Nov 23, 2020

Heat or Celtics?

In a major upset, the Heat surprisingly pulled the rug over the regular season leaders Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 behind the solid play of backcourt tandem Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler. It’s a totally different semifinal series for the Boston Celtics, however, as they had to go through the gauntlet in an exhausting 7 game stretch with the defending champions Toronto Raptors whose relentless winning culture kept them going despite the departure of last season’s playoff MVP Kawhi Leonard who is now leading the charge for the Los Angeles Clippers.

As the National Basketball Association (NBA) winds down its postseason, we are left with 5 teams standing as of this writing so we will zero in first on the eastern conference final pairing between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat and assess which one will advance to the NBA finals.

In a major upset, the Heat surprisingly pulled the rug over the regular season leaders Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 behind the solid play of backcourt tandem Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler. It’s a totally different semifinal series for the Boston Celtics, however, as they had to go through the gauntlet in an exhausting 7 game stretch with the defending champions Toronto Raptors whose relentless winning culture kept them going despite the departure of last season’s playoff MVP Kawhi Leonard who is now leading the charge for the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

So how would the Heat and Celtics match up with each other? Let’s break it down:

  • The backcourt: the Heat has a solid veteran in Dragic who has proven himself capable in the playoffs. Kendrick Nunn, a quality back up who can also start when needed, gives the Heat some depth and diversity at the point. Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro can play spot point guard minutes when needed. That’s 4 quality guards in the rotation. The Celtics, on the other hand, have Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and, if reactivated, Gordon Hayward who can play spot minutes at the point. I believe the Heat has more quality depth in this match up. Advantage: Heat
  • The wings: the Celtics have two of the most promising stars in the league today. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The two are capable of scoring in bunches at any given night. Both are also two-way players and can be called on to stop the best player of any opposing team. The Heat would have their hands full matching up against the C’s and it is certain the likes of Derrick Jones Jr, Jae Crowder, and Andre Iguodala would spend most of their time on the court defending the Boston perimeter. Advantage: Celtics
  • Bigs: Can the Celtics matchup against All-Star Bam Adebayo? Coach Brad Stevens of the C’s would have to get the most out of Daniel Theiss and Robert Williams III to try to contain Adebayo. The Heat can also call on Kelly Olynik or Myers Leonard should they need to shore up the frontline. The Celtics can summon Enis Kanter to counter the Heat but he was a none factor in the Toronto series: Advantage: Heat

So with an advantage at the guard and bigs position, it seems Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is poised to build off their strengths and march forward to another finals appearance. This series has the potential to reach a game 7 but I see Jimmy Butler rising above the occasion when the series is on the line.

In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers are waiting for the winner of the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers series that got stretched to a game 7 with Denver’s win yesterday. My next article will focus on the western finals pairing once we see who comes out victorious between the Clippers and Nuggets this Wednesday.

 

On Coach Aldin Ayo

After being soaked in hot water over a controversial violation of IATF and Health protocols with the holding of a UST Tigers “bubble” camp, head coach Aldin Ayo has tendered his resignation and has been slapped with an indefinite suspension by the UAAP. That would mean no member team could hire the services of the beleaguered coach while the suspension stands.

Was the suspension necessary? I believe Ayo admits to some wrongdoing there and the suspension, for me, is warranted but to make it indefinite is like banning the coach for a lifetime unless he personally appeals his case. While Ayo floats in a UAAP cloud, I personally don’t think he will remain idle for long.

He is too talented to pass up. He converts teams to champions with his trademark mayhem system. He is also one of the better coaches that Gilas program director and Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin respects. Coach Ayo is a modern-day coach who embraces speed, defense, and 3 points shooting that is the norm in the major pro and FIBA leagues today.

 

Based on how I see things could pan out, there are a few options that Ayo can zone in on.

  • The NCAA: a return to the NCAA is probable should there be any coaching vacancies. Ayo’s suspension does not cover leagues outside of the UAAP so this option is always viable for him
  • The Gilas program: with Tab at the help of personnel decisions, it’s highly possible for Ayo to be hired as one of the assistant coaches for the national team. A spot in the Gilas bench would also mean a spot in any of the PLDT teams in the PBA
  • The PBA: Phoenix fuel, by parting ways with head coach Louie Alas just a few days ago, has a spot open. Should Ayo be offered the role or apply for a coaching gig, I am certain Phoenix management would give him a long hard look. Topex Robinson’s appointment as interim head coach may run into issues with his head coaching job with Lyceum in the NCAA so there is somewhat a window of opportunity for Ayo here
  • ASEAN coaching: with his Euroball style coaching, I also wouldn’t be surprised if one of the ASEAN national programs decide to hire his services. Ayo is a good drill master and teacher and should he decide to take his act overseas, I expect the likes of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand or the Vietnam programs to immediately upgrade with him on the fold.

You see, all is not at an end for Aldin Ayo. He is a winner on every level and you simply can’t put talent and a good man like that down. He made a mistake and he is paying for it already. I know he will come out of this as a better leader moving forward.

 

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)

 

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