March 11, 2015

The impact of Suh on the Dolphins' cap; A Dolphins LB twist; Steve Ross opines

There are a lot of staggering numbers about the Ndamukong Suh contract, starting with the $114 million total value and the $60 million guaranteed.

But this is also pretty staggering: Suh’s cap hit jumps from $6.1 million in 2015 to $28.6 million in 2016. So with one signature, the Dolphins’ current 2016 cap commitments soared today from $102 million to $131 million.

Unless the Dolphins reach a longterm contract with Ryan Tannehill before the 2016 season, Tannehill would have a $16 million cap hit that year, bringing Miami’s cap obligations to $147 million.

Throw in the cap hit for an expected multiyear contract for Mike Pouncey and new contracts for post-2015 free agents Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon, and that would potentially put the Dolphins over the 2016 cap, which is expected to fall between $150 million and $160 million.

But the situation is not as dire as it looks. The Dolphins --- before the 2016 season --- can clear out lots of cap space by cutting or restructuring Mike Wallace ($9.3 million in relief if cut), Cam Wake ($8.4 million), Brent Grimes ($6.5 million), Dannell Ellerbe ($5.1 million) and Reshad Jones ($6.3 million).

That puts the onus on the front office drafting, and coaches developing, players who could eventually replace some of those, especially the first four in that group. The hope is that Dion Jordan shows enough this year to eventually replace Wake, whether it’s in 2016 or beyond.

Here are Suh’s annual cap numbers, courtesy of Aaron Wilson of The National Football Post and overthecap.com:

2015: $6.1 million

2016: $28.6 million

2017: $15.1 million

2018: $22.1 million

2019: $24.1 million

2020: $18.4 million

As for 2015, the Dolphins have only about $6 million to $7 million in space depending on Brice McCain’s first-year number, according to overthecap.com. But parting with Charles Clay (who is being courted by the Bills) would clear another $7.1 million. An extension with Pouncey could produce more space by reducing his $7.4 million cap hit. More can be created by doing something with Dannell Ellerbe's contract (more on that in a minute).

The Dolphins need at least $4 million to sign draft picks. So there’s not a lot of spending money left, but enough for the Dolphins to fill a few needs with good value pickups. And Miami obviously needs a good draft (but when isn't that the case?)

LINEBACKER DECISIONS

The Dolphins’ situation at linebacker has taken an unexpected turn.

As Armando Salguero noted earlier today on his blog, the Dolphins are now interested in restructuring Dannell Ellerbe’s contract. (Read Armando's blog for more on that and the Mike Wallace talks.)

Armando's story is interesting for two reasons: 1) The Dolphins conveyed to Ellerbe late last week that they intended to trade or release him, according to one of only a few people directly involved in the matter. As I reported Friday and Fox’s Alex Marvez reported this week, the Dolphins have been trying to trade Ellerbe.

2) As of Wednesday at 5 p.m., the Dolphins had not yet made any attempts to restructure Ellerbe, which likely would involve a pay cut.

This is also noteworthy: Two people who had spoken to the Dolphins front office said the team made clear it wants to upgrade at middle linebacker if it can. When the names David Harris and Mason Foster were raised a couple of weeks ago, a Dolphins executive said Miami liked them both.

But Harris, who expected Dolphins’ interest, never made it to free agency, instead re-signing with the Jets. (Harris is one of Mike Tannenbaum's favorite players, according to a Jets source who talks with him.)

And Foster, who also was expecting Dolphins’ interest, hasn’t been pursued by Miami in the first two days of free agency.

The mystery is what happened in the past few days to make the Dolphins front office rethink their position about Ellerbe. The money invested on Suh could be a factor but there's probably more to it than that.

The Dolphins are in a position of strength when they eventually approach Ellerbe about a restructuring of a non-guaranteed contract that would pay him $8.4 million next season.

Remember, the Dolphins can save $8.4 million against the cap for 2015 if they release him after June 1. (They could release him before with a post-June 1 designation but wouldn’t get the full cap savings until after June 1.)  If they cut him before June 1, the savings would be $5.7 million. His cap number is $9.85 million. They also still might trade him.

So if Ellerbe balks at a cut, the Dolphins could keep him until after June 1 and cut him then, which would give them more cap relief this year and also limit Ellerbe’s options, since most teams who need linebackers will have spent their money and filled their need by then.

So the Dolphins have several options: They could approach Foster; Dennis Hickey was part of the front office that drafted him in Tampa and Hickey has been complimentary about him. They could look for a starting linebacker in the first or second round of the draft.

They could go with a starting unit of Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi and Ellerbe, with Chris McCain, Jordan Tripp and Kelvin Sheppard competing. Or they could move Dion Jordan to linebacker, a move that the team said this week that it has not made (at least to this point).

It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

STEVE ROSS' THOUGHTS

Here's what Dolphins owner Steve Ross had to say today about the signing of Suh:

"It’s pretty exciting for us as I guess it is for all of the public when people are really here to meet as we introduce Ndamukong Suh into the Dolphin family. To me, it’s very exciting to be able to get a player who’s been a five-time All-Pro, a really dominant player in the middle of his prime.

"It’s probably one of the great free agent signings, at least this year if not on an historical basis. It’s great for the Miami Dolphins to have a player like Ndamukong, but just as important is the person that really who he is and what he’s going to mean to our organization. Just to tell a little story and what he has done in his life, we all know him as a great player, but the impact he’s had in the places that he’s played. It’s unheard of almost when he graduated and he gave his gift to Nebraska of $2.6 million, with this signing bonus.

"You don’t see that and how he cares about the community and his future life, and the impact he’s had on those communities. I know after the rumors of the signing were out and I get emails, I got an email from Jalen Rose, who we all know, he said, ‘Congratulations getting a great player, but also a better person.’ Then I got a phone call on Monday, I just picked up the phone, I thought it was Jorge Perez, my partner, I pick it up and I said, ‘Jorge’ and he said, ‘This is Warren Buffet.’ I said, ‘What?’ 

"Who I happen to know, but he said, ‘Congratulations, you’re getting a great person, Ndamukong Suh, take great care of him because he’s going to mean a lot to you.’ That’s the kind of person he is and what he means to both the team and what he’ll mean to South Florida.

"That really makes me very proud to have him join the Miami Dolphins. I’d just like to thank Mike Tannenbaum, I know the work that he has put in and the effort dealing with Jimmy Sexton, his agent, is not easy. He just got the deal finalized this morning. We came down here, obviously we all thought the deal was close to being done and we’re done. So Mike, thank you, and the team that he worked, with Dennis (Hickey) and everybody else that really made this happen. So Mike, Thank you and good job.”

How involved was he in landing Suh? “I think, any time you have the opportunity and someone’s available with the background and what he brought to the table, you have to look at it carefully. We looked at it, I looked at it as you don’t run a football team without really wanting to win.

"As you all know, that’s what I really want to bring to the table here. The more I read about him and the more I learned about him, the more I told Mike (Tannenbaum), ‘Hey, this is a guy, look into it.’ And Mike did a great job of helping research the background, who he was. I asked people about him and, the more I heard about him as a person and knowing what he did on the football field, really said, ‘Hey, this is a guy that you really want to build organizations around and be a critical part of it.’ And we’re very fortunate that we were able to get him.”

Ross, on Mike Tannenbaum:  “Just to build on that answer, there’s been so much work done in the years leading up to this moment to be opportunistic. Any great organization in any endeavor wants to be opportunistic when the right opportunity presents itself. To have the right sort of contractual situations, the right personnel situation, to be able to take advantage of opportunity when someone of his character, not only on the field, but off the field. For years, there were a lot of good things that happened that led to this point that we can take advantage of this opportunity.”

### I'll be tied up with Heat and a few other things for a bit, but buzz will return later this month... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

March 10, 2015

Golden making changes to UM football program; Lots of Dolphins FA notes; Heat, UM hopes chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Ex-UM coach Howard Schnellenberger, a fan of Al Golden, said in January that Golden simply had to make some changes after a 6-7 season. And quietly, Golden has made several, including incorporating some of what the Dallas Cowboys do offensively.

Meanwhile, UM’s defense, which patterns itself after the Seattle Seahawks’ defense in some ways, is making some strategic adjustments involving defensive linemen, defensive end Ufomba Kamalu said.

Offensively, “we are trying to model our game after the Cowboys,” tight end Standish Dobard said. “We watch a lot of their tape.”

As quarterback Brad Kaaya said, “a lot of the Cowboys’ passing concepts, we’re incorporating.” UM particularly likes what Dallas does with its third down and tight end packages.

Golden and offensive coordinator James Coley wanted to add to the offense “to become more multiple in what we do,” Coley said. “It will help with the predictability also. If you can really attack teams from a lot of different sets, it helps.”

Golden and Coley visited the Cowboys in January – both are friends with Dallas coach Jason Garrett – and Golden said more visits are planned. He mentioned Seattle as a possibility.

“From an offensive standpoint, we’re structured a lot like Dallas,” Golden said. “More globally, we are going to take a couple more visits in terms of a franchise or organization culturally. We’ve implemented some of those things. Our other coaches are going to visit other people. Even if we bring back one or two things that make us better, it’s worth it.”

Defensively, the changes have been more subtle. Kamalu said Mark D’Onofrio has made some tweaks to create “more of an aggressive defense” and that the defensive ends are being “asked to get in the backfield sooner” and “just have to worry about your gap now” instead of the two-gap approach that UM has played a lot in the past. The two-gap requires defensive linemen to line up head up against an offensive lineman and assume responsibility for the gaps on either side.

UM also wants to disguise its passer-rushers in new ways.

“[Seattle coach] Pete Carroll came here a year ago and we incorporated a lot of his stuff on our defense and we had a lot of success using the things we learned from him,” Golden said. “That was awesome. We watch a lot of that stuff on tape now with our guys.”

Because Golden believes strongly in his philosophy and is loyal to his assistants (he never has fired a single assistant at UM), is it difficult to decide exactly what to change in the wake of 6-7?

“If we feel we can improve it, it’s not about ego, it’s not about being stubborn. It’s about getting it right,” Golden said. “We’ve looked at every facet of our organization and things we need to do better. We’re starting to instill that. Kevin Beard, Randy Melvin are new members of the staff -- those guys have ideas, too. If the [ideas] make us better, we’ll go with it.”

Will fans see changes next year? “We’ve changed so much year to year, every year in terms of who we are and how we operate,” Golden said. “Every year it’s been different.”

Among Golden’s other changes: Like the Dolphins did last season, UM is having more than two dozen players wear GPS devices to determine their heart rates, how much they’re running in practice and other factoids that can help with injury prevention and in other ways.

