February 27, 2015

Hartline cut; Marlins vow new approach on payroll stability; Loria opens wallet

The Dolphins cut receiver Brian Hartline this morning in a move that will save them $5.9 million in cash and at least $3.2 million salary cap space.

After catching 76 passes for 1016 yards and 74 for 1083 in the previous two seasons, Hartline's numbers dropped to 39-474 last season, largely a result of being thrown a lot fewer passes.

Hartline would have had a $7.4 million cap hit if he had remained on the team without restructuring his contract. But the Dolphins will have $4.2 million in dead money by cutting Hartline ($3.2 million if it's done with a post-June 1 designation).

His 298 catches ranked seventh in Dolphins history.

Hartline's departure leaves the Dolphins with four veteran receivers under contract: Mike Wallace (whose status remains in doubt for next season), Brandon Gibson, Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews.

Of that group, Landry and Matthews are expected to return. Gibson's status also remains in question; he has a $4.2 million hit if he's on the team, $1 million otherwise. Wallace is opposed to taking a pay cut, which the Dolphins want him to do, per multiple sources.

### Add San Francisco’s Dan Skuta (five sacks, three forced fumbles) to the list of free agents the Dolphins like; he can play inside and outside linebacker.

### Some wondered whether the Dolphins might approach specialists Brandon Fields and John Denney about restructuring, but that had not happened as of earlier this week.

 ### Jeffrey Loria’s increased spending has extended beyond player salaries, and the Marlins say the days of wild payroll fluctuations are over and that the current payroll (about $82 million, second-highest in team history) is a reasonable range, with size of future increases dependent on revenue and on-field success.

Asked if payroll would be slashed dramatically if the Marlins underachieve, as they did after 2012, president David Samson said no. “We’re past that,” he said.

Samson said “we want it to be at a point of stability. It’s the ups and downs that have hurt the franchise. We’re trying to become more stable. The team is going to lose money. Jeffrey is writing checks. [But] our revenues are increasing. We want our payroll to increase.”

Every Marlins payroll spike has been followed by a steep reduction --- from $53.5 million in the championship season of 1997 to $13 million the next; from $60 million in 2005 to $14 million the next; to $101 million in the first year in MarlinsPark (2012) to $50 million and $45 million the next two.

The Marlins’ 2015 payroll could top $85 million if Ichiro reaches incentives on plate appearances. Of the $82 million, the Dodgers are covering $10 million (for Dan Haren) and the Yankees are paying $3 million of Martin Prado’s $11 million.

One factor affecting future payrolls is how much the Marlins can command in their Fox cable deal, which they would like to renegotiate and extend. The contract, which runs through 2020, reportedly pays them about $14 million annually --- lowest in baseball.

Meanwhile, Loria this offseason paid for a private jet with first-class seats for the whole team (the Marlins chartered on United last season), hired an assistant hitting coach for the first time (Lenny Harris), hired a chef to make nutritious meals for players, paid a club-record $18 million for draft picks and international amateur players in 2014 and added more than a half dozen employees on the scouting and administrative side.

General manager Dan Jennings said full-time scouts were hired in Mexico and Colombia in the past year and the Marlins now have scouts in every Latin American country.

### Unlike with Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins failed to strike long-term deals with outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, who rejected multiyear offers but cannot be free agents until after 2019.

Yelich was open to it, had the money been higher: “I’m honored to be approached with something like that. I feel like we’re going to be good for a long time and it would be nice to be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, Ozuna said agent Scott Boras advised him to reject it: “He thought I should wait. I’m young.”    

### Mark D'Onofrio said sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Moten has taken "a big leap." Moten has been getting a lot of first-team defensive tackle snaps.

### Trent Harris and Ufomba Kamalu continue to take first-team snaps at defensive end for UM, with     Al Quadin Muhammad, Demetrius Jackson and Chad Thomas behind them. It would be surprising if Muhammad or Thomas doesn't emerge as a starter.... Jamal Carter and Dallas Crawford have been sharing first-team safety reps opposite Deon Bush.

### Please see last night's post for a lot more Dolphins and Canes, plus Heat... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 26, 2015

Thursday night: Chatter on Wallace, Fins RBs, Beasley, Jagr; J.T.'s thoughts; Canes add player for 2015

News and notes on a Thursday evening: 

### Though the Dolphins insist there's no decision, a lot of NFL people believe the Dolphins will move on from Mike Wallace, who appears resistant to a pay cut.

“Not surprising; he’s a proud guy,” one NFL source said.

That means unless the Dolphins surprisingly decide to keep him, Wallace would stand to be the latest high-end talent who isn’t a conformist to be jettisoned by Joe Philbin.

At his charity golf tournament last week, Jason Taylor shared an interesting perspective when I asked him whether Philbin would be wise to embrace more flamboyant personalities: 

“Some guys want everyone to fall in line and hold hands and walk in a straight line,” Taylor said. “I like guys that can be disruptive on the field. Sometimes you are going to have personalities that come along with that….

“Often times those guys that have a little edge to them are great for the team. They push each other, keep the waters going. Calm water isn’t always great. You don’t need turds but you need guys that can ruffle feathers a little bit.”

Quick aside: It’s impressive to see what Taylor and Alonzo Mourning have continued to do with their philanthrophic efforts since retiring.

Taylor --- whose foundation raises money to improve the lives of children --- would like to see the Dolphins address linebacker and cornerback but said: “I like a lot of things about the team. I love
the quarterback. There’s not a whole lot of guys in this league I would take over Tannehill. I’m very confident you can win with Ryan Tannehill. You can definitely win a championship with him.”

### On the running back front, the Dolphins will consider a multiyear deal with Lamar Miller later this offseason (not definite, but on the table as a possibility); very much like Damien Williams; have been non-committal with free agent Daniel Thomas; and gave no indication they want to keep LaMichael James.

### Michael Beasley today became the first player to have three different stints with the Heat. Miami, just $1.4 million below the tax threshold, now appears unlikely to use its $2.65 million disabled player exception by the March 10 deadline.

Bill Walker and Beasley --- former Kansas State teammates on 10-day contracts --- won’t push the Heat over the threshold.

### Among players who played in half their team’s games last season, Beasley was 44th in points per 48 minutes (25.2), ahead of Klay Thompson, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh and others. He was the only one in the top 50 who hadn't been in the NBA this season (before today).

A Heat person said there were concerns last season with his defense, consistency and maturity/focus (improved but room for growth), but Bosh’s injury made Miami interested in a 10-day deal. And the Heat has always liked his offense.

### Beasley met with Pat Riley on Wednesday before Miami committed to signing him. The Heat believes the experience in China helped him.

“It’s like I never left, honestly. I feel great,” he said today after joining the team for a voluntary practice in New Orleans. “I’m definitely blessed and humbled to have another opportunity.”

### Josh McRoberts’ agent said he has heard nothing to change the projection that he will miss the season after knee surgery. But the Heat this week wouldn’t rule out a return.

### Pompano Beach Blanche Ely cornerback Terrance Henley is a late addition to this UM recruiting class, according to Canesport.com. Henley received an offer today after getting the required SAT score. Henley, whose other offers were from Tennessee State and James Madison, had 13 interceptions over the past two seasons.

Henley’s addition is another strong sign that disgruntled cornerback Antonio Crawford won’t return. Crawford has said he’s transferring, but UM isn’t removing his name from the roster in the unlikely event he has a change of heart.

### University School sophomore cornerback Al Blades Jr., son of the deceased UM great, committed to UM this week. Al Blades was killed in a car accident in 2003.

 ### UM people have been raving about two newcomers: tight end Jerome Washington and safety Jaquan Johnson.

“Jerome is really gifted, as we thought,” Al Golden said. “Doing a great job with his hands. Real physical presence. [And] Jaquan is all business. He’s got a chance to be really good.”

### Among goal scorers, Jaromir Jagr today became the biggest name in Panthers history since Pavel Bure. Jagr, acquired from New Jersey for second- and third-round picks, had 11 goals and 18 assists this season and ranks sixth all-time in NHL goals.

Jagr, 43, who was unhappy with his ice time with the Devils, is obviously past his prime but still can make a difference.

“We’re elated,” GM Dale Tallon told Panthers TV voice Steve Goldstein. “It’s great for our franchise. Everyone will ask us about the age but this guy is the finest fit athlete in the league. Nobody works harder. A dominant player still. I’m hopeful he will mentor young guys and help us offensively in the last 20 games. This is a statement for us. This sends a message to our fans and our players that we’re committed and will do what it takes to win. [Owners] Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu said go for it. He’s going to help us on the power play. We have a big forward line now. It will be tough to knock us off the puck.”

Tallon has expressed interest in possibly re-signing him this summer. “I hope a couple more years for him, because he’s willing and able to do it,” Tallon said. “He likes the makeup of our team, the direction we’re headed and he likes our young players.”

The Panthers entered tonight three points out of the eighth playoff spot.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 25, 2015

Dolphins/Wallace and Kiper's WR thoughts; Heat-Magic postscripts; Canes notes

A six pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

### For a team that blew more than its fair share of second-half leads earlier in the season, the Heat offered something different, and pretty inspiring, tonight: a rally from seven down with 45 seconds left to force overtime in Orlando --- led by a guy who spent the past two years out of the league – and a 93-90 win in overtime.

Henry Walker shot 2 for 11 on threes tonight, but the two were huge: one with 22 seconds left in the fourth, the other with two seconds left to force overtime.

“We all figured the law of averages would kick in,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Extremely happy for Henry, being he was fighting to get back in this league. He’s a heady player. Made some defensive plays, got the ball moving. I liked the open threes he got. He’s fearless. When it comes, he’s going to keep on shooting them.”

Walker, on a 10-day contract, shot 3 for 13, but Spoelstra trusts him so much that he played much of the fourth and overtime. He had 10 points, six boards, two assists and two steals.

“You can play him with anybody out there and he’ll figure out how to fit in,” Spoelstra said. “We’re very familiar with him, because our coaches have been coaching him for two years. [The Sioux Falls staff] said he was our most impactful player this season. That’s the value of having a developmental program, where guys are coached by your coaches.”

Walker, 27, played 157 games over four seasons for the Knicks and Celtics, averaging 5.8 points, before dropping out of the league the past two seasons and toiling in Austin, Venezuela, the Philippines and Sioux Falls, the Heat’s NBDL affiliate.

Along the way, he changed his name from Bill to Henry (which is his middle name) as a symbol of his maturity.

“It was a long time coming, waiting the past three years to get back to this point,” he told me yesterday. “I came into the league so immature, expected things to be given to me.”

Dwyane Wade, on Walker: “He won the game for us. He picks things up very fast. Great pickup for us. He’s hungry. He has the toughness you want in a player.”

### The Heat overcame poor shooting nights from Wade (18 points, 6 for 19), and Goran Dragic (3 for 10, 8 points, 5 assists). The Heat shot just 38 percent from the field and 6 for 31 on threes.

But Luol Deng scored 21; Miami is 9-0 when he scores 20 or more.

And Hassan Whiteside had 15 points, 13 boards and three blocks. “He’s learning how to keep centers out of the paint without fouling,” Spoelstra said.

The Heat (25-31) remained seventh in the East, 1 ½ games ahead of Brooklyn and Charlotte. “We haven’t had a win like this all year,” Wade said.

### Last year, when Jason LaCanfora reported Mike Wallace was being shopped in a trade, Dolphins sources quickly denied it. That wasn’t the case tonight, and Ian Rapaport’s report that the Dolphins are shopping Wallace might signal the looming departure of Miami's most dangerous playmaker. Sigh.

Update: It's telling that the Dolphins again remained non-committal on Wallace's future on Thursday morning, with Mike Tannenbaum telling WINZ-940 that he's under contract "for now."

Barring Wallace accepting a pay cut (and the trade talks would suggest he isn’t inclined to take a big pay cut here), the Dolphins will take a $9.6 million cap hit if he’s cut without a post-June 1 designation, $5.2 million with a post-June 1 designation (which also carries a 2016 cap hit) or $6.6 million if he’s traded.

If the Dolphins use the 14th pick on a receiver (and we hope they don’t UNLESS they fill their pressing needs at cornerback/linebacker/d-tackle in free agency), here’s Mel Kiper’s ESPN.com assessment of the five receivers he projects as top-20 picks:

Alabama’s Amari Cooper (fourth in Kiper’s mock): "Cooper is a gifted route-runner, a player who should transition quickly and help a team that has building-block pieces on both sides of the ball but still needs more."

West Virginia’s Kevin White (11th): "White is the type of player who doesn't just make plays in the deep passing game, but can make traffic catches underneath and will also turn some short throws into big yards."

Louisville’s Devante Parker (12th): “Parker has as high a ceiling as you can find in this class. He can beat defenders to the ball with his size, leaping ability and catch radius, and he's underrated as a threat to add yards after the catch on short throws.”

UCF’s Breshad Perriman (15th): “One of the bigger sleepers in the 2015 draft class at this point, Perriman is a player I've grown to really like as I've spent more time going through his tape. At one time I had him as a likely second-round pick, but now I see him as a close call in terms of overall ability next to the top few wide receivers in this class. He's got size, and strength, and is going to run really fast at the combine and be a guy who can both stretch defenses vertically and also make plays over the middle and in traffic. He's also got great bloodlines, as I scouted his father (Brett) when he played for Miami."

Ohio State’s Devin Smith (18): “Probably wasn't utilized as much as he would have been in some other offenses, but he was an often dynamic deep threat for the Buckeyes --- a player who has a knack for the big catch, especially when he has to fight for the ball. He's got good speed, he can stretch the field, and he plays bigger than his listed size on contested balls.” 

### Vital win for UM hoops tonight: 81-77 against FSU. The upshot: At 18-10 overall and 8-7 in the conference, UM needs to win at least two of its final three to boost its NCAA Tourney chances: Saturday vs. North Carolina at 2 p.m. on CBS; next Wednesday at Pittsburgh and a week from Sunday at Virginia Tech.

UM entered 69th in RPI, and tonight's win will boost that a bit; Jim Larranaga said a team at 60 or worse doesn’t have a realistic shot at the NCAA Tournament.

Angel Rodriguez shook out of his shooting slump tonight, scoring 25 points and finishing 8 for 14 from the field.

UM led 62-47 before FSU's Xavier Rathan Mayes went nuts, scoring 30 points --- 30! --- in the game's final 4:39. 

### UM’s 2016 recruiting class remains ranked No. 1 in the country by 247sports.com. But UM today lost the only defensive tackle from that 18-player class: Lakeland’s Keyshon Camp, who said he still has Miami No. 1 but wants to consider other options.

Camp recently picked up an offer from Alabama and told Al.com: "I like Alabama because they are known for winning. I was very overwhelmed when they offered. I never thought I could say I have an offer (from) Alabama."

### Great news: Sideline reporter Craig Sager is returning to TNT after beating leukemia.  His first game back: Thunder-Bulls March 5.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 24, 2015

Dolphins making LB a priority, inform several free agents they're wanted back; Fins, Heat, Canes, Marlins chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Dolphins are making linebacker one of their offseason priorities and have begun informing some of the free agents they want to keep and those they do not. Here's what we're hearing:

### The Dolphins and tight end Charles Clay are in active negotiations and there is cautious optimism that a deal will get done, though not certainty. The Dolphins very much like the Clay/Dion Sims tight end tandem.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins have informed defensive tackle Jared Odrick that they plan to make an offer to keep him. But the Dolphins have confided in people that he might command more than what they’re willing to pay and acknowledge there’s certainly a possibility they might lose him. He could land a deal worth $7 million-plus per season.

### The Dolphins have told multiple people that they want to add a starting linebacker, and they’re expected to pursue the Jets’ David Harris, 31, who had 123 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2014 and is considered the best free agent inside linebacker.

Mike Tannenbaum, the Dolphins’ president/football operations, drafted Harris out of Michigan in the second round in 2007, when he was the Jets’ GM.

Though Harris played inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense with the Jets, he has the skills to play middle linebacker in a 4-3.

Miami is one of the teams that is believed to appeal to Harris, but it remains unclear how high the Dolphins will go in the bidding. If the Dolphins are outbid for Harris, they have interest in Tampa Bay free agent Mason Foster, 25, who has started 57 games with six sacks and five interceptions in four years for Tampa and was drafted by the Buccaneers when Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey worked there.

If the Dolphins sign Harris or Foster, they could move Koa Misi back from middle to strong-side linebacker, with Jelani Jenkins starting at weak-side linebacker. Joe Philbin has said the move of Misi to middle linebacker last season did not work out "as well as I would have liked it to work." 

Misi's durability concerns them (he missed five games last season), but they still like a lot about him. But they also would like to find an upgrade in the middle if they can, with Harris or Foster looming as potential replacements. 

Though Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe have not been informed of their status, many expect at least one or both will be released. The Dolphins have decided not to re-sign Jason Trusnik, barring a change of heart.

### The Dolphins have an interest in keeping two key free agents in their secondary --- safety Louis Delmas, who played well before a season-ending knee injury in the 13th game against Baltimore, and safety/slot cornerback Jimmy Wilson.

The Dolphins' pass defense was much better before Delmas was injured, and the safety tandem of Delmas and Reshad Jones was generally a strength. And the Dolphins value Wilson's versatility.

### Receiver remains unresolved, but the Dolphins have told people there will be some turnover at the position. They have been discussing a pay cut with Mike Wallace and resolution isn’t really needed until $3 million of his salary becomes guaranteed on March 15. This matter still could go either way.

Baltimore Ravens owner Steven Bisciotti raised eyebrows when he said Tuesday: “Mike Wallace got $10 million. I don’t think anybody thinks that was a good deal.” (It’s actually $12 million a year.)

Brian Hartline, whose current cap number for 2015 is $7.3 million, hasn’t been told what the Dolphins intend to do with him. Same with Brandon Gibson ($4.3 million). The Dolphins want to keep Rishard Matthews ($673,403 cap number).

### As expected, the Dolphins have told people that Mike Pouncey will move back to center. They have interest in re-signing Samson Satele as depth but he figures to have a better opportunity elsewhere.

### The Dolphins want to re-sign Jason Fox, who impressed them late in the season, to be their third tackle behind Branden Albert (who said his recovery from knee surgery is going well) and Ja’Wuan James.

CHATTER

New Heat guard Goran Dragic has been in Miami less than a week and he already loves the Heat.

“They take care of players,” he said Tuesday. “I feel like I’m spoiled here. So much great stuff around. You can be focused on basketball.” He said he’s struck by the fact that “when you talk with some guy in the front office or players, they’re always thinking about a championship.”

### Dwyane Wade marveled Tuesday about how Miami added a quality center (Hassan Whiteside) and excellent point guard (Dragic) in the past few months. 

“It’s pretty amazing,” Wade said. “To find Hassan, a diamond in the rough, that was amazing for a season, and then to make a trade for an All-Star point guard without giving up a starter, it’s pretty impressive. Our front office and ownership continue to show they will do what it takes to put us in a winning circle.”

### Wade is enjoying playing with Dragic: “He’s a point guard who can score – he’s not a scorer who’s a point guard; there’s a difference,” Wade said.

“Even though LeBron [James] gained a lot of attention when he had the ball, the pressure and how quickly [Dragic] drives is a different kind of attention. I’m trying to get used to being open. I’m getting used to not having the ball in my hands and letting our point guard kind of run the show.”

### Quick Dragic nugget: He grew up playing soccer in Slovenia but sustained a leg injury and “my mother said, ‘No more soccer for you.’” So he switched to basketball.

### So what’s the deal with Heat forward Bill Walker changing his name last year to Henry (his middle name)?

He said he did it as a symbol of his maturity and to “change perception.” Some confusion has ensued --- he has gotten some strange looks at games. But "some people don’t even know me. It’s like two different people.”

### Please see the last post from a few hours ago for a lot more Heat chatter, including the back story of why Udonis Haslem is suddenly shooting three-pointers, and role changes for Luol Deng and Mario Chalmers.

### UM still hopes to convince Antonio Crawford to change his mind and stay at UM instead of transferring, but considering his angry tweets and considering the fact he didn't show up to practice again today, he already seems to have one foot out the door.

Crawford, who has good speed, might be UM's best slot corner. Corn Elder and Tracy Howard can also play that position.

### Al Golden said defensive end Tyriq McCord was moved to linebacker because “he rushes the passer well and moves well.” The move was possible because of UM’s depth at defensive end…. James Coley said he could envision using Malik Rosier as a short-yardage quarterback at times next season.

### Biggest surprises for Coley so far? Tight ends David Njoku and Chris Herndon (both have been impressive), running back Gus Edwards, receiver Rashawn Scott and offensive tackle Sunny Odogwu.

### UM hasn’t decided who will replace Ereck Flowers at left tackle; Odogwu has been getting a lot of the reps with others injured. 

"I have to see KC [McDermott] work there, because he has not worked there - him and Taylor Gadbois worked all right tackle last year," Coley said. "And I haven't seen Trevor [Darling] there either. I'm intrigued to see Trevor there."

McDermott and Gadbois continue to recover from knee surgery last season.


Coley said early enrollee Jahair Jones and summer arrival Bar Milo could play left tackle. Both can also play guard.

"Jahair for what we've thrown at him has done a great job," Coley said. "And we have more in right now than we had two weeks into training camp last year."

### Please see the last post for an explanation of why Al Golden hired WQAM's Josh Darrow as his assistant director of football operations.

### Among under-the-radar players the Marlins are very eager to see this spring: Rule 5 left-hander Andrew McKirahan (“power fastball, power breaking ball,” executive Michael Hill said; has 128 strikeouts and 2.16 ERA in 120 minor-league innings) and right-hander reliever Nick Masset (very good for Reds from 2009-11 before injury issues).

### Derek Dietrich has learned first base and left field this offseason, which helps his chances to land one of two open Marlins bench jobs.

Credit Dietrich for working out this winter with Florida Southern in Lakeland; the school's baseball team allowed him to practice catching fly balls in the outfield and scooping ground balls at first base.

A middle infielder by trade, Dietrich said he now has the comfort level to play anywhere but center field, right field or catcher.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Josh Darrow makes unusual transition: broadcasting to UM football staff; Role changes for Haslem, Deng, Chalmers

Though UM hasn't announced his hiring yet, Josh Darrow, UM's new assistant director of football operations, today joined a small group of media members who landed jobs in the "front-office" of a sports team or university.

There are other, much higher profile examples: Former New York Mets general manager Frank Cashen was previously a sportswriter.

Marty Hurney covered sports for The Washington Times before becoming general manager of the Carolina Panthers, a position he lost in 2012.

Several media members have gotten jobs in public relations for teams, but that's not what we're talking about here.

Darrow did good work as WQAM's football sideline reporter, as an architect of SFHSSports.com (which diligently covers recruiting) and previously, as Joe Zagacki's partner on UM basketball games before WQAM eliminated the color analyst position for financial reasons.

Among the reasons UM’s Al Golden hired Darrow: He established a very good rapport with players and parents in reporting for the South Florida High School Sports web site; he is liked and trusted by the UM staff; and he’s sharp (Pennsylvania grad).

He is expected to have a multitude of duties, including organizing clinics, getting UM's message out to recruits and their families through the Internet and other means, among other duties handled previously by Kevin Beard before his promotion to receivers coach.

Check back later this evening for a lot more UM news, plus Dolphins.

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The Heat’s acquisition of Goran Dragic and loss of Chris Bosh have sent a ripple effect through the rest of the lineup, with several players directly impacted.

For Luol Deng, it means adjusting to playing at least part of the game at power forward, competing against bulkier players.

For Mario Chalmers, it means settling into the role of backup shooting guard after holding down the starting point guard job for much of the past 3 1/2 years.

And for Udonis Haslem, it means returning to the starting lineup at power forward --- a role he handled for five years here previously.

“I really haven’t played four [power forward] since [spring] 2010, before the Big Three,” Haslem said this week. “The last four years, I played five [center]. But I’m a natural four anyway.”

With a premium now placed on power forwards with shooting range, Haslem said the starting power forward job here has changed slightly from when he started at the position from 2004 through 2009.

That’s why Haslem, who had taken only 13 three-pointers in 751 NBA games before Friday, has launched three (and made one) in the past three games since Chris Bosh was sidelined for the season by blood clots in his lungs.

In fact, Haslem said Erik Spoelstra told him before the season that "If I want to play [power forward], I have to shoot the corner three."

“It’s part of our offense,” Haslem said. “If I’m going to play the four, I have to implement that. You’re not going to make all of them, but you have to take them with confidence. I’m going to make some.

“Coach gives me confidence. He sees I’ve been working on that. He’s seen me knock it down a thousand times in practice. I have confidence in shooting it. I’ve just got to take good ones. Take the ones that are open. Don’t force it.”

Erik Spoelstra said he does not “mind him shooting the corner three. He has reinvented himself so many times in 12 years. He can find a way to be effective no matter how we play.”

Though Deng continues to start at small forward, a lot of his minutes are coming at power forward as part of a smaller lineup with Deng, Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Mario Chalmers or another wing player. He was terrific Monday, scoring 29 points on 11 for 14 shooting.

“When we get comfortable, we’re going to be quicker [with that small lineup],” Deng said. “We’re going to put teams in a lot of switches they’re not used to, so their defense will not be as organized. There’s definitely advantages to it.”

Deng, listed as 6-9 and 220 pounds, said he played some at power forward in Chicago when Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson were injured.

“It’s definitely different,” he said.

Offensively, playing power forward means “doing a lot of dribble handoffs, finding myself at the top of the key a lot, getting the team into second situations that CB [Bosh] was so good at, spreading the floor, going into the next pick and roll. Now I’m involved in a lot of screens instead of being in the corner.  It’s totally different.”

And defensively, “I’ve got to guard the screen and make the calls for the guards,” Deng said.  “I’m used to guarding the ball…. It’s a different game when you’re battling in the post.”

For Deng, it’s yet another adjustment in a season of transition and tumult.

“We just got Dragic; I’m playing out of position; D-Wade just got back. It’s a lot going on,” Deng said. “The CB news hit us. You kind of appreciate seasons you had in the past where you roll out and play. But we’re all about challenges. My whole life has been about some type of challenge and I’ve always been OK with that.

“[Power forward] is something I can do. The way we want to play here is not think of positions, but you think a lot when you’re the four [power forward]. And that’s something CB was so good at.”

As for Chalmers, the acquisition of Dragic and the recent development of Shabazz Napier means most of Chalmers’ minutes figure to come at shooting guard.

The enjoyable part of playing that position is “being able to attack,” he said. “As a two guard, your main objective is to attack and pass when you can’t get a score. It’s a little bit different mentality.”

Chalmers is easygoing about switching between guard spots. “I was starting point guard, back to reserve two, to starting point guard” and now backup shooting guard again. “You just have to be ready for anything.”

Wade said “I like this role” for Chalmers. “We really need him to embrace it now. When he embraced it earlier in the year, he did unbelievable.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back tonight for a lot more.

February 23, 2015

Exploring Marlins variables: Fernandez, Latos, Saltalamacchia & more; Dolphins, Heat, Canes chatter

MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN

As the Marlins begin spring training, there are many things they feel they can count on: Giancarlo Stanton’s power and run-production, Christian Yelich’s continued development as of the game’s polished young hitters; Dee Gordon’s blazing speed, among others.

But there’s also a level of uncertainty on several other fronts. Chatter on five variables that will affect whether the Marlins will be contending for a playoff berth in late September:

### When Jose Fernandez returns between mid-June and mid-July, will he be the same caliber pitcher who went 16-8 with a 2.25 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .183 average in 36 big-league starts?

For perspective, we analyzed six prominent starting pitchers who returned during the season from Tommy John surgery over the past six seasons. The results were mixed, but more favorable than unfavorable.

Here’s what’s encouraging: Tim Hudson, an All-Star before and after the surgery, pitched well after returning in September 2009 (2-1, 3.61 in seven starts), then went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA and an All-Star appearance in 2010…. Washington’s Stephen Strasburg returned from the surgery in September 2011 and threw well (1-1, 1.50 ERA in five starts), then returned to dominant form in 2012 (15-6, 3.16)…

Josh Johnson, with a timetable similar to Fernandez’s, returned to the Marlins on July 10, 2008 --- 11 months after the surgery --- and was 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts for the Marlins, then went 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 2009. But he has fallen off dramatically the past four years and needed a second Tommy John surgery last April… Jordan Zimmerman has blossomed from decent young starter to an eventual All-Star after the surgery: He was 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA in seven starts after returning from the surgery late in 2010 but has posted an ERA below 3.30 every season since.

“Those guys had [partial] seasons and the following full season they were outstanding,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “You can throw Anibal Sanchez into that mix also.”

On the flip side: Francisco Liriano, an All-Star before the surgery, struggled initially after a mid-April return (0-3, 11.32), went back to the minors, but pitched well upon returning later that summer, finishing 6-4, 3.91, and has since been named Comeback Player of the Year twice.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who went 18-3 in 2008 but fell off quite a bit since then, was 1-7 with an 8.28 ERA in 11 starts after a June 2012 return from Tommy John and was 6-6 as a starter/reliever the past two years.

“We hope when Jose does come back, he’ll be the guy he’s always been,” Hill said.

### Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia the above-average catcher the Marlins thought they were getting or the player who badly struggled last season? “He needs to be better,” Hill said. “He recognizes that.”

The Marlins gave him a three-year, $21 million deal 15 months ago, after he hit .273 with 14 homers and 65 RBI during Boston’s run to a World Series title in 2013. The fear is that the Marlins might have been fooled by one good season, just as they were with John Buck a few years early. Saltamacchia’s .273 in 2013 appears to have been an anomaly; he hit .235 (with 16 homers) in 2011 and .222 (with 25 homers) in 2012.

Last season, his .220 average was worst among National League catchers with at least 300 at-bats and third worst overall. His 15 errors were the most for any catcher. Plus, he threw out only 19 percent of base-stealers, second worst for catchers who appeared in at least 100 games.

And this was puzzling: He hit well at Marlins Park (.273), but his .162 road average (29 for 179) was the worst in baseball for any player with at least 150 at-bats.

Saltamacchia said moving to a new league was an adjustment and he battled fatigue because he had a shorter offseason after winning the World Series with Boston.

### Is center fielder Marcell Ozuna headed for stardom? That’s what former big-league front office executive Tony Blengino predicted in an ESPN.com piece last month.

Citing various metrics, Blengino said: “Ozuna is going to be a star and he’s a good bet to take it to the next level in 2015. A Ruben Sierra like career is a fairly conservative projection. More likely, he’ll become the second most well-rounded superstar in the Marlins’ lineup.”

Sierra, incidentally, was a four-time All-Star who hit .268 with 306 homers in 20 seasons. Ozuna blossomed last season, hitting .269 with 23 homers and 85 RBI and was second in the NL with 10 outfield assists.

Like many sluggers, he strikes out too much (164, seventh most in the NL).

“Who knows what the ceiling is on this guy? He’s special, a game-changer,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Reminds me of [nine-time All Star] Vladimir Guerrero.”

### Is Jarred Cosart the pitcher whom the Astros deemed expendable or the one who had quality starts in eight of his 10 Marlins appearances?

Through 40 starts, Cosart’s career has been interesting because of its unevenness: He had a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts as a rookie for Houston in 2013, then was pretty average in 10 Astros starts last season (9-7, 4.41); then thrived for the Marlins after his July trade (4-4, 2.39). Overall, he’s 14-12 with a 3.26 ERA.

The Astros were concerned by his strikeout/walk ratio (108 to 86) in 30 starts for them. It was much better for the Marlins (40-22), but he walked eight Nationals in five innings of his final Marlins start last September, his worst performance for Miami.

ESPN’s Keith Law has expressed concern about his “cross-body delivery” that sometimes affects his command. But after the trade, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said: “I think he will be a 15-game winner pretty consistently.” Hill said he’s still young and needs time to develop.

### Will Matt Latos return to dominant form after being limited to 16 starts for the Reds in 2014? Latos, who had stem cells moved from his hip to his elbow during the winter to re-grow tissue, was solid last season (5-5, 3.25) but his velocity dropped nearly two miles per hour after finishing 14-4 and 14-7 the previous two seasons.

Batters hit .176 off him before the All-Star break last year, .275 in 10 starts after. “This is a very volatile asset,” fangraphs.com’s Jeff Sullivan wrote.

Latos said his knee was his only issue last season and it’s fine now, downplaying a reported forearm injury.

“I feel better than I did [anytime] last year.” But he’s only 27 and eighth among active pitchers in ERA. Plus, batters have hit .233 off him in his career. If he’s at his best, he could be a dominant starter.

Hill said the Marlins were thrilled “to be able to add such a great pitcher. He’s big, works downhill, power sinker. All the things we think can be successful with us.”    

CHATTER

### Another positive about new Heat guard Goran Dragic: He does some of his best work in the clutch. He’s shooting 14 for 26 (53.8 percent) in the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or less, which is best in the league among guards with at least 20 attempts. Conversely, Dwyane Wade is shooting 14 for 39 in clutch situations this season (35.9), Luol Deng 3 for 16 and Mario Chalmers 7 for 22.

### Dragic, who is at his best when playing at a faster tempo, said today: "It's going to be a challenge for others. When I get the ball, I'm going to push it." He said he knows Wade is "great in the open court."

### Dragic on Hassan Whiteside: "He's going to be a dominant big guy in this league."

### Udonis Haslem developed blood clots in his lungs when recovering from foot surgery in 2010 and has spoken to Chris Bosh about his experience.

"One of the worst pains I ever felt," Haslem said today. "I couldn't breathe." He has told Bosh to "just be patient. It's going to get better. I learned how to inject myself with blood-thinners."

### Thomas Robinson, who was on the list of power forwards under consideration by the Heat, committed to the Brooklyn Nets today.

### Erik Spoelstra said this morning that Bosh remains hospitalized but is in "great spirits."

### With Caleb Sturgis losing some benefit of the doubt, the Dolphins conveyed to former Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker that he has a very fair chance to unseat him as Dolphins kicker. Sturgis made 78.4 percent of his field goals last season, which was 28th in the league.

### Add Mike Pouncey to the list of Dolphins lobbying for Mike Wallace’s return. “I really hope they bring Mike back," Pouncey told me last week. "He’s a great player and it would really help our team make the playoffs.”

### Unlike with Penn State, the NCAA rejected UM’s request to modify any of its sanctions, meaning UM says it will self-impose three more football scholarships next year and can’t allow recruits to attend
more than one game on an official visit until November 2016.

### UM smartly pitched moving the Sept. 12 FAU game from Boca Raton to Sun Life Stadium to accommodate more fans, but FAU refused. UM's deal with FAU calls for two games in Sun Life, one in Boca Raton.

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz     

February 22, 2015

Sunday 7 p.m: UM football notes; D'Onofrio; Heat trying to fast-track Dragic's integration; Heat personnel talk; Wade weighs in

Note: If you read this post before 6:30 p.m. Sunday, please scroll down for a lot more, including UM football notes from Sunday.

After a 58-hour emotional whirlwind in which Miami split back to back games, acquired a former third-team All-NBA point guard and learned that All-Star forward Chris Bosh will miss the rest of the season with blood clots on his lungs, most Heat players resisted any temptation to exhale or enjoy a lazy Sunday morning.

Instead, they convened at AmericanAirlines Arena for a voluntary on-court session designed to expedite the acclimation of new Heat point guard Goran Dragic, in advance of Monday's game against Philadelphia.

"One of my biggest priorities will be to make Goran feel comfortable as soon as we can and what we’re trying to do,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday at the Heat’s annual Family Festival to raise money for the team’s Charitable Fund.

“That’s why we came in today… [for] optional workout that most of the guys showed up to. It wasn’t a punishment day. It was to try to find solutions. It’s not as if we haven’t done it this year.

“We’ve had to do this already, three, four, five times, where we’ve had to try to get organized with a different lineup, different points of emphasis and we’ve become pretty efficient in fast tracking that process. How long that will take for him, I don’t know, but it’s a priority for me. Goran will feel more comfortable each game as we go. He’s a high IQ player. He’ll be able to pick thing up quickly, get into his comfort zone, find out where he can be aggressive and help the team, and that’s what [Sunday] was about.”

Dragic bemoaned his performance after his Heat debut Saturday in which he scored 12 points (all in the second half)  but shot 4 for 11 with one assist and one turnover in 33 minutes in Miami’s 105-91 loss to New Orleans.

"It was tough. Sometimes you didn't know where to go," he said. "I tried to learn the action. But, you know, when it's a game, you need to make a quick decision. It was tough."

For Spoelstra, integrating a new point guard holds more challenges than injecting center Hassan Whiteside because Dragic has the balls in his hands so much.

“Much of our plan early in the season was built around either Chris Bosh or Josh [McRoberts] having the ball in their hands and facilitating the next action,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously, that is a big change now.

But we have experience dealing with adversity this year and changing courses and fast-tracking it. We’ll see how long it takes to fast-track it. We have a good group. I commend them for not feeling sorry for themselves.”

On Saturday, Spoelstra at times experimented with a smaller lineup with Luol Deng, Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers paired with one natural power rotation player.           

"It gives us an opportunity to make some plays off the dribble," Spoelstra said.  "As we move forward and we get to know this group, we'll find out if that's something I go to more. It wasn't necessarily successful [Saturday] night. The alternative wasn't necessarily successful, either, so I can't really gauge that right now. But I can certainly see that being a strength of ours, is having three guys that can make plays."

Dragic was often at his best for Phoenix when he pushed the ball and played at a faster tempo. He now joins a team that was last in the league in average possessions per game. So does Spoelstra want to play faster?

“The team will tell us ultimately, but we want to play to his strengths,” Spoelstra said. “We have to be able to defend, we have to be able to play off of misses. Ultimately the team will tell us.”

Regarding the Heat’s pace, Dragic said: “If I'm honest, I felt slow today, you know. But I talked with the coach and I want to play a little bit faster.

“But it takes time, of course, because all the players, last year with LeBron [James], all those guys played fast but with all the situations with the injuries, coach put that system in that's slow. Everyone needs to adjust. First of all, I need to adjust to all the players because I’m new here.”

Wade said Sunday he would be “fine” with running more and that it’s manageable because “I’m playing 30-32 minutes a game. On misses when a team misses let’s get out and see if we can get in transition and get some easy buckets. I need some easy buckets, especially right now to get my rhythm back.”

Wade loved the trade for Dragic but admits “I have to get used to a guy that can create so much attention by putting the ball on the floor. I’m normally that guy.

“It was different when LeBron was here because I was in a different place on the court. Now I have to kind of get used to playing with him and vice versa. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to take some trial and error but I think we can make it up with his ability to attack and finish. It’s going to be good for us. He’s dynamic.”

The Heat might not be done adding reinforcements. Miami is mulling what to do with its open roster spot and veteran forwards Thomas Robinson, Andray Blatche and Michael Beasley all will be discussed internally, among others.

Though Beasley received permission to work out at AmericanAirlines Arena in recent days, he did not have an audition for Heat officials. Beasley, who lives in South Florida, also has been working out at UM.

Wade succinctly put this rollercoaster season in perspective Sunday.

“This has been a trying year for this team, for this organization,” he said. “So this last 28 games, we’re going to have to fight. Our goal is to try to make the playoffs. We’re still poised to do that.

“We were excited for about 20 minutes [about the Dragic trade] and then we got the news Chris was in the hospital and things weren’t looking good. It put a different perspective for all of us about this season. We were all concerned about all playoffs, playoffs, playoffs and now something life changing could have happened to my good friend and someone we all came to love and respect in Chris.

“It just put us a different mindset and now we have to switch that mindset to get back into basketball and playoff mode and try to incorporate new players, very important players, our point guard. It’s been a trying year but I think we can overcome.

“Getting angry is not going to help any situation. You have to stay in a positive mindset. It doesn’t go everybody’s way every year. I’ve been through five Finals, a lot of success. You’re having one bad year. But we can make the playoffs and save it.”

BOSH ITEM

Confirmed earlier today that the Heat cannot apply for a disabled player exception for Bosh for this season because the deadline has already passed. The Heat would surpass the luxury tax threshold by using all of its $2.65 million disabled player exception that was awarded when it lost Josh McRoberts to a knee injury. Miami is about $1.4 million under the threshold.

### The Heat set up a large get-well card for fans to sign at Sunday's Family Fest.

### Pat Riley missed the Heat's Family Festival because of the flu.

UM NOTES

### For details on the soap opera involving cornerback Antonio Crawford (who did not show up to practice today and wrote since-deleted tweets that he's "out"), please see Susan Miller Degnan's UM story.

### Golden said Gus Edwards has emerged as the leader at running back.

"Running hard right now," Golden said. "Got to protect the ball a little better, but running hard, finishing runs, playing big. He's not just a big man running with the ball. He's playing big, running with his pads a little more, seeing it better."

Golden likely will use a running back by committee approach this season, with Edwards, Joe Yearby, Trayone Gray, summer arrival Mark Walton and perhaps Walter Tucker.

"I'd like to continue to use a bunch of guys," Golden said. "It takes the hits off them and keeps them healthy."

### Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio is thrilled to have Al-Quadin Muhammad back from a university suspension.

"It's great to have him back," D'Onofrio said. "He's probably about 15 pounds heavier since last spring. I was commenting to guys when we were watching the tape; he's moving better, he's explosive, he's quick and he's moving well. "He's got a lot of recall with the scheme. He's not making mental errors and he's playing fast."

### Here's how D'Onofrio assessed his linebacker unit, which loses Denzel Perryman and Thurston Armbrister:

"We decided to move Tyriq McCord over to SAM. Raphael Kirby has looked great, really taken on a leadership role. He's really an expert at what we're asking him to do on defense. He plays like a veteran guy.

"Jermaine Grace had a really good year for us athletically, and he continues to make plays. It kind of starts with those guys, and we have to gain the depth that we need. We're counting on Juwon Young. He's 6-2-plus and 245 pounds and probably runs in the 4.6s. He's got all the skill. He's just got to make sure he's honing in on his assignments. Marques Gayot going to WILL has been a really nice addition, moving from safety to now a real athletic linebacker. It seems like he's got good instincts at that position.

"We're working on creating that depth and we're going to have more guys added in the fall, guys that we signed. Bottom line is we've got to get to six or seven. Last year we only played with five. We were fortunate we didn't get hurt. [Losing Alex Figueroa and Jawand Blue] really hurt us."

### D'Onofrio was non-committal about whether he will use more 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Miami plays both.

"The defense always starts with the players in mind. One of the advantages of us being a hybrid defense is that we can play multiple fronts and coverages are --- you can't play everything --- but you have the ability to tailor the scheme to what the guys do well. That's really what we try to do. Put the guys in position. Match their skill set and doing what they do well."

### D'Onofrio said UM's three early enrollees on defense (Scott Patchan, Charles Perry, Jaquan Johnson) are at a disadvantage because spring practice started sooner than past years:

"Scott Patchan is not going right now because of an injury [torn ACL in high school last year], but he's eager to go," D'Onofrio said. "If you've seen him play in high school, you see the motor he plays with. Charles and Jaquan are really smart guys who really like football."

### One concern with Matt Guodis' retirement from football is freshman Michael Badgley's inconsistency with extra points last season (he missed four of them). He was 14 for 18 on field goals.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 21, 2015

Saturday 4 p.m.: Bosh news and outlook; Goran Dragic shares thoughts; UM spring practice report; Marlins notes

As we reported yesterday, Chris Bosh has been diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs and will miss the rest of the season, the Heat announced today.

"Chris is OK and his prognosis is good," the Heat said in a short statement.

Heat associates said he has been fatigued but is starting to feel better and is looking forward to returning next season. Blood-thinner medication to treat the ailment would make it dangerous for him to play this season.

"I will be back soon," Bosh posted on Instagram tonight.

The belief of doctors is that the pain that Bosh was experiencing in his ribs was related to this condition. He also had been feeling tired and some shortness of breath.

But nobody believed there was a serious problem until he checked into a Miami hospital late Thursday. He remains hospitalized as of this afternoon. Dwyane Wade and Erik Spoelstra visited him there this afternoon.

Other athletes have returned from this ailment, including Cleveland's Andersen Varejao in 2013, and tennis star Serena Williams.

Bosh finished the season averaged 21.1 points (13th in the league) and 7.0 rebounds in 44 games. This was the first season of a five-year, $118 million contract.

Udonis Haslem is starting at power forward in Bosh's absence, but the Heat also could decide to play small at times, with Dwyane Wade at small forward, Luol Deng at power forward and Goran Dragic and Mario Chalmers at guard.

The Heat signed veteran swingman Henry (formerly Bill) Walker to a 10-day contract today, giving them 14 players under contract and one open roster spot.

Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley are among available forwards. Thomas Robinson is of Heat interest after his Nuggets buyout is finalized, RealGM reported. The Heat had not contacted Blatche as of midday Friday and Miami could instead explore adding a "stretch-four," though Blatche can't be ruled out.

The Heat has a $2.65 million disabled player's exception that it will lose if not used by March 10. But the trade deadline passed Thursday.

As a personal aside, here's wishing all the best to Bosh, a gentleman who has always comports himself with decency, kindness and class.

Meanwhile, Goran and Zoran Dragic addressed the media today. Some snippets:

### Asked if he plans to stay longterm with the Heat (he can be a free agent this summer), Goran Dragic said: “I hope so [that] I’m going to stay here. But you never know in the business.”

### Erik Spoelstra said the Heat tried to get Dragic in the past but got “the door slammed” in its face.

### Spoelstra sees the opportunity to thrive with Dragic in the open court and in the halfcourt game.

“We want to play off steals, deflections, off stops,” Spoelstra said. “But he also has shown versatility to play a halfcourt game. You need to play both in the playoffs. He has incredible energy, a real battery that we want to utilize.”

### Goran Dragic, on making his Heat debut tonight without even going through a practice: “It’s going to be a little bit tough. But all the players are professional. They know how to play basketball. Coach will tell me what I need to do. I will try to do my best. I will play with a lot of energy, hustle for every ball.”

### Goran on his goals growing up: “As a kid, you always dream to play in the NBA. Thought process first was to make first division in Slovenia, then some big European club, then to make the NBA.”

Goran said when he was playing overseas, “I was always layups, layups, layups” but realized that wasn’t realistic in the NBA.

###  Goran, on his new teammates: “Hassan Whiteside --- Big body, blocks shots, good hands. Can finish under the rim. Big guy who can protect the paint. D-Wade everybody knows he’s one of the best two guards in the league. Really excited to play with him. He likes to play in the open court. I like to do the same thing.”

UM FOOTBALL NUGGETS

### Tyriq McCord, who was a hybrid rush end/linebacker last season, has now moved to strongside linebacker. UM’s first team ends on its current depth chart today were Ufomba Kamalu and Trent Harris. But Al Quadin Muhammad and Chad Thomas will play a lot.

### McCord was listed as a second-team linebacker, behind Darrion Owens, with Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace the other first-teamers at linebacker.

### Deon Bush and Dallas Crawford are the first-team safeties, and Tracy Howard and Artie Burns the first-team cornerbacks.

### Al Golden said Kc McDermott and Taylor Gadbois, both potential starters, are still recovering from knee surgery last season. McDermott will return to practice in mid-March, Golden said. Gadbois is out for the spring.

### Sunny Odogwu was listed as the first team left-tackle, ahead of early enrollee Jahair Jones. Right tackle Trevor Darling is also getting work at left tackle.

### Golden expects Rayshawn Jenkins to return at some point this spring from an injury.

### Defensive tackle Calvin Heurteleu will miss spring ball with a knee injury. Anthony Moten and Michael Wyche were listed as the starting tackles, with Courtel Jenkins on the second team.

### UM, which plays both a 4-3 and a 3-4, listed its depth chart as a 4-3, as it did last spring. Golden said nothing should be read into that.

### Gus Edwards was listed as the first team running back, ahead of Joe Yearby. “Both performed really well today,” James Coley said.

### Golden said Trayone Gray “is a different guy” from a year ago. “Now he’s starting to look like a running back.”

### Braxton Berrios is listed as the first-team punt returner, but Golden said six players will be competing for that job.

### James Coley, on Rayshawn Scott, who is back after being sidelined last year with a shoulder/clavicle injury: “When I first got here, I thought he was one of the most talented guys here. Fired up about him.”

Scott, Stacy Coley and Berrios are listed as the first-team receivers. Coley is the first-time kickoff returner.

### Golden said walk-on receiver Garrett Kidd has "retired" from football.

MARLINS CHATTER

The offseason trade to Miami was a surprise for Martin Prado, but also a pleasant one.

Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, Prado said Saturday he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”

The Marlins believe they upgraded at third by replacing Casey McGehee (a career .264 hitter) with Prado (a career .291 hitter).

“He’s a consummate professional, gives us professional at-bats, above-average defender and we have him for two years,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said.

Prado said he’s fine after an offseason appendectomy.

### If the Marlins again keep 12 pitchers, that would leave room for five backup position players. Ichiro Suzuki, Jeff Baker and backup catcher Jeff Mathis figure to be three of them, with Donovan Solano, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas, Justin Bour and a bunch of non-roster invitees (including Reed Johnson, Jordany Valdespin and Don Kelly, among others) competing for two others.

All can play multiple positions –- which the Marlins say they value -- except Bour, who said Saturday that “first base is where I belong.” That could hurt Bour’s chances even though he impressed late last season, hitting .284 in 74 at-bats.

### General manager Dan Jennings said the front office has had internal discussions about free agent right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, who had 44 saves for Milwaukee last season. He reportedly wants a two-year, $10 million deal, and the Marlins aren’t inclined to approach those numbers.

If the Marlins make another bullpen move, the preference would be to add a left-hander. They remain interested in former Tigers lefty Phil Coke, but only if he’s willing to be a non-roster invitee to camp.

### The Marlins have been scouting highly-regarded free agent infielder Hector Olivera, whom they see as a third baseman, but it seems doubtful they would make a big offer because of their commitment to Prado. The Dodgers reportedly are the favorite.

### The lines for tickets were longer than the past two mid-February Winter Warmup events (previously known as FanFest). The top-selling games: Opening Day vs. Atlanta April 6 and series against the Yankees and Red Sox. The Marlins already have surpassed last year’s season-ticket sales count of 5000.

### Marlins president Davis Samson said he believes the Marlins will become “an internationally celebrated team” because of their popularity in Latin America and the addition of Japanese star Ichiro, which will result in at least 90 Marlins games airing on Japanese television, compared with one or two in past years.

### Left-hander Brad Hand is out of minor league options and likely would be claimed by another team if the Marlins try to send him to Triple A. Hand, who is 5-18 with a 4.42 ERA in four years for the Marlins (including 31 starts), likely would compete with David Phelps for a rotation spot only if one of the Marlins’ five projected starting pitchers is injured.

"We’re going to prepare Hand to start,” Hill said. “Hopefully we’ll have some tough decisions to make.” Hand said he would “much rather start” but is willing to do either.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

February 19, 2015

10 a.m. Bosh update; Dragic's agent on why Miami appealed to him and his future; Analysts, scouts weigh in; Dragic nuggets; Mike Wallace

10 a.m. update: Doctors have diagnosed Chris Bosh with blood clots on his lung, a condition that typically would sideline players for the duration of the season, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

Bosh remains at a local hospital and is believed to be on blood-thinner medication. He is weak and fatigued, but the longterm outlook is good.

Erik Spoelstra said Bosh will see more specialists in the next day before a final diagnosis is given. Spoelstra said the condition is not life-threatening.

Though nobody has definitively ruled Bosh out for the season, it's difficult to envision him returning because of the nature of the blood-thinner medication and the toll such a condition takes on the body.

It is unclear if Bosh will require any surgical procedure.

Bosh had been feeling tired and fatigued, with some shortness of breath and pain in the rib area, over the past few weeks, but nobody suspected anything serious until Thursday, when he was sent home from practice and checked into the hospital. 

Last weekend, Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard mentioned that Bosh was dealing with a rib injury. Doctors suspect the pain was related to his current condition.

Last month, Brooklyn Nets guard Mirza Teletovic was diagnosed with a similar condition (pulmonary embolus) and will miss the rest of the season. Cleveland forward Andersen Varejao was diagnosed with a blood clot on his lower right lung in January 2013 and missed the remainder of the season.

"They told me stories like, 'Oh my God, I had a friend who died of a blood clot in their lung," Varejao told Cleveland reporters at the time. "A week after surgery, I was at home thinking about how I could be gone right now."

Bosh is obviously a big loss; he ranks 13th in the NBA in scoring at 21.1 points per game. If he misses the rest of the season, that means that Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside will have played just 44 minutes together all season.

Without Bosh, Udonis Haslem could move into the starting role at power forward. He has played mostly backup center this season. The Heat's backup power forward, Shawne Williams, was shipped to New Orleans, through Phoenix, in Thursday's Goran Dragic trade. And even if he's released by the Pelicans, league rules prohibit the Heat from signing him.

As stated below, power/small forward Michael Beasley has interest in returning to the Heat, but Miami hadn't called him as of Thursday evening. Rashard Lewis also is available, having recovered from knee surgery. Another option is veteran power forward Andray Blatche, who recently completed his season in China. The Heat had not reached out to Blatche as of this morning, but he would make a lot of sense as a replacement.

9:45 p.m. Thursday update: I was told tonight that Chris Bosh was admitted to a local hospital this evening to try to get to the bottom of a chest/lung issue. As of this evening, the Heat was awaiting a diagnosis.

###########################################################################################

Heat chatter on the Goran Dragic trade:

### The Heat fully intends to re-sign Dragic when he can exercise an opt out this summer, and Dragic is interested in that. One of his agents said Thursday it’s likely Dragic will be in Miami for the long-term.

So why did Dragic include the Heat as one of his few preferred destinations (with the Knicks and Lakers)?

“First, because it’s one of the best organizations in the NBA," Rade Filipovich, one of Dragic’s two agents (with Bill Duffy), said Thursday evening.

“Second, they have a tremendous leader in Pat Riley and a tremendous coach in Erik Spoelstra. And they’ve got a pretty good team. He thinks this team can accomplish a lot. No question he likes playing with Dwyane Wade, one of the best players in the NBA, and playing with great players like Wade and Chris Bosh.”

He also relishes being able to play point guard again; Phoenix was playing him primarily at shooting guard.

“It’s a great fit,” Filipovich said. “Goran and Wade to bring the ball up, create offense, very good shooters –-- very interesting team. A playoff team. He feels lucky he ended up in Miami. He’s very happy.”

Dragic could command a five-year, $100 million deal with the Heat this summer, and Miami wouldn’t have made the trade without plans to keep him.

“It’s not difficult to cut a deal [when] you’re talking about Pat Riley,” Filipovich said.

### Dragic tweeted within the past hour: "NOW it's #heatnation time and I'm excited to bring the Dragon's fire to Miami!!!"

### TNT's Charles Barkley said the Heat is now a legitimate contender to win the East.

"Are they as good as Cleveland, Toronto, Washington, Chicago, Atlanta? They're in the conversation. Yes, they are," Barkley said. "They added an All-Star point guard. That was the one thing they were missing. They went from irrelevant [to relevant]. They got a lot better today. The two big winners today were Oklahoma City and Miami."

Said Shaquille O'Neal: "I agree with Chuck. I played with Goran Dragic. What it does for Miami is it gives them the ability to get back to running. The point guards weren't really running point guards. One was more of a shooter [Mario Chalmers, presumably]. The other [perhaps Norris Cole], I don't know what he did. Goran Dragic can penetrate, dish, can start the fast break, is a great passer. What he does best is, he loves getting people involved."

### Spoke or texted with several analysts tonight. Some reaction: ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy, by text: “Great trade by the Heat. Really think he is a very good player. Love his game and mental makeup.”...

ESPN’s Doug Collins, by text: “A Winner! He upgrades them but still behind Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and probably Toronto and Washington. If healthy, I love their starting team.” But Collins has concerns about Miami’s bench….

NBA TV’s Isiah Thomas, by phone: “I love the move. If your point guard can’t score in today’s NBA, you are not going to win. It’s a point guard driven league now, and Dragic can penetrate, stretch the floor from the three-point line, and he scores. And he’s someone you have to game plan for. I’m sure Miami will loosen the reins a bit and play faster. If they can come together and Wade is healthy, they can beat Atlanta, Washington or Toronto in playoff series. I don’t think they’re good enough to win a playoff series against Cleveland or Chicago.”

### One Eastern Conference scout said Dragic is at his best playing at a fast pace and said the Heat, which averages the league’s fewest possessions, must quicken the tempo because “Dragic can really push the ball. They won’t flourish as they should with him if they don’t.”

Said another scout: “This helps Luol Deng, because Deng gets a lot of his stuff on the move and Dragic can penetrate and dish. He's a very good pick and roll player and they can run that with Hassan Whiteside. He’s not great defensively, but he’s one of the top 10 point guards in the league and he’s in his prime. For what they gave up, are you kidding me? They gave up nobody for a star.”

### Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, a guest in TNT's studio tonight, said "Goran helps Miami, takes a load off Chris Bosh. Now you've got to focus on a point guard who's driving the basketball. You've got D-Wade running the wing. You've got shooters on the wing. You've got Chris Bosh inside. Miami definitely got a steal with this one. Usually, you had to prepare for D-Wade and Bosh. Now you've got a guy pushing it 94 feet and getting to basket, getting layups, getting free throws."

### The Heat needs a stretch-four to replace Shawne Williams, and Michael Beasley would love to come back, a close associate said Thursday. Rashard Lewis, recovered from knee surgery, would be open to that, too. But Miami hadn’t called either as of Thursday.

### The Heat now has the high-percentage shooting backcourt. Dragic is second in the league among shooting guards, behind Kyle Korver, at 50.1 this season. Wade is third at 48.7 percent and shot an absurd 54.5 percent last season. And this is no anomaly with Dragic; he shot 50.5 percent for Phoenix last season, when he averaged 20.3 points and 5.9 assists and was all-NBA third team.

### What’s more, Dragic is the most accurate guard in the league, percentage-wise, in the basket area among qualifiers, shooting 68.2 percent within five feet.

### Wade and Bosh both expressed concern in the past month about Riley waiting until 2016 to make a big move, wondering if the gamble would pay off as it did in 2010. “You don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket,” Bosh told me earlier this season. Now they won’t have to worry about that.

### Dragic wanted to go back to playing point guard, and this illustrates his value there: During his minutes when he was at point guard and not playing with Phoenix’s other two point guards this season, Dragic averaged 27.9 points and 9.8 assists per 48 minutes. (ESPN projected the numbers over 36 minutes earlier this week.) Only Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook could match those numbers.

### Dragic’s assist to turnover ratio of 1.85 to 1 is only 59th in the league, but he’s a creative passer and would have more assists if he had been the Suns’ primary ball-handler this season. He was 2.1-to-1 last season, which was 44th in the league.

### The Heat is now the NBA’s only team with five players in the top 90 in efficiency rating, as ESPN noted. Dragic is 88th this season and was 20th last season.

### Addressing point guard, the Heat’s biggest weakness, was vital because the 2016 free agent class has only one high-end point guard (Mike Conley), with Brandon Jennings and George Hill the second- and third-best options.

### As far as what the Heat gave up, no great loss. Riley has little use for draft picks, so parting with picks in 2017 and 2021 wasn't a concern. According to the Arizona Republic, the 2017 pick is top-seven protected for two years and unprotected in 2019...

The Heat was pleased to dump the $2.2 million due next season to Danny Granger, whose game had greatly diminished.... Miami likely would not have extended a $3 million qualifying offer to Norris Cole this summer.... The Heat didn't consider Justin Hamilton a rotation player. And though Shawne Williams led the Heat in three-pointers, the staff had concerns about his defense. 

### The Heat also gets Goran's brother, Zoran Dragic, who was standout player in Spain and Slovenia. He played just 13 minutes all season for the Suns, shooting 2 for 8. At 6-5, he can play shooting guard or small forward.

### Riley, on the trade: “Goran is an All-NBA player, including the Most Improved Player last season, and we felt that once he became available, we would do all that we could to acquire him. We feel he is the perfect complement to the players we have on the team. We are also pleased to bring his brother, Zoran, into the HEAT family. He had a great summer during international play and it’s great to have a brother-brother duo and someone that can help us in our rotation.”

DOLPHINS NOTE

The Dolphins are open to making it work with Mike Wallace but his future could hinge on his receptiveness to taking a pay cut/restructuring. Discussions were expected this week. Wallace is due $9.9 million next season, but none of it is guaranteed at the moment. Of that $9.9 million, $3.3 million becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year, which starts March 10. So Miami has some time to reach a resolution.

If the Dolphins don't keep Wallace, UM's Phillip Dorsett is one receiver with elite speed who would love to end up here. He said being drafted by the Dolphins would be a dream.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz             

February 18, 2015

Wednesday night report: Heat trade talk; Hurricanes, Marlins news, notes

Some Heat, Marlins and Canes talk on a Wednesday night:

### Pat Riley has said he does not want to make a lateral move at the trade deadline, that if he does something he wants it to be something that makes a genuine difference.

That’s why a bid for disgruntled Phoenix guard Goran Dragic makes by far the most sense of anything potentially available. But here’s the problem: Yahoo! reported tonight that, in return, the Suns want a young player with significant potential and one or two first-round draft picks.

The Heat, by league rule, cannot trade a first-round pick until 2017 (unless it acquires one from another team first). And the Heat obviously doesn't have a can't miss young player, excluding Hassan Whiteside, who can't be traded by league rule (within three months of signing his contract) and isn't available anyway.

But keep this in mind: Though rookie point guard Shabazz Napier wouldn't be remotely close to equal value for Dragic, the Suns raved about him before the draft last June.

"We place a value on winning, and I think of the guys in the draft he's probably one of the most ready to come in and make an impact right away," Suns GM Ryan McDonough said last June.

And after Napier's Suns workout last June, coach Jeff Hornacek said: "Shabazz, with his speed, quickness, condition, I thought was really good for as much as we do running. He kept pushing the ball, which is our style. That's what we want to see." Hmmm. Purely hypothetical, but Luol Deng, Napier and a 2017 first-rounder for Dragic and Gerald Green would work within cap rules.

According to Yahoo, the Celtics, Kings and Rockets have been among teams aggressive in pursuing a trade for Dragic. But Dragic does not wish to go to any of those teams, according to multiple reports, and it’s questionable how much any of them would be willing to give up with the knowledge that Dragic could bolt as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Heat apparently is willing to put nearly all its chips on the table in an attempt to make a significant move. As Yahoo’s Marc Spears noted, every player on the Heat roster is available except Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside.

But Luol Deng or Josh McRoberts likely would be moved only for a high-quality starter.

As for Dragic, he made it clear today that he wants out.

“I don’t trust them anymore,” he said of Suns management in an interview with the Arizona Republic and other Phoenix reporters. “I want to be a point guard, like I was in the past, all my life. To be a point guard to run the team, to have the ball in my hands and try to make plays for others. That’s who I am.”

ESPN reports the Knicks are offering Jose Calderon and Tim Hardaway Jr. for Dragic.

Besides Dragic, what else available would qualify as a significant upgrade? Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson has asked for a trade, according to Yahoo, but Oklahoma City might not accommodate him because he will be a restricted (not unrestricted) free agent this summer.

ESPN mentioned Indiana, Boston, Houston and Denver as suitors. But Jackson reportedly rejected a four year, $48 million contract from the Thunder and it would be somewhat risky to offer substantially more to a player who has averaged nine points and three assists in his career with just 49 career starts.

### Washington and Detroit reportedly have inquired about Norris Cole, but ESPN said the Heat is insisting Danny Granger’s contract (worth $2.2 million next season) be included in any deal.

If the Heat doesn’t trade Cole on Thursday, it would stand to lose him this offseason unless it makes him a $3 million qualifying offer.... Denver has interesting assets available (Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler), but the Nuggets want first-round picks (which the Heat lacks), and Lawson's deal --- with two seasons left --- is too burdensome.

CANES TALK

UM did what it needed to do over the past 72 hours, beating ACC doormats Boston College and Virginia Tech to move to 17-9 and 7-6 in the conference. Tonye Jekiri had 15 points and 15 rebounds and Sheldon McClellan scored 21 in tonight’s 76-52 shellacking of the Hokies.

This would be the most logical way for UM to make the NCAA Tournament: win at home against FSU, win at Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale and win one of these three (Saturday at Louisville, the following Saturday at home against North Carolina on CBS or at Pittsburgh on March 4), which would leave the Canes at 10-8 in the conference. Then win at least one game in the ACC Tournament just to be on the safe side.

UM entered tonight 62nd in RPI. Jim Larranaga said a team lower than 60 has “no shot” at making the NCAA Tournament and a team between 40 and 60 “better pray.”

### Though none of this should be taken too seriously because we’re nearly a year from National Signing Day, it’s (mildly) interesting that the Hurricanes keep adding oral commitments for 2016. UM is up to 18 now after procuring a pledge today from Fort Pierce Central three-star linebacker Greg Simmons.

247sports.com ranks UM’s 2016 class the best in the country, and 11 of the 18 commits are from South Florida’s tri-county area. Of course, UM needs to win next season to hold onto at least some of these prospects.

### UM baseball lost 5-3 at FAU tonight to fall to 4-1.

MARLINS TALK

We’ll have a lot on the Marlins in the coming days, coinciding with the opening of camp on Friday, but here are a few items culled from their charity golf tournament today:

Despite a report linking former Yankees and Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain to the Marlins, Miami isn’t pursuing him. The Marlins would have interest only in lefties (primarily Phil Coke), and only if he’s willing to accept a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, which he hasn’t been willing to do to this point.

"If there is opportunity to bring someone in as a non-roster invitee, we’ll look at it,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “But we don’t have to do anything at this point.”….

Unlike nearly all of his teammates, Dan Haren wasn’t at the golf tournament today and he made clear earlier this offseason that he preferred to play closer to his Southern California home. Hill has spoken with Haren and is convinced he will come to camp with a good attitude. Hill said there are no plans to trade him and expects him to be in the rotation in April.

He said, ‘I’m good. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to help this team win ball games. I couldn’t be happier,’" Hill said. "I’m very happy where we are with our rotation."...

Hill said Jose Fernandez, returning from Tommy John surgery, is expected to throw off a mound early in spring training. WINZ-940’s Andy Slater reported that will happen on March 1.

“We’re cautiously optimistic with him,” said Hill of Fernandez, who’s expected to return between mid-June and mid-July.  “His rehab has gone great.”…

Mike Redmond said he’s not sure whether Giancarlo Stanton will bat third or cleanup but mentioned the upside of getting him a guaranteed at-bat in the first inning. In that scenario of Stanton hitting third, Christian Yelich would bat second, and Michael Morse could hit cleanup, with Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna behind him. But Redmond wants to experiment in spring training before committing to a lineup. Yelich said today he would be happy whether he hits second or third.

The Marlins have added former Marlins infielder Lenny Harris as assistant hitting coach, a No. 2 of sorts behind Frank Menichino.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz