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The Heat’s respect-earning elimination of the Bucks

Won’t make the playoffs? First round exit? No shooters? Jimmy can’t lead a team?

It only took the Miami Heat 9 games to gain the respect and attention of the national media. The Miami Heat are going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014 when Lebron, Wade, and Bosh looked to three-peat. Although they were deemed “underdogs” this whole season, those close to the Heat organization and the loyal fan base knew this Heat team had a high ceiling. 

In Game 1, Milwaukee had limited answers to Miami’s versatility, athleticism, and toughness. Jimmy Butler was clearly the best player on the court scoring 14 of his 40 points in the 4th quarter. Veteran point guard Goran Dragic added 27 points on 60% from the field. Bam Adebayo was a monster on the boards, grabbing 17 rebounds and limiting MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to 18 points. Your stars win you games. This was exactly the case in Game 1. 

Game 2 was left to the officiating. Jimmy Butler sealed the game on two free throws after getting fouled on a jump shot as time expired leading to a 116-114 Heat win. This game was pure physicality, 71 foul shots were attempted, including two flagrant fouls and a technical. This was a grind out game and Miami’s versatility was on display with 7 players scoring in double digits. 

Next was the 4th quarter comeback. Miami outscored the Bucks 40-13 in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Miami’s defense was stellar in the closing minutes, forcing the Bucks into a prolonged scoring drought. They shot 0-10 from the three and 6-23 overall in the 4th quarter. Jimmy Butler put the team on his back scoring 17 of his 30 in the 4th. Miami also had great contributions from Bam Adebayo who posted a 20 point double double and Jae (Allen) Crowder who splashed in 5 three pointers. 

Milwaukee rallied without MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 4 after he suffered a right ankle sprain in the 2nd quarter that kept him sidelined the rest of the series. Miami could have taken advantage of this and swept, however, it was obvious they took their foot off the gas. They lost their intensity from the first three games, resulting in their sole loss of the playoffs in overtime. Miami had no struggles scoring the rock, however, their defense slipped. The Bucks shot 49% from the field behind Khris Middleton’s 36 points. This was a nice humbling for Heat fans and a great gut check for Miami. 

Bounce back! The Heat closed out the series against the Giannis-less Bucks. This game was an all-around effort with rookie Tyler Herro shining in their 103-94 win. Miami had 6 players in double digits, a theme that is becoming more and more common for this Heat team. The bench took the reins of this game with stellar performances from Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala, in addition to Herro. 

Miami is not satisfied yet, and the goal is obviously a championship. Miami will play either the Celtics or the Raptors next round. This series proved that Miami is a legit contender for a championship. Between their all stars, sharpshooters, defensive flexibility, bench scoring, and grit, Miami has all the tools needed to compete with the best. 

How will the Miami Heat use their depth in next round?

The Miami Heat had an impressive sweep over the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Miami was in control every game and Indiana failed to come up with an answer to Miami’s hard-nosed, high energy, and high-level shooting team.

Their unselfishness and will to win was impressive. Especially since the trade with Memphis, adding Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, the Heat’s depth has been a big strength which was on full display in the Indiana series. The Heat had at least four players scoring in double digits in every game and different players came up big in different games. This is a valuable asset for Miami. Most teams look to simply “survive” when their stars are on the bench. They hope that their bench players can hold it down on the court and withstand enough to keep the game close. However, Miami’s bench looks to extend leads, not just maintain them. Miami has a deep balanced roster of veteran and young talent. Their roster is constructed in a way where there isn’t a significant dropoff of capable playoff talent until after the 10th man. Erik Spoelstra now has many bodies to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

With Bam Adebayo on the bench, Miami has at least 3 other players (Jae, Iggy, DJJ) to wall up and neutralize Giannis. In addition, Spoelstra’s starting lineup change has improved the Heat’s defense, without sacrificing the scoring of the second unit or compromising the Heat’s depth. Adding a former all star, Goran Dragic, and veteran wing Jae Crowder, to the starting five maximizes the Heat’s ability to switch on pick and rolls and spreads the court more for Miami’s slashing cuts and adept ball movement. Also, Spoelstra has created a rotation that allows the bench to operate with Butler on the court when Bam and Dragic are resting and vice versa. The productivity of the Heat bench should be a big strength in the Bucks series. Let’s take a look at the Heat’s bench and their impact thus far and what is to come. 

