May 06, 2016

Friday update from Adam Gase; Dolphins rookies a supremely confident bunch; Notable things that four of them had to say today; Plus Heat, media notes

The Dolphins began their most unique rookie minicamp ever Friday, in that there was no on-field work, just teaching and lab work.

Some highlights from the media availability with five draft picks:

• Jakeem Grant knows “the return job is going to help me out making the team.”

He also knows his size (5-6) is considered a limitation by many. That doubt drives him.

“I definitely got that my whole life,” he said. “That just created a bigger chip on my shoulder. A whole bunch of guys saying my career is not going to last in the NFL because of my size.  People have seen me take a bunch of hits and get right back up.

“I’m going to show the world size doesn’t matter. Middle school, I see people still growing and I’m like ‘Damn.’ I’m not blessed with the height, but I’m blessed with speed and quickness. You can’t hit what you can’t catch. Just because you have a 6-3 corner doesn’t mean you can jam me.'

“I am going to use my strengths to maneuver around him. My numbers didn’t lie coming out of college. They said he’s too short. That’s what they used against me [in not inviting me to] the Combine. Once the ball is in my hand, there’s nobody that can stop me.”

On height-challenged players in general, Grant said: “I feel a lot of guys are looking up to me, just like I looked up to Darren Sproles. I feel if I pave the way for those guys, one day we will be looked at standard receivers [not] gadget guys…. I want to be the best person on the field.”

Grant called Adam Gase an “offensive genius…. Knowing Zach Thomas [another Texas Tech alum] played here motivates me to be a Hall of Famer. I spoke to him [when Thomas visited Texas Tech].”

Grant feels a connection with Thomas because both are undersized for their positions.

• Receiver Leonte Carroo’s self-scouting report: “A lot like Jarvis Landry, a very physical receiver. I’m fast for my size. I had three career drops. I catch the ball very well. I stretch the field. Can play in the slot, catch the underneath routes as well.”

Interesting story: He said he dropped six touchdown passes in a game in his junior year of high school “in a freezing cold game” and “lost a lot of scholarships.”

The next year “I worked on my hands every day. Caught 100 balls [every day] after practice. Dropped one pass my senior year. Told myself I would try not to drop another pass again because it’s embarrassing.”

He said an assault/domestic violence arrest at Rutgers “probably did hurt me” in the draft. But charges were dropped. “It’s behind me now. I was exonerated and was back on my team two weeks after.”

• Kenyan Drake, the former Alabama running back, said: “I don’t need to be in the backfield to make a play. I can line out wide. Kickoff returns. I try to play every play like it’s my last play.”

Did he expect to be the third back taken? “Of course. In my eyes, I was the best back in the draft.”

His best strength? “My versatility, my ability to be an every down back.”

Then there was this odd moment. Asked what he thought of Nick Saban and his best Saban story, Drake said: "Next question."

• Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty said playing for his hometown team "is surreal. I am really, really blessed. Coach Gase is giving me an opportunity to compete, and that's all you can ask for. I am excited to play in front of my family and friends. Last time I was here, I was Sun-Sentinel player of the week. Was here three times my senior year. I dreamt I was Dan Marino growing up. He was my favorite player growing up. To have him sit in our meetings is a pretty cool thing."

"I am accurate, do a pretty good job of taking care of the ball. Those are things you really can't coach.... I respect Matt Moore is here, Ryan [Tannehill] is here. I'm going to enjoy the grind.""

His drive from home in West Davie took four minutes. "No traffic on 595 at 5:30 in the morning."

Former Dolphin Jeff Dellenbach was his coach in high school. 

• Former Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard also spoke. My colleagues will have highlights from that. (I was chatting with Dolphins linebacker signee and ex-Louisville standout James Burgess, a familiar name to some South Florida college football fans; more on him in the coming days.)

ADAM GASE

Couple thoughts from Dolphins coach Adam Gase:

• He felt doing classroom work, instead of on-field work, is helpful this weekend. And Dante Fowler's season-ending injury during a Jaguars minicamp last year entered his thinking in not doing field work this weekend.

"What we basically did this morning was football [talk]. We got them with [Dave] Paloka in the weight room. We wanted to make sure they learned our program so they're in the right kind of shape. We just want to see them attack this playbook, try to use the people they have in this building to their advantage. That transition is a lot harder than people realize."

• On Brandon Doughty: "When I first met him, that's a confident kid. He's got a presence about him, a swagger about him. Very confident. The numbers he put up in college, being part of a winner, I love that fact about him."

• On Kenyan Drake: "When you have a guy like him who's done so much [it's helpful]. Nobody talks about he was on punt [coverage in Alabama]. Being with Nick Saban as long as I was, you know these kids are brought in and they're playing special teams."

• Asked about Jakeem Grant and Leonte Carroo: "The way we look at it, is our definitions for each of those positions is something we keep in house. [But]  I don't want a guy sitting next to me the entire game being a spectator. We need guys who can contribute on special teams."

• Gase said he has had a couple of good talks with Laremy Tunsil about events of the past eight days.

• Gase said of an offensive-tilted Dolphins draft: "Going into the draft, we thought more defensive guys would be available to us. He said he likes how GM Chris Grier "stuck to the board."

• He likes that "we got deeper at a lot of different spots."

For a lot of postgame Heat notes and quotes and thoughts, and lots of news in the media column (ESPN talent changes, local radio nuggets, Peyton Manning’s broadcast decision), please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 05, 2016

Heat Game 2 postscripts, reaction; Media column: The background behind several high-profile announcer departures from ESPN; Manning's decision; Local radio notes

Notes and quotes from the Heat's 96-92 Game 2 overtime loss in Toronto:

• Yes, you can put a positive spin on the Heat's three days in Canada, because it emerged with a split and regained homecourt advantage.

But tonight was an exasperating lost opportunity, considering: 1) Miami led by seven with 6:24 left in regulation; 2) The Heat shot 49 percent, with Toronto closing at 42 percent; 3) Toronto shot 4 for 18 on threes and 14 for 26 on free throws; and 4) considering the Raptors' guards had another dreadful shooting night, with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combining to shoot 16 for 46 from the field (35 percent) and 5 for 14 from the line.

"We had an opportunity; that's all you want," Dwyane Wade said. "Seven-point lead going down the stretch. You want to lock in right there. They got back, took a one-point lead so fast. In overtime, I don't think we did a good job at all executing. In a sense, we feel like we gave one up. But they took the game from us. We played good, two good games [but] not our best performances. We need to play better going home."

• Lowry (18 points) was 7 for 22 from the field, 3 for 6 from the line and became the first player in NBA history to shoot less than 40 percent in nine consecutive playoff game (minimum 10 shots).

DeRozan (20 points) was 9 for 24 from the field and 2 for 8 from the line, stunning for an 85 percent free throw shooter.

• Hassan Whiteside (13 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers) and Jonas Valanciunas (15, 12, 3 steals) had comparable numbers, but that's misleading.

The Raptors' center had the superior game and was far more impactful late. Whiteside gave up a critical offensive rebound, and late basket, by Valanciunas after a DeRozan missed free throw. Whiteside blamed himself afterward, saying he tipped the ball in.

NBA TV reported after the game that DeRozan provided "bulletin board material" by saying: "He's dominating his matchup and that's what we need him to do," Carroll said of Valanciunas. "We need to try and give him the ball more because every time he gets it, he scores. We have to figure out ways to get him the ball."

Though Raptors coach Dwayne Casey said Whiteside has done "an excellent job on his post defense," more is needed as Whiteside tries to make a case for Miami to give him a mega-deal this summer.

"One great thing about Jonas is you can leave him in for free throws at the end of the game," Casey said afterward.

• Joe Johnson's excellent third quarter was foiled by a dismal close; he missed his last eight shots to finish 8 for 22 on a 17-point night.

• The Heat went scoreless in the first 4:36 of overtime, and you would have liked Luol Deng (12 points) and Goran Dragic (20 points, 8 for 12 shooting) to be more involved offensively in the OT, because Dragic has been on a roll and because Deng was the NBA's second-best clutch three-point shooter this season.

• Erik Spoelstra's thoughts on a night Miami committed 21 turnovers, including 11 in the first quarter: "Spotting a good team like this roughly 20 extra possessions; that's tough to overcome. I thought we started to take control of the game in the fourth quarter but our inability to contain the basketball after the initial action led to free throw rebounds. That was the biggest difference.

"Those are a lot of possessions to give up in the postseason -- the turnovers, offensive rebounds, free throws. They're a good, disruptive team. Our spacing has to be better. These last two games were not two of our better ball-movement games. We're going to try to get back to playing when we're at our best."

Asked about Valanciunas, Spoelstra cited his "physical play. We have to match that, exceed it at home."

• More from Wade (17 points, 7 for 17 shooting, five turnovers): "I feel like if we don't keep committing 20-something turnovers, we will be fine. The offense is fine. We can't keep giving up 20 turnovers a game. Offense has been good enough to this point. We just need to do a better job of taking care of the call....

"[Valanciunas] was huge. The putback was big. Whenever he's on the floor, he's been very good for them all playoffs. He's a load, loves to bang. We've got to do a better job on him, got to try to move him a little bit. He was huge tonight for them."

• Can't blame Dragic for being irked about the officiating, considering he was called for three fouls after taking the brunt of the physical punishment each time: "I lost two [teeth], got stitches and always the call on me. I don't know if the refs are watching the game or not."

On the one in which he needed stitches, Dragic said "of course it was a charge" on Toronto, though it wasn't called that way, noting that an elbow (from DeRozan) happened before anything else.

Dragic, who turns 30 on Friday, said (via Fox Sports Sun): "We didn't get good shots in overtime... [Early on], some of them were silly, silly turnovers.... Confidence is back [in his three-point shooting], like it was last year."

• DeMarre Carroll's 21 points were hurtful, helping Toronto overcome more errant shooting from its guards. "He was the savior offensively," Casey said.... Miami got only 13 free throws, half of Toronto's total.

 

MEDIA COLUMN

Hardly a week seems to go by without a prominent departure from ESPN, one familiar face after another exiting the self-anointed Worldwide Leader in Sports.

In the past two weeks, word leaked of four announcers leaving (Mike Tirico, Skip Bayless, Robert Smith, dismissed Curt Schilling), and two others very likely on the way out (Trent Dilfer and Brad Nessler).

This comes after earlier departures, in the past year, of Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, Keyshawn Johnson, Colin Cowherd, and Robert Flores, among others.

It also comes in the wake of ESPN confirming last fall that it had lost more than seven million subscribers over the previous two years, a factor that led to belt-tightening and last October’s layoff of 300 employees, four percent of its workforce.

It’s tempting to connect the dots here and cite ESPN’s desire to slash costs as the overriding reason for the network and several famous faces parting ways. But that would not be an entirely accurate generalization; while finances were the primary factor in several departures, there were other circumstances in play, too. Examining them:

• In the cases of Bayless and Cowherd and Tirico, ESPN wanted to keep all three and made legitimate offers. But ESPN wasn’t willing to bid as much as Fox did for Bayless and Cowherd, believing neither generated the amount of revenue that would justify salaries north of $5 million.

Fox Sports 1, desperate for ratings, will pay Bayless $5.5 million annually for four years, plus a $4 million signing bonus, according to SI.com’s Richard Deitsch. That’s well above ESPN’s $4 million offer. Fox also is reportedly paying Cowherd more than $5 million annually.

In Tirico’s case, ESPN very much wanted to retain him. Though Tirico, NBC and ESPN haven’t commented on his impending move because his ESPN contract doesn’t expire until the summer, nobody can question him for taking a marquee job on NBC and lining himself up to eventually succeed Bob Costas as prime-time Olympics host and Al Michaels on Sunday night NFL games, when either retires. Tirico will work the nine-game Thursday package for NBC and NFL Net, among other assignments.

• As for Simmons and Olbermann, the network made no attempt to keep either when their contracts expired, industry sources said. ESPN believed Olbermann’s ESPN2 program did not generate high enough ratings, or bring enough value to the company, to warrant a new contract.

With Simmons, his relationship with management had become strained – he was suspended three weeks for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar – and ESPN president John Skipper decided to part ways. Terms weren’t disclosed on Simmons’ lucrative HBO deal last year, but he bought a $7.5 million Malibu mansion shortly after signing it.

As for Whitlock, ESPN hired him in 2013 and named him the editor of a new ESPN website called The Undefeated, designed to focus on race and sports. But he clashed with management, was removed from his post last June and mutually parted ways with the network last October. Fox hired him soon after.

• In the cases of Keyshawn Johnson and Robert Smith, their contracts were up and ESPN had little interest in keeping either. Smith, as erudite as any college football analyst, found work elsewhere; Fox hired him to work alongside Rob StoneDave Wannstedt and Matt Lienart in its college football studio.

Johnson was replaced with Charles Woodson, a player who comes directly off the field, with the potential to offer more first-hand personnel evaluations than Johnson could.

