01/24/2015

Analysts, scouts assess Heat at midseason; Dolphins, Marlins personnel nuggets; Golden; UM recruiting, hoops

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With the Heat reaching the season’s midway point this past week, we solicited views from two Eastern Conference scouts and three ABC/ESPN analysts. Some of the feedback:

### John Hollinger’s computer-driven formula gives the Heat a surprisingly low 42.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. But if Miami makes it, is there any first-round matchup it could win?

Doug Collins said “it would be interesting to see them” against Chicago and Toronto because both teams start “two bigs.” Conversely, “teams that play stretch fours are tough covers for Miami. Atlanta is a very tough matchup for them because they put shooters on the floor and your defense gets strung out. Miami really struggles with that [because] they’re not a real athletic team. Luol Deng has slowed down a bit; [Dwyane] Wade will pick his spots.”

Mark Jackson: “I would say the way they’re playing, no. Early on in the season, I thought they could be a good team that would be dangerous in the playoffs. Right now, they are not playing up to par. But this is a team that’s well coached, a world-class organization. They have quality players, so they have plenty of time to get it right where they can be dangerous.”

Jalen Rose: “I agree with Mark. One asterisk I would add is we know it’s about matchups. If I had to pick a team that they could possibly face in the first round and would really give them an issue, it would be the Toronto Raptors. Chris Bosh played for that team and Wade obviously has the championship pedigree. Going against that team in the first-round could be interesting, but not the way they’re playing right now.”

The two scouts very much doubted Miami could make it out of the first round. Said one of them: “They don’t have the talent Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, Toronto and Chicago have. Those other teams are younger, more motivated, deeper, just better.”

### So is the Heat underachieving by not being anywhere close to a top-four seed?

Collins: “For Wade and Bosh to miss [a combined] 18 games and be where they are, I don’t think they’ve underachieved. They had some huge question marks coming in. And they don’t have the three-point shooting they had in the past.”

First scout: “Considering the injuries, they’ve underachieved but not significantly so. Losing Josh McRoberts was big; he was a big piece for them. Washington, Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago are much, much better and they all have outstanding point guard play. The Heat’s point guard play is awful."

With Hassan Whiteside now starting, "you look at Miami’s lack of punch off the bench --– you have mostly guys fading or reclamation projects. Not a lot of young, live legs besides James Ennis, who’s a borderline rotation player. And they’re not guarding people like they used to.”

### So why can Portland, which has two All-Stars (LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard) be so much better than the Heat, which also has two All-Stars?

Nic Batum, [injured] Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews are much better than what the Heat has around Wade and Bosh, and Portland has shored up its bench,” one of the scouts said.

### On Hassan Whiteside: Collins: Besides the “rim protecting, his activity impresses me. He’s got a big upside.” If he keeps developing, “it would be huge for them. But he can’t get drunk on his own success. Now your name will be going on the board and people will talk about you in the other locker-room. Now you have to be even better.”

First scout: “We didn’t consider him because the book on him was he was very immature and unprofessional. Not a lot of teams would have given him a chance. But they’ve gotten the best out of him. You’ve got to give them credit.

“At the very least, he looks like a good backup. And he’s got starter’s talent. He can block shots, can rebound. Is [Toronto starting power forward] Amir Johnson more talented? No. He’s smaller, not the shot-blocker and rebounder this guy is. But let’s see where [Whiteside] is in five weeks.”

### On Luol Deng: Collins: “Luol can sometimes get lost because he’s so unselfish. He’s always moving without the ball. His efficiency is up and he's such a hard worker on defense.”

First scout: “Chicago would get him stuff with movement; they would post him up. They need to post him up more.” (Heat players were very effective in getting him the ball on the move on Friday.)

### On the point guards: Collins: “I don’t view [Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole] as a front-line point guard. Wade has actually become their point guard.”

What about Shabazz Napier? “I love winners; winning always translates,” Collins said. “That’s why I love Kemba Walker, and Shabazz was a lot like that. Napier is a little smaller. He will have to learn to play off screens, not get knocked off screens, and get them into offense. So teams don’t go under picks against him, he has to make midrange jump shots.”

First scout: “Cole has really hurt himself in a contract year. His warts are coming out. He’s not a good playmaker, a below average shooter. Chalmers is basically an undersized two who can occasionally make shots.”

Second scout: Cole and Chalmers “are backups, nothing more. LeBron masked their deficiencies to an extent. Napier was a big disappointment to me. He struggles with quickness and size, and when you don’t have exceptional quickness at his size, it’s a problem. He allows too many blow-bys. Bigger point guards will post him up. He’s not long. Similar to [Knicks and former UM guard] Shane Larkin.”   

### On Danny Granger: First scout: “He can’t beat anybody off the dribble, so he better make jump shots.”

### On Chris Andersen: Second scout: “The Birdman of old impacted the game more. He benefited a lot from LeBron because he penetrated and passed for all those dunks Birdman would get. With two lousy point guards he’s going to have fewer eye-catching dunks.”

CHATTER

### Though the Dolphins have been non-committal with several players, they privately indicated they want to re-sign free agent tight end Charles Clay. An offer is expected in the coming weeks. Tight end is one position the Dolphins feel good about, with Clay and Dion Sims. In his final media availability, Bill Lazor was very complimentary about Sims' development.

### The Dolphins met last week with Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who very much intrigues them and would be in play if he’s still available with Miami’s 14th overall pick.

###  An NFL official said there was a lot of buzz at the Senior Bowl last week about a couple of teams being interested in luring two of the Dolphins’ respected talented evaluators: director of college scouting Chris Grier and top national scout Adam Engroff, potentially as a package deal. Engroff has had a role in Miami's selection of several players in the West (Paul Soliai, Sean Smith, Rishard Matthews, former Hawaii standout Davone Bess, among others.)

The official said there's still uncertainty about who Mike Tannenbaum will keep, with several front-office contracts expiring in the coming months. (Dennis Hickey is obviously staying for at least the next year.) And Grier and Engroff are valued. 

### Talks have stalled between the Marlins and left fielder Christian Yelich on a long-term deal --- a significant gap remains --– and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria also has declined the Marlins’ initial multiyear offer. Yelich isn’t a free agent until after 2019, Hechavarria after 2018. Both were interested in multiyear contracts but not at the money offered.

### Though Ichiro Suzuki's one-year contract with the Marlins calls for a base salary of $2 million, he can earn as much as $5 million total if he reaches certain thresholds with plate appearances, which
will be difficult to achieve barring injuries to a starting outfielder. If Ichiro somehow collected the entire $5 million, the Marlins' payroll would swell to $70 million.

### UM athletic director Blake James disputes any notion that Al Golden kept his job because of a large buyout (which is a substantial portion of the $10 million-plus left on his contract).

“Al is here because we believe in him as a coach,” said James, who remains in pursuit of a neutral site football game with UF (possibly in Orlando).

A UM trustee involved in athletics said the buyout is substantially lower after next season.

### At least three uncommitted players were scheduled to visit UM this weekend: three-star Los Angeles based defensive tackle Kevin Scott, Delray Beach Atlantic three-star defensive end Shelton Johnson (who reportedly leans toward FSU) and two-star Georgia-based quarterback Evan Shirreffs, who came to his visit without a UM offer but was hoping for one.

### Can't say enough about the improvement of UM center Tonye Jekiri, whose 13 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks helped UM win 66-62 at Syracuse today. He's now averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, which leads the ACC and ranks 14th in the country. UM is now 14-5 overall, 4-2 in the ACC.

### Sports business items: The Dolphins have a good chance to land the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowls (finalists are announced in May) and the Marlins have an excellent chance to get the 2017 All-Star Game….

David Beckham’s group has zeroed in on three to five sites in the greater downtown Miami area for an MLS stadium, with a site near Marlins Park still in the running. (UM hasn’t been contacted about a joint stadium in recent months.)

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez said he hasn’t spoken to Beckham’s group in four or five months. “Downtown property is very expensive; we had a quarter of an acre sell for $125 million on the water [and Beckham] has to assemble 9 or 10,” Gimenez said.

“Not saying they’re all $125 million, [but] it's hard to assemble those pieces. They want it to be urban. They wanted [fans to be able to] march to the match. There are a few places that could happen. A site near Marlins Park would be adequate.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

01/23/2015

Saturday 11 a.m.: Some jarring Heat trends; Heat chatter; Wade All-Star reaction; UM recruiting; former UM QB gets NFL interview

11 a.m. Saturday:

The Heat plays its second and final ABC-televised game of the regular season on Sunday and Miami arrives in Chicago with the ignominious distinction of being the league’s worst second half team, based on point differential.

On Friday, the Heat squandered nearly all of a 21-point lead but escaped against Indiana, marking only the second time in the past 15 seasons that the Heat was outscored by at least 15 points after halftime in a home game and still managed to win. (The other, according to Elias, was against Detroit in 2007).

