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Jimmy Butler Is Too Much for the Boston Celtics

Jimmy Butler traffics in excess. No one person needs a 6000-pound, boombox fish tank; there’s no earthly reason to show up to work seven hours early. Even more than Patrick Beverley or Dillon Brooks or Trae Young, Butler is the league’s primo shit-stirrer, an indomitable jerk who has no compunctions about masking his jerkiness. “Tobias Harris over me!?” he howled into the ether after the Heat thoroughly crunched the Sixers into a fresh wave of existential crises. “You can’t win without me,” he barked at his, uh, teammates and coaches in Minnesota. He’s too much, too much of the time—and now it’s the Boston Celtics’ turn to reckon with it. 

Against Boston, Miami reaffirmed their status as the NBA’s resident grinch; they don’t so much beat teams as exsanguinate them, draining the life-force out of their opponent and leaving only a grumpy carcas. After getting shelled by Jayson Tatum in the first half, Butler and the Heat ripped off a torrid 39-14 third quarter to seal a 118-109 series-opening win. During the third quarter alone, Butler contributed 17 points (on five shots) and three steals as part of the rabid Miami defensive effort that provoked six turnovers from Tatum. Overall, Butler chipped in 41 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals. He was the best player on the court. For the game’s final 24 minutes, he was conceivably the best player in the world. 

This is simply what Jimmy Butler does—in basketball talking-head parlance, he “controls the game.” More than his sturdy 6’8 frame or productive psychopathy, Butler’s superpower is his poise, his galvanizing clarity of purpose. Possessing an uncanny ability to function completely on his own terms, he doesn’t just bend the flow of his game to his will; he manifests his own vision for how the game should—and will—be played. He plays with a drummer’s understanding of tempo, setting the rhythm and cadence for the other nine players on the court. Sensing that the Heat needed a jolt after halftime, Butler stalked passing lanes and hunted for early offense in the third quarter; nursing a lead in the fourth, he iced the game by hunting matchups and getting buckets in isolation. 

On a Miami roster that’s broadly prioritized an institutional over hyperbolic individual skill, Butler at once transcends and fits within “Heat Culture.” Whereas his teammates are largely specialists —PJ Tucker is a chesty stopper, Tyler Herro is a zippy off-the-dribble shooter—Butler is the load-bearing figure in Miami’s offense, pacing them in both scoring and assists.  

While Butler won’t rummage through a Never-Full and pull out a complicated dribble combo, he gets sturdy. In Game One, Butler bullied his way to 18 free throws, largely because no Celtic was strong enough to withstand his drives without fouling. Whereas other elite offensive hubs have a kind of weightless ease to their game, Butler boasts a tremendous physical gravity, inviting contact which he can then power through. Nearly everything is off two feet; he’s never off-balance or out of sorts. Just watch him plow through Robert Williams’ chest with a jump-stop for a dunk or shed Jaylen Brown with a forceful last step for evidence. 

In these playoffs, Butler has leveled up into a nearly 30 point per game scorer by leaning on his strengths, both figuratively and literally.  For the postseason, he’s averaged 15.0 drives per game and scored 9.4 points per game from those forays, compared to 13.4 drives and 7.6 points during the regular season. He’s upped both his volume (6.7 possessions versus 4.3 in the regular season) and efficiency (1.26 points per possession vs .92) as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Additionally, he’s even become a confident shooter, taking 4.2 threes per game after sandbagging through the regular season. 

As such, Butler is not dissimilar to Lebron James or Luka Doncic in function, if not form.  He’s a superstar, despite his general scruffy vibe. Most of the pre-series chatter was oriented around Jayson Tatum’s star-turn and place in the league, but that discussion is probably missing the real point. Jimmy Butler is the face—no, Big Face—of the NBA playoffs. 

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From January 3rd-9th

With the holiday season and the wave of Covid disruptions (hopefully) behind us, the first week of 2022 delivered some thrilling NBA action, Klay Thompson played in his first game in two and a half years and looked as if he never left. The Memphis Grizzlies and Ja Morant and bulldozed their competition, stretching their win streak to nine consecutive games. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action.

Thompson’s return elevates a already-great Warriors team

For the first time in 941 days, Steph Curry’s fellow Splash Brother returned to action, and it seemed like the old times again. In his first game since the 2019 Finals, Klay Thompson rediscovered his rhythm and scored 17 points in 20 minutes as his Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 96-82.

As previously mentioned when discussing what to expect from Thompson in his return, the All-Star shooting guard the Warriors’ offense a new dimension. He was fluid in his movement without the ball, successfully drove to the basket (even punctuating his return with an uncharacteristic dunk in traffic), and was sound on defense.

The Grizzlies are entering the conversation of title contenders

It’s becoming a distant memory when some people thought of the Memphis Grizzlies as a playoff team, who would be fodder for an exciting yet predictable first-round exit. Instead, the Grizzlies, who are three and a half games out of first place in the Western Conference, are forcing their way into the conversation about the league’s title contenders.

Led by rising MVP candidate Ja Morant, the Grizz succeed because their depth and athleticism have produced the league’s No. 1 defense over the past six weeks (Allowing 101.8 per 100 possessions).

Don’t count out the Heat to lead the East

Despite experiencing many injuries and a schedule that had them play 25 of their first 41 games on the road, the Heat are the third seed in the Eastern Conference– only two and a half games out of first. So what can happen next? A realistic run to the NBA Finals.

With Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo eventually making their return to the starting lineup, the Heat have all the necessary talents and coaching to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown, just as they did in the Bubble over a year and a half ago.

The Nets get Kyrie back but are still struggling

Even if the season debut of Kyrie Irving (who will only play road games because of NYC’s vaccination mandate) reignites the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets, it doesn’t fully erase their struggles over the last two-plus weeks. their struggles over the past two-plus weeks. Besides a rousing fourth-quarter comeback against the Pacers or rookie Cam Thomas’s game-winning floater against the Spurs on Sunday, the Nets have been fairly listless, losing four out of their previous six games.

And although every team has stretches where they play below their standard, it still feels as if we haven’t watched the Nets play their best basketball yet. But, with Irving now in tow and Durant still in MVP form, maybe that isn’t a bad thing.

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Sports Strength

Ryan Razooky Explains Basketball’s Ongoing Evolution

In 2022, basketball continues to see its boundaries get pushed to levels one couldn’t have expected before and basketball trainers like Ryan Razooky are among those doing the pushing. Based out of San Diego, California, Razooky isn’t your typical trainer who teaches the X and O’s or only cares about their social media following; instead, he’s genuinely invested in the game’s growth and how hoopers of the next generation will be prepared to handle it.

“As fun as it is to be flashy, everything comes back to consistency and efficiency,” Razooky said. “Regardless of what some people may call a ‘pro move’ or too ‘advanced’ for younger hoopers if I’m able to teach them that and they become ready for the next level, why not do it?” At his gym, The Hoop House, Razooky and his staff teach hundreds of players every week as well as some of the game’s biggest talents at any moment–namely, Mikey Williams (a five-star recruit in the Class of 2023) and NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler.

ONE37pm had the chance to connect with Razooky to discuss basketball’s latest evolution, how he built his gym, and what it takes to maintain a productive relationship with famous ballplayers.

ONE37pm: There are plenty of ways to properly invest in training players, but you were able to secure your own gym which is now known as The Hoop House. How did that happen?

Razooky: It took years to happen, but I’m blessed there was good timing involved. Before building The Hoop House, I trained people everywhere– YMCA’s, parks, and even their houses. At that time, things came together; a gentleman had reached out to me about the facility, and crazy enough, I had reached out to him about forming a partnership there three years ago.

I was on my way to Israel to train Johnny O’Bryant III (A 2014 second-round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks) when that guy called me and asked if I wanted the facility. I immediately said yes, we had the paperwork drawn up, and I went on to redesign the whole place with the help of some good people.

ONE37pm: How realistic is it for a trainer to own a gym instead of renting out of different places?

Razooky: It’s realistic, but there’s a lot of challenges involved. If you want to build a gym out of a warehouse, you must ensure the ceiling is high enough for basketball action. After that, you have to be patient with exploring the market for a location and getting permission or permits from your landlord and the city.

But despite those challenges, I highly recommend every trainer to look into this. You will feel so empowered by having your gym, and the possibilities are endless for what you can do.

ONE37pm: Given who you train and what’s happening in today’s era of basketball, how do you teach players what’s necessary?

Razooky: For us at The Hoop House, it goes back to our blueprint. We want all players to be comfortable using both hands, drawing contact, and shooting the ball with good form. In my opinion, if you’re able to do those things, you can be a JV or varsity player in your freshman year of high school.

As our players get older, we want to provide them with more options to play with. Expanding a player’s move set and teaching them how to ultize the pick and roll and any other situations is essential before reaching the college and pro ranks. I say that because when they’re a college player or a pro, specialization is appropriate and makes sense.

ONE37pm: When looking back at your experiences working with known talents such as Mikey [Williams] and Jimmy [Butler], why has it been successful?

Razooky: There’s an old saying, ‘the number one quality is your availability.’ These guys are willing to work out at any time of the day, and for me to be available and consistent with my effort further enables their trust in me. Once that is established, our relationship blossoms because I’m well prepared with what I want to teach them and flexible enough to incorporate their wants and needs.

Your communication and availability will dictate your relationship with your players at the end of the day.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From October 26th-31st

Are you not entertained? After witnessing a great opening week to the 2021-’22 NBA regular season, the league’s second week in action managed to raise the stakes even more. At one point, we had three undefeated teams. The defending champs dropped below .500. New York City, by way of midtown Manhattan, is witnessing high-level basketball again. And Jimmy Butler is getting early hype as league MVP! So down below are my four biggest takeaways from it!

How about those Knicks?

Listen, we know most teams, including the NY Knicks, are only six or so games into their new season but can we acknowledge how great they looked? After having a surprising home loss against the Orlando Magic to conclude their opening week, the current No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference went 3-0 between last Tuesday-Sunday, with every win being a statement win.

Although Julius Randle has struggled to maintain his All-NBA form from last year, the Knicks have been buoyed by contributions from their lesser stars. Despite murmurs that the Knicks overpaid for him in free agency, Evan Fournier has emerged as a fearless wing scorer with his combination of on-ball chutzpah and off-ball craftiness. Even more promising, RJ Barrett has solidified the gains he made as a shooter last year while also emerging as an elite defender.

Lastly, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose are providing the Knicks with the most stability, they have had in their backcourt in two decades.

Carmelo is making a run for Sixth Man of the Year

While NBA fans have debated whether the Los Angeles Lakers can overcome their roster’s oldness and awkward construction, one undeniable truth has emerged: Carmelo Anthony still is a bucket. In his first season as a Laker, the future Hall of Famer is averaging 16 PPG and has made himself an early, viable candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Moreover, Anthony has scored with remarkable efficiency, shooting 50 percent from the field and 52% from long range.

Whether it’s as a shooter, scorer, or simply another body on the floor, Anthony’s presence has created the spacing and dynamism the Lakers’ offense often lacked last season.

Jimmy Butler for MVP?

If any player was looking to bounce back from a lackluster season, it was Jimmy Butler. After leading the Heat to the NBA Finals one year ago, Butler and Co. came back to Earth with an inconsistent regular season performance (Their 40-32 record landed them the sixth seed) before getting swept in the first round. But now? It’s Butler’s time for payback.

As his Heat stands at 5-1 after winning four consecutive games, including a pair of impressive wins over the Nets and Hornets, Butler is arguably playing the best basketball of his career. The Marquette product is currently averaging career-highs in points (25), rebounds (7.0), and steals per game (2.8), and field-goal percentage (52.9%) while also having the league’s third-highest player efficiency rating (30.69).

And who are the two players in front of Butler? The last-two MVP winners, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Wizards may have figured something out!

Amid the action during the NBA’s first two weeks, the Washington Wizards and their 5-1 record have flown under the radar. Even if it’s extremely unlikely that the Wizards will be able to sustain this pace, they deserve credit for what they’ve accomplished so far.

Bradley Beal has upped the ante as a complete player, bouncing back from a slow start to average 31 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game over his last two games. In addition, the Wizards’ trio of summer additions in Spencer Dinwiddle, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell have played the kind of basketball that provides a second wind in most players’ careers.

If you’re wondering who the Wizards have beaten this season, say hello to the Celtics (twice), Hawks, and Raptors, with two of those wins being on the road.