• The situations involving Nessler and Dilfer are a little more nuanced. According to a source, Dilfer’s deal is up and he wanted a lot to money. ESPN concluded that a large financial investment in Dilfer didn’t make sense and that it could develop rookie analyst Matt Hasselbeck to fill a similar role, including on-site pre- and post-game analysis from the Monday night games.

Dilfer, who spoke with authority but spewed a lot of analytical nonsense, was increasingly exposed as a blowhard over time.

In Nessler’s case, he’s making a lot of money and though the network respects his work and gave him high-profile assignments (including one national college football semifinal last season), it believed it had enough depth among its college football stable to shed his salary. The network hasn’t publicly ruled out his return, but circumstances would need to change dramatically for that to happen.

ESPN used 28 voices on college football play-by-play last season and now must replace two of its most prominent ones: Nessler and Sean McDonough, who’s in line to succeed Tirico on Monday Night Football if contractual issues are worked out.

Several capable voices could emerge with larger roles on college football, including Joe Tessitore, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch and Bob Wischusen.

• In Schilling’s case, he continued to defy the network’s orders by spewing polarizing political opinions on social media, leaving ESPN with little choice but to part ways. And please don't cite First Amendment rights. This has nothing to do with that; companies have the right to dump employees who are insubordinate or make public comments that embarrass them.

ESPN bristles at any suggestion of a mass exodus, of the narrative that Bristol is burning. Skipper noted that ESPN employs “more than 1000 public-facing talent” and “it’s also a remarkably stable group, though some change is inevitable for a variety of reasons.”

ESPN points out than more than 200 announcers have signed new deals in the past year, including  Lee CorsoChris EvertDanny KanellTim KurkjianSuzy KolberBob LeyKenny Mayne, McDonoughTodd McShayRachel Nichols (who returned after a stint at Turner and CNN) , John SaundersJeremy Schaap, Scott Van Pelt,  Trey Wingo and Steve Young.

“Understandably when there is a high-profile change, the picture might be viewed through a very small lens,” said ESPN Executive Vice President, Production and Programming, John Wildhack. “Yet the facts are that more than 95 percent of our talent have remained at ESPN and there are a wide range of circumstances surrounding the few who don’t.”

• Max Kellerman is among several candidates on ESPN’s preliminary list of options to replace Bayless as Stephen A. Smith’s sparring partner on First Take…. Contrary to a published report, CBS said this week that is has no deal with Nessler. Verne Lundquist, 75, has CBS’ total support and wants to continue calling SEC games.

• Simmons’ new HBO program now has a name (Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons) and a premiere date (June 22). The 30-minute show will air for 20 weeks at 10 p.m. Wednesdays and cover sports and pop culture issues.

"I'm excited about the show, I'm excited about the title and I'm really, really excited to drop my first F-bomb on TV," Simmons said in a statement. "We are going to figure out nudity down the road, as long as it's tasteful."

AROUND THE DIAL

• Peyton Manning has informed the networks that he does not plan to take a broadcasting job this season, The New York Daily News reported and a source confirmed. “He’s been at it a long time and just wants to take a little break,” a close associate said. Networks had been lining up for him.

• Poor choice of words by Goodell, who – when asked on ESPN’s Mike and Mike about Laremy Tunsil plunging in the draft --- said: “It’s all part of what makes the draft so exciting.” Presuming Tunsil didn’t feel that way.

• By coincidence, Barry brothers are alternating on network coverage of Heat-Raptors: Brent Barry on TNT for Game 1, Jon Barry on ESPN for Game 2 (with Pasch) and Game 3 (with Jones).

• In a move expected for weeks, Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham were officially named hosts of The Ticket’s 4 to 7 p.m. show. They’ve generated strong ratings in several months in that slot and had the market's highest-rated afternoon drive sports-talk show last month.

• With Eric Reed (the former 790 The Ticket host, not the Heat announcer) leaving the radio business, The Ticket has tried to find a way for Adam Kuperstein to co-host the 1 to 3 p.m. show with Leroy Hoard, then co-anchor a new 4 p.m. newscast on NBC 6. But there have been too many hurdles, to this point. Will Manso can’t take the job, and The Ticket likes what Josh Friedman does at nights, so the search continues…

Former Finsiders host Greg Likens auditioned at The Ticket last week… WQAM will retain Josh Darrow as UM football sideline reporter; he was hired by Al Golden for a front-office football job last year but wasn’t retained by Mark Richt.

• Game 7 of Heat-Hornets on ABC was viewed in a significantly smaller percentage of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes (11.7) than the average Dolphins game last season (15.8). Game 1 of the Toronto series was viewed in 13.3 percent of homes locally.

Please check back tonight for Heat Game 2 reaction... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 04, 2016

Midnight Dion Jordan update; Simple change rejuvenates Richt; Canes nuggets; Bosh and a six-pack of Heat

The NFL has not reinstated Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan from suspension at this point. But Jordan is working hard to get back, a source close to the team said tonight.

Jordan, the third overall pick of the 2013 draft, was suspended all of last season because of a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

There were two encouraging messages delivered on social media tonight by people close to him: 

His agent, Doug Hendrickson, tweeted: "comeback player of the year. working with the best redemption song....stay tuned..." 

Tareq Azim, who trains Jordan, said: "Happy to announce my man @dionj95 will solidify his presence to the world. #NFL #stableofchampions#humbleanimals#2016seasonisours@empowersanfrancisco." Here's that post from Azim:

The Dolphins are open-minded to giving Jordan another chance because he's talented, coachable and not a bad guy, despite his troubles. (Personal aside: I always found Jordan polite and cordial, and you hope he gets everything back on track after multiple violations of the league's substance policy.)

Everyone involved (Jordan, the Dolphins) hope he will be reinstated before this coming season, but it's ultimately in the commissioner's hands. If he is eventually reinstated, he would join a defensive end group including Cam Wake, Mario Williams, Andre Branch, Chris McCain and Terrence Fede, among others. Free agent Jason Jones also remains on Miami's radar.

 

MARK RICHT TALK

As Mark Richt took the stage at the Casino of Dania Beach and addressed several hundred Hurricanes fans for the first time on Monday night, he admitted that he “started to get a little bit bored” at Georgia after giving up the play-calling in 2007, that it’s not especially enjoyable if you “don’t do the actual hands-on coaching.”

So instead of being worn out and chewed up from 15 high-pressure years coaching in the Southeastern Conference, Richt, 56, seems relaxed, rejuvenated and re-energized, for reasons that go beyond the pride of coaching at his alma mater. He’s also convinced that calling plays and running the offense will strengthen his connection with players.

Richt recently explained it quite well to former UM Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta on Sirius XM:

“When you turn over the play calling responsibilities and become more of a CEO type head coach, a lot of coaches had success doing it that way, and we certainly had success at Georgia over the years, [but] it's just not as much fun,” Richt said. “And players over time see you as the grandfather figure over there just keeping an eye on everybody.

“Now I'm in the heat of every meeting, heat of every battle on the field, installing stuff, calling stuff. They see my energy, they see my competitive spirit that's a little more reserved if I'm not in the heat of it.

“It's healthy for me. I’m enjoying it tremendously. It’s healthy for the players to see me get down and dirty with everybody else. That was the biggest thing for me; the biggest change is installing the offense, coaching the quarterbacks, just coaching again. That’s what I enjoyed the most. That might be what I did the best.”

Running backs coach Thomas Brown, who coached with Richt at Georgia, told ESPN that Richt’s move to UM, combined with calling plays and coaching quarterbacks again, “gave him new life. He’s taken 20 years off his life. He shows more energy, more passion. He’s re-energized.”

We had a lot of snippets from Richt's Monday night address in this post. Some others:

• A fan asked Richt how he handles the team’s lack of speed at receiver, which Richt has voiced concern about.

“It’s called recruiting,” he said. You can work hard on speed and agility and flexibility. We have two guys 6-4, 6-5 [Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham] who don’t have to be super fast. If you don’t have a downfield threat, people kind of close in on you. We have a guy or two that can run pretty good. We need more. There are some on the way.”

• Richt reiterated that it has been difficult to determine how good his cornerbacks are because “I don’t know we can threaten [them] enough in practice to show what we have in reality. No question losing Artie Burns and Deon Bush was a big hit… We are going to be playing some inexperienced guys.”

Richt acknowledges the fascination with playing man to man defense but says he won’t leave a corner on an island against a great receiver if help is needed. “We are not going to sit there and be stubborn,” he said. “One day when we have enough guys to lock ‘em all down, we’ll make everybody miserable.”

• UM already has 15 oral commitments for 2017 and expects to end up with more than 20, Richt said…. He confirmed UM already has offered two eighth-grade quarterbacks. Both are Georgia-based: Max Johnson (Richt’s nephew and son of former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson) and Harrison Bailey of Powder Springs, Ga.

Max Johnson told Canesport that Richt told him: “We wouldn’t offer if we didn’t think you were good enough.” Bailey told Youth1 that Richt told him “we usually don’t offer young bucks like you, but you’re talented and we think you can handle it. We don’t think you’ll get a big head and we want to offer you a scholarship.”

• Richt’s hiring has been good for business. . UM already has sold more than 6600 new season tickets, most ever at this point in the offseason and are moving toward 40,000 overall season tickets for the first time since leaving the Orange Bowl. UM’s 8100 Hurricane Club members are its most ever; joining requires donations of at least $50.

And there’s there: There were 275 former players who attended Richt’s and UM’s party/reunion the night before the spring game,
compared to 110 for Golden last year.

• UM, working on a contingency plan in case the stadium formerly known as Sun Life is not ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M, prefers Marlins Park to FIU, because it can accommodate far more fans.

• Richt got a loud ovation when he said this, because it’s quite a difference from last year’s defensive approach: “We’re not considered a 2-gap team. We are going to penetrate, get in the gaps. Coach Kool [Craig Kuligowski] is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country."

• Richt isn’t happy about the NCAA overturning its recent ban on satellite camps – which allows coaches like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh to gather prospects in South Florida and elsewhere and have his staff coach them for a day in what many say masquerades as a recruiting pitch.

“I think if you can’t get ’em on your own campus, they’re probably not going to come anyway,” Richt said.

“The job is tough enough as it is. It is quite a grind for the coaches. I do want them to see their children. I want them to be fathers and husbands. Sometimes the more you add, the more you wear out your people. I don’t think they’re necessary to get the job done.

“To me it’s illegal recruiting off-campus, quite frankly, at a time that’s supposed to be a non-contact period. You’re just creating contacts off-campus during a time you’re not supposed to be. Schools that are in places that aren’t that desirable want to come to your place. Everybody wants to come to paradise. We’ll see what happens.”

UM AD Blake James also is opposed to the camps: “It’s important to keep football recruiting scholastic. Football is the only sport where the model is scholastic. We have a recruiting calendar. What this does is circumvents the recruiting calendar. It creates recruiting nonstop throughout the year through these combines — they’re not camps, where you teach kids how to be better football players. They’re there to be an evaluation. That’s where we’re at as a conference, that’s where we’re at as an institution.

“We’ve made it clear we’re opposed to them. But as of right now, they’re on."

HEAT ITEMS

Manny and Ethan will have all the news and notes from Toronto and more fallout on the Chris Bosh announcement today. In a meantime, a six-pack of other Heat items:

• Today's announcement, made jointly by the Heat and the Bosh, that he would not play again this postseason offered some closure but wasn't the least bit surprising.

What was especially interesting was this part of the statement: "The HEAT, Chris, the doctors and medical team have been working together throughout this process and will continue to do so to return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible."

As I've reported for weeks, Bosh is determined to continue his career and has told people that he has no intention of retiring. But this is the first time the Heat made a statement suggesting it is supporting efforts to make that happen, as opposed to pushing him toward retirement.

• Here were LeBron James' comments about the possibility of a Heat-Cavs Eastern Conference Finals, in case you missed it: 

"It would be great to play against those guys in the postseason. But I've always, throughout my whole career, I've always wanted to go against [Dwyane] Wade in a playoff series. We've always talked about it even before we became teammates in '10. It's not been heavy on my mind, but it's crossed my mind throughout my whole career."

Wade, asked about that today, said: 

"I won't say, 'bucket list,' but that's something we always talked about. Obviously, you want to play against the best and we respect each other as being two of the best competitors. We never thought we would play together, so we always thought it would be an opportunity, being in the Eastern Conference.

"But right now, that's not something I'm focusing on. We've got a very tough team in front of us. And I'm only focused on Toronto.... You talk to me after we get four wins in this series. Then I'll answer that question."

• A month after George Karl was dismissive about the quality of Hassan Whiteside's on-the-ball-defense, Charles Barkley said last night: "He never blocks his own man's shots. It's always on help. He goes for pump fakes all the time."

I'm not in Toronto to ask Whiteside about this, but he told me disagreed with Karl's assessment. And in his defense, he does get some blocks on the man he's covering, including a block on Jonas Valanciunas in their March game.

