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We’re Headed for Heat-76ers, Aren’t We?

With Victor Oladipo recently announcing his decision to forego playing the rest of the 2019-2020 NBA season, it seems likely the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat will finish in the 4- and 5-seeds in the East. Currently, Miami is two games ahead of both Indiana and Philadelphia.

Yes, Miami does have a chance to catch the Boston Celtics at the 3-seed. But Miami faces a difficult schedule in Orlando. They’re already 2.5 games back and play Boston on a second night of a  back-to-back. And again, considering their strength of schedule, it’s a must-win if they have any  hope of grabbing the 3-seed.

The 76ers face an easier schedule. Unless all the 76er players forgot how to play basketball during the break (doubtful), they should easily move past the Pacers in the standings.

They only face one team in the top-4 of the standings from both conferences: the Toronto Raptors. It’s hard to predict if Philly can bump the Heat to the 5-seed, considering all the uncertainty of the resumed basketball season.

Either way, the Heat and 76ers will be the 4/5 matchup.

 

Heat-76ers Matchup

Both teams are confronted with lineup and rotation questions. Brett Brown experimented playing Al Horford off the bench, however it was only for three games because point guard Ben Simmons got injured. The sample size is too small to make definitive conclusions, but the spacing on the floor is clearly worse when Joel Embiid and Horford are on the court together.

It’s important the Heat use their seeding games to get lineups and sets aligned, regain team chemistry, and continue to build on the brotherhood.

The Miami Heat have yet to play at full strength after acquiring Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodola and Solomon Hill. With Meyers Leonard, Tyler Herro, and Kelly Olynyk expected to come back fully healthy, Spoelstra is going to be challenged with lineup decisions and rotation options.

After it was announced the Miami Heat were closing its facilities after three players tested positive for the Coronavirus. It is even more important now to use these eight games to adapt to each other’s play style and establish roles.

The Heat are 3-1 against the 76ers this year and hold the tiebreaker against them. After their first matchup getting blown out in Philly, Miami has controlled the matchup. They’ve beat them three straight times including an overtime thriller in Miami.

The Heat use their infamous 2-3 zone against Philly during portions of the game. They pack the paint and force an erratic shooting team to make outside shots. Philadelphia uses their size to exploit Miami’s defense and to get easy points with Simmons leading fast breaks.

What a Show it Would Be

Fans from both cities want and need a Jimmy Butler vs 76ers first round matchup. After Philly refused to sign Butler to a max contract, Butler made it clear he wanted out. He landed in Miami where 76er fans claimed the Heat wouldn’t even make the playoffs.

We should expect a high intensity, competitive matchup between two teams and fan bases that sometimes hate and disrespect each other. Philly has high standards to meet after many expected them to be favorites out of the East before the season started. Miami has exceeded expectations this season and looks to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Ultimately, this matchup won’t be anything less than a brawl.

5 Takeaways from interview with Meyers Leonard

The Miami Heat’s starting center, Meyers Leonard, went on a zoom call today to discuss his status, the team’s situation and more as they head into the bubble in a couple of days.

Here’s some of the key moments from this interview…

1.

Meyers Leonard talks about his current role with the Miami Heat and the impact he thinks he makes. Also mentioning he didn’t have a consistent role in Portland but does here. He says, “I don’t care about stats. All I care about is wins.” This has shown to be true since the Heat went 34-15 when Meyers was starting this season. It also caused the Heat to be in a bit of a slump down the stretch of the season. So getting him back on the floor should get the Heat back to their early season form.

2. 

One of the most important parts of this Miami Heat team is a healthy Meyers Leonard. Which is why it was great to hear Meyers say everything healed correctly. One of the only positives of the hiatus for the Miami Heat, if there was one, was getting Meyers Leonard back to 100%. So hearing him say he feels good with less than a month away from the season returning is big for this Miami Heat team.
3. 

It’s always great to hear Heat players embracing the Miami Heat culture. Meyers definitely thinks it’s a plus saying, “Heat culture is very real.” He also goes on to saying that everyone knows their role on this team, which definitely fits this format. Having a certain type of structure in the bubble should definitely benefit the Heat.
4. 

Meyers talks about the depth of the rotation after Miami acquired Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. Meyers has yet to play a game with them since he has been out with injury since the trade was made. He says he will have to earn his spot again once the season resumes in Orlando. This won’t be a problem for Meyers since his strengths of on court vocal abilities and leadership will be much needed in a playoff setting.

5.

Meyers Leonard says, “When you win, you get paid and you get to stick around.” The word that best  describes this quote is earning, which is something he brings up a couple of times throughout the interview. He then ends the interview saying, “I like it here,” which should make all Heat fans happy since this is the last year of his deal. And hopefully re-signs so he can help lead Miami to the playoffs for many years to come.

