Tag Archive for: Caleb Martin

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Celtics

Heat drop game 6 to Celtics on game winner.


#1: Caleb Martin continually saving the Miami Heat’s offense.

As the Heat trailed 34-29 after a quarter of basketball, it made you wonder how the Heat acquired close to 30 after that offensive display. But well, it pretty simply came down to a guy named Caleb Martin, who started in game 6 as expected. 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting was his stat-line heading into the second quarter along with grabbing 5 boards. But they always seem to be timely buckets. Offense completely in the mud, so Butler’s last resort was to let Martin make something out of nothing. And well, he kept doing it. Strong Butler-like drives got him going, right into some open spot-up triples that Boston just won’t adjust away from. He’s been terrific all series long, and that first quarter was all him when Miami had possession of the basketball.

#2: Jimmy Butler looking as uncomfortable as ever.

Watching Jimmy Butler in that first half, you would notice that you are watching a very different version of the guy we’ve seen as of late. 2 for 10 shooting wouldn’t even tell the full story, since it was more-so the lack of ways he could find comfort in the usual spots on the floor. Pump fakes weren’t working, space wasn’t provided with the crashing help, and he had no where near the driving lanes that he once had early in the series. To be completely honest, he simply looked disjointed. Inefficiency around the rim is never a good sign due to that mirroring a defense that packs the paint and forces outside shots. That’s why you saw Miami’s first half begin with threes and end with threes. Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin swooped in to save the day, but that version of Butler was something new.

#3: Oh, Gabe Vincent is back? Oh, Gabe Vincent is back!

As the Heat opened up this game, there was some worry about the mobility of Gabe Vincent’s ankle as he slotted off the ball every possession. Max Strus had an insane usage rate to begin this one, but later on, we saw Vincent step up in a major way. To begin the second quarter, his pull-up threes made an appearance to open up the half-court offense a bit, as he stepped into two very similar looks in the span of a minute. He cuts it to a 2 point game all of a sudden as the Celtics call timeout, but it was mostly about him taking the shots that Butler just wasn’t. Fast forward to a Heat team down double digits with 3 minutes left in the second quarter, the ball swings to an open Vincent for three who capitalizes again. His efficiency inside the arc wasn’t really there in that first half, but at least he was putting pressure on things. Playing that physical and mobile coming off an ankle sprain was unpredictable, yet necessary.

#4: Dealing with Jayson Tatum…then the others.

For the last few games, the Heat have been heavily reacting to on-ball Jayson Tatum, mixing in a ton of blitzes and show and recovers. That has led to a lot of high level passing for the role players to get going in games 4 and 5. Yet in game 6, we saw a lot more of isolation Tatum and man did he get cooking. Miami continued to mix up his defender between Butler and Martin, yet it didn’t seem to matter. He was getting to the basket with ease, which was the biggest difference between Tatum and Butler in this game. One could get to the rim to set up his offensive profile. The other one couldn’t at all. As for the third quarter run by the Celtics, their movement was just much better than Miami’s half-court play. I said before this game the team with better ball and body movement would take the cake, and well…

#5:  The fourth quarter…

We see an immediate lineup shift with Duncan Robinson entering for potential offense, and a Kyle Lowry attack and dish to him on the cut shaves the lead to just 3. Heat give up a White three, and Lowry answers with a…post-up bucket? Some fresh legs providing some new offense. 82-78, 9 minutes to go. Robinson answers the phone again with a massive contested triple to cut it to 1, followed with a strong attack into a Butler tip-in. The Heat finally lead. One Brown drive later, the call on the floor is a goal-tend while he takes two free throws, swinging the game majorly back in the other direction. Heat trail 88-83 with under 7 minutes to go. Robinson makes some plays on the offensive end, but none could make up any ground. The Celtics kept responding all over the board, right into a 10 point lead with 4 and a half minutes to go. Fully relying on Robinson and Martin with Butler and Adebayo nowhere to be found. Butler began getting to the line the next few possessions as they entered the bonus, but it was an uphill climb. And well, another Miami Heat scoring run later following a Butler three and some free throw battling, the Heat cut it to 3 with a minute left. Brown goes 1 of 2 from the line, as Butler powers down the court into an and-1 layup. 1 point game. Robinson has a great look, misses it, Smart gets to the line and goes 1 for 2. They push down the floor, and with 2 seconds left, Butler gets fouled. Butler ends up getting fouled with 2 seconds left to take a 1 point lead, and a tip-in at the buzzer puts Miami away. Incredible.

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Boston

The Heat fall short of the sweep in game 4 as Boston blitzes them.

Uneven showing for Heat’s main guys, and the offense is so reliant on them to create. And well, that bled into the defense.

Game 5 up next, but first here are some takeaways from game 4…

#1: The first quarter felt like a repeat of the series. But that was the only quarter.

Much like in game 3, you would expect the Boston Celtics to come out as the desperate team that they are to start the game. But well, it just felt like a re-run of much of the series. Not much adjustments aside from the Bam Adebayo on Marcus Smart factor, but the entire picture just felt like the Heat dictating everything. The switches they want, the pace to play at, etc. The Celtics obviously had their punches, but they’ve had those this whole series aside from giving up completely in game 3. My main early takeaway was that in a setting that you expect to be watching a completely new story in each and every game, as seen in the first two rounds, things have been rather competitive on the schematic front. But well, the last 3 quarters that fell apart.

#2: Are these big Caleb Martin games or is it just normal Caleb Martin?

14 points on 6 of 6 shooting. That was the stat-line of Caleb Martin as the team entered the half. Every game of the series he seems to take up a slot on my takeaways, but are we approaching the point where this is just normal activity? When I say 6 of 6 shooting, it’s not like his shots are easy at all either. Tough leaning threes, quick and swift attacks off close-outs: it’s just been an absolute individual masterclass from a 1-on-1 perspective. If the Celtics dip off, he makes them pay off the catch. If the Celtics chase him off the line, he has an attacking counter he will get to. From the guy that defenses help off of to the guy that is tearing defenses apart. Just rising by the day.

#3: Jimmy Butler’s defensive versatility.

Jimmy Butler has been the hub of this group all playoffs for obvious reasons. Not only by the way he keeps controlling offensively with everything running through him, but the way he mucked things up on defense in that first quarter. The reason it’s truly wild to see is the different ways he has been utilized on that end of the floor from series to series. Starting out against the Bucks, they threw a curve-ball to let his physicality lead on Jrue Holiday, and he played strong on his way to messing up their offense. Onto the Knicks, they put him on the guy they wanted to help off, and just let him go to work by helping down on Jalen Brunson into insane impact. Now against Boston, it’s been a flipping nature between Tatum and Brown, meaning not much room to linger. That’s been Bam’s job instead. Butler’s offensive control was just so rough in this one, that it bled into the defense. But still need to keep track of this timeline.

#4: Sensing fatigue for the Heat and fire for Celtics from deep.

The Celtics gave Miami a massive haymaker in the third quarter to really turn the tides. The Heat couldn’t seem to stop them due to the fact they were hitting the shots that Miami has been living with for much of the series. Marcus Smart threes, Grant Williams got hot, and Jayson Tatum finally started getting to the rim. What happened to the defense? The offensive struggles were bleeding into that end. Miami went minutes on end without scoring multiple times, and they were just totally out of rhythm and flow. But with that said, the biggest reason seemed to be fatigued. Short jumper after short jumper. They just couldn’t seem to get it over the rim and that screams tired legs. A lot of the time this league is the battle of outside shooting, and that third quarter was a perfect example of that. Also didn’t help when Butler was in and out of things for much of the first three quarters.

#5: The fourth quarter…

As the Heat walk into the quarter down 9, Butler was on the bench and the Heat needed a run. Duncan Robinson entered and the Heat leaned on him heavily for offense. Got some good attacks from Bam after pocket passes from Robinson, then a tough pass to Lowry down low forces a timeout. 88-83 with 9:40 to go. For some reason, Butler doesn’t enter right away and walks to the scorers table after the inbound, saving him…seconds? Boston runs off two quick buckets and we’re back in a timeout. 92-83 with 9 minutes left. And well, it slowly just grew from there. Threes kept falling for Boston, and the Heat offense was the part that was just completely it of whack to me. Also when the whole design revolves around on-ball Butler, you need him to be clicking. The others around him fully rely on the reactions to him defensively, and when he doesn’t have it, they won’t have it. Back to Boston for game 5.

Caleb Martin, Duncan Robinson on some Heat-Knicks schematics, Playoff Jimmy, and more

From any Heat fan’s perspective following the Heat’s game 4 and 5 wins to close out the Bucks, you would usually get the same answer when thinking about the all time performances from Jimmy Butler.

When asking his teammates that same question 60 hours after it’s past by, you get the same exact response.

Simply, amazement.

When I rehashed his play to Caleb Martin, he looks at me and laughs, saying: “That was very new to me bro.”

“Obviously one of the best performances I’ve seen in the league in the four years I’ve been here,” he continued. “It was pretty dope to see.”

Duncan Robinson’s take was very similar, as he starts off saying: “That was crazy. That was 1 of 1. That was a special performance.”

Everybody’s minds are on New York, but everybody’s hearts are still in that Milwaukee series just a tad. It’s human nature, following a series of events that just simply are tough to just “wear off.”

To continue on the Butler subject, after his 56 point night in game 4, I asked him a rather simple question: “Is Playoff Jimmy a thing?”

It’s something he has denied in the past, and he flowed right back into the sentiment telling me, “It’s not a thing. It’s not. I just be hoopin.” The latter portion is definitely true as he was giving every Bucks defender buckets in that series, but it’s hard to eye down this production from him in April and May every year and say there isn’t a trend.

So, I talked to multiple teammates and brought up the “Playoff Butler” label that he’s gotten.

Robinson quickly cuts in with “If he says it’s not a thing, it’s not a thing. He’s a great player regardless of the time of year. When the competition is at its highest, I think that’s when he’s probably his best.”

That last part is the answer I’ve gotten from anybody I’ve brought it up to. Martin told me, “That’s just Jimmy. I don’t think it’s Playoff Jimmy, I think that’s just Jimmy, it’s who he is.”

“He’s a competitor and it just comes around that time of year with the highest level of competition, so it just comes out,” he adds.

All of this Butler propaganda leads us into the true story 24 hours before game 1 of the second round between the Heat and Knicks: we know Butler is playing at an incredible level right now, and so do the Knicks who are being directed by somebody Butler knows well, Tom Thibodeau.

To that point, Butler is not going to see anywhere close to the same amount of single coverage that he saw in the Milwaukee Bucks series. The Knicks are going to send doubles his way, so a major way to open things up is by the guy being helped off of makes them pay.

Many times this season, that guy is Caleb Martin.

“I get to come in knowing how I’ll get those open looks,” Martin said about reacting to his defender being a helper. “I just gotta be ready to knock them down.”

As for Robinson, he won’t be as lucky to be dipped off of on the perimeter. “He’ll (Jimmy) probably see different coverages throughout the course of it. They’ll mix up a few different things. For us, it’s just about being ready to make a play and be aggressive. Not just reactive, but proactive and try to make something happen.”

The other main element about this series for Martin is going to be the baseline roaming aspect. Why in this series compared to the first round? Well, while both series involve a heavy amount of drop coverage, it’s a total different scheme.

Robinson even detailed some of the obvious differences, “They guard it very differently. With the way Milwaukee was guarding, really not giving away a lot of air space, especially on like kick-outs and stuff like that. It’s different schemes, but you just gotta find a way to attack it.”

The Bucks use their dropping big to completely protect the rim with helpers on the side, while the Knicks run Mitchell Robinson much higher up to the level. When bringing up the schematics favoring Martin in that realm, he felt the same way by operating corner to corner.

“Definitely get on the baseline and those slides will be very important for spacing. Obviously for our rollers, for Bam to get open against those taller, longer guys. Mitchell Robinson is a guy we have to try and get him out of position a lot, and that’s going to do a lot with our drives and our slides.”

Out of all the conversations I had today on the schematic side of things, that was by far my biggest takeaway. The Heat are heavily focused on moving Mitchell Robinson into different spots to find offensive openings. The Knicks can do some intriguing things defensively, but Miami can bend certain things in a way that they just couldn’t against the Bucks.

With Milwaukee staying in that base and not adjusting, Miami walked in knowing what shots they were getting every night.

On that same Mitchell Robinson topic, they’re trying to move him in ways to force easier looks for Bam Adebayo. As I mentioned here, it’s about getting him behind the second line defense more often to get to the rim.

Now that Tyler Herro won’t be involved in this series again, it puts more pressure on some of the other guards to shine as pocket passers in that PnR or other Heat sets. And in my opinion, Duncan Robinson could be the best pocket passer on the squad.

I brought up the focus to get Bam to the rim in this series with that higher drop, which he responded, “It’s an important aspect for sure, just getting the ball back to Bam really regardless of what the coverage is. Just try to get it back to him so he can play-make and be aggressive, so definitely a component for sure.”

Just as the Heat are going to try to move Mitchell Robinson around defensively for openings, Jalen Brunson is going to try and shift things for the Heat defensively. I personally believe Butler starts on Brunson, but Martin is going to see a good amount of time on him as well when there’s not a switch.

What makes guarding Brunson different than some of the guards in the Bucks series?

“He’s very patient, very crafty,” Martin starts to note. “He knows what he wants to do, very poised, not very sped up at all. So that’s going to be the biggest thing: staying down on shot fakes and being disciplined.”

It’s going to be a series of on-court counters, and the Heat seem prepared. Let Jimmy Butler off his leash, see the reaction to him, then react to the reaction.

Should be a good one.

(Extra content)

One last thing away from the court, that Caleb Martin shot in the corner on Giannis Antetokounmpo right before an amazing celebration just keeps gaining attention for obvious reasons.

Is it going to make an appearance in the garden?

“It might come out again.”

Where did it come from?

“It just came to me in the moment.”

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Clippers

The Miami Heat get a much needed win against the LA Clippers, behind a top heavy night from the Heat roster.

Big offensive night from Bam Adebayo, timely shots from Jimmy Butler throughout, and big runs from Caleb Martin and Tyler Herro.

Some takeaways…

#1: Caleb Martin: the Heat’s early offensive savior.

The Heat’s first quarter was an absolute disaster in the half-court. If your name wasn’t Jimmy Butler, they shot 4 of 18 from the field through the first 12 minutes. So how did they end up shooting 64% (14 for 22) the next quarter? The answer is Caleb Martin. The early Heat game-plan was to acquire some paint points, but nothing was shifting the defense. Martin ended up getting some shot creation involved early in the second, giving an immediate spark. That turned into some rhythm from deep, knocking down 4 of 5 threes in the quarter, which one didn’t count since he stepped out of bounds. This season hasn’t had many ups, but Caleb Martin has been one.

#2: Bam Adebayo’s needed shot profile.

As I noted over a recent stretch, Bam Adebayo has found his go-to shot. A face-up into a pull-up jumper a few feet from the basket. But while that should be his go-to when nothing else is being generated, it shouldn’t be his consistent base. What should be that shot profile base, you may ask? Well, it’s most definitely the strong attacks to the basket. When he puts his head down and flies toward the rim, that just puts the defense in such a tough spot. Late rotations, in the mix for a simple foul, or just strict dominance. I still love that go-to jumper that he’s unlocked along the way, but the way to maximize that headliner is to prepare it by the attacking game.

#3: An intriguing lineup to monitor…

As this is “solution time,” as Bam Adebayo proclaimed it after the loss to the Detroit Pistons, let me present something that provided a solution in the first half. I already documented the rough start and Martin spark, but he wasn’t out there alone. The lineup of Herro-Oladipo-Strus-Martin-Adebayo did some very good things, as it has a wide variety of skill-sets, which they’re not tripping over each other in the half-court. A shooter (if he’s hitting or not), two primary shot creators, and two guys who can defend while providing the occasional offensive burst. When healthy, this also allows the Butler-Lowry minutes to paired more often, which is usually the goal. Keep an eye on this lineup, since they’re going to get back to this a lot…

#4: Wait, one more thing on Bam: defenses are doubling him on the catch……

While I discuss Bam’s altered approach to get to the basket more often, that’s more projecting in general. But what needs to be discussed is that he’s being doubled in that mid-post consistently off the catch. This has been for a few weeks, but it’s just creeping up more and more. Him finding counters to it are already developing, since somebody that skilled with that type of passing ability basically has built in counters. A play in the third quarter stood out though: they flew a double at him, he retreated out almost like he was going to run a hand-off, then reversed back into an attack for the lay-in. This is a major plus to the offense…for many different reasons.

#5: Another late-game walk-through…

Halfway through the 4th quarter, the Heat continue into a Butler-Bam two-man spam. A Bam floater is the outcome, putting him up to 31 points on the night. Heat send a double at Paul George on the other end to force him into a turnover, which Miami was getting comfortable doing late. On the other end, Jimmy Butler drives and dishes to Max Strus in the corner for three, really giving the Heat some life. Miami continued to put two on the ball in most circumstances the next few possessions, really coming as a surprise to the Clippers. Jimmy Butler took over really late in the quarter in that mid to low post, just choosing his switch. Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard each getting reps for Butler’s turnaround. Clippers matched some buckets shortly after to force a run of their own, but Butler countered again with a wild step back baseline jumper. The Heat close out a much needed win at home.

Caleb Martin’s Simple Game Blending into a Simplified Role

When Caleb Martin spoke after the season in his exit interview, he seemed to have two statements that stood out among the rest. The first was that he wanted to be back in Miami, which ended up coming true after he signed a multi-year contract to return to the Heat.

The second comment that stood out regarded his role. When I asked him about certain tweaks in his game moving forward, he brought up the role of guys like PJ Tucker and Draymond Green. Two guys who are guarded by bigger guys and size up, yet focus on being a “tweener” who can screen, roll, and play-make.

With him saying that on May 31st prior to the start of the off-season, Caleb Martin now finds himself in that exact position. After Tucker signed with Philly and the Heat yet to replace that starting 4 position, it’s created many conversations in this space on what’s next for Miami positionally.

Could Martin be that 4? Will Jimmy Butler bump up a position slot? Could they go big?

Those are all debatable questions that will alter depending on who is answering, but that’s not what I’m focusing on right now.

When you hear the name Martin at this time of year, many Heat fans minds immediately shoot to the hole at the 4. But how about we discuss the valued role he’s going to play instead of the starter vs bench conversation?

From the team’s perspective last year, they wanted him to focus on being Jimmy-lite in a way. He was the back-up 3, yet if Butler was out on a specific night, they handed him a bigger chunk of the load offensively to see how he would handle it.

But now that the guard room got deeper and the big man room shrunk, it leads us back to those comments I provided earlier. Instead of eyeing the Butler’s of the world, he’s going to be eyeing the role that Tucker just played this past year. Once again, that’ll be the case whether he’s a high level reserve or the starting four.

The point to make on that topic is they won’t provide a ceiling to that role. The current goal is to utilize full-on expansion heading into camp, starting with the spots they place him as a creator off the roll.

One of the things that made Tucker so great in his offensive load last year was he found his niche. Hand-off, roll, floater. After not being the greatest finisher for some time, that two foot plant and one hand push shot became a staple to keep defenses honest inside the lane.

The reason I bring this up is while Martin’s reading this blueprint, he won’t be copy and pasting by any means.

Martin’s athleticism and quick first step shouldn’t be taken lightly. He’s not the slow paced floater type of guy that a Tucker or Draymond Green might be.

Instead, as shown in the clip above, he can mix in some blow-bys against slower defenders to get to those cross-body shots that he loves to use around the basket.

But still, that type of scoring stuff isn’t the “expansion” I’m discussing. It’s actually a totally different dimension.

The Heat are going to be leaning into an even heavier motion offense this season in my personal opinion, meaning a Martin type fits that mold perfectly. While Martin is usually the open guy on the floor to make defenses pay after mishaps, he’s going to be more of the disruptor himself this season.

How is that? Well, his play-making off the roll will be watched very closely.

Like I said, Tucker was a lot of things for that Heat team last year, but I will say this wasn’t one of them. A guy with a bit more length and athletisism to keep both the ball and the defense moving will tie the bow on a lot of Miami’s movement sets.

Since they’re going to lack pure size on the roster, they will have to lean heavily into speed, and this is exactly how it’s done. You may be thinking that’s a lot on Martin’s plate to improve on as a play-maker, but they layed out the role for him a few months back. I believe he can add that dimension from what we’ve seen so far.

On the flip side of what he can add, let’s also just address what he is at this current moment. To say it simply, he’s a baseline roamer. A true corner threat who likes to operate sideline to sideline so he can maximize spacing for certain guards on the roster.

He’s a player that plays in his role and doesn’t stray off, which Miami loves.

If you want a stat that proves that statement to its core, I’ve got just that: according to NBA.com, Caleb Martin took 155 triples this past season, and 148 of them were open.

They classify “open” as the closest defender being 4 feet or beyond from him, but it still makes sense when thinking back on it. He’s the guy you’re going to help off of, but it should also be said that he made them pay for that pretty often.

Martin shot 41% from beyond the arc this past season, and even shot 43% on three-point pull-ups. He just takes what he is given, and potentially in a lineup with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Kyle Lowry to start the year, that’s a pretty good description to have.

Looking at the clips above, it should also be noted that he’s a very solid off-ball mover at this point in time. With his defender usually being the drifter, he has many opportunities for easy buckets after they fall asleep on the back-side.

Yet again, that’s another thing to be expanded upon in their movement sets.

After diving into what Martin is now and the realistic version of what he can become, let’s utilize this last part to address best case scenario. As I said before, he’s a role player who doesn’t stray out of that exact role. But what if they allow him to at times?

When you have pure athletes on the roster, the goal is to place them in spots to set up that inital burst. One of those places is transition, which they’ve totally allowed him to be free with. But the next step will be if he can do it in tighter spaces of the half-court.

As seen in the clip above, we’ve seen slight glimpses of flashy moves and speedy drives to the basket from either wing, but could there be consistency coming with it?

There’s been consistency with the finishing product of those moves actually, since he’s been super solid around the rim in general. Martin shot a little over 60% less than 10 feet from the basket this past year, which was actually on decent volume.

Yes most of those attempts aren’t the type of drives I just showed in that clip, but that’s something that could make him much more dangerous.

He’s already “dangerous” on one side of the floor, in a way that makes me think I don’t need to bring it up. He screams versatility with the way he can provide pressure baseline to baseline, showed to be one of their better on-ball defenders this season, and now will have that all put to the test over more minutes this upcoming year.

The only true question mark on that side of the floor for him will be about sizing up. Miami’s going to switch everything anyway, but Martin won’t be able to handle a switch onto a 5 just as Tucker did for this group. Adjustments will be made on that front from a team perspective, but the point is they have a lot of confidence in him in many areas.

Caleb Martin has a very simple game. But now they’re handing him a pretty simple role. “Versatility is huge in the playoffs,” Martin said when I asked him about his role after the season. And well, this would be a way for him to branch into that come playoff time.


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A Conversation with Caleb Martin Ahead of Heat-76ers Series

It’s been a bit of a pinball effect for Caleb Martin over the last year. Waived by the Charlotte Hornets, settling for a two-way contract with the Miami Heat, performing at an extremely high level when guys went down, finding a new contract on the regular roster, and now making his case to be consistently a part of the playoff rotation.

Yeah, quite a timeline.

I got to talk with Martin after Friday’s practice ahead of Heat-76ers kicking off Monday night, which by the way, he didn’t practice due to a sprained right ankle.

(Wouldn’t be overly worried about that)

But speaking of that second round series coming up, this is Martin’s first experience in that post-season light.

I asked him about that transition into a new world, and what the biggest differences were for him: regular season vs playoffs.

“The speed of the game was kinda surprising to me, how fast it kinda picked up,” Martin said. “It was kind of a combination of speed and attention to detail. Even little things I noticed like when the ball goes up and I’m gonna go crash, usually during the regular season guys don’t turn around and look at you. Guys were turning around and facing me to block me out so I don’t get extra boards.”

It’s clear there are minor shifts like that need to be adjusted quickly, but the one thing that should always stay consistent when blending from game 82 into game 1 of the playoffs is the way you play and the aggression you play with.

For Caleb Martin, he didn’t feel like he did that all the way to make his debut this past week.

After last game when I asked him about his shining attack in game 5, he replied, “I feel like I’ve been passive the whole entire series…I’m not really at my best when I’m passive.”

When I asked him a follow up on that statement after practice, if it was more of him noticing the non-aggression or coaches/teammates telling him, he said, “It was a little bit of both. Coaches and teammates were noticing that I was a little hesitant, so they were telling me stop thinking about it, don’t double guess.”

“Going back and looking at the film, I just noticed how hesitant I was and I could tell I wasn’t myself. That’s just me trying to get acclimated to the post-season.”

And well, now he’s acclimated. In game 5 he scored 10 points, which is one of those things that doesn’t tell the whole story. Since Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry were out, it was one of those things where he knew he needed to step up in the rim pressure department, which was huge in them closing out the series in 5.


Now, looking ahead a bit to the Philadelphia 76ers, there were two role players that stood out against that team all year. One is Gabe Vincent who averaged a team best 21 a game against them this season, yet only played in two of the four games.

The other guy who has semi-slipped under the radar in that match-up is Caleb Martin. In the last 3 match-ups with them, Martin scored 16 off the bench on 6 of 7 shooting, 14 off the bench on 5 of 7 shooting, and 14 off the bench again on 4 of 6 shooting.

He was the PJ Tucker release valve in this match-up all year, and as Martin calls it, it’s all about them worrying about the Heat’s main crew.

“A lot of it has to do with us having stars on the team,” he said. “They create so much attention and so much buzz when they’re on the court, so I’m one of the guys that they’ll probably sink off of or help off of. So cuts and open threes or open shots are going to be there, so I just gotta be in the right mindset and let it go.”

While the offensive side of the ball for Martin is about not thinking and playing a free-flowing type of style, the other side of the ball is the complete opposite. The 76ers put an immense amount of pressure on a defense for the sole reason that they draw foul after foul after foul.

I asked Coach Erik Spoelstra today about the balance between sustaining aggressiveness while still being mindful of foul trouble, which he responded: “We are who we are.”

He went on to say that this isn’t a passive defensive team, so they’re going to play their brand of basketball. Plus you can be a bit more risky when you have a roster with basically 12 playable playoff guys.

When I asked Martin about that same topic of dealing with a team like that, he said, “It’s definitely frustrating man. Like you said, you just have to be hyper-aware of when to be aggressive and when to dial back. That’s partly on me to watch film and know the tendencies: what guys like to sweep, when they like to do it, what spots they like to do it at. So they do a great job of getting to the line, so just being able to pay attention to detail.”

Finally, we can talk about this series involving Martin, but the truth is that we don’t know exactly who will round out the rotation next round. And the 8th and 9th guy in game one may not be the same in game two.

Or better yet, the 8th or 9th man in the first half may not be the same in the second half.

Coach Spo has called Martin a Swiss Army knife all season long, which could probably be his role again here, but it should be stated that’s not an easy thing to do. Being thrown into the fire of a third quarter while other guys are already fully in rhythm is a bit of a catch-up process, and even more-so in the playoffs.

When I asked Martin about jumping into the intensity of the second half of a playoff game after sitting the first 24 minutes, he quickly said, “It’s definitely different.”

He continued that it’s been a focus to make sure he’s in some type of rhythm on the sideline: “I’m stretching and making sure I’m in a full sweat, so I can try to keep that sweat until I know I’m gonna go in. Sometimes I end up tiring myself out stretching out and stuff like that before I get the chance to get in,” as he laughed.

This isn’t an easy process, but the Caleb Martin process has never been simple from the jump.

He’s a true example of Udonis Haslem’s “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”


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The Vincent-Strus-Martin Ascension Spiraled into a Miami Heat Ascension

When covering the Miami Heat’s scrimmage during training camp, there were two names that I walked away from that game with that were clearly playing at another level.

Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin.

One guy fresh off a two-way contract, and the other brand new to it.

Martin came as a surprise for many, as this athletic kid, that recently played for Charlotte, was showcasing to be much more than just a simple “athlete.”

He showed that his jumper was becoming more consistent, and wasn’t just some isolation player that some seemed to perceive him as coming in.

More than anything, he was a legitimate defensive piece that showed flashes of being a real rotation piece.

Then the month of January hit in the year 2022. His name was already getting more buzz after an electric performance against the Bucks mid-way through December, where his 28 points without Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo led to a much needed win over the defending champs.

But well, the calendar flip was pretty much a defensive tour.

He made De’Aaron Fox’s night uneven with a 5 of 12 night, but it was clear that they had something aside from the Adebayo and Tucker switches. Martin followed the Fox night up with the assignment of Steph Curry, which he bothered enough to shoot 3 of 17 from the field at home.

Yes, they ended up dropping both of those games, but something was brewing.

Shortly after that two-game stretch, he held Chris Paul to a 3 of 9 night, Trae Young to a 4 of 15 game, and Fred VanVleet went 6 of 16 from deep with only one 2 attempted.

The point guard tour was real, but it was the true understanding of what he could be on this team, combined with the overall improvements in his offensive game.


Rewinding back to Gabe Vincent, there weren’t a ton of expectations coming into the season. He was a situational piece when guys went down, leaving many saying that a back-up point guard may be a neccessity.

People were right, they did need a back-up 1. But that guy was Vincent himself.

When he first signed with Miami, he appeared to be an undersized shooter who would play mainly off the catch, which he showed flashes of. But last season, he had an uneven year shooting the ball from deep due to some mechanical shifts.

Yet while some focused on those numbers, he was rapidly excelling at the all around parts of his game.

He became the staple of Miami’s 2-2-1 press that debuted last year next to Andre Iguodala, just due to the fact that his perimeter lateral quickness was for real, and he had a clear knack for the ball.

Coming into this season, he just bounced off that two-way contract, and the next step would be could he make minor improvements on the ball.

Well, the improvements weren’t minor.

He was pretty much thrown into the fire of point guard reps, and he proved that the off-season did a lot for his game. The pick and roll savviness was really something, the catch and shoot numbers jumped up from under 30% last season to 39% this year, and his mid-range/driving game had surged.

His mid-range pull-up stalled out at 29% last year, which spiked to 43% this season. That isn’t gradual improvement. That’s turning the whole page.

Plus, speaking of big games mid-way through December, Vincent led Miami to back-to-back wins with a 26 point performance in Philly, then a 27 point night against the Magic. As the top guys kept dropping out of the lineup, these guys were ready to step up.

Not only are they great fillers, but they’re now potentially in a playoff rotation.

And when talking about certain guys stepping up, Vincent’s two-way companion Max Strus is the perfect example of that.

I wouldn’t exactly say Strus’ scenario was completely aligned with the other two, since it was more about situation and opportunity for him. He constantly would get the same looks no matter if it was last year or this year, but the sample size being greater this time around allowed for a true evaluation period.

Among the top 50 players in 3 point attempts a game this season, which includes around 50 players, only one player shot a better percentage from deep than Strus, with the stipulation of playing at least half of the regular season games.

Desmond Bane edged him out, but Max Strus trailed him with a 41% shooting season from beyond the arc.

It’s not easy to be that spark shooter who has to consistently perform as a guy with zero rhythm prior to entering, but he proved himself. Now he finds himself sitting in the starting lineup less than a week away from the start of the playoffs.

These 3 guys are extreme success stories for this Miami Heat developmental program, but they’re also examples of putting in the work, and performing at the highest level.

From fillers to playoff rotation.

It isn’t everyday that you see that, but from the Heat’s perspective, they aren’t surprised when it happens.


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Five Takeaways from Heat’s Win Over Blazers

The Miami Heat took down the Portland Trail Blazers at home on Wednesday night, behind pure role player domination and Bam Adebayo late takeover.

Many guys had their moments, including Caleb Martin and Gabe Vincent, but Adebayo took over with no Kyle Lowry, no Tyler Herro, and no Jimmy Butler late.

That’s big time.

So, here are five takeaways from this one…

#1: Some Bam Adebayo flashes of total offensive awareness.

Bam Adebayo was the topic of last game but in more of a forceful sense. On his return day, he showcased some defensive sustainability but wasn’t providing the total offensive weaponry as expected. Tonight, though, we saw the flashes that many want to see. To begin the game, Duncan Robinson ends around for a DHO, but his defender is totally fronting him. Adebayo turns, dribbles, and pulls up right into a jumper that went right through the net. That’s the guy many have been awaiting, and that wasn’t the only first half possession that was seen. On the other side of the floor, I saw something that I’ve been saying must be seen more often. Switching will always be number one on their list when he’s on the floor, but blitzing is necessary with his athletic build and quick speed. Late in the second quarter, that blitz led to an easy turnover, which is even easier when Caleb Martin is the other on-ball guy spearheading it. But his late offensive takeover iced it, and it was all about Adebayo’s mindset.

#2: Wait, Jimmy Butler ejected?

Jimmy Butler definitely felt he was getting fouled often in the first half. He’s not one that barks at the refs possession after possession like his point guard counterpart, but something flipped after an and-1. He looked to be sending a message to the baseline referee as he went to let him know in his face about the fouling spree, which totally warranted a technical. Emphasis on “a” technical. As he turned to walk away, still talking to some teammates around him, the second official slid in to give him his second technical. That one, not as warranted in my opinion. Was Butler that upset about the no-calls? I doubt it. As I said, it felt like more of a message that Butler wasn’t expecting to end in ejection. Either way, extra rest isn’t the worst thing for the Heat’s star player.

#3: The bench mob takeover.

Speaking on more of the specifics of the first half, it was more of the “others” that shined, and more importantly, kept Miami afloat. As the starters lacked that offensive chemistry to create similar looks, the bench group came in facilitating that ball at an elite level. Gabe Vincent-Kyle Guy-Max Strus-Caleb Martin-Dewayne Dedmon is quite the lineup to rely on for a good stretch of time, but well, it worked. Martin and Strus ended the first half with 11 points a piece, each doing it in different ways. Strus more of that ignitable spark that gave Miami that extra push when needed offensive to finish possessions, and Martin more of that persistent spot scorer who can utilize terrific footwork, the occasional three, and pure athleticism down the lane to put points on the board. This grouping was intriguing, but I don’t know if I can say it was surprising. I feel like I’ve seen this same show for 44 games.

#4: Another Erik Spoelstra third quarter adjustment.

One of Erik Spoelstra’s best coaching games this season was the home match-up against Utah earlier in the season. Why is that? Well, he made one single adjustment that turned the game around in Miami’s favor. Tonight, he made a similar move. Miami’s back to strong switching with Bam Adebayo back, but that also can be worked to their advantage with PJ Tucker on the floor. And after Jusef Nurkic was really dominating the interior, Spoelstra shifted the match-ups to stick Tucker on CJ McCollum and Adebayo still on Nurkic. What does that mean? Well, every screening action ended with Adebayo on McCollum and Tucker on Nurkic. That’s a win for Miami on both fronts, even if rebounding standards scare you. That one move put Miami right back in it to finish the third quarter strong, as Martin exploded on the other end.


#5: Gabe Vincent’s improvements are no joke.

While it may feel like Caleb Martin deserves his own section after the big time push he gave them in the third, he’s been discussed enough upon his outstanding efforts. But somebody I touched on briefly that must be discussed more is Gabe Vincent. Finding rotation minutes for him aside, we’re witnessing a guy that has made continuous jumps in areas that weren’t even being focused on from outsiders. As many were just speaking on the perimeter shot falling, he’s taken that bet and raised it. Vincent has improved both his handles and vision to a completely other level, that make him quite the NBA level player, as he took over to begin the fourth with continuous feeds to Dewayne Dedmon. And well, defense hasn’t even been mentioned after he was stealing, deflecting, and fronting anybody that came his way. He’s not Kyle Lowry, but he’s treated as such when Lowry is out.


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This Caleb Martin Run Isn’t Temporary

It’s 1:30 pm on September 18th, and a Shams notification hits your phone. Free agent Caleb Martin is signing a two-way deal with the Miami Heat, potentially to fill in a game or two at worst case scenario.

Fast forward a little over 3 months, and an 18 day absence from Martin after entering the health and safety protocols is the new worst case scenario.

Clearly, a total 360, but Martin isn’t surprised.

Before the season even started, when I got a chance to talk to him during training camp, he told me “it’ll allow me to be me a little more here.”

And well, that’s pretty obvious.

We’ve gotten to the point in the season where the phrase “two-way” doesn’t need to be attached to his name. He’s just Caleb Martin.

Opposing teams know his talent, his teammates know his talent, and most of all, Erik Spoelstra knows his talent.


The Heat have gone 10-5 in the month of December, and Martin only played half of those games. But man has he been huge in those 8 games.

Over that period, Martin has put up an Effective Field Goal percentage of 65.9% on a little under 9 attempts per game. He’s also shooting 43% on threes, and 44% on catch and shoot ones specifically.

But aside from just shooting the ball from three at an incredible rate, as this entire Heat team has in the month of December, he’s provided the missing pieces depending on who has been out. The main one that is basically a universal tool when plugging into any role is rim pressure, and he’s taken that to another level.

He’s a scorer at heart. He’s a hooper at heart. When the game gets a little freer and the crowd gets a little louder, his game elevates and his ups elevate for huge slams that almost bring down the arena.

Looking at this clip, you can see that it’s always about that second defender with Martin. Not in the same way as Jimmy Butler does as the weak-side guy edges over, but just in thorough pick and roll offense. His quick first step basically eliminates his original defender completely, and that dropped or switched defender is now the only guy in sight.

But as seen, his athleticism and underrated touch around the rim allows him to get crafty for easy and highlight finishes. In the month of December, he’s shooting 71% from less than 10 feet from the basket, and these aren’t just jumbled up big man numbers who only take easy buckets.

Most of his inside buckets are contested. Really contested. He can get crafty for immediate put-backs after his own miss, but clearly, that isn’t even needed most of the time. His initial finishing can carry the load.

And well, that is a trend that showcases a player’s effectiveness isn’t temporary. Especially when there’s a chance that is not even his best side of the ball.

Martin has talked about the fact that his defense wasn’t really known as a strength early on, but when watching him play this year, it’s hard for that to not be the first thing to bring up when evaluating his game.

There are guys that rely simply on good metrics to handle their defensive talent. Others rely on decent lateral foot speed to be ball pressure guys. And the rest just outsmart the offense by consistently being in the right spot on that end.

And honestly, Caleb Martin is all three.

Aside from looking at those simple elements of the defensive end, take a look at the play above. You may see a guy pick up a smaller ball-handler on the break, time it good, and get the block.

But I see a play that describes his entire defensive nature.

He’s calm but reactive, and that’s one of the best compliments I can give to a defender in this league. It almost appears as if he’s not trying while defending an over-dribbler, but it’s just his overall control taking the wheel before reacting and exploding for a block, steal, contest, or switch.

To put this in perspective, he’s also gotten the best of his match-up most nights this season too. When Martin was defending last night, Kevin Porter Jr shot 1 of 6 from the field and Jalen Green went 1 for 4.

Big picture, he has held guys like Khris Middleton to 1 of 7 shooting, Bradley Beal went 0 for 4, and held Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan to a combined 1 of 4 night.

And the funny thing about stats like that is him deterring shooters and forcing the pass is a better skill of his than pure contesting.

Martin went from a restricted two-way with a 50 game limit to a player with unlimited regular season games due to the league’s recent change. But that doesn’t feel like the only shift coming to his deal this year.

The Miami Heat have shown that they need him big time, and even though a healthy playoff roster may push him out the rotation, health is never a sure thing right now. And even when full, I wouldn’t be surprised if Spoelstra was to call Martin’s number consistently in a series with a good match-up.

I feel like there’s an expectation that he will be a regular roster guy pretty soon, and more importantly, they may be looking past this season. Yes Martin may be another “popping” young prospect of theirs at the bottom of the roster, but his hot streak is more than a streak.

He’s a complete player with a complete game and he’s saved Miami on a handful of occasions throughout this season.

Stats don’t lie, film doesn’t lie, and trust doesn’t lie.

Martin has surged on the stat-sheet, provides way more on film studies than some may notice, and Coach Spoelstra continues to trust him when needed to either start or close.

This isn’t the end of Martin’s production in a Heat uniform. It’s just the beginning.


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Caleb Martin: “It’ll Allow Me to Be Me a Little More Here”

There’s no doubt that Caleb Martin is the picture perfect prospect to use your last two-way spot on. Experience, high-level scoring ability, and the definition of a plug and play guy for Erik Spoelstra.

I talked with Martin for a bit following Sunday’s practice, where he shared some thoughts on his upcoming role with the team.

After asking him if he thinks he’ll be put into a pure shot creation role with isolation possessions and off the dribble reps, he responded, “It’s gonna depend on the night and the situation. It also depends on what group I’m in. Sometimes I’m in with that first five, it’ll probably be more through actions, through the system, through kick-outs with Jimmy, Kyle, and Bam.”

He followed that up with his role aside the reserves, saying, “Maybe with the second group it’ll be more isolations, sometimes come off the pick and roll. So it just depends on the situation and timing.”

While we pretty much knew what he was going to be on the offensive end as a shot creator, it almost feels like his defensive activity has jumped off the screen even more.

I asked him if being around so many strong suited defenders enhances that skill of his, which he said, “100%. I always take pride on the defensive end. I take it personal. I want to get stops every time. But also, like you said, it’s one of those things whenever you have a whole collective group of veterans doing the same thing, and they’re all honed in on the defensive end. It only helps your standards, and you just want to meet those standards with that group of guys.”

I also asked Coach Spoelstra if Martin’s defensive abilities have almost surprised him, which he responded, “No.”

“He’s been a highly active, energetic, disruptive player. And that’s going back to college. In his opportunities with Charlotte, we really respected and liked how he played, how he approached competition, how he competes on the defensive end. He has positional size and quickness, and also the commitment to that side of the floor. You can build the rest of it after that.”

Speaking of that role when he played with the Hornets, it was clearly an interesting one to be given. In a way, it was a bit restrained in terms of role and minute distribution, but Martin stuck with it.

When asking him what the biggest difference will be from his usage in Charlotte to now in Miami, Martin said, “It really depends on the night. Sometimes I felt like I knew when I was gonna get in or when I wasn’t gonna get in with Charlotte, just based off the team and how the season and record was going.”

“But you just never know here,” he continued, “if it seems like they’re going to implement you, then it’ll allow me to be me a little more here.”


Whenever a new guy joins a team, especially when they’re a bit younger, it always feels like they have a specific guy on the team they go to if they have any questions. When asking Martin who that guy is, he pretty much said it’s everybody.

“Everybody’s kinda given a hand with that.” He mentioned that it basically depends on what he needs to know. “I’ll ask Duncan questions about how to come off screens or how to get open on screens, or I’ll ask PJ and them defensive questions, or I’ll ask Markieff how to guard post-ups, and the same thing with Jimmy and Kyle…I pick everybody’s brain.”

And well, that just seems to be the Miami Heat way.

Finally, I finished it off by asking the hard hitting questions outside of basketball: “who are your top 3 artists?”

While he thought about it for a second, he mentioned that he listens to so many that he doesn’t pick favorites. But immediately said, “I mean obviously J Cole, that’s my dog.”

As I said before, when he has a question, he goes to the best player around him that obtains that specific skill. So, it makes a lot of sense that J Cole is the guy that comes to mind first when thinking about the music industry.

Martin just feels like the perfect tool for Spoelstra to utilize throughout the season, and it should be coming right out the gate. As Martin mentioned, he gets in some reps with the starting group already.

And who has Coach Spo continually liked to throw in the starting lineup when an injury occurs? A two-way guy.

It just lines up perfectly.


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Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882