• The Heat is now 9-1 all-time in playoff overtime games. Its .900 winning percentage is the highest among the 27 NBA teams that have played in at least three overtime playoff games, per Elias.

• On the other hand, ESPN says each of the last two times that a player has hit a game-tying three with less than a second left have come against the Heat: last night by Kyle Lowry, and 2013 by Paul George.

• Way too early to count on a Heat win in this series, but if you're a longterm planner, Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Finals are tentatively set for Saturday, May 21 and Monday, May 23, both at night. Miami would host those games if Cleveland is the opponent.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 03, 2016

Heat postscripts, reaction from Game 1 win; Dolphins and Marlins news and notes

Reaction from the Heat’s dramatic 102-96 overtime win in Toronto to go up 1-0 in this Eastern Conference semifinal series:

• On a night Miami nearly blew this with mental errors and missed free throws, we also saw the value of having seasoned veterans who can recover from a demoralizing blow like Kyle Lowry’s 39-foot heave that sent the game to overtime.

“From that point on, I was extremely proud of our group, to get the air punctured out of your body and show the mental resolve to come back. That was great mental toughness we showed from there,” Erik Spoelstra said. “The overtime was the most mental toughness we’ve shown. Some of what we went through last series helped us with this.”

Joe Johnson (16 points) immediately posted DeMarre Carroll and scored to start overtime; Luol Deng hit a big basket and Dwyane Wade then hit a fadeaway, putting the Heat ahead six and blunting any Toronto momentum.

“We made some mental mistakes at the end of regulation that a veteran team shouldn’t make," Wade said. "We got in the huddle and regrouped. We won this game on the defensive end of the court.

“If you are going to get a game on the road, you want to get this first one. We didn’t play great by any stretch of the imagination. We'll take this win. We fought for it but we can play better.”

• This was a terrific night for Miami’s backcourt, with Goran Dragic scoring 26 and Wade closing with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and the turnover-forcing defensive play against DeMar DeRozan in the final seconds.

Dragic (10 for 20 from the field) didn’t take a shot in overtime but was largely responsible for the Heat extending its lead in the third.

Dragic outplayed Lowry (7 points, 3 for 13) and it wasn’t close. Dragic has now outscored Kemba Walker and Lowry, 51-18, over the past eight quarters.

The starting backcourts in this series have made 16 All-Star Game appearances: 12 by Wade, and two each by Lowry and DeRozan, who scored 22 tonight. Dragic hasn’t appeared in any All-Star games, but in the past 10 quarters, he has looked like the player who was third team All-NBA two years ago.

"Getting my shots that I want," Dragic said. "I'm proud of our team. CB [Chris Bosh] was huge in that timeout [after regulation], encouraging us."

• More from Wade: "We need Goran on the attack. It makes us a way better team. Every opportunity we have to be in these moments, we continue to learn... We learned from our fourth quarter meltdown as a team. But we've responded every time we had one of those moments. That's why I love about this team. Winning Game 6 [in Charlotte gave] so much confidence to this team."

Wade, on his knee: "I hit the bone and I'm sure it's bruised. I will be fine. I've played with it before, so I will do it again."

• More from Spoelstra: “Couple of those side out of bounds [mishaps late], those are on me. I’ve got to diagram something where we can get it in better spots, not leaving the guys hanging. That’s a credit to Toronto."

On Dragic: “We are at our best when he’s aggressive, making plays for us. What I love about Goran is he’s always focused on doing his job, competing as hard as he can. He doesn’t get caught up in the wild ups and downs that inevitably happen in the playoffs.”

• Jonas Valancunias (24, 14, three blocks) got the better of Hassan Whiteside early on, but Whiteside recovered (from that and an early knee strain) to close with nine points, 17 rebounds and a block.

“After he hit that three, we knew we had to do it again,” Whiteside said, via Sun Sports. (Though Sun isn't allowed to show the games, it is carrying a postgame show.) "They hit some crazy shots. [After Lowry's basket] we said, 'Let's do it again.' This is a big win. They were second in the East. They're not a bad team."

Whiteside said he was worried when he strained his knee early in the game; he went to the locker-room briefly.

"It bothered me throughout the game, but I'm a tough dude," he said. "The team needed my rebounding. I can't let my team down. I don't know what I slipped on. There was something wet on the court. I slipped on some sweat or something. For the first five seconds, I was extremely worried, but as I stood up, the pain kind of went away."

• Lowry has now shot below 40 percent in his first eight playoff games: “We have to believe in him,” Toronto coach Dwayne Casey said. “We do believe he’s going to come out of it. He can do other things. He can get the pace up, push the ball in transition. He’s one of our best screeners.”

Lowry, on his halfcourt heave to tie the game: "It didn't mean anything. We lost the game."

• Casey, on Wade’s key defensive plays: “Those plays were back breakers. In the right place at the right time.”.,..  Casey, on defending Dragic: "We’ve got to do a better job of taking away his penetration. We have done it [previously]. We can do it.”

• The Heat has at least one road win in 18 consecutive playoff series... Wade has scored at least 20 points in 15 consecutive games in Toronto.

Here was the NBA players union's statement on Chris Bosh tonight:

For more on the disagreement between Bosh and the Heat, please click here.

• And this tweet tonight from Canadian politician Norm Kelly: "To all the Miami fans in my mentions: Donald Trump is one step closer to being your President as of tonight. You took the real L."

CHATTER

Matt Slauson, cut by the Bears on Sunday, would make some sense for Miami --– a proven guard who played under Adam Gase last season and was drafted by Mike Tannenbaum in New York.

But as of midday Tuesday, Miami hadn’t reached out to him. At the moment, Billy Turner, Jermon Bushrod, Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas would compete at right guard, with Laremy Tunsil at left guard.

Mel Kiper’s final draft grade for the Dolphins was a B plus. His assessment:

“Let's just go with that for the short version of how the Dolphins ended up with arguably the single-best prospect in the draft all the way down at No. 13. Laremy Tunsil has so many natural gifts for the tackle position, it's just now a matter of where he plays. [Guard initially, Mel.]…  Either way, if he's on the field, Miami gets better.

"Not many people know Xavien Howard, but that's not much of a reach in Round 2 -- he was going to go there. From there, this was all about getting Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase more weapons. Kenyan Drake is Reggie Bush-lite, Leonte Carroo is a productive threat who can make catches down the field, and  Jakeem Grant is a jitterbug who is electric in space if you can get him the ball.  Thomas Duarte is one to watch, a hybrid wideout-tight end split who could develop. The Dolphins didn't do much for their defense, but they sure as heck tried to help their QB and ended up with a major steal early in the process.”

• An NFC scout, who studied and researched Tunsil closely told me this week: “From watching his film, he’s as good as any left tackle prospect I’ve seen in the last four years. He won’t have any problem moving over to guard next season, especially in a zone blocking scheme. I have contacts [at Ole Miss] and nobody, not the coaches or anybody, had anything bad to say about him….

"Offensive linemen are usually the most cooperative group, so it was surprising he wouldn’t run the 40 or do shuttle work at the Combine. I was thinking maybe there’s a little attitude issue there were hiding. It’s very uncommon not to do it.”

• How unusual is it for a catcher to bat leadoff, as the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto did Tuesday? Over the past 20 years, Jason Kendall did it 452 times, but no other catcher did it more than 57 times (John Jaso had 57, Russell Martin was next with 38). Thanks to the good folks at Elias for looking that up for me.

“It’s fun, exciting,” Realmuto said.

• With Dee Gordon suspended for 80 games, Don Mattingly indicated he plans to use Derek Dietrich at second base against right-handers, with Miguel Rojas playing against some lefties.

Justin Bour dislocated his left pinkie in tonight's 7-4 win against Arizona, which pushed Miami over .500 at 13-12. There will be more clarity on his status on Wednesday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 02, 2016

9 a.m.: New information on Bosh/Heat conflict; Hurricane Club event with Richt ends in odd fashion; Richt addresses Walton, roster issues, UM's detailed recruiting plan; UM-UF news; Heat-Raptors

 9 a.m. Bosh update: Ethan and I first reported here recently that there is a disagreement between the Heat and Chris Bosh about the handling of his medical condition (blood clots in his calf that dissipated weeks ago) and that Bosh wants to play during this postseason and does not want to retire. As we reported here last month (by someone with direct knowledge), Bosh had found a doctor who was receptive to potentially clearing him to play, while several others were opposed.

ESPN's Dan Le Batard, closer to the Heat than anyone nationally, shed more light on this on his show yesterday, saying Bosh is considering going to the union to allow him to play. Here's what Le Batard said to say:

"It's a super unusual situation. I can't think of a lot of instances where a sports organization is acting in what appears to be the best interest of the player over their own interests and against the will of the player. From the people I'm talking to, Chris Bosh wants back on the court and now, and the Heat on medical advice are saying absolutely not.... They badly want to get to an Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron and they are telling him, 'No, you cannot work.'...

"The Miami Heat and Chris Bosh are at a crossroads. There is a conflict here that promises to get a little bit messier. Now I'm hearing the Boshs want so badly on the court that they're trying to get the union involved. They found a doctor who might be willing to clear him.... For some reason, he thinks he's good to go and I think it's because he's not showing the symptoms he showed the first time.

"He doesn't feel physically bad, even as doctors are telling him, 'Hey, a recurrence of blood clots can be catastrophic.' You could have a Hank Gathers situation, a die on the basketball court situation, that no waiver is protecting the league from or protecting the Miami Heat from....

“The [Heat] have consulted the foremost authorities in the world on this. And they are being told no. The risk is too large. No when you start talking about waivers and liabilities, those things don't protect you if the catastrophic happens.

"[Bosh] scoured the globe trying to find the doctor who will clear them and they’ve got someone that they feel comfortable about, but that does not pair against the number of other opinions on the other side. They’ve got someone that they feel comfortable with who’s willing to allow him to take the risk, but getting one guy… The people around this story I've spoken to is he's in a super precarious position.

“One of the things is, he’s not feeling symptoms now. He felt symptoms the first time. So he’s looking at this and saying, ‘Why am I not out there? I I feel fine. I’m good.’ They’ve got one (doctor) telling them the thing they want to hear… 

"This is complicated and confusing and fascinating. They were wearing the #BringBoshBack shirts at the game (Sunday). They are putting private pressure on the Heat. They are putting public pressure on the Heat.

“I don’t know exactly what to believe here, OK, but I do trust the organization and I trust the people in the organization who tell me things because I’ve never been lied to by them about much of anything. They’re telling me that they’re protecting him from him, but he doesn’t feel any symptoms."

Here is what Luol Deng had to say about Bosh over the weekend.

 

RICHT'S FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCE

Mark Richt’s first Hurricanes Club speaking appearance as UM's football coach ended in peculiar fashion on Monday night when a woman took issue with Richt’s interpretation of the words swagger or swag.

UM took questions from several fans in attendance at The Casino of Dania Beach, and Richt – when asked about swagger/swag earlier in the evening – told the audience: "Here's the deal with swag. I'll say this: If you want to dance, go to the club. I'm about moving somebody's butt on the other side of the ball. That's what swag is. Swag is not how you dress or how you dance or how you try to talk to somebody [on the other team], all that. That's a bunch of bull to me. Swag is doing your job, doing it well and whipping the guy across the ball.”

In the late stages of the event, the unidentified woman took the microphone intended for fans' questions and instead counseled Richt, gently admonishing him, about the history of swagger at UM, making clear she didn’t agree with his comment about dancing.

Richt, a cool customer, handled the situation well and the woman was not openly disrespectful.

[Quick aside: I agree with Richt on this. Show me how good you are; don't tell me. And the way the NCAA is trying to reel in showboating, there's little room for elaborate celebrations.]

Still, it was an awkward end to a good night, one in which several hundred fans sat and listened to Richt, athletic director Blake James and women’s basketball coach Katie Meier field questions. Men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga was ill and did not attend.

Richt, in his opening remarks, said “it’s an honor to be back at my alma mater… This is the last stop for me. No other place I’d rather be.”

Richt addressed several issues with five reporters afterward:

• Asked directly if suspended Mark Walton will miss any regular season games, Richt said: “I’ll tell you all that whenever I know what to do, decide what to do. We’ll let you know when there is something to report.”

Walton remains on indefinite suspension after a DUI arrest.

• Richt said previously that he would like to add immediately-eligible players at receiver, cornerback and fullback. But he said he has not eyeballed any specific players that UM is targeting.

“Not yet,” he said. “There’s time between now and when we can make that decision. We still have a little bit more time here. I don’t know for sure. Right now, we have at least one [transfer] and we may have more before it’s over with. I’d like to have a better idea of how much [roster room] I’ve got before making that decision.”

UM previously announced the addition of two transfers: receiver Dayall Harris and Texas safety Adrian Colbert. Both are eligible immediately.

• Richt said he has received no indication that any more players are unhappy with playing time and plan to transfer.