Forgotten Heat in Miami: Wayne Simien

3…Jason Terry sprints up the court…2, the three-pointer goes up!…1, off the rim! Wade grabs the rebound!  Throws the ball up in the air!  The Miami Heat win, 95-92, in Dallas to crown themselves as NBA champions for the first time in franchise history! And there he was, Wayne Simien, the rookie sprinting towards the joyous scrum of hugs and elation in a tan suit to celebrate with Shaquille O’Neal and Gary Payton, the same superstars he idolized and watched on TV barely a year earlier.

To check out the first chapter of the “Forgotten Heat” saga, click here.

This was supposed to be just the beginning for Simien. A high school and college All-American, he has the distinction of being one of the only two players drafted by the Heat out of the University of Kansas.

You thought the other one was Mario Chalmers, didn’t you? Well, you would be wrong. Chalmers was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves and then traded to the Heat back in 2008. The other one was Darnell Jackson with the 52nd pick in 2007.

Anyway, I digress. Simien arrived in Miami as a highly touted college player that had played in two consecutive Final Fours as a freshman and sophomore before being named an All-American as a junior and senior. He was touched by life’s magic wand, or so he thought.

Nobody could have imagined that the power forward with the potential to be the next Tim Duncan would become a draft bust and exchange the glory and fortune of the NBA for a church and the humble life of a pastor. This is the story of Wayne Simien, one of the “Forgotten Heat.”

JAYHAWK IN FLIGHT

Simien grew up 20 minutes away from Allen Fieldhouse in Leavenworth, Kansas, so he obviously always dreamed of playing for Oklahoma. Just kidding, he accrued every possible honor winning a state championship as a junior and being named a McDonald’s All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He also pursued his other competitive passion and won fishing tournaments with his dad, Wayne Sr., as a kid.

However, he was pretty underrated nationally despite of that. Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry were the belles of the ball and ESPN.com had him in 67th place back then in the Class of 2001 rankings. Not that it mattered much anyway…it was love at first sight and Kansas Jayhawks head coach Roy Williams wanted him on his roster as much as Simien wanted to make his childhood dream come true.

The 6’9’’, 255-pound forward joined a roster that had future NBA players such as Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Drew Gooden. In fact, Roy Williams’ intention was for Simien to be Gooden’s successor as the next big threat in the paint for his team.

That desire would come true. Simien finished his college career 12th   in all-time scoring (currently 16th) surpassing Gooden’s 1,526 points with his own 1,593.

Everything seemed to be golden in his charmed life. But then storm clouds appeared in his horizon for the first time.

DRAFT SLIDE

Back in 2003, Kansas lost in the national championship game against Carmelo Anthony’s Syracuse squad. Maybe they would have won if Simien hadn’t been ruled out for the season after re-injuring his right shoulder during the regular season.

He had already had surgery on it in high school, then injured it multiple times in college jamming it on the rim, making contact with opposing players…it was a mess, so surgery was required once again. Simien would go on to average 19 points and 33 minutes the following two years at Kansas. But his injury history spooked teams picking in the lottery during the 2006 NBA Draft.

Then again, maybe that wasn´t all that made them hesitate. Simien had a bit of Carmelo Anthony-itis in him as well.

‘If the team lost and I played well, I would feel good about it. But if the team won and I played bad, I would be in a bad mood,” Simien told the Christian Broadcasting Network back in 2014. That was when a campus pastor approached him at Kansas and motivated him to dive deeper into religious study, changing his mindset forever. He joined a church group and made religion his guiding light.

TRYING TO AVOID SIN IN SOUTH BEACH

So imagine you live your whole life in humble Kansas. You devote yourself to religion. All of a sudden you’re thrust into the party capital of the world as a 22-year-old with revelers such as Shaquille O´Neal, Jason Williams and Antoine Walker as teammates.

Good. Luck.

“I remember walking in,” Simien told The Wichita Eagle in 2010. “They were like ‘This dude’s a Christian. Give him two weeks until he’s on South Beach in a strip club with me, give him such and such amount of time until he meets Suzie in LA. and does yada yada yada.’ They were taking bets on me, basically, cash-money bets right in front of me as far as how long it would take for me to have a hiccup or whatever.”

To Simien´s credit, the siren call of groupies and the NBA lifestyle didn´t deter him.

Pat Riley had drafted Simien with the 29th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. To be fair to Riley, Simien seemed like a steal. He could be groomed as a big man under the tutelage of Shaq and Udonis Haslem. Most importantly, he was another big body at Riley´s disposal to fend off the big, bad Detroit Pistons. More specifically Rasheed and Ben Wallace.

The rookie moved to Miami with his girlfriend, Katie, who he’d begun dating six months earlier on New Year´s Eve. He asked her to marry him just two months later.

On November 2, 2005, Wayne Simien played the last 1:37 minutes of a 97-78 blowout win over the Grizzlies in Memphis. He had made his dream come true making his professional debut. The Heat were 1-0 to start their championship pursuit, and Simien was officially part of “15 Strong.”

