout the regular season into a high-flying hyperactive switching group of maniacs with Jae Crowder’s insertion into the starting lineup. It’s no secret that Coach Spoelstra is a master of adapting his scheme to the roster’s strengths and weaknesses. The guy squeezed a top 10 defense out of a lineup that had no business in doing so in 2016-2017. You give Erik Spoelstra lemons, and he’s making lemonade with a 4-course meal on the side.

In his tenure with the Heat, he’s made sure to help his team build habits throughout the course of a season. Spoelstra has never worried about a singular regular-season game but about what direction the team trends in the season as a whole. He knows the goal should be to smooth out those edges so that in the playoffs, you know your identity just as well as you know the back of your hand. This then allows you to enforce your will on your opponent to the point where they’re succumbing to it. Doing all of this while still being flexible enough to make adjustments in the margins is what makes him such an outstanding coach.

Fans of the team recently had some questions about the defensive scheme they played against the Memphis Grizzlies. Everyone wondered why they continued blitzing pick and rolls with guys like Grayson Allen or Killian Tillie as the ball handler. When, in reality, the fans should have been asking why the rotations weren’t up to snuff. Or why they allowed so much dribble penetration even though limiting such action is a staple of Miami’s identity.

At that moment, it seems easy to ask, “why are they not switching to a drop coverage?” Yes, I asked similar questions, but everyone needs to take a step back for a minute and remember what coach you’re dealing with. Coach Spoelstra has only so much time left before the playoffs begin and plenty of new additions he’s looking to integrate into the system. He knows he needs to start nudging the pieces closer and closer together. The Grizzlies found the seams in the defense, and Miami wasn’t sharp on their rotations, and the team knows that. Coach Spo, after the game, stated that a lot of their open looks “weren’t scheme related.” Bam Adebayo shared similar sentiments when he said “late rotations, lock of communications” and “defensive reps” were the cause of the trouble. It’s not really something fans want to hear, but you realize just how far off the Heat were in executing their game plan when looking back at the game. The inordinate amount of dribble penetration to the lack of knowing who would be where on the weakside help.

In the play above, you can see Miami blitzing Ja, as is their game plan, but Duncan Robinson sits in No Man’s Land for the slightest second after the blitz. He relaxes for a millisecond, not really guarding anyone before realizing Jimmy has Kyle Anderson and that he needs to head over to the man in the corner. Props to Duncan for even getting a semi-contest in this spot, though. He did well enough to get out there, but this is also credit to Memphis for making the right read and keeping Miami on their heels as they did all night.

Above is an example of the rare dribble penetration allowed throughout the game. Jimmy takes a really rare bad angle on Brooks as soon as he heads towards the ball. Iguodala and Bjelica both give a semi-dig, but they’re worried about their men getting an open corner 3 or a dump-off pass. These sorts of plays happened a lot, and if it wasn’t a layup like the play above, it was a Grizzlies player collapsing the defense and forcing scrambling rotations.

It was a mess all around, but it’s a necessary one for a team who wants to make sure these sorts of things don’t happen once the playoffs come around. It’s a process, and the coaching staff knows it. They’re not trying to hunt wins – they’re trying to get ready for the primary hunt that is the playoff beast. In doing this, the team and staff hope that the wins will start stringing along as those smudges get cleaner and cleaner.

It was no surprise that in the next game against Portland, the rotations and communications were about as crisp as it gets. The team learned from their mistakes and were back to that defense everyone had grown accustomed to. Everyone was making the rotations a second faster than before, and a second in NBA game terms is a lifetime. The defense that Miami wants to run requires those rotations to be on point and you need to get as much cleaned up in the meantime as possible.

Whether it’s against Grayson Allen or Damian Lillard or Jayson Tatum in the future, the Heat knows what they need to do to reach another level. The switching style they play is going to pay dividends once the postseason starts. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler blow up so much of what the opposition wants to do already. It’ll be even better in the homestretch as Jimmy Butler continues being a better Free Saftey than prime Earl Thomas. The defense they’re playing right now will be important for their playoff success more than switching to a drop scheme for a game in the middle of a messy covid protocol-filled season. Good habits are built stronger if you don’t deviate from them, and Miami will make sure that they have those habits now so that they don’t have to do it in the middle of a playoff series.

This definitely doesn’t mean Miami won’t adjust when it comes to the playoffs. Again, Erik Spoelstra is a magician when it comes to in-series adjustments. But they need to have an identity they can rely on to help get them there. Remember when not too long ago, the fans were even questioning what exactly their identity was? They’re already in a much better place than they were not even two and a half months ago. And having a defensive identity isn’t anything new to Miami Heat teams since Erik Spoelstra took over. Since he became the Head Coach, the Heat have been top 10 in defensive rating 9 of his 13 seasons (including this year.) And 3 of those remaining seasons, they were right on edge sitting at 11th. Hell, it’s been that way going back to when Pat Riley arrived in 1995. So those messy nights may happen here and there, yes. It’ll just be up to the team to make sure they don’t happen too frequently. Ironing out the mistakes in the regular season will lead to a smoother time in the playoffs. As always, Trust the Spocess.


Marco Romo can be found at @MarcoRomo_ on Twitter


All Jimmy: The Heat’s Extreme Reliance on Butler

After one-half of this current chaotic whirlwind of an NBA “season,” the Miami Heat find themselves at 18-18. It was more of a matter of survival for Miami in the first lap around the track. They somehow pulled through and endured countless COVID and injury-related absences. Going through portions of the season playing 2-way guys major minutes and having all of their offseason signings contribute little to nothing in the process. But thanks to the East not running away from them amid the chaos, they held on and still have their sights set on homecourt in the first round. All of this thanks in large part to their alpha in Jimmy Butler. It only seemed appropriate that Butler, who survived his own Covid-related absence, would be the rope that led them out of the dark well they were stuck in. The man who came to the Heat because of its ethos and identity continues to be the engine that drives the team through every grueling mile.

How much have the Heat relied on the man they call Jimmy G Buckets? Their record with him so far sits at 14-8, which would put them near 3rd in the East. But without him, they are a measly 4-14, which puts them in the same class as the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves. Although many of those games also featured quite a few of the other important Miami teammates being out.


Still, it’s pretty apparent just how much Miami has relied upon their All-Star to make their team go. His importance can also be felt when he’s not on the floor in games he plays in, mainly on the offensive end. The team sports a 110.9 offensive rating when he’s out on the court, compared to the 104.2 they have when he sits. The difference is even more noticeable when you watch the film. Jimmy’s ability to get downhill despite defenses knowing his cruel intentions for the rim is masterful. And when that rim pressure isn’t there, the offense gets stuck with constant aimless passing around the perimeter, hoping something eventually cracks. It has definitely helped to have Goran Dragic back to be that downhill threat off the bench, but relying on an aging point guard with a million miles on him to be that guy is a dangerous game.

Miami needs to find that same identity, or at least a facsimile of it when he’s sitting and Dragic isn’t available, which is likely due to where he is in his career. Butler plays every minute with such a constant intensity that would make John Malkovich cry in his sleep. You can’t lean on him to this extent this early in the year when you expect him to take it to another level come playoff time. Not to mention that those Tom Thibodeau minutes can leave a mark on you.

Thankfully for Miami, Erik Spoelstra has monitored his minutes quite well, to the tune of 33.1 minutes a game. But in those 15 minutes and games that he’s not out there, the team can’t seem to keep that same identity. This is where Bam Adebayo comes into play. Bam, as Jimmy calls him, is the heart and soul of the Miami Heat. They need Adebayo to be that facsimile, especially in the inevitable games that Jimmy Butler will miss. Everyone and their mother knows that Bam can and should become the heir apparent to the Heat franchise and can be more than a facsimile. Hell, he’s probably that right now, and he might be the only one who doesn’t know it. Everyone knows it’s frustrating and certainly isn’t helped when Adebayo continues to end Zoom Pressers with “I need to be more aggressive.” Fans forget how painful growing pains can be until you’re experiencing them.

The Heat are a team of equal opportunity offense, but even Jimmy knows when it’s time to go into the do-it-yourself kit and give a jolt to an otherwise dead possession. Bam needs to find that kit himself and keep the team well above the tidal waves that hit them when Butler sits. It shouldn’t be a tsunami-like hit every time he goes to the bench, especially with Adebayo still being at the helm of the levees. That might be the final step the team needs to take to hit another level in the second half of the season.

I would love to see Miami run more reverse pick-and-rolls with Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, forcing the defense to react to the near 6’10 bull that handles the ball and can make the smart pass whenever the opposition reacts. It’s not that Bam can’t bend a defense without Jimmy; it’s about the opportunities and willingness to do so. Last season Bam’s on/off numbers looked a lot better to the tune of a 5.0 net rating when on the floor. But those numbers have dipped considerably down to -0.4 this year. Both due to teams scouting the Adebayo-Robinson dribble-handoffs and Bam playing plenty of games with less than ideal rosters on the floor. Those handoffs don’t have the same juice, and it’s why I implore the team and Bam to try new avenues that could propel them to greater heights. It’s frustrating for fans because they have seen Adebayo answer these questions in spurts dating back to last season’s playoffs. Hopefully, the young ever-growing jewel of the team’s eye can realize it himself soon enough.

So much of this shouldn’t be on Adebayo’s shoulders but the rest of the team as well. Everyone needs to fill those gaps in their own way. Last season Miami had 8 guys who played major minutes contribute a positive net rating, compared to this year’s 3. Plenty can be attributed to guys playing a few spots too high in the rotation leading to a less than ideal distribution of minutes. In my opinion, a trade or two might help to shore up some of these problems, but it’s also up to the guys on the floor to do their part. It doesn’t matter how they do it, but they need to find that same balance and calm that comes when a guy like Butler steps on the floor. Or at least something close to it.

Miami shouldn’t take these Jimmy minutes for granted. What he’s doing is something special and rare. The only other players to put up at least 20-7.5-7.5-1.9stls on 57% True Shooting are Michael Jordan in 1988-89 and Magic Johnson in 1980-81. Don’t let these ever fleeting seasons fly by without a proper show of appreciation. This is the player who chose to make Miami his home because he identified with so much of what they do. Now he’s the team’s entire identity on a nightly basis. Miami needs to reward him even more by echoing that identity and carrying that torch he keeps lit with his burning fury. The Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler have become synonymous with each other. To survive the second half of the season, they need to make sure the relationship is more symbiotic than codependent. Jimmy won’t let this team down, and it’s up to them to do the same for him.


Marco Romo will be found on Twitter again soon. We promise.


The Heat Bringing the Jazz Down: Time to Get Back on Board

The Miami Heat is finally back, right?

Beating the best team in the NBA, the Utah Jazz, should be enough for those who have been doubting this team since the beginning of the season.

A team that didn’t have a great preseason (no team did, but still), that brought several pieces that couldn’t fit, and that had to face several games without starters or key subs because of COVID-19 related issues.

All of that, plus an apparent lack of enthusiasm or coordination at some points of the season, led to a frenzy on #HeatTwitter or all social media outlets in which fans discuss the Heat.

The Heat was in a dark place. We can’t deny that. They were seven games under .500 at some point (7-14), and it looked like the only way to relive it was to trade somebody, or something.

Jimmy Butler took over and since he’s been back, the team looks different.

However, not even Butler himself would say this version of the Miami Heat is similar to the one that was two wins away from a championship months ago.


Kendrick Nunn has also gone back to what we saw during the regular season last year, and that has made that we barely notice the absences of Dragic and Herro.

Some people may forget, but the Heat is still missing pieces. I don’t even remember the last time Spoelstra had the entire roster available, or if that has ever happened in this 2020-2021 season at all.

That’s why I was suprised when the team was getting bombarded by their own fans, and even some of our own guys here in the Five Reasons Sports Network lost a little bit of their guts (you know who they are).

Here’s a good podcast you should listen, on assessing the adversity narrative.

The beautiful thing about sports is that everything can change rapidly. I personally have never asked for a trade, but I did think the team needed to adjust several aspects of their game.

No team is perfect, and it is just not that easy to get rid of Kelly Olynyk, Chris Silva and Max Struss to get James Harden or a similar star in return.

Some people pulled the trigger too early on this team, or as Bam Adebayo said right after beating the team with the best record in the league, too many counted the Heat out, when there was a lot to play left.

It’s ok, though. The reality is that the team is still playing under .500 (16-17), and it’s not where it should be, so you’re on time to jump back on board.

The second part of the schedule is out, and the Heat should do better (it’s not that hard if the team is healthy and playing the way they’ve been playing, anyway).

They’re in fifth right now, because the East is better this season, but it’s really not, and even the third place doesn’t look that far away for a team that was in the middle a “crisis” just weeks ago.

Enjoy the rest of the season, and thank you for the support that you’ve been showing us in all of our platforms. We’re growing thanks to all of you, and we’ll keep grinding and getting better, for you.

In case you missed it, you should check out the Miami Heat – Utah Jazz postgame show…


By Alejandro Villegas | @Alejandrovg32 on Twitter

Should the Heat be content with the West Coast trip?

The Miami Heat finished their west coast trip with four wins in seven games and will be coming back to south Florida in a similar situation to the one they were when they left.

Still three games under .500, and still very close to the top four spots in the Eastern Conference.

After Monday night’s win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Heat is only two games from the fourth-place Pacers (tied with the Raptors), and four games behind the Milwaukee Bucks, in third.

Looking back to it, I think we all though a 4-3 overall result would be great, given the circumstances the team was facing at the moment.

The Heat had lost to the Hornets and the Wizards, and barely beat Ethan Skolnick and Ricky J. Mark beloved Knicks in a couple of close games before leaving to face Houston.

As you can see, since James Harden left, that team has just sunk, and that was the perfect opponent for the Heat to start this adventure.

After that Houston team, it was time for the Heat to face the best team of the moment, the Utah Jazz, and it was clear that once they got going, this version of the Heat had no shot at them, so we probably went to bed that night knowing that it was just not meant to be against that opponent (If they were to meet in the playoffs in some sort of crazy scenario, I would take the Heat anyway).

What happened after was just the perfect example of what this season has been for this Heat team. Miami lost to a really depleted Los Angeles Clippers (not the barely depleted Lakers that ESPN likes to portray), and then blew a very solid lead against the Golden State Warriors, who didn’t have Draymond Green available, in one of the worst nights I’ve seen from a superstar like Steph Curry.

Just like that, the Heat was in another losing streak, but this time, with almost everybody back. At this point, and with hundreds of people asking for trades desperately on Heat Twitter, as they do all the time, anyway, regardless of what happens.

Being 1-3 in the trip, after those bad losses against the Clippers and Warriors, and knowing LeBron was waiting for them on Saturday, it seemed impossible that this trip would end up on a positive note.

With the Lakers on the horizon, the Heat defeated the Kings in another “must-win” even game against a lower quality opponent (the Heat struggled even more at home against them), and headed to Los Angeles again for a rematch of the 2020 NBA Finals.

Jimmy Butler has a positive record against LeBron James. We all know what happens when the real games come around, but somehow, and thanks in part to a great defensive game by Bam Adebayo, the Heat held up to upset the Lakers, who are now in the middle of a minicrisis, in case you haven’t watched ESPN lately, after losing to the Brooklyn Nets, the Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards in a row.

It also happens to the best teams in the league…

Closing out the trip with a solid (ish) win

Facing Oklahoma City with the opportunity to finish the west coast trip meant the Heat had to ended up on a positive vibe.

We know the Heat plays down to opponents, even though Oklahoma had a better record than the Heat. The team struggled in the first half, missed shots that should not miss, and were hanging around up to the fourth quarter, when they finally got away.

First solid win in a couple of weeks (or months!?), and a 4-3 record, that we would have taken before it all started, but that seeing what went on, looks like it was not enough.

This trip could have ended up with five or six wins for the Heat, and the team would be a little closer to the actual spot they should be in.

I would say they might be satisfied with a winning record on the road (just talking about this particular trip. The Heat is actually 7-10 on the road this season), but I feel like they should not be content.

This trip meant a lot to the team in a matter of getting closer to each other, as Erik Spoelstra pointed out in one of his press conferences, but it could have been better.

Like everything in this season so far for the Heat (maybe exaggerating a little bit). It could all be better…


By Alejandro Villegas | @Alejandrovg32 on Twitter 

A streak to start believing again

A winning streak. Finally…

The Miami Heat has really struggled this season. On Tuesday night, against the Knicks, it wasn’t different.

Jimmy Butler is back, is his best version, aggressive, leading the team, and on Tuesday, it was him all over again. A +25 that almost ended up in a loss, believe it or not.

That’s how bad the second unit was at some point.

The Heat has finally found a way to win consecutive games, something they’ve really struggled with this season, and ended up tied for the ninth place in the East, just one game behind the Raptors, eight place, one and a half from the sixth-place Hornets and two games away from the Pacers, in fifth.

Not that bad, considering they lost games against the Wizards, those same Hornets, and the Pistons, that should’ve been wins.

At this point, Miami should already be in the top four of the Eastern Conference.

However, after 24 games in, the team is playing way below .500, with only 10 wins.

Trade everybody, get a whale

How many times have we read this in the past month?

And I get it. Heat fans are desperate from watching a team that seems to be lost, and very far away from that one that made them feel so happy just few of months ago.

Trading for another player is not necessarily what this team needs. I get it if they do it, but looking at the circumstances they’ve been facing, with a tough schedule, injuries and COVID-related absences, I wouldn’t get to crazy with a team that is just three games away from the third place in the East.

I know fans were tired of some moral victories, like those games they almost won against the Sixers, Nets and Celtics. But taking a look at it, that’s how close the Heat has been to change the narrative.

There are five or six games that could’ve gone the Heat’s way, and nobody would be talking about trades. That’s the reality of it.

It’s not only about the winning streak, or the losing streak they had. It’s about those games they only won or the ones they should’ve won.

That’s the difference in the narrative.

Olynyk, Nunn & Herro stepping up

Duncan Robinson struggled once again, going 0 for 5 from the three-point line. And guess who came to save the day?

Kelly Olynyk. That same guy that frustrates a lot of fans, I would say, more often than not. 6 for 8 from threes, and second only behind Jimmy Butler in points, with 20.

At some point, it was him and Kendrick Nunn leading the way to come back from a double-digit deficit in the second quarter.

Later, Tyler Herro redeemed himself with a couple of baskets and a clutch three in the last minutes of the game. All of these, signs of a team that seems to be finding their way.

A path to a winning streak that could lead to fans believing in this team once again.

We’re still waiting to see Bam Adebayo back in a more aggressive mentality, but he keeps finding the way to almost score 20 every game.

There are a lot of things this team can do better. Hopefully this is just the beginning of them figuring everything out, and the beginning of many winning streaks…

Check the latest episode of Five on the Floor:


By Alejandro Villegas | @Alejandrovg32 on Twitter 

The Current State of Frustration Surrounding the Miami Heat

Miami has now hit the 20 game mark of a 72 game season, which is when most teams would normally have an idea of what they are. For the Heat, that hasn’t been the case for reasons out of their hands. But things aren’t as simple as merely blaming COVID protocols. Questions and frustrations are starting to add up at a rate that can’t be ignored. And now they find themselves at 7-13 and tied for 11th in the East in this bizarre NBA season.

*record scratch* *freeze frame* Yup, that’s the Miami Heat. You’re probably wondering how they ended up in this situation. For starters, the team has had 14 different starting lineups already, and Jimmy Butler has played only 8 games. They’ve had to play Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Chris Silva more minutes than anyone should feel comfortable with. It’s not even that they’re getting minutes, but that they’ve been relied upon to do more than what they’re capable of in their prolonged stints. That’s been the tip of the iceberg that continues to threaten to sink the Miami Heat season. But the time for excuses has seemingly run its course on the fanbase. No longer does anyone want to hear about “getting everyone back” and seeing what you have. The very same glaring holes the team had coming into the season are still there. The same holes you had even before a game that should never have happened in D.C. started a protocol tailspin into sports hell.

“What you have” is a defense that is still struggling to contain dribble penetration and giving up 3s at an almost historical rate. Not to forget the turnover and rebounding problems that have lingered and stuck around like an unwelcome houseguest. Losing to the Magic and squeaking by teams like the Wizards, Hornets, and Kings on a nightly basis isn’t going to calm anyone’s worries. That very first game of the season against the Orlando Magic was a precursor of things to come. A game where they had everyone on hand yet allowed 113 points and gave away the ball like a Panda Express employee giving free samples at the mall. That game showed the flaws that are still apparent to this day.

While it’s true that the team has been hit hard by COVID protocols, it shouldn’t blind people to the fact that they aren’t good enough as is. They haven’t proven it in their limited time out there. Even going back to last season, the team was at .500 when the calendar flipped to 2020. It was until the team finally answered their questions at the Power Forward position and started a reinvigorated Goran Dragic when they reached its best and most cohesive form. A form that found the perfect balance of defense and offense they wanted all along. That form eludes them now, as both the team and fans clamor to fill those very same gaps that they had filled before. They didn’t answer those questions in the offseason as they struck out on every free agent power forward that would help their current situation. They were hamstrung by wanting to leave space for the 2021 offseason, which was supposed to have some major stars available. But now that all those stars are off the table, it makes it all the more frustrating that you were left with an empty plate. A plate that includes a generous portion of Moe Harkless that hasn’t filled up a starving appetite.

So you can understand the frustration being shared amongst everyone involved as time runs out in a shortened season filled with so many uncertainties. They just saw you go to the Finals and come within 2 wins of another title. Please don’t blame them for having even just an ounce of expectations for you. The organization itself knows competing for a title is first on their mind, especially after their comments that spoke of owing it to Jimmy Butler to win now. So why shouldn’t fans feel the same way? They’ve seen what a championship-contending team looks like — and what they see out there is a team in desperate need of a tune-up.

There’s a certain point where a never-ending avalanche of questions overwhelms you as you continue to struggle for answers. You can’t find yourself staring at a 9-15 record before a 7 game west coast road trip is at your doorstep. And that’s what everyone is afraid will happen unless things change in the immediate future. There is a genuine and terrifying chance that things could get even worse soon. You want to hopefully get the ship somewhat afloat before the sinking can even begin. You can imagine just how frustrated the actual players must be. They want to win as desperately as any Miami Heat team before them. But the answers are more than likely not on the team, which could be tough to swallow for them as they’ve grown so close together. The timelines of some of the player might not line up with where the Heat want to be. It’s why you see so many people clamoring for a trade. The answer could lie in a move similar to the Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala trade of last season. It might have to be even more moves than that, to be honest.

Are you willing to wait until the trade deadline to possibly find that answer? You might be too late at that point, which adds even more throbbing to the headache. Make no mistake about it; if the team wins a few more in a row in the current “soft part” of their schedule, many of the same questions will still be there. It will just be a nice bandaid to a hemorrhaging patient. You’ll still need the tourniquet and sever what isn’t working. Most of the time, it feels like people want a trade just for the sake of a transaction, but this team is in genuine need of a change-up. Maybe it’s for the long-desired PJ Tucker along with Victor Oladipo? Or even a guy like Otto Porter Jr or Thaddeus Young, along with a swing at Lonzo Ball, might help. At this point, it’s just about who, not when—someone to spark that same magic and fill those gaps that you got at last year’s deadline.

Hopefully, things will get better soon, but you can’t simply hope. There will need to be some action. Whether that’s improved play on the court or a move that’ll reignite everyone, it needs to come soon. Time is ticking on not only this season but for the clocks of Jimmy Butler’s best years and Goran Dragic’s waning career. The frustration around this year will soon either be put to a stop by the team, or it’ll boil over into a wasted year that no one wants. Hopefully, the team and organization soon figure out how to stop the dam from breaking before the drowning starts.


Marco Romo (@Marco_Romo) is a new contributor to Five Reasons Sports Network.


Duncan Robinson’s Quiet Defensive Improvement

The story of the NBA’s prototypical sharpshooter has been as predictable as the plot of a Hallmark Movie. The sniper of 3 point shots takes the league by storm, teams start game planning, and the player eventually gets figured out to a point, thus making them less valuable. The shooter is more than likely a bad defender and leads to the downfall of their minutes and effectiveness. It’s up to Duncan Robinson and the Miami Heat to figure out how to rewrite the script and keep their once-in-a-lifetime shooter on the floor as much as possible. So far this season, they’re off to a promising start.


Duncan Robinson is not your ordinary NBA sharpshooter. He might be the best non-Steph Curry shooter lacing them up today. He bends and shifts defenses to his whim, creating chaos in his path. One second the defender will think he’s bottled up, only to be foiled by an improvised dribble handoff with his right-hand man Bam Adebayo. He’s relentless in his pursuit of getting a shot off, and if the defense relaxes, even for a second, it’s already too late. Miami relies so much on this to make its offense the well-oiled machine that it can be at its peak. It’s why improving his defense and keeping him on the court as much as possible is vital for the team to reach another level.


Last season Miami found itself choosing between keeping him on the court late in games or bringing in someone else for defensive purposes. Duncan would get hunted by the opposing team, knowing they could take advantage and play him off the court. They wanted to get rid of the headache he was causing on the other end by any means necessary. The aspirin they were looking for turned out to be a constant barrage of pick and rolls Robinson’s way. However, this season there hasn’t been as much noise concerning the sniper’s availability late in games. Duncan seems to be getting the grasp of all the small things on defense, and he’s being rewarded with the trust late in games that alluded him last year. 


Watching him on the court and you can see a stark difference in how he’s paying attention to detail and not allowing mistakes to compound themselves. One of his most significant shortcomings last year was how prone he was to fouling so much. Those were the mistakes he kept allowing to build until Coach Spoelstra was forced to show him to the bench. He’s become careful, but not to a point where he’s actively disappearing on defensive possessions. So far this year, he’s averaging 1.8 fouls through the first 15 games, as opposed to last year when he averaged 2.6 per game. That may not seem like much on the surface, but the difference during a game is palpable when you don’t have to sit after picking up two quick fouls. He has made sure to avoid getting his golden arm caught in the cookie jar. He’s not picking up cheap fouls as he was so prone to doing last year. He’s now trusting that his size will be enough to bother the opposing players. Diving deeper into the numbers, Duncan has only had two games of 3 or more fouls.


Compare that to the six such instances he had through his first 15 games last season. The three penalty mark is where things get sketchy for players, and not only do their minutes get in trouble, but their defense suffers, as well. The player becomes more tentative to be physical, and an edge is lost. Duncan has managed to avoid these pitfalls so far, and Miami has gotten to enjoy his elite offensive presence late in games because of it. While it hasn’t resulted in much success, there’s no denying it won’t hurt once the team is back to somewhat full strength. It’s something that can’t be taken lightly, considering just how much good havoc he creates. That kind of chaos could create a much-needed bucket for the team as the game begins to bog down.


Duncan’s continued to grow even as a team defender.  He’s become visibly more vocal, calling out teammates when they’re not where they’re supposed to be. He was essentially a rookie last year, but now he knows he’s a veteran leader on the team. The reluctance he carried has left his shoulder and, in turn, boosted his presence on defense. Learning from mistakes is a growing pain, and now he’s enjoying teaching those same lessons to the younger and new guys. He’s hedging even harder on screen and rolls, avoiding an easy switch that the defense wants to bait the team into eventually. He’s digging on post-ups and recovering to shooters under control. It’s such a vast difference to the wild closeouts last season that he’d resort to as he helped too far off on the dig. 


The lineup numbers bear these improvements out as well. Duncan is part of 5 of the top 10 best defensive rating two-man lineups with at least 100 minutes played. What’s most surprising is how the second guy next to Duncan in these duos doesn’t include Bam Adebayo, the team’s defensive anchor. Expanding this even further, he’s also a part of 3 of the top 5 three-man defensive lineups with at least 50 minutes played, including being in the top-ranked one featuring Avery Bradley and Goran Dragic that boasts an 87.2 rating. On/off-wise, the team has its second best defensive rating of 108.8 (among those with at least 200 minutes played) with him out there. And even if single-player defensive stats aren’t your thing, it’s still worth mentioning. And it’s very evident when watching the games as well. I haven’t found myself uttering “ugh Duncan” under my breath so much this year. It’s a good sign that the amount of yelling being directed his way on Twitter has mostly been for wanting him to shoot more. It’s been apparent that the team hasn’t been bleeding points because of him specifically. The mistakes have cleaned up to where it’s nearly negligible.


Miami will continue working with Duncan on his defense, and he’ll continue to get better from game to game. He’s always had the work ethic to get better on that end. After all, we’re talking about a kid who made it to the NBA from a D-III college. The effort is half the battle on defense, and with his unquenched thirst for improvement, he’s well on his way.


You can tell he wants to be out there late in games with his teammates. He doesn’t want to be just another “shooter” like JJ Redick or Wayne Ellington that gets played off the floor as soon as playoff teams start hunting them out. Those guys didn’t have a near 6’9 foot frame and 7’1 wingspan to help them out. Those are the same qualities that made him such a unique shooter, to begin with. He’ll find a way to incorporate that unwavering motor, footwork, and impeccable balance he has on offense into his defense. Look at Jim Carrey, he was a great comedic actor in his prime, but he didn’t let that stop him from showing off his dramatic chops from time to time. Duncan needs to find his ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ or ‘The Truman Show’ to go along with his ‘Ace Ventura’, aka his 3 point stroke. Sure, we know how legendarily amazing you are at one aspect, but immense acclaim will come your way when you can be versatile. He doesn’t need to be Daniel Day-Lewis or Leonardo DiCaprio, but he needs to make sure he isn’t Rob Schneider, pigeonholed and typecast the rest of his career.


I don’t expect Duncan to become Robert Covington or Josh Richardson, and neither should anyone else. He’ll make sure not to be just another sharpshooter but a once-in-a-lifetime offensive weapon with more than capable defense. Duncan will show you he can do ‘Man on the Moon’ but won’t let you forget what got him to where he is. He’s changing the narrative one shot and rotation at a time.


Marco Romo (@Marco_Romo) is a new regular contributor to Five Reasons Sports Network and the Five Reasons Sports YouTube Channel.