“I didn’t hear anything,” he said. “Usually, you hear some kind of rumor by now. If a guy is going, he probably would have been gone by now. I have not heard any of that.”

• UM already has 15 oral commitments for 2017 and “by the time we get there, I would be surprised if we didn’t get over 20,” he said, adding that he couldn’t predict the exact number of scholarships UM will have available because of unknown variables, such as players turning pro after next season.

• On stage and in his private session with reporters afterward, Richt gave some insight into how he’s handling recruiting.

His assistants are out recruiting Monday through Thursday this month, then reconvene on Fridays at UM to evaluate talent.

Players are rated on a scale, with a “1” assigned to blue-chip “no brainers,” “2” to a player worthy of an offer, “3” to a player close to being worthy of an offer, “4” to someone UM won’t take and another category --- “5, I guess,” Richt said --- to players who would be quality walk-ons.

Richt is already recruiting in Georgia, where he’s highly respected, and said there will be a “bunch” of other states that UM coaches will hit.

“All the way down the coast," he said. "There are kids we’ve seen video on that have interest. If we think the interest is sincere, we’ll go. I’m sure we’ll end up in California, all around the country. The Southeast region is where we’re going to be spending most of the time, and right down here in South Florida.”

On recruiting in South Florida and elsewhere, Richt said: “Everybody’s got to establish relationships in areas they’re assigned to. Recruiting is about relationships with the players, but it’s also about relationships with the high school coaches and the people in the communities.

"Everybody is going to be feeling their way around a little bit, creating new friendships, new relationships that will help us recruit their players. It works both ways. Those coaches get excited about their young men getting opportunities to play college ball. We obviously need those kids to help us have success. It’s a good relationship if you do it right. The big thing is we are up front and honest about everything and all the decisions we make. When you build trust, you have a chance to recruit down here."

"We got plenty of 1s, 2s and 3s on the board from all over the state, all over the country. There’s more than we can take, that’s for sure.

“Guys are being very thorough, doing a good job of bringing back the information, creating the relationship with the coaches. We want to be in our state right away. Our original plan was to go out of state to start this past week, but there were so many [South Florida spring football practice sessions] starting on the 24th that once practice started, we wanted to be there [in South Florida]. You’re actually allowed to be on campus twice. You gather information, cross-check with other position coaches and then decide on the second time around who’s going to go to a certain school on the second visit. A lot of them we'll save for the jamborees or the spring game.

“We like to come off the road one day a week to talk about players and make sure we’re going strategically to the right schools and not doing more than we should, by rule.”

Recruiting is more demanding than ever, with Richt telling the crowd that “the wisdom of the NCAA now is we can text them 24 hours a day, so that’s fun.”

Richt told us afterward that: “I’m already real busy with [texting]. It’s just part of it. We were doing the direct messaging on Twitter, but the difference was, the kids didn’t have to receive it. They don’t have to follow you. If they don’t follow you, they don’t have to worry about you. Now, they can’t block anybody from texting them because everybody knows their numbers or they get them pretty easily. It’s going to be tougher on them than on us.

"If I am in church, I will shut my phone off. There aren’t many times [I shut it off]. Like my wife’s graduation [from nursing school] the other night, my phone was off. But most of the time you’ve got to have it on, and quite frankly, if there’s a number I don’t recognize it, I’m usually answering it because it could be a recruit and I can’t call [the person] back, especially if they’re younger. If they’re 2017 class, you might be able to text them, [say] call me back. If they’re younger, if you don’t answer the phone, you can’t even text them to say, ‘Hey, I missed your call. Call me back.’ A lot of those younger kids, you pick up the phone.”

• As we reported last week, UM athletic director Blake James confirmed he is exploring a contingency plan should the stadium formerly known as Sun Life not be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M. Marlins Park and FIU are the local stadiums available that weekend of Sept. 3.

"The Dolphins are fully committed to having the stadium done by the opening game," James said. "They have two preseason games before that. With that said, you recognize things happen with construction projects and there are things you can’t control. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to get a contingency plan in place. That’s something, if needed, we’ll have to roll out and put in place for our program and fans."

Is there a chance the stadium might not be ready? "You would have to ask them…. But my job is to take the necessary steps just in case it’s not ready. From [Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel's] perspective, the project is progressing the way it’s needed."

• James said UM and UF will each get 50 percent of the tickets for the 2019 football opener in Orlando.

• On raising money for an indoor football practice facility, James said: "We’re working on that. That’s something I’m confident we’ll make happen in the near future."

For our preview of the Heat-Raptors series, please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

Exploring the interesting subplots, matchups in Heat-Raptors series

The order, like most things in life, is a matter of a personal preference.

Kenny Smith calls Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic the NBA’s third-best backcourt. Charles Barkley has Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry third, behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollom.

Wherever you rank them, this much is clear: Wade/Dragic and DeRozan/Lowry warrant being part of any discussion of the league’s best half-dozen starting guard combos.

And whichever duo plays better over the next two weeks has a good chance to win this Heat-Raptors second-round playoff series that begins Tuesday night in Toronto.

All four guards enter this matchup off the emotional exhilaration of Game 7 wins. But DeRozan and Lowry aren’t playing at anything close to peak efficiency.

DeRozan averaged 17.9 points against Indiana in the first round but shot only 32 percent from the field, the lowest field-goal percentage in any round of the playoffs by a player averaging at least 15 points per game since Stephen Jackson in 2007, according to Elias. He scored 30 in Game 7 but shot 10 for 32; since 1957, no player who took at least 30 shots in a playoff game shot a worse percentage.

Lowry, meanwhile, shot under 40 percent from the field in all seven games against Indiana and finished the series at 32 percent, including 7-of-43 on threes, while averaging 13.9 points.

The Raptors thus became only the second team in NBA playoff history to win a series despite their top two scorers shooting below 33 percent.

Wade (19 points per game, 47 percent shooting) and Dragic (14.1, 42.4) had more efficient first-round series than their Toronto counterparts, with Wade carrying the Heat in the decisive minutes of Game 6, and Dragic shaking off a mid-series shooting slump to catapult the Heat to a win in Game 7.

“Goran Dragic is my hero,” Chris Bosh tweeted Monday.

The NBA is a relatively small circle, and Wade and Dragic are linked in different ways to their Toronto counterparts.

DeRozan told The Herald’s Ethan Skolnick at the All-Star Game that he “stole the pump fake” from Wade and still considers Wade his toughest cover.

“D-Wade is one of them guys I’ve had so much respect for,” DeRozan said. “Even when I was young, he always gave me a lot of advice, year after year of him seeing me grow as a player. That gave me a lot of confidence early on, to see someone you watched growing up give you insight on everything. … That’s my guy, him and Kobe [Bryant].”

DeRozan averaged more points against the Heat both this season (29.3, on 48.8 percent shooting, in four games) and during his career (21.0, in 24 games) than against any other Eastern Conference team.

Wade, meantime, played three games against Toronto, averaging 18.3 points and 44.9 percent shooting.

DeRozan “reminds me of me,” Wade said earlier this season.

And DeRozan isn’t the only Raptors perimeter player who grew up admiring Wade. Norman Powell, Toronto’s impressive rookie from UCLA, told Toronto media on Sunday night that Wade is “one of the guys that I looked up to, modeled my game after.”

Powell and the Heat’s Josh Richardson were perhaps the NBA’s most impressive second-round rookies this season.

There also is a link between Lowry and Dragic, who were teammates for more than a year in Houston. When Lowry missed 15 late-season games due to injury in March and April of 2012, Dragic seized on that, won Western Conference Player of the Week and parlayed that into a four-year, $30 million deal with Phoenix months later.

Both players shot poorly in the Heat-Raptors season series --- Lowry 33.9 percent while averaging 16.8 points in four games, Dragic 38.9 percent while averaging 11.0.

This series has plenty of other interesting matchups. Among them:

• The battle between 7-foot centers Hassan Whiteside and Jonas Valanciunas. Whiteside averaged 13.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.7 blocks in three games against Toronto. Valanciunas averaged 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in three games against Miami.

Whiteside defended Valanciunas pretty effectively --- one spectacular Whiteside block on a Valanciunas spin move made the rounds on social media. But Valanciunas snuck free for layups when Whiteside left him to defend DeRozan and Lowry on penetrations.

“One thing I think a lot of teams know is I’m good at getting to the basket,” DeRozan said after Toronto’s 112-104 win on March 12 in Air Canada Center, a game that Wade missed. “So, teams like Miami that have got shot blockers, they’re going to try to bring the shot blocker over. So, I just told our bigs: relocate. Try to find an open spot and I’m going to try to find you every time.”

• The Joe Johnson/DeMarre Carroll small forward matchup. Toronto gave Carroll a four-year, $60 million deal after his breakout season with Atlanta, but he was limited to 26 games, largely because of knee surgery, and hasn’t played especially well in the playoffs (8.6 points, 39.6 percent shooting).

Johnson has been somewhat better than Carroll so far this postseason (10.7 points, 45.9 percent shooting) but hasn’t had a breakout game. He scored 28 in that Heat overtime loss in Toronto.

• The battle of the stretch fours. Luol Deng and Patrick Patterson are ideally suited for the contemporary NBA game, which values power forwards with range.

Deng’s 20 three-pointers (on 51.3 percent shooting) easily leads all power forwards in the playoffs, and Patterson’s 10 (on 41.7 percent shooting) ranks third, narrowly behind Serge Ibaka.

The Heat won the first game between the teams this season (96-76 on Nov. 8), but Toronto won the next three. Though Toronto won three of four in the season series, Wade missed one game and Joe Johnson was with the Heat for only one game.

“Every game we played Toronto, except one where we had some guys out, we were able to play them down to the wire,” Deng said.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 01, 2016

11 p.m. update: Updated Heat-Raptors schedule; Lots and lots of postscripts, reaction from Heat's Game 7 romp; Here's how Heat second round schedule looks

Lots of reaction and notes from the Heat's 106-73 romp over Charlotte in Game 7 today:

DWYANE WADE'S THOUGHTS

• Wade denied he was crying during the national anthem, though ABC insisted otherwise after showing video of him.

"I wasn't crying," he said. "I was focused in and sweating, I am sure."

Wade said: "I am not a Prophet or anything, but I knew we were winning this game. I think for me as a leader, I am really just proud of my guys. It is an amazing feeling when you are fighting versus a team who is just as equal as you are and are able to pull it out in a game seven. That shows a lot about you."

Wade, talking big picture: "It feels good. Not making the playoffs last season, I have been here for 13 years and I have been to the playoffs for 11 years. That is what we are used to and I am used to. It was weird to say the least last year. I think for this team, it helped us in a lot of ways and individually it helped me get some rest.

"Every time we had it look like the door is about to close, we somehow, some way open that door and push through it and continue to push forward. This is a great moment for this team.

"I think with Goran [Dragic], we love when he's aggressive. No one is harder on Goran than Goran. He wants to be so great all the time and I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself. I thought Goran did the right thing by coming out this game and putting some pressure on [Kemba] Walker and making it hard on him on the defensive end. Today it was Goran's moment and we loved it. We don't have a lot of selfish guys and it really is about enjoying each other's success and we have been able to do that."

GORAN DRAGIC'S THOUGHTS

• Dragic, after his terrific 25-point game today: "[The paint] was just open. I felt the paint was more open, so I could attack. It was a little easier that the games before....

"I will be honest. It was pressure before the game. We felt like we had the momentum, especially after the win in their place. I felt like they didn't have their legs and were not aggressive enough. We played amazing defensively and offensively. Our 58 rebounds [to Charlotte's 36] helped a lot.'

On guarding Kemba Walker: "It was a tough series. I need to give credit to Charlotte and Kemba. He is such an amazing player. It is tough to stay in front of him. Our team defense did an amazing job."

On his struggles earlier in this series: "Sometimes you're going to be in a tough situation, or in my situation, you are going to get a couple quick fouls. I didn't get a lot of rhythm in the first four games. You just need to stay positive and when that moment comes, you need to be ready to help your team."

ERIK SPOELSTRA'S THOUGHTS

• Spoelstra: "They made us better. Our basketball team needed to go through that [being down 3-2] and be pushed and find a different level which we showed in the past two games. That's when you truly grow when you face adversity together. We've been through a lot this year. But we're still standing. This series was so bizarre [at times]. We started to play a little more like Charlotte and they started to play a little more like us."

On Dragic: "What I love about Goran is he continues to focus on doing his job. Kemba Walker is one of the very best in this league. It's a travesty he's not an All-Star. In a 7-game series, so many things can happen. Sometimes, one guy will get the best of the competition and you have to be mentally stable enough... Goran was not discouraged. He wanted to produce for the guys. One of it was getting through foul trouble early in the series. Competing on the ball would wear on him. And then he found opportunities to really be aggressive. He had the most energy today. Goran had to be a big factor for us tonight."