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming (11) stretches to rebound a loose ball as Miami Heat’s Wayne Simien tries to gain control of the ball in the second half of the Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005, game in Miami. The Heat won, 88-84. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

Simien would see action in 43 regular season games, starting two of them. He averaging 3.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 9.6 minutes per contest. His postseason action consisted of three minutes against the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of the first round. He played five minutes against the New Jersey Nets in the 111-89 blowout victory during Game 2 of that Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.

Simien went 0-for-3 from the field and didn’t score any points in either game, but he did grab a rebound against the Nets.

He didn’t play at all in the East Finals against the Pistons or NBA Finals vs. the Mavericks, but it didn’t matter. He was an NBA champion and would go on to marry Katie two weeks later on July 8, 2006.

Simien had never even kissed Katie for seven months before his wedding day “as a way to honor her”. They would go on to have five kids.

The 2006-07 season saw him be relegated after he missed the entire Summer League having contracted salmonella. Riley clearly didn’t trust him, and the “Disease of More” corrupted the team. Simien would barely score a total of 23 points in eight games. He didn’t play at all in the playoffs as the Heat got unceremoniously swept by the Bulls in the first round.

Simien would be a part of the Antoine Walker and Michael Doleac trade to Minnesota for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount prior to the 2007-08 season. The Timberwolves waived him shortly thereafter.

A NEW CHAPTER IN HIS LIFE

Simien would never play another minute in the NBA. He went on to join Spanish team Cáceres in 2008 after another American player had been kicked off the team for an incident with the police. Katie used to live in Spain, so they moved there with their by then two children.

However, that overseas adventure didn’t fulfill him. He officially retired as a basketball player in his prime as a 26-year-old in 2009. Simien went back home to Kansas. He spent the next decade being the campus pastor and helping youth sports though his “Called to Greatness” initiative.

His number 23 was retired at Kansas in January 2011. It’s up in the rafters next to Kirk Hinrich’s number 10 and legendary announcer’s Max Fankelstein’s number 60. Everything had come full circle. He was at peace when he spoke to a sold-out crowd at Allen Field House during his jersey retirement ceremony.

“I really hope that my legacy will be more than just about a guy who scored a bunch of points and grabbed a bunch of rebounds, but rather about someone whose life was miraculously transformed by Jesus Christ during my time here (in Kansas).”

He found a purpose beyond basketball, and with that he found true happiness.

Oh, by the way, not a single Heat player ever collected a dollar from the Simien bets.

 

 

 

 

 

Miami Heat

Miami Heat cierra su predio por otro test positivo de COVID-19

Hace apenas dos días, el entrenador del Miami Heat Erik Spoelstra hablaba con la prensa sobre el entusiasmo que generaba el poder volver a entrenar con un plantel casi entero antes de que el Heat tenga que reportarse a Orlando de cara al reinicio de la temporada el 9 de Julio.

Ahora las prácticas deberán esperar hasta que el equipo pueda ingresar a la burbuja protectora…y hasta que el equipo se disponga a su auto-cuarentena.

El Heat ya de por sí estaba sin Derrick Jones Jr. debido a un test positivo de COVID-19, y este jueves saltó otro jugador con resultado positivo. La primicia fue reportada por Five Reasons Sports Network esta tarde.

Se cree que el jugador estuvo junto a un asociado que a su vez también dio positivo, y dicho jugador ahora está en cuarentena. El Miami Heat cerró sus instalaciones de entrenamiento después de que un segundo jugador dio positivo por coronavirus.

Sin embargo, es la política de Five Reasons el no develar la identidad de nadie que de positivo.

El equipo planea reportarse a Orlando puntualmente. Se espera que Jones pueda participar de la preparación en Orlando, y (todavía) no hay razón alguna para creer que el otro jugador no podrá emularlo. La escolta de Heat, Derrick Jones Jr. dio positivo por coronavirus la semana pasada y ha estado trabajando a través de los protocolos de la NBA en un plan de regreso al juego.

El Miami Heat debuta el 1 de Agosto contra los Denver Nuggets.

El Heat ya sabe lo que es lidiar con situaciones delicadas de salud. Dos de los jugadores más importantes de su historia — Alonzo Mourning, Chris Bosh — vieron a sus carreras desviadas, o en el caso de Bpsh terminadas, por enfermedades tan serias como inesperadas.

Para más información, visite este sitio web y síganos en Twitter por  @5ReasonsSports (en inglés) o @CincoRazonesNet (español).

Miami Heat

Miami Heat close facility due to another positive Covid-19 test

Just two days ago, coach Erik Spoelstra spoke to the media about the excitement of practicing resuming with a nearly full roster prior to the Miami Heat reporting to Orlando for the season re-start on July 9th.

Now the practices will wait until they get to the protective bubble…and once the team self-quarantines.

Already without Derrick Jones Jr. due to a positive Covid-19 test, the Heat learned Thursday that another player had tested positive. That was first reported by Five Reasons Sports Network this afternoon.

