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Top 5 NBA Players Who Are Actually Casino Enthusiasts

It is safe to say that gambling is attractive to many people because it offers an opportunity to quickly win money. However, it also offers stimulation and excitement, which is why it popular among those who already have millions in their bank accounts. While a lot of actors and musicians are fans of casino games, many NBA players have also dipped their toe in these waters. Basketball stars can often be seen in Las Vegas and Atlantic City where they test their off-the-court skills and their luck. Let’s take a look at the NBA legends who are known for their love of gambling. 

Michael Jordan

There isn’t a basketball fan on the planet who doesn’t know his name, yet many are not aware of his fondness of casino games. Michael Jordan is undoubtedly very competitive, a trait that has helped him earn six NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, ten scoring titles and ten All-NBA First Team designations, to name a few. However, this basketball legend is not just competitive on the court. In fact, he also enjoys gambling at Atlantic City casinos. He is also known for having bets with his friends, and one time he even lost a million dollars over a golf-related bet. 

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley is another NBA legend whose name is known across the planet. While he is retired, he has managed to set various records during his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets. In 2006 he shocked his fans when he declared that he lost more than $10 million in casinos. He even ended up in court due to his $400,000 gambling debt to a Las Vegas casino. 

JR Smith

While many people set their gambling budget while they learn how to play online casino games, basketball player JR Smith took things to a whole new level. The former player at Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks had a suitcase at home full of cash that he used only for gambling. No one would even know about it if it weren’t for thieves who broke into his mansion and took the suitcase with those $ 15,000 in cash, among other things. 

Charles Oakley

It is no secret that a lot of ordinary Joes engage in NBA sports betting, but we rarely stop to think about that those players we bet on also like to gamble themselves. However, when betting activities occur among players, their unsettled scores rarely remain a secret. Let’s take a look at what happened between Hill and Oakley, for instance. After a game of dice, Philadelphia Sixers player, Tyrone Hill, owed Charles Oakley money. This left this basketball player filled with anger, and the whole thing escalated when he attacked Hill by throwing basketballs at him. The biggest problem was that this happened during a preseason game, and naturally, Oakley was suspended. In addition, he was forced to pay $10.000 for inappropriate behavior.

Antoine Walker

Unfortunately, Antoine Walker went from being a NBA star to being a walking cautionary tale. A Celtics player developed a taste for gambling in 2009, and his kryptonite was poker. Some say that gambling and casino games are to blame for the demise of his career. He even managed to make almost a million dollars worth of gambling debts in different casinos. As his gambling addiction got worse, he tried to tender bad checks, which earned him several felony counts. 

Casinos are not just about games, they are also about the atmosphere, people and the whole show that goes on there. Even some of the most influential athletes on the planet haven’t managed to resist the tempting casino lights. Were you surprised by any of these names?

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Unvaccinated NBA players not to be paid for missing games

 

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

 

How might this affect the coming NBA season?

 

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

 

NBA players punished for refusing vaccine

 

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

 

Season Primer for the Miami Heat

Check out this season preview for the Miami Heat. From major players and talking points to the first game that you simply cannot miss, this is the ultimate primer for the Miami Heat’s upcoming season. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know. 

 

Kyle Lowry 

Kyle Lowry is set to make a big difference for the Miami Heat this year, but will he be healthy enough to lead them to another championship? Lowry has been around for quite some time now, having played in many seasons already. However, while injuries have held him back in the past, Lowry seems ready and fit to take on a whole season with the Heat. 

Having played for many seasons on teams that severely under-performed, Lowry is ready to be a leader on a team of winners this season. And it seems like he’s got what it takes. Lowry has always been known as one of the best passers in the NBA, but now he’ll be sharing the ball with a couple of other superstars as well, which will make the Heat a much more exciting team to watch. 

 

Working on frontcourt chemistry

The Heat seems to have a strong frontcourt now, but getting them to work together as a cohesive unit will be key

The Heat’s current roster seems stacked with talent and it might be hard for some of the players to find enough minutes. As such, it’ll be interesting to see how the coach deals with the problem.

While it’s clear that this team can play well, Miami will need to work on their form before they take on any big teams. The Heat might have a tough first few weeks of the games coming up, but once they get their aggression back they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

 

One game you must watch 

The first game of the season is the Heat vs. the Bucks on October 22nd. This will be their first test and it’ll be a good chance for the Heat to prove their talent.

This is one to get the gambling fans going whether you’re into UFC betting, basketball, baseball, or even golf. It’s a stone-cold classic that’s guaranteed to have everyone tuned in. 

 

Tyler Herro 

Tyler Herro is a young player, but he’s already making big waves in the NBA. He has been impressive so far and while his stats might not be outstanding just yet, it seems that players around the league know just how talented he really is. 