On Hassan Whiteside: "Hassan got better and we got better from this as well. There aren't that many back-to-the-basket guys, a guy who has an array of moves and experience [like Al Jefferson]. You just don't face that every night, like you did 15 years ago. It was so important for him to be protecting the rim for us. They're going to be running 40, 50 pick and rolls. And then [having to defend Jefferson on top of that]. It was a big challenge for him. And he got better as the series went on. A lot of it was being beat and learning from it. I was proud of him." 

HASSAN WHITESIDE'S THOUGHTS

• Whiteside (10 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks): "We really played Miami Heat defense, got a lot of stops. I just tried to block everything. I woke up this morning and I told my cousin, 'Today, I'm going to try to block everything."

At times, Charlotte players didn't challenge him. "I got a couple early blocks, [was actually credited with one in the first half]," he said. "I think I kind of set the tone: Not today. They know I block a lot of shots. All I need is for them to think about me."

"Just trying to keep [Walker and Jeremy Lin] out of the paint as much as as possible. Al Jefferson, keeping him away from the right hand. I think we surprised him finally with the double-team on one possession."

Whiteside, on Dragic: "Goran was attacking Kemba, attacking their bigs. I told Goran to keep attacking. They were so focused on not stepping up, stopping the ball, so I wouldn't get the ball. He had a lot of wide open layups.

"When Goran was going downhill, I said, 'Hey man, I'm going to screen everybody for you and make sure you and D-Wade stay in the paint.'... With Kemba, we really made him play defense more. He made it a tough series for us. We attacked him so he had to play defense. They don't have any shot-blockers, so we were at the rim."

On what the Heat overcame with adversity in this series: "We needed it. This gave us a better focus. Don't get down on ourselves. After we lost Game 5, guys were down. And I said, 'We're going to steal one in Charlotte.'

On his growth in this series, facing a lot of swarming defenders: "It was good. They have a great coach in Cliff. They made it tough. They screened me all night. It was a little different with Al. He's one of the top post-up centers in the league. It was a real challenge."

Was it frustrating not to get a lot of shots in this series? "This team is probably one of the top two teams in taking away the center's role. This is a team that's going to make it very tough on the center's position to score, the way they pack the paint."

On tonight's Toronto-Indy Game 7: "I want homecourt, so go Indy."

TYLER JOHNSON, JOE JOHNSON AND GERALD GREEN WEIGH IN

• Tyler Johnson, who played for the first time since Jan. 26 and scored five points in six late minutes, said his surgically-repaired shoulder "felt normal.  As my wind starts to pick up again, I won't even think about it. I was able to settle in after the first shot."

He said Josh Richardson "earned" the chance to keep his rotation spot, even with Johnson back. "He became a big-time player and contributor for the team. I understand I'm not going to be able to jump right back in where I was before I got hurt. But as we move on and as we see what's needed, I'll be ready."

• Gerald Green, who had a trying season but scored 16 today: "I'm not going to lie. I never want to not play. It's tough. But I see the bigger picture. I see we're a great team with the addition of Joe Johnson and if I keep working, there might be a game like this where I can help push my team over the edge.... I have a different role with this team than I did my previous years. I had to accept that.

"My teammates trust me a lot. Sometimes they trust me so much, I don't even have trust in myself like that. I will always be ready. Whatever minutes coach gives me, I have to make sure I'm productive."

• Did this reinforce Joe Johnson's decision to sign here? "Definitely. Was planning to come to a team capable of winning it, and coming to a winning franchise. I am glad we are moving on to the second round, but we still have a lot of work left to do."

TRESPASSING INCIDENT

• The Heat said an unidentified boy was charged with trespassing and ejected from the game after running on the court during a stoppage in the fourth quarter. The youngster hugged Justise Winslow's leg.

"I was surprised," Winslow said. "He gave me a little hug, a little tap on the shoulder. It don't know where he went. It was cool."

STEVE CLIFFORD'S THOUGHTS

• Hornets coach Steve Clifford: "Goran changed the whole thing today. He got going early and we really bogged down on offense. Obviously a bad start because of the rebounding game. Playing from behind on the road. They went 10-2 to finish the half. I thought at halftime, with our team, I thought we were fine. And then things got away from us. We obviously didn't play anywhere near where we would have liked to. The 50/50 balls, which have been a problem all year, crushed us.

"We had a great year, for our team. The NBA is about winning in the playoffs. We can take this and learn from it. I am proud of our guys. I thought they played a good series [before] today. Any level, you're going to be viewed by how you do in the playoffs. That's more than fair. We had a terrific regular season. This would have been a huge win for our franchise. I'm still proud of our guys. This wasn't like 4-0."

On Walker, who went 3 for 16: "He got some good pullups particularly in the third. I don't think their coverages were a lot different." Miami sagged off Frank Kaminsky and sent a second defender at Walker at times, but Clifford said the Heat had been doing that in previous games.

On Whiteside: "He had 10 blocks [in a game against us earlier this year]. We limited him to five tonight. Only make him an all-time great. His instincts, his utilization, they are funneling everything to him, so he's close to the basket. He's big, strong, quick and can jump and can cover distance. There's not many guys that can do what he does in this league."

THIS AND THAT

• This was the fourth time in franchise history in which the Heat won a series after trailing 3-2.

• Today was the 122nd postseason Game 7 in NBA history and the home team has won 98 times (80.3 percent).

• It was just the 34th time in 187 chances that a team losing Game 5 of a tied series won the sixth and seventh times. That's 18.2 percent.

• The Heat held the Hornets to 32.1 percent shooting, the third game in which Miami held Charlotte under 40 percent.

• The Heat set a postseason record with a 22-rebound advantage today. Miami's 58 total rebounds were also a franchise playoff record. 

• The Heat's 50 blocks in this series were a franchise record. Whiteside had 24 of them, which broke Alonzo Mourning's Heat record for blocks in a playoff series (21, against Detroit in 2005 Eastern Finals).

• Wade moved past Wilt Chamberlain into 17th on the NBA's all-time postseason scoring list, with 3614. Elgin Baylor is 16th, nine points ahead of Wade. 

• Heat second-round tickets go on sale at 2 p.m. Monday at heat.com and ticketmaster.com. There's an eight-ticket limit per person.

• ESPN reported the Heat complained “to the highest levels of the league office” after Game 4 after what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating with Hornets guard Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin.

Clifford doesn’t buy the Heat’s argument. “I don’t think any of the officiating in any of the games has been a big factor,” Clifford said. “If you want to go through the reports where they categorize missed calls, the Heat don’t have anything to complain about, nor do we.”

On the day after games, the NBA releases a report on officiating calls and non-calls during the final two minutes and “in terms of who has gotten the benefit of more missed calls according to the NBA, then they’ve gotten more than we have,” Clifford said. “I don’t think the officials have been a factor but they [the Heat] don’t have anything to complain about.”

HEAT SCHEDULE

Game 1 – Tue  May 3   Miami at Toronto                   8:00PM     8:00PM      TNT

Game 2 – Thu  May 5   Miami at Toronto                   8:00PM     8:00PM      ESPN

Game 3 – Sat  May 7   Toronto at Miami                   5:00PM     5:00PM      ESPN

Game 4 – Mon  May 9   Toronto at Miami                   8:00PM     8:00PM      TNT

Game 5 * Wed  May 11  Miami at Toronto                   TBD        TBD        TNT

Game 6 * Fri  May 13  Toronto at Miami                   TBD        TBD        ESPN

Game 7 * Sun  May 15  Miami at Toronto                   TBD        TBD        TBD

 

April 30, 2016

Some familiar names among undrafted players reportedly set to sign with Dolphins; Tidbits and analyst reaction on every Dolphins pick today; Update on Josh Richardson's status and Heat nuggets; More feedback on Dolphins' picks

9 p.m. update: Here's a running list of undrafted players reportedly joining the Dolphins, some reported elsewhere by reporters in their college home towns:

1) UM WR Rashawn Scott (can confirm this). 52 catches, 695 yards, 5 TDs last season.

2) Boise State LB Tyler Gray. 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, one blocked punt last season.

3) Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn. 47 for 53 on extra points last season (after going 38 for 38 the year before) and 16 for 20 on field goals last season.

4) Florida Tech tight end Gabe Hughes. 32 catches, 566 yards, 3 TDs last season.

5) FAMU LB Akil Blount. 75 tackles, two INTs (both returned for TDs) last season. Son of Hall of Famer Mel Blount.

6) Kentucky DE Farrington Huguenin. 52 tackles, 1.5 sacks last season.

7) Temple WR Brandon Shippen. 20 catches for 288 yards and 1 TD last season. He's 5-11.

8) San Jose State long snapper Ryan DiSalvo.

9) Louisville MLB and former Homestead High standout James Burgess, according to Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier Journal. Burgess had 90 tackles, 9 TFL, one INT, 4 passes defensed last season. Has 260 tackles in his career, plus four sacks, three fumble recoveries and seven picks. Had 43 career starts and was third team All-ACC last season.

Burgess, 6 feet and 236 pounds, told the Courier-Journal that he was shocked not to be invited to the Combine. His height likely contributed heavily to him being undrafted. But he has good mobility was highly productive in college. He will be reunited with former college teammate DeVante Parker.

10) Toledo center Ruben Carter.

11) Pittsburgh cornerback Lafayette Pitts. A four-year starter who had 30 tackles, 1 sack and one INT last season. He had four career picks and 25 passes defended. His agent told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that 16 teams called and he had four offers.

 

DOLPHINS DRAFT REPORT

The Dolphins dumped cornerback Jamar Taylor today, basically giving him away to Cleveland and exchanging seventh round picks as compensation, with Miami moving from 250 to 223 in the seventh round.

The Dolphins don't use their 30 permitted non-local player predraft visits as subterfuge. They ended up drafting 25 percent of the players that I reported on my recent 20 member pre-draft Dolphins visit list, in addition to Davie native Brandon Doughty, who worked out for them on their local day. 

Updating the Dolphins' picks today, with what analysts are saying:

• The Dolphins took UCLA tight end/receiver Thomas Duarte with their final pick in the seventh round. He's a player they brought to Davie. He didn't play as a traditional tight end last year, sometimes lining up in the slot or outside. He had 53 catches for 872 yards and 10 TDs in 2015.

A 6-3 receiver at UCLA, he has 17 career receiving TDs.

ESPN's Todd McShay: "You watch the one game against Su'a Cravens, who was drafted in the second round, and he won the battle. This is an intriuging player. A hybrid receiver/tight end who improved every year at UCLA. This past past, averaged almost 17 yards per catch. Missed two games with a hamstring earlier in his career but has been durable otherwise. His measurables are almost identical to Jordan Reed coming out of Florida in 2013. This guy has a chance to be a really good contributor. I'm surprised he's still on the board."

Mel Kiper: "Love his body control, how he adjusts to poorly thrown ball. Miami has made a concerted effort to help Ryan Tannehill. Five offensive players brought in."

CBS' Rob Rang: "Duarte elected to leave after a junior season in which he led the Bruins with 10 receiving touchdowns and earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors. His size and catch radius make him an imposing threat down the seam and one who could continue to be effective in the red zone at the NFL level.

He's a bit of a one-trick pony, winning on crossing routes and down the seam because of his size, and may need to impress in workouts to counter suspicious that his numbers were inflated by Rosen and former UCLA offensive coordinator (now at Texas A&M) Noel Mazzone's scheme.

"Imposing frame with broad shoulders, long arms and big hands. Presents obvious matchup problems due to his size and large catch radius. Alters his gait off the ball, showing some savvy as a route-runner with subtle fakes and shoulder-dips. Accelerates smoothly for a receiver of his size, showing enough speed to surprise as a vertical threat down the seam. Generally reliable hands, extending and pulling in passes outside of his frame consistently.

"[But] Heavy-footed and possesses only average straight-line speed for the receiver position. Isn't as tough to tackle in the open field as his frame would suggest with smaller defenders too often able to tackle him on their own.

Lacks the quickness and agility to make defenders miss and to consistently generate yards after the catch on his own. Will drop an occasional pass due to lapses in concentration, especially when he senses a big hit coming."

• Miami chose Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty with the 223rd pick, and he will compete with Matt Moore (the front-runner for the backup job), Logan Thomas and Zac Dysert for a backup job or two behind Ryan Tannehill. Adam Gase has been non-committal about whether he will keep two QBs or three.

A three-year starter in Western Kentucky's spread offense, Doughty left school with 111 touchdown passes (15th all-time in FBS) and was 10th all-time with a 68.6 completion percentage.

Doughty was the third quarterback in FBS history with 4,000 passing yards and 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

He threw 49 touchdowns and 10 picks in 2014 and 48 and 9 in 2015.

Kiper: "You look at the limitations. He doesn't have the big arm. First half against LSU, he struggled. I like the second half he played a lot better. Throws an accurate ball. Does he have enough arm strength to throw into tight windows? As a backup, third quarterback, maybe has a chance to stick with an NFL roster.

McShay: "Most attempts of any FBS attempts past two seasons. Played in pass happy offense. Ball comes out of hands smoothly. Throws a crisp ball. Interesting developmental prospect."