It is believed that the player was exposed to an associate who has also tested positive, and is now in quarantine.

But it is 5RSN policy not to reveal the identity of anyone who tests positive.

The team is planning to report to Orlando as scheduled. Jones is expected to participate in Orlando, and there is no reason to believe (yet) that this other player will not.

The Heat open play again on August 1st against the Denver Nuggets.

The Heat are familiar with delicate health situations. Two of the most prominent players in Heat history — Alonzo Mourning, Chris Bosh — had their careers derailed, and in Bosh’s case, finished, by serious and unexpected ailments.

For more information, check this site or @5ReasonsSports on Twitter.

5 Takeaways about Miami Heat Restart from Erik Spoelstra, Goran Dragic

With the NBA and the Miami Heat restart set to return on July 30th, Erik Spoelstra and Goran Dragic hopped on a call today to discuss the team’s approach.

Here’s the five most important things discussed…

1.

The depth of this Miami Heat team has been one of the biggest questions come playoff time. We know they’re deep, but the question was if Coach Eric Spoelstra would go this deep into the bench in a playoff game. This seems to answer it with the quote, “We can go 3 deep at every position.” Be ready for some of Miami’s key role players to be huge sparks for the Heat off of the bench.

2.

Jimmy Butler is obviously one of the best leaders to have on your team in a format like this on and off the court. The young guys have somebody to keep them in line and focused off of the court. But also he’s a guy that will be physically and mentally ready for any match-up they face. Coach Spoelstra has the utmost confidence in Jimmy, and Heat fans should too.

3.

Less than a week ago, it was released that Derrick Jones Jr tested positive for the corona virus. The good news is that he is doing fine and still working out with the team over zoom. Also, no other Heat player has tested positive for Covid-19, which hopefully stays that way heading into the bubble for the Miami Heat restart.

4. 

Due to the fact that this type of format will be pretty close to a Summer League game, it gives a lot of the Heat’s young players an advantage for the Miami Heat restart. It also gives Goran Dragic an advantage since he’s played in these types of games in Europe many times. And as stated above, will help Miami adjust to these types of games very quickly.

5. 

Both Spoelstra and Dragic discussed the changes to be made about the social injustice in the world today. Coach Spoelstra talked about the use of their platform to the best of their abilities. He also states that all of the coaches in the NBA are working with the Obama Foundation on race related initiatives.

 

Forgotten Heat in Miami: Daequan Cook

The house was packed at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona on February 14, 2009, and Daequan Cook was about to show the world that he was a true rising star. The sophomore shooting guard was representing the Miami Heat in the 2009 All-Star Three Point Challenge. He had made it to the final round against the Orlando Magic’s Rashard Lewis and two-time defending shootout champ Jason Kapono, but most of the people in attendance had no idea who Cook was.

Dwyane Wade was in the front row cheering him on, and Shaq had actually picked him to dethrone Kapono, but at best he was known as “that other guy” who played at Ohio State with Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr.

He went last, having to beat out Rashard Lewis’ 15 points (Stephen Curry was probably laughing at that in his dorm at Davidson) and Reggie Miller was having fun at his expense on live TV. “Congratulations, Rashard Lewis…I’m telling you; I know basketball players. This is (Cook’s) first time, I don’t think he can do it,” Miller said as Cook made just one of his first seven shots. But then Cook got hot and proved him wrong, making his last four including the money ball at the buzzer to force a tiebreak that he would go on to dominate, 19-7.

“This was my opportunity to show I could be one of the elite three-point shooters in this game. I came out and I did that.” Cook said at the trophy ceremony, envisioning a long career as Wade’s compadre in Miami. The thing is, that was the high point of an NBA trajectory that never took off. He became one of the “Forgotten Heat”.

An Elite Prospect

Cook came out of high school as a McDonald’s All-American and committed to Ohio State with his AAU buddies Oden and Conley as part of coach Thad Matta’s “Thad Five”, but he was actually the second best of the bunch. Oden was the consensus #1 prospect back in 2006, but Cook was in the Top 15 and actually rated much higher than Conley, who didn’t even crack the Top 20 (Side note: Chase Budinger was sixth, I love that).

Conley would actually make a gigantic leap as a Buckeye, while Cook stagnated and barely averaged 4.8 points in the NCAA Tournament. He rode the bench with two points in nine minutes in the championship game they would eventually lose against Florida. His draft stock plummeted, and many saw him as a second round pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Bringing the Heat

Enter Pat Riley. The Godfather was Miami’s head coach and seething after a disappointing 2006-07 season that saw his Heat go 44-38 and get swept in the first round by the Chicago Bulls as defending champions.  Shaq was gone, but so were James Posey and Kapono.

Riley needed a shooter and made a draft-day trade with the Philadelphia 76ers after selecting Jason Smith with the 21st pick to acquire Cook, selected 22nd.

Cook seemed to blend seamlessly into Heat culture and was blossoming in his second year during the 2008-09 season with career highs in games (75), minutes (24.4) and points per game (9.1) while his three-point shooting percentage rose from 33.2% as a rookie to 38.7%. That was the year of his All-Star showcase, and he was a part of an up and coming Heat squad led by rookie head coach Erik Spoelstra and Wade in his prime creating plenty of opportunities for shooters like him.

That was never more evident than in Game 2 of the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks. Cook was a delight with 20 points in 35 minutes off the bench going 7-for-12 with six threes in 35 minutes. He was the spark Michael Beasley was supposed to be and never was.

However, the following season saw that spark flame out as he averaged 5.0 points in just 45 games, shooting 32% from deep.

Cook would never experience the “Big Three” Era, since he was traded in 2010 to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with the 18th pick of that year’s draft for the 32nd pick.

That 18th pick eventually went to the LA Clippers, who selected current Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe. The Heat went with Dexter Pittman. Good thing two guys called LeBron and Chris arrived in Miami shortly after.

A Steep Descent

Cook would actually play for the Thunder against the Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals. Well, played is a strong word.

His scoring total was 0, 0 and 0 in three of the five games. He didn’t take a single shot in two minutes of action in Game 1, a 93-86 Thunder win, and followed that up going 0-for-6 in 23 minutes during a 115-78 Miami romp in Game 4 in South Florida. Meanwhile., Mike Miller was showing him what could have been having the time of his life as Miami’s sharpshooter with seven three pointers in the Game 5 that sealed the series.

Things spiraled even farther from there. Cook went from being an important bench player for a contender to a non-entity in Chicago and Houston in 2013 before being out of the NBA for good after that season.

Cook went on to play in Germany, led the French league in three-point percentage with SPO Rouen Basket and made stops in Portugal and Iran between 2014 and 2017. He was a basketball nomad without a home, wandering the desert aimlessly.

“Yeah, bless his little heart, he grew himself a beard,” Renae Cook said of her son Daequan to the Dayton Daily News. “He looks like one of the Iranians now. He blends in good.”

And then he found his promised land.

Finding Redemption

Cook arrived in Nes Ziona, a tiny town of 50,000 people in the heart of Israel with a team called Ironi Ness Ziona, in 2017. Nes Ziona had three Americans in their roster, including former Villanova guard Corey Fisher. You know, that guy who scored 105 points in a street basketball game back in 2010.

Cook became the fourth American on the team and flourished in the Israeli League, being named an All-Star in 2019.

He is not in his prime anymore, only 33 years old. However, most importantly, he seems to have found a home and happiness once again away from the bright lights of the NBA.

L ‘Chaim, Daequan. You will always have Phoenix.

 

 

 

5 Changes Miami Heat Players Must Make

Five, so the Miami Heat stay alive for a while, after the NBA season resumes in Orlando on June 30:

 

  1. Jimmy Butler gets his jump shot back 

Jimmy Butler is the pulse of the Miami Heat team. His defensive tenacity and fearless  motor has greatly helped Miami to its 41-24 record. On offense, Butler relies on getting  into the paint where he can body defenders and draw contact in the lane. Butler is  currently shooting 83% from the free throw line at 9.1 attempts per game.

Jimmy sacrifices his body a lot during the game to get to the line, especially when Miami is in a  scoring drought. Although Butler is averaging 20.2 points per game his shooting percentages have suffered. He is currently shooting 24.8% from the three and 33.2% from 10 feet out to the three point line.

However, with the newly acquired additions of  Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala to take some of the defensive burden off of Butler, we might see a more efficient shooter in Jimmy. It appeared that his shot suffered when he was forced to play major minutes or take on too much of a burden. In addition to initiating the offense Butler was usually seen guarding the best perimeter player on the other team.

Hopefully with the unprecedented Covid-19 break, Butler’s legs got some rejuvenation. If a fresh Butler can improve his jump shot, he might save himself from getting injured, his drive will be more effective, offensive spacing will improve, and he can become a more impactful, energetic player at the end of games. Keeping Jimmy, who is Miami’s closer, fresh during crunch time is key to Miami’s playoff chances.

 

  1. Bam Adebayo becomes more aggressive on offense 

Bam is a top candidate in the Most Improved Player race. This year he played his way to becoming a first time all star and his game is now known in and around the NBA. He is growing his resume game after game, whether that is dishing out 10 assists, grabbing 15 rebounds, or holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to a season low 13 points in a game.

Bam has become a larger threat every game in all aspects. Yet, if Bam can take some confidence he gains on defense to use when he has the ball, it can unleash a whole new Bam. If defenders have to come out to the perimeter to guard Bam because he can knock down a mid range jumper without hesitation, it will also open the court up more for his passing and it brings the big man out of the paint. This will further space the floor and open the offense for the rest of the Heat’s shooters and playmakers.

 

  1. Duncan Robinson stops getting in foul trouble

Robinson is definitely one of the best surprises of the 2019-2020 season. After a rocky preseason performance, Robinson came out hot and actually never cooled down. Robinson shot a scorching 44.8% from the three with 3.7 makes per game on 8.4 attempts. Robinson is a huge threat on offense and a valuable weapon for the Heat.

With his ability to catch fire and stay on fire, it forces defenses to closely guard him and sometimes even deny him the ball. In turn, this spreads the court for other players to drive to the basket and get open shots. However, Duncan gets targeted on defense frequently and gets into foul trouble. Opposing players take him to the basket because first they know he’s a vulnerable defender, and secondly, to get him out of the game. For some reason, referees tend to call very close touch fouls on Robinson which gets him quickly into foul trouble. When he stays on the court and gets minutes, he performs at a higher level. If Robinson can avoid getting into foul trouble, Erik Spoelstra will always have his shooter available at crunch time.

 

  1. Tyler Herro improves defensively 

Everyone is aware of Tyler Herro’s scoring ability. As a rookie, Herro is torching opposing players with pick and roll reads, catch and shoot threes, and stepback jumpers.

But on defense, he often defends like a rookie. In playoff games there is significantly less room for defensive breakdowns and mistakes in general. If Herro can keep his player in front of him, this will help Bam and Meyers Leonard stay out of foul trouble by having to help from the weak side. If Herro can gain Spolestra’s defensive trust, it will greatly improve the Heat’s rotation options for the playoffs.

 

  1. Kendrick Nunn emphasizes his playmaking 

The Miami Heat unfortunately don’t have a true point guard, unless you count Goran Dragic as one. With Kendrick Nunn as the starting point guard he had a lot of ball handling responsibilities. This year we have seen Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo take over much of that burden.

Nunn has been an excellent scorer. However, he has gone through some cold spells where it’s hard to keep him on the court because he is simply shooting the Heat out of the game. If Nunn can become more of a playmaking guard, it will fill a big void for the Heat. This will also give Dragic, Bam, and Jimmy a break from ball handling duties and save them for the end of games. Getting more players involved on offense makes for a more efficient and dangerous team because defenses can’t focus on one player. Contending teams always have a complete roster with valuable role players.

 

5 Toughest Games for Miami Heat on Updated Schedule

The new schedule is out….

And it’s no picnic.

All but one of the eight opponents is a playoff team, since many of what were supposed to be the Heat’s remaining games got wiped off the slate when those teams are not invited to Orlando.

Here they are, the top 5 toughest….

 

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Miami Heat will be playing the Oklahoma City Thunder on August 12th in the NBA’s resumed season. The Heat got the win against the Thunder in late January, but it wasn’t easy. They are sometimes referred to as the Heat of the west, since both teams were overlooked and a surprise to the league. Oklahoma City has the perfect blend of veterans and young players behind their leadership in Chris Paul and talented youth in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Their a tough match-up for the Heat because of the guard depth on the team. Miami’s weakness is not having a good defensive back-court. This will be a gritty and tough match-up for the Heat since they always seem to give it their all on the floor.

4. Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets got the win at the beginning of the season against Miami. It was one of the worst games for the Heat this season and was definitely one of Bam Adebayo’s worst games as well. Nikola Jokic is a player that seems to give trouble to almost anybody he faces, especially with his ability to stretch the floor. The depth of this team is something that not only could give the Heat major trouble, but also for whoever they face in the playoffs. They now have some experience under the belts, which may not be a big deal for the way these playoffs will be presented. Either way, the Miami Heat will have their hands full on the defensive side of the ball with the talented players that are on this roster.

3. Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors will be the second game of Miami’s updated schedule and will definitely be a good one. Toronto is another one of those teams that were a surprise this season after the departure of their star Kawhi Leonard. The Heat played the Toronto Raptors twice this season and came away with the win in both. This doesn’t mean to take this team lightly. They have fire power across the whole roster and seem to give Miami trouble on the defensive side of the ball. When Miami played Toronto in early January, the leading scorer for the Heat was Bam Adebayo with 15 points. That could be a problem. On the other side of things, Bam Adebayo seemed to be the perfect player to stop Toronto’s star Paschal Siakam. They match-up pretty well, which makes for a tough regular season game heading into the playoffs.

2. Boston Celtics

The Heat will be playing the Boston Celtics on a back to back after the game against Toronto, which seems to always be the case. These games will be played on August 3rd and August 4th, and interesting enough the Heat played Toronto on December 3rd and Boston on December 4th this season. Just like in that instance, the Raptors give the Heat a tough game and leave them exhausted for a young Boston Celtics team. The Celtics beat the Heat in both games they played this season. But one thing should be noted, Jimmy Butler does not like losing. The idea of losing to this team three times in one season will not sit well with him. Be ready for an absolute display by Heat’s star Jimmy Butler on August 4th.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

And finally, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s always a tough assignment to slow down a leading MVP candidate and only one guy seemed to do it this season. Bam Adebayo. The Miami Heat seemed to play exceptionally well on both sides of the floor against this team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. This is because the way to stop this team is to make everyone other than Giannis beat you. Which is what they did. Once Bam fully locked up Giannis, they then looked to Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, who did not seem comfortable in those situations. If the Heat could mirror the way they played earlier in the season, they’ll have a chance to take down the Bucks and try and secure a top 4 seed.

Justise Winslow

5 Reasons the Justise Winslow Trade Works

In February, the Miami Heat made a major move in trading Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson as part of a three-team deal. Miami managed to flip three players who were not contributing for players who provided production immediately. But was it the right move to make?

In the wake of the trade, a Heat Nation civil war ensued between the “Bustise Winslow” and “Justise Better” camps. And while it’s difficult to see a 24-year-old former lottery pick leave for past-their-prime veterans, Winslow’s lack of production hampered the team’s ability to move forward. He may find new life in Memphis, but it seemed like he’d never breakthrough with the Heat.

So here are five reasons why trading Justise Winslow works for the Miami Heat.

1 – Justise Winslow’s Availability

As a rookie, Justise Winslow played 78 games for the Heat. That remains the high-water mark for Winslow during his five-year career. By a wide margin. He missed well over 100 games while with Miami, including the bulk of two of his five seasons.

This year, real questions clouded Winslow’s desire to play. Although plagued by back issues, it’s been said that Winslow and the Heat could not agree on treatment or a timetable for return. This friction with the organization greased the wheels of a potential deal despite Winslow’s youth and potential.

The uncertainty of Winslow’s availability was replaced by a pair of players who’ve produced. Jae Crowder saw the floor in 13 of Miami’s 15 games after his February 6th acquisition. He’s posted 11.9 points-per-game and netted over 39 percent of his three-point attempts. Winslow’s career-high PPG is 12.3 and he’s never made threes at that high of a clip.

Andre Iguodala headlined the deal for Miami. Iggy played 14 of the 15 games after the trade, sitting out just the first one (like Crowder). He’s provided defensive flexibility and his 37 percent clip from three has kept opposing teams accountable.

Miami managed to unload three players in Winslow, Waiters and Johnson that were not producing at any meaningful level during the playoff push. They swapped them out for three players (Crowder, Iguodala and Solomon Hill) who could.

2 – Cap Flexibility

While the COVID-19 crisis has cast uncertainty on the league’s finances, Miami making this move in February seemed financially motivated. By flipping Winslow, Waiters and Johnson, the Heat freed up cap space for not only the coming offseason, but also the following one, when Giannis Antetokounmpo and Victor Oladipo could be available.

Winslow was set to make $26 million over the next two seasons, though the team held the contract’s option for 2021-22. Johnson had $16 million coming his way, and Waiters waited on another $12 million for 2020-21.

Moving off of those contracts saved Miami nearly $55 million in total and more than $40 million for this offseason. The Heat have a number of internal free agent options, including Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Derrick Jones Jr. and Crowder. This deal could give Miami the means to bring all four contributors back. They could also look to add other players like Davis Bertans, Danilo Gallinari, or maybe even Serge Ibaka or Paul Millsap.

Yes, the team inked a $30 million extension with Iguodala as part of the trade. But the $15 million owed to Iggy for 2021-22 is a team option. In addition, the Warriors hold a $17.2 million trade exception that could see Miami create even more cap space if he’s traded back to Golden State.

3 – 3 & D Upgrade over Justise Winslow

While Justise Winslow may have wanted to be a point guard, the most obvious role for him to fill with this Heat team was as a 3-and-D wing. Winslow’s strength is on defense. He flashed that ability as a rookie, switching to defend multiple positions during Miami’s playoff run that year.

Offensively, Winslow’s most glaring weakness seemed to be his distance shooting. (Although finishing around the rim was also an issue.) While he’s improved from three, Winslow wasn’t a threat to opposing defenses standing beyond the arc.

This season, both Crowder (.318) and Iguodala (.375) have netted three-point attempts at a higher clip than Winslow (.222). With the Heat, Crowder has hit 39 percent from three.

Crowder sports a higher Defensive Win Shares figure (2.0), with Iguodala and Winslow tied at 0.4. In Defensive Box Plus/Minus, Iguodala leads (1.9), followed by Crowder (0.3) then Winslow (minus-0.1).

Crowder and Iguodala both provide Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra with switchable wing defenders who can play both on the perimeter and on the inside.

4 – Veteran Leadership

Iguodala is a 16-year veteran, Finals MVP and three-time champ. He’s an intelligent and articulate player who upgrades Miami’s basketball IQ. He’s played nearly 150 playoff games and has made four Finals appearances. This experience is something Winslow couldn’t provide.

Crowder’s resume isn’t nearly as decorated, but he is playoff-tested. A seven-year veteran, Crowder has played in more than 50 playoff games and made 30 starts. He helped defend LeBron James for Boston in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals. He averages over 10 points-per-game and 32 percent on threes in the playoffs.

In just his fifth NBA season, Winslow has played 18 playoff games. The bulk of those (13) came in his rookie season. And his unwillingness to return to play for the Heat this season casts a disparaging mark on his resume as a leader.

5 – Offensive Clarity

The allure of a Jimmy Butler-Justise Winslow defensive pairing enticed everyone. Their brief snippets of play, with Bam Adebayo behind them, left Heat fans wanting more. But, as great as those defensive sequences were, on the other end of the floor, things were clunky.

Winslow held a well-known desire to be a point guard. He wanted the ball in his hands and flashed some ability as an offensive facilitator at times in his career. In the open court, he moved well and attacked, though finishing was an issue. But in the half court, the offense could stall with him at the helm, especially if Winslow wasn’t making his jumpers.

Butler will be the primary ball handler for Miami in this NBA restart. Kendrick Nunn should stand as the secondary option, with Dragic taking that role off the bench. Much of the half-court offense will be fed through Adebayo on the elbow, leaving Crowder and Duncan Robinson to man corners and wings.

Dealing Justise Winslow afforded Miami with a simplified offensive setup. Each rotation player now has a set role, both on the defensive end and offensively. The ball will be with Butler, Adebayo, Dragic and Nunn for the majority of the game. Winslow would’ve muddied those waters on offense and flipping him for Crowder and Iguodala keeps things clear.

 

 

 

 

 

Voices

Coronavirus and Sports: Becoming Numb

I was going to write about Inter Miami, I really was. Maybe it would have been an upbeat preview about the “MLS Is Back” schedule reveal (Breakfast with Inter Miami vs. Chicago Fire at 9 a.m. on July 14, can you dig it?) or a more serious, ominous look at the league and its protocols as we are only 2 weeks away from the start of the first tournament in the United States after the pandemic.

But then I thought “AFTER the pandemic? We are barely during the pandemic, much less past it” and I discovered I’m sort of…detached? Nah, that’s not the word. I still follow the American sports landscape and want sports to be back. Shocked? That’s not it either, nothing that has happened the past three months has surprised me even a little, and that’s saying something. Numb? Yes, that’s it. I’m numb to the developments in the sports world nowadays, and I’m pretty sure other fans, writers and even players feel similarly.

I’m numb because I saw the news about 16 NBA players (the equivalent of an entire team’s roster, plus one) testing positive for COVID-19 and my reaction isn’t “Oh my, what if they backtrack and the season is cancelled?” It’s more like “I’m fine with whatever happens, I’m just waiting to see everyone freak out when a true superstar tests positive and [insert team here] has to play an entire series without him.”

I’m numb because “43 Division I teams have been eliminated in the last 12 weeks, and more than 130 programs have been cut across all NCAA levels”, and those kids weren’t earning millions of dollars, even as some of their coaches were and certainly their athletic departments are.

LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION

New Zealand is past the pandemic with tens of thousands gathering with joy to watch a rugby match most of them probably don’t remember the final score of. Europe is crowning champions as its cases are mostly going down (hello, Sweden, we see you) and fans celebrate the end of droughts in Liverpool and Naples as the ball keeps rolling with no apparent setbacks week after week.

Liverpool fans celebrate outside Anfield.

Even South America has soccer, but that’s because they don’t really give a shit in Brazil and they are bent on living like there is literally no tomorrow and they had the most new daily cases in the world on Thursday, June 25. Seems healthy.

Meanwhile, the United States of America is looking at itself in the mirror and wonders how it all went so wrong, so quickly after three months of sacrifices that were supposed to pave the way for sports to come back swiftly and smoothly.

We are Rachel and the Coronavirus is Ross asking: “OVER you? When were you UNDER me?” while we beat ourselves up wondering what went wrong and the President compares a deadly virus to the sniffles.

I’m numb because baseball is about to be back for a lightning round of games that promise to be exciting. Why am I not excited? I should be, with every game being three times as important and the potential of a repeat of that frantic 2011 finish of the regular season that gave every baseball fan a collective heart attack.

My heart rate is nowhere near skyrocketing, though. Some experts don’t even think the season will be able to finish.

I should be pumped to witness the start of the Tua era in Miami, but then I see that the Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and the Steelers was cancelled and I’m bracing for what August and September might bring.

I’m even numb to the added crowd noise and the “virtual fans” we see at European soccer games. It’s background noise.

Maybe you read this and thought I spent 700 words being dramatic, and that’s ok. Maybe you will feel numb or jaded until 2021, and that’s ok too. Maybe this is just temporary, and everything feels a little alien after 100+ days of uncertainty and I will be all pumped up again in a couple of weeks when sports feel “real” again.

I will be waiting for that moment to come.