Tyler Herro

The 20-year-old rookie continued to show his fearless motor in round 1 of the playoffs, using the spotlight to shine rather than fade away. Herro was impressive in each game and continued to show off his playmaking and scoring abilities. He averaged 16.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists against Indiana. He even earned some praise from Heat legend Dwyane Wade, “Sooo Tyler Herro Is a rookie still right!???” Herro improved on the defensive end too, using his court awareness to guide him into correct defensive rotations. He is still considered a vulnerable defender but to average about 32 minutes a game in a playoff series proves that Spolestra trusts him on the court. This is a series where you can expect to see Herro’s mid range and perimeter shooting on display due to the Bucks’ length. Also look for Tyler Herro and Kelly Olynyk pick and pops next series because Milwaukee’s bigs don’t like to leave the paint. 

Andre Iguodola

Iguodola is a seasoned veteran, finals MVP, and three time national champion with championship pedigree that is valuable to Miami’s young and inexperienced players. He is not needed to fill up the stat sheet but to simply make winning plays and be a leader on and off the court. Iguodola will need to be an extension of the coach when he is in with the second unit. Next series, Iggy will be responsible for making sure his teammates are poised in uncomfortable or pressure situations. He will provide quality leadership by communicating and holding others accountable. If he knocks down 1-2 three pointers a game and plays high level defense against Giannis and Middleton, Miami has a good chance of coming out of the 2nd round. ‘

Kelly Olynyk 

Kelly has played very well within his role in the playoffs thus far. After Spolestra decided to remove center Meyers Leonard from the rotation, Olynyk comes off the bench as the “big man.” He spreads the court with his three point shooting and his creativity off of ball screens and handoffs leaves defenses guessing. He averaged around 14 minutes per game against Indiana, 6.5 rebounds, and shot 50% from the field. Look for him to be aggressive against the Bucks shooting thress as their centers are not as mobile and the Bucks rely on drop coverage against the pick and roll. 

Derrick Jones Jr

Airplane mode. Known for his high flying dunks and crazy athleticism, Jones Jr. is a plus defender and a vertical spacer for Miami. He only averaged around 10 minutes per game this series against Indiana, but still made an impact. If DJJ does any offensive damage for the Heat it is a bonus since he is mostly in to play lockdown defense. Look for DJJ to get similar minutes next series guarding Giannis and Middleton to take some burden off the starters. 

Kendrick Nunn

After an amazing regular season and rookie of the year campaign, Kendrick Nunn had disappeared from the rotation. Nunn tested positive for Covid-19 right before the Heat were scheduled to leave for the NBA bubble and it has seemed to impact his play. He was a DNP for the first three games of the Indiana series due to the coach’s decision. However, in game 4 against Indiana he reminded everyone what he can bring to the table when he is playing well. Nunn and DJJ should split minutes for the 10th spot depending on matchups.

5 Takeaways from Suns Victory Over Short-Handed Heat Team

The Miami Heat played yet another game short-handed against the Phoenix Suns, due to Jimmy Butler, Goran Drgaic, and Kendrick Nunn being out. Miami fell short to Phoenix, 119-112, even with big games from the Heat’s young projects. Here are some takeaways from this game…

#1: Duncan Robinson uses team’s offensive shortage to expand his game.

Duncan Robinson seems to be one of the keys to every game the Heat play, but this was a different Duncan. I previously mentioned him expanding his game on the ball in this game, due to the fact that three of Miami’s four best scorers were out. Duncan definitely has some tricks in his bag that don’t involve catching and shooting, but he hasn’t been able to showcase them much. Tonight, he showed his ability to attack the basket, which seemed to catch the Suns off guard since it definitely wasn’t on the scouting report. People also forget that this is basically Duncan’s rookie year, which means he has plenty of time to develop this side of his game.

#2: Gabe Vincent utilizes minutes to try and earn rotation spot, but showcases another aspect.

With Kendrick Nunn away from the team at the moment, Tyler Herro was called up to the starting lineup and consequently lead to Gabe Vincent minutes off of the bench. This gave Gabe the opportunity to prove he can get minutes on this team, especially with Kendrick’s recent struggles. Although Gabe struggled shooting the ball from deep, which is his strength, he proved the other parts of his game are just as strong. He seemed to be a good play-maker, a high basketball IQ, and most importantly solid defense. These are some things that have been in question for Kendrick Nunn over the last few games, which may ultimately lead to yet another lineup change.

#3. Miami using new strategy, which is attacking team’s best player.

The Heat have seemed to try out a new offensive strategy through these few bubble games, which has been to get the other team’s best player in foul trouble. They have continued to attack early in games over the last week, which lead to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Marcus Smart early foul trouble. They also tried to attack Devin Booker early in today’s game, but it evidently didn’t lead to fouls. This may not be a bad idea to do, especially with the amount of physical offensive players on this roster. This also points to another advantage for the Heat over the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s been pretty easy to get 76er’s star Joel Embiid in foul trouble this year, which may ultimately be their game plan in a series against him. This may be something to keep your eye on over the course of Miami’s next few games.

#4: Tyler Herro tries to match his player comparison, Devin Booker.

Tyler Herro has continually been compared to Devin Booker, which is as good of a comparison as you can get. Tyler has said that he tries to model his game after him, and has watched a lot of film of him over the break. And with Tyler being the starting point guard tonight, he was looked at to try and match Devin Booker’s scoring, which is far from an easy task. But, Tyler Herro did just about that. He showed a lot of Devin Booker flashes scoring the ball with 25 points, but really stepped up as the point guard. He continues to showcase different ball-handling packages and most importantly his play-making, which he ended the game with 10 assists. He seems to be very comfortable at this position now, even more comfortable than Kendrick looked at the point. Tyler used this as a statement game to prove he will be the starting point guard on this team for a long time to come.

#5: Bam Adebayo’s offensive motor more important now than ever.

After Bam talked about his body not responding as quickly as it usually does during a media session yesterday, there were a lot of questions about him in today’s game. But, he began to make that jump that was much needed in a game without three of your offensive talents. He also seemed confident in his jump shot from 15 feet early in the first, which seemed Chris Bosh-esque, but it just wasn’t falling. This lead to the basket attacking Bam Adebayo that Heat fans have been waiting for in the second quarter. This included some post-moves, finishing at the rim, and a pair of And-1 plays. With all of the elite shooting on this roster, Bam is key to open up the floor for all of their shooters. Once Bam becomes a consistent offensive problem for other teams, this will elevate this Heat team to the next level.

Heat’s Kendrick Nunn leaves NBA Bubble, leaving guard shortage (w/UPDATE)

The Miami Heat, already likely without Goran Dragic (ankle) and Jimmy Butler (foot) for Saturday’s game against the hot Phoenix Suns, will be without Kendrick Nunn for longer.

Nunn left the NBA’s Bubble on Friday to attend to a personal issue, according to multiple sources.

UPDATE: He is expected to return this weekend, to begin the NBA’s mandated quarantine period, which starts at four days. That would make him available for the playoffs that begin the week of August 17th.

The rookie guard was late coming to the Bubble after testing positive for Covid-19, but this is not related to the disease or any other health matter in any way.

It also, according to a source, is not directly related to Nunn’s struggles on the court, which caused coach Erik Spoelstra to publicly support him in a Zoom conference call with media earlier on Friday.

There have been concerns of late inside the organization about Nunn’s focus of late, according to sources. But they were aware he might need to leave the bubble to address the issue.

Without Nunn, the Heat will likely start rookie Tyler Herro — who seems ready for an ascension — or rookie Gabe Vincent, who was listed as probable after being unavailable the past couple of games. Both Herro and Vincent will probably play a lot, because Miami is now very short on perimeter players.

Goran Dragic spoke to the media Friday for the first time since rolling his ankle twice against Boston on Tuesday, and said that the injury was not as bad as he initially thought, and that he would try to get some extra work in on Friday night. But he also said he wants to be judicious, and with the Heat likely headed for a 4 or 5 seed no matter what happens in the final four games, there’s no reason to push him.

 

 

The other question is when Jimmy Butler returns.

He missed Tuesday and Thursday’s game with a sore foot, which is not believed to keep him out for any games once the playoffs start the week of August 17th.

But he also is being careful, as is the team, not to do too much too fast.

And he was at practice with the team.

Erik Spoelstra has spoken about the Heat’s depth being an advantage.

It will certainly be tested now, against a Suns squad that is playing well behind Devin Booker, and aiming for a play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Tuesday Primer: Can the Heat free Robinson, get playmaking?

The Miami Heat are currently 1-1 in the NBA bubble after a blowout win against Denver and a close loss to Toronto. The Heat play the Boston Celtics tonight on the second night of a back to back. 

 

As the stakes are getting higher, teams are beginning to deploy special defensive schemes against the Heat. We saw this specifically by the Toronto Raptors against Duncan Robinson by running two players at him consistently and forcing him to pass the ball, in the rare occasions he got it at all. If the Heat were going to win that game, Raptors coach Nick Nurse made sure it wasn’t because Robinson torched them from the three.

 

This is just the beginning of the special attention Robinson will face moving forward. Robinson struggled to impact the game in other ways and was seemingly unproductive in 22 minutes of play time scoring 3 points on 1-5 shooting and grabbing 2 rebounds with a +/- of -1.  And he wasn’t in at the end.

When the playoffs begin, Robinson should expect even more attention from defenses to prevent him from getting good looks. Teams are scouting him and in a seven game series teams will adapt to Miami’s offense. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra will undoubtedly unveil some new sets for Robinson to help him get better looks and to counter opposing defenses. 

 

But when opposing defenses are able to neutralize Robinson, it emphasizes the Heat’s lack of a true point guard and someone who can consistently create off the dribble other than Jimmy Butler. Rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro along with veteran Goran Dragic are the primary candidates to fill that need. Herro already gets fourth quarter minutes due to his ability to score, as well as make plays for others and handle the ball. Herro lives to play in the spotlight, so closing the end of games is what Herro wants. 

 

Nunn struggled against the Raptors too. He shot 0/7 from the field including 0/5 from the three, grabbed 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 points, a turnover in 16 minutes of action. Similarly to Robinson, Nunn often struggles to positively impact the game when he is not scoring. However, Nunn has more ball-handling skill and should be able to drive and create plays for others. His playmaking skills are still developing and he is not a true point guard, so it’s hard to expect solid playoff caliber point guard play from a rookie scorer. 

 

If Nunn continues to disappoint on the offensive end, we might see a change in the starting lineup — to Herro or Dragic. Herro came to the bubble showing an improved handle and ability to score off the bounce, especially when his shots were not falling. He continues to develop into a three level scorer which will be important in the playoffs. A change to the starting guard position might be the spark the starting unit needs in playoff games. However, this switch might disrupt the overall chemistry of the rotation. Unless Nunn, Herro, or both can show playmaking (and defensive) potential this year we should expect Miami’s front office to chase a strong 2 way guard this off season.

Miami will have a good test tonight against Boston, who has beat them twice already this season. 

The Boston Celtics are also 1-1 in the NBA restart and have played in two, down to the wire, high scoring games. Boston’s wings have been fantastic, but now with Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, Spoelstra has more options to guard them. In their first matchup this season, wing Jaylen Brown went off for 31 points and in their second matchup Hayward and Brown combined for 54 points. And of course, the Celtics have Kemba Walker who, even on a minutes limit due to a sore knee, will be a serious test for Miami’s guards.

Forgotten Heat in Miami: Bimbo Coles

Only eight players in the 32 years of Miami Heat history have played seven or more seasons with the team. Only one is in the Hall of Fame and has his number retired. Udonis Haslem leads them all with his 17 seasons and counting, followed by the GOAT Dwyane Wade’s 15. Both will join Alonzo Mourning with #40 and #3 in the rafters soon enough. Then you have Keith Askins with nine, Mario Chalmers with eight, and finally Joel Anthony (really?), Grant Long and Bimbo Coles with seven.

“My cousin named me that when I was 5 months old. There was an old country song, ‘Bimbo, Bimbo, where ya gonna go-e-o’ and it stuck,” Coles told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in 2018.  “I tried to get rid of it, but everybody was like nobody is going to remember you by your real name, Vernell, but people are going to remember Bimbo.”

Ummm…Bimbo? Bad news. It doesn’t matter what we call you. You are the brand-new inductee of the “Forgotten Heat” Class of 2020.

NO DUMB BIMBO

Coles was part of the team’s foundation and played for a Heat that stood (or at least tried to stand) in the way of MJ’s first Bulls dynasty between 1990 and 1996 . However, before we go all Vanilla Ice reminiscing about the 90’s in Miami, we must take a detour in Blacksburg, Virginia. More specifically at Virginia Tech University, where Coles is considered among the best to ever play for that school.

Bimbo was the prototypical high school stud at Greenbrier East High School in West Virginia. A four-sport superstar that was named All-America in football and could have played cornerback in college and got drafted as a shortstop by the Philadelphia Phillies, he chose to play basketball for coach Charles Moir at Virginia Tech after also being recruited by West Virginia and Maryland. That probably was the worst decision of his life.

Virginia Tech Days

Turmoil and scandal embroiled the Hokies basically as soon as Coles arrived. The team went from being 22-9 in the 1985-86 season to its first losing season since 1970 with a 10-18 record despite Coles’ efforts leading the team in assists as a freshman point guard.

Things got even worse from there. You see, VT got put on probation by the NCAA and banned from postseason play until 1990 because Moir’s team was full of sham “student-athletes” who didn’t graduate -not a single one of them- between 1981 and 1986, and got false credits for classes they didn’t take. That tiny detail must have escaped Moir’s mind when he recruited Coles, and it meant that the best point guard in the school’s history would never be able to showcase his talents in the NCAA Tournament.