One of the reasons why people think Tyler might become such a great player is the fact that he was able to play alongside some of the best players on his college team. Herro played on teams with experienced players like Grayson Allen, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye, who may have inspired younger players like Tyler to perform at their best right from the start. 

The Heat are returning to their winning ways, which means you can expect them to play some exciting basketball this season. 

Five Numbers to Know for the Miami Heat season

Fresh off of a first round sweep, things needed to change for the Miami Heat going into the 2021-2022 season. The additions of Kyle Lowry, PJ Tucker, Markieff Morris, Ömer Yurtseven, Tyler Herro’s leg day routine and others will provide a welcome shake-up for a team that looked tired of playing with each other by the end of last season. 

 

While it is very intriguing to dive into the X’s and O’s of Miami Heat Basketball, no one does it better than 5 Reasons’ very own, Mr. Brady Hawk, so be sure to check out one of his many articles for more insight into what the 2021-2022 Heat season will look like on the court. 

 

As part of a new season-long series, I will be looking into 5 noteworthy numerical trends to see if the “eye test” matches up with the numbers, or if www.nba.com/stats is telling a different story with the Miami Heat. Since there hasn’t been a single minute of basketball played this season, we will be looking into the past to find trends that potentially could paint a picture of the future: 

 

  • The 20-21 Miami Heat ranked 1st in PPP (1.25), FG% (62%) and EFG% (65.8%) on PnR plays that ended with the Roll Man. 

 

The downside to this statistic is that PnR Roll Man plays only happened 5.5% of the time (21st in the NBA). In fact, the Heat have finished in the bottom 10 of PnR roll man frequency in each of the last two seasons. Contrary to the Heat, the Kyle Lowry led Toronto Raptors have finished in the top 10 of PnR roll man frequency each of the last 4 seasons. 

 

A huge part of Miami’s roll-man efficiency is Bam Adebayo, who ranks 4th (1.32PPP) on players with 2 or more roll-man possessions a game. In addition to Bam, the Heat have Duncan Robinson (1.59 PPP) and Jimmy Butler (1.50PPP) who rank 2nd and 4th in the entire NBA, albeit on minimal volume. With 3 of the 5 starters being extremely efficient with their rim rolling opportunities, and the new point guard being capable of driving a high volume rim rolling offense, it makes a lot of sense to diversify the offense by adding in screening and cutting to the basket on almost every possession. 

 

The Goal: Maintain top 10 efficiency in PnR Roll ManPPP while increasing frequency to 7%. 

 

  • 31.2% : The Heat’s 3 point percentage on Pull-Up 3’s in 20-21’. 

 

The Heat, without any traditional shot creators, predictably struggled on pull-up 3’s in 20-21’ but should be able to come back to the league average of about 34%. The key for the Heat is to leave the Pull-Up shooting to the players who can Pull-Up from distance and shoot, and do it well. This might mean one of our best players: Butler (17% on 42 attempts) will have to be more like Tucker (0 Attempts) when it comes to shooting off the bounce. 

 

Pull-up 3’s are an inefficient shot; however, if that type of shot is funneled through  Robinson (37.9% on 151 attempts) or Lowry (37.7% on 175 attempts) it can provide a valuable weapon for the Heat’s offense, especially in a playoff setting where the game slows down and clean “catch and shoot” looks are at a premium. 

 

The Goal: Shoot 34% from Pull-Up 3’s on about 20 attempts a game, as a team.

 

***Sidenote: Tyler Herro has shot 33% on 2.5 Pull-Up 3 Attempts per game over his first two NBA seasons. If Herro improves this to be slightly above league average then it unlocks a potentially deadly layer to the Heat’s offense 

 

  • 34.2% : The percentage of Field Goals made that Bam Adebayo was unassisted on in 20-21’. 

 

Adebayo has improved leaps and bounds every year he’s been in the league, and quite frankly he does everything at an All-NBA level, except get his own bucket. Through 4 years in the NBA, Adebayo’s scoring output has largely been contingent upon those around him, which is not a problem at all for most centers in the league, but Adebayo, who is unlike most centers, has the ability to transform the Heat into a legitimate championship contender if he masters the art of creating for himself. The addition of Lowry will make it easy for Adebayo to up his PPG total to about 20-22 points but that number will ring hollow if Bam can be an afterthought for a team game planning against Miami in the playoffs. 

 

There is evidence of the scoring potential: 41 points vs Brooklyn, 32 points vs Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, a team-leading .91PPP on a team-leading 10.5% frequency in Isolation in 20-21’. 

 

Despite being built differently, Adebayo possesses a very similar offensive skill-set to that of an Anthony Davis, he likely won’t become a primary shot creator but he can play alongside the Heat’s facsimile of Lebron in Jimmy and become someone who dominates the Elbow/Mid-Post/Baseline area with Face-ups that give him options to go into his “bag” against a slower, smaller, or weaker defenders. 

