Hassan Whiteside triple double: Miami Heat contending without LeBron?

Hassan Whiteside led the Miami Heat to victory over the Bulls with a triple double off the bench which included twelve blocks, notable because almost no one notches a trip-dub with blocks or does it without being a starter. But with the Heat looks for answers all season as to how to move on after the departure of LeBron James, the question now must be asked: with the rise of Whiteside and the return of other players, can Miami contend in the East this season after all?

The Miami Heat’s ugly 20-24 record doesn’t paint a pretty picture. But the rise of Hassan Whiteside isn’t the only thing going right for the defending Eastern Conference champions of late. Nearly all of its core players missed time in the first half of the season due to injury or illness, masking the fact that with LeBron gone, other veterans like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are having their best seasons in years. Throw in the fact that Luol Deng is finally finding his place in the Heat ecosystem, and Chris Andersen is back from injury, and it starts to look like a team which can be dangerous if it makes the postseason.

In fact, the lack of a dynamic big man like Hassan Whiteside was the one thing which kept the LeBron-era Miami Heat from climbing to even greater heights, as the team tried to work around not having a true center in a hit-and-miss fashion. But with Whiteside’s game evolving quickly enough that he’ll be a full time starter by season’s end, one has to look at a Wade-Bosh-Deng-Whiteside-Chalmers starting lineup as one which is rich in postseason experience and championship caliber.

In contrast, LeBron’s Cavaliers are looking more like a one-man band with a bunch of ancillary parts that don’t fit right as the season goes on. Throw in the Hawks lack of playoff experience and the fact that Hassan Whiteside just finished destroying the Bulls, and one has to at least ask the question of whether the Miami Heat just might be dangerous enough in the playoffs to get back to the NBA Finals. And that’s a question that no one was even considering when the season began.

New England Patriots, Tom Brady cheat Miami Dolphins fans

I’m a Miami Dolphins fan and my team’s most potent rival, the New England Patriots, are facing the possible suspension of its head coach Bill Belichick or its star quarterback Tom Brady for next season after allegations that they’ve been under-inflating the football in cold weather games to gain a competitive advantage. My team’s chances of winning the division in 2015 may have just skyrocketed. But you know what’s bothering me? I don’t want it.

I don’t want Tom Brady to be a cheater. All those times the Dolphins made him look average in their first matchup of the season, and then he stomped all over us in New England at the end of the year? I want to believe that my team just doesn’t play well in cold weather, and that Brady is the kind of competitor who is a lot better at the end of the year than at the beginning.

But now I have to step back and ask whether my team should have won a few of those games. I have to look at the Patriots awful road playoff record, and ask whether my team should have been in some of those games instead. I have to ask whether maybe my Dolphins were supposed to have won the division more than once in Brady’s career, particularly in the years where it came down to one late season cold weather game. And I don’t even want to think about that.

I don’t mind sitting through losses, if they’re honest ones. I’ve seen enough legitimate greatness out of Tom Brady, and enough mediocrity out of my Dolphins, to know that even if he was cheating, they would have lost most or all of those late season games against him anyway.

But if it does turn out the Patriots have been cheating all along, I want the hammer dropped on them. Not because I think the Dolphins would have done much better if there hadn’t been any cheating. But because my time is valuable. I choose to watch football, knowing that my team might legitimately lose. But if it turns out I’ve spent the past decade watching my team lose to another team that was consistently cheating, then the Patriots have been cheating me.

That’s why I’m hoping there’s a legitimate explanation for this, some science to show that the weather patterns that day deflated the balls, or it was the work of an incompetent new ball boy who had been on the job for two weeks. That way I can accept that my team never wins the division or beats Tom Brady in the cold weather simply because my team is mediocre. Better that than knowing that all those losses were rigged and having to accept that some of them should have had a different outcome.

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin looks for Danny Shelton at Senior Bowl, gets hassled by security

The Miami Dolphins are at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama this week to scout new talent ahead of the NFL Draft. The newly reconfigured Dolphins leadership includes embattled head coach Joe Philbin, second year general manager Dennis Hickey, and newly appointed team executive Mike Tannenbaum. From the opposite sideline I saw all three huddled in the bleachers eyeing talent. But the more intriguing moment came when Philbin decided to venture down to the sidelines to get a better look at Danny Shelton.

As the North team was practicing this morning, I spotted Joe Philbin strolling up and down the sideline. He appeared to be trying to put on a poker face, but his interest clearly appeared to be in Danny Shelton, a defensive tackle out of Washington who was dominating nearly everyone who tried to block him. In fact, he was being held by so many desperate offensive lineman that his name and number had literally been ripped off his jersey.

But Philbin’s attempt at getting a look at him was interrupted by an overeager security guard who didn’t recognize him, and stopped him because he didn’t have orange journalist credentials around his neck; after all, he had wandered into the media credentialed area. Philbin declared “I’m the head coach of the Miami Dolphins” just loudly enough for those of us in the first few rows of the bleachers to hear him, and the embarrassed guard quickly demurred.