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How the Top of the NBA Draft May Play Out

After the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship, that doesn’t mean the NBA calendar stops. The calendar goes on with free agency starting August 2nd but first the NBA draft happens July 29th. The draft is typically where teams are built that is especially the case with small market teams. In this draft there is certainly some difference makers at the top which is not the case every year. 

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#1 Detroit Pistons- The Pistons hold the number one overall pick following a 20-52 season this year. While they need some help and especially some stars to gain more fan attention, they have a couple nice pieces as well. Detroit signed forward Jerami Grant last summer from the Denver Nuggets in what now looks like a team friendly 3 year 60-million-dollar contract. In his first season with Detroit Grant averaged a career high 22.3 points per game and shot 35% from three on 6.1 attempts per game. Forward Saddiq Bey was a pleasant surprise for the pistons this year as well. After being acquired in a draft day trade from the Nets, Bey started 53 games as a rookie averaging over 12 points per game 4.5 rebounds per game. Bey landed on the All Rookie first team and finished fourth in rookie of the year.

If Detroit can add presumed #1 pick Cade Cunningham to the group, they can compete for a play in tournament spot sooner than later. In his one year at Oklahoma State Cunningham averaged 20.1 points to go along with 6.2 rebounds,3.5 assists and 84.6% from the free throw line. Cunningham shot 40% from three as well and Cade didn’t have much help on his team and still put up good numbers. Cade is a three-level scorer that any team in the league would be lucky to have and be an instant impact player. Cade had a performance vs eventual National Champion Baylor in the Big 12 tournament that showed just how great of a player he is. He scored 25 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Cade shot 7-16 from the floor and 4-10 from three but he turned it on in the second half scoring 20 of his 25 points and upsetting Baylor to reach the Big 12 conference championship.

Pair him with some pieces like Grant and Bey and you have a nice core. Cade controls the pace on the court very well similar to a guy like Luka Doncic does although Cade isn’t on that level as a passer. Cade is a no brainer at #1 and could set Detroit up for years of success in the eastern conference.

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#2 Houston Rockets- When James Harden forced his way out at the start of this season everything changed for Houston moving forward. Considering that Harden is without a doubt a top 10 player the return Houston got left a lot to be desired. They received a first round pick from Cleveland via Milwaukee and four first rounders and four pick swaps from the Nets. While that is a lot of draft ammo those picks won’t be very high as the Nets will be good as will the Bucks. A year prior Houston traded two firsts and two pick swaps to OKC for Russell Westbrook and while they were able to keep this pick as it was top 4 protected it still will be a problem moving forward in the draft.

That makes this pick incredibly important and Houston can’t miss with it. Houston is a more attractive free agent destination than some, but you still need good players for someone to want to come join as we’ve seen with the Knicks for years now. In today’s NBA you need a guard that can score at a minimum and that is where I think this pick should head towards. That player very well may be Jalen Green who played in the G-League last year after his high school career.

Last year in G League, Green averaged 17.9 points per game on 46.1% from the field and 36.5% from three. That is pretty good considering he was just 18 playing against players much older and experienced than him. With more volume and more reps Green will increase those numbers and only improve as a player. While Green may not be what James Harden was you need to find someone who can replace some of what he provided. Green can certainly do some of that and someone like Green will be attractive for free agents to come and play with. If you don’t have scoring from your backcourt, you stand no chance in the current NBA. Green can also score from all three levels which is extremely valuable with the volume in which the three-point shot is shot now.

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#3 Cleveland Cavaliers- Since LeBron James left in free agency during the 2018 summer the Cavs are 60-159. This is a big draft for Cleveland as they are a team that will need to build in the draft vs building in free agency. Cleveland even with LeBron has had problems attracting free agents. They need to draft someone they can build around and hopefully a star will want to play with them. They have drafted guards Darius Garland and Colin Sexton the last couple years, but they don’t seem to be a great fit together. There have been rumors that Sexton is on the trade block as he seeks a rookie extension. That could free up some space for Garland to be able to operate more in his space without Sexton clogging the backcourt next to him. The Cavs were able to get center Jarett Allen from Brooklyn in the James Harden trade for just a first round pick they obtained from Milwaukee. After joining Cleveland Allen averaged 13.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and over a block per game. That is a very nice piece for Cleveland but the problem with it is now Allen is a restricted free agent and seeking around 100 million dollars.

The Cavs may be better off letting someone else give him that money and agreeing to a sign and trade and getting a pick back. They are in a major rebuild and giving Allen that kind of money may not be the best choice for them. They are in a perfect spot to draft a versatile big Evan Mobley from USC with this pick. As good as Allen was Mobley brings more to the game than just points and rebounds like a traditional big. In his one season at USC Mobley averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks while shooting 57.8% from the field.

Mobley brings something to the table similar to Miami’s Bam Adebayo but even more offensive skill coming out of college. Bam is a great defensive player and Mobley may not be quite at that level, but I see some similarities and shows even more on offense than Bam. If Cleveland drafts Mobley at worst they have a guy that can hold down the big position for years to come and is a great foundation piece. Best case they found their next star and someone to build around. Cleveland hasn’t always taken the safe pick in the draft but if they do so this time it will pay off in some way at least.

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What are some Miami Heat trade options?

March 25th marks the deadline for NBA general managers to secure trade deals with other teams.

 

Trading players gives each squad leader a chance to bolster their roster and potentially upgrade their teams’ position in the NBA.

 

Miami Heat’s performance this season has dwindled. Considering last season, they slayed the courts during the Covid bubble NBAs and even made it to the finals. It’s reasonable to infer that this season the squad isn’t living up to its full potential. 

 

From players like Dragic and Butler sitting out because of injuries. Not to mention, Covid-19s impact on the NBA has caused a real struggle for the team. Can Miami Heat turn this season around and make it to the playoffs?

 

Well, if the trade rumors are true, there are a few candidates that could reignite the team’s execution on the court: Zach LaVine, Rudy Gay, and Bradley Beal. 

 

Many will be patiently and eagerly waiting to see the trades Miami Heat follow through with this season. From devoted fans of Miami Heat, to punters who fancy their chance on the team to succeed this season, potential trades are more than likely music to their ears.

 

So, here is a profile of the three potentials that could enable Miami to maintain its reputation as an elite NBA team and reach the final this season.

 

Potential Trade Deals

 

Player: Zach LaVine

Team: Chicago Bulls

Trade: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, and Andre Iguodala

 

Zach LaVine is 25, in his prime, and heavily considered one of the best offensive players out there right now. 

 

It’s thought he could do wonders for Miami Heat, but a significant trade deal would need to go down to get this star on the side. 