There were three coaching changes: Melvin and Beard replaced NFL-bound assistants Jethro Franklin and Brennan Carroll, and graduate assistant Kareem Brown is coaching outside linebackers. Players love Brown and Stacy Coley raved about what receivers have learned from Beard.

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Golden challenges his staff to come up with new ideas.

“He does studies on how to do things better,” Coley said. “Al is a very smart guy and always has a plan of which route he wants to take for the season. He’ll put a bunch of us on projects. He does it every year since I’ve been here.”

So make no mistake: Golden is making changes. The great unknown is whether they will make a difference in the won-loss record next season.

DOLPHINS CHATTER

### The Dolphins are bringing in cornerback Brice McCain for a visit and envision him competing with Jamar Taylor and perhaps another player or two for a role as a second or third corner.

He has eight picks and has started 19 games in six NFL seasons --- five seasons with Houston and last year with Pittsburgh, where he started nine games.

Quarterbacks had just a 72.5 rating in his coverage area last season, ranking 12th best of 108 corners.

The Dolphins want him and have talked numbers but have competition from two other teams  --- Pittsburgh and Minnesota. But McCain gave his first visit to the Dolphins, who have a chance to close the deal.

The Dolphins also will bring in tight end Jordan Cameron on Wednesday, as Armando Salguero notes. (Check out his blog for details.) That would suggest they are prepared for the possibility of moving on without Charles Clay, who expects a big offer from Buffalo.

### The Dolphins presume signing Ndamokung Suh will give them an upper-echelon run defense; Detroit was sixth and first against the run the past two seasons. So how often does that translate to winning?

Consider: Of the 12 teams in the top six against the run over the past two seasons, nine won at least 10 games that season. (Of those, only Denver had an elite quarterback.) The other three: The Jets twice and the 7-9 Lions of 2013.

### Reaction around the league on the Suh signing: NFL Net’s Brian Billick: “Does this make Miami better? Yes. Does it make them championship caliber? I question that.”… ESPN analyst and former Jet Damien Woody: “As big a signing as Suh is for the Dolphins, it still comes down to [Ryan] Tannehill. I don’t remember the Lions winning a playoff game even with Suh.”…

NFL Net's Willie McGinest: "He's going to get double-teamed. You have those monsters with [Cam] Wake and [Olivier] Vernon. If you are the Bills, who are you going to double team? You can use his athleticism, do a lot of different things. Picture him and Wake on the same side. He earned his contract for what he does. He does not miss games unless he gets suspended....NFL Net’s Heath Evans: “Suh robbed the bank, and Joe Philbin is going to get framed for this bank robbery. The trickle down effect of this will be devastating to this franchise, mark my words."

### Tough business: Shelley Smith's release caught him by surprise, because it came weeks after Dennis Hickey conveyed to his representation that the Dolphins really like him and envisioned him competing for a starting job.

But the Dolphins felt they needed the cap space, and this move saves $2.5 million. And they conveyed to Smith that they would have interest in bringing him back at a lower number. He will visit the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.

Mike Tannenbaum said last week that the Dolphins feel good at guard with Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner primarily. But another veteran is needed now to replace Smith and Daryn Colledge.

### Though the Dolphins have left the door open to move Dion Jordan to linebacker, the team said on the record on Tuesday that he is still a defensive end.

### Joe Philbin's influence on personnel has certainly has been minimized since Tannenbaum's addition. He had no real role in the Stephen Ross-driven decision to sign Suh, and had serious concerns about keeping Mike Wallace, a move the front office supports.

### Wallace, asked by ESPN's Josina Anderson about taking a pay cut: "I am willing to help out the team, but at the same time I’m not about to do nothing crazy either. I’ll definitely help the team out, but it has to be reasonable—what I feel is reasonable.”

What does he feel is reasonable? "I don’t know. I have to see what exactly what my agent and the team is talking about and whatever I feel is reasonable. It’s not set like this is what it is. If we come to an agreement, I’m with it. Like I said, I’m not about to do something too crazy. I still have a family that comes first."

### Both the Dolphins and Wallace have moved past the incident in the final game of the season, when he complained about not getting the ball and was benched.

"Honestly I feel like we are really past that point," Wallace told Anderson. "It’s not even really about that anymore. I think we are pretty much past that. Obviously, that can come into some decisions I guess, but for the most part I feel like we are pretty much past that."

### The Patriots signed former Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson to a one-year deal worth $825,000.

### Clemson defensive end/outside linebacker Vic Beasley, projected for Miami's first-round draft range (14) or higher, reportedly will visit Dolphins headquarters on Monday.

(Wednesday 9 a.m. update: The Dolphins have told Randy Starks that he has been released.)

HOOPS CHATTER

### Interesting that Udonis Haslem said Tuesday that teammates bear some responsibility in Hassan Whiteside’s behavior.  

"It’s not just on Hassan. It’s on all of us," Haslem said. "We’ve got to collectively support him. As a team, if I’m on the floor, I’m not going to let a guy just intentionally foul him and do certain things to him to get up under his skin. He has to do a better job of making better decisions and guys on the floor have to try to protect him if they get an opportunity to step in between and de-escalate the situation."

### Whiteside's body language (which can suggest he’s pouting at times) bothers some NBA people, but Haslem said that is not an issue with teammates because “it’s not coming from a selfish or malicious place. He’s not a selfish guy. He gets down on himself at times.”

### Erik Spoelstra said aside from the ejections and losing-his-cool (a big issue), Whiteside has done everything Spoelstra has asked, including always being punctual and a hard worker in practice.

### Please see the last post for a lot more on Whiteside and his one-game suspension.

### ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Miami likely needs two ACC Tournament wins to make the NCAA Tournament.

UM’s RPI is still not great (63); Jim Larranaga said teams below 60 have no chance.

Since 1991, only 13 teams earned at-large bids with an RPI of 60 or worse.

UM “could make it with one, but then need help elsewhere,” Lunardi texted.

UM plays Virginia Tech in its ACC Tourney opener at 9 p.m. Wednesday, four days after the Canes dismantled the Hokies. If Miami wins, UM would play Notre Dame at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

Fallout, extensive Heat reaction today on Hassan Whiteside, who was suspended for Wednesday's game

The NBA suspended Heat center Hassan Whiteside for one game on Tuesday, a day after he was ejected for elbowing Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in the back of the neck, and an apologetic Whiteside said he feels “terrible about it” and doubts this type of incident will happen again.

Whiteside, who has been ejected from two games in the past nine days, will sit out Wednesday’s game against the visiting Brooklyn Nets --- a suspension that will cost him $7000.

That means Whiteside --- who’s earning $769,000 this season --- has now lost $47,000 this season as a result of eight technical fouls, a fine and a suspension.

Whiteside apologized to his teammates after the Heat’s loss to Boston on Monday night and again before the start of practice on Tuesday. He said he also apologized to Olynyk and that Olynyk accepted “and wished me much success in the future.”

Addressing reporters about an hour before the suspension was announced, Whiteside apologized to the team and to Heat fans and said he must “do better keeping calm, keeping a level head.” His coach, Erik Spoelstra, said the team remains fully committed to the third-year center.

“It’s probably the worst 12 hours of my life,” Whiteside said. “I let my personal stuff on the court affect the team. I feel like I let [the team] down. It can’t happen again. It was just a terrible decision on my part.

“It was such a far journey for me and I felt I took some steps back. I’m better than that. It’s been a really frustrating 12 hours and I regret it a lot.”

Monday’s ejection came a week after he was ejected for grabbing the legs of Phoenix center Alex Len after Len had pushed him aside. Both players were ejected but neither was suspended.

“These are my first two ejections in my life,” he said. “I had never been ejected before. It’s not a good feeling. I’m in the locker-room watching the game feeling it’s all my fault.”

Asked what led to Monday’s incident, Whiteside said “it was a buildup of things, from getting elbowed in the face on the first play on my first block. A couple of shots to the face on the rebound. I let it get out of hand…I told Kelly I didn’t mean to hurt him.

“I’ve got to take the hits and hope the refs just keep me safe out there. I’ve got to do better. I’m starting to realize I’m a bigger name in the NBA than what I was. [But] it’s kind of frustrating when random guys are hitting you in your face. People in the scouting report are probably saying, hit this guy with a couple of cheap shots and let’s see what he’ll do. I’ve got to just take it and hope the refs see it.”

Several people spoke to Whiteside afterward, including Spoelstra, Heat executive Alonzo Mourning and teammates Udonis Haslem, Michael Beasley and Luol Deng.

“There was nobody really angry with me. ‘It was more, you’ve got to do better,’” he said.

Spoelstra said the organization is “not turning our back on him. He’s not on an island. This is a symbiotic relationship. We’re here for him. He knows we still value him, still want to invest our time and effort in him to improve as a player and he wants to do his part. And he wants to be a part of it….

“Hassan has a great heart. We’ll be able to figure it out. We are going to correct it with him. He wants to and he knows we need him. [But] he needs to be accountable to every other player and staff member in the locker room.

“He’s a very competitive person. Now it’s about channeling it in the right way. He’s not the first player to ever go through this. There’s a long list of guys in similar situations. But he really wants to do right by the team. I have had no issues with Hassan in practice, preparation. He’s met all the standards we talked about in my first meeting with him.”

Asked if the team had considered anger management classes, Spoelstra said only: “We’re going to work through this with Hassan. He wants to help the team. We want to help him. We’ll correct it and move forward.”

Dwyane Wade was critical of Whiteside after Monday’s game, saying he was “very” disappointed in him and that “if he continues to act that way, then he’s not reliable.”

Wade had a softer tone Tuesday.

“He’s still a kid. He’s going to learn,” Wade said. “He’s a sincere kid. He’s not meaning to do it. It’s just something new to him. He has to figure it out on his own. He’s going to get advice from everyone. Everyone is going to be in his ear. But at the end of the day, he has to figure it out on his own.

If he wants to, he will.

“It’s knowing the game he’s playing. It’s a big boy’s game you’re playing now. You’re good. You like to dunk on people, be dominant, be aggressive and people are going to be that way back. He has to understand this is his new life created by his talent. He’s got to understand big guys are going to get fouled hard. He’s a genuine guy. He’s a nice guy. That’s my job as a leader, get on him. But we don’t turn our backs on anyone. We’re going to help him through it.”

Haslem said he didn’t need to scold Whiteside.

“I’m always calm with Hassan,” Haslem said. “He’s not a guy I feel I have to jump all over and attack. He’s a guy you need to approach and tell him man to man and be up front and honest with him. You don’t have to raise your voice. It’s genuine.”

### Guard Goran Dragic said he’s hopeful he will play Wednesday after missing two games with a tailbone injury. Haslem, dealing with assorted injuries, said he also plans to play. Spoelstra was non-committal on Chris Andersen, who has an ankle injury.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Tannenbaum on filling needs; Dolphins free agency; Wade, Heat disappointed in Whiteside; Heat postscripts

A six-pack of Dolphins and Heat notes on a Monday night:

### After the Dolphins announce the Ndamukong Suh signing in the next few days, some fans and some media will feel urgency for the Dolphins to quickly fill their other needs –-- from cornerback to safety to linebacker to receiver to guard --– to show that they haven’t sacrificed too much elsewhere in order to add the NFL’s most dominant defensive tackle.

But Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum indicated last week that the Dolphins will not rush to fill all their needs in free agency. Tannenbaum preached patience, acknowledging that some needs won’t be filled until the draft in late April and early May and others potentially after that.

“We'll take a reasoned approach,” Tannenbaum told me. “I've been around two teams that added a quarterback in Vinny Testaverde in June and Brett Favre in August. Those are tangible examples that the offseason is a long continuum.... We think there are better opportunities in free agency at certain positions and we'll draft the others.”

Mike Mayock said this draft class is strongest at receiver and running back and thinnest at safety and quarterback. 

Tannenbaum made clear he wants quality depth, even with cap restraints and even if it takes months to achieve.

“You've got to have depth at all the positions,” he said. “In this league, you've got to be able to defend the pass. You have to have depth at pass rushers, corners, secondary to be able to play consistently over 16 games.”

The Dolphins will create cap room by cutting Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe and possibly Randy Starks and Brandon Fields. But Miami to this point hasn’t been offering big money for corners or linebackers or guards and appears eager to find good value. If the Dolphins can find a front-line player at the right price, they’ll do it. (And a Darrelle Revis associate expects Miami interest, which would obviously be costly.)

But with the huge cap commitment to Suh --- and a looming one for Ryan Tannehill –-- the Dolphins are being cautious. There remains considerable front office support for keeping Mike Wallace, but Wallace is still awaiting a final answer.

### Though the Dolphins told multiple people they are interested in addressing middle linebacker --- which would allow them to move Koa Misi outside –-- they have not made a strong push to achieve that early in free agency and appear to be proceeding deliberately on that.

But keep in mind that Dennis Hickey proceeded deliberately, on his own timetable, during his first offseason as GM. After signing Branden Albert and Earl Mitchell at the outset of free agency, he waited three days to sign Cortland Finnegan, six days to sign Shelley Smith, 16 days to sign Knowshon Moreno, four months to sign Daryn Colledge and five months to sign Samson Satele.

Louis Delmas was signed before the start of free agency.

### Speaking of Delmas, the Dolphins remain in conversations with the veteran safety, who is coming off a torn ACL.

“He will definitely be ready for the start of training camp,” his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said.

The Dolphins have inquired about other safeties (Ron Parker, Da’Norris Searcy, etc.), but to this point haven’t made a strong push for Searcy. (We'll see if that changes.) And there’s a lot they like about Delmas.

### If the Heat misses the playoffs, it will rue its five home losses to sub.-500 teams, including tonight’s 100-90 setback to Boston.

Miami fell to 28-35, one half game behind No. 7 and No. 8 Indiana and Charlotte, who are 28-34.

And the final 19 games are filled with challenges. Among them: at Atlanta, at Toronto, at OKC, at Milwaukee, at Cleveland and home games against Cleveland, Portland, San Antonio and Chicago.  

### Discouraging: Hassan Whiteside was ejected for the second time in five games, this time for a senselessly pushing his forearm into the neck of Kelly Olynyk, resulting in a flagrant two foul in the third quarter.

Whiteside leads the NBA in rebounds and blocks per 48 minutes but he’s costing himself a lot of money long-term if he doesn’t show more maturity.

Whiteside left without commenting.

“We’ll handle it. It will be corrected,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Everybody is responsible to the team. Your actions, there are consequences that do affect the team.”

Dwyane Wade said he's "very" disappointed in Whiteside. "We all are. As a Heat fan, you are. He's going to have to learn. He's going to learn the hard way. Hopefully, he changes his mentality quick.

"He's had enough veteran advice," Wade continued. "There comes a time where you have to do it yourself. There's only so many words people can continue to say to you. You've got to do it. Not for you, you got to do it for the other guys you see in here sacrificing -- that you see out there playing hurt and all the things you see going on... We all have our moments, selfish moments, but you can't continue to keep having them because you got to be reliable, and you got to be able to be counted on. And right now, if he continues to act that way, then he's not reliable." 

Said Michael Beasley: "It definitely hurts us. We need him."

### Goran Dragic (tailbone) “intended to play, wanted to play, but [trainer Jay Sabol], myself, Dr. [Harlan] Selesnick had to take the decision out of his hands," Spoelstra said. "He’s made a lot of progress in the last 48 hours. It wasn’t enough progress to have full mobility. Against quick guards, he may not be able to help the team.”

Chris Andersen rolled his ankle and will be re-evaluated Tuesday. And Udonis Haslem sat out with wrist, knee and ankle injuries. That, combined with Whiteside’s suspension, forced Spoelstra to use Michael Beasley some at center for the second game in a row.

As many of you know, the Heat announced Chris Bosh will return to basketball activities in September and will be ready to start next season, as we noted a couple of weeks ago. See Greg Cote's column on the home page for what Bosh had to say at tonight's news conference.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

March 08, 2015

Sunday night Dolphins free agency notes; Heat, Canes, Panthers chatter

A few Dolphins, Heat and Canes notes on a Sunday night (and a Panthers item):

### With the Dolphins spending much of their free-agent money on defense, executive vice president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum implied to me last week that guard and running back don’t need much attention in free agency.

Lamar Miller played very well, high character, very productive,” Tannenbaum said. And “there are a couple of young guards on the team that a lot of people in the building feel good about --- Dallas Thomas, Billy TurnerShelley Smith… There's a lot of good young offensive linemen.”

Orlando Franklin is reportedly going to sign with San Diego, and Mike Iupati has been linked to the Jets, Bills, 49ers and Raiders. The Dolphins don't have the money to spend on a pricey guard, and as Tannenbaum said, they like their young players.

A cheap back figures to be added to be Miller's backup and competition for Damien Williams. This also could be addressed in the draft.

### The sense here is the Dolphins prefer not to pay as much to a backup quarterback as they paid Matt Moore last season ($4 million).

Moore appears behind Brian Hoyer in the pecking order of teams shopping for a veteran quarterback who can compete to start.

Asked if the Dolphins want to re-sign Moore, Tannenbaum said: “He’s played well. We would like to keep as many of the good players as we can but you can't keep them all. He's a guy we've talked to. We'll see where it goes.”

Moore likes Miami but he's exploring his options.

Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder are among other experienced backup options. But experienced backups typically don't come cheaply.

### The Dolphins have reached out on several corners, but the top ones are off the market (Brandon Flowers, Kareem Jackson, Byron Maxwell) and they likely cannot afford Darrelle Revis if the Patriots don't keep him under his current contract by a looming deadline.

Patrick Robinson, Robert McClain and Buster Skrine are among possibilities. Antonio Cromartie might be the most accomplished name still left in free agency at the position. But the Dolphins, with the huge paycheck to Ndamukong Suh, don't have the money to spend on a high-end corner.

Figure on them signing one or two who can start opposite obvious starter Brent Grimes or compete to start in a competition against Jamar Taylor and potentially a first or second-day draft pick.

### Though the Dolphins have indicated an interest in re-signing Jimmy Wilson, his agent -- Drew Rosenhaus --- said on his weekly WSVN-7 segment tonight that the Dolphins might need "to potentially replace [Wilson], who has a lot of interest in free agency."

### We hear offensive lineman Nate Garner, who was released by the Dolphins after six seasons on Monday, earlier this off-season filed a grievance against the team because the Dolphins placed him on the NFL’s non-football injury list instead of injured reserve.

That move allows the Dolphins to avoid any more financial obligations to him, including paying for doctors visits or injury protection. If Garner had been placed on IR instead, Miami would be required to pay him $825,000, or half of his 2015 salary.

Teams cannot place players on the non-football injury list if the ailment is football-related. We hear Garner was told by an outside doctor that the migraines (plaguing him for more than three months) were the result of a football-related injury.

### Please see the last post for a full report on the Dolphins' imminent signing of Ndakukong Suh.

CHATTER

### Dwyane Wade says he’s “amazed by the pressure Goran [Dragic] puts on a defense,” and consider this: The NBA says Dragic, entering the weekend, had run 142.6 miles during games this season (fifth-highest in the league), or 2.5 miles per game (third-most).

Dragic, who wants to stay with the Heat longterm, already has forged a close bond with Wade: “When I played against him, I thought he was a scorer. I didn’t know he was such a great passer. It’s so easy to play with this kind of player. [And] Wade is such a nice person. He embraced me.”

Dragic is learning Wade’s tendencies; when Dragic penetrated, he passed to Wade for a three-pointer recently and “I said, ‘Shoot it.’ He said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable. It’s not my game.’”

### Please see the last post for info on Michael Beasley's Heat future and Erik Spoelstra using him in a Chris Bosh role on offense.

### UM (20-11, 10-8) likely needs to win at least one game and possibly two in the ACC Tournament to earn an NCAA Tourney bid, and the bracket sets up well: First, a game against Wake Forest or Virginia Tech at 9 p.m. Wednesday, and then, if Miami wins that one, a 9 p.m. Thursday game against a Notre Dame team that UM narrowly lost to in South Bend.

### An NBA scout said junior guard Sheldon McClellan is UM’s best prospect (though Tonye Jekiri could change that if he keeps developing) and that McClellan could slip into the second round because of his athleticism, size and improved shooting.

“And his defense has improved,” the scout said. McClellan wouldn’t rule out turning pro during a chat earlier this season, but he seems happy at UM.

### Boston leads the Panthers by four points for the second and final NHL Eastern Conference wild card spot and here's how this battle stacks up:

Boston has played one fewer game… The Panthers have nine home games, seven road games, 11 vs. playoff teams. Boston: six home, 11 road, nine vs. playoff teams…

Boston likely would win the tiebreaker because it has significantly more non-shootout wins than Florida. But this could come down to their three remaining meetings: March 21 and April 9 in Sunrise, March 31 in Boston.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz        

4:30 p.m.: New deal for Beasley; Dolphins to sign Suh; Here's what Miami is getting

No surprise here, considering how well he has played, but the Heat and Michael Beasley have agreed to a new 10-day contract, according to his agent Jared Karnes of a3athletics.

Not only is Beasley scoring (10.5 points on 44.6 percent shooting) and helping facilitate Miami’s offense, but he’s also defending with great effort, including Saturday’s game when he played some center and defended Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins as the backline of a zone defense.

“He stepped out of his comfort zone and was fantastic in that zone,” Erik Spoelstra said. “I feel very comfortable with Mike. We have gotten to know each other extremely well over the years. We felt it was a no-brainer [to sign him]. We’ve been running the majority of our offense through him, ala Chris Bosh. He’s a close facsimile in our system.”

Spoelstra said Beasley's growth has been "incremental. He's shown great strides in his competitiveness, technique, consistency."

Spoelstra said "there have been a lot of people to get him to this point" -- a group that includes the Heat coaching staff, Pat Riley and Karnes.

Operating at a 25-pound weight disadvantage against Cousins, Beasley said he was elbowed in the face five times during Saturday's again.

During timeouts, Spoelstra gave him lessons on the Heat's zone defense, which worked well Saturday night but is seldom used by Miami.

"I played a little [center] in college," Beasley said. "It was cool."

With all the injuries, "We're showing perseverance," Beasley said. "We're literally giving everything we have."

Luol Deng, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and Udonis Haslem are all questionable for Monday's game against Boston.

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Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, considered one of the NFL’s best defensive players, will sign with the Dolphins on Tuesday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday.

Suh will become the highest paid defensive player in football, with a contract for $114 million and $60 million guaranteed. He will be paid $60 million in the first three years of a six-year deal, according to the ESPN report.

With Suh anchoring Detroit’s defensive line, the Lions were first against the run last season. The Dolphins were 24th against the run and were pulverized on the ground in several late-season games.

The Dolphins made improving their run defense a priority, and Suh will undoubtedly do that, while also boosting their pass rush. Miami was 13th in sacks per pass play on defense last season. Suh had 8.5 sacks, which was tied for 22nd in the league.

The Dolphins beat out the Lions, Chargers and several other suitors for the player considered the most impactful in this free agent class.

Suh has been named first-team All-Pro four times in his first five NFL seasons and has 36 career sacks. Over the past three seasons, Pro Football Focus rated him fourth, second and third among all defensive tackles.

He led all tackles with 37 quarterback hurries last season; he had 54 the year before. He is durable, having never missed a game due to injury.

Suh, drafted second overall out of Nebraska in 2010, also comes with a reputation. In a 2012 Sporting News poll, active players voted Suh the NFL’s dirtiest player.

Suh served a two-game suspension in 2011 after he stomped on the arm of then-Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. A year later, Suh was fined $30,000 by the NFL for kicking then-Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin during a Thanksgiving game.

Since 2010, he has been fined seven times for player-safety violations, for $216,875.

With Suh joining the Dolphins, it appears unlikely Miami would be able to afford to re-sign defensive tackle Jared Odrick.

The Dolphins also have not told defensive tackle Randy Starks if they will retain him; Starks has a $6 million cap hit if he’s on the team and $1 million if he’s not.

So what are the Dolphins getting in Suh?

Here's what Pro Football Focus had to say about him last week:

"The NFL hasn’t seen a defensive tackle of Suh’s caliber hit free agency since Albert Haynesworth. Undoubtedly the crown jewel of the free agent class after the tagging of Justin Houston, Suh has produced at a high level since Day 1. The second overall pick in 2010 has tallied 31 more pressures than any other defensive tackle since he entered the league and he’s collected the second most run stops over that same period of time (108).

If you’re looking for weaknesses in Suh’s game, you won’t find many. His pass rushing prowess has been well documented since he led all interior linemen in sacks his rookie season with 11. What hasn’t been as feared over the years is his undisciplined run defense.

He’s always been disruptive, but early in his career he had a bad habit of washing himself out of plays with his over-aggressiveness. The good news is that that player has evolved. He’ll still fire off the ball, but his awareness has improved by leaps and bounds.

 In 2013 the Lions allowed 99.8 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry and those figures dropped to 69.3 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry last season. The emergence of Ziggy Ansah aided, but the team was also without Stephen Tulloch for the majority of the season.

Besides the obviously attractive feature of elite level play, Suh also offers scheme diversity. He’s been touted as a prototypical 3-technique in a 4-3 ever since college, but that wasn’t even his main position last season. Instead Suh’s primary role was actually left defensive tackle where he would bounce inside and outside of the right guard depending on the formation and defensive call.

He’s been in the Top 10 for Pass Rushing Productivity in all five seasons, finishing in the Top 5 the last three, with a high of 10.2 in 2013. Against the run he started off slow with a Run Stop Percentage of 6.0% from 2010-2012. Over the last two seasons, though, that number jumped dramatically up to 9.1%.

While those are both rate statistics, Suh also ranks highly in bulk numbers because he’s yet to miss a game due to injury in his career (missed two due to suspension in 2011). The defensive tackle has been durable all while carrying one of the heaviest workloads at the position. He’s averaged 894 snaps over the last five seasons, the second-highest over that span (Dontari Poe), with a high of 1,000 (2010) and a low of 772 (2011).

Any profile of Suh, though, would be incomplete without bringing up his history of dirty play. The impending free agent to has been fined $216,875 and lost $187,294 in wages due to on-field incidents over the course of his career according to the Detroit Free Press. The most recent transgression came in the NFC North title game and almost earned him a playoff game suspension.

This erratic behavior hasn’t won over many fans as he routinely is placed atop ‘Most Disliked Players in the NFL’ lists. Any team signing him will have to deal from the possible PR backlash from fans, even though there are zero locker room concerns following the veteran around. As is usually the case, though, fans are quick to forgive when the player is producing on the field."

