Miami HEAT: The Waiters Worry

So. It’s rebuilding time for the HEAT, where journeymen and NBA-hopefuls alike have brought their talents to South Beach. A far cry from the 2010 offseason when Pat Riley (or the players, depending on who’s asked) landed the “whales” LeBron James and Chris Bosh. In the years since, Riley’s become more akin to Captain Ahab than he’d probably be willing to admit. First, LeBron Ahab’ed Riley and bit his leg off before swimming back to Cleveland. Then, in full monomaniacal madness, Riley went after the next “whale” (read: Kevin Durant), but managed only to be dragged to the bottom of the ocean as Dwyane Wade made his way to Chicago.

Newest member of the HEAT, guard Dion Waiters [Photo Credit:]

Listen, I don’t blame Riley, but at some point along the journey to losing Wade, there was a failure of communication. Egos got in the way. (Again. As that’s probably what sent LeBron packing in the first place.) But that brings us to Dion Waiters. Wait, what?

The Waiters signing on Tuesday signaled an odd pivot during an already odd post-Wade signing spree. In the days after Wade agreed to sign with Chicago, Miami decided to add journeyman Wayne Ellington, Miami’s D-league affiliate standout Rodney McGruder, and match Brooklyn’s exorbitant $50 million offer sheet on Tyler Johnson. All this while having Josh Richardson waiting in the wings as a potential fill-in at the 2-guard spot. Part of what makes this move odd is the sudden crowding of the backcourt, especially when you add point guards Goran Dragic and Briante Weber to the mix. But the most odd part about this is, in order to be an effective player, Waiters needs to play. Moreover, he’ll need the ball in his hands. If Miami is eyeing the future, and it considers Richardson, Johnson, and Justise Winslow as major parts of that future, the Waiters signing becomes worrisome.

The worry really comes when you consider he’s a ISO-heavy player with questions regarding shot selection and decision making. I mean, this is a guy who had his teammates at Syracuse call him “Kobe Wade.” Last season, he shot less than 40% from the field, but did average 11 PPG as a starter. (He actually shot worse as a starter than coming off the bench. So, yeah.) Inserting an ISO, ball-reliant player into a starting lineup that now belongs largely to a pace-pushing Goran Dragic seems counterintuitive. Also, if the team is investing time in players like Josh Richardson and (a lot of) money in players like Tyler Johnson, having Waiters take minutes from them doesn’t really make sense. Similarly, having Waiters on the floor with Justise Winslow might retard his growth as well.

The good thing is, the Waiters signing seems like a low-risk/high-reward investment. The contract is for two-years and nearly $6 million, with a player option for the second year. That’s not much money for a 24-year old former Top-5 draft pick. He’s coming off a decent showing in the playoffs and should be motivated to rehabilitate his market value for a potential big pay day next offseason. Maybe the team has no intention of keeping Tyler Johnson once his contract balloons to $19 million, either by trading him or hoping the new CBA has another amnesty provision. Maybe the team sees Waiters as a good fit with Briante Weber, a Patrick Beverly-type 3-and-D point guard who doesn’t really need the ball. Who knows? Maybe Waiters is a low-key whale. The one thing we don’t have to worry about with Waiters is his wearing Wade’s old #3. He’ll don #11, last worn by Dorell Wright. Waiters will join Chris Andersen, Skip-2-My-Lou Rafer Alston,  Todd Day, HEAT broadcaster John Crotty, and the General Sherman Douglas as some of the players who’ve worn #11.

[Photo Credit:]

The Relaunch

So. It’s been more than two years since I last post on this blog. Consistency has often been a problem for me, but for the better part of three years, I kept at it. My first post was published on February 5, 2011, and, from that date until April 20, 2014, I remained relatively consistent in my postings. Sure there were lags here and there, but, for the most part, I kept at it. Keeping at it hasn’t been my strong suit in life. I was determined to use the blog as a platform to develop and publish my writing, all in service of my larger goal to become a successful, traditionally published novelist. It was an okay run.

It was that larger goal that led me away from the blog. In late 2013, I decided to go back to school in pursuit of a master’s degree. It took me a little more than 3 years, but as I write this, my Master’s Degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University is framed and displayed just over my left shoulder. On May 14th, I was selected as one of the University’s Outstanding Graduates. I officially graduated on June 1st with a 4.0 GPA. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever been perfect at anything. It was pretty cool.

This leads me to my blog’s relaunch. I could call it a rebranding (since I’ve changed the site address and blog title), but I’ve done that already. Maybe I’ll borrow a term from WWE and call it a “brand extension.” I stopped working on the blog to pursue my master’s degree, because I couldn’t do both and be perfect at either. But now that I’ve graduated with my degree, it’s time to relaunch my efforts here. As one of my teachers in the Creative Writing department at FIU, John Dufresne, once said: “You have to sit your ass in the chair or nothing will get done.” Time to heed that advice. Here’s to a long and successful on

Me, my Degree, and @PeteyThePenmen of #SNHU

The Super Egg Hunt

It’s all Uncle Mike’s fault. As a rule, I think he likes to take things to the next level, and that’s what he always did during out family’s traditional Easter Egg Hunt. See, I am the oldest of a large generation. I have two younger brothers and a small army of cousins. At last count, there are 17 people I consider 1st cousins in my family. Now, they aren’t all first cousins, but to explain the mechanics of my family tree may take the better part of a month, include a protractor, and smelling salts for the people who faint. So, with my brothers and I, there are 20 young people in my generation, but not all 20 participated each year. If you sprinkle in the Cuban Cousins and family friends, I’d say the average amount of Hunters each year was about 12. But like I said earlier, it’s all Uncle Mike’s fault.

My brothers, cousins, and Mom acting crazy.

I can’t remember exactly what year the Super Egg was born, but by the time I was fourteen, Super Egg Hunt festivities were in full swing. The Hunt stood as the culmination of a family gathering that spread throughout the weekend. Typically, my family would gather on Good Friday in remembrance of the Crucifixion. We’d eat fish (we kids would have fish sticks) pray, then decorate the eggs. It was that batch of decorated eggs that would serve during the first hunt on Easter morning, the one my brothers and I would partake in before going to church on Easter Sunday. After the church service, much of the family would gather at my grandfather’s house for some good food and general frivolity. My parents and different aunts and uncles would supply the eggs, stuffing them with candy mostly, but a select few eggs were always filled with money. It started with loose change, and, for the most part, the eggs would sport less than a dollar. But the Super Egg was a different story. It started with $20 or so, but each year, the Super Egg haul grew. Steadily, the contents increased, $30-plus, $40-plus, $50-plus, one year even eclipsing the $100 mark.

Now, for us older kids, it was really the only reason to hunt. For me, being diabetic, I couldn’t be interested in the candy-filled eggs. Instead of baskets of candy, my parents would stuff my Easter basket with paperback novels and t-shirts. The smaller hunts were fun, but really it was all about the Super Egg. Anticipation grew throughout the early afternoon, as the mothers would fill the different eggs and the children buzzed about, scoping the yard and trying to spy this year’s Super Egg Hiding Spot. Over the years, the party changed houses, but the most memorable Super Egg Hunts always took place at Abuelo’s. His backyard sported a pool (which each child needed to fall into as a family rite-of-passage), a tiki-hut, a bar, a small basketball court, a shed, several trees, hedges and bushes, and a canal. It really was the ideal terrain for such activities. The familyroom’s panoramic sliding glass doors let all of us study the grounds as the adults prepared the Hunt. And once we saw Uncle Mike moving from Dad to Dad asking for some Super Egg cash, there was almost no containing us.

Us kids excitedly awaiting the Hunt. No surprise my brother Chris (Super Egg World Record Holder) is trying to sneak up.

But contain us the adults did. Each year, as a group of adults hid the eggs outside, the children were forced into a hallway, and put in age-ascending order. Of course, I was always at the end of the line, right beside my cousin Andres, although he was a few months older than me. (Technically, Andres is the youngest child of my mother’s generation, but again, I’m not going to explain any further, since I’m not sure what your smelling salt stock currently looks like.) The older kids were usually given plastic bags to tote our haul, as we couldn’t be bothered with fancy baskets. Our single-minded goal was the Super Egg.

As we waited our release from the Gate, we debated where Uncle Mike might hide the Super Egg this year. The length of the Hunt always depended on how diabolical Uncle Mike was feeling that particular Easter Sunday. He never hid the Super Egg in the same place twice, and he was a master at disguising the obvious. He used the entire yard, and all elements found therein. Once the Super Egg was nestled in a suitably baffling hiding place, the children, like stabled thoroughbreds, were set free.
Released for the Super Egg. The blur is Nicky, and the happy child behind is JJ.

The release was done only a few at a time, the youngest children darting out first. As the older children impatiently waited our turn, the adults reveled in our anticipatory discomfort. Some adult always had to pretend one of the particularly young children had found the Super Egg, which we older kids knew was patently absurd. Uncle Mike would never let that happen. Still, it riled us up. Once we were released, they couldn’t get that sliding door open fast enough. We older kids poured out into the backyard, eyes sharply surveying the situation. Each of us would branch out in a different direction, absentmindedly picking up lesser eggs and asking some of the little ones if they’d seen Uncle Mike lingering somewhere.

The Search

Uncle Mike was really the master. He’d deke us into thinking the Super Egg was one place, then laugh uproariously when we’d fall for the dupe. We cased the grounds, rustling piles of leaves that looked unnatural, reaching into thorny bushes, and lifting scattered bits of trash. We’d check the pool, the tables, the shed, the basketball court, and the tiki-hut. We combed the yard. I would only pick eggs that had change inside, since candy did me no good.

Chris checking the rafters of the tiki-hut.

Uncle Mike had but one rule: the Super Egg (or something attached to it) could always be seen. I guess it was an effort to keep as much parity as he could. It was possible for one of the little babies to stumble upon the golden prize. So the longer the search continued, the more likely it became that one of the little ones would turn their attention from candy-filled plastic to fabled Super Egg. And after much futile effort and discovery of all lesser eggs, we’d begin the begging for clues. They started small. Uncle Mike would provide hints that would systematically shrink the search area, saying it was on one half of the yard, or it was above the waist line, or it was a certain adult’s eye-level. We ran about the place, skirting the pool, wondering if it was the year one of the little ones would take their spill into the water. As the search area shrank, the pressure mounted. So many little bodies in one place, hands groping, probing anything and everything in the vicinity. My brother Chris was always the best at this point. He’s won the Hunt more than anyone. He’d be the first inductee into the Super Egg Hunt Hall of Fame, but this year was my year.

I found It!

At fourteen, I knew I was reaching the end of my Super Egg hunting career. I might have one or two more years left, and I wanted to win. Chris had won more than three times, and he wouldn’t let a soul forget it. I can’t remember exactly what made me do it, but I pulled the drain cover off the pool and found the Super Egg. We had been walking right by it the entire time. It was my second win ever, and my last. It felt great. I don’t remember how much I won, but that didn’t matter. I could finally say I had found the Super Egg more than once. Sadly, the Super Egg Hunt is no longer a yearly tradition. Most of the children of my generation are too old to participate, and these days, parts of the family use Easter to vacation out of town. As a new generation of Hunters grows up, the legend of Super Egg Hunts passed are told. There aren’t as many Hunters these days, the number having dwindled to less than eight. I’m one of the few from my generation that adds to the Super Egg purse, but I do so begrudgingly. While the Hunts may only happen every other year or so, Uncle Mike’s flair still shines, and hopefully, my son Jason and I will be the first father-son winners of the Hunt, but he’d better hurry up and win because my nephew, Christopher Andrew, is almost a year old and will be ambulatory in no time.

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