CBS' Dane Brugler, on Doughty: "A three-year starter in Western Kentucky's spread offense, Doughty was an ideal fit for the up-tempo scheme that relied on a quick release and smart decisions, making most of his reads pre-snap and identifying soft spots in coverage. He has improved functional pocket mobility and carries himself like a coach.

"Doughty has an adequate arm, but relies on touch and timing over velocity and struggled to speed up his process vs. better competition on his schedule. He got away with some bad habits at the college level that he won't be able to in the NFL and although he's very impressive when in rhythm, it's the opposite when that rhythm is taken away.

"Benefited from a wide open offense with a lot of throws within seven yards of the line of scrimmage and plays after the catch. Ball security has room for improvement (13 career fumbles). Older prospect and will be a 25-year-old NFL rookie. ... He projects as a mid-to-late round prospect with the NFL ceiling of a backup, drawing some on-field comparisons to A.J. McCarron."

• Miami took Penn State safety/cornerback Jordan Lucas at No. 204 and the Dolphins want him to play corner. He said he played corner for three years in college and safety for one.

He had three picks in 2013, none the past two seasons. But he had four career sacks and 11 tackles for loss and 23 passes defended, plus three forced fumbles, in 34 career games.

He played in only nine games last season because of a right shoulder injury that prematurely ended his college career and kept him out of the Senior Bowl.

With that in mind, it's notable his passes defended dropped each of the pass three years, from 13 to 9 to 3.

Todd McShay: "He is versatile, played all over, started his career at corner, switched to safety. At Pro Day, ran 4.45, 38 inch vertical. A lot of versatility here."

Mel Kiper: "He was a solid player. When you run under 4.5 like he did, vertical is 40 inches, that means you're not just a very good college player, but you can translate that to the NFL."

Here's what CBS' Dan Brugler said about him: "Understands field leverage in run support, taking proper angles. Explodes through his hips as a tackler, putting his hat on the ball. Eager blitzer and does a nice job in space to get his target on the ground. Can open his hips and turn to run with receivers in the slot.  Position versatility with starting experience at both cornerback and safety (34 career starts)."

From a weakness standpoint, "Average at-best athletically with rigid change of direction and transition skills. Adequate frame, but lack of length limits his defense radius. Eyes pay rent in the backfield and his pass coverage can't afford the bills. Impatient feet lead to false steps, misreading the route and losing spacing with his man. Too easily controlled once blocked, struggling to break free. Lacks the secondary quickness to work off blocks or make up once receivers gain a step. Marginal ball-skills and struggled to finish interceptions."

And overall, Brugler said: "Lucas is a competitive run defender with a nose for the ball, understanding football geometry to track and find the quickest route from A-to-B. Although his background at corner is appealing, Lucas lacks the twitchy athleticism and ball-hawking instincts to consistently hold up on an island vs. NFL receivers, which will limit his versatility as a pro. He has the mentality and appetite for football that will serve him well on special teams, but projects as bottom of the roster defensive back."

• Miami traded up in the sixth round today for Texas Tech receiver/return Jakeem Grant, who we mentioned a couple weeks ago was one of only a few receivers the Dolphins brought to team headquarters before the draft (Dolphins third-rounder Leonte Carroo was another).

Grant is just 5-7 but put up terrific numbers last season: 90 catches for 1268 yards and 10 TDs and for his career (254-3286, 27 TDs). But he also dropped nine passes among 124 targets.

He averaged 26.1 yards on 39 kickoff returns last season and 24.9 in his career. He says he can return punts but didn't do that at Texas Tech. 

Adam Gase said Jarvis Landry would handle return duties until Miami found someone capable of replacing him to lessen Landry's workload. The Dolphins now have two very good options in Kenyan Drake and Grant.

Miami traded the 196th and 227th picks to Minnesota to get the 186th pick (Grant).

Todd McShay's assessment: "A quick guy, a guy who I think if you put the ball in his hands, he can create. Over the course of his career, productive run after catch ability is really good. Short area, first couple steps after the catch, he's really good. In the return game is where he was outstanding. Undersized slot, like a lot of Texas Tech receivers. Quick off the line. Really good vision in the open field. Will never be your outside receiver or really good in the red zone. But there's a place for him in the league, especially if he can prove to be reliable as a returner. Has ability to make guys miss, and Miami needs more of those guys as a receiver in the return game." 

NFL.com's Gil Brandt (the former Cowboys executive): "He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 and 4.38 seconds. He had a 36 1/2-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot-9 broad jump. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.06 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.01 seconds. He also performed 15 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. With that speed and quickness, Grant could get a look as a return specialist in the NFL.

Grant will compete with Griff Whalen, Matt Hazel and anybody else added for the No. 5 receiver job.

Check back for more.

MORE DOLPHINS CHATTER 

The Dolphins’ first three draft picks conveniently addressed their biggest needs: Laremy Tunsil (the Dolphins told Branden Albert that Albert will play left tackle, Tunsil left guard), cornerback Xavien Howard and running back Kenyan Drake.

“You’ve got to like what the Dolphins are doing,” NFL Net’s Mike Mayock said.

Analysis of their Friday/Saturday picks:

• The good news on Howard: He allowed receptions on just 37.3 percent of his 75 targets, third-best among draft-eligible corners, and had nine combined interceptions in 2014 and ’15.

“When he gets it right, he looks like Richard Sherman,” Pro Football Focus said. 

The bad news: “He was beaten on multiple plays that weren’t completed for whatever reason, beaten a lot deep but not punished for it with completions,” PFF said. “Most of these plays are when he allows the receiver a free release off the line and then finds himself chasing the play. He lacks awareness at times, whether he is late to look for the football or just loses track of it entirely.”

Mike Mayock said: “His tape is highly conflicting. It's either really good or really bad. If you look at his bowl game against North Carolina, he can't find the football."

• Drake: Mel Kiper and Todd McShay agree that he is a situational back, which is good news for Jay Ajayi, who would like to start.

Drake averaged 6.3 yards per carry at Alabama in his career, 12.4 per catch and 26.6 per kickoff return. He lined up as a receiver on 25 percent of his snaps last season, PFF said.

McShay, on Drake: "He's the modern day crazy legs. You watch him on tape: His feet are always going. I thought he was the No. 1 guy in this entire draft at the running back position in agility and acceleration. He is explosive. He's a home run hitter. He struggled to stay healthy in his career. But if you can manufacture touches for him, he's going to provide you with some big plays as a running back and in the return game. Home run hitting ability as a receiver as well working in the slot. Had that 95 yard touchdown in the national championship game against Clemson. I like where he comes off the board, the perfect spot for him.... he's not going to be your full time guy."

Kiper on Drake: "What he is is a poor man's Reggie Bush. That's what he was considered to be. The return ability,the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, the home run play. If he can just stay healthy. Gives Ryan Tannehill a key weapon provided he can stay healthy."

PFF's assessment: "Drake is a finesse-style runner who has more straight-line speed than quick-cutting ability. Still, his 44 missed tackles forced on 142 offensive touches last year prove he can be elusive. He will be an asset as a returner and may make his mark more as a receiving threat out of the backfield than as a runner, as he won’t be an every-down back. He is a fast player who is capable of making big plays and should be given a few offensive touches per game. He’s certainly worth a Day-3 draft pick."

• Receiver Leonte Carroo. With a 19.5 career average and 29 touchdown receptions, he projects in Miami’s top four with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. He had only two drops on 56 targets last season and his 7.2 yards after catch average in 2014 and ’15 was very good.

“He's built almost like a running back,” McShay said. “Does a good job getting off the press. Good overall ball skills. Highly productive at Rutgers. Ran a 4.5 solid time, not a great time. I like him in traffic. Really thrives in traffic when the ball is in the air, contested catches. He can generate big plays after the catch. Really good in the open field.”

Said Mayock: “When he gets the ball in his hands, he's angry. He's got a little edge to him that I like.”  

HEAT CHATTER AND A MARLINS NOTE

• An MRI on Josh Richardson's injured left shoulder came back negative, according to a source, and he has told reporters he intends to play in Game 7, though he's listed as questionable. Richardson had a stress reaction in his left shoulder as a result of trying to fight through a Cody Zeller screen in Game 6.

Richardson told reporters after Game 6, including our Manny Navarro, that he intends to play Sunday and still felt that way today, according to a source. But a friend indicated he was still in a bit of discomfort today. It will be up to Richardson about whether he believes he can play through the discomfort. And he clearly wants to play.

Also, there's also a very small chance of tearing the labrum if he plays, but again, it's a small chance. The MRI showed no tear or dislocation. The Heat might put him through drills Sunday morning to see how the shoulder reacts, including his mobility.

"You have to be responsible to the athlete," Erik Spoelstra said before the MRI result was known. "If you leave it up to Josh, he said there's no question he's playing. And that may be the case. But the responsible thing to him and to us is to get it checked out, see what it is and take the next course of action."

If Richardson is limited or has difficulty playing, Spoelstra could use Dwyane Wade or Gerald Green as the ball-handler when Goran Dragic is resting. Is Spoelstra comfortable using Tyler Johnson, who hasn't played in three months?

"Yeah, if that's necessary," Spoelstra said. "Tyler has done a lot of work in the last three weeks. He's going to get another workout tonight. He keeps on kidding me since I mentioned he would be available in an emergency basis. Virtually every time I bump into him, he said he's seen a lot of emergencies out there. If that's what's necessary, we'll use him. If it means somebody else has to play 40 plus minutes, we'll go that way as well."

• How unusual were Dwyane Wade’s late-game threes? Not only was his 0 for 21 three-point drought the longest of his career, but he was 0 for 8 on clutch threes during the season (NBA defines clutch as the final five minutes with a margin of five points or less). Only Shabazz Muhammad (0 for 9) was worse.

But on all shots, Wade has made five of the Heat’s seven clutch baskets in this series, after shooting a strong 45.5 percent in the clutch this season (third among starting shooting guards, behind only Avery Bradley and Bradley Beal). Forward LeBron James shot 42.4 percent, by comparison.

Who else do you want shooting for the Heat if Game 7 is decided in the final moments?

Luol Deng, who was second in the league in clutch threes this season (11 for 18, 61.1 percent). And Hassan Whiteside shot an NBA-best 76 percent in the clutch (19-25, minimum 20 shots), though Miami is at risk if he’s fouled. (He was 13 for 22 on clutch free throws).

Joe Johnson warrants a late-game shot but he's 7 for 21 in the clutch since joining the Heat (without a playoff attempt), and Goran Dragic 2 for 10 in the clutch since the All-Star break, including 0 for 2 in this series.

• You know how many “clutch” minutes Udonis Haslem played all season before being on the court for the final 2:54 Friday? Four! Players he’s guarding have shot five for seven against him in this series, but he impacts the game by rebounding, setting hard screens and taking charges.

"It became pretty clear last night, the game became medieval," Spoelstra said. "Those are the moments I turn to UD and Dwyane. We've been in over a hundred of these playoff games and when games are like that and it becomes about the trenches, the effort plays, the toughness plays, the charges, the in-traffic rebounds, I have no more trust in anybody than UD."

Ask Johnson who he has gained the most appreciation for since joining the Heat and he quickly names Haslem.

“Just the positive energy he brings,” Johnson said. “He's always prepared, always talking and staying in peoples' ear and in our ear on what he sees on the court. That's leadership. Those are the things you take for granted.

“I had the luxury to play with Kevin Garnett. He's the same way. He was probably only going to play 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes.

"He may not score a basket, but his energy was always a constant. I put Udonis in that same frame as far as telling his teammates and helping us out in any situation possible.”

• Adam Conley is now an historical footnote: the first pitcher in history to be removed from a start with a lead after pitching at least 7 2/3 hitless innings.

“No, it was easy right there,” Don Mattingly said of the decision to pull Conley with the Marlins ahead, 5-0. “I knew he couldn’t finish. We weren’t going to let him finish. That was really easy, actually.

“If he had an easy inning there, an eight- or nine-pitch inning, we probably would think about it. But when he gets to that point, you know he’s not going to be able to finish the game. This kid has a chance to be really special so there’s no way, at this point in the season that we’re going to let him go to 130 [pitches].”

Conley's reaction: “There’s a big part of me that did [have a problem with the decision]. I don’t ever like coming out of a game, no matter what the circumstances are. But considering where I was at in the game, I knew what was going on. I knew coming into the eighth I was at about 100, so I was really, really happy he let me go out for the eighth.”
 
More importantly to the Marlins, he is their first high-strikeout lefty starter in a decade, since Scott Olsen (and to a lesser extent, Dontrelle Willis) in 2006. Conley’s 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings ranks 10th among all lefty starters this season.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 29, 2016

Lots of Heat reaction after Game 6; What analysts say about new Dolphins Howard, Drake, Carroo; Dolphins privately reveal offensive line plans; Dolphins' Day 2 draft options; Mark Walton update

Heat reaction from tonight's Heat season-saving 97-90 win in Charlotte, forcing a Game 7 at 1 p.m. Sunday in Miami, on ABC:

• Dwyane Wade, after his masterpiece tonight, including two late threes, another difficult jumper and a blocked shot: "I haven't looked at Twitter. My wife said anything on Twitter? You've got two teams who are very equal. It takes special performances, big shots.... Coming down the stretch, offensively I had it going in the first but in the second half, my offense just left me, my stroke left me. Last couple minutes of the game, I don't even think about that. Coach put the ball in my hands, ran certain sets. There came a point I had to make shots. Thank God I got something to go in.

"They gave me [the threes]. This is a good defensive team [Charlotte]. You are not going to always get what you want. They gave me the first one, think it was four seconds on the shot clock, so I was able to line up and get it to go. Once I saw one fall, anybody who's a scorer knows the basket gets a little bigger. Once that first three went in, my confidence rose. I had to make some tough shots. Courtney, Kemba were on me. Tonight in Game 6, I trust my teammates, I love them. [But] if we were going to lose, I was going to go out shooting tonight... I've been itching to get a couple [threes] up."

Wade said he stayed and shot threes (with Dorell Wright) after practice yesterday. "I had confidence to shoot them tonight. Everything happens for a reason, I guess." 

Wade said: "You have to love what Game 7 is. At this point in my career, I play for these moments.... The playoffs is what makes you feel alive, whether it's winning or losing, in between. It makes you feel alive. Game 7 is the best feeling to be a part of. It's going to be tough one. Either one of these games could have gone either way. I'm glad we got it on our home floor. I hope our crowd is ready to give us the extra boost and extra energy. But we have to go out there and players win the game. They're not going to give us anything."

Wade and buddy Udonis Haslem spoke today: "We've been a part of making this organization a championship organization. We've been to five Finals in 10 years. We know how hard it was to do that. We were trying to get the guys who haven't been here to understand how hard it is to be successful.... Just looking at UD, sitting talking about we don't have many more of these opportunities. We're not 22, 23 no more where we can just say we got next year. We have to seize these moments. I love that he got an opportunity to get in there tonight. He's going to fight, do the right things. Took a charge, got big rebounds, set great screens. That's what we've been doing for 13 years. We knew we had to verbally lead but with our play [also]."

• Erik Spoelstra: "These last three games have been like this. A very competitive series. We had our response tonight. They had their response the other night. Now the two best words in the English language: Game 7."

On Wade tonight: "It's the experience of competition, he understands. Seven game series are hard. Dwyane feels most alive when the competition is at its highest. He was brilliant at both ends. And obviously, that block at the end saved that possession."

On Wade's two key late threes: "I have seen Dwyane enough over the years that it just becomes winning plays, whatever those may be. It brights the best out of it. He works on it all the time. He just never shoots it. But when it's needed most."

"I thought both our points guards did a great job on Walker. He made big time plays. It was splitting our pick-and-roll defense. Against very good competition, you have to find ways to overcome. He was very good tonight."

On Udonis Haslem: "I thought his pick and roll defense was good. Kemba Walker may it look otherwise. He's played against everybody. He's an excellent team defender. He's also savvy and doesn't get sick at sea when you're trying to run offense."

And Spoelstra on Charlotte: "They have six months of incredible habits. They don't turn it over. Finishing possessions off."

• Luol Deng, to Sun Sports' Jason Jackson: "We play hard, we love each and we didn't want our season to end. We have one more game to take care of business. I've seen him do that for many years. He carried us at the end. I was locked in, didn't matter whether it was jump shots or hustling back. I didn't care. I didn't want my season to end."

• Udonis Haslem, who played late after Whiteside fouled out, to Jason Jackson: "I trust every decision he makes and every shot that he takes. I said [to teammates] if we lose, we're coming out on stretchers and wheelchairs."

• Hassan Whiteside, to Jackson: "When we get out there blocking shots, we're a different defensive team. I told the guys, 'They're making me play post defense every single play.' So I said, 'Let's [go at them]. I got two jump hooks down there and it kind of changed things. D-Wade has been doing that since I was in high school. Just glad I could witness it."

• Steve Clifford: "Dwyane Wade showed why he is one of the great competitors and winners in our league in a long time. Listen, hats off to them. They played better than we did. The rebounding game was a big problem. Listen, we've won 2 of the last 4 times we've gone there.

"They've got guys that go hard to the glass. We have to start hitting again. We've got to hit. Let's face it now, in the first half, we didn't play with nearly the purpose, defensive [intensity] we did for most of the year. They took full advantage."

Check back for more shortly.

DOLPHINS PICK CARROO

The Dolphins traded into the late stages of the third round (8th) to take Rutgers' Leonte Carroo, who we mentioned previously was one of a very select group of receivers who were brought to team headquarters recently. The Dolphins gave up a sixth-rounder this year and a third and fourth next year.

In just eight games last season, he posted insane numbers: 55 catches for 1086 yards and 10 touchdowns and a 19.7 average per reception.

He has 122 career catches, 29 TDs and an impressive 19.5 yards per catch average. "I catch the ball well, very physical. I am a much faster Anquan Bolden."

What analysts say about him:

CBS' Dane Brugler and Rob Rang: Strengths: "Solidly built with firm muscle definition for his frame. Displays terrific athleticism and body control to be a threat all over the field, changing gears well with vision to weave through defenses.

"Detailed route-runner who understands how to fool defensive backs in his routes, using timing to bait and get the hips of defenders turned in his breaks. He also proven an impact player on special teams coverage.

Weaknesses: "Only ordinary height and length. Arrested and charged Sept. 12 with simple assault under domestic violence and suspended two games by the program.

"Carroo isn't a workout warrior, but his film speaks volumes and is the reason he's a top-five senior wide receiver prospect for the 2016 class. At Senior Bowl practices, Carroo showed off an exciting blend of initial quickness, agility and acceleration to sneak behind the defense, as well as strong hands and the vision to track passes over his shoulder."

NFL Net's Mike Mayock: "He's got 4.5 speed. I think he's a really competitive kid too. And when he gets the ball in his hands, he's angry. He's got a little edge to him that I like. If you look at Miami, they will Tunsil in the first round, Howard, a long corner in the second, then they get two playmakers in the third: Kenyan Drake from Alabama and this kid right here. You've got to like what the Dolphins are doing."

 

DOLPHINS PICK DRAKE

10 p.m. update: The Dolphins took running back Keynan Drake, a player we've mentioned that Miami liked and brought to team headquarters recently. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry at Alabama in his career, 12.4 per catch and 26.6 per kickoff return.

"Intriguing," Mike Mayock said. "You look at him, and he's got value as a third-down, change of pace back. He's got value in the kick return game. Even has value in the coverage game as a gunner. So if I'm a GM, which I'm obviously not, and I'm not qualified, but I'm more intrigued with Drake than I am with Derrick Henry, because he can do more jobs."

Jamie Newberg's assessment on CBSSports.com: "This running back can bring a lot of versatility to an offense because of all the things he can do. First, Drake has good size and excellent speed. This is a quick athlete who can beat you up the middle, around the perimeter or in the passing game.

"Drake is one of the SEC's most explosive players. He has good vision and terrific feet. Runs with patience, allowing things to set up in front of him before he makes his move. He can see things evolve during the play and react quickly. Drake can accelerate to top speed quickly. He loves to find space and bounce things to the outside. Runs with good balance and decent power. What's impressive is that he consistently made explosive plays against some of the nation's best and fastest defenses.

"Drake has also shown the ability to really turn into a receiver out of the backfield. There are no linebackers that can stay with him and he's bigger than many safeties. He's a rare threat because he can get behind a secondary or take a short pass the distance.

"Drake has battled some injuries (broken leg and arm) during his time in Tuscaloosa. He has worked hard to get back on the field, but scouts will question whether he's injury prone and can take the pounding of the NFL.

"While Drake has good size, you would like to see him run with some more strength and power, especially in the tackle box. He has to show more durability and the ability to protect his quarterback with more consistency in pass pro and blitz pickup.

"Drake has a chance to be a very good pro, especially if he ends up with a franchise with a creative offensive coordinator. There are so many ways you can utilize his abilities in both the run and pass game. He may not be an every-down back in the NFL, but Drake is a guy who can target with 10-15 touches each Sunday.

"He's too explosive not to impact an offense and a guy that can break off big chunk plays. Look for Drake to test well and for his stock to rise leading up to the draft. He is a potential Day Two pick.

DOLPHINS PICK HOWARD

7:30 p.m. update: The Dolphins tonight moved up in the draft to select Baylor 6-1 cornerback Xavien Howard, a player we've been mentioning that they brought to team headquarters and really liked.  Howard had four picks last season and five the year before.

What's more, quarterbacks had just a 32.4 passer rating in his coverage area, according to Pro Football Focus.

He allowed receptions on just 37.3 percent of his 75 targets, which is third-best among draft-eligible corners, PFF said. And he ran a 4.41 in the 40. But he did allow two TDs on vertical routes last season.

"This is a prototype player for us," Dolphins GM Chris Grier said. "He checks all the boxes for us. We spent a lot of time with him. It's a premium need for us. This guy is ultra competitive. He's an alpha."

Miami gave Baltimore a fourth-round pick to move up from 42 to 38 in the draft to take Howard.

What analysts say about him:

• ESPN's Louis Riddick: "One of my favorite players in this draft, a big physical corner. A guy who is very good playing at the line of scrimmage, playing press coverage Really challenges receivers down the field. Good finishing skills. Can finish in all parts of the field, whether short, intermediate or deep. A guy who will support against the run. I like this. The Miami Dolphins needed a guy of this profile. They needed to get bigger, get more physical. They needed a guy who will challenge receivers all over the field. I like this pick for them.

"They're getting premium players. They got a franchise left tackle [in Laremy Tunsil, who will start his career at guard. Howard] going to need some refinement. I like these two picks.

• ESPN's Mel Kiper: "Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech game, he doesn't make plays on the ball you expect him to make. He's in position but he doesn't locate the ball and make the play. A little sloppy in terms of technique. Upside with him. Quick feet, smooth hips. Willing tackler. He's intriguing. He's got the size, he's got the physical component. He has shown the big play ability. He needs a quality defensive backs coach."

• ESPN's Todd McShay: "He's at his best in press, whether press zone or press man. I saw some drops but I saw some big plays, too. Vance Joseph is a 4-3 press man, press zone defensive coordinator. That's what they want to do with their cornerbacks. That's exactly what Howard excels with. I think it's a really good fit for this specific defense of the Miami Dolphins."

• CBS' Rob Rang says he's similar to Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell: "With his broad frame, Howard looks more like an NFL safety than a traditional cornerback, but he possesses the natural coverage skills and confidence to remain on the perimeter. After redshirting his first season and seeing limited action in 2013, he emerged as a standout in 2014 and hasn't looked back since, developing into one of the Big 12's best all-around corners. With patience, he should develop into a starter at the next level, as well, projecting best in a press-heavy scheme."

• NFL Net's Mike Mayock: "This is another polarizing conversation. He's a long corner. He's got starter's traits. You can see his size, his feet, his change of direction. His tape is highly conflicting. It's either really good or really bad. If you look at his bowl game against North Carolina, he can't find the football."

 

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5 p.m.: The Dolphins have called left tackle Branden Albert and informed him that he will remain at left tackle and that they project Laremy Tunsil as the left guard, according to a source with direct knowledge.

(So Armando, as usual, was on target in reporting last night that the Dolphins see Tunsil as a guard this season barring an injury to one of their starting tackles.)

Albert received a call from someone from the top of the organization so that he wouldn’t be concerned about the ramifications of last night’s pick.

The Dolphins feel very good about four starters: Albert and Tunsil on the left side, Mike Pouncey at center and Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.

They plan to let Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, Jermon Bushrod and perhaps Jamil Douglas compete for right guard. They’re hopeful one of those will emerge as a quality starter, with Turner perhaps the best option of the four.

But they also haven't ruled out drafting another guard in the next two days if they see one they like.

Those eight players, combined with new backup left tackle Sam Young, project as the Dolphins’ nine offensive linemen, though none of the backups is assured of a roster spot if they're beaten out in camp.

So who’s left for the Dolphins tonight as possibilities at picks 42 and 73 tonight and later picks on Saturday?

A look at some options, by position:

• Cornerback: The Dolphins need to pick at least one tonight, and if they stick to their preference for tall corners, that would mean a potential choice among Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller (Mel Kiper has been campaigning for Miami to take him), Baylor’s Xavien Howard (he visited team headquarters and Miami is very intrigued), Samford’s James Bradberry, LSU’s Jalen Mills, LSU’s Rashard Robinson and Southeast Louisiana’s Harlan Miller, Virginia’s Maurice Canady and Northern Iowa’s Diondre Hall.

All of those players are at least six feet. Some will be available in the middle rounds.

Fuller and Howard would be justifiable options at No. 42. If the Dolphins are OK with drafting a smaller corner, Clemson’s 5-10 Mackensie Alexander would be an option.

Among corners that visited the Dolphins: Fuller, North Carolina Central’s Ryan Smith, Bradberry, USC’s Kevon Seymour and LSU’s Robinson.

• Safety: The Dolphins like USC’s Su’a Cravens and see him having upside as a safety, though he also can play linebacker. As we noted, they also like Clemson’s TJ Green, among others. And Ohio State’s Vonn Bell, a safety who can play corner, also would be very worthy of consideration at 42.

"Remember that Bell is seen as a potential corner, even though he was a safety for Urban Meyer," Mel Kiper said.

And Todd McShay says Bell “has elite cover skills for a safety as he has the fluidity to shadow slot receivers, the speed to run with tight ends and the range to play center field. In fact, he covers so well that he could line up at corner. He also has the instincts and ball skills to be a playmaker in the NFL. Bell is not big enough to line up in the box and he's not a big hitter, but he is an adequate run-stopper who closes well in pursuit.”

• Linebacker: With Myles Jack’s doctor saying he doesn’t need microfracture knee surgery, he figures to come off the board fairly early tonight. Whether he lasts to 42 is highly debatable.

Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland said the Dolphins like him, but his stock reportedly has been hurt by reports of an enlarged aorta. “He’s already a steal as the No. 24 player on my Big Board,” Mel Kiper said.

Also keep an eye on Boise State outside linebacker Kamalei Correa; the Dolphins have shown some interest. And Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence, despite baggage, would be good value in Miami’s range. LSU's Deion Jones is worthy of discussion.

On Correa, McShay said: "A dynamic linebacker, Correa's greatest strength might be his ability to get after the quarterback as he has the burst, bend and closing speed to regularly threaten off the edge."

The Dolphins also like Clemson linebacker BJ Goodson, who visited.

• Defensive end: The Dolphins summoned Clemson’s Kevin Dodd to Davie a couple weeks ago, and he would be good value at 42 if there. Miami also has spent time with BYU’s Bronson Kaufusi, a potential second- or third-rounder. And Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah and Illinois’ Jihad Ward (a defensive tackle who also can play end) figure to go in Miami’s range.

• Running back: Derrick Henry is the only back that most pundits consider worthy of a second round pick. Some consider Utah’s Devontae Henry a potential second-rounder, and he visited Dolphins headquarters.

Miami could wait until the third round, or possibly the fourth, to select Arkansas’ Alex Collins or Alabama’s Kenyan Drake (who both visited team headquarters), UCLA’s Paul Perkins, UF’s Kelvin Taylor or Notre Dame’s CJ Prosise, among others.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Miami takes a tight end in the next 48 hours, though round two seems too high. South Carolina’s Jerrell Adams and Arkansas’ Hunter Henry are two projected as possible second-rounders. And Miami has taken a liking to UCLA’s Thomas Duarte, a potential mid-rounder.

• For analysts' reaction on the Tunsil pick and more draft nuggets, please click here.

• For a Tunsil video, click here.... For Chris Grier's comments on Tunsil, click here.

UM NOTE

Though a UM player tweeted that Mark Walton would be suspended three games after his DUI arrest, no decision has been made about whether his current suspension will continue into the season. UM won’t make that decision until it has all the facts on his situation.

Mark Richt and Walton talked this week, and UM people expect he will remain on the team, with his status at risk only if he is arrested for something else. WINZ’s Andy Slater says Walton could be arrested for something else: impersonating a police offer in a separate incident last week and/or battery on a woman during that separate incident.

Police have been investigating that matter, but no charges have been filed against Walton or anyone in that alleged incident and police have not named Walton as a suspect.

Richt threw kicker Jon Semerene off the team after a DUI arrest only because he had multiple offenses.

 

Please check back tonight for Heat postscripts and reaction after Game 6... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 28, 2016

Gordon suspension fallout; What analysts are saying about Dolphins' selection of Tunsil; Dolphins draft nuggets and Tunsil fallout; Heat chatter

1 a.m. update: A stunner in the middle of the night, with news that Dee Gordon has been suspended for 80 games without pay for testing positive for PEDs. It's obviously an enormous blow, with the Marlins losing one of MLB's best leadoff hitters coming off a batting title and stolen base title. He's hitting .266 through 20 games.

The best option to replace him appears to be Derek Dietrich, who's batting .333 with one homer and six RBI after hitting .256 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 90 games last season.

He has 12 errors in 105 career appearances at second base, with four career outfield errors and five errors at third base. But he has played good defense so far this season, with no errors in nine appearances at third, second and third.

Other options: Moving Martin Prado back to second (where he thrived with the Braves) and playing Chris Johnson at third. Johnson has played third more than any position in the big leagues but is hitting just .227.

The Marlins also could give more time to Miguel Rojas at second base. Rojas, highly skilled defensively, is hitting only .222.

But Dietrich makes the most sense.

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BUZZ COLUMN

What analysts are saying on offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, who (as Armando reported on his blog) is projected to play guard this coming season:

• NFL Net’s Mike Mayock: “He’s got Pro Bowl feet. His pass protection gives him huge upside as a Pro Bowl talent. I have some questions about his ability in the run game.  It’s the perfect situation for a young tackle. He can start at right tackle [and eventually] kick to left tackle or move him right into left tackle.”

• ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “He has all the talent in the world. He was the No. 1 player on the board for a reason. Kid has rare ability. Didn’t miss a beat when he came back from suspension [for taking impermissible benefits]. He’s had a variety of injuries but when he’s out there he has been a dominant presence at left tackle 95 percent of the time. I thought he got a little bored with the opposition.

“When he’s on top of his game, he’s a consummate left tackle. Quickness, tremendous feet, the footwork he plays with. As a run blocker, he’s got to fire out a little more.

“The drop [in the draft] had nothing to do with football ability. It had to do with durability – can he a play 16 game schedule? And will he take care of business off the field during the offseason? At one point, I thought he could go No. 1 if Tennessee would have kept the pick.”

• ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “He has what you’re looking for. He’s light on his feet. He has a pass set; it just looks so easy for him for a big man. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 184 times. Let’s challenge Tunsil. Get it right off the field and prove to all of us you can be a great player for the Dolphins.”

• NFL Net’s Charley Casserly: “Tunsil becomes potentially the steal of the draft as well as the most scrutinized rookie this year.”

• ESPN’s Louis Riddick: “You start to assess the risk versus the reward. If you look at their roster, Branden Albert is going to be 32 in November. This isn’t necessarily a luxury pick. This will be something that pays off down the road.”

• ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Tunsil's ceiling is sky high. He has the natural ability to play at a Pro Bowl level for a long time.”

• Pro Football Focus’ draft guide notes Tunsil “faced the toughest slate of edge rushers of anyone in the country and yielded” no sacks and just five pressures in 185 pass blocking snaps. PFF says Tunsil is "the cleanest tackle to come out of college in some time. Tunsil simply looks different than your average tackle in the NFL.”

• CBS’ Dane Brugler: “On the field, Tunsil is a nimble big man with a rare athletic skill-set for the position, showing above average balance and flexibility to easily bend, handle speed and absorb power at the point of attack. He's not a perfect player, but his flaws are more nitpicking than true weaknesses and potential injuries are the only obstacles keeping Tunsil from being one of the better left tackles at the next level.”

MORE TUNSIL POSTSCRIPTS

Tunsil said tonight he doesn't have a drug problem. Asked at the draft if he took money from a coach in college, he said, "I'd have to say yeah." (Get ready for probation, Ole Miss!)

"Don't question my character," Tunsil said tonight. "I'm a good person. I'm a laid back guy."

• According to the Jackson-Clarion Ledger, Tunsil was sued this week by his stepfather Lindsey Miller, who claims Tunsil attacked Miller last June and that Tunsil defamed Miller’s character. The lawsuit alleges these two things were an “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”The two men filed domestic violence charges against each other last year.

Tunsil's attorney, Steve Farese, attacked the lawsuit in the Clarion-Ledger.

"The lawsuit filed against Mr. Tunsil appears to be yet another attempt by Mr. Miller to damage Mr. Tunsil, his family, and the University," Farese said in a statement. "This unsavory attempt to obtain money from a talented young man is a sad example of the times. The timing of this suit, on the eve of the NFL draft, speaks volumes as to Mr. Miller's motives."

• Dolphins GM Chris Grier said Miami will play the five best linemen. That could mean Mike Pouncey, Tunsil, Albert, Ja'Wuan James and Jermon Bushrod. Pouncey, Bushrod and Albert have been Pro Bowlers; Tunsil was rated a top-five talent; and James was a top 20 pick. No more offensive line excuses!  

As we wrote last week, the Dolphins discussed taking an offensive tackle at No. 13, if one of the top ones slipped, and moving him to guard (which is the plan with Tunsil). But they didn't expect Tunsil would be the one to slip.

"He was No. 2 on our board," Grier said. "We didn't expect him to be there."

• Now the Dolphins almost certainly need to pick a cornerback at 42 or 73. Baylor's Xavien Howard and LSU's Rashard Robinson and Samford's James Bradberry are among the remaining options who visited the Dolphins. Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller is another option. The Dolphins really liked Houston's William Jackson but Tunsil was too tempting. Miami also liked Ohio State's Eli Apple, who was taken by the Giants at No. 10.

CHATTER

• A USA TODAY study determined that the University of Florida had the highest percentage of first-round draft busts of any team from 2000 to 2014, and that UM had the fewest first-round busts. Of the Gators’ 15 first-rounders during that time span, eight were deemed busts (53.3 percent). That edged Penn State and Oklahoma State (half of their first-rounders were busts). FSU was fourth on the bust list, with 9 of 19 first-rounders falling well short of expectations.

Conversely, only four of UM’s 26 first-rounders from 2000 to 2014 were deemed busts, with that 15 percent edging No. 2 Texas (23 percent).

• Thoughts on UM’s draft class, from an NFC scout who watched UM a lot: “Artie Burns was productive, a smart kid, has the skill level Vernon Hargreaves has. But he was really undisciplined and reckless at Miami. He looks like he’s playing his own defense at times." Pittsburgh took him at No. 25 tonight.

The scout said: “I have [safety] Deon Bush as a third-rounder. Runs well; big, strong, tough. Interviewed well with us. But he has a difficult time communicating on the field and that’s vital for a safety… [Receivers] Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters will be taken late or UFAs. Scott has better hands, Waters good speed. We would take a look at Calvin Heurtelou and Ufomba Kamalu" as UFAs.

Another likely free agent: Miami’s only departing five-star player, cornerback Tracy Howard, who visited the Browns…. Former UM safety Dallas Crawford, hoping for an NFL contract after the draft, has moved back to running back.

• The Dolphins, like most teams, already are planting seed with players who have a good chance of going undrafted, indicating an interest in signing them after the draft. Among those Miami has called: Utah State defensive tackle David Moala.

• The Dolphins’ draft search has extended north of the border, with Miami showing interest in University of Manitoba defensive lineman David Onyemata, who had five sacks and 39 tackles in eight games. Miami wanted to fly him to Davie this month but he had a schedule conflict…

The Dolphins drafted one defensive back who had been a receiver (Tony Lippett) and they’ve shown interest in another, Clemson safety TJ Green, a speedy safety who moved over from receiver after 2013. Teams believe he can play safety or corner. Miami likes him as a safety.

MORE HEAT CHATTER

The Heat hasn’t been a good road team in weeks, and their offensive metrics were much better at home this regular season (103.2 points, 48.3 percent shooting) than on the road (96.9, 45.8).

Among all Heat players, Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson had the biggest offensive dropoffs on the road. Whiteside averaged 16 points and 64.5 percent shooting at home, 12.3 and 55.4 on the road. Richardson shot 51.6 percent at home, 39.9 on the road. The only Heat player who shot better on the road this season? Justise Winslow, narrowly.

• Whiteside is taking 7.6 shots per game, nearly four less than he took after the All-Star break, and said “of course I would” like more shots but “it’s not there” because multiple defenders are swarming around him.

He bristles at any suggestion that Al Jefferson is victimizing him: “I feel like I did a great job on Jefferson; Jefferson is not the problem.”

• Though Heat interest has remained strong since LeBron James left, courtside seats at first-round games are going for 50 to 60 percent less dollar-wise than what they did when James was here, Tickets of America tell us. Meanwhile, Heat fans were scolded on national radio this week by former NBA center Brendan Haywood.

“Miami is not a tough gym to play in,” Haywood said on Sirius XM. “They have the wine and cheese crowd. They have the late arriving crowd. They have the crowd that will leave early if their team is down. There’s a lot of eye candy… [But] as far as homecourt advantage, Miami, I’m sorry, the city doesn’t have it. It’s not in ‘em. They don’t have that same passion the fans in Portland have.”

As AP's Tim Reynolds smartly noted after I posted this, he was 7-14 in games he played as a visiting player in Miami.

• For a lot more Heat nuggets from today, please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz