Five Takeaways from Heat’s Big Win Over Brooklyn

The Miami Heat took down the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night in the definition of an all around night. Lowry thriving, Butler shining, and role players making the difference.

So, here are five takeaways from this big win…

#1: Hit ahead passes were not only the first quarter theme, but a new Miami offensive theme.

Some offensive things fluctuated throughout this one, due to stretches being picture perfect, textbook offense, while other spurts were once again in the mud. But to look back at that clicking style of play, it aligns with that transition offense that we all knew Kyle Lowry would provide upon arrival. Yes, he pushes the ball down the floor. Yes, he can slow them down when it’s needed. But most of all, that hit ahead pass has been pretty contagious across the roster. With it only being the fourth game of the season, it feels like we’re still in that stage where they’re trying to grasp the timing of it fully, but it still works. Guys like Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have fully embraced that as well, which is a major part of it this early in the season. But it’ll be necessary to mix it in out the gate, instead of showing all of their cards immediately as the season progresses.

#2: Jimmy Butler comes out with all eyes on the rim.

Jimmy Butler always seems to come out with a clear-cut plan when the game begins. Sometimes in a game without Lowry in Indiana, it’ll be pure play-making with the ball in his hands. But in a game in Brooklyn after a 36 point night against Orlando, it was all about scoring. He was getting to the rim consistently, and even without getting that whistle, he was still converting regularly early on. And well, that’s the Butler they’re going to need over this next stretch of games against tough opponents. Butler was so crucial in the rebounding and defensive aspect of this game, providing second chances and extra possessions for himself over and over on the box. Coach Spo is exactly right when he says Butler is not a flopper, but that physical downhill play isn’t disappearing. Fullback Jimmy is still very much in effect.

#3: This version of Dewayne Dedmon provides much more flexibility.

There’s been one bench guy that has stood out in many of these games, either in a positive or negative light, but tonight that guy was Dewayne Dedmon. In many ways, offensive opportunities were just falling right into his lap under the rim, but actually converting on those possessions is a completely different story, which he has continually done at an extremely high level. This team also hasn’t been the greatest rebounding team in recent years, especially when relying on an undersized rookie Precious Achiuwa as your back-up center to provide that specific skill. Dedmon has done just that, and the offensive activity is the main element. Six first half rebounds with four of them being offensive. Miami needs those extra opportunities like that if they’re shooting this poorly from three, and having a reserve propel you in that way is important. But it wasn’t just him, which I’ll touch on down the line.

#4: Miami’s third quarter run: off-season acquisitions.

Coming out of halftime, it almost looked like Brooklyn could run away with it after an immediate triple from Kevin Durant. But what turned it around for Miami in that span? Well simply, the new guys. Kyle Lowry was a big reason for it to start, after a quick run that consisted of himself and himself only. Transition pull-up three, running the floor for a lay-in, and a nice dish for a Robinson three was how it went down in a stretch, really sparking Miami to kick off the second half. But the guy who was even more impressive tonight, specifically in that third quarter, was PJ Tucker. Making Durant as uncomfortable as humanly possible, competing on the boards in a way Miami hasn’t had in years, and just getting his hands dirty by diving for loose balls and things of that nature. If you get a big time game from one or two role players over this tough stretch of games, they will be in great shape coming out of it.

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#5: A rebounding flip from this Heat team changes things.

Looking back at the off-season, the Heat lacked a couple of things when evaluating the team on paper. They needed a pure point guard, which they got in Lowry. But they also needed added rebounding, which it was unclear if they acquired. They brought back Dedmon, but the only other front-court additions were strong 4’s who provide more of that horizontal presence than vertical presence. But let me just say, length doesn’t always equal good rebounding. Miami killed the Nets in that category tonight, and it was the definition of a team effort. Butler was outstanding in that area, Adebayo did his job, Tucker/Dedmon provided those extra opportunities, and Tyler Herro continues to bring that strong attack off misses. Keeping Spo’s personnel while adding a Pat Riley staple is the definition of a successful off-season.

 

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A Duncan Robinson Dribble Hand-Off Shift: Adebayo to Butler

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Coming into the season, it was known everybody on this Heat team was going to endure a shift. Duncan Robinson’s shift, though, was for very different reasoning.

Guys like Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were going to see a positive change in terms of their newly acquired point guard, Kyle Lowry. And Bam Adebayo was going to begin that transition into a “flat-out scorer,” as Pat Riley noted before the season.

But as Adebayo begins to flip that switch, a prominent part of the offense was going to be cut out a little more: the dribble hand-off. While many Heat fans may scoff at the thought of a hand-off at this stage, it can still be highly effective, especially when Adebayo isn’t the one doing it.

To that point, my initial thought to begin the year was that’ll be PJ Tucker’s role. He’s a great screener with his wide frame, and has shown to be more than willing to play that “set-up” role on the offensive end of the floor. And well, he’s done just that so far.

But there’s actually been a better guy for that job through the Heat’s first 3 games of the regular season, and that guy may surprise you.

It’s Jimmy Butler.

Robinson is currently 8 for 25 on threes to begin the season, but the issue isn’t exactly those two numbers provided. It’s actually the spurts where you kind of forget he’s on the floor, since that hasn’t happened up until this point.

He’s always been a guy that can draw two to the ball at any time, but that’s actually been the new norm for Tyler Herro to begin the year. With that said, there should be even more of an urge to find Robinson and let him fire, especially in a game in Indiana without Kyle Lowry.

But without the continued DHO spam from Adebayo on a nightly basis, how does Butler provide an effective two-man game with Robinson?

Well, it’s actually in the same exact way Adebayo does it.

Taking a look through these clips above, there must be an understanding of the situation. This game was completely in the mud to say the least, and Butler was essentially being drowned in that mud.

He couldn’t get anything going, while Robinson couldn’t truly find a way to be incorporated in the offense without a true orchestrator by his side. So, the third quarter plan was to work themselves in together in space.

In the first clip, Butler gets another isolation possession for himself, but on this inefficient night, he’s looking for other options. Robinson loops around for the hand-off as Butler slips the screen, and he catches it in stride for the easy bucket.

Now, let’s move onto the second clip. And no, it’s not the same clip being replayed.

Robinson once again comes around the perimeter as both defenders bite on that DHO, which is why we constantly harp on his gravity. He hits Butler, and points come out of it once again.

Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle calls timeout for one reason and one reason only: to make an adjustment to that offensive combo.

Fast forward 30 seconds and you can see that defensive change that is made. Malcolm Brogdon doesn’t attack the Robinson hand-off, and just awaits the Butler slip. What does that mean for Miami? Well, it means Robinson has one job now: try and collapse the defense.

That collapse never truly occurred, which gave him a wide open driving lane for the easy two. If Robinson can counter those defensive adjustments consistently in this same fashion, then Miami really does have the best of both worlds.

Adebayo can play that weak-side as a scoring threat, while Butler plays that short roll with deep-threat Duncan by his side.

But Robinson has to get back to that same shooting level where it’s less thinking, and more reacting.

And it should be mentioned that this wasn’t just a one game thing.

As seen above, Miami worked it into their game-plan against Orlando as well, which makes it even more deadly when Butler is knocking down those bunnies/mid-range jumpers on that slip.

But they’re going to need that unconscious shooting from Robinson for this to fully work. With the guys around him, less attention will be on him then there previously was, but he’s going to have to make them pay.

I don’t really have any concerns about that necessarily, but the shots aren’t going to come in the same exact ways that they did last season. It may be more transition stop and pops off the catch. It may be more open looks that he has to knock down. And well, it may be the continuation of the dribble hand-off with Jimmy Butler.

But for his minutes to be a success next to Herro in those specific lineups, those shots will have to fall. And that combo hasn’t been considerably great so far.

Now as the schedule really starts to ramp up, they’re going to need him in a bunch of these big games. It’s about getting back to that original mindset: not focusing on three-point makes, but focusing on three-point attempts.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Orlando

The Heat took down the Orlando Magic on Monday night to improve to 2-1 on the season. Jimmy Butler led the way with an outstanding bounce back, while others sprinkled in some other things behind him.

So, let’s take a dive into some takeaways from this game…

#1: All eyes on Tyler Herro.

Tyler Herro has had a pretty incredible start to the season, kicking it off with a 27 point night then following it up with a 30 point night. A main takeaway from those games: he had a ton of attention on him…after he got rolling. It was a different story tonight, as once Tyler Herro’s name was announced across the arena, there was a united understanding on the defensive side of the ball for Orlando: hound him. Hedging pick and rolls, guards full out blitzing, and much more. What did that mean for him in the first half? Find Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, and that’s exactly what he did, leading to a combined 34 point half for those two. And that will be expanded upon more as the opposing scouting report continues to hone in on it.

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#2: Jimmy Butler comes out with a purpose after his poor performance.

If you watched Jimmy Butler against Indiana, you’d know he wasn’t himself. Efficiency was terrible, and as he said after the game, he allowed that to dictate his defense. In this game, he turned that around completely. 24 points on 11 for 13 shooting through 17 and a half first half minutes is a clear indicator. The interesting part is that only 2 of the 24 points came from the free throw line, but you don’t need fullback Jimmy when he’s knocking down those easy bunnies and mid-range jumpers. Were those points just being generated through Kyle Lowry’s presence? Part of them were, but the 4 first half steals can pretty much tell you he was generating stuff for himself as well.

#3: Miami’s offense is back…I wonder why.

From tip-off, the Heat were not only getting out on the break at a higher rate, but half-court sets were flowing. What led to the turnaround? His name is Kyle Lowry. It wasn’t Butler and Adebayo reverting back to late year’s play-style anymore. It was them receiving the ball right in their spots, just focusing in on that off-ball movement that each of them are so good at. In terms of the transition offense, it’s pretty obvious why it’s called “Kyle chaos” among the team: nobody can truly keep up with it. Guys like Adebayo and Herro are embracing that style of play to fully sprint down the floor, but it’s another thing to be in the right spot at the right time with the right peripheral vision. That stuff will come over time, but having that Lowry base will pay off majorly as the season continues.

#4: Markieff Morris embracing the offensive role necessary.

Something I’ve been talking about with Markieff Morris since he arrived has been the offensive spotting that he finds himself in. A main reason he’s been toward the bottom of many rosters recently is due to that inefficient deep ball that continues to pop up year after year. How can they maximize him then? Well, making him a roll/mid-range threat is the obvious way. It’s only the third game of the regular season, and we’re seeing it repeatedly. Toward the end of the third quarter, his stat-line read: 10 points, 5 for 5 shooting, zero 3 point attempts. Shortly after, he clanked a triple off the side of the rim, and followed that up with a big shot from the corner, but the point still stands. He has a chance to really thrive in this role, and three point attempts aren’t the way to do that. A potential shift in his front-court mate may enhance him even more though.

#5: A point of emphasis for Max Strus: get up shots.

Max Strus’ role is clear with this team, provide spacing and shoot the ball. As he said after practice when I talked to him, his role is to get Tyler Herro the ball, but could he be taking that too literally? He had 1 shot attempt up until the beginning of the fourth, before letting a wide open three go in the corner. But that play kind of projected his entire mindset. He had the open corner three initially, but swung to a covered Herro. Herro then gave it right back to him as he knocked down that shot. But focusing on his shot attempts will be crucial for him. They need him to score in this role, even if Herro and one of Butler, Adebayo, and Lowry are on the floor. He’s been doing a lot of other things well such as taking charges frequently, but those attempt numbers will need to rise. And not just the late-game heaves after the game is decided that he loves.

 

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What Happened to Miami’s Offense Down the Stretch Against Indiana?

Going from an opening night performance where Miami scored 72 points through 2 quarters to the second game where Miami scored 91 points through 4 quarters and an overtime is pretty interesting.

The missing piece from the puzzle: Kyle Lowry.

It’s not just that Miami missed his pure skill, but they just need that extra piece at the top of the roster to avoid lineups that are pretty uneven bench groups to say the least. As many have noted, this game looked like one from last season.

The other element to missing Lowry was that the offense was so out of control and in the mud throughout this game. They missed that offensive initiator to place them into their sets and allow them to just go, and it’s even harder when Jimmy Butler has a night shooting 7 for 22 from the field.

So, on this atrocious shooting night, it’s important to look into the stuff that was being run late in this game. Let’s take a quick walk through Miami’s last 2 minutes of regulation and the entire overtime on the offensive side of the ball…

The one positive note from Miami late in this game was the scoring from Tyler Herro, even if he did do it on 28 shots. Attempts should not be harped on with him in a game like this, since considering the offensive pieces around him last night, he should’ve been shooting for 30+.

Aside from that, it was clear the ball needed to be in his hands late in this game no matter what. Down 2 with 2 and a half minutes left, he avoids the screen and moves back left for a tough shot above the break. And well, he buries it.

Fast forward to 55 seconds left, Miami’s score remains the same, but they go back to that Herro creation at the top of the key. He steps back on Brogdon moving to his left and hits by far the toughest shot of the night.

If this wasn’t a signal that the ball had to go through him, I don’t know what was.

But yet, Indiana’s defense seemed to want the ball in anybody else’s hands as well.

Tie game with 30 seconds left, Butler is trying to get Herro on the move like they’ve done up to that point with constant screening. But with Brogdon covering Butler, he can easily show and recover on the screen, leading to a Miami reset.

Butler gets the ball at the top of the key as Bam Adebayo comes for the screen, and this is exactly what you want. Take a look at the spacing on the floor: Robinson and Herro both have their defenders glued to them on the perimeter, giving the Heat’s best two players the ultimate runway.

But everything just seemed a step too slow in that department. And better yet, predictable.

There was a crease for Butler to hit Adebayo on the roll, but he misses him with all attention on him on the ball. He then speeds up to attack, and every defender basically crashes in at once.

Why is that? Well, all 9 players on the floor knew what was coming next, and it led to them meeting him at the rim.

Without the team’s primary initiator, of course processing things offensively will be a bit delayed, but it’s unlike Butler to miss the type of reads that he always makes. He tried to make a play, but came up short on this possession.

Now, we make our way into the beginning of overtime, and it actually kicked off with one of the few good looking possessions for Miami in this game.

Butler orchestrating for guys to be in the right spots, as Adebayo sets a pin-down for Herro as a decoy essentially for them to get into the initial action. Adebayo gets the ball, Herro sets the back-screen for Butler, and Adebayo lobs it up to Butler for the bucket.

Now that looked like good offense that we saw against Milwaukee in the season opener.

The Heat are now down 2, and they try to run something similar to what was shown in the last clip with Adebayo receiving the ball in the high post. The ball gets bounced around, and it leads to a top of the key pick and roll with Herro and Adebayo.

Not only does Herro see two defenders fly at him, but there was no worry in the scheme defensively to quickly recover. The plan was clear: make Herro uncomfortable.

That’s exactly what they did, as Herro makes the right read to hit the open corner, but it flies way over Tucker’s head out of bounds.

When looking back at this play, there should be a slight shift if this coverage is ever thrown at him again, which many Heat players said after the game will be seen again. Adebayo should relocate to the free throw line extended on the roll as a release valve, while PJ Tucker should drop to the dunker spot.

If a defense is going to commit that heavily, you have to ultimately force them into flawless rotations once Adebayo catches that in the mid-range. Obviously it’s just the second game, so stuff like this will be tweaked when seen again, but that right there isn’t Herro’s fault.

The supporting cast can’t be immobile when this type of thing is seen.

This was a very crucial play for Miami when looking back at it, but it told us all we needed to know about this game. It’s Herro and Butler playing catch on the perimeter, while Adebayo’s early aggression fades completely.

In many ways, the role of Adebayo in overtime was the one he embraced when playing for Team USA in Tokyo.

Taking up space in the dunker spot, and pure screening and relocating. He wasn’t a roll threat, he was just a screen threat.

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Now, that’s not all on Adebayo, since the wing players have to do a better job of hitting him in those open windows, but there has to be that self awareness of who he is in these moments.

You’re already without a top player, in Kyle Lowry, so it should be him taking a step forward instead of a step back in terms of role.

The play ends in Butler trying to draw a foul on his three-point attempt, which clanks off the rim and into the Pacers’ possession. When the team is down 4 with 3 minutes left and that’s the shot you’re getting, you just aren’t winning those games. Especially considering the night Butler had up until that point.

But hey, somebody other than Herro had to try and make something out of nothing.

The hopes of Miami making a late push are pretty nonexistent at this point. Out of the timeout, down 9, Erik Spoelstra draws something up for one of the best shooters on the planet: Duncan Robinson.

Why is this important to note? Well, we needed to see more of this when offense wasn’t clicking late.

Miami went from a team that only relied on Robinson on the offensive end through hand-offs last year, to almost forgetting he’s on the floor at certain points last night.

Robinson has usually been the guy getting the double teams thrown at him in these spots, but his teammate, Tyler Herro, was seeing that instead. And that right there is an indicator to get Robinson some looks no matter if he missed some easy ones early on or not.

Robinson gets a wide open three on the inbound off the Adebayo screen, which is not something we’ve seen often on inbound plays recently since he’s the usual piece being focused on. But waiting to unleash him in this way 3 and a half minutes into overtime didn’t give them much time to recover.

Speaking of “waiting to unleash,” here’s Adebayo pushing the ball up the floor with 1 minute to go in OT, and ultimately missing two forced shots at the rim.

Once again, does it matter that he fell short on those lay-ins late? Maybe to a certain degree, but they just need him to get the ball up. And yet, this was the first time in overtime that he took it upon himself to initiate offense.

This isn’t just a conversation harping on the aggression of Adebayo, since I actually feel he has become much more purposeful in that department, but it must stay consistent.

It can’t be forceful right out the gate, it has to be in the normal flow as well.

It can’t be Kyle Lowry telling him to go, it has to be him realizing he can blow-by his guy as well.

In no way should people overreact to this game, since many of these trends won’t be the case when Lowry gets back on the floor, but this team has to be prepared for one of Butler or Lowry to be out for a game here and there.

Since that can be the difference between finishing the season with home court advantage or not.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Overtime Loss in Indiana

The Miami Heat fell short in OT to the Indiana Pacers, in a game that was the basketball definition of “in the mid.” Jimmy Butler just couldn’t put the ball in the basket, and without Kyle Lowry, it became the Tyler Herro show late.

On a very rough offensive night, here are some takeaways walking away from this game…

#1: Bam Adebayo’s aggression stays consistent early on, but unfortunately fades late in terms of offensive set-ups.

The Heat are 8 minutes into a pretty uneven start to this game. Bam Adebayo with 6 shot attempts, rest of Miami with 7 total shot attempts. This wasn’t just an abnormal aggressive start from Adebayo. This is just him now. Pulling up with zero hesitance on that inner wing, attacking the basket right at Myles Turner and Damantas Sabonis like he always does against this team for some odd reason, and getting to the line due to that driving urge. The point is this: if it can get to a point where it’s expected instead of hopeful, then that’s a fantastic starting point. Nobody will question an inefficient night at this stage of his career, the same way many will question an unwillingness to shoot. The issue with that is he faded late. When offense grew more and more stagnant in overtime, it was forced jumpers from Butler and double teams flying to Herro. In a game like this, Adebayo must be set-up late the way he was set-up early.

#2: Kyle Lowry out, Gabe Vincent in. What does that mean for the rotation status?

Kyle Lowry was a game time decision for this game and ended up sitting out, which I don’t think was a bad choice considering it’s only game two. As I expected, Gabe Vincent stepped into the starting lineup, since well, that’s the Erik Spoelstra way. But after a slow start from Vincent, it may lead to some questioning the insertion, but let me just say that move is even more necessary in a game like this. Things clearly fell apart in the non-Butler and Adebayo minutes like they did last season, and starting Tyler Herro means you’re making the minute distribution even worse. Vincent looked very predictable in his minutes, since his defender seemed to always know exactly what he was doing before he even did it. But a major point of emphasis in a game without Lowry is to put Herro in the right spots, which they did…

#3: The growth of Tyler Herro is real…and it’s not just one thing.

When walking away from the first half, the primary takeaways were all negative: lacking full-on engagement, Butler’s shots weren’t falling, Dewayne Dedmon looked a step slow with that ankle injury, etc. But a positive element somehow outshined those other things: Tyler Herro. A 16 point performance in the first half through 16 minutes doesn’t do his evaluation justice. Movement shots on the baseline, carving up the mid-range with ease, and utilizing that added muscle by embracing contact on the attack. That stuff is brand new. We can sit here and breakdown the “growth” from Herro to begin this season, but it truly isn’t one thing. He’s just comfortable, and combining that with an immense amount of confidence to lead the team in shots in the first half by 5 attempts is pretty interesting. And then capping it off with clutch shot after clutch shot late in the fourth is a completely different story. The emergence is here.

#4: Miami’s third quarter fight finds an offensive set that is quite intriguing.

Jimmy Butler had a rough game shooting the basketball, but he did find other ways to chip away with this team. One way of doing that was defensively, and the other was trying new things on the offensive end. Early in the third, Butler found himself on another isolation on the inner wing, which hasn’t worked all night. Duncan Robinson makes his way around the wing instead, Butler hands it off to him, and two Indiana defenders fly at him. Robinson dumps it down to Butler on the short roll: easy score. A few possessions later, the same thing is seen again. Robinson draws attention on the hand-off, Butler gets it in the middle of the floor and lays it in. But is it just that simple? Well it is, until Robinson adds that dribbling element like he did late in the third. The third Butler DHO for Robinson was seen, but they were ready for the roll this time. Robinson gets to his right, finds space inside, and banks it in. This offensive wrinkle sparked them tonight, and could be a base moving forward.

#5: This team is going to play in the mud a ton.

When I say that this Heat team will find themselves playing in the mud frequently this season, that isn’t a knock on their offense. It’s putting this defensive structure on a pedestal. Miami had trouble scoring as well, but holding this Pacers team to 8 points in the third quarter after the way they came out shooting wasn’t accidental. Even without Lowry and using plenty of Robinson-Herro lineups, this team stayed true to their identity. Not because of pure athleticism or defensive abilities, but through perfect positioning on that end. The number of charges drawn in this one should tell you enough about how this game went, but even on rotations, this team found themselves in the right spot time and time again. Many may look at a stat sheet from the second half and say Indiana had an off shooting stretch, but it was actually the pressure Miami put on them on that end when the offensive stuff wasn’t clicking. But after the team offense truly never “clicked,” the defense finally broke down late, leading to an overtime loss.

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Breaking Down the Shifting Role of Butler, Adebayo, and Herro

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In many ways, Kyle Lowry doesn’t have a true weakness at this stage of his career.

He can still hold his own at the point of attack, sets others up in a way that Miami hasn’t had in forever, and can win a game by 42 points with only 1 field goal made.

In that all-around role, it has shown an incredible expansion for the players around him. The 27 points from Tyler Herro, 21 points from Jimmy Butler, and 20 points from Bam Adebayo isn’t the only reason I say that after beating a Bucks team without key players, but instead it’s the way they’re generating these looks and scoring 137 points in a game.

This is a super talented defensive team, but the descriptions don’t end there: this team can put up points…

Bam Adebayo:

Kyle Lowry Forcing Him into More and More Shot Attempts

How is Bam Adebayo’s aggression coming together so fluidly to begin the year. Is it the natural evolution of a young player like Erik Spoelstra noted? Is Adebayo going through those motions with a purpose? Or is it just simply Kyle Lowry?

Adebayo seems to think it’s the latter.

“It’s really because of Kyle in all honesty.”

It’s one thing to just put it out there in that sense, but it’s another thing for it to be absolutely correct when watching the game film. Yes, we see Adebayo “just going” even when Lowry is on the sideline, but there’s a specific edge and confidence that Lowry is feeding into.

Just take a look at the first clip: Adebayo has Giannis Antetokounmpo in space with an empty corner, but decides to pass back out to Lowry instead.

What does Lowry do? He immediately reinserts that ball into Adebayo in the post, and clears out to the opposite side of the floor. This isn’t last year when the guard would stand at the top of the key as a safety blanket for Adebayo’s eventual kick-out. This is Lowry saying ‘you’re shooting this ball no matter what.’

Consequently, Adebayo jabs and fires away for a bucket, which he did many times in this game. Even when speaking with media post-game, he noted that’s been a point of emphasis with him during the off-season. He’s comfortable with that jab jumper, and it’s not just a space provider. It’s a rhythm shot for him.

Lastly, there’s something else to pick up on with these two Adebayo shot attempts. His point of operation.

Adebayo calls it “picking his spots more,” but I call it “not needing to be the elbow release valve every play.” Now, he’s able to work from that inner wing or baseline where he has the space to do many different things.

It’s not just about Lowry making Adebayo take those shots in clear-outs. It’s the responsibilities Lowry has stripped from Adebayo to just be himself.

Some Fast-Break Magic

The Heat finished this game with a transition frequency of 20.2%. Last season, they were 14.9% across the 72 game season.

It’s only one game, but you can tell this is a long term thing. Guys like Lowry and Herro love that style of play, but Adebayo has finally embraced it, which is a scary thing.

Nobody can truly keep up with a coast to coast Adebayo on a nightly basis, and one guy that could probably slow him down better than anybody is the guy he matched up with last night: Antetokounmpo.

Euro-steps, downhill collisions. We’re seeing it all from Adebayo on the break, and it’s not because anybody on the floor is forcing him into that. He’s just finally freed up.

This team is built to run, and they’re embodying that already. But if Adebayo is the pace initiator throughout the season like he did in this season opener, it’ll be quite the offensive agenda for defenses to try and scheme against.

Jimmy Butler:

Defensive Freelancing is Upon Us

I brought this up a ton throughout the game last night, since well, it’s something I’ve noted since the Lowry acquisition was finalized.

We knew what Lowry would do for Adebayo in terms of unlocking things offensively. We knew giving Herro a pure point guard for the first time in his career would do wonders. But it just felt like the defensive shift from Butler was more important than anything else.

Butler is obviously one of the game’s best defenders, but I wouldn’t say he does it in a way that many of the other players in his category do it. Like Adebayo for example, we see his greatness on the ball by swarming smaller guards and things of that nature.

But Butler, on the hand, does it in the shadows.

He’s an off-ball master in that sense. It’s something I’ve broken down many times leading up to this point, since the additions of PJ Tucker and Lowry meant more reps for Butler outside of the offensive actions.

Timely doubles is his specialty, and he’s going to be a looming free safety all season, sending that all-out blitz more times than not.

Looking at the clips above, you can see this all happening in the first few minutes of the game. Gambling on some cross-court doubles once Antetokounmpo turned was something I expected, but the interesting part about it was he wasn’t holding back.

Not a ton of show-and-go to say the least, it was just pure willingness to swarm these guys who weren’t his assignment. And well, that is Jimmy Butler.

That will be Jimmy Butler all season.

A Simple Game of One-On-One

Walking into the Miami Heat practice facility after they finish practicing, there’s a consistent theme.

On one side of the court, there is Jimmy Butler going one-on-one with different coaches, trainers, and players for about 30 minutes every day. Udonis Haslem was the one a few days ago getting in those defensive reps, as they went at each other in a one-on-one setting where Butler fits in best.

And going through those motions isn’t just for some extra sweat and cardio. There’s a purpose, and that was seen in this game against Milwaukee.

Lowry does take a lot of pressure off Adebayo, but he also puts Butler in better spots to score as he noted after the game. In other words, Butler finds himself playing one-on-one in the half-court a bunch, doing it as loose as he does against UD after practice.

But Butler’s game hasn’t changed at all, so why is this important to note?

Well, Butler’s game may not have changed, but the team around him has. Looking at the clips above, nobody can fully commit to the double that they always seemed to do last season with zero reluctance. No knock to guys like Kendrick Nunn, but they had certain limitations on that kick-out that Lowry just doesn’t obtain.

If they double team Butler in that fashion, you’re not only at risk of giving up a Lowry three, but you’re also giving him a 4 on 3 on the backside, which is one of his best offensive skills in terms of decision making.

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Allowing Butler to play one-on-one all day is a treat, and it gives this Heat offense a fun wrinkle that they weren’t able to fully commit to in the past. (And yes he missed in that clip, which is new after watching him go 1 on 1 last night)

Tyler Herro:

Confidence is Higher, Release Point is Higher

We’re officially at the point where a 27 point performance from Tyler Herro off the bench to kick off the season doesn’t even surprise anybody. It’s just normal now.

So many limitations that were once placed on him as a scorer with the constant necessity for a screen are no longer in place. It’s not that he added a bunch of unstoppable combos to get to his spots. It’s just a simple formula.

Confidence is higher and his release point is higher.

In many ways, those two things can go hand in hand. When a player is having an off game and confidence is lowered, you always begin to notice shots being short due to them becoming flat-footed.

But when that confidence is as high as Herro’s is at the moment, that shot is higher than any defender’s wingspan.

He’s rising over the top of defenders all over the floor, and he isn’t being fazed by contests. It’s a skill that has pretty much gone under the radar for Duncan Robinson over the years, since essentially blocking out a defenders close-out can change a scorer’s outlook.

And Herro’s outlook has completely changed.

Some may think these points are being overstated, but they absolutely aren’t: placing Herro in this simplified bench role is the reason for him emerging. Play-making and rebounding have been sprinkled in through the natural flow of the game, but he’s not being asked to do any of that.

Mostly since Butler or Lowry are lined up next to him at all times.

“I love playing with Kyle,” Herro said about Lowry. “My first two years in the league I didn’t really have a point guard who could get everyone organized, and that’s no knock on my former teammates.”

And that last part is the truth. Guys like Goran Dragic were great for the original growth of Herro, and what they brought on a regular basis, but that just wasn’t his role. Dragic was in a scoring role as a scoring guard, but now Miami has that pure point they’ve been missing.

Or should I say, that Herro’s been missing.

Inside Game Coming Along for One Reason

A three-level scorer is emerging. The mid-range game from Herro has been pretty close to unstoppable through the preseason and first regular season game, his outside shooting has been highly efficient, and the inside game in question has been tweaked now as well.

The floater has been an interesting gadget for him, since it means he isn’t one dimensional inside the paint. Instead of spamming underhand scoop layups on every pick and roll drive, he has an outlet that can be relied on.

And well, that floater has been a constant sticking point after these Heat practices.

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It isn’t just about the floater either. The added muscle that he put on has entered the equation as well, and I think we’re seeing just where he added that weight.

Going back to my earlier point of firing over the top of defenses with a high release point, the added strength in his legs is the main reason for that. But it seems like that behind the scenes work has gave him the confidence to embrace contact more and more.

Looking at the first clip above, Herro wasn’t doing that last year. Going right at that dropping big, bumping him with his shoulder, then fading away with the bank. That right there is a new Tyler Herro.

And in the big picture, nothing is better than a ‘more’ confident Herro at this stage. And who is feeding him that confidence? His teammates around him, as he’s illustrated over 20 times since camp ended.

And that is a major shift for him. It’s a major shift for this team. And that domino effect all started when Lowry landed in Miami.

 

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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Dominant Season Opener

The Miami Heat clearly came out with some extra motivation against this Milwaukee Bucks team. First quarter dominance on both ends blended into a pretty one-sided game throughout.

Who stuck out in this season opener? Well, that’s the interesting part: everybody.

#1: Bam Adebayo’s offensive aggression pops early.

A topic fresh in our minds when we see Bam Adebayo and the Heat facing the Milwaukee Bucks is his offensive aggression, following Brook Lopez’s willingness to give Adebayo all of the space in the world in the previous series. To kick off this season opener, three of the first four offensive possessions for Miami consisted of an Adebayo shot attempt. Yeah, things have changed. Adebayo only trailed Tyler Herro in shot attempts at the half, but his willingness to take it to the rim and absorb contact time and time again is the difference maker. Five free throw attempts through 16 first half minutes proved that to be true, while the makes on the other hand were a bit uneven. But nobody is worried about Adebayo knocking down shots at any point this season, it’s about taking them. And he did that in the season opener.

#2: Jimmy Butler’s new defensive role enhances his best skill, as I expected.

Something I’ve talked about all off-season after PJ Tucker and Kyle Lowry were acquired is the shift for Jimmy Butler’s role. Not offensively, but the change in defensive positioning for him. No more being inserted into the action play after play throughout a game, since they have enough bodies to throw at those guys now. That meant Butler would be lined up on the weak-side a majority of the time, doing what he does best: awaiting timely doubles. As I said in my game preview, Butler’s defensive signal will be Giannis Antetokounmpo’s post-up game. When he pivots inside with his back against the perimeter, a Butler sprint would closely follow. That’s exactly what happened tonight, and although it wasn’t a flurry of steals on the stat sheet, it was forced steals and plenty of deflections.

#3: It only took one game to figure out PJ Tucker’s fit on this Heat team.

After Pat Riley’s press conference this week, now you know why he went on and on about the likable traits of PJ Tucker with this team. Toughness, scrappiness, and defensive traits that aren’t teachable. You can just tell that this game was personal for him, and he seemed to let that be known. Being vocal after big plays, eyeing that Milwaukee sideline, and even throwing in the occasional hard foul. Seeing him dive over the Bucks bench with a comfortable lead in the second quarter just speaks volume. He’s going to defend at a high level and knock down that corner triple at a high level, but the other stuff is what truly makes this pick-up a big deal. This Heat team missed that loud voice next to Butler, and now they have it.

#4: Simply, Tyler Herro’s role is quite perfect.

When I talked to Max Strus earlier in the week about his offensive role off the bench, he quickly premised it by saying, “The second unit is to get Tyler going.” And well, that is far from an overstatement. Even when Butler or Lowry are lined up next to Tyler Herro, they immediately revert to an off-ball role, knowing that Herro needs the ball in his hands to work. Twelve shot attempts at the half for Herro was a team high, which is interesting for a guy who is coming off the bench. But that’s what the Heat want. Fire away in that scoring role, and don’t worry about the other elements. Let the play-making and facilitating stuff happen in the natural flow of the game, and simply: just get buckets.

#5: Oh, this isn’t just a defensive team.

When looking at this Heat team on paper, the outlier is that this is a hefty defensive group. Aside from Herro and Robinson, the rotation is pretty much filled with tough, defensive minded guys which is something they’ve lacked recently. But don’t sell the theme of this group short: they can score the basketball. 72 first half points can pretty much tell the whole story, but there’s a difference with that statement. They didn’t have a Jaylon Brown scoring 25 before the half or Julius Randle scoring 22. The scoring on this team was spread out evenly, which will most likely be the case throughout this 82 game season. Butler will get his points, Adebayo will emerge, Lowry will step back at times, and Herro will do his thing. And that’s what you want.

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Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks Season Opener Scouting Report

The Milwaukee Bucks came out hot to kick off their season on Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets, and that’s something Miami truly needs this season as well: to come out hot.

Pat Riley went into detail in a Tuesday afternoon presser about the strength of their early season schedule, highlighting the fact that they have 13 road games in their first 20 and started out the year 7-14 last season.

So, it’s pretty clear: an opening night win at home against the Bucks could truly put this Heat team on the right track.

The last time I wrote up this type of scouting report was throughout the Heat’s first round playoff series last season against……oh, the Milwaukee Bucks. But this time around, there are different circumstance in terms of roster construction.

Anyway, let’s take a dive into each side of the ball for Miami, finding ways they can come out the gates firing with this new team…

Offensively:

Attacking Switches: A Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry Staple, A Bam Adebayo Necessity

One of the main reasons Milwaukee was able to put it together last season was their willingness to become more flexible on the defensive end come playoff time. Living or dying by that drop coverage can get you in trouble with certain teams, and one of those teams is this new look Heat team.

But on the way to an NBA Championship last season, the switching scheme became a staple of their defensive ways. Guys like Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo can truly swarm you when blitzing a PnR, which was a decent refresher for that group of guys.

Now, it’s time for Miami to adjust to the adjustment. A staple of Jimmy Butler’s game is taking advantage of mismatches in the half-court, pulling a slow-footed big out to the perimeter before exploding by for a quick bump and yell to get to that coveted free throw line.

That’ll always be there for Butler, but that isn’t the true difference maker. Kyle Lowry is pretty much in that same category as well, but he does it in a completely different way. He doesn’t create mismatches for himself. He creates them for his big man down low.

And well, it’s why Bam Adebayo can truly exploit the defense, which will be a common takeaway all season.

Adebayo is going to draw a Grayson Allen or George Hill on the block once or twice, and there must be a mental preparation for those possessions. No quick turnaround inside the free-throw line to let them off the hook. No kick-outs to Lowry so he can try and drum something up against a big. Just play bully ball.

Why is this so important? Well, it’s not just about putting points on the board on those limited possessions. It’s about what will closely follow.

After watching the Bucks face the Nets on Tuesday, a major takeaway about Antetokounmpo is that you have to account for him on the defensive end at all times, and even more so when he’s on that weak-side lurking.

With that said, Adebayo taking advantage of the mismatch once or twice in the first half means that he’ll be pulling Antetokounmpo in closer and closer, which is the ultimate goal for Miami’s offensive structure. Adebayo can then land in his comfort zone of skip passes and over the top play-making.

It’s why that one element of attacking the switch opens everything else up. If that aggression isn’t seen from the jump, there’s a good shot this could be one of those games in the mud.

Tyler Herro’s Broader Bag = Extensive Combos Against Drop in the Mid-Range

Switching may be a staple for them, but Brook Lopez continues to be fantastic in that drop on a regular basis. It was the one area that I said could be exploited in the playoffs last year by Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, and Tyler Herro.

The one thing about all three of those guys last year was that mid-range game was extremely one dimensional. It was that elbow pull-up each and every possession, and those weren’t even falling in that series. No adjustment was needed from the Bucks, since Miami was basically hurting themselves.

Now without Dragic and Nunn, that mid-range game declined in a way that Milwaukee can sustain that drop, right? Wrong.

Aside from going through other options for Miami inside the arc, Tyler Herro is the guy who can really get up those shots that he loved in the preseason. It’s no longer the simple, linear pull-up. It’s pull-back dribbles, step-backs, and over the top jumpers with that high lift from that in-between game.

And that can be killer.

As Max Strus said when I talked to him after practice, “The second unit is to get Tyler going.” He’s going to be getting up a ton of shots night in and night out, but Thursday’s match-up may even mean it’ll be on the higher end with what will be given to him.

Can he carry over that preseason success? The door is open for him to kick it off in the right way.

Defensively:

PJ Tucker on Brook Lopez, Bam Adebayo on Giannis Antetokounmpo?

When looking at pure on-paper match-ups for these two teams, it’s pretty intriguing: Lowry on Holiday, Robinson on Allen, Butler on Middleton, and well, the front-court match-ups.

It feels like it’ll be a deal where they mix it up a bit throughout, especially with Coach Spo not wanting Adebayo to get in early foul trouble, but I think that adjustment will be made once we hear that first whistle.

PJ Tucker’s size doesn’t equate to length on the 7 foot Brook Lopez, but it does equate to width. He can defend the post at a high level against bigger guys, and Miami’s scheme will have plenty of doubles flying from all over the place.

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What is the difference between this discussion now and last year? The match-ups can actually be debated.

The same goes for the way the roster was constructed in the bubble, where Adebayo and Jae Crowder could constantly rotate match-ups, while throwing in Andre Iguodala and Soloman Hill to muck things up on Milwaukee’s solid front-court.

Lowry gave this team added offensive weapons, but Tucker gave this team added defensive weapons. And the on-paper match-ups tell the whole story in that sense.

The Jimmy Butler Specialty Incoming: Timely Doubles

As I’ve said many times: Jimmy Butler’s best skill in the game of basketball is weak-side defending.

He’s going to be outside the action much more this season which is favorable to him, but the Middleton match-up will most likely pull him into a heavy on-ball defensive role this Thursday.

Some interesting wrinkles that Brooklyn through at Antetokounmpo were constant doubles, but the timing of them always seemed off, leading to a 32/14/7 night. But since this is a “scouting report,” there’s a specific moment when that double is needed, and Butler will pick up on this quickly.

One thing about Butler is that he’s a sneaky doubler. He waits for that guy with the ball in his hands to turn away, then he instinctively sprints at him from the backside. Similarly, Antetokounmpo is a guy who turns into those pivoted stances inside the arc, opening up that gateway for Butler.

Leaving his back vulnerable on the block with Tucker or Adebayo holding him down in the post will be a good starting point for the defensive structure. Make Antetokounmpo uncomfortable, force him into that extra pass, and key-in on those close-outs that this starting lineup will be so good with.

In my opinion, this should be a 3+ steal night for Butler with the new play-style.

Wild Card:

Taking Advantage of Milwaukee’s Full Bench Lineups

Miami has played victim recently with opposing teams exploding when the top dogs were getting a breather on the sideline, but that won’t be the case much this year for the Heat.

It’ll be a revolving door of Butler, Lowry, and Adebayo, while Herro’s offensive emergence will take enough pressure off of them while they’re on the floor.

For Milwaukee, there are a few stretches that Miami will have to take advantage of. For one, Jrue Holiday’s status may be in question after he left Tuesday’s game with a heel contusion, so these “lineups” I’m discussing will be seen even more often.

Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Holiday all found themselves on the sideline early in that season opener, and that should be a signal to just go, especially for the team’s energy flame Tyler Herro.

That’ll be the wild card. Upon seeing a five-man group of the supporting cast, it’ll be time for Miami to really capitalize in ways so many teams did against them last season.

“He wasn’t happy with losing and getting swept and being embarrassed,” Pat Riley said about Jimmy Butler’s attitude following that playoff series. And now it’s time to showcase that in a brand new season, with a brand new team, and a brand new mindset.

This team may have gotten plenty of physical rest, but mental rest was also taken into account. And that element was even more important for this group of guys.

 

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Five Takeaways from Pat Riley’s Presser

Pat Riley spoke with media today before the season opener this Thursday, and the overall vibe was completely different from when he spoke a couple months ago after the loss to Milwaukee in the post-season.

Riley actually embodied something in this presser that the entire team will embody this season: being refreshed. A new team, a rested mind and body, while carrying over that same winning mentality is both the Riley and Miami Heat way.

Anyway, following a ton of topics to cover from this 45 minutes presser, here are some things that stuck out to me:

(Plus an audio form of Five on the Floor on this topic)

#1: Bam Adebayo might be a “flat out scorer this year.”

There’s never a better place to start in these type of evaluation pieces than Bam Adebayo. Riley started out saying that Adebayo has “gotten extraordinarily better than last year.”

He mentioned some things regarding his role last season, such as being that much needed ball handler and facilitator with the guys around him, but following some off-season additions, the goal posts are moving.

Fastly.

Riley adds, “I think you might see a flat out scorer this year.” And as many have added in the past, that places this Miami Heat team in a completely different tier. If Adebayo is your leading scorer on a team with Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, and an emerging Tyler Herro, the league must watch out.

This isn’t just Heat twitter fantasizing over offensive tweaks that may never ultimately happen. This is Pat Riley once again saying to the public that this transformation is upon us. And well, as Riley alluded to a bit in the presser, Lowry and Butler will be major reasons for that.

#2: The closing lineup factor isn’t a surprise.

The question started with a general evaluation of Duncan Robinson, and his goal to close games with this Heat team. Riley jokingly responded, “He’s got to be on a bad team,” in terms of him closing every game since he’d be the best player on a bottom tier ball club.

In this scenario, the way to close games is pretty straight forward for Riley: “They know now that if you want to be on the court at the end of the game that my defense is not gonna hurt me in the last 4 or 5 minutes.”

This type of discussion pretty quickly turned into an interesting topic that’s been brought up a ton recently: will Herro or Robinson be the one closing?

Riley gave his opinion, saying, “Tyler is probably gonna be on the floor, because he’s a multi faceted player.”

Just from what I’ve seen so far, aside from Herro’s string of masterclass performances, it seems like they need that looser offensive piece late in games who can handle over the spacer.

But yet again, there won’t be a set closing lineup. Spo will do his usual tinkering, but we do know the four who will be on the floor at all times.

Yes, four…

#3: PJ Tucker isn’t just an Erik Spoelstra guy. He’s actually a Pat Riley guy.

When PJ Tucker was signed this off-season, the initial thought was that this is an Erik Spoelstra guy. Doesn’t explode in the scoring column in any capacity, but he plays hard, plays his role, and he can be trusted late in games.

Yet, the respect Pat Riley has for him seems to be even greater.

“He’s 3 times more than I thought he was. If I wanted to put on a defensive clinic, I would use him.” Riley continued to praise his ability to defend in every way, using perfect close-outs, positioning, and even screening on the offensive end.

As I said before, we all know Butler, Lowry, and Adebayo will be out there when that final buzzer sounds every night, but Tucker is in that grouping as well. This team needed extra defensive size, and although his length on paper doesn’t project that to be true, his on-court presence certainly does.

#4: Max Strus is high on this team’s “young guy” big board.

Pat Riley brought up the “young guys” on this team quite frequently. Not just bringing them up in terms of their age, but also the ways they can contribute at this stage.

That list clearly consisted of Adebayo, Herro, and Robinson, but one other name kept being thrown in when being discussed: Max Strus.

Now, this may not seem to be a big deal to many, since he’s going to be a major piece of this team’s bench unit this season, but the respect level among his peers has been incredible. It’s not just his teammates and coaches either. It’s the business man upstairs as well.

Riley joked, “His agent is on the phone all the time trying to extend his contract.” And well, pretty soon those conversations will be progressing even further. He puts in the work, and he produces at a high level on the big stage. There’s no doubt he’s in store for a big season.

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#5: The season focus: early season success.

After discussing a lot of individual players, there was one general theme that floated around a couple times in this press conference: the strength of the early-season schedule.

This team had to deal with a bunch of things to begin the season last year regarding Covid, and it lead to a 7-14 start. Due to that being the case, it seems like there’s some extra initiative to come out the gates hot.

To talk about this on a much smaller scale, opening night could really propel this team into a hot start. Taking down the defending Champs, in the Milwaukee Bucks, to kick off their season will give them the ultimate confidence to keep it rolling.

And as Riley noted today, that Bucks team has a bunch of versatile bigs to try and match-up with. But well, Miami added some size of their own, and one of them was taken from that Bucks team.

On this team that is built for the playoffs, a hot regular season start can move them up to that next tier.

 

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Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA

Covid-19: Will unvaccinated NBA players be paid for games they miss?

Will unvaccinated NBA players not be paid for games they miss?

 

All NBA fans will be eagerly looking ahead to the start of the 2021/22 season in mid-October. A return to the full 82-game schedule is welcome and everyone will be looking to see how their favorite side gets on. With the Bucks looking to retain their crown from 2021, it could be a tremendous year in store – especially if the Heat do well!

 

If you cannot wait for the new season to kick into gear, it can be fun to look around and predict who might win the 2022 Finals. The current odds that most online sportsbooks are giving show the Nets and LA Lakers as favorites. With the Bucks not far behind, it could be a three-horse race for the title. Some fans will even place a futures sports bet on the team of their choice and hope to win big if it comes off! If you also find sportsbook promo codes, you can enjoy a risk-free way of backing NBA sides such as Miami Heat.

 

One thing that could impact on how well sides do this year is players missing games because of Covid. This may well see teams without important players for key games. One story you may have heard is that unvaccinated players will not be paid for games they miss – but is this true?

 

Unvaccinated NBA players not to be paid for missing games

 

A recent announcement from the NBA itself has confirmed the stories are true. Players who have not been vaccinated in line with local legislation will not be paid for games they miss due to Covid. It has also been reported that players who are unvaccinated cannot take part in home games in the coming year. Although it is thought that around 90% of the league’s players have had the jab, this still leaves a number who will feel they are being discriminated against for making a personal choice regarding their bodies.

 

How might this affect the coming NBA season?

 

The big question for fans is just what an effect such a ruling will have on the coming NBA season. The two main dangers may lie in top players leaving the sport altogether, and the impact on morale. Players who are punished for exercising their right not to be vaccinated may well walk away from the sport and leave it without the best talent. In addition, players who aren’t paid but stick around may be bad for team morale and hamper how the side performs. With so many players already vaccinated, though, it must be said that the overall impact of this ruling may not be too big.

 

NBA players punished for refusing vaccine

 

Recent comments from the NBA make it clear that unvaccinated players will be punished for their decision. By not paying people who refuse the Covid vaccine, it sets out a clear and – some would say – dangerous precedent in sports. As the observations from the Heat’s first pre-season match are drawn, this is certainly food for thought.