What’s puzzling to the players is the jarring contrast between the Heat’s first- and second-half play this season. Consider:

The Heat has outscored teams by 57 points in the first half (which is the NBA’s 12th-best differential). But Miami has been outscored by 212 points after halftime, with that -4.9 differential ranking last in the league.

The Heat averages 49.8 points in the first half, good for 14th in the league, but just 43.0 in the second half, which ranks last. The Heat’s points differential has been worse in the third quarter than the fourth, but no team averages fewer points in the fourth quarter than Miami’s 22.2.

So what’s going on here?

“Our execution in the first and second half is different,” Chris Bosh said. “As the game tightens up, we get tight a little bit for some reason. We stop running plays that work. As an IQ level as a team, we’re not really reading and reacting correctly to the defense. Sometimes guys are going to sit on our plays and you have to be ahead of the curve and throw wrinkles in there to throw them off a little bit. It’s reading and reacting during the game. We’re still working on that.”

Bosh said Erik Spoelstra has been calling more plays late in games than he would otherwise. “He can call all the plays he wants; that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to score,” Bosh said. “It’s on the players. It’s on us to make sure we’re setting screens, posting up when it’s time to post up. If a guy has a shot, he has to knock it down. That’s what it comes down to.”        

Several Heat regulars have seen their shooting percentage plummet in the fourth quarter. Mario Chalmers is shooting 42.6 percent in the first three quarters, 33.9 in the fourth. Luol Deng has gone from 51.4 to 41.9, Norris Cole from 39.8 to 32.5, Shawne Williams from 47.4 to 32.1.

Bosh is shooting 48.4 percent in the first three quarters, 42.2 in the fourth. Dwyane Wade fourth-quarter shooting has been fine (48 percent) but he’s shooting 43.5 in the third.

“We have to come out with more energy, more motor to our offense, especially in the second half,” Spoelstra said. “We’re getting caught at the end of the clock quite a bit in those situations.”

Wade said the Heat’s offense was “a little stagnant” early in the fourth quarter against Indiana, but generally “we ran the offense we needed to run.”

Wade, meantime, remains in a rare extended shooting slump. Wade, who shot a remarkable 54.5 percent last season, ranks fourth in the league among shooting guards at 48.4 percent but has made less than 50 percent of his shots in his last nine games and is shooting 58 for 144 (40.3 percent) over that stretch.

Wade, who had headaches and dehydration earlier Friday, said: “I was trying to get my legs under me [against Indiana]. They haven’t come with me yet. Hopefully, they come back soon.”

### Unless the Heat somehow gets a playoff game on ABC, this will be Miami's final ABC appearance this season, with Dave Pasch and Hubie Brown working Heat-Bulls at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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

A six pack of notes on a Friday night:

### For the first time since 2005, Dwyane Wade won’t be starting in an All-Star Game, but he’s not sweating it.

Wade indicated he’s not bothered by the fact Kyle Lowry surpassed him in fan voting, thanks in part to a social media campaign orchestrated by the Toronto Raptors, one that enabled Lowry to earn the Eastern Conference starting backcourt spot alongside John Wall.

“My wife told me [about Lowry getting the starting nod],” Wade said. “I was just like, ‘OK.’ I wasn’t vote watching. [The Raptors] did a good job. They had an unbelievable campaign. Kudos to them. It’s more important for him than it would have been to me.”

Lowry trailed Wade by 115,803 votes two weeks ago but ended up 15,541 votes ahead of Wade.

The Heat also had a social media push for Wade, but the Raptors’ campaign ultimately prevailed, thanks partly to Canadian politicians tweeting votes for Lowry. Every reweet of those pro-Lowry tweets, with the #NBAballot hashtag, counted as a vote for Lowry.

Wade made a point to praise Lowry for his outstanding play this season, noting he has "had an unbelievable season."

Asked if he expects to a named an Eastern Conference reserve, he said: “I don’t care about that stuff. It’s not really a concern for me.”

Wade said he still has to go to New York for business obligations during All-Star weekend regardless of whether he plays in the game, which is scheduled for Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden.

Chris Bosh also indicated Friday that it won’t be a big deal to him if he’s not voted an All-Star reserve. "I mean, you get a week vacation" if you don't make the All-Star team, he said.

It's difficult to envision the sub .500-Heat getting two players in the All-Star game. Eastern Conference coaches vote for the reserves, with the announcement scheduled for Thursday evening.

The Heat has more than a week between its last game before the All-Star break (Feb. 11 at Cleveland) and first game after (Feb. 20 at New York).

### You have to admire Luol Deng for pushing through chills, a sore throat and a headache to score 23 points in the Heat’s 89-87 win against Indiana tonight.

On Sunday, Deng will play in Chicago for the first time since the Bulls traded him to Cleveland last January.

“I was there a long time [9 ½ seasons]; there definitely will be emotions,” he said. “I never thought I would be anywhere else.”

He said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau “would have liked me back” this season but “I felt it wasn’t time.”

### The Heat was outscored 50-35 in the second half tonight, squandering all but one point of a 20-point third quarter lead. We’ve seen this too often this season.

The Heat entered averaging 43.2 points in the second half, worst in the league, and with a league worst -4.7 point differential in the second half.

### With 10 days left before National Signing Day, UM --- oddly enough --- is waiting for decisions from more uncommitted California-based prospects than South Florida-based prospects.

At least four Southern California defensive players are considering UM: five-star defensive end Rasheem Green, five-star linebacker John Houston, three-star defensive end Simi Moala and three-star defensive tackle Kevin Scott, who is visiting this weekend.

### According to Fox’s Alex Marvez, former UM quarterback Steve Walsh – head coach at Cardinal Newman in West Palm Beach – will interview for the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback coaching job. Another former UM quarterback, Ken Dorsey, is quarterback coach of the Carolina Panthers.

### Though some national reports continue to link the Marlins to free agent James Shields, the feeling internally is that he would be way too costly (unless Jeffrey Loria has a surprising change of heart).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/22/2015

Ichiro to join Marlins; Riley expresses frustration with Heat; Barkley/Shaq Heat slight; Marino; Kiper's Dolphins assessment; UM notes

1 p.m. update: The Marlins have agreed to a contract with 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki, who will become their fourth outfielder. Suzuki hit .284 for the Yankees last season and 6 for 13 as a pinch hitter. 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Speaking to reporters for the first time in several months, Heat president Pat Riley said Thursday that this season has been “very frustrating for everybody --– for me, for Micky [Arison], for Erik [Spoelstra], for the players. It’s been very, very frustrating that we haven’t been able to overcome the adversities that we faced.”

Riley said the Heat (18-24) has “underachieved” at times in terms of effort and how it deals with adversity.

“We’ve had a lot of opportunities --- 10 or 12 games to overcome adversity… and we haven’t been able to… We’re not in the fight like we were before for the top of the conference. We are in the fight with five or six other teams for probably the playoffs, spots six, seven and eight….

“So get real about it. Humble yourself to that and let’s go get it, and not get so depressed about things that it takes away from that fight, that grip and that spirit.”

Riley said “losing a game” like the one to Charlotte on Wednesday “is a punch in the gut because they are one of the teams that we are competing [with]…. In the face of all the adversity that we’ve had, there have been times we have underachieved…. I do see a five or six or seven-game good run somewhere… that will get us back to where we feel good about ourselves.”

### How active is the Heat in trying to upgrade the roster? “There’s a lot of conversation but we’re not active,” Riley said. “I’ve not going to move chairs. I’ve been in the chair moving business before and that’s all you do is move chairs around…

“If there is something that makes sense that can really help us, then we would consider it. But we’re not about to give up assets that we don’t have, that we need, to make a lateral move out of desperation, to take what I think is a playoff team to make the playoffs. If it’s a player to take us into the future, we’ll think about it. It’s fluid."

Though the goal remains to have a ton of cap space in 2016, Riley said he would trade for a player whose contract runs beyond 2016 “if it’s the right guy and he’s a star and he can complement what coach wants and what we have with Dwyane [Wade] and Luol [Deng] and Chris [Bosh] and he’s a starter… Then we’re ready to move. We’re not going to wait.”

With regard to 2016, when the Heat could have $50 million in cap space, Riley said: “I’m not so sure that what we did in 2010 is anywhere close to what you can do in 2016. The rules have changed. Players can force you into sign and trades.

“For a player to turn down a five-year guaranteed deal at home and major max money, he must really have to hate where he’s at or love where he’s going. It’s going to be approached differently. But at least we want to have the flexibility of having it. I would much rather have it than not."

Riley mentioned the consequences of trading four first-round picks in 2010 so that LeBron James and Bosh could sign six-year contracts instead of five-year deals. Both opted out after four years, with James bolting to Cleveland and Bosh re-signing with Miami for a five-year, $118 million max contract.

"We were forced into a sign and trade in 2010 and we would gladly do it again, but it cost us four first-round picks for them to get an extra year that they didn’t even use,” Riley said.

“And there’s one team out there that still has one of our picks, by the way. [Philadelphia has that pick, through Cleveland, though it’s top-10 protected this June]. They should have had a rule at that time that if somebody leaves you before that pick, you get it back. Especially if he went home” as James did in returning to Cleveland.

### Riley, on what needs to change:  “The overall health from this point to the end of the season --– it’s paramount that we have our players… every single night. We’re not going to get Josh McRoberts back…. [He] would have gone very well with what coach wanted to do.”

Asked about a Yahoo! report that the Heat offered McRoberts in a package for center Brook Lopez, Riley said the Heat hadn’t offered anyone to anybody.

### Riley on emerging center Hassan Whiteside: “We’re very fortunate to have a young player like that who can do what he can do. Like finding lightning in a bottle, but I’m not going to overplay it. He does have [Alonzo Mourning]-like capabilities in shot blocking and being able to finish at the rim. You really have to give him 20 to 30 games of 20 to 30 minutes a game to see if there’s a consistency there.”

Please see the last post for a full Riley transcript and below for more Heat notes.

CHATTER

### Looking back, just how much did Dan Marino help Ryan Tannehill this season?

“He helped; it was good for us and had an effect,” said backup quarterback Matt Moore, who attended the sessions with Marino. Moore said Marino didn’t study opponent film and “didn’t talk about mechanics. He talked about mindset, attitude, focus, how he dealt with situations, what he was looking at on one-on-one routes.”

Moore said Marino was more talkative when the coaches weren’t in the room. But Marino was very careful not to step on coaches' toes. Marino declined last week to speak about his interaction with Tannehill.

### Mel Kiper this week re-graded the 2014 draft for each team. Kiper, who gave the Dolphins a B after the draft, lowered it to a B-.

Here's what he said on ESPN.com: "At the time, I described this as "a really quiet draft class in terms of star appeal, but the Dolphins did a pretty solid job of hitting their biggest needs. Ja'Wuan James isn't a player many people know, but ... the Dolphins need an immediate starter at right tackle, and that's James." And Jarvis Landry doesn't fill a major need at WR, but he's a really reliable target who catches absolutely everything."

"James did, in fact, get plugged in, but it's hard to push the grade up based on his performance because while he turned in nearly 1,100 snaps, it was pure necessity, and Ryan Tannehill saw just as much pressure in 2014 as he did in 2013. That said, James did start and a year of reps could help.

"He can still turn into a good NFL player. Landry was a favorite of mine and finished second among all rookies in catches, and led the Dolphins with 84. If there's a knock it's that he didn't stretch the field at all (9.0 YPC), but that's a nice find at No. 63 overall, and Tannehill's so-so protection factored in to any field-stretching. That's about it, though. Walt Aikens is a "we'll see" type, and Billy Turner could develop. I do think they helped Tannehill, which was the goal. James just needs to take another step."

### Senior Bowl security reportedly stopped Dolphins coach Joe Philbin today when he went down to the sideline to get a closer look at Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who would be an appealing option if available with the 14th pick in the first round.

The security guard backed off when Philbin said he’s the head coach of the Dolphins.

### So among the clear-cut top five teams in the East, is there anyone the Heat could realistically beat in a playoff series? I posed that question today to ABC’s Mark Jackson and Jalen Rose.

Jackson said the Heat isn't going to beat any of the top five, considering the way they're playing. Rose agreed with Jackson but said a matchup with Toronto would be interesting. The Heat beat the Raptors in the first week of the season.

### Not only did Kyle Lowry surprisingly surpass Dwyane Wade for a starting slot in the All-Star Game, but TNT's Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley did not deem Wade worthy of being a reserve, either.

Barkley said Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler and Brandon Knight deserve to be backup guards on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Conference coaches will vote for reserves, which will be announced next Thursday.

Barkley included Chris Bosh on his list of Eastern Conference reserves; O'Neal did not.

### Wade, who had been voted an All-Star starter every year since 2006, was classy about tonight's surprising turn of events. "Just wanted to send out a congrats to Kyle Lowry for getting the starting nod and say thank you!!! to all my fans for voting for me." Lowry and John Wall will be the Eastern Conference's starting guards.

### UM had a midweek visit from Atlanta-based Arden Key, a four-star prospect rated the 13th-best defensive end by rivals.com. He’s considering UM, LSU, South Carolina and Auburn and plans to announce Feb. 4 on National Signing Day.... UM is hopeful that four-star Royal Palm Beach linebacker Charles Perry will enroll in the next week. UM has three Class of 2015 scholarship players already enrolled: defensive end Scott Patchan, tight end Jerome Washington and safety Jaquan Johnson....

Good work by Sheldon McClellan (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Tonye Jekiri (10 rebounds) in UM's 65-60 win tonight over NC State. Angel Rodriguez (14 points, 6 assists) struggled again with his shot (2 for 8) but made 8 of 10 free throws. The Hurricanes outscored the Wolfpack, 37-29, in the second half to improve to 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the ACC.... Jim Larranaga apologized to NC State coach Mark Gottfried afterward because a UM fan sitting on the sideline pushed the Wolfpacks' Cat Barber late in the game.

### Kentucky will play at AmericanAirlines on Thanksgiving weekend this fall as part of the new Hoophall Miami Invitational, a one-day, four-team regular-season college basketball tournament that was
announced Thursday.

The tournament, which is being run by the Heat Group in conjunction with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will be played Friday, Nov. 27 and feature Kentucky playing South Florida and Ohio State meeting Memphis. One of the ESPN networks will televise both games.

The arrangement is a one-year deal, but Hall of Fame president John Doleva said he would like this to become an annual event at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Also, Heat president Pat Riley announced that he is donating $50,000 to the Hall. Riley was inducted in 2008.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Riley discusses state of the Heat and his outlook at the season's midway point

Pat Riley, this afternoon, addressed the state of the Heat for the first time this season, shortly  after AmericanAirlines Arena announced, in conjunction with the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, that they will hold a college basketball double-header on Friday, Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving weekend): Kentucky-South Florida and Ohio State-Memphis.

Here’s what Riley --- who announced he is donating $50,000 to the Hall ---  had to say about the Heat (18-24) in a brief session with several reporters:

### On how difficult a year this has been: “It has been very frustrating for everybody – for me, for Micky [Arison], for Erik [Spoelstra], for the players. It’s been very, very frustrating that we haven’t been able to overcome the adversities that we faced. They are not excuses. They are adversity.

“Adversity really strengthens the fiber and core of your team. We’ve had a lot of opportunities --– 10 or 12 games to overcome adversity and one or two or three of these situations and we haven’t been able to do that.

“But we’re in the fight. You have to recognize who you are and what your challenges are this year. We’re in the fight. We’re not in the fight like we were before for the top of the conference. We are in the fight with five or six other teams for probably the playoffs, spots six, seven and eight. So get real about it. Don’t feel sorry about it and get after it!

“Losing a game like last night [to Charlotte] is a punch in the gut because they are one of the teams that we are competing [with]. Have we relegated ourselves to the thinking of, ‘We’re just a playoff team?' No, we haven’t. But in the face of all the adversity that we’ve had, there have been, at times, [that] we have underachieved. To me, that’s a habit, more than anything else, that I think will strengthen as we continue to take these hits along the way. If we don’t take these hits along the way, I do see a five or six or seven-game good run somewhere along the [way] that will get us back to where we feel good about ourselves.”

Riley later clarified that when he said the Heat has underachieved at times, he was referring to effort and overcoming adversity.

### How actively is he looking to upgrade the roster? “There’s a lot of conversation but we’re not active. I’ve not going to move chairs. I’ve been in the chair moving business before and that’s all you do is move chairs around. I don’t mean that in disrespect to the players. I don’t like them to call them assets or chairs or whatever.

"If there is something that makes sense that we can do that can really help us, then we would consider it. But we’re not about to give up assets that we don’t have, that we need, to make a lateral move out of desperation, to take what I think is a playoff team to make the playoffs….

“If it’s a player to take us into the future, we’ll think about it. It’s fluid."

### On Hassan Whiteside’s development: “I’m not really surprised. I remember when we had him here three years ago, there’s a big difference in his body, his behavior, his maturity from what he was then and who he is now as a man. He might have been 230 pounds at the time. Now he’s grown. The testosterone has kicked in. He’s like 270 pounds. He’s more mature. He’s hungry.

"I remember watching the box scores of the D-League exhibition games and he was like 14 for 16, 18 rebounds, 8 blocks. [In November], I said do you realize Hassan is like 30 out of the last 33 and averaging 18 rebounds, so we brought him in and gave him a workout. Memphis signed him and I was very disappointed because he had been with Memphis in training camp. They signed him only because they had seven or eight players because they were injured. They signed him for one game and cut him. That was the last opportunity we were going to give anybody else [to sign him].

“We’re very fortunate to have a young player like that who can do what he can do. Like finding lightning in a bottle, but I’m not going to overplay it. He does have Zo like capabilities in shot blocking and being able to finish at the rim. You really have to give him 20 to 30 games of 20 to 30 minutes a game to see if there’s a consistency there as he begins to grow. But we’re happy to have him. There’s no doubt.”

### On what has to change in last 40 games: “The overall health is a game-changer. It just is. That’s all there is to it. Everyone goes through it but we’re at a point where when we lose one, it really sort of drops us to another level. Some teams can overcome short-term losses. The overall health from this point on to the end of the season --– it’s paramount that we have our players [that] coach can put on the court every single night.

“We’re not going to get Josh back. He was a very versatile thought-process on our part that I think would have gone very well with what coach wanted to do. The overall health and just getting mentally tough to the challenge of what we’re playing for. And what we’re playing for is we’re playing for a playoff spot.

"Humble yourself to that and let’s roll and let’s go get it, and at the same time, not get so depressed about things that it takes away from that fight, that grip and that spirit. And that’s what we have to deal with at the present moment.”

### On whether he’s sticking to the master plan of being competitive this season and next and making a big splash in 2016 free agent: “That’s just part of it because 2016 is 2016. In 2015, anything could happen. I’m not so sure that what we did in 2010 is anywhere close to what you can do in 2016. The rules have changed. Players can force you into sign and trades.

"We were forced into a sign and trade in 2010 and we would gladly, do it again but it cost us four first-round picks for them to get an extra year (in contracts for LeBron James and Chris Bosh) that they didn’t even use. And there’s one team out there that still has one of our picks, by the way [Philadelphia, though Cleveland and Minnesota, has Miami's top-10 protected first-rounder in June]. They should have had a rule at that time that if somebody leaves you before that pick, you get it back. Especially if he went home [speaking of LeBron].

"So the cupboard was bare because of that, and guys could get the same money from you and leave as they could get from home. That doesn’t happen anymore. So unless they can do a sign and trade, you can’t go out just to [sign] free agents because it’s going to cost them $30 million.

"It’s a different landscape. For a player to turn down a five-year guaranteed deal at home and major max money, he must really have to hate where he’s at or love where he’s going. It’s not the same deal. It’s going to be approached differently. But at least we want to have the flexibility of having it. I would much rather have it than not have it."

### Would he take back contracts past 2016 in a trade?

"For the right guy. If it’s the right guy and he’s a star and he can complement what coach wants and what we have with Dwyane and Luol and Chris and he’s a starter and he can play and he can takes us past that, then we’re ready to move. We’re not going to wait.”

Please see the last post for a lot of Dolphins and Canes notes... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/21/2015

Kiper on Canes' talent; Draft chatter; More from Hickey; Bad signs for Wallace; UM recruiting

A six pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

### Here's what Mel Kiper had to say when asked on a conference call today about the talent level at UM: “It’s not where it needs to be but it’s getting closer and closer. Depth wise is where they have to build that up. [Brad] Kaaya at quarterback, build around him.”…

Among UM's top draft prospects, Kiper said Ereck Flowers “has versatility [to play] left tackle or right tackle. I have him going in the first round. Maybe 19 to Cleveland… Duke Johnson is a heck of a player. He’s a second round talent who you may be able to get in the fourth round.”…. Kiper said Denzel Perryman is a second-round pick and Phillip Dorsett a second or third-rounder….

Kiper said he ranks Clive Walford "as the fourth tight end. Can stretch the middle of the field. Will play faster than he tests. Early to mid day three [pick]. He’ll make someone look good. He’ll make your team, be a No. 2 tight end, will contribute"…. He said Shane McDermott and Jon Feliciano will be late-rounders or priority free agents.

### For the third time in two weeks, the Dolphins declined to say if they want Mike Wallace back, and this marriage seems headed to divorce unless someone can knock some sense into Joe Philbin and Dennis Hickey and convince them that subtracting one of their top players isn't going to help.

The Dolphins are closely studying receivers at the Senior Bowl this week; they met with UM’s Dorsett, among others.

There are three receivers projected to go in the 7 to 17 range. The one who will be most often linked to Miami as a possibility at No. 14 is West Virginia’s 6-3 Kevin White.

“He’s got the size,” Kiper said. “He’s going to high point the ball and go get it. He had a few drops. He had a great year. A little more consistency is needed. He’s the third best receiver in this draft, behind Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Louisville’s Devante Parker. I have him going 15th to San Francisco. Receiver is a very strong, very deep position.”

Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong could be the fourth-best receiver in this draft “depending on how he runs,” Kiper said. But No. 14 might be too high for him.

Among receivers in the next two tiers: Auburn’s Sammy Coates, Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham and Dorsett, among others.

### It wouldn’t have been possible for Hickey to be any more evasive when asked about Wallace today. Here were the four questions asked about Wallace and his answers. It’s almost painful to read Hickey’s non-answers and we apologize in advance because you will never get back the next 40 seconds of your life:

Dennis, were you disappointed with the Wallace situation? “I think we’re all frustrated with the way the season went. I think to a man, every person in the organization, whether it be from Mr. Ross to Coach Philbin to myself to the individual players, and the goal is to use that as motivation as we approach the offseason and to work together. All right, this is where we were, this is where we were 8-8. That’s the reality. Confronting the reality of where we were, OK, what do we have to do to get better and to take that next step as a team?”

Dennis, will what happened with Wallace at the end of the season play a factor in whether he returns? “We’re looking at all things with our players and evaluating, that’s part of our process. I always talk about the process and we try to look at it as systematic approach with different sections of the season and just taking and looking and that’s what we’re doing now. I know the coaches have gone back and looked through cutups and different analysis, whether it be in the passing game, the running game, individual players, groups of players, you know all those things and that’s what we’re looking at and that will guide the decisions upcoming.”

Does Wallace fit the team’s culture? “We look at all those things with our players and again it was a disappointing finish. There’s no sugar coating that, but you have to look at the season in totality, players in totality. We see, we evaluate players on a daily basis, every practice, every meeting, all those things. We are constantly looking at players and that’s what goes into looking at players in totality as we make decisions.”

When will there be a resolution with Wallace? “With all players that we’re working through, whether it be upcoming free agents, guys on the roster, those are the decisions that we’re making as we go through the process right now, both as a coaching staff and it’s something we do collaboratively. Personnel staff, we’ve been looking at it. Coaching staff’s been looking at it. We’re going together and that will guide our decisions upcoming.”

Yikes! Like banging your head against the wall trying to get answers.

Bottom line: Philbin likes conformists and has never shown any inclination to keep players he doesn’t know how to handle or control.

Does Wallace deserve blame for his behavior? Absolutely. But throwing him overboard, and creating yet another need on a team with at least a half-dozen of them, solves nothing. It means the Dolphins will again need to address receiver this offseason when they need to be concentrating on defensive tackle, cornerback, guard, linebacker and safety.

### We mentioned in this space on Sunday that the Dolphins conveyed to Billy Turner that they see him as a 2015 starter if he can seize the job. Today, Turner was one of a couple young players that Hickey brought up without prompting.

“We feel like Billy Turner really made a lot of strides at the end of the year,” Hickey said. “He had a setback with an injury late in training camp, late in preseason, that kind of set him back. But all of the things we liked about him, he’s definitely shown and you really saw a progression every day in practice. Just bringing a physical mentality, a toughness, punch, athleticism and we’re excited about what he’s going to bring to the table in 2015. We’re really pleased with his development and what it’s going to bring to the table.”

### Hickey on Damien Williams: “We liked what Damien brought to the table and the ability to play on all three downs and also contribute on special teams. Again, that’s a big part for young players, earning their playing time by contributing on teams.”

Hickey on Lamar Miller: “We’re really happy with Lamar’s season and how he progressed and how he grew and the production that he had. We definitely were pleased with the season that he had.”

### Hickey, asked if he can understand how some people may perceive Mike Tannenbaum’s hiring as a demotion for Hickey: “My role hasn’t changed. I’m still evaluating, I’m still putting together a 53-man roster and I am just excited about adding Mike to our team and working together with him because there is so much that he brings to the table. This is what I like to do. This is what I have grown up doing, the evaluating aspect and putting together a draft board and working on the problem solving of roster building and all those things. Mike brings a lot of experience with that, but he also brings a lot of experience to a lot of different aspects in an organization.”

### Therrell Gosier, a three-star receiver from Pompano Beach Blanche Ely, de-commited from UM, leaving the Hurricanes with two receivers orally committed: four-star Towson, Md.- based prospect Lawrence Cager and three-star Baton Rouge-based Terrell Chatman.

UM is also in the mix for Booker T. Washington’s four-star Antonio Callaway (see Manny Navarro’s blog for details on that.)

Gosier isn’t a big loss; he was considered a project.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/20/2015

Marlins still sorting out issues: Jose, Haren, Ichiro, bullpen, bench, batting order; Heat, Dolphins, Canes chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Marlins open spring training on Feb. 20 with what appears to be their best team in many years, but also with several issues that must be sorted out over the next two months. Chatter on five of those issues:

### Achieving clarity on Jose Fernandez and Dan Haren.

Fernandez, coming off Tommy John surgery last May, will throw off a mound in spring training, and owner Jeffrey Loria expects him to return sometime after June 1.

“We’re still thinking June, July area” for his return to the majors, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Monday from Jeff Conine’s annual charity golf tournament.

“Once we get him on the mound, we’ll get a little more clarity. When you’re dealing with those injuries, you’re always cautiously optimistic.

“He’s worked extremely hard. He’s done a tremendous job doing everything he needs to do to get himself back. We won’t put a timetable on it. We don’t want him to feel any pressure.”

As for Haren... Though he has asked for a trade to a West Coast team, no team has made an offer, and Haren told the Marlins he will report to spring training if he's not dealt.

The Marlins would try to accommodate Haren if they get a trade offer, but they’re not calling teams at this point, either.

Because the Marlins are keeping the $10 million given to them by the Dodgers whether they trade Haren or not, there has been considerable internal discussion about what to do if a viable trade option emerges. The Marlins planned to allocate that $10 million to pay Mat Latos if Haren had retired. So Haren’s $10 million isn’t necessarily in the budget.

There's some sentiment internally not to give him away for peanuts because the Marlins believe Haren (13-11, 4.02 ERA in 2014) is still a quality starter and will be effective pitching at Marlins Park. But they're also sensitive to his trade request. It's all moot if no team makes an offer. But if a West Coast team loses a starter to injury in spring training and makes an offer for Haren, the Marlins will face an interesting decision.

Remember, that Dodgers deal wasn't about Haren; it was about getting Dee Gordon and the $10 million to add a high-end starter (Latos).

Asked if Haren will likely be on the team, Hill said: “Our expectation is he will be in spring training and be ready to be one of five and help this club where it wants to go until October. He’s made it clear his preference is to be on a West Coast club and we respect that. But we’re trying to put a championship club together and if something doesn’t materialize for him, we’ll be excited to have him as a Marlin.”

So far, Haren’s only public comment has been this tweet last week: “Today, I watched six episodes of Family Feud and I cried watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I think I’m ready for baseball to start.”

What if the Marlins deal Haren? Then right-hander David Phelps (15-14, 4.21 in three seasons with the Yankees) or lefty Brad Hand (3-8, 4.38 ERA last season) would be the likely fifth starter.

The Marlins also are keeping tabs on free agent James Shields (14-8, 3.21 for Kansas City last season), but it's highly unlikely they will sign him. They could get involved only if Haren is dealt and if the market drops significantly below the five years and $100 million-plus that Shields is seeking. Don't count on the latter.

### Signing Ichiro Suzuki or another fourth outfielder.

The Marlins have offered a one-year contract in the $2 million range to Ichiro and the Marlins remain optimistic, but not certain, that a deal will be struck.

Ichiro, a 10-time All-Star, likes the idea of playing in Miami but has been waiting to see if an opportunity arises where he could earn more playing time elsewhere. Resolution is expected soon.

Ichiro, 41, remains effective; he batted .283, .262 and .284 the past years and hit .462 (6 for 13) as a pinch-hitter last season. He played all three outfield positions for the Yankees in 2014 but just 18 games in center over the past two years. 

If Ichiro signs elsewhere, the Marlins likely would trade for a fourth outfielder or sign Nate Schierholtz, 30, who hit .195 for the Cubs and Nationals last season but .251 with 21 homers and 68 RBI for the Cubs in 2013. But Ichiro remains the clear preference.

### Firming up the bench.

This will be one of the toughest decisions of the spring. Three slots should go to the veteran fourth outfielder, backup catcher Jeff Mathis and Jeff Baker (.264).

If the Marlins stick with a 12-man pitching staff, that leaves two other backup position jobs from among infielders Donovan Solano (.252 in 111 games last season), Derek Dietrich (.220 but 14 homers in 106 big-league games)  and Jordany Valdespin (.214 in 54 games), first baseman Justin Bour (.284 in 74 at-bats last season) and a few non-roster invitees: infielder/outfielder Don Kelly (can play six positions; hit .245 in 95 games for the Tigers last season), infielder/outfielder Tyler Colvin (.239, 49 homers in six seasons) and infielders Reid Brignac (.222 in seven seasons) and Scott Sizemore (.240 in four seasons).

The Marlins sent Dietrich to instructional league to learn first base and left field, which means he can now play five positions.

### Sorting out the bullpen.

This also will be challenging (barring injuries), because the Marlins have quality depth. Steve Cishek (39 of 43 in saves), Bryan Morris (8-1, 1.82), Mike Dunn (10-6, 3.16, one save), A.J. Ramos (7-0, 2.11) and Aaron Crow (6-1, 4.12, three saves for the Royals in 2014) will hold down five of the bullpen jobs.

That leaves a bunch competing for two jobs: potential front-runner Carter Capps, limited to 17 games by a shoulder injury last season, Hand (who’s out of minor league options) and Phelps if Haren is in the rotation, Andre Rienzo (6-8, 5.89 ERA for the White Sox the past two years/acquired for Dan Jennings), hard-throwing Rule 5 left-hander Andrew McKirahan (2.16 ERA in the minors), Sam Dyson (3-1, 2.14), Preston Claiborne (3-2, 3.79 in 62 games for Yankees in the past three seasons) and Nick Masset (18-14, 4.02 career ERA; did good work for Reds before injuries).

### Establishing a batting order:

Mike Redmond wants to experiment with combinations before deciding. He hasn’t determined whether to hit Christian Yelich second or third or Giancarlo Stanton third or fourth.

Martin Prado factors into that decision. “You could hit him fourth,” Redmond told Marlins radio announcer Glenn Geffner.

Michael Morse is another cleanup option against right-handers if Stanton hits third.

CHATTER

### Hassan Whiteside, who sustained an ankle injury tonight, said Heat executive Alonzo Mourning has assumed a mentoring role with him. Zo invited Whiteside to his home and took him to dinner at Hillstone in Coral Gables, where they bumped into Erik Spoelstra.

“Alonzo wants me to be a dominant force,” Whiteside said. “He wants me to average a double/double and break all his records.”

The Heat said Whiteside didn't to travel to Charlotte, where the Heat plays Wednesday. Luol Deng (illness) also didn't make the trip.

### The feedback from a person inside the Heat locker-room is that Shabazz Napier is more humble since returning from his NBDL stint and showing a better attitude than he displayed when he wasn’t playing much before his demotion. Spoelstra said Tuesday that his work ethic has “improved greatly.”

Napier conceded that not playing much in recent weeks, until the past week, “was tough for me” during losses.

His assist-to-turnover ratio is among the league’s worst and “a lot of my turnovers come on dumb decisions,” he said earlier today. “I will be good for a good 2 1/2 quarters and then I'll turn the ball over with dumb decisions. I've got to patch that up.”

Napier had four assists and two turnovers in 16 minutes tonight against OKC.

### The Heat, up by one at halftime against Oklahoma City, was outscored by nine in the second half and has now been outscored by a league-worst 201 points after intermission.

### UM has four oral commitments from players in Rivals.com’s final ranking of the top 250 prospects: running backs Mark Walton (69) and Jordan Scarlett (188), offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis (172) and receiver Lawrence Cager (240).

And UM is a finalist for three in the top 100: California-based linebacker John Houston (30) and defensive end Rasheem Green (33), who are teammates, and Washington D.C.-based defensive back Marcus Lewis (80); UM is his leader.

Among uncommitted players in the rest of Rivals' top 250, only one other is said to be considering UM: running back Dexter Williams (120), who previously decommitted from Miami.

Green and Houston have the same final four: UM, USC, Oregon and Arizona State. Miami has been considered an underdog for both players because of distance, but Green told Canesport that UM is “still in good shape” with him.

### NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said Philip Dorsett was the "star" of Senior Bowl practice today. "So explosive," Jeremiah said.

### The Dolphins told Walt Aikens he needs to be more mature and professional and not be tardy. He was de-activated for the season finale after a neighbor called police about noise at his home from a domestic incident; there was no arrest and no allegations of violence.

The Dolphins indicated to Aikens they see him more as a safety than cornerback; Miami gave him reps at both in practice.

### The Dolphins said in recent days that ticket prices will be raised for some, but not all, seats in the lower bowl next season. Beginning next season, the first row of seats will be moved 24 feet closer as part of stadium renovations.

Upper bowl seats will remain comparable in price to 2014, but the team declined to say if any of those seats will increase in price. An announcement is expected in a couple of weeks.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/19/2015

Late Monday night notes: Wade health, Dolphins draft, UM recruiting, UM recruit raises concern

A six-pack of notes on a Monday night:

### Looks like Dwyane Wade’s newest injury won’t sideline him nearly as long as the last one.

Wade, who has missed the last 2 ½ games with a lower leg issue, participated in the entire practice Monday and hopes to play Tuesday against Oklahoma City if he has no setback in the next 24 hours.  

“It felt OK,” he said. “I will see how it feels Tuesday.”

The Heat listed the injury as a hamstring, but Wade said: “I think it was a muscle in the back of my leg. A muscle I kind of pulled in [last Tuesday's Lakers] game.”

Wade missed eight straight games with a hamstring injury earlier in the season.

### It’s almost impossible to overstate how much Chris Bosh loves playing with Hassan Whiteside.

“He’s able to guard those bigger guys; it is taxing, physically and mentally,” Bosh said. “I have more of an offensive load this year. He buys me a little time. Sometimes I still will be asked to play those [screen and] rolls against those big guys. When you’re guarding 50 or 60 screen and rolls a game, that’s tough. I thank him every day. Him and Bird are my best friends.”

### The Dolphins will have a full contingent of scouts at the Senior Bowl this week, and there’s one player in the game who would make a lot of sense with the 14th overall pick, if he’s still available (a huge if): Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

“An absolute force at his position,” NFL Network’s Charles Davis said today. “Can run all day. The stamina is what will surprise. When he runs, the ground shakes.”

Besides being a force against the run, “the upside is this guy can rush the passer,” Davis said.

Said NFL Network's Mike Mayock: “He’s awesome. At 350, 360, he has great feet. He’s relentless."

Mayock said the only nose tackles like Shelton, "who can play every snap, [are] Vince Wilfork and Dontari Poe. That cat’s special. I believe he’s a top 10 pick.”

Shelton compares himself to Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata: “Has always been an idol for me growing up.”

### The Dolphins, who say they are not sure if Mike Wallace will be retained, will be closely evaluating several deep threats at this week’s Senior Bowl, including Ohio State’s 6-1 Devin Smith, UM’s 5-10 Phillip Dorsett, and Kansas State’s 5-11 Tyler Lockett.

“Tyler Lockett is going to win in man to man all day long,” Mayock said. “He’s going to have a dominating week.”

There are also three 6-3 possession-type receivers in the game: UNLV’s  Devante Davis, Washington State’s Vince Mayle and Michigan State’s Tony Lippett. All would be possibilities if the Dolphins cut Brandon Gibson.

### UM needs impact defensive tackles, and the Hurricanes are now very much in the running for Jacksonville-based four-star tackle Kendrick Norton, rated the nation’s 15th-best DT by rivals.com.

Norton enjoyed his UM visit and has three finalists: Miami, Mississippi and Auburn.

### A few years ago, then-Plantation American Heritage running back Sony Michel told me that one reason he opted for Georgia over UM was the lack of crowd support at Hurricanes games.

So it was hardly a shock when three-star Georgia linebacker Mohamed Barry told Canesport’s Matt Shodell today that Hurricanes attendance is working against UM in his evaluation of the program.

"One thing I don't like about Miami is the loyalty of their fans; that struck me,” he said. “A lot of fans not going to games when they're not winning, not going when it's not that much of a big game. That's one thing I hope Miami does fix. In general they should support their university. When people look at games, I went back and looked at three games they played. And Miami vs. FSU --- that game I still found some open holes [in the Sun Life stands]. If I'm playing there, I want to feel like everyone's supporting the program."

Barry told Shodell that there’s a lot to like about UM, and that the Hurricanes and Kansas State are tied as his front-runner.

Please see the last blog for a lot more on UM.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

01/18/2015

UM players, coaches grow weary of negativity; Players offer theories for 6-7 record; Kehoe states case; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY/MONDAY BUZZ COLUMN

It’s part of the rhythmic nature of sports: Time heals the hurt of a disappointing season; hope builds as the next one approaches. But much of the optimism has been drained from this University of Miami fan base, replaced by an atmosphere so full of anger that players and the head coach have begun to speak out about it.

Every week, there’s a new symbol of discontentment: from prominent former players calling for a coaching change, to Duke Johnson’s mother asserting half the team would transfer if it could, to a “fire Al Golden” sign popping up behind ESPN's set at the College Football Playoff, much like the one removed from Bank United Center during a UM basketball game.

Then four-star UM oral commitment Mark Walton announced that negativity is hurting UM's recruiting efforts.

Then a Canes fan paid for a banner to fly over AT&T Stadium before Monday’s championship game in Arlington, Texas, saying: “The U Part 3: [president Donna] Shalala/BOT [Board of Trustees] killed Miami football.”

And this, too, was telling: Michael Irvin said nobody can blame his nephew, four-star safety Tim Irvin, for committing to Texas because Tim Irvin “lives in Miami and hears how players are killing the coach.” (Irvin flipped to Auburn on Sunday.)

The negativity is wearing on people in the program. One UM coach who requested anonymity said it’s having a corrosive effect.

Golden said he’s aware of it but that commenting on the impact of it would do him no good. But he told canesport.com: “People are flat out cruel. I feel bad for the seniors. They got tired of it.”

That appears to be the case.

“It’s surprising and it’s hurtful,” departing linebacker Denzel Perryman said of fan anger in recent months.

Brad Kaaya said he didn’t expect this much negativity when he came here. Nor did he expect to be 6-7, presumably.

“We’re aware of it; it’s a tough environment, a small demographic that’s really vocal,” Kaaya said last month. “Some people can turn on you at any moment. For the last couple months, I’ve gotten all kinds of crazy stuff tweeted to me.

“I don’t look at it, and most guys ignore it because it gets in your head, especially a lot of the negative stuff, and will make you play bad. [My message] is we’re going to turn this around. I didn’t come here to be mediocre.”

His mother, Angela Means Kaaya, has become the voice of optimism on social media, railing against the negativity on Twitter.

Departing center Shane McDermott said some fan behavior --- including posting Golden’s home address on a web site --- has been “a little extreme, what they’ve been doing. But we need to perform better. I feel bad for coach Golden because he works his butt off.”

But Phillip Dorsett said the reason this team keeps losing is obvious to him: “When a play is called, everybody has to do their job. You can’t have one player doing their own thing when everybody else is doing what they’re supposed to do. There’s always something.”

Perryman blames "guys freelancing" for the underachieving.

Whereas Johnson’s mother says “kids are tired of this crap,” Duke Johnson says: “I wouldn’t say it’s all coach Golden’s fault. I wouldn’t put it all on him.” He said UM fans need to “relax.”

But Johnson’s mother is not alone in her concerns. Among complaints raised by several parents during conversations in recent weeks: lack of halftime adjustments; the defense playing too much soft zone; the read-and-react defensive philosophy; players being misused; defensive players being asked to learn too much (“the system is too sophisticated for a lot of these kids,” one said).

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe has a unique perspective because he was an assistant on all five championship teams. He has seen championship-caliber coaching up close.

“I don’t want to be an eternal optimist because we definitely have problems we’ve got to solve,” Kehoe said last month. “We have to get better in the red zone. That hurt us in the Pittsburgh game. We have to get better in short yardage. We have to get a little bit tougher up front in the o-line. None of offense, defense or special teams is up to standards of Hurricanes fans….

“We haven’t been where we should be in probably a decade in terms of BCS, top 10, top 20, winning the ACC, being in the national title picture.”

But, Kehoe said: “I’ve been with Howard Schnellenberger and Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson and Butch Davis and Larry Coker and they all have their pluses and minuses. I look at this guy [Golden] and he’s relentless and he’s a winner. People need to understand, whether we run out of time or not, what he’s doing is right.

“I want to see it come to fruition because he’s a good man, a good leader, a superb coach. I know, in my heart and soul, we’re going to win. I may be proven wrong, but I don’t think so. I think we’re going to win big.”

So where does the optimism come from, beyond his faith in Golden?

“Al knows we have a potential All-American quarterback,” Kehoe said. “Just he alone is going to make us take a jump next year. [Kaaya] has got that ‘it’ factor. He’s just so cool to me. He’s not full of himself --- just a determined, purposeful cool dude. He’s got California swagger, kind of like being a John Wayne type. He’s not trying to be cool. He’s just cool. Our players look up to him and like him.”

Former UM All-American center Brett Romberg said Kehoe called him and former UM offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez to chew them out in October after they publicly criticized the coaching staff.

"They’re entitled to their opinion,” Kehoe said. “I love Joaquin and Brett. We talked. They’re two of the best players I ever coached, two great leaders. I just wanted to tell them… we’re addressing every single thing we can, whether it’s the way we practice, the way we plan. We’re visiting pro football teams [the Dallas Cowboys] and college teams, getting ideas. This guy [Golden] exhausts every avenue of trying to be better.”

Kehoe insists he has no issue with ex-players voicing complaints.

But with every setback, the swirl of negativity ratchets up.

“Al talks about ignoring the noise to our players all the time,” Kehoe said. “If anyone is going to ignore the noise, he is. He’s a master at it.”

But Golden’s fully aware of it, telling Canesport that “everyone is too busy bitching to accept the progress that has been made.”

### None of the uncommitted players who were on UM's campus this weekend committed in the aftermath of their visits.

But according to multiple reports, UM made a favorable impression on four-star Washington D.C. safety/cornerback Marcus Lewis (told Rivals that UM is now his leader over Kentucky and Washington State, with Ohio State and Michigan also potential options for him), three-star New York based defensive end Austrian Robinson, three-star New Jersey-based linebacker Saleem Brightwell (top three of Michigan State, UM and Pittsburgh) and Georgia-based three-star linebacker Mohamed Barry (a Kansas State commitment).

UM's two four-star running back commitments, Mark Walton and Jordan Scarlett, were among 17 players on campus. Walton told Canesport that he remains "pretty solid" to UM but will visit Louisville, West Virginia and Georgia. Scarlett, who plans to visit UF and FSU, said he is "solid" to Miami. 

CHATTER

### Besides retaining defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, Joe Philbin decided not to fire any of his assistants, though defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers reportedly is expected to become Jets defensive coordinator.

Some Dolphins players would have preferred Philbin promote Rodgers to coordinator. Players have criticized Coyle for strategic decisions as well as his rotation of defensive linemen. Rodgers is very well liked by his players.

### Beyond Ja’Wuan James and Jarvis Landry, the 2014 draft picks that the Dolphins are most bullish about are guard Billy Turner (the front office conveyed to him that it sees him a potential 2015 starter if he can seize the job) and defensive end Terrence Fede.

There are maturity issues with Walt Aikens, mixed views on Jordan Tripp and uncertainty with Matt Hazel and Arthur Lynch, who said he's healthy after recovering from a fracture in his lower back.

### Strange year for the Heat’s Luol Deng: He’s shooting far better (49.8 percent) than during his past three seasons (41.2, 42.6, 43.1), but his 14.1 scoring average is his lowest in six years and well below the 19.0 he averaged for Chicago last season before his trade to Cleveland.

Two reasons for this: He’s taking fewer shots and he’s making just 71.8 percent of his free throws, well under his career mark (77).

“I've got to take more shots; I know that,” he said. “There are some games I feel comfortable trying to be more aggressive and do more. And there are a lot of games where I'm kind of trying to find my way.”

### Nate Robinson, the explosive 5-9 point guard with an 11.1 career scoring average, reached out to the Heat after his buyout from the Celtics, but after two days, Miami still hadn’t responded. Robinson's scoring could help off the bench, but the Heat has typically avoided point guards that small.

### Please see the last post for a player-by-player assessment of the Heat as the season nears the halfway point.

### The Marlins have advanced conversations with 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki and are cautiously optimistic that a deal will be struck. Until a deal is done, it's always possible that a team could swoop in with the ability to offer more playing time than the Marlins could. Ichiro would be a fourth outfielder here and the Marlins are appealing to him, according to an associate.

### The Marlins, who have gone to arbitration with only four players total in the previous five years, will do so with three players in the coming weeks.

Matt Latos asked for $10.4 million; the Marlins are offering $9.4 million. Mike Dunn is asking for $2.6 million; the Marlins countered at $2.35 million.

And pitcher David Phelps, acquired from the Yankees, asked for $1.87 million; the Marlins offered $1.4 million.

Unlike some teams, the Marlins cease negotiations once arbitration figures are exchanged.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/17/2015

A player-by-player assessment as the Heat nears the season's midpoint

With the Heat reaching the season’s midpoint on Tuesday against Oklahoma City, a look at where each player stands after 40 games:

### Dwyane Wade: The good: Ranks 10th in the league in scoring at 22.1 and fourth in field-goal percentage among shooting guards, at 49.5.

With more playmaking responsibilities, his assist average (5.6) stands at its highest since the season before LeBron James’ arrival.

The concern: Has missed 10 games because of hamstring issues, after missing 28 last season due to injuries and maintanance on his knees. At least his knees haven’t been a problem this year…. Committing 3.2 turnovers per game, fourth-worst among shooting guards.

Bottom line: Still a very good player, elite on some nights, but durability remains an issue. He turned 33 on Saturday.

### Chris Bosh: The good: Ranks 12th in scoring at 21.6 and has generally raised his game in the wake of LeBron’s departure.

The concern: Rebounding has been OK (7.7 per game, 29th in league) but not exceptional; keep in mind he averaged 10.0 and 10.8 in his final two seasons with Toronto. And his shooting percentage (47.5), while solid, is his lowest since his second season.

Bottom line: More often than not, Bosh has met expectations, at least from an offensive standpoint. But he hasn't exceeded expectations. And because of the limitations of the Heat's supporting cast, more is needed from Bosh for the Heat to climb above .500 and have any chance to advance past the first round.  

### Luol Deng: The good: Shooting far more accurately (49.8 percent) than anytime in the past six years… Defense has been an asset, particularly in recent games.

The concern: Deng is at his best offensively when teammates get him the ball when he’s cutting or on the move. But in too many games, he has been an afterthought or passive offensively, with 10 games of single digit scoring, compared with nine all of last season for Chicago and Cleveland…. His 71.4 percent free-throw shooting is well below his career average (77).

The bottom line: When the Heat plays well, Deng usually also plays well. That isn't a coincidence. But the overall impact hasn't measured up to the $10 million salary.

### Mario Chalmers: The good: Scored at least 20 points in five of the Heat’s first 14 games (none since) and his 10.7 scoring average is a career high.

The concern: On pace for career lows in shooting percentage both overall (39.7) and on threes (27.3: 33 for 121).  Has made at least half his shots from the field in only four of the Heat’s past 20 games, including 15 for 43 on the recent West Coast trip…. Averaging a career-high 2.3 turnovers.

Bottom line: After teasing with several big games early in the season, Chalmers has descended into the type of shooting slump that doomed him late in last year's playoffs.

### Norris Cole: The good: Assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.56-to-1 is slightly about average (23rd of 47 qualifying point guards).

The concern: His 38.8 shooting percentage is third-worst among point guards who have started at least half their team’s games… Shooting a dismal 24.7 percent on threes (21 for 85).... Has had some good moments defensively, but like all of the Heat’s point guards, has also allowed too many blow-bys.

Bottom line: If Cole doesn't improve significantly, it's difficult to envision Miami extending the $3 million qualifying offer needed to make him a restricted, as opposed to an unrestricted free agent, this summer.

### Chris Andersen: The good: Shooting 62 percent from the field, eighth among all players with a minimum of 25 appearances…. His 11.5 rebounds per 48 minutes is average for qualifying centers (tied for 27 of 56).

The concern: Has missed 15 games with assorted injuries… Scoring average down from 6.6 to 5.1, partly because there are no longer LeBron-delivered lobs.

The bottom line: Has been starting out of necessity recently but seems miscast in the role. His $5 million salary would hold value in a trade.

### Hassan Whiteside: The good: The season’s most pleasant surprise, Whiteside ranks fifth among all NBA players (minimum 15 games) in rebounds per 48 minutes (18.5) and first in blocks per 48 minutes (6.3). Scored in double figures in six in a row (including 23 against the Clippers) before foul trouble limited him to four points in 15 minutes Friday against Sacramento….

The concern: His 6.9 fouls per 48 minutes ranks in the top third for most fouls, per 48 minutes, among NBA centers.

Bottom line: While the growth and production have been impressive, and the skill set is intriguing, the sample size remains too small to make any definitive judgments. Quality backup? It would seem so, at the very least. But quality starter? That very much needs to play out.

### Danny Granger: The good: After sitting out 20 of the Heat’s first 28 games, Granger scored 18, 21 and 14 points in three games in a row in late December.

The concerns: Since then, has shot 7 for 35 in seven games, dropping his overall accuracy to 38.9 percent…. Twice as many turnovers (20) as assists (10).

Bottom line: Though he’s moving better than he did earlier in the season, he’s clearly not the player who was an offensive force for Indiana in his prime. The hope is that he can make enough threes to justify continued minutes.

### Shawne Williams: The good: Shooting a career-high 42.7 on threes (56 for 131). Started the Heat’s first 17 games (just five since) and played well at times, including 16 points in a win against Toronto.

The concern: Doesn’t have any other clearly above-average skill besides three-point shooting. Averaging 3.5 rebounds as a “stretch” power forward and has had lapses defensively.

Bottom line: Minutes in the second half could hinge on how well Granger plays, as much as anything.

### Udonis Haslem: The good: Though playing time has been modest (26 games, 14.7 minutes per), the energy, defensive effort and rebounding can still make a difference at times, including Friday against the Kings. His 13.0 rebounds per 48 minutes rank in the top third among power forwards.

The concern: Shooting percentage has dipped to 43.0, well below his 51.4 and 50.7 percent shooting in the past two seasons.

Bottom line: Seems likely to play only when Bosh, Whiteside or Andersen has injuries or foul trouble.

### Shabazz Napier: The good: At times, displays a craftiness lacking in the Heat’s other point guards…Shooting 37.1 percent on threes, ranking 24th of 89 point guards who have appeared in a game.

The concern: Vulnerable defensively and his 1.28-to-1 assist to turnover ratio ranks 83rd of 89.

Bottom line: Over the next 42 games, the Heat needs to get a better feel about whether he's a potential starter. He makes some creative passes that the Heat's other point guards simply cannot, but defensive shortcomings and looseness with the ball are troubling.

### James Ennis: The good: Energy and athleticism have helped in short bursts and defensive awareness has improved.

The concern: Needs to boost his 31.4 percent three-point shooting to earn more playing time.

Bottom line: Expectations after a dynamic preseason have been tempered, but Ennis could be a potential longterm rotation player if he can become a more consistent three-point shooter from the wings.

### Justin Hamilton: The good: Has kept an NBA job, for whatever that’s worth.

The concern: Despite having decent range, has shot only 6 for 30 on jumpers, isn’t a big deterrent at the rim and his rebounding is subpar for a 7-footer. Didn’t make much of a case during five December starts.

Bottom line: Size could keep him bouncing around the league for a few years, but Hamilton possesses no singular skill to suggest he's anything more than a journeyman.

### Josh McRoberts: The good: Shot 52.8 percent and displayed deft passing skills during his 17 games.

The concern: A likely season-ending knee injury leaves the Heat not completely sure how good this team would be with him…. His 7.3 rebounds per 48 minutes rank among the league’s worst for power forwards.

Bottom line: The Heat played well at times with McRoberts on the court, but Yahoo! reports the Heat was willing to part with him in its recent bid for Nets center Brook Lopez. And McRoberts' subpar rebounding numbers would be a longterm concern if cast as a starter. 

### Tyler Johnson: Incomplete. Appeared in just one game since signing 10-day contract.

Bottom line: Athleticism and diversity of his game are intriguing, and his three-point shooting improved in the NBDL. Worth an extended look.

Please check back Sunday afternoon for the Sunday buzz column, with lots of Canes, Dolphins, Marlins and Heat... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

01/16/2015

2 p.m. Saturday: Network announcer suspended after solicitation of prostitute; Big recruiting weekend on tap for UM; Dolphins address UM stadium situation

Quick 2 p.m. broadcast note: CBS and Turner suspended basketball analyst Greg Anthony indefinitely today, a day after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Washington D.C.

But there was one difference in how the networks handled the matter. CBS announced that Anthony, the network's lead college basketball analyst, will not work again for them this season.

But Turner declined to say whether Anthony would return to the network's NBA coverage this season.

"Greg Anthony has been suspended indefinitely and we will have no further comment at this time," Turner said in a statement.

Anthony, the former NBA point guard, was arrested at 5:46 p.m. Friday in a prostitution sting. He was scheduled to work today's Michigan State-at-Maryland game with Ian Eagle, but CBS yanked him from that assignment.

His arrest leaves CBS in a difficult spot, because the network already had lost its co-lead NCAA analyst, Steve Kerr, during the offseason. Kerr, as most of you know, left to coach the Golden State Warriors.

So who will CBS pair with Jim Nantz on the FInal Four? 

The most logical options include Clark Kellogg (who replaced Billy Packer as CBS' lead analyst in the winter of 2008 before being shifted back to the studio last year), Bill Raftery (who works primarily for Fox but has had permission to work the NCAA Tournament for CBS), Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, and Doug Gottlieb, or some combination of two of those five. 

Mike Gminski and Jim Spanarkel also worked the tournament for CBS last year. 

CBS also could try to seek permission from ESPN to use Jay Bilas (who previously worked NCAA Tournament games for CBS) or even Dick Vitale, but I'm not sure what ESPN's incentive would be to do that. Both have exclusive contracts with ESPN.

On Turner, Anthony had been alternating with Grant Hill and Chris Webber as the analyst on games not worked by TNT lead analyst Reggie Miller. Anthony's suspension likely will result in more assignments for Webber and Hill.

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With National Signing Day approaching on Feb. 4, it’s a big weekend of recruiting visits for UM, which has a legitimate chance to snag as many as six uncommitted players who are expected on campus.

The six to keep an eye on:

### Jacksonville-based four-star defensive tackle Kendrick Norton. This is a position of need for the Hurricanes; UM’s only oral commitment at DT is three-star Bradenton-based Ryan Fines, who projects as a backup, according to recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein.

Norton recently named a top five of Miami, UCLA, Michigan, North Carolina and Mississippi. Regarding Miami, he told Wolverines.com: "I have a good relationship with the coaches. My mom loved the coaches. It's beautiful down there, and I can stay  relatively close to home."

Rivals.com rates him the 15th best defensive tackle in this class and the 198th best prospect overall.

### Washington D.C.-based four-star defensive back Marcus Lewis. Rated by rivals.com as the No. 6 safety and 93rd-best player overall in this class, Lewis already has de-committed from two schools: Virginia Tech and Florida.

Besides UM, he’s also visiting Kentucky and Washington State. Rivals.com tabs Kentucky as the favorite but UM as a dark horse.

He would be a key addition, because UM has lost out on a few defensive back targets, including Westminster Christian’s Tim Irvin. UM already has one high-end safety commit in Killian’s Jaquan Johnson.

### New Jersey-based three-star linebacker Saleem Brightwell. Miami and Pittsburgh appear to the strongest contenders for Brightwell, who’s rated the nation’s 49th-best outside linebacker by Rivals.com. Michigan State is also in his top three, but he hasn’t committed to visiting there.

UM has two linebacker commitments (West Palm Beach’s Charles Perry and New Jersey’s Jamie Gordinier) and would like to add one or two more.

### Booker T. Washington four-star receiver Antonio Callaway. Callaway, whose season was cut short by a torn meniscus, hasn’t said how he’s leaning. He will visit Florida next weekend and Alabama the weekend after. And Callaway reportedly grew up with thoughts of playing at Florida.

UM already has three oral commitments at receiver, including four-star Maryland-based prospect Lawrence Cager, whose comments this week haven’t been entirely consistent. One day this week, he spoke of possibly flipping to Alabama if the Crimson Tide can fit him into this class. But the next day, he reaffirmed a strong commitment to UM. We’ll see.

### New York-based three-star defensive end Austrian Robinson. Robinson has named Maryland as he leader, and he’s also planning to visit Mississippi and Ohio State the next two weekends, after his UM visit this weekend. He told rivals.com that Maryland is the favorite simply because it’s the only one of the four that he’s visited.

But a strong visit this weekend would boost the Hurricanes’ chances. UM has two defensive ends committed: four-star Scott Patchan (already on campus) and Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons prospect Richard McIntosh Jr.

### Royal Palm Beach three-star offensive tackle Fred Johnson. He already has named UM as his clear front-runner. If he commits, he would be the seventh offensive lineman in this class. He has spoken of also possibly visiting UF, LSU, Tennessee and/or Virginia Tech.

Several UM oral commitments also are visiting --- Fines, Gordinier, defensive back Robert Knowles, offensive linemen Tyler Gauthier, Hayden Mahoney and Tyree St. Louis and four-star running backs Mark Walton and Jordan Scarlett.

The one that particularly bears monitoring is Scarlett.

Scarlett told our Manny Navarro this week that he’s only 85 percent committed to UM because of “how their season went. It wasn't the best season out of all my options of the schools. And I just feel like I don't want to miss on an opportunity of taking visits and seeing what's out there."

He will visit UF and FSU the next two weeks to determine if he believes either is a better fit than UM.

Incidentally, Orlando based four-star running back Dexter Williams, who de-committed from UM a few weeks ago, told The Orlando Sentinel that Miami remains in the mix and he also plans to visit Notre Dame and Texas A&M.

Williams said he decommitted from Miami because “I was kind of worried about the coach’s job” but added “I still have a lot of interest in Miami” and that Hurricanes coaches have been recruiting him “harder and harder” recently.

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Adam Beasley will cover the Dolphins' angle of the Sun Life Stadium modernization in a story to be posted shortly.

A couple of UM items from today's Dolphins press conference:

### As we reported previously, the Dolphins said today that UM's capacity at the stadium will be 55,000 and that capacity will be achieved by placing very large vertical banners in the upper end zones. Those banners, as displayed in the Dolphins' news conference today, will have a large "U" on them.

Athletic director Blake James told us those upper end zones seats might be opened for select games when demand warrants.

Capacity for Dolphins games will be 65,326.

### Ross said the Dolphins didn't ask UM for any input on the renovations. "We're spending all the money and they're benefiting," Ross said, before adding that the Hurricanes are a good tenant.

### Once the canopy is in place for the 2016 season, 92 percent of the seats will be in the shade for Dolphins games, compared with 17 percent now.  

Please see the last post for the weekly media column, in case you missed it... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz