We have a generally simplistic view of what makes a champion. In
the NBA, people think that you need multiple stars, with one
superstar as the head of the snake, in order to get into the dance.
But in the annals of league history, champions haven’t only been
littered by the Michael Jordans or LeBron James’ of the world,
because even they needed awesome role players and deep rosters to
Hell, the 72-win Chicago Bulls in 1995-96 had a 1-through-7 (in
terms of minutes per game in the playoffs) of Jordan, Scottie
Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley, Toni Kukoč, Ron Harper and
Steve Kerr — all of whom logged at least 20 minutes per game in the
Why were the Nets favorites all season long? Starrrrr
Why did they fall flat? A combination of things: A lack of team
chemistry, lack of depth, lack of culture, lack of defense, lack of
size, lack of versatility and lack of great coaching. Many thought
we were just supposed to overlook that because Brooklyn was
top-heavy. Granted, the Boston Celtics could end up
winning the East, but honestly, the Nets were never who many (of
y’all) thought they were.
So why does depth matter in the postseason as rotations shorten?
Because rotations don’t need to shorten if you have enough
depth to carry you along.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra noted
this following the team's 97-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks in
Game 5, ending the series 4-1 and outscoring Atlanta by 60 points
overall across those five games.
“Everybody that played had their fingerprints on this,”
Spoelstra said. “We clearly had some adversity in this
game not having Kyle [Lowry] or Jimmy [Butler], and our group
doesn’t even blink. It’s not even something we have to address. We
just pivot, put in the game plan, and everybody just gets ready,
tapes their ankles and gets out there and competes.”
In the Heat's case, Lowry was out with a hamstring injury, and
Butler didn’t play in Game 5 on Tuesday night because of right knee
inflammation. So who started? Victor Oladipo, who didn’t play in
Games 1-3 and primarily played in Game 4 because the offense had
trouble getting going without Lowry. Vic started in place of Butler
— alongside Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, PJ Tucker and Bam Adebayo — to
close out the Hawks in a gentleman’s sweep.
“A year ago today, I was waiting for my next surgery,”
stated Oladipo, who poured in 23 points, scoring at least 20 in
the postseason for the first time since Aug. 24, 2020. “I was
sitting in a dark room by myself and just broke down, not because I
quit, but because I was at the lowest point I could be at. Now, God
has put me in this position today. I made the most of it.”
"I've overcome a lot, so whatever happens
next, I'll be ready for it."
Only Butler and Adebayo are averaging over 30 minutes per game
this postseason for the Heat, and now 11 guys have seen real
rotation minutes across multiple games.
And no other team has someone who can come in out of nowhere,
start and do what Oladipo did Tuesday night: 23 points, 3 assists
and 3 steals on 6 of 12 shooting (3 of 6 from three) and 4 of 4 on
free throws to go along with a 121 Offensive Rating, 9.2 Box
Plus-Minus and preventive defense.
“Again, I’m still improving,” he said. “I haven’t played
enough basketball to be super comfortable yet but I’m getting
there... I have no doubt I can surpass that level I was at. Even
better days than that to come. This is part of the journey of
Specifically on his progress, Spoelstra spoke of his adulation
“I really admire him, I do," Spoelstra said. "For this journey,
really, for the last three seasons, where he’s been dealing with
injuries and frustration, and then really working to make himself
available for us without a guarantee to play. And then just giving
to the team. That’s why everybody roots for him, and he always
comes in with a smile on his face, and lifts people up, and that’s
even when he was going through DNP’s. But he worked, he prepared,
and it’s true, crazy things happen, and there’s a karma to it.
"If you do the right things and stay patient, it might not be on
your terms or your timeline, but then, when your opportunity is
there, you’re able to take advantage of it, and then you have
everybody enjoying his success.”
And, to those who bought into that Sk*p B*yless “report” about
friction between Butler and Oladipo, Vic acknowledged that: “Jimmy helped
me tremendously in the fourth quarter.”
Oladipo, as was written two months ago,
raises this team’s ceiling. If Duncan Robinson isn’t hitting
threes, Oladipo can create dribble penetration for others to get
open looks. If Caleb Martin is making too many defensive mistakes,
Oladipo’s there to be another versatile stopper who can keep up at
the point of attack. And if the overall offense lacks a scoring
punch, Oladipo’s there to provide another threat — one who
specializes in nothing, but can be effective in everything.
The Lowry-Oladipo-Butler-Tucker-Adebayo “death” lineup is coming
at some point, and if Tyler Herro doesn’t get it going soon, it’s
one that may finish playoff games more often than we think,
assuming Oladipo has earned consistent minutes going forward.
I would never tell Spo how to coach, but in the right spots,
more Oladipo the rest of this run seems helpful for a team with
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