In the second half of this iconic Miami Heat night, this beautiful Thursday night, the TV camera turned to a seated Pat Riley, his neck bowed, his chin raised, and an eagle examining his build. A world of angular ideas.
What did the poet write about this is the world you made – about containing everything in it?
On the court in Game 6, Miami Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra was once again a star, not only by combining Philly’s best trio into a surrendered strategic concept, but also by playing like Max Spoelstra. Lesser names like Struth and Gabe Vincent have beaten their pedigree counterparts in Philadelphia, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey.
If you’re tired of ego, overwhelmed by money and frustrated with the laissez-faire world of professional sports, this is the night for you. This is your team. This is the antidote to your disappointment.
Struth and Vincent climbed hard. Before losing the draft, Strus played in what we call Division 0—Lewis College outside Chicago. Vincent also went undrafted and played for the Stockton Kings. Not the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. The Stockton Kings of the Developmental G League.
They start by believing in themselves and nothing else. Do you have this yourself? Can you bring it to an established career?
Struth and Vincent, the two noobs, didn’t play against James Harden’s $171 million contract and James Maxey’s first-round pick in this Heat victory in the second-round series.
They totally embarrassed them.
“I think it was Max’s first double-double in his life,” Heat Bulldog PJ Tucker said as he checked the stat sheet as Struth had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Struth had a similar double-double in the last game, Tucker was told.
“I think those were the first two double-doubles of his life,” Tucker said without pausing.
It’s not even a sign tonight. Someone asked Strus how he played this way, defined himself this way, and said, “It’s so new to me, so new to me, I’m not ready to answer that.”
“It’s not only the biggest time of my career, it’s the biggest time of my life,” he said. “It’s one of those moments where you want to go in and be a basketball player and do what we do for a living.”
He was talking about the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I want to start tomorrow.”
Look, the Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, who as a big-name and big-money player is the central story of this series in Philly. Butler played for Philadelphia, moved to the Heat and defined the difference in the franchise. Philly is weak, uncertain, and invested in Tobias Harris.
“Tobias Harris overtakes me?” Butler said after tonight.
The Heat are tough and determined.
Despite his two-way tenacity, Struth and Vincent define this blue-ribbon team. Spoelstra and his crew nurture them with an open mind – reaching your ceiling – which is often missing. Riley gave them one of the fewest two-way contracts last season, and — you wanna be smart? – A two-year minimum contract starting this season.
That means players have about $2 million in their pockets. Who in the real world would say no? Only now they’re either going beyond that idea or the definition of why the Heat are a blue-ribbon team. They develop hungry players into first-line players.
You have to like the way Spoelstra talks. The development of young players is not “linear”, he said. Yes, “incremental steps”. They were questioned by fans — “I didn’t have a thing that resonated,” Spoelstra said, referring to Vincent’s shooting percentage.
Vincent has never been a pure point guard before. He has grown up. He learned. He was Nigeria’s best player against the United States. Struth was the star of Summer League. Some franchises say it doesn’t matter. The Heat always proved that it was.
This is an NBA playoff game without a big star. There’s Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who may be waiting for the Heat to play in the Eastern Conference Championship Series.
But who else? Joel Embiid of Philadelphia. He was gone, sent away by the Heat. There are no other independent stars in the East.This is the world the Heat thrived, the world Riley and Spoelstra built
They used to be the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. No top 10 players on their team have been drafted right now. They are defined by the undrafted duo. Can you appreciate it? even like it?
They started the playoffs with undrafted players such as Struth and Vincent. They also win because of them. Riley looked at his world in Game 6 against Philadelphia and was happy about it. But not very happy either. The question becomes whether the small name can continue to win big.