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About austinmaida

Semi-professional Sports Bloviator

Jubilation, Anticipation, or Complete Disaster: What the 2015 Draft Lottery Means for Heat Fans

Tonight is the NBA Draft Lottery.  You know, that night where fans of the 14 teams that didn’t make the NBA Playoffs join forces to form one conglomerate of emotional combustion.  Normally, one of three things happens for your squad.  They either stay right where they are in the draft order, vault into the Top 3, or see their pick fall by three spots at worst.  Normally.  Such is not the case this year for fans of the Miami Heat.  Heat fans, of which I am one, have the potential tonight for extreme jubilation, relieved anticipation, or complete disaster.  You see, as part of that LeBron trade in 2010, the Heat sent Cleveland a boatload of picks, (something they didn’t get in return last summer, thanks Bron.)  One of the picks that hasn’t exchanged hands yet, which Philly now owns, is due to do so in this year’s draft, unless the Heat wind up with a pick in the Top 10 (in which case the pick would revert to next year and be unprotected.)  Given that the Heat finished right in the 10 slot for the lottery, tonight is full of intrigue and drama.

Because of countless injuries to key players, bad breaks and nearly fatal blood clots in both lungs of the team’s best player, the Heat had a dreadful season given the franchise’s standards.  However, with the additions of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic during the season, Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts coming back, and a 5-month off-season for the rest of the team to heal, the Heat expect a return to the top of the Eastern Conference next year.  Adding a top-10 talent could ease a little of this past season’s pain while at the same time give Miami a skilled young player to add to their bench.  Or disaster could strike, and the Heat could wind up out of the first round all together.  For Heat fans, it’s kind of like being a kid at Christmas.  More specifically, a kid at Christmas who wasn’t on his best behavior over the past year.

There is a 4% chance the Heat strike it rich in the lottery and move into the Top 3 of this year’s draft.  It feels like that pie-in-the-sky situation of getting the one big, shiny, huge, expensive top-of-the-line toy for Christmas that only the rich kids with rich parents who have acted good all year-long get, and let’s face it, none of that applies to you.  Sure, Towns, Okafor, Winslow or Russell would be an amazing gift to find under your tree.  Yes, you’d be able to show it off to all your envious friends.  Don’t get your hopes up though, as Ma and Pa will probably save this gift for a year they didn’t receive twenty-some-odd calls from the principal’s office.  While there’s still a small chance you get the biggest reward when you least expect it, pining for it to happen leaves you at great risk for disappointment.

The most likely scenario (87% likely, in fact) is that the Heat stay at pick number 10 and are able to add a solid piece to their rotation.  The Heat need a wing player, 3-point shooting, and an infusion of energy and talent to their bench.  While this year’s draft isn’t perceived by experts to be extremely deep, the top half of the first round can definitely be classified as such.  This result tonight, for Heat fans, would feel like the consolation present on your Christmas wish list as a kid.  Your grades weren’t that high, you talked back too much and didn’t take the dog out on enough walks.  But you’re still a good kid, your parents still love you, and they want to give you something that you want, or lets face it, NEED.  It’s encouragement enough for you to straighten up a bit and puts a smile on your face.  While it’s not the illustriously exquisite gift you sheepishly asked your parents for, it’s still a versatile addition to your stable of toys.

The doomsday scenario has a 9% chance of playing out for Heat fans.  This would entail Miami dropping back to draft positions 11, 12 or 13, which would be disastrous given that the pick is only top-10 protected.  The pick would immediately shift to the Sixers as a result of their trade with the Cavs last October, and meltdowns would ensue throughout #HeatNation.  After a year that saw every possible thing that could go wrong ACTUALLY go wrong for Miami, they now wouldn’t have a top-10 pick to play with.  This would be the rotten cherry on top of Miami’s rancid season, and would feel like coal under the tree.  This would feel like asking for a big-boy BB gun and getting a squirt gun on Christmas morn.  This would be pining for a new ten-speed bike and instead getting a hot wheel.  This would be asking for a drum set and instead getting a triangle.  This would be absolute disaster.  The Heat wouldn’t have a pick until their second-round selection came around at #40, and the player they would take in that slot wouldn’t be any kid of difference maker for the 2015/16 campaign.  While they will still have a full year of Whiteside/Dragic to look forward to, a bench difference maker wouldn’t be attainable in the draft, and that would be really, really bad.  It would square away the debt the Heat owe Cleveland/Philly, but the end result would be giving away this year’s top-10 pick instead of next year’s pick in the twenties.  No bueno.

Heat fans have had a bad year.  A no-good, little-fun, very bad basketball year.  Tonight can either send them into sheer ecstasy, be completely acceptable and profitable, or be the worst thing to happen to them all year long.  8:30 can’t come soon enough.

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Duke in the NBA Playoffs: Rivers Regresses to Mean, Redick has Solid Night Shooting

A recap of how former Duke players did in last night’s NBA Playoffs

AUSTIN RIVERS, CLIPPERS

Yesterday I wrote about Clippers guard Austin Rivers’ welcome-to-the-NBA game on Sunday afternoon.  He sliced up a Spurs team which finished 4th in Team Defensive Efficiency for 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting.  His importance to the team was highlighted by his +/- of “plus 7,” which was third on the team behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  I wondered whether this performance would springboard Rivers towards more consistent play or if it would fall as an outlier.  Rivers then backed up his Sunday performance with a regression to the mean on Tuesday.  He was far less aggressive in taking only four shots, two of which could easily be labeled as highly questionable (including a guarded heave from 3 at the start of a possession for no apparent reason.)  In 12 minutes of play, Rivers was underwhelming, shooting 1 of 4 from the field and failing to convert on either of his free throw attempts.  There was one highlight for him on the night though, as he caught a pass on the perimeter with 2.5 seconds left in the third, made a quick move around San Antonio defender Danny Green and banked home a long two-pointer at the buzzer:

This shot tied the game at 82 heading into the fourth, and was pretty much the only sound heard from Rivers all night long.  It seemed that Rivers got a little caught up in Sunday’s performance and tried to force the issue more than the game was allowing.  While he is at his best when he is cutting to the rim and trying to make his own shot, he seemed far too jittery and anxious last night to be effective.  I look for a happy medium between his Game 4 and Game 5 performances on Thursday night in Game 6.

JJ REDICK, CLIPPERS

Rivers’ Clippers teammate JJ Redick had a solid outing Tuesday night against the Spurs.  While JJ’s jumpshot has been somewhat erratic over the last month or so, he got things going in the right direction again in Game 5.  Redick shot 6 for 10 on the night, with all 10 attempts coming from inside the 3-point line.  He hit a couple shots in consecutive possessions during a pivotal stretch where it looked like San Antonio might grab all of LA’s momentum away.

There were two things that I would have liked to see go differently last night for Redick and the Clips.  First, he was used ONLY as a decoy during the final 6-8 minutes of the game.  Doc Rivers was drawing up plays that called for Redick to set up camp in the corner and wait for a pass.  Redick has shown since his days at Duke that he is lethal without the ball in his hands.  He is adept in brushing off defenders and creating space for a jumper before a teammate’s pass makes it to his hands.  Using him the way Doc did towards the end of the game has become all too common for the Clippers, and is something that needs to change.  Second qualm with Redick’s night: he fouled out.  No matter whether the coach was using him correctly or not, Redick needed to be available for LA at the end of the game in the off chance Doc wanted to draw up a play for him during the final minutes.  Even if the play hadn’t been drawn up for Redick, the respect his 3-point abilities command would have been something San Antonio could have used to open up a shot for someone else.

Duke in the NBA Playoffs: Austin Rivers’ Breakout Performance

Is Los Angeles Clippers head coach/GM Doc Rivers’ gamble starting to pay off?  Rivers’ son Austin, whom he traded for earlier this season, was a steadying flash of offense on Sunday in the Clippers’ pivotal Game 4 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, an afternoon that marked the (as of now) high point of Austin’s NBA career.  Fresh off the heels of a Game 3 blowout loss that saw Austin make some solid plays in fourth quarter garbage time, the backup guard came off the bench to provide an offensive spark in Game 4.  After not taking a shot in one minute of first quarter action, Austin shot 7 for 8 from the field over the final three quarters, and threw in a couple of “and-ones” for good measure.  Take a look at this finish at the rim against Tim Duncan in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter:

By the time the clock hit triple zeroes Austin had tallied 17 points, the fourth-highest total of his 45 games in a Clippers uniform this season.  His ability to create his own shot was on display Sunday, as he got off several good looks from within fifteen feet, including a seven-footer off the glass while drawing a foul on San Antonio’s Patty Mills.  His constant drives to the basket seemed almost effortless, and assuredly weren’t something the Spurs expected to see much of.  It wasn’t just the offense, as Austin deflected no fewer than three San Antonio passes, two of which led to steals.  This was not only the biggest moment, but also the biggest stage, of the 22-year-old’s young career.

None of this was lost on LA’s leader and All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who led his teammates in a post game round of applause for the young guard.  “Game ball goes to Austin Rivers,” Paul said.  “This is his first playoffs.  What he did out there, it really just motivated our team.  It’s a hell of a game by Austin.”

The key for Austin now will be sustaining this level of play, and thus the ever-growing confidence that his teammates have in him.  He has shown small flashes on offense during his two years in the league, but his game lacks consistency.  When he decides to put his head down and charge towards the rack, as he did on Sunday, he can make plays for himself as well as loosen up the defense for LA’s outside shooters.

After a huge Game 4 win, the Clippers return home to face the Spurs in tonight’s Game 5.  While it was just the start for Austin in proving that he can be a trustworthy cog in the Clippers’ ship, Sunday afternoon’s performance was nonetheless necessary.  More playoff performances like that one can go a long way in proving his father’s gamble (trading away talented 2014 first-round-pick Reggie Bullock), was one worth taking.

Welcome to my Humble Abode

If you’re reading this, thank you.  I decided to start putting my passion in one neat little place.  Most of my posts will be about the sporting world (duh).  I’ll share my own personal views on games, players, teams and happenings, and try my best not to bore you in the process.  Let me know how that goes.

I’m obsessed with all things sports, most notably the Jaguars, Noles, Heat and Duke Blue Devil basketball, all of which I was raised on.  My greatest love is Jags football, as I was born in Jacksonville just two years before the city was awarded a NFL franchise.  I bleed teal and black, because in my eyes, I’m lucky enough to be a native of one of the 32 cities that hosts a NFL team.  My dad taught me at a young age the importance of experiencing things with the ones you love, so I love experiencing Jags and Noles games (home and away) with my family and friends.  I believe that having shared passions and interests with people you care about is vitally important, and sports accomplish that.   I attend all Jags home games unless something really, really, really, (paging Derek Zoolander) important is going on elsewhere in my life.  I also attend *most* FSU home football games.  I’ve had some ultimate highs and some devastating heartbreaks inside the walls of EverBank and Doak Campbell, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I’m also addicted to the roundball (pause).  Pops is a Duke grad, and was a student there before Duke basketball was DUKE BASKETBALL.  I grew up watching games with him, and have become an even bigger Blue Devil and ACC Hoops junkie than he is.  I believe that the best basketball in America is played on Tobacco Road and in the surrounding areas, and I hold the Final Four in the highest of regards.  There is nothing like four college fan bases coming together for a weekend and taking over a city.  All four groups come with the same common goal in mind, and with the others standing in their way.  I’ve been fortunate enough to attend three Final Fours with my father and those are memories that I hold dear.  I became a NCAA Hoops fan as a young boy, and developed into an avid NBA fan by the time I was a teenager.  Dad is from Miami, and his family taught me how to be a Heat fan.  I started following the team in late elementary school, and was a freshman in high school when they won their first championship.  Dwyane Wade is the GOAT, and no, he’s not washed, despite what ESPN tries to tell you.  The man finished 11th in points per game this year people, and 4th (!!!) in 4th-quarter scoring.  Hop off him.  Oh, and LeBron would have become the greatest player to ever play the game had he chosen to stay in Miami.

Anyway, there’s a little rundown of the teams I love and what you can expect to see me writing about.  Not everything will be about just those teams though, as I watch way too much sports for my own good.  Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope to keep you coming back.

Austin