 

The skill-set is evident, now it is time for the mind-set to catch up. 

 

The Goal: Bam gets up to 37.5% unassisted on field goals made. 

 

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  • 26: The number of starting lineups the Heat used in 20-21’ 

 

Injuries are outside of the Heat’s control, but having continuity is going to be key for this group. Only 4 core players from the bubble run remain on this team (Butler, Adebayo, Robinson, and Herro). Having players in the same role night-in and night-out is going to be essential, especially for the less-experienced group of Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, and Ömer Yurtseven. 

 

Tinkering with the rotation early on is okay, but come the dog days of the season in January, February and March, the Heat must find something that works and stick to it, whether it’s the playoff lineup or not. Take the 19-20’ Heat for example, who rolled out a sub-optimal lineup of Nunn, Robinson, Butler, Adebayo, and Leonard but that continuity led the group to a 28-10 record when those 5 took the opening tip. 

 

There is no reason why a more talented grouping of Lowry, Robinson, Butler, Tucker, Adebayo, five players who coach Spoelstra trusts, should not be the go-to starting lineup as long as they are healthy.

 

The Goal: 16 or fewer different starting lineups in 21-22’. 

 

  • 52: The amount of games that Victor Oladipo has played in since injuring his quadricep tendon on January 23rd, 2019. 

 

While I stated earlier that the Heat’s championship upside lies in Bam Adebayo, that same statement can be applied to Victor Oladipo. Despite struggling with injury over the last few seasons, it sounds like Oladipo truly believes this time will be different. If healthy, the addition of a secondary ball handler, downhill threat, primary POA defender, and passing lane menace will take Miami’s lackluster bench and turn it into one of the stronger units in the league. 

 

The Heat lack what Oladipo brings, and Miami can finally give Oladipo what he needs to get back to playing basketball in the way he believes he can: time. 

 

The main problem is getting Oladipo 100% healthy by the trade deadline. If this problem is solved, one could argue that Oladipo is going to be the most impactful acquisition that any team makes at the deadline. 

 

The Goal: Victor Oladipo returns by the Trade Deadline (Early February) playing how he did last year or better.

Reminiscing about Classic Basketball Video Games as Miami Heat Season Nears

When the basketball season gets underway or if a big game is taking place on the weekend, you can bet your bottom dollar that some basketball fans turn to basketball-themed games at some point. Whether it’s through playing with their favorite Miami Heat stars or simply because the temptation to silence an arrogant friend is there, basketball games are hugely entertaining. Over the years, we have seen some truly memorable releases, too. 

 

Many of the games which came before have helped shape the basketball gaming options of today. Of course, we have been on the receiving end of some shoddy releases over the years, but, on the whole, this particular sporting genre has served up numerous gems. As such, today’s offering is better than ever before. Fans are rushing to buy the latest releases like NBA 2K22, alongside attempting to win one of the five jackpots available in the Basketball Star on Fire slot game. It’s what has come before that we’re focussing on, though. Fans of the sport undoubtedly grew up with a basketball title they regularly played with friends or a sibling, forming a huge part of their basketball-supporting life. So many games are simply iconic.

 

Let’s take a look at some of them below. 

 

NBA Street

 

Released on PS2 and GameCube in 2001, NBA Street was a game many fans of today grew up with. An attempt by EA Sports to revamp 90s fan-favourite NBA Jam, NBA Street was a blast to play. Instead of serving up the traditional points-scoring method by slamming the ball in the net, the game focussed on three-on-three battles where players would aim to get the highest score possible with the best and most unimaginable tricks ever. You could do some pump-faking or slam-dunking is this classic title. 

 

NBA 2K13

 

As we’ve touched on already, fans might be flocking to snap up the latest 2K22 release, but it’s the titles that came before it that many gamers remember fondly. In the case of NBA 2K13 – which was actually produced by rapper Jay-Z – it offered some of the most entertaining All-Star Game events ever. Players would tackle the Slam Dunk Contest, the Three-Point Shootout, and the Rising Stars Challenge, as well as having the opportunity to design and then create their own sneakers to wear on court. Its online gameplay was a particular highlight, too. 

 

NBA Street Vol. 2

 

With its selection of classic hip hop tunes, four game modes, and 29 unlockable players, NBA Street Vol. 2 is a game that many basketball gamers will never forget. Released in 2003, the game was adored in particular for its Be A Legend Mode, which essentially tasked players with climbing up through the rankings and cementing themselves as a basketball legend. NBA Challenge mode was a great feature also. 

 

NBA 2K1

 

It might’ve been released on Halloween in 2000, but NBA 2K1 was far from horrifying. In fact, as basketball games go, it’s up there with the best ever. A Sega Dreamcast release, it was the first in the series to offer online gameplay. Street courts were a popular feature regularly accessed, too, as well as its impressive Franchise Mode, which enabled fans to manage a team. 

 

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NBA 2K2

 

The debate will rumble on for years to come over which NBA 2K title is best, but for those who aren’t backing the aforementioned NBA 2K1, the follow-up to it is even better. In NBA 2K2, familiar faces were added to the game. You could play with the likes of Jordan, Johnson and Bird, while also making use of a whole heap of modes.

Heat Check Gaming, like the Heat, had an up and down season

Heat Check Gaming found itself down late, with three seconds left at end of a third quarter to Mavericks Gaming, during AT&T’s “The Turn”, an important midseason tournament. 

 

With two seconds left, a pass found its way streaking across the court from the left corner; then with one second left, Killeyy, who just rolled his way through traffic to find space at the top of the key, found the ball, and as his player rose and the ball vacated, his players finger tips and the arenas buzzer filled the speakers. 

 

Time expired. 

 

Bang. 

 

An exciting shot, sure, but unfortunately it didn’t do much to help close a gap for HCG, which went on to lose Game One by 10 points. In a way, the sequence actually served as a metaphor for the season – brilliant shining moments, overshadowed by the inconsistency that caused a gap too wide to cross.

The moment did, however, serve as a launching point for Killeyy. 

 

A late season addition, brought on after being released from the Pistons, to merge into the ranks of a squad struggling to find consistency; a squad hovering around .500, that would shine bright in moments and burn dull in others. Killeyy went on to have a tournament career-high that series: 34 points and an impressive shooting split of 86 percent from the field and 89 percent from downtown.

He not only led the charge to close out the first series of the tournament, snatching a round one best out of three victory, but also gave a window to an aspiring Miami-based squad, desperate for any momentum to close out their season. After the buzzer hit double zero on Game 3, the team instantly rose out of their seats and embraced to give their newest member his praise, and rejoiced on finding some identity. 

 

Killeyy recounts the moment to me saying, “It was really special for me to catch fire because not only was it my birthday, but it was our first tournament together. I really wanted to make it far and show how much better of a team we’ve become.”

That moment of camaraderie and happiness, stuck with me.

This squad is only a year removed from leaving the familiarity of their home, which served as a practice arena as well living quarters, to be shuffled into a make-shift gaming pod inside a locker room of the former AAA, back and forth, daily, for practice and to play matches. 

 

They were quarantined and isolated away from even their coach, who would lead his squad from what can only be described as a closet (but with a bathroom of course… it is the home of Pat Riley, after all).

 

It was truly a season of endurance, as trials proceeded them that year.

Because not only did the team need to adapt to their environment shifting, but the world around them as well; being one of the only professional sports leagues to play in the middle of a pandemic, they also lead the charge of being a face for unity. They displayed and dedicated their platform to social reform, as ESPN picked up 2K League coverage and hosted matches live to their audience of subscribers.

Yet, these challenges didn’t rattle the athletes. They adapted, played and finished a season of 2K League, in the midst of turmoil. And when I reflect on that moment back at HCG Headquarters, after beating Mavericks Gaming in The Turn, I saw depth to their joy – depth that might just be steeped in those overcome adversities. 

 

Holistically, I saw a team that is putting together pieces.

The season would end shortly after that on August 19, after the squad failed to clear the second round of a elimination tournament that would of won them a playoff bid. And while it is clear this finality, in what felt like a build to meaningful playoff basketball, was difficult for the squad, it was maybe necessary.  

 

2K league isn’t like most professional sports – while adding pure talent can raise a squad’s ceiling, the real difference is between the ears. The split second commitment to a movement or a dribble, lock players into motion, and every slight shift of a joystick requires layers of anticipation and thought. That complication gets compacted by that decision being able to be anticipated by teammates and acted upon in an equally short time. It requires practice and game time spent together as a unit, to get real repeatable execution. 

 

2K isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon and Derric Franklin (aka Famous Enough) knows this well. 

 

“It takes time” he shouts in a YouTube video where he discusses coaching tier lists. Team-building requires combining an extremely precise mix of unique and meshing skill-sets that then have to learn each other, before then executing precise timing and movement-based actions. 

 

“Slow progression is better than no progression” Derric said and this HCG squad proved that when they can click, they can challenge anyone in the league. And now with another season of experience under their belts, as well as more time removed from the struggles of blazing a path inside the pandemic, the team prepares for a unified push next year. 

 

This time, with a more stable core of talent that is ready to compete again for a 2K championship.

2K League is hosting their first ever All-Star Game and Heat Check Gaming representatives need your help to end up on that stage! Go to https://2kleague.nba.com/players/ to cast your vote!

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. 

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

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Five Keys to the Eastern Conference Finals

What will decide the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals?

Here are five factors. 

 

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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.

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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:

Voices

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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Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882

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.