So, what’s in it for the Chicago Bulls, you ask? To make a trade, it’s likely Miami Heat will need to let go of four players: Herro, Robinson, Nunn, and Iguodala.

 

Should the trade go ahead, Zach would bring incredible offensive firepower that would boost the existing roster. And, while he may not be the best defender, Miami has more than enough defensive-orientated players to support Zach’s stance on the court. 

 

Alongside Miami Heat’s top players Bam Adebayo and Jim Butler, Zach would help form an unstoppable trio. Giving the team a greater chance of making it to the finals.

 

After all, the star player has a current average of 28.1 PPG while taking a shot of 43.0% from a 3PT range. Even when he’s under pressure on the court, his confidence, athleticism, and capability win time after time, enabling LaVine to shoot hoops regardless of the conditions.

 

For a player that’s likely to lift the team’s performance this season and secure Miami heat as a top team in the seasons to come, acquiring Zach LaVine is a must for the squad.

 

Player: Rudy Gay 

Team: San Antonio Spurs 

Trade: KZ Okpala, Olynyk, plus a 2022 second-round pick

 

Other trade rumors circulating suggest 34-year-old forward Rudy Gay from San Antonio Spurs could be snapped up by Miami Heat.

 

At a mighty 6 feet and 8 inches, Rudy could become a staple defensive player on Miami’s squad. 

 

From the 22 minutes Gay has played on the court each game this season, he has earned a 98.7 defensive rating, which topples Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler’s current rating.

 

Rudy has tremendous defensive skills, which would undoubtedly elevate the team’s current position. Plus, despite his experience and skills, he is, for Miami Heat at least, considered inexpensive to buy.

 

But whether Gay joining the team would be enough to fix the squad in time for the playoffs is questionable. Instead, it may be wise for Miami Heat to on-board a few additional players alongside him.

 

Player: Bradley Beal

Team: Washington Wizards 

Trade: G Tyler Herro, G Goran Dragic, F/C Kelly Olynyk, 2022 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick, 2026 first-round pick

 

Anyone familiar with the Miami Heat understands Pat Riley is keen on creating a “Big 3”. Just as he once did with Bosh, LeBron, and Wade.

 

While there are talks about putting Zach LaVine alongside Jimmy and Bam, another alternative is Bradley Beal.

 

As an excellent all-round offensive team player, Beal could become the go-to scorer the Heat relies on. Beal will also have the advantage of a range of advanced players who can defend and enable Bradley to shoot.

 

The trade would come at a high cost, causing the MIA to lose Robinson and Herro. But Bradley Beal is arguably a better player than both and could be the last piece of the “Big 3” to help the team excel and make it to the finals. 

 

Rumors reveal Bradley is open to the idea, too, because he’s experiencing frustrations in his current team. 

 

Miami Heat: Trade Deadline Nearing

 

Miami Heat are usually top-tier NBA contenders worthy of championship status. But, this year, it’s unlikely they’ll make the cut unless the president of the club takes serious advantage of the opportunity to recruit before the end of March and shuffle the team around with some fresh talent such as the players profiled above. 

 

While Zach LaVine seems like a no-brainer, Rudy Gay could be a strong accomplice too.  

 

Thursday Trends: 3 Plays in the NBA Bubble

So some things never change.

Like Dion Waiters’ belief being stronger than your doubt.

But in these Bubble-licious times, much is different than we anticipated. We should be used to odd circumstances by now — after all, who knew we would have a reality TV star overriding the science-based recommendations of one of the most decorated infectious disease specialists on the planet? Or that pizza delivery drivers would become essential workers? Or that the Miami Marlins would be in first place in baseball’s National League East on August 6 after playing just six games?

Here are three NBA trends not everyone saw coming, and how seriously you should take them:

 

“Cash Considerations” Cashing In

Yes, cash considerations. That’s what the Phoenix Suns got for forward TJ Warren and a second-round pick on NBA Draft night. Warren, best known previously for getting the finger and getting called “trash” and “soft” and “not on my f—- level” by the Heat’s Jimmy Butler. Warren has been above everyone level’s in Orlando, averaging 39.7 points in three games, all Indiana Pacers wins.

Will it continue?: Well, not to this degree, since a run like this would rank with anything Michael Jordan ever did -to anyone other than LaBradford Smith. But, while few noticed, Warren was shooting 61 percent in February and 51 percent in March, while averaging 19.9 points per game. So he’s good.

The Betting Edge: Do you trust Indiana in the playoffs? That depends on Domantas Sabonis and Vic Oladipo more than Warren. If the Pacers keep winning, they’ll likely finish 4th or 5th in the East, especially since they have two regular Bubble games left with the Heat. Then they’ll likely face the Heat. And, the Butler-Warren intrigue aside, the Pacers aren’t beating the Heat unless they can throw more at Bam Adebayo than just Myles Turner up front, and can exploit the Heat’s point of attack defensive issues with Oladipo. Will Sabonis (foot) come back? Will Oladipo (knee) round into form? If not, the Pacers are still a first round exit.

 

Raptors Rise 

They’re taking this Lockdown in the Bubble seriously, eh? First in defense through three games with a ridiculous 96.1 rating. Small sample size? Sure. But there’s no reason it can’t continue. The Raptors are quick, long, switchy and deep, and they did a number on the Heat’s offense Monday, frustrating sniper Duncan Robinson off the floor. This has been the NBA’s best team since February 15.

Will it continue?: Why wouldn’t it? Toronto is fully healthy for the first time all season, and has developed a game independent of Kawhi Leonard. Nick Nurse has already proven to be an elite coach. Plus, Kyle Lowry is good for a final minute flop that seals the deal.

The Betting Edge: Keep picking the Raptors until other bettors catch on. News seems to travel slow to the States for some reason (we are dismantling the federal post office here, after all), and even with a few NBA analysts catching on, it’s not like anyone really listens to Kendrick Perkins.

 

Lakers Clankers 

They’re first in the West for sure, having clinched that already, even with LeBron James somehow characterizing that as some sort of unexpected achievement. Anthony Davis is taking the leap after the leap after the leap, establishing himself as a top-5 player until his bad luck forces him to fracture an orbital bone, and LeBron — while disconnected at times so far — should pick up his play when it matters. But here’s the thing: beyond them, this team just isn’t that good offensively, and it’s mostly reflected in their shooting. Even with Rajon Rondo absent for now (which is for the best), the Lakers are making just 25 percent of their three point shots in the Bubble regular season games, and it’s hard to see how that gets much better. That’s the reason they were dead last in offensive rating in the Bubble through four games, at 96.6, which is what TJ Warren now scores for Indiana in a quarter.

