Giannis Antetokounmpo was ranked No. 24 on The Athletic’s list of the “75 Best Players in NBA History.” It’s a well-deserved honor for the two-time MVP. However, it was what he said about the Miami Heat that rankled people in South Beach.
Antetokounmpo appeared to take a subtle dig at the 2020 championship runner-up squad when he pondered the validity of Miami’s unexpected title flirt that year. He thought his Milwaukee Bucks would have posed a bigger threat to them in a normal, non-COVID season.
He declared: “Year 7. Ended with Miami. I don’t make excuses as an athlete, but it wasn’t a satisfying year for me because I felt like if it was a normal situation, it wouldn’t end up like that. But at the end of the day, I felt like Miami was built to be an NBA bubble team, you know?”
The comment was met with immediate derision from Heat fans who have heard this narrative all too many times. Charles Barkley has shared his own opinion on the “bubble gangsters” and called for an asterisk to be placed on the 2020 NBA Finals. Jayson Tatum threw some shade at the Heat for overachieving in the Orlando bubble. His words were interpreted as a shot at Tyler Herro.
It’s fair to say the Heat benefited from unmatched chemistry in the bubble. They rallied around the strict protocols, bonded as teammates, and focused on elevating their games. Jimmy Butler even started a thriving coffee business. All those things catapulted them on an improbable run. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated Miami in six games.
“We’re going to remember this year, this season, this experience, and that locker-room brotherhood for the rest of our lives,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said at the time. “To be able to be part of something historic like this, to continue our season, we feel so honored and grateful that we were able to be part of this.”
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Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro Get Late Work In
Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro were seen in the gym late on Tuesday night getting work in. The two players were spotted, via Instagram, firing up shots at the Heat practice facility after hours. Just another example of the team’s commitment and chemistry.
Following the Heat’s 114-99 win over the Toronto Raptors, Spoelstra was asked to reflect on overcoming injuries during another COVID-impacted year. He specifically credited Gabe Vincent’s development while praising his team’s ability to stay afloat through all the injuries.
“You have a roster for that reason, to be able to handle anything that may happen,” Spoelstra told reporters. “And that was a really important month for us, to be able to put us in a position like this where you have a couple of games that move us up in the standings. That doesn’t happen if the young guys didn’t produce for the last five weeks and get those important wins on the road.”
That month was December when the Heat went 10-5. They were trotting out G Leaguers and NBA retreads at one point. Now they are comfortably staring at the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference at 28-16.
Tyler Herro’s Development Off the Charts
Tyler Herro is enjoying a career year while anchoring the Heat bench. One specific area where he’s greatly improved is when he goes on the attack against bigger defenders. He has learned how to use every inch of his 6-foot-5 bulked-up frame to create the mismatch. Herro’s education started in the film room, with learning how to read defenses.
“It’s been the development of reading all the different coverages that you’ll see in this league,” Spoelstra said. “So it’s not just about the length, it’s about playing out of traps, playing out of switches, playing out of bigger players, with bigger players on him where he can still create an advantage. He constantly studies, works on his craft, works on his skill level.”