A Note to Miami Heat fans: Dream Bigger

In the words of Daffy Duck from the original Space Jam movie: It’s gut check time.

 

As the initial euphoria of the Heat making it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014 begins to wear off, some basketball fans have already conceded an unceremonious exit for Miami. Pundits alike have also already crowned an NBA champion before Game 1.

 

National media and the general public have all but buried the Heat in this series against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Some media members who host daily shows on two major sports networks fail to even mention the Heat as a participant in the Finals altogether. It’s almost like they would have preferred any of the Heat’s previous two opponents in this position instead. Maybe to show another story about Jayson Tatum’s son because we were all excited for him to have more camera time than Jimmy Butler during game 6.

 

This is to be expected from them. Their opinions mean nothing. They aren’t a part of the culture. They weren’t here for 11-30 or 30-11. They weren’t here for the Justice Winslow vs. Devin Booker war. They weren’t here for J-Rich as your top scoring option. They weren’t here for Okaro White, Luke Babbitt, Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Wilie Reed, tri-captain James Johnson, Dion Waiter and Hassan Whiteside. My God, Hassan Whiteside. THEY WEREN’T HERE. Nothing against those players mentioned. All of them played hard for this team and moved us one step closer to where we are today. Well, almost all of them. But we didn’t expect love from the media then and we shouldn’t expect it now.

 

But I do have one question for the members of Heat Nation that are just happy to be here and only want to make the series competitive: How dare you? 

 

No self-respecting cultureholic should be thinking that Miami came to the Finals and will leave satisfied with just an appearance. That’s not how this work. The Heat compete for championships every year – that’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. Miami didn’t show up to the bubble to be the final chapter in LeBron’s bubble coronation. They showed up to sweep the seeding game’s MVP TJ Warren, make the league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo accept his award from home and to send Gordon Hayward back home to his newborn to be a family man. They showed up to win a championship. They came to win “it”. 

 

Pat Riley is famously quoted as saying “There is winning and there is misery.” We have experienced misery with this organization over the past few seasons. Some grew to expect it. They believed Zach Lowe’s prediction that Miami had the bleakest future in the league. Other believed in the organization, in Riley, in Spo. Those fans are being rewarded with another conference title and another shot to win it all. We deserve to be here and we’ve earned our spot in the dance. This roster has fought tooth and nail for our respect, and we owe them nothing less than to all in on them being champions of the basketball world.

 

So, to all of the people who don’t believe Miami has a chance in this series, bring your stars. Bring your storylines. Bring your refs. Bring your hate. Bring your doubt. And oh yea, bring you King. Throw the ball up and play. Because at the end of the day, Miami is still the Hardest Working, Best Conditioned, Most Professional, Unselfish, Toughest, Meanest, Nastiest Team in the NBA. And some of you better not forget it.

 

Heat in 7.

 

Royal Shepherd (@RoyalAShepherd) has written for several major newspapers, including the Tallahassee Democrat and the Augusta Chronicle, and now contributes to Five Reasons Sports.

Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro: A Young Man’s League

When the Miami Heat advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals to play the Boston Celtics, it was said that it was Jimmy Butler’s time to take control of the team.

And well, that’s exactly what Bam Adebayo did.

Jimmy basically gave Bam the keys to the team in this series, telling him to do what he does best, which is win.

One game-winning block and one game-winning closeout performance further proved he was capable.

The national media began to pick up more on Bam Adebayo’s impact after his block on a Jayson Tatum dunk attempt, but after his series sealing performace with 32/14/5, it put the whole league on notice. He’s made huge strides all season long, showcasing his will and winning mentality, but ultimately showing that he is the textbook definition of a Miami Heat guy.

The accountability that he took after game five’s loss was the cherry on top when referring to a Miami Heat guy. He took the blame for the loss as a whole, and said he will need to be better. Jimmy Butler, Erik Spoelstra, and the rest of the team totally disagreed, saying it’s on everyone.

But after those comments, Bam came out with a purpose in game six, proving he can be an offensive anchor when need be. His ability to draw fouls and attack is obvious, but when that mid-range jumper started to drop, it proved that Bam can be a scary force in this league for many years to come.

And now to Tyler Herro.

It goes without saying that he’s been absolutely sensational in this playoff run. A 20 year old, taking the offensive load with the season on the line. But he doesn’t know how to play any other way.

He’s not a guy that will sit in the corner during big moments, he’d rather get the ball at the top of the key and take a contested step back to be the spark.

And that’s exactly what Tyler did in game six.

The team began to grow cold at the beginning of the fourth quarter. And when that’s the case, find your rookie Tyler Herro.

He scored five straight point, which was actually the most important stretch of the game.

And don’t forget about Tyler’s game four explosion, scoring 37 points.

Let me just say this, that isn’t normal.

But for Tyler Herro, it’s just another day.

Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are just further proving that the future is very bright in Miami.

Two Kentucky Wildcats.

Two dogs with a winning mentality.

Two Heat-Lifers.

 

Brady Hawk (@BradyHawk305) contributes to the Five on the Floor platforms

Savor this Moment, Miami Heat Fans

I’m over the moon as I type this. And I admit, I started this piece at the commencement of Game 5 and had to hold on to it since. There were even moments tonight where I thought that I would have to hang onto it for another couple days.

 

But I write this not because the Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals. It feels surreal to see that typed on my screen. We beat a team in the Boston Celtics that many national folks had penciled in as representing the Eastern Conference against the West. Best of all, we beat perennial Heat hater Paul Pierce. That is most certainly the cherry on top, the extra clams in my chowdah.

 

I write this not because this team has exceeded all of our expectations (the second round of the playoffs was universally regarded as their ceiling). This was supposed to be the table-setting year for when we would be cap flexible in 2021 (check), working on raising the skill level of our young players (check), and showing all free agents and interested superstars contractually bound but not really contractually bound (wink, wink) that this is an organization to be a part of. 

 

Let me just add, “Opa!”

 

But I am going to take a pause on all of this celebration because the Five On The Floor podcast will do all the breaking down and celebrating. Readers please make sure you check it out.

 

Truthfully, I write this for a different reason. I want to focus on appreciation.

 

Regardless of the outcome of this unique season, don’t just savor this run, Heat fans. We need to savor and appreciate this entire organization. It is the organization’s collective will, spirit, and mindset that has the Miami Heat relevant and compelling. I’ll be plain: this goes way beyond getting the right players and drawing up the right plays.

 

When the national media and various pundits scoff at “culture”, we embrace it. Dudes, it is a thing! The whole We-Aren’t-For-Everybody-And-Everybody-Isn’t-For-Us attitude gives us a swagger but ultimately it’s a credo that really should be etched in the hardwood of the practice gym because it speaks truth. It sets a bar and an expectation right from the jump. It’s a way to weed out those who just aren’t cut from this red and black cloth.

 

I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid since 1988 and been doing Kool-Aid keg-stands since 1995. Since Pat Riley landed Alonzo Mourning I have pledged absolute fealty to the Armani-clad Don. Let’s not lose sight of what the appropriately named Winner Within has created here from the front office to the players and everything in between. 

This front office has managed to both acquire and jettison players and contracts thought to be unattainable and universally accepted as indisposable, respectively. I touched on some of it in a previous post I wrote. 

 

I half-heartedly joke when I say that Riley should do a Masterclass seminar of some kind but wouldn’t you pay to watch it?

 

So why am I feeling this way? Other than as a father who is able to enjoy watching a championship run with his son, I have my own personal history driving me. 

 

I have been a fan of the Miami Dolphins since 1983. I grew up on Dan Marino. He was everything.

 

Despite his greatness, I took him for granted. I started whining about the lack of a running game or the lack of a defense or the lack of a running game and a defense. For many years the Dolphins were in Super Bowl conversations and Marino made magic and yet each season ended without hoisting a Super Bowl trophy. 

 

Like many Dolphins fans, I would be apoplectic after each loss. Sure we had winning seasons. Yes, we would be one of a small handful of teams who made the playoffs. Not many would reach a conference championship game. But it was insatiable and I could be insufferable. We had Dan Marino while others had something called a Billy Joe Tolliver and yet I was blind to it.

 

It wasn’t until Marino retired in 1999 and the Dolphins since that time churned through more quarterbacks in the starting position than cabinet members in the current administration’s White House did I appreciate what no. 13 actually brought. He brought stability. 

 

We never had to worry about the quarterback position and with Tua Tagovailoa on board we will hopefully never have to for the foreseeable future.

 

Heat fans, we cannot let the same happen with this organization and take them for granted. Let’s take a pause from our frenzied celebration to toast this Miami Heat culture, this Miami Heat organization. Let us savor what we have in front of us. Let us recognize that we are blessed to not be the Kings, Hawks, or Hornets. Let’s even take an extended knee, look skyward, and thank someone upstairs that we are not the Knicks.

 

This organization from top to bottom has us poised to consistently contend and be in many meetings with top tier free agents. We are one of a handful of teams whose calls get answered and who get invited into the exclusive after party. Yes, we will have some off years. But hey, Robert De Niro is a phenomenal actor but when he said, “Yes” to the live adaptation of The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, did that take any shine off of Taxi Driver or Goodfellas? That’s a resounding, “No”. 

 

So yeah, I’ll take our batting average as well.

 

We have found a formula that starts at the top and spreads throughout. Those aforementioned teams have been testing recipes for years and they still can’t get it right. They see a cavalcade of people sitting in front office positions or leading the players from the bench and nothing has changed. Us? We can take a down year or two because we know that around the corner and just beyond the horizon we’ll be back in the game. We take one step back but then several leaps forward.

 

There will be a time when Riley sets off into retirement. That day is inevitable. But I take solace knowing that this well-oiled machine has been succession planning for years. I know this because any great business or organization has a succession plan, has groomed those who are next in line, and has game-planned for every possible scenario. That’s what great organizations do. The Miami Heat are that great organization.

 

Fandom is such that we will often focus on how a ball failed to bounce our way, what horrible call was made or missed, or what untimely injury befell and derailed a promising season. Or we will use our own sport intelligence to dissect a game and second-guess coaching. This will never go away. In fact, I’m betting that the emotions on Heat Twitter will be swinging wildly! Heat fans, let’s not be us.

 

Success can be fleeting. It can go as quickly as it came. But with this team, this culture, and this organization, the great times eclipse the lean times such as the post-Shaq, pre-LeBron period. I’m sure we will have many more of those during our lifetimes. As I said previously, I’ll put my money on this Miami Heat culture.

 

After all, the Miami Heat are the hardest working, best conditioned, most professional, unselfish, toughest, meanest, nastiest team in the NBA.

A Night of Magic in the Magic City

Sometimes life is unfair. You do the things the right way, put your best foot forward, and it doesn’t go your way.

And sometimes you get exactly what you deserve.

Miami 52, Florida State 10.

And the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. A result like this does cause me to pause and think of those schools less fortunate than us. I think often, in these trying times as a country, about this quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

And there is no doubt that FSU has little, oh so little, at this point. So, as a humanitarian, I am a bit conflicted. Conflicted about whether to laugh hysterically in Florida State’s face for the abhorrent performance and program trajectory OR whether to celebrate the glorious performance by Miami. So I’ve decided to do both.

Bobby Bowden Ain’t Walking Through that Door…

…and if he could, he’d do a Grandpa Simpson.

via GIPHY

Glee does not begin to describe my level of euphoria at the complete meltdown in Tallahassee.

Whatever you think about Willie Taggart’s ultimate coaching ability, he got a short leash. And you know how we know this? FSU fans told us! How FSU arrived here is a worth recounting, because we can rejoice in years long incompetence enabled by shifting excuses and justifications from FSU fans. Let’s humor this nonsense.

We were told that it was a good thing that Jimbo Fisher went to College Station because he had so torched the football program that the best thing is for a National Championship winning coach to leave.

Okay, fair enough. That would mean that his successor had a major rebuild. And no, Willie Taggart going 9-12 is not acceptable, but is it fireable, in the middle of the 2nd season? You don’t even let him finish the season.

Okay, fair enough. You fired him because you had a coach waiting in the wings, a true genius of the game. A can’t miss coach. And then you hired this guy…

And it took less than an offseason for Norvell to exaggerate his response to social injustice and have his best player call him out for it.

That this program walked into Miami having already lost to a really bad Georgia Tech team (who has, since then, lost 2 games by a combined 45 points), with a coach in quarantine having tested positive for COVID-19, is not actually that surprising. That they still didn’t realize how bad they were makes the victory even sweeter:

The only reason you can’t tell that Miami wasn’t playing the Little Sister’s of the Poor is that the Little Sister’s wouldn’t grab that many face masks and the Little Sister’s would know not to throw this pass:

With the Canes setting a record for points in the rivalry, people keep bringing up FSU’s 47-0 win in 1997, the last time the game was a complete mismatch like this. At that time, Miami was at the depths of probation. Down 30 scholarships. FSU was one of the best teams in the country. FSU finished the 1997 season 11-1 and ranked #3. They also played in the National Championship Game in 1996, 1998, and 1999, winning the last one. 1997 was FSU at their height and Miami saddled with historic sanctions.

That is not the case now. FSU is just awful inside-out, and has been trending this direction for years. Maybe Norvell will turn it around. Maybe next year, in Tallahassee, FSU will win this rivalry game.

But they reveled in the Al Golden Era and the subsequent fallout, an era placated by the Miami Athletic Department repeatedly doubling down on stupid. Bottom rail on top now.

Manuel Alberto Diaz II

While Norvell was fabricating stories about his response to the social injustice protests, Manny Diaz was on the trail. Yes, he was on the recruiting trail, where he has been dominating and stocking Miami’s cupboards. But he was also marching on the social justice trail:

And yes, you can be cynical about these things. But I’ll trust what Greg Rousseau told 247 Sports:

“It was great to see him do that. You see like other coaches around football, they say nothing when that happened, they are hiding, but now with that the season in jeopardy, they are like, ‘Oh I love my kids, I want these kids need to play.’ But a lot of it isn’t not genuine around the country. Some of the SEC schools, it’s really just all about money. But I feel like Coach Diaz really cares about us, like 100 percent. He’s a great dude and he’s always supportive. Even for me when I told him my decision [about opting out] he wasn’t one of those coaches that was like, ‘Oh you’re going to be a third-round pick if you leave.’ He didn’t try to lie to me or anything. Of course I don’t know if I’m going to be a first-round pick, but at least he shot me straight … He’s a class act and a really great guy.”

Ultimately, this sort of thing should matter. And maybe it does. Of course, if Diaz keeps doing things like losing to FIU, he won’t be long for this job. But maybe players want to play for someone genuine, believeable, and in their corner. Maybe you can draw a direct line from Diaz caring about players to recruits wanting to play for him.

Diaz arrived at the Florida State game at the peak of his short tenure. Last year started with 2 losses, and even after getting to 6-4, 6-4 is still 6-4. This time, they came in 2-0, with a road win against a ranked team in their pocket already. College Gameday was covering the Canes’ game for the second week in a row. FSU was terrible. Clemson was next.

This was the game the Canes had either been losing or at least playing terribly in for more than a decade. This helps explain the odd build up to the game. The pandemic certainly played a major role in that. A normal day of celebration and festivities reduced to the immediacy of the game itself.

But even from a football angle this game was viewed, on paper, as a Top 15 program that is growing into the season against a team without their head coach on the sideline that had just lost at home to one of the worst teams in the conference. This looked like a mismatch. And yet, we struggled to believe it, primarily for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s a rivalry game.
  2. FSU still has athletes to match Miami.
  3. Miami has spent 15 years not playing up to their abilities on a consistent basis.

All 3 of those “reasons” became clearly not applicable a few minutes into the game.

This was a different Miami. Executing on 3rd downs, precise, foot on the gas. This was Manny Diaz’s Miami, the unwavering violence he delivered to the defense 4 years ago now on display on both sides of the field. That negated any rivalry aspect to the game. And FSU clearly did not have the players to match Miami.

I don’t think we fully realized the gap between these 2 teams coming in, but we could sure see it a few minutes into the game. Diaz’s staff having cohesion that was absent last year. Mike Norvell watching from his couch, his acting head coach Chris Thomsen spending the entire game wearing his mask as a chinstrap in an apparent tribute to the team going through the motions but not doing anything with a chance of success.

Miami was better in every facet of the game. They played to their potential, and that was enough to dominate Florida State.

Maybe Diaz will ultimately be unsuccessful. Maybe he will fail at Miami. But as a program, we’ve been through a really dark stretch. So we should revel in Diaz’s masterpiece.

You Reap What You Sow

Whatever ultimately happens here, this result was deserved. Manny Diaz overhauled his entire coaching approach and it paid off. He could have gone the Al Golden route and stuck to his guns. He didn’t.

He put in the work, and the results were on display on Saturday Night. Diaz brought a team in that had every reason to come in with a big head and find themselves in a close game. Instead, they listened to Joaquin.

Meanwhile, FSU came in in shambles, absent a head coach, and somehow left in worse shape.

The bye week will afford Canes fans an opportunity to revel in this. And they should. You don’t often beat your rival like this, and future success is never guaranteed. It was fun. It’s a game they can put on and watch over and over again, for years to come. And they can do that with the knowledge that this is not a one off, not an isolated game, but as part of a larger string of games where the Canes have looked and played like a Top 10 team, something they now are.

But the not so shocking thing that managed to shock us is that any other result, anything other than a complete Miami blowout, would have been unjust.

Sometimes life is unfair. You do the things the right way, put your best foot forward, and it doesn’t go your way.

And sometimes you get exactly what you deserve.

Both Miami and FSU got what they deserved on Saturday, in a Magical Night in the Magic City.

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

Five Reasons to Like the Canes Win Over Florida State

Miami destroyed Florida State 52-10 on Saturday night. And while it was challenging to find just 5 things to like, unlike FSU, I chose to rise to the challenge:

  1. 52-10. Remember when this used to be a rivalry? I do, we all do. And it still is! The Canes beat their biggest rival by 42 points. Frankly, I try not to just put the score in here, but FSU’s obvious deficiencies are obfuscating how big of a deal this is. The series since the 90s has been categorized by periods of dominance oscillating back-and-forth, with each school going on long win streaks multiple times. But even in those streaks, the games tend to be competitive. And even less rare is consecutive blowouts. Last year’s 17-point win in Tallahassee resulted in Willie Taggart’s firing. The Canes won this game by TWENTY FIVE more points than that. This performance was legendary and we shouldn’t lose sight of that in the aftermath of the dumpster fire in Tallahassee.
  2. Offensive Physical Domination. We’ve heard a lot about Rhett Lashlee’s offensive pace. We’ve heard a lot about “spread” being used as a generic term, often used to imply this team is just going to wing the ball all over the place. And Lashlee is playing faster, although he is changing pace a lot to keep defenses off balance versus just running hurry up on every play. And yes, D’Eriq King is spreading the ball around to multiple receivers, with 8 WRs catching passes in the 1st quarter alone. But a less talked about change is the change up front. I personally have lambasted the lackluster offensive line play for years. And the unquestioned strength of this FSU team is their defensive line, touted by some as one of the best in college football. If FSU was going to compete, it would be by dominating this matchup.

    The Miami offensive line destroyed FSU. 200 yards, 5.4 YPC, 4 rushing TDs, no sacks allowed, and no QB hurries for the  Seminoles. Complete domination. Incredible performance from the Canes’ front line, the much maligned front line. Garin Justice has worked wonders with this group.
  3. Bubba Bolden. I have to talk about the Canes’ safety for the second week in a row. Once again, he showed himself to be one of the best safeties in the country. There were 2 highlight plays, a deflection leading to an Al Blades, Jr. interception and an interception of his own later, but on every play Bolden is quick to diagnose the play and rally to the tackle, quick to diagnose a pass and break on the ball. On a field full of athletes, Bolden seems to be playing at a different speed. The physical ability is there, but the mental aspects of his game are eye popping. Last year, he was injured celebrating a late interception against FSU, which cost him the rest of the season and possibly facilitated the Canes’ late season implosion. This year, his performance guaranteed that no such drama was necessary, and as he grabbed a much deserved 4th quarter interception, the game was so out of hand he didn’t need to celebrate.
  4. The Defense Hit. Both defenses started the game slow, with the game commencing with back-to-back long drives. FSU’s defense folded from there. Miami’s flexed. Yes, there is a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. The Canes gave up over 300 yards to one of the worst teams in the country. And there were some mental lapses, missed gaps, and plenty that will need to be cleaned up. But the big positive here is the Canes responded to giving up a long FG drive by getting enraged, almost offended that the Seminoles were on the same field as them. When the Seminoles offense took the field again, this time trailing 14-3, the game reached it’s first (and ultimately last) inflection point. This was either going to turn into a shootout or the Canes were going to win in a blowout, with FSU’s defense looking clueless. That drive? Run for 4 yard loss, Run for 5 yard loss. False Start. Give up play for 15 yards on 3rd and 29. Punt. Game over.

    And then they started to eat. And eat. And eat. The Canes ended the night with 3 interceptions, 6 sacks, and 13 Tackles For Loss, physically toying with the Seminoles. On the rare occasions FSU did manage to move the ball, it ended poorly. It wasn’t a perfect defensive performance, but it was a physically imposing one.
  5. Offensive Perfection. While the defense wasn’t perfect, the offense was as close to perfection as you can get. There were 4 possessions where the Canes did not score a TD: (1) The end of the half where they ran out of time and kicked a FG, (2) A fumble while driving in the 3rd quarter, (3) A punt on the first possession with all the backups in, and (4) Kneeling the ball at the end of the game. All 7 other possessions were TDs, and 3 of the 4 that weren’t had extenuating circumstances or there was a reasonable chance those also end in TDs.

    As impressive as the top line was, it only gets more impressive when you dig deeper. This was a masterclass from Rhett Lashlee, who through 3 games has shown a keen ability to quickly to adjust to whatever a defense is doing and counter it. Lashlee has all the tools in his toolbelt, play fast, play slow, run, pass, misdirection…he seems to not have a preference for any one thing, settling for whatever is working at that point in time. But in this game, everything worked. Miami put up 517 yards, with 200 on the ground and 317 through the air, an amazing level of balance. They actually won the time of possession battle. This game was a symphony, and Lashlee was conducting a masterpiece of his own writing with D’Eriq King as first chair. It’s really rare that everything clicks like this, and Saturday was one of those nights. And what a night it was.

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

Looking for Redemption: The story of Gonzalo Higuaín

 

As you may have heard by now, the city of Miami is eagerly waiting to Spanish it up and yell out ¡GOOOOL! as international star striker Gonzalo Higuaín is finally set to change the narrative of this franchise forever.

Pizarro was a nice first step as the team´s original designated player, and Matuidi bolstered Beckham´s credentials as someone who can bring quality, World Cup-winning talent to South Florida. Higuaín, however, is the game changer.

The former River Plate, Real Madrid, Napoli, Milan, Chelsea and Juventus forward claims the title of the best striker in the MLS without having played a single minute in the league yet, and he could even have a bigger impact in the league than Zlatan Ibrahimovic ever had in Los Angeles.

What makes me so sure? Simple facts.

Zlatan arrived in L.A. as a 36-year-old and scored 52 goals in 56 matches, becoming an All-Star and setting himself apart with his outsized personality. Higuaín is only 32 and can easily match those stats, since we are talking about a guy that has 250 career goals in 463 matches playing for the most important teams in the world’s top leagues.

Most importantly, he is a team-first instead of “me first” kind of teammate, unlike Zlatan.

In fact, the 2015-16 season saw him be Serie A’s “capocannioneri” (the league’s top scorer) with 36 goals in 35 matches before being named Juventus’ MVP the following two years in 2017 and 2018 as the Vecchia Signora won consecutive Serie A titles with “Pipita” scoring 40 times in 73 matches against some of the world’s sturdiest defenses. That wasn´t long ago at all.

LAFC’s Carlos Vela set an MLS record with 34 goals last year, and Higuaín is vastly superior to him when it comes to being an animal inside the box. His ability to topple and outplay naïve MLS defenders will be second to none.

Vela played for a middle of the road team like Real Sociedad between 2011 and 2018 and had just 66 goals in 219 matches there before setting the MLS on fire. Imagine what Higuaín can do.

Just like 31-year-old Jimmy Butler arrived in Miami and helped steer the Heat back to prosperity, Higuaín can and will guide Inter Miami to the playoffs as a potential title contender. And just like Jimmy Butler, he arrives in South Florida looking for peace in a city that will allow him to be himself.

For all the accolades and amazing numbers I just presented you with, you also should know he is sort of…well, broken inside.

Because of this:

 

The three potential championship goals that never were. If he made those, he would still be playing for Argentina as its undisputed starting striker and national hero responsible for the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2015 and 2016 Copa America titles for the decade´s new dynasty with Messi by his side.

Instead, he missed them all in the clutch and became a national pariah that almost retired because of it as a 26-year-old in his prime back in 2014.

‘It’s not easy to be told “this guy’s no good anymore, he’s a failure, he can’t play football,'” he told the Spanish newspaper Marca, a notorious pro-Real Madrid outlet. ‘It hurts. Yes, it’s true that we didn’t achieve our objective, but to have been a failure? Reaching three finals isn’t failure. I was about to stop playing, but my mother (Nancy) told me to keep going. If it was up to me, I would’ve quit football…she said she wouldn’t let me to leave what I love.”

The pain was real, and so were the memes:

Higuain’s legacy as Argentina’s sixth all-time scorer with 32 goals has been overshadowed by his reputation as a choker in the clutch and the disdain of 40 million people who hold him responsible for the continuation of a title drought that spans 27 years and counting.

An entire country that ha had devoted an entire decade to, that he became only the 48th player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup for in 2010, that he had helped get over the quarterfinals hump with his goal for a 1-0 win against Belgium in 2014, had turned his back on him. He didn’t score at all in three group matches before being benched in the Round of 16 of a tortured 2018 WC and finally said “I’m done” quitting the national team for good in March 2019.

If you think that didn’t affect him, the 2019-20 campaign was the worst of his career with just eight goals in 32 matches for Juventus.

So what can Miami give him in return for his goals? Peace, understanding and, more than anything, love.

Let’s embrace him and make him remember how fun soccer can be, and how he can go out on the street without having people look at him like he just slept with their significant other multiple times in front of them.

Let’s make Higuaín great again. Because once he is, nobody in the United States will be able to stop him.

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a worthy role model for Tua Tagovailoa as Dolphins quarterback. (Tony Cappobiano)

Pressure Point: FitzMagic brings much-needed joy in Dolphins win

Well, that was fun.

For the love of Fitz, how often has it been possible to express that sentiment about any Miami Dolphins game during the past two decades?

Just when it was needed most, 37-year-old boy wonder Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins to a 31-13 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Thursday night performance that was as joyous as effective.

Big picture conclusions should be avoided from any given game in the NFL. But coming on the heels of troubling opening losses to the Patriots and Bills, it was a relief to allay fears of another season-killing opening winless stretch like Miami’s 0-7 start last season.

And the “We want Tua” chants can remain on hold for awhile.

Tua Tagovailoa’s time will come soon enough, and hopefully he will prove to be the wunderkind of Dolfans dreams.

Right now, this is Fitzpatrick’s team and there is no question about that in the locker room.

Tight end Mike Gesicki said: “Yeah, I mean Fitz is out of his mind. He’s [37] years old and still playing this game like he’s 23. But to have him as our leader and for you to see the fun that he has — after I scored my touchdown we just came off to the sideline and just started yelling and screaming and chest bumping; it’s so fun to play with him.”

Sure, Fitzpatrick is averaging more than an interception a game in his long career with eight teams. He may throw up three picks any given day, as he did in the opener at New England.

More about Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins’ win at Five Reasons Sports

Fitzpatrick can be ‘crazy’ good

Then he turns on that old FitzMagic and has a night for the ages as he did Thursday, opening with 12 consecutive completions. Added to the nine in a row to conclude Sunday’s loss against Buffalo, Fitz’s streak of 21 was second-longest in Dolphins history behind Ryan Tannehill’s 25, which is also tied for the NFL record.

Fitzpatrick completed 18 of 20, including two for touchdown, ran for another score and even caught one of his own deflected passes.

What stood out apart from the stats was the crazed celebration after bowling Csonka-like into the endzone for a third-quarter touchdown that blew the game open — confirming Gesicki’s “Fitz is out of his mind” affirmation.

Fitzpatrick put it in perspective afterward: “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world being able to go outside and play football with my friends.”

Cleary, Tua couldn’t have a better role model to prepare for when he gets the keys to the franchise.

No question, this Dolphins season is still more about the future than the present. This is the first forward step in a rebuilding process (last season was the teardown that began it).

Some exterior walls have been set on a foundation, but it remains to be seen how the finished product will look — it will never be finished, of course.

There will be sobering Sundays ahead for the Dolphins. They’ve got more tough opposition coming up the next two weeks with the Seahawks and 49ers.

The Jaguars aren’t on the level of the Patriots and Bills, but they were favored, and rightfully so at home in prime time of a short week for both teams.

Offense shows positive signs

We began the season with the perspective of looking for progress. And for an indication that the approach of coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier in constructing this team and Flores in coaching it is well founded.

The first two games were not encouraging. The defense, despite an extensive makeover, was atrocious. High-priced veterans signed in free agency played like suspects rather than upgrades.

The first encouraging signs are with the offense, and if began in the second half against the Bills.

Over the past six quarters, Fitz and Co. have produced 508 yards and 41 points.

The reconstructed offensive line, with right tackle Jesse Davis the only holdover, is showing potential of a solid unit. Rookie linemen Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley are looking more comfortable each week.

Neither rookie has allowed a sack in three games. Commendable, considering they had no preseason games to get acclimated.

The Dolphins rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time this season, with a 138. They need to improve on the average of 3.8 yards a carry — even that was inflated by a 29-yard run by wideout Jakeem Grant.

That Myles Gaskin (66 yards on 22 carries at Jacksonville) has emerged as the surprise featured back is an endorsement to building through the draft rather than free agency. Veteran offseason signees Jordan Howard and Matt Breida combined for five yards on six carries and have done little in three games.

High-flying Gesicki catches on

The biggest revelation on offense is Gesicki, the 2018 second-round pick who was the target of criticism as a rookie and the first half of his second season. But since late November the lanky former Penn State Nittany Lion has seven touchdown catches, tied for most in the NFL in that span.

Gesicki’s latest was another leaping masterpiece, which gave the Dolphins a 21-7 lead. Hopefully he will be a popular target for Tua for years to come. For now, he has become a favorite of Fitz, especially in the red zone.

The heaviest lifting remains on defense, though the unit was much better against the Jaguars, including four sacks. Several of the offseason acquisitions had more of an impact than in previous weeks. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill had seven tackles including a sack. Kyle Van Noy forced a fumble and recovered it in the scramble. Shaq Lawson had six pressures.

Notably, rookie cornerback Noah Igbinoghene found some redemption in coverage after getting undressed by Bills receiver Stefon Diggs.

Veteran corner Xavien Howard had an interception, but is not back to pre-injury level in pass coverge.

Better teams will continue to expose the shortcomings of this defense. Tackling remains surprisingly shoddy for a Flores team.

But for one night the Dolphins had reason to pose and puff out their chests.

For Dolfans, it was a game that left you wanting more — more celebratory screams. More quirky, crazy FitzMagic.

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

The 5 Worst Takes about the Miami Heat

Let’s be honest, the Miami Heat have overachieved this season. Miami’s improbable run wasn’t predicted by even the most cultured of Heat fans (See what I did there?). However, there were some pretty harsh opinions of the Heat that need to be revisited.

 

  1. HHH (Heat Hate Herro)

 

We will start with this compilation of tweets about Tyler Herro being drafted with the number 13 pick in last year’s draft. Most fans groaned as they heard Tyler’s name called on draft day because of his less-than-notable collegiate career. The Kentucky product wasn’t what fans thought the team needed to take the next step in becoming championship contenders. Herro was called Tyler Johnson 2.0 and some fans even called for Pat Riley’s retirement. Thank God the front office doesn’t read #HeatTwitter (Or do they? Duh duh duh)

 

 

 

  1. We “Herd” You

 

Colin Cowherd doesn’t let something as trivial as facts get in the way of his ratings. As a result, he has had his share of bad takes. But his views on the Heat are awful. There is the “Who’s Bam?” moment from preseason trade talks and who could forget the infamous “They can’t shoot” segment that confused us all. After completing a sweep over the Indiana Pacers with a 99-87 win in game 4, Cowherd said the team had a low ceiling and would get exposed in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks. That aged like milk.

 

 

 

  1. The Gift That Keeps On Giving 

 

Colin, if you don’t watch basketball just say so. I’m not one to judge. Here he claims Bam is not a star and hammers his point home by saying the Heat center averages 10 points and 8 rebounds. At the time, Bam was posting averages of 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 assist. In the playoffs, his numbers are 17.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.7 assist, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. Oh and Miami is on the verge of an NBA Finals berth. 

 

 

 

  1. Screamin’ A. Smith

 

Stephen A. Smith should know better. You would think he would have more faith in the Heat with all the love he has for South Beach *insert side eye*. Smith called Jimmy Butler coming to Miami “Absolutely the wrong move”, claiming that he would never be loved like he was in Philadelphia and even going as far as to call Philly the perfect setup for him. He followed up by saying that Miami would not be better than the 76ers and that the Heat may or may not make the playoffs. The kicker was Smith saying that Jimmy would be just another “really really good basketball player” here. 

 

 

  1. “Process” Your Grief

 

And here we are with the crown jewel of God-awful Heat takes. Krystle Rich of NBCS Philly emphatically claimed that the Miami Heat would miss the playoffs or be a first-round exit should they make the tournament. She went on to say that it would take 2-3 years for the Heat to build a team around Jimmy that could compete in the East. It felt more like a boyfriend unexpectedly breaking up with his girlfriend and her responding with the first mean thing that comes to mind. Even if it is woefully out of touch. Let that hurt go, sis. 

 

 

What a difference a year makes.

 

Royal Shepherd (@RoyalAShepherd) has written for several major newspapers, including the Tallahassee Democrat and the Augusta Chronicle, and now contributes to Five Reasons Sports.

Brevin Jordan

Five Reasons the Hurricanes Will Beat the Seminoles

The Miami Hurricanes look to continue their early season momentum as they host the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday.

Early season rivalry games have a way of setting the tone for a season.

Miami and Florida State enter their matchup Saturday on opposite plains.

The Hurricanes (2-0, 1-0) host Florida State (0-1, 0-1) in a game that looms large for both programs.

For Miami, expectations are high as they have improved each week.

While for Florida State the uncertainty lingers as the Seminoles try to rebound off a disappointing 16-13 loss to Georgia Tech.

Miami has beat Florida State three years running and oddsmakers have the Hurricanes as early double-digit favorites.

That being said, anything can happen in a rivalry game.

Especially this one.

With all things considered, the Hurricanes appear to be the superior team.

Here are five reasons that superiority should translate to an easy victory Saturday.

 

Quarterback

So far in his first season under center at the University of Miami, quarterback D’Eriq King has been as advertised.

 

Through two games King has completed 34-of-54 attempts for 469 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also added 92 yards and another score on the ground, his running ability within Rhett Lashlee’s spread offense has opened up the entire playbook. King has taken care of the football so far and is taking what the defense gives him.

Florida State allowed Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims to throw for 277 yards, and King has far more weapons at his disposal. King will have to look out for Asante Samuel Jr. in the Florida State secondary however, he picked off two passes against Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile for the Seminoles, quarterback James Blackman had a game to forget in their opening day loss. For the game Blackman went 23-of-43 for just 198 yards with one touchdown and an interception. More damning is that he lost two fumbles, against a nasty Miami front four he could be in for another mistake prone game.

 

Miami Ground Game Should Feast Again

Cam Harris has come out of the gate on a mission with 263 yards in two games on a ridiculous 10.3 YPC, with touchdown runs of 66 and 75 yards already. Freshman phenoms Jaylen Knighton and Don Chaney, Jr. have been the perfect compliment to Harris, each have been solid contributors already. With King as another threat to pull it down and improved play on the offensive line, the Hurricanes ground game has been a huge factor.

Florida State did a decent job holding Georgia Tech to 161 rushing yards on 40 attempts, but they will be in for a bigger challenge on Saturday.

For the Seminoles to have any success on offense they will need to be able to run the football against a Miami run defense that struggled to contain Louisville running back Javian Hawkins. Miami had trouble with the Cocoa Beach product as he gashed the Hurricanes for 164 yards rushing.

It could be a little easier for the Hurricanes this week as the Seminoles run game did little against Georgia Tech in a close game, finishing with just 109 yards on 31 carries (3.1 YPC). If Miami can shut down the run early and get a lead, Florida State will be in trouble as the game wears on.

Phillips and Roche vs the FSU Offensive Line

Speaking of feasting, the Miami pass rush could be in for another dynamic performance against an underwhelming FSU offensive line.

Jaelen Phillips and Quincy Roche combined for 3.5 TFL against Louisville and Miami had 10 for the game.

 

Florida State did a decent job of protecting Blackman despite allowing three sacks, Blackman had ample time to throw on plenty of occasions but could not capitalize. Miami will try to take away the Florida State running game and make them one dimensional, while controlling down and distance. The Florida State offense will be in trouble if they are continually in third-and-long situations where the Miami defensive line can pin their ears back and come downhill.

Florida State allowed six tackle-for-loss against Georgia Tech and Blackman barely completed 50% of his passes for the night.

We could see a lot of the Turnover Chain Saturday night.

Miami Makes Less Mistakes

As mentioned turnovers could play a huge role in the outcome and so far with D’Eriq King at the helm the offense is taking care of the football. Blackman on the other hand doesn’t have the same accuracy and has been prone to the turnover lately having thrown five interceptions in his last two games.

Granted four of those came at the end of last season in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl.

Not grrrreat.

Both teams have had lapses in terms of penalties as each hit double figures last time out.

The difference was that Miami came out to play otherwise while Florida State could not get out of their own way.

Manny Diaz had the team prepared and it will be crucial to avoid a letdown in terms of emotion and intensity.

It Means a lot More to the Hurricanes.

The Miami seniors have never lost to Florida State and if the Hurricanes can take care of business it sets them up for a huge game to follow at No. 1 Clemson.

After dropping seven in a row in the rivalry the Hurricanes want to send the seniors out with a fourth straight win.

Miami is in a great position with Clemson looming on the horizon to make a statement once again under the lights.

 

It is certain to be an exciting game, you can always throw out the records when these two square off.

However Miami is trending up while Florida State is in purgatory, and overall appear to be the better team.

If Diaz can once again have them ready from the opening kickoff and they wear out the Seminoles with the up tempo offense, it should be game over.

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Follow us on Twitter @5ReasonsCanes and @DavidWEversole

Photo credit miamihurricanes.com.

The Extra Yard: Fitzpatrick leads Dolphins over Minshew and the Jags

On Thursday night in front of the bright lights, the winless Miami Dolphins traveled north to take on their in-state rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The two teams have met a total of nine times throughout the history of the world. Jacksonville is 5-4 all-time. And yes, as Dolphins fans, we all want to forget Marino’s last playoff game.

But the truth is, the Jaguars have gone deeper into the playoffs than I’ve ever seen Miami do in my lifetime. And despite being accused of tanking like the media tried to paint the Dolphins a season ago—Gardner Minshew has Jacksonville 1-1 and playing good football.

So, on Primetime in front of the entire world, the Dolphins and Jaguars faced off. But even more importantly—with Miami’s season hanging in the balance—the grizzled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick led Miami to battle against the real-life Uncle Rico, aka Gardner Minshew.

FitzMagic vs Minshew Mania

Initially, this seemed like nothing more than a game that would feature two unique QBs. Both have proven time and time again; they can pull a rabbit out of a hat. But what once appeared to be a friendly meeting between the two teams has slowly turned into the battle of the mustache and the beard. And it’s starting to get ugly!

I’m not sure how this all came about, but I’m going to do my best to retrace the steps.

That was all well and good. But then, whether he intended to or not, the man known as Fitzmagic came crashing down with the power of 100 Thor hammers.

When asked why are beards better than mustaches, Fitzpatrick had this to say:

The mustache versus the beard, I think the beard is a cooler look. I think guys that grow mustaches a lot of times have patchy sides for their beards, so they just stick with the mustache.

This was the quote that started it all.

I won’t pretend to know whether or not it was a knock on Minshew and his pre-adolescent mustache. Because the next sentence, Fitzpatrick would go on to talk about his wife’s preference on the length of his facial hair.

But what I do know is after slandering mustaches and their entire existence, the 24-year-old gunslinger would have something to say. And it wasn’t long before he was asked his thoughts about Fitzpatrick’s comments.

“I’ll let mine speak for itself. I have a lot of respect for my elders — especially when they’re much, much elder.”

MY QUICK AND GRITTY GAME RECAP

  • The Dolphins took the opening kickoff and marched the ball downfield at will; capping off the impressive drive a Preston Williams touchdown on 3rd and goal from the two-yard line. This was a unique drive because not only did the Dolphins offense have a clear identity, but the man known as The Unicorn bounced back after a critical drop in Week 2. Perfect first drive by Miami’s offense.

  • I don’t want to be the guy that sits here and points out the team’s glaring weaknesses after an impressive victory. But we need to have a discussion about Elandon Roberts. At times, he looked lost on defense and continues to be a liability in the run. Why would the Dolphins have traded Raekwon McMillan for this? At least, Kamu Grugier-Hill showed up to play. But please, stop giving key defensive snaps to Elandon Roberts.

  • Myles Gaskin is the Dolphins RB1 and continues to look impressive not only in the run game but the passing game as well.

  • Gaskin was playing so well; one of my sources reached out to me regarding this extremely confidential information.

  • Miami continues to use Jordan Howard at the goal line. A place that better suits his violent style of play. Howard once again found pay dirt, sniping Myles Gaskin after he carried the team downfield on his back. Through three games, Howard has 16 carries, 12 yards, and one touchdown. Keep an eye on Chandler Cox and Solomon Kindley on Howard’s touchdown run. It’s beautiful:

  • Wow, Miami’s offensive line really is pretty damn good this year, huh?
  • Dolphins continue to struggle wrapping defenders up. Shenault breaks off a big run after colliding with two or three defensive backs. TACKLE SOMEONE!!!!!
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick on 4th and 1 is about as automatic as Lousaka Polite.

  • The last time the Dolphins had a tight end that truly struck fear in opposing defenses was 2002-2006 and Randy McMichael. Well, I think that’s about to change with the emergence of Mike Gesicki. Ever since he heaved a football over his house, ran through a garage door, and made the catch in the middle of the street; that 2020 was going to be a big year for the Penn State prodigy. How would he follow up his 8 reception, 130 yard career day from a season ago?

  • Kyle Van Noy must’ve heard all the noise about his play early on this season because he came out and played like his hair was on fire. KVN finished the game with 5 total tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and….he killed a man.

  • In 2019, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Dolphins in rushing yards and touchdowns. Here he is replicating Dolphins legend, Larry Csonka.

  • Dan Marino, aka The Goat, aka The Right Arm of God, made a cameo. And so did The Left Arm Of God.

  • Miami’s offensive line has been a breath of fresh air this season. Austin Jackson looks legit, Solomon Kindley is a mauler, and Ereck Flowers has played solid as well. Ted Karras and Jesse Davis remain the weak links, though I’d rather keep Davis around than Karras. It’s still early, but that was a wash between Karras and Daniel Kilgore.

  • Igbinoghene came to play tonight, as did the rest of the Dolphins secondary.

  • Austin Jackson continues to impress.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick did a little bit of everything tonight.

  • Nice to see the Dolphins generate some pass-rush today. Here are Emmanuel Ogbah and Zach Sieler sandwiching Gardner Minshew on a key 2nd and 2.

  • Andrew Van Ginkel needs to get more opportunities because when he does, good things happen.

  • Not only is he a mauler, but Solomon Kindley is a hype man.

  • Xavien Howard put the game away with this interception. Is he back?

Final Stat Line:

I don’t know when the Dolphins/Jaguars All-22 will be out, but when it is, I promise to bring you plenty of content on Twitter.com.

Goodnight, all.

P.S

beards > mustaches

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