Lost among the summer free agent signings of the Miami Heat is an extraordinary floor-spacer, Luke Babbitt. He opens driving lanes for Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson, and friends, at the cost of his 112 defense rating.
The question for the Heat though is what will they give away instead of chalupas when the team scores over 100 points and Babbitt is on the floor? His basket against the Sacramento Kings became legendary among Portland Trail Blazers fans.
"By the time the [Portland] front office announced last week Taco Bell had ended the promotion, the chalupa was arguably the most popular member of the team," wrote Willamette Week. "The incessant fourth-quarter chant—"Cha-lu-pa! Cha-lu-pa! Cha-lu-pa!"—irritated sportswriters, altered the careers of benchwarmers, and fed the homeless."
"It feels good to give the fans Taco Bell." —Reserve forward Luke Babbitt, after hitting a 3-pointer on Jan. 24, 2012. It's his first basket in 265 days and the chalupa-securing points. He soon becomes an Internet phenomenon.
"Sorry to the fans for the chalupas." —Starting point guard Raymond Felton, after missing two free throws with the team at 99 points on March 29, 2012. He soon becomes among the most hated players in Blazers history.
Free food promotions are fairly common in the NBA, even in places such as Toronto and Los Angeles.
Stan van Gundy was amazed by the noise made when Ed Davis' basket gave the Raptors 100th point.
Los Angeles fans became very loud chanting "We want tacos," and booed the Jazz when scored a 100 points against their Lakers. #WeWantTacos has become a hashtag and part of sports culture for any prize when a team reaches a certain criteria in a game. NBA2K 17 has put into their trailer for the next edition.
Back to Babbitt, Matt Cianfrone writes, "Babbitt did exactly what New Orleans asked him to do by providing a floor spacing stretch four off the bench as he knocked down just under 38 percent of his three pointers on the season."
"In 133 minutes with Davis and Babbitt on the floor, the Pelicans shot 50.9 percent from the floor, 41.4 percent from three and had a plus/minus of plus 6.9 points per 48 minutes....In fact Babbitt had such an impact on the offense that it was 12.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor according to 82games.com."
"Patrick Patterson is so worried about Babbitt that he hesitates a second too long, which allows Anthony Davis to roll past Patterson without being bumped to slam home a lob from Tyreke Evans."
NOLA's description of Luke's professionalism indicates he'll fit right in with the Heat work ethic. "Babbitt is a tireless pre- and post-practice worker, attempting to perfect old skills and create new ones, traits admired by Pelicans coach Monty Williams."
"Luke is just the same guy every day. No matter what," Williams said. "He's shooting the ball better and making better decisions off the dribble. But he's just consistent with his work, whether he's starting, not playing, or playing off the bench, he's the same guy. You can't quantify that. To talk about it, I think, would be disrespectful. It's hard to even talk about it."
"He's that solid of a guy and worker and everybody loves him. You might not hear Luke say a word for a week or so. Then you'll hear him in the huddle say something, or in a time out. But he's really consistent. And I think that's a bright spot for us. He's gotten better. His percentages shooting the ball speak for themselves."
Because only thirteen guys can dress for a game, Babbitt may find his minutes limited. His ability to give teammates room to work in the painted area could make up for his defensive liabilities.
Babbitt presents the Heat with an Amar'e Stoudemire-like dilemma of how to balance a player's strengths and weaknesses in the best interests of the team.