Bimbo briefly thought of quitting basketball to play football. Who wouldn’t? He must have felt so betrayed.

Moir left with a legacy as the winningest coach of Virginia Tech’s basketball history. Coles’ legacy was going to be in the shadow of scandal and championships that could never be won on the court.

However, he showed maturity beyond his years and persevered. Then he got rewarded as a member of the 1988 USA Olympic Team.

OLYMPIC FRUSTRATION

Coles had made a brutal jump as a sophomore, averaging  24.2 points and 5.9 assists per game and allowing Virginia Tech to bounce back with a 19-10 record under Frankie Allen in the 1987-88 season. That caught USA Basketball coach John Thompson’s attention, and Coles was called upon alongside David Robinson, Dan Majerle and Danny Manning to earn a gold medal in South Korea. He is one of just 10 Olympians in Hokie history.

Coles played in all eight games but struggled to adapt to FIBA rules, averaging just 7.1 points and 0.9 assists in 19.8 minutes per game. That team would go 7-1 but lose in the semifinals to the hated Soviet Union 82-76. Bimbo Coles went 2-for-4 with six points and two assists in 18 minutes in that defeat.

The bronze medal was bittersweet, and it gave way to what would become the 1992 Dream Team Coles would only watch on TV four years later.

THE JUMP TO THE PROS FOR BIMBO COLES

Coles endured two more brutal losing seasons at Virginia Tech after that, but he left the school as its all-time leading scorer with 2484 career points, a record that still stands to this day. His number 12 would be retired on March 3, 1990, shortly after he played his last game as a Hokie.

Coles had a choice to make after graduating and sending a message (“Bimbo Coles is not just a basketball player, he is a student as well”, since the California Angels drafted him in the 54th round of the 1990 MLB Draft despite not having played baseball since high school. In fact, he was one of nine future NBA or NFL players drafted that year. Only four of them signed contracts, but Coles wasn’t one of them.

Landing with the Miami Heat

Instead, he would become a second-round draft pick, 40th overall by the Sacramento Kings thar same year and then promptly traded to the Miami Heat in a draft day trade for Rory Sparrow. Maybe he would have been picked higher with the national exposure the NCAA Tournament never gave him.

Sparrow would go on to play a single season for the Kings, while Coles asserted himself in Miami as a backup point guard, never starting more than 65 games but also never playing in less than 68 of them.

The 65-game stretch as a starter came during a perplexing 1994-95 season. Coles averaged 10.0 points and a career-high 6.1 assists during that campaign, but he wasn’t in the game that faithful night in April that Glen Rice scored 56 points against the Orlando Magic.

The Heat were beginning their reset/rebuild and would finish 34-48 that year, 11th in the East. Miami never finished higher than eighth or won more than 42 games in Coles’ first tenure. But they did make the playoffs in 1992 and ’94.

The lack of stability at the head coaching position in Miami didn’t help him much. Ron Rothstein coached him as a rookie, then Kevin Loughery between 1991 and 1995. Finally, Alvin Gentry coached in an interim basis after Loughery’s firing in 1995. The Heat would have just three head coaches (Riley, Van Gundy, Spoelstra) in the 25 years since.

Traded Away from Miami

Coles would eventually be traded to the Golden State Warriors during the 1996 trade deadline fo Tim Hardaway.

He never made it past the first round of the playoffs or averaged more than 10.6 points per game. He does boast being fifth all-time in Miami’s history with 1961 assists, 19 behind LeBron James. Coles also trails Chalmers, Hardaway and Wade in that category. As a matter of fact, Goran Dragic will probably dethrone him from the Top-5 if he remains with the Heat next season.

There aren’t any Miami highlights of him on YouTube. As the old lady in Titanic would say, he only exists in our memory.

Coles would make his basketball career come full circle as a 35-year-old. After playing for the Warriors, Hawks, Celtics and Cavaliers, Bimbo appeared in 22 games for the Heat in 2004. He started once for a young Heat squad that had a rookie Wade, Caron Butler and Lamar Odom.

That team did make it to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the Pacers in six games. Coles watched all of it from the bench as part of the coaching staff. His last NBA game was on February 20, 2004 in a 125-92 Heat win over the Hawks.

With his legacy secure, Coles has settled down in Virginia coaching the Greenbrier high school basketball team. He doesn’t have his signature college mustache anymore, but his love for the game remains.

Home is where the heart is, after all.

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).

Voices

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.