Will it last?: Well, this is almost impossible to predict, since you’re counting on the likes of the aforementioned erratic Waiters, TMZ Kyle Kuzma and the always amusing JR Smith. (And what happened to Danny Green?). The question is how much it matters if the Lakers defend as they can, even without Avery Bradley, and Davis and James play to their potential together.

The Betting Edge: It’s difficult to trade 2’s for 3’s all game. If the Lakers draw Portland in the first round, they’re unlikely to lose, but the Blazers might be worth a play on the points a couple of times, with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum likely to do damage.

 

Jimmy Butler finally found a home in Miami

Every hero’s journey has his or her own origin story, a path they follow to their ultimate goal. That path is almost always filled with lessons learned, hardships endured, and battles won against villains/doubters that got in their way. The odds are stacked against them, but they persevere even if the odds are 14 million to 1.

The Miami Heat is ready for such a challenge, even if the formidable Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers stand in their way. They don’t just believe they can make it to the NBA Finals this fall, they know they can. That determination starts with their leader: Jimmy Butler.

Butler was pushed to his physical limits in Chicago, misunderstood in Minnesota and heartbroken in Philadelphia before arriving in Miami. He has never felt happier or more fulfilled than during this past year with the Heat, but he knows…He knows that he must reach another level to shock the world.

In order to do so, the hero Miami needs will have to reckon with his memories and his own limitations to break through. To understand Butler’s future, the key lies in his past.

DON’T EVER GIVE UP

Still, he loathes reliving the past — so much so that he has removed the rearview mirror on his car (yes, really) as a symbolic reminder to never look back.

Jimmy Butler can be intense. He will get in your face and dare you to play and practice until you pass out, demanding the same amount of selflessness and effort on the court and obsession off of it that he has, challenging preconceptions, and that is not for everyone. It takes a certain culture to embrace that.

We all like to think that we can and will get up from whatever blows life throws at us, but let’s face it. Like Rocky once said, “nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.”

Put yourself in Butler’s shoes:  You spend your childhood without a father after dad walks out on you. But you hold no grudges, and you keep going. You grow up in Tomball, Texas, a small town of 10,000+ people close to Houston but far from the spotlight. Its more famous resident for years was former Enron executive Sherron Watkins, but you dream big.

Then you are in middle school, just 13 years old, and you are coming home thinking about that girl you like or that math assignment due the next day. You open the door and your mom Londa tells you “I don’t like the look of you, you gotta go.”

A lot of things must have been going through his head. How can your own mother’s last words to you be so cutting, so searing? At that point, it’s easy to break if you feel all alone. Bur he held no grudges, and he kept going thanks to a support system that propped him up when he felt down.

Butler wasn’t homeless for long. He attended Tomball High School while staying with the Leslies and becoming friends with Jordan, who was two years younger and would eventually make it to the NFL.

Butler would play basketball with Jordan and be Tomball’s MVP after averaging 19 points during his senior year, but there were no state championships or All-American honors on his trophy case. Most disappointingly, there were no recruits or major scholarship offers. His recruiting profile was a faceless ghost, a two-star nobody. But he held no grudges, and he kept going.

FROM ZERO TO HERO

Butler wasn’t ready to give up on his basketball dreams, so he enrolled at a small school 200 miles away called Tyler Junior College. Nobody had ever made it to the NBA out of Tyler before, and nobody has since. He wasn’t even a Top 100 prospect, but the young Texan was relentless and Marquette University’s coach Buzz Williams took notice enough to offer him an athletic scholarship.

Butler arrived at Marquette and contributed as a sixth man to a team that went 25-10 and lost to Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Jimmy scored seven points in 30 minutes off the bench, but there was a moment that could have changed everything.

Marquette was up 78-76 with 1:17 to go when Butler took a shot from behind the arc. He was 0-for-3 in three pointers for the season, but he believed in himself. He could make it, he would ice the game and send Marquette to the Sweet 16. However, he missed it, and Missouri came back to win 83-79.

The kid who nobody gave two cents for a year earlier was now a key cog in a contender, and he was ready for more. By the time the 2010-11 campaign came around, Butler was leading the team in minutes with 34.6 per game as he was joined by future Heat teammate Jae Crowder.

Number 33 was cold-blooded, and eager for more. The 2011 NBA Draft awaited him.

THEY WERE SO WRONG

Butler has always had a chip on his shoulder, but more than anything he needed someone to believe in him. Enter Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

The small forward out of Marquette was considered a “jack of all trades, master of none” by many.

In a draft that saw busts like Jan Vesely and Jimmer Fredette as Top 10 selections, destiny would see point guard Norris Cole picked 28th by the Bulls and traded to the Miami Heat. Butler was chosen two spots later, and he was eager to join Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in Chicago for their quest to dethrone Miami’s own LeBron James, Wade and Bosh from the NBA throne.

Those Bulls would lose in five games to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals while Butler played only 42 games and averaged barely 2.6 points in 8.6 minutes per game during the lockout shortened season. Most importantly, Derrick Rose tore his ACL during the first round of those playoffs, and everything changed forever for Butler.

Thibodeau trusted him more after that and gave Butler the chance to play in every single game for the first and only time in his career during the 2012-13 regular season, starting 20 of them. One of those starts was against the Heat, and Butler’s 17 points and four assists in 43 minutes helped snap Miami’s historic 27-game winning streak with a 101-97 win by the home team in Chicago.

As Butler evolved, so did his reputation as a clutch player both defensively and, most importantly for his development, offensively.

The problem was, Thibodeau was running him into the ground. Butler averaged career-highs in both 2014 and 2015 with 38.7 minutes per game on his way to being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player and an Eastern Conference All-Star for the first time before signing a five-year, $95 million extension with the Bulls.

2016 saw him get the nod and recognition he craved, getting the nod from Coach K to go to Rio and win the gold medal with Team USA, averaging 5.6 points and 14 minutes a game while playing in every single one of them. His best outing came in the Group Stage against Venezuela, contributing 17 points and a +26 plus/minus in a 113-69 rout.

Butler also fell in love with soccer while in Brazil, where fuchibol is a religion, and forged a friendship with Brazilian superstar Neymar a year later when both of them were in Paris for fashion week.

Back in America, Butler was thriving as Chicago’s go-to scorer in the playoffs, where he averaged over 22 points in 2015 and 2017 along with a blistering 42.9 minutes on the court. However, the Bulls were regressing as Butler was progressing, so the Bulls traded Jimmy to Minnesota on June 22, 2017 for young players such as Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

The Bulls were rebuilding, but Butler had visions of a championship with the Timberwolves alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. In theory, those three should have at least put a scare into the Golden State Warriors, but Butler never meshed with them and requested a trade barely over a season after arriving.

THE LONG ROAD TO MIAMI

The “feud” between Butler and Towns was all sorts of ugly, and the press was having a field day concocting theories about Towns’ girlfriend cheating on him with Butler. There was a trend, and that trend was the perception of Butler as a destabilizer.

Minnesota was losing and looking like the NBA version of “Melrose Place”, but in reality all the personal stuff was secondary to what Butler saw as a lack of toughness and will to overcome in Towns and Wiggins.

It all erupted during a practice session that saw Butler play for the backups and decimate the Timberwolves’ starters, calling Towns “soft”. There was no coming back from calling out the franchise’s #1 draft pick, so the team took sides and chose Towns while trading Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler was rubbing people the wrong way as a basketball nomad, a troublemaker and disruptor. He even was being labeled as a dreaded “locker room cancer” by the national talking heads.

In reality, Butler didn’t really want to go to Philly. He already had his sights set in South Florida even if the insiders thought otherwise.

Once in Philadelphia, he took that team to another level and found a kindred spirit in Joel Embiid. In fact, he played just as well as Kawhi Leonard during the Sixers-Raptors series that Toronto won in seven games thanks to Kawhi’s miracle shot.

In fact, he could have been the Game 7 hero after tying the game with a layup in the final seconds, but it was just another heartbreak for Jimmy.

Bur he held no grudges, and he kept going, reiterating his desire to play in Miami once again after that season was over. The problem was that Miami had no cap space, or so everybody thought.

Pat Riley pulled off his magic in a sign-and-trade that shipped a malcontent Hassan Whiteside to Portland and guard Josh Richardson to Philadelphia.

So now he is ready to finish what he started and being homeless no more. Butler found his basketball home in Miami, and his family with the Heat. His philosophy has rubbed off on his teammates, there is no softness in the red and white.

With allies like that, Butler believes nothing is impossible. Not after garnering his third career All-Star nod and leading the Heat to a 41-24 record this year. More than anything, he finally feels right at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

News

If Dame Lillard Leaves Portland, Where Would He Go?

If you followed the reporting of Five Reasons Sports and Five on the Floor last month, you knew that the door was cracked open for Damian Lillard to finally ask out of Portland.

Now the noise around the Trail Blazers star is even louder. Everyone from Yahoo’s Chris Haynes (Lillard’s media confidant) to others in mainstream NBA media are reporting that Lillard could request a trade at some point. At the moment, Lillard is making it known that the Blazers are in “prove it” mode, needing to build a contending roster soon — which will be difficult to do given Portland’s limited assets and challenging geography.

If Lillard is to request a trade during the 2021 off-season, and IF Portland is willing to hit the reset  button, who are the teams that have a true chance to make it happen? Let us explore the top options. 

 

The New York Knicks. 

Out of all the teams that can attempt to trade for Damian Lillard, the New York Knicks seemingly have  the most assets to throw at Portland, and a head coach Tom Thibodeau that has always been willing to  sacrifice youth for experienced veteran talent. A trade package potentially featuring recent lottery picks  RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, up and coming players such as Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson and a grand total of (6) movable 1st round picks and 4 pick swaps is far and away the most attractive trade  option of Blazers. The questions become: will a team headlined by Damian Lillard & Julius Randle be enough to make any noise in the east in the upcoming years, nonetheless make an NBA finals appearance  with juggernauts like the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks in their way?  

 

The Philadelphia 76ers. 

76er GM Daryl Morey has never been shy when it comes to bringing in big names and superstar talent to  win an NBA Championship, with a rap sheet that includes trading for MVP winners James Harden, Russell  Westbrook, and all-time great Point Guard Chris Paul during his tender as Houston Rockets GM. Morey is  in familiar territory, having in his hand a MVP caliber and top 10 NBA player in Joel Embiid and having  the task to build a championship contender around him. Morey has potentially (depending on what a team  later on this list is willing to give) the most established and decorated Player to offer to Portland in a trade:  Ben Simmons. Having mad multiple All-Star teams, multiple All-Defensive teams, and an All-NBA team  in only 4 played NBA seasons, Simmons is sure to be a valuable Cornerstone for Portland if they obtain him, even after his recent playoff woes. A Trade package involving Ben Simmons, Rookie Tyrese Maxey, and all-defensive team member Matisse Thybulle along with 3 movable 1st round picks and 4 pick swaps,  the Philadelphia 76ers have enough ammo to outbid almost anybody. Damian Lillard, alongside Joel  Embiid and Tobias Harris would have as much a chance as anybody to make an NBA Finals run.

 

The Golden State Warriors. 

The Warriors and GM Bob Myers have been silently preparing for the opportunity to make one more  championship run while Superstar Stephen Curry is still in his prime, albeit not in the way one would hope  for. After the departure of Kevin Durant, back-to-back seasons with Star Klay Thompson suffering season  ending injuries and even curry and Draymond missing time, the warriors have been able to stock up on  draft assets and prospects that can be used to bring in another superstar, including Oakland Native Damian  Lillard. Having the 7th pick form a prior trade with the Timberwolves, and their own 14th pick, along side  last years #2 overall pick James Wisemen is a great starting point for the warriors to begin trade negotiations, as well as 4 other movable first round picks. The only true huddle, besides cap room, for  Golden State is the possible reluctantly from Portland to trade Lillard to a rival Western team, although if  Portland decides to go in to a full flanged Rebuild, it might not matter what conference Lillard goes to in  their eyes. Certainly, a trio of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and the returning Klay Thompson would be  one of the most electric offensives in NBA History. 

 

The Miami Heat. 

A popular phase within the Miami Heat fandom is “In Riley we trust”, and with good reason. Always been on the lookout for his next “Whale”, Pat Riley is no stranger to going above and beyond to bring a top-level superstar to Miami. Wither it has been trading budding star Glen Rice to bring in a disgruntled Alonzo  Mourning from Charlotte, cutting ties with multiple promising young assets such as Caron Butler and  Lamar Odom to bring in the NBAs most dominant big man in recent memory, Shaquille O’Neal, or sign  and trade deals to bring franchise changing talents such as Lebron James and Jimmy Butler, Pat is as well  versed as they come in terms of wheeling and dealing star talent to Miami. His only obstacle (although if  you ask Pat “there are none”) is the lack of assets Miami has in its disposal compared to the other teams  mentioned in this Article. Having very little in terms of movable draft picks, the only true assets Miami has  to offer are Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala.

That is of course, unless Pat is willing to part  ways with a budding Superstar of his own in Bam Adebayo. Bam is far and away the most attractive Player  in a potential Damian Lillard trade if Pat were to make him available, and realistically the only ways for  Miami to receive Lillard form Portland would be if Bam is included. so many factors are involved to make  a decision of this magnitude, including Miami’s own superstar Jimmy Butler input. Another factor not  many are taking into account is, if Miami is to trade bam for Damian Lillard, and assuming they are to also  extend Jimmy Butler this summer, they would have two players deep in their 30’s making upwards of 45 million dollars by 2023-2024. This is a decision that would put at risk any movement in upcoming seasons,  and in reality, it is anything up a guarantee that a duo o Jimmy Butler and Damian Lillard will bring s  championship during that window. Will the alure of acquiring a top 10 talent like Lillard be too much for  Riley to resist?

 

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The Keys to the Rest of the NBA Finals

The Phoenix Suns are up 1-0 in the NBA Finals.

What determines the rest of the series?

 

1.Bucks figuring out the size issue vs Phoenix. In Game one Suns center Deandre Ayton had 22 points and 19 rebounds, if that happens every game it will be a short series for Milwaukee. Brook Lopez played just 23 minutes and when that happens there is nobody on the Bucks to battle Ayton’s size. Believe it or not this wasn’t just coach Bud not playing his starters heavy minutes like what happened in the bubble with Giannis last year. When Lopez was out there in game one Chris Paul and Devin Booker were hunting him on switches and made him unplayable. If Lopez is going to be on the floor Milwaukee needs to avoid Lopez being switched onto Paul or Booker plain and simple. Lopez shot 50 percent from the floor and finished with 17 points in his minutes which is good from a production standpoint. Although the +/- stat doesn’t say everything especially with a one game sample, Lopez had a team worst -17 last night which isn’t going to cut it. An answer for some of Lopez’s defensive struggles can be to keep him on Ayton and Ayton only. 

 

2. Free throw differential between the two teams. In game one the Bucks shot 9-16 from the line while Phoenix shot 25-26 from the line. Devin Booker himself shot 10 of 10 from the line and if he is going to make more free throws than the Bucks himself, I’m not sure this series is winnable for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton played 45 minutes in game one and didn’t shoot a single free throw and that must change moving forward. Middleton must match or be close to matching Devin Booker’s scoring in this series. A great way to do so is by getting to the line more often where Middleton shoots nearly 90 percent. Jrue Holiday got to the line just two times himself and that won’t cut it especially when he shoots 26 percent from the field as he did in game one. Two free throw attempts from Holiday and Middleton combined is something Phoenix will gladly take each game this series.

 

3. Jae Crowder’s scoring or lack of scoring. In game one Crowder played 33 minutes and shot 0-8 from the field and 0-5 from the three-point line. In the playoffs this year Crowder has averaged just under 10 points per game while shooting 39 percent from the field and 35 percent from three. Crowder needs to get back to those numbers especially as this series goes on the road to Milwaukee. Paul and Booker both had great games, so Crowder’s lack of scoring didn’t matter but that won’t be the case every game. Crowder has been a streaky shooter in his career but if he can shoot around his 35 percent from three playoff average it will greatly improve the Suns chances at raising the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of this series. He is a great defender especially vs Giannis as Heat fans saw last year but he must provide something on offense to be a net positive for Phoenix. Suns forward Dario Saric tore his ACL in game one and Saric had been an underrated piece for the Suns in the playoffs. To help fill Saric’s minutes Crowder may be asked to play even more minutes than the 33 minutes he played in game one. 

 

4. Chris Paul’s and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s health. Paul suffered a shoulder injury in round one vs the Lakers and took most of the series to get back to form. Paul has had tough injury luck in the playoffs throughout his career. He’s missed time with the Clippers and Rockets in the past leaving people wondering what could have been had he not gotten injured. In game one Paul twisted his ankle when he was fouled on a three-point shot by Brook Lopez. Fortunately Paul was able to stay in the game and seems fine, but injuries are always a concern with Paul. Paul is an all-time great player and let’s hope that injuries stay out of the way as Paul seeks his first NBA championship in his legendary career. The other injury to watch in this series is with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hyperextended knee he suffered in the eastern conference finals. Many people including Giannis himself thought his season was over and next season was in jeopardy. Thankfully the injury wasn’t as serious as initially thought but still many assumed Giannis was out for game one, but he surprised everyone and played. He looked very good in game one scoring 20 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in 35 minutes. While he was effective in the first game there is always a concern of reinjuring his knee much like Kevin Durant did with his Achilles in the 2019 NBA finals. The number of minutes Giannis plays is something to watch given he’s coming off an injury. Coach Bud has been heavily criticized in the past for not playing Giannis more minutes but now it may be justified to keep him around 35 minutes. When it gets to elimination games maybe Giannis will play as many minutes as it takes but it’s understandable to be slightly cautious the first couple games. The Bucks or Suns can’t win the NBA championship without Paul or Giannis and that’s why these two and their health is the biggest key to watch for in the series. 

 

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Five Keys to the Eastern Conference Finals

What will decide the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals?

Here are five factors. 

 

*****

 

Khris Middleton playing like a star similar to how he played vs Miami and Brooklyn. The first round series vs Miami wasn’t competitive (sorry Heat fans). The second round series vs the Nets showed much more the X -Factor Middleton is in determining a win or loss for Milwaukee. In losses vs the Nets Middleton shot 32% from the field and 26% from three and 18 ppg. In the wins vs the Nets he shot 47% from the field, 58% from three and 28 ppg. Ten points is a lot in a playoff game not to mention the large differences in shooting percentage. When Middleton is hitting his shots, it creates more open looks for other players and most importantly takes attention away from Giannis.

****

Trae Young scoring over 30 ppg. In game one of the Eastern Conference Finals Trae scored 48 points and the Hawks upset Milwaukee on their homecourt. There were times in this game where Trae looked simply unguardable even with Giannis switching out onto him he still was able to score. When Trae is scoring at that level it creates so many other possibilities for Atlanta’s offense. Many other players on the Hawks rely on Trae to create for them and when he’s scoring at will it opens the floor up. An example of this is when teams are playing Trae so far out on perimeter he can then drive in the lane and lob it up to John Collins or Clint Capela. Kevin Huerter is another player that is important off of Trae in the backcourt. Huerter scored 27 points in the pivotal game 7 win vs the 76ers in the second round. Without all the attention on Trae that wouldn’t have been possible. 

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****

Hawks must win the 3-point shooting battle. To have any chance the Hawks must outscore the Bucks from 3 and we saw that in game 1 Wednesday night. The hawks shot 25% from 3 versus the Bucks 22% and it took 48 points from Trae Young to win by three. If they don’t have the three-point advantage it will take similar heroic performances from Young to even have a chance. The Bucks have two all-stars in Giannis and Middleton along with a borderline all star in Jrue Holiday while the Hawks had no all-stars this year. Trae Young certainly should’ve been named an all-star but regardless the bucks are defiantly the more talented team. To make up for the talent gap Atlanta needs to win from the three-point line. 

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****

Giannis needs to play the 5 position more than he has in previous series if the Bucks want to advance to their first NBA Finals in 50 years. This isn’t a series for Brook Lopez as we saw in game 1. When Lopez is in the game the Bucks often play their drop coverage and have Lopez sagging off leaving plenty of space for Atlanta’s guards. When this happens Trae Young eats that coverage alive all game. He can either use his floater game or simply lob it up to Capela for an easy two points every time. When Giannis is at the 5, they don’t play drop nearly as much and some of those lanes for Young and Capela aren’t nearly as wide open. If the Bucks make it as hard as possible on the Hawks in terms of getting in rhythm and easy buckets, it will make it much harder for Atlanta to win games in the series. The Bucks are the more talented team, but they must make the in-game adjustments as well or this series will be longer than anyone in Milwaukee wants. 

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*****

Jrue Holiday needs to play up to his max contract and be a top 5 player in this series. While guarding Trae Young will be a lofty task for Holiday he can’t forget about the offensive end as well. Jrue was excellent in the Miami series and a clear difference maker but was less efficient vs the Nets on the offensive side of things. In the second round series Holiday averaged 15ppg, 36% from the field and 26% from the three-point line. Those numbers need at least a slight increase in this series for Milwaukee to feel good about winning the series. The Nets were missing Kyrie Irving for most of the series and James Harden was playing on about one leg when he did play the final three games. If either of those guys were healthy Brooklyn most likely advances and Milwaukee can’t count on the Hawks being shorthanded, so they need all hands-on deck this series. In game 7 vs Brooklyn Holiday shot 5-23 from the field including being 2-17 before hitting a three late in the fourth quarter. They were lucky to escape with an overtime victory but that won’t happen with a healthy Hawks team. On the flip side if Jrue plays up to his capability on both ends it will be nearly impossible for the Hawks to beat the Bucks. 

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NBA Chaos Leaves Heat in Advantageous Position

Chaos around the NBA could benefit the Heat.

You would expect the NBA to dominate the headlines in June, as the playoffs hit full stride.

 

 

Despite multiple competitive series reaching their peak, what seems to dominate our attention is the discontent around the league.

 

The Dallas situation seems to be the most tumultuous as within a span of 24 hours they lost both their General Manager and head coach.

 

Meanwhile, back in Miami.

 

 

I mean, what could possibly be better than this Heat fans?

 

In the City of Brotherly Love, there is not much left for Ben Simmons as the Sixers have imploded in back-to-back final quarters.

Simmons is shooting an ungodly 25.7% from the free throw line in the Eastern Conference semifinals, contributing mightily to the Sixers’ collapse.

Joel Embiid is the only player from the “Process” that has truly panned out.

Say what you want about Simmons three All-Star selections, the fact he was targeted by Atlanta and could not make them pay matters.

Embiid.

Butler.

(Insert eye emoji)

The most realistic scenario however seems to involve Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who would instantly upgrade Miami’s backcourt on both ends.

Miami has roster flexibility and more importantly stability, especially in the near future.

Despite the season ending on a low with a playoff sweep at the hands of Milwaukee, the sting of that will heal.

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The odds were stacked against Miami, and other “bubble teams” – the 2021 Miami Heat were not getting out of the East this year anyway.

After a redacted offseason and a roster that did not improve from last year, this team plateaued.

However the future immediately seems brighter in Miami.

Even if a lot of the positivity is perhaps hyperbole.

So sit back and relax Heat fans, enjoy the chaos from the safety of Biscayne Bay.

Related:

Doncic, Dallas close to knocking Los Angeles pair out of playoffs

Midway through the third quarter, TNT broadcast two hunched-over billionaires stressing out during the game. Mark Cuban and Steve Ballmer, owners of the Mavericks and Clippers respectively, stared dumbfounded from their courtside seats, as their season’s biggest game unraveled. Despite the success their business savvy afforded them, they would not own this moment. Unfortunately for them, neither would their teams.

Often, great playoff games elevate the competitive fervor between opponents, only for one to come out on top. Not tonight. Tonight, even in the waning moments of a game desperately begging for someone to seize control, neither team could hold on. The Clippers couldn’t hold on to home court advantage. The Mavericks couldn’t hold on to a 16-point lead. Kawhi Leonard couldn’t hold on to past shooting performances. Luka Doncic couldn’t hold on to the ball. Even fans couldn’t hold on to their breaths. In a postseason typically defined by games where out of two worthy winners, one must lose, tonight was a game of attrition, where one team had to win.

In Game 5, the Mavericks won. It wasn’t pretty and at times was downright difficult to watch. Though Luka Doncic scored 42 points, 27 of which came in the first half, his shooting touch was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter. After getting off to a blistering start, Doncic went 1/8 from the field in the final frame and had a crucial turnover with just over 18 seconds remaining in a one-point game.

Momentum was squarely on the Clippers’ side. Falling behind 16 points with 11:42 left in the fourth and trailing by 10 points with 2:13 left in the game, Los Angeles mounted a furious comeback. Once again, the Clippers fell short at home. A missed layup by LA’s Nicolas Batum and two made free throws by Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr. led to Kawhi Leonard’s corner three. From the same spot he sank the Sixers’ season in 2019, Leonard air-balled a three to further sink the Clippers’ postseason hopes.

Now, the series heads back to Dallas, where the Mavericks will try to turn their 3-2 first round lead into their first series win since Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011 championship run. Meanwhile, the Clippers will seek out another win on the road Friday night to salvage their tumultuous season and title window. Mark Cuban and Steve Ballmer will almost certainly be in attendance. If there’s anything they should keep in mind, it’s that this series belongs to the first team to win at home, a situation unseen since the 1995 Western Conference Finals, when the Spurs and Rockets split the first five games on the road, before Houston closed  out at home in six.

Whether Dallas can follow suit behind Luka Doncic, their 22 year old superstar averaging 32.8 PPG which trails only Michael Jordan’s 33.4 PPG as the highest playoff production of all time, or Los Angeles can force a Game 7 behind the tandem of 2-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and perennial All-Star swingman Paul George, will largely determine how the teams’ seasons are viewed. Either way, that defining moment arrives Friday night. It’s up to both teams whether they own it or not.

Why FanDuel and DraftKings have enjoyed success in Florida

Daily fantasy sites have grown at a rapid rate over the last 10 years and are now almost a ritual activity for players across the United States. Residents of Florida have access to two of the best products on the market in the form of DraftKings and FanDuel.

Daily fantasy sites are not illegal in the Sunshine State, but there are no laws regulating the practice. However, DraftKings and FanDuel have been a constant presence since moving into the state and are now firmly entrenched with thousands of registered users at their disposal.

The argument continues to this day whether they are an official sports betting product or whether their competitions are games of skill. Yahoo opted to pull their daily fantasy game out of the region in 2015, leaving a head-to-head battle between DraftKings and FanDuel for customers.

 

FanDuel have been around the longest, creating their product in 2009. It has been a staple of the industry since and was bought out by Flutter Entertainment, who also own FoxBet, TVG, Paddy Power, and Betfair; among other leading betting companies states WSN.com.

FanDuel has provided an excellent product for users and has also secured partnerships with the NHL and the NBA. It is the simpler of the two operators on offer, limiting the amount of work required to alter your fantasy team, while working with a strict salary cap across all 11 of their sports. Their partnership with the NBA is vital in Florida, given the number of basketball teams present in the region.

FanDuel provide the authentic experience for NBA daily fantasy games over DraftKings, especially for those fans of the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic. Their presence in Florida has allowed them to build a solid customer base within the Sunshine State with the hope of further expansion. Sports betting is not on the agenda yet in Florida, but when it comes to the fore, FanDuel will be in direct competition with DraftKings for users.

Both FanDuel and DraftKings will be hopeful that they will be able to see off threats from new companies that may emerge on their territory, should litigation allow traditional sports wagering products to operate in the Sunshine State.

DraftKings, too, have developed a strong core of customers, and nationally boast a larger contingent than FanDuel. They are arguably in a better position to that of their rival due to their partnerships with the NFL and MLB. The NFL has the largest following in the United States, and Florida boasts the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars within its borders.

 

The sponsorship with the NFL allows DraftKings to benefit from the huge television audiences that the league commands. In turn, that breeds greater recognition of their product and the benefits of using their daily fantasy game instead of FanDuel.

DraftKings does demand a savvy sports mind to play their games, although there are greater rewards available. Features such as the variable salary cap can force users to have to change their rosters with regularity to keep them ahead of the competition and their friends. There is always something to think about when playing with DraftKings, which makes it appealing for sports enthusiasts. In a state where sport is found at almost at every turn, DraftKings certainly made a wise decision to remain entrenched in the region. It has allowed them to build a loyal base of customers and further enhance their product.

Both products made a sound business choice to keep offering registrations to Floridians. They are reaping the benefits now with the continued success of daily fantasy games, and potentially in the future, should sports betting become regulated in the Sunshine State.

 

Photo by Unsplash Images.

Basketball Rules and Regulations You Must Know 

Basketball is played in different parts of continents. Every sport has some defined rules to take the decisions of the game. Basketball is played in a court which is rectangular in shape and measures 91 feet long and 50 feet wide. There are 12 members in each basketball team, whereas only 5 members of each team are allowed to play on the court. 

 

The purpose of the game is to score maximum points by throwing the ball in the basket. The team with the maximum score wins the game. Apart from this, certain fouls take place due to the carelessness of the team members and are counted against them.

 

If you are unaware of the basketball rules, then this article might help you gain some knowledge about the game. 

 

Top basketball rules you should know

 

 

  • Basketball jersey

 

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind is to be well dressed in the basketball jerseys.  

If you are a part of the playing team you must wear the jersey on the court for the convenience of your other team members to pass the ball.

 

 

  • Team players

 

There cannot be more than 5 players of each team on the court. You can substitute other players as per your choice, regarding the gameplay. 

 

 

  • Shot prevention

 

The team which is trying to make a shot in the basket is known as the offense team, whereas the team that is trying to stop them from scoring is known as the defense team. Without pushing any member, the defense team must prevent the offense team either by blocking the shot or by preventing the shot. 

 

 

  • Handling the ball

 

You cannot hit the ball with their fist, or kick it. You can pass the ball to the other member either by bouncing the ball or dribbling it. A person who leaves the catch even after touching the ball does not get the chance to dribble the ball. 

 

 

  • Chance of foul 

 

If the ball is placed in the team’s half, they will win the ownership back. Within 10 seconds, It would be declared a foul, if the ball fails to make it back to the other halfway line.

 

 

  • Free throw 

 

All the fouls that took place during the game would be assembled. After this, a free throw will be given when reached a certain number. The shot will be taken by the player who made the foul from the free-throw line. 

 

 

  • The time limit for a shot 

 

Both of the teams are supposed to shoot at the basket or at least hit the rim of the basket within 24 seconds. If either of the team fails to do so, the shot clock has to restart for another 24 seconds. 

 

 

  • step to avoid 

 

You cannot move more than a single step without bouncing the ball. It would be considered a foul. Also, you must avoid double dribble, backcourt violation, and goaltending, etc.     

 

 

  • Prevention 

 

The offensive team cannot take the basketball back if it passes halfway through the line. 

 

Conclusion

 

Playing basketball for fun is okay, but if you are playing it without any clue about its penalties you might become a burden for your team. Before playing a basketball game, you must be aware of all the rules and regulations associated with it. If you’ll have better knowledge regarding the rules, you might avoid certain mistakes.

  

Miami Heat-Los Angeles Lakers Rematch: Flipping the Script

The Los Angeles Lakers are up 2-0 in the series. It seems as if the Miami Heat have finally run out of gas after reaching their peak abilities, as two of their three best players are ruled out due to injury, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.

The story-lines were pure, but the competitive expectations looked like it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But well, that was before Jimmy Butler happened. Putting up a stat-line of 40 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds against two of the most premier athletes in the NBA, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, leading Miami to a win basically was the start of an incredible battle.

Although Miami ended up losing in 6 games, as the Lakers got their 17th franchise championship while LeBron secured his 4th, the battle that Miami put up basically foreshadowed the way that a Miami Heat team plays when the headliners are aligned, in Butler, Erik Spoelstra, and Pat Riley.

Now, after the Lakers beat a depleted Heat team in the NBA Finals, the script will be flipped on Thursday night. Los Angeles will be without James and Davis once again, as Miami’s finally hitting strides in the health department. This results in Miami being the favorite to win the game, according to the NBA odds at Sports Betting Dime. In a bundled up Eastern Conference, these are the type of games that Miami is aware are crucial to have a shot at the fourth seed.

These two teams may get thrown up against each other in many conversations, but they really aren’t all that different. As teams like the Utah Jazz are grasping the spot light in the West, the Brooklyn Nets are doing so in the East, leaving both the Lakers and Heat in middle tier areas, awaiting that first round match-up before truly turning it on.

Both teams with huge defensive strides, interchanging players with different injuries thrown their way, and of course, much respected franchises who were lucky enough to change up their rosters a bit to complete this second half run.

All of these comparisons being shown just comes right back to the overarching theme: facing adversity. It may be looked at as league wide ordeal, but it’s no surprise that these two teams have had more ups and downs than anybody. Beginning with the immediate turnaround after the Finals, there’s been constant obstacles being thrown their way, and that may mean they’re more prepared for what comes next.

Obviously nobody wants to face a James and Davis led Lakers team in a 7 game series, but there also aren’t many teams that want to face a gritty Miami Heat team with a defensive identity and tons of weapons.

This Thursday night match-up between these two teams will look a lot different than it did a couple months ago, and that basically sums up the entire situation that they’ve both endured. And as they both continue to claw their way back up the standings, there’s a chance an unexpected Finals rematch could occur if things fall into place for each ball club.

James Harden’s Net Gain for Brooklyn. A Title Next?

If James Harden keeps staying on top of his game, the Nets may have a shot at an NBA Finals victory in 2021

It wouldn’t be dramatic to say that January 14th, 2021 marked a historic day in professional basketball. On this day superstar shooting guard James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, ending his almost 10-year prolific career with the Houston Rockets.

Fans of the Texas-based Rockets were stunned with the unexpected move, but the Nets knew they had gained one of the league’s brightest players in a momentous deal that would highly benefit the organization. Since then, Harden has proved his place as a valuable member in Brooklyn with a show-stopping debut performance that made history. He became the first ever player to have a 30-point triple-double in a first game. You could say he was welcomed nicely in Brooklyn.

The Nets are profiting from the enthusiasm and athleticism Harden brings to the court, as the team is currently enjoying a top spot in the Eastern Conference rankings right behind the Philadelphia 76’ers. In fact, the 6 foot 5 powerhouse has allowed Brooklyn to appear as the number one favorite in NBA betting odds for an Eastern Conference Futures Win later this season.

But just what makes the veteran basketball player so good at his game? Well, he’s skilled in practically every area that Brooklyn needs. He’s dynamite on the court, impossible to catch up with and hard to throw off. Harden makes scoring three pointers look like a walk in the park as his opponents watch on with misery. It’s clear that he also has elite basketball knowledge and isn’t afraid to get creative with his gameplay. Even with big competitors like Miami, the Nets have been able to rise above the heat with the help of Harden’s offensive game.

Unlike other players who perform within their comfort zone, the shooting guard enjoys a good challenge and can adapt easily in the face of change. He’s also extremely inspiring and leads the team effortlessly. In a recent nail biter game against the Phoenix Suns, Harden encouraged the Nets to take back the lead, ending the competition victorious and recording one of the most historic comebacks the organization has ever seen.

The talented athlete has a load of accolades to his name and is arguably one of NBA’s most productive players of the moment. Now that Brooklyn has retained the superstar under a whopping $40 million contract, fans can look forward to more instances of domination in the season’s future. In such a short amount of time, he’s already done more than we could’ve imagined.

 

Which team (Heat, Lightning, Rays) in Florida will win state’s next title?

It probably doesn’t need saying, but it’s been quite a seven months or so for sports teams in Florida. From September through March, we saw Florida teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, World Series and the Super Bowl. If you count the MLS Is Back Tournament Final, which saw Orlando City SC lose out to Portland, that’s five major sports finals for Florida teams. Not bad. Not bad at all. 

But Florida sports fans already knew all of the above. The more pertinent question is what comes next? Can Florida teams capitalize on the best period of success since the Bucs, Marlins and Lightning won championships between 2002-2004? We just don’t know. But we are going to guess by power ranking every NBA, MLS, NHL and MLB teams by the probability of winning a championship in 2021, starting with the least likely. 

  1. Orlando Magic 

It’s a testament to Florida sports teams’ strength right now that the team at the bottom of these rankings isn’t awful. Orlando has been blighted by injuries this season, and that looks like it might cost the team a third consecutive tilt at the Playoffs. There have been positives, notably Nikola Vucevic emergence as a truly elite NBA player. 

  1. Miami Marlins

Clinching a first postseason berth since 2003 might have convinced Marlins fans that better days lay ahead, but the rebuilding might have to continue in 2021. A problem beyond the team’s own limitations is the strength of the NL East, with both the Mets and Braves tipped to have big seasons.  

  1. Inter Miami CF

Florida’s newest sports club is finding its feet in the MLS. The team has big ambitions, and the acquisition of Phil Neville as head coach looks to be a clever move. Gonzalo Higuain, too, could provide the X-factor and goals. But this is a long term project, and we would be shocked to see Inter Miami in the latter stages of the MLS Cup. 

  1. Miami Heat

It’s not impossible that Miami wins the NBA Championship this year. In fact, the basketball odds at MansionBet put the Heat at 28/1 – about ninth-favorite overall. So, you shouldn’t rule it out. But the team really needs to start winning consistently. We are approaching the half-way point of the season, and Miami sits outside the playoff spots. 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays

Sportsbooks and pundits are quite cool on the Rays’ chances this season. Both MLB and CBS have the Rays at 10th in their power rankings, behind the AL East’s Yankees and Blue Jays. It’s a tough call, but Kevin Cash and the Rays could make those journalists eat their words – again. 

  1. Florida Panthers

It might seem strange to rank the Panthers ahead of the Rays and Miami Heat, but NHL is a little less top-heavy than NBA and MLB, so we rate the Panthers’ chances just a little higher. A lot would have to go right, of course, but this is an organization on an upward trajectory. 

  1. Orlando City SC

You have to like Orlando City’s chances this season. Coach Oscar Pareja has made the team hard to beat, and the run to the final of the MLS Is Back Tournament will act as good experience for the players. Like Inter Miami, they have a potential superstar in Alexander Pato. You get the feeling the Brazilian will either shine or flop, with no in-between. If it’s the former, then Orlando could land the MLS Cup.

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning 

Tampa Bay tops the power rankings and bookmakers’ odds to retain the Stanley Cup in 2021. What more is there to say? The champions are the best team in NHL, and the most likely Floria team to bring home a championship in 2021.