At $19 million per year, only four players will earn more than Suh: quarterbacks Aaron Rogers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Drew Brees. He's the second defensive tackle (after Albert Haynesworth) to sign a nine-figure deal. The richest deal for a defensive player, before Suh's Dolphins contract, was Houston Texans linebacker J.J. Watt's $100 million contract.

The Dolphins still must address other needs, including cornerback, safety and linebacker. The Dolphins have made inquiries about several free agent defensive backs this weekend.

They also face a substantial cap hit --- at least $7.1 million – to re-sign tight end Charles Clay, who is expected to generate strong interest from Buffalo when he’s permitted to begin negotiating with other teams on Tuesday. The Dolphins hold the right to match any offer for Clay.     

March 07, 2015

Postscripts, reaction from wild Heat game; Dolphins pursue Suh, explore DBs, attend to other business

A Heat team that simply cannot stay healthy was again a walking MASH unit on Saturday, with four starters sidelined and only eight players available by the end of the night.

But the Heat has learned to play short-handed, a quality that served it well Saturday in the face of considerable adversity.  

What was left of the roster staged a furious second-half rally for the second night in a row, overcoming a 16-point third-quarter deficit and then taking control late in overtime to beat Sacramento, 114-109, in an inspiring effort at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Dwyane Wade scored 10 of his 28 points in overtime, including two jumpers and six free throws.

"That’s a time I get more aggressive,” Wade said of overtime. “The guys did a great job of keeping us close enough until I… was able to string good plays together. There have been a lot of nights this season that don’t make sense. We’ve been unlucky with injuries but guys continue to fight.”

A night after erasing all but one point of a 35-point second-half deficit against Washington, Miami completed the comeback against the Kings, beating Sacramento for the 13th consecutive time at home.

Tyler Johnson, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers initially spearheaded the rally from 16 down with four minutes left in the third quarter, and Wade put the Heat ahead for the first time since late in the first quarter with a turnaround fade-away jumper with 2:36 left in the fourth.

With the game tied, Henry Walker missed a corner three with 26 seconds left in regulation and Rudy Gay’s driving layup rimmed out with 2.6 seconds left. DeMarcus Cousins rebounded but missed a short follow shot with 1.5 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.

After Chris Andersen missed the second of two free throws, Andre Miller’s layup put the Kings ahead 104-103 with 2:02 left in overtime. Cousins (27 points, 17 rebounds) then fouled out with 1:41 left in OT, and Andersen hit both free throws to put the Heat up for good, by one.

Miller badly missed a jumper, and Johnson’s three then pushed the Heat ahead 108-104 with 50 seconds left, capping a fabulous night for the undrafted rookie from FresnoState.

Johnson injected energy and offense, delivering 24 points, six rebounds and six assists in 44 minutes off the bench.

“If you look up the word grit, you would probably see Tyler’s picture along with a few other guys on that team,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has earned everything he has gotten in his life. He has put in a tremendous amount of time behind the scenes in our development program.”

Beasley contributed 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench and did yeoman work defending Cousins despite a 35-pound weight deficit, before fouling out with 1:07 left in regulation.

The Heat went to a zone defense in the second half, partly because Udonis Haslem was unable to play after halftime because of an undisclosed injury, leaving the Heat with no backup center behind Chris Andersen in the absence of injured Hassan Whiteside.

“Tonight [Beasley] stepped out of his comfort zone and really was an anchor for us as a linebacker behind the defense in that zone,” Spoelstra said. “He was fantastic in that zone.”

Beasley said he played “a little” center at KansasState and “it was cool.” But playing against Cousins took a toll physically. “I got elbowed in my face three times,” he said. “It hurt. I was stuck at the five [center]. I couldn’t let my teammates down.”

The Heat moved to 28-34, remaining tied with Charlotte and Indiana for seventh, eighth and ninth in the East. The Heat holds the eighth seed at the moment, by percentage points over the Hornets.

The Heat’s health issues have reached a level of absurdity, to the point that  Spoelstra began his pre-game news conference by announcing he had no idea who was playing, with seven players nursing injuries.

Ultimately, three sat out beyond Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts: Luol Deng (who missed his second in a row with a calf injury), Whiteside (ankle) and Goran Dragic (tailbone).

Dragic, who sustained his injury when he fell hard to the floor Friday against Washington, said Saturday that when he moves laterally, “it’s like somebody put a knife in me.”

Four players who had been questionable an hour before the game --- Wade, Haslem, Chalmers and Johnson --- were able to play, with Johnson playing valiantly through shoulder discomfort, and Chalmers playing through knee soreness. Haslem managed to play 10 minutes before departing.

Haslem, Andersen, Shabazz Napier and Walker started alongside Wade, Miami’s 25th different starting unit in 66 games. But Spoelstra tinkered at halftime, replacing Walker and the injured Haslem with Johnson and Beasley.

Napier struggled, shooting 2 for 7, with three turnovers and two assists. And the Heat’s first-half defense remained problematic, just as it was during Friday’s first half in Washington. The Kings shot 56 percent in a 61-point first half.

Miami couldn’t slow the Kings’ Rudy Gay (27 points) and Ben McLemore (20).

Sacramento closed the first half with a 13-4 run to surge ahead, 61-47, at the break.

But the Kings shot just 35 percent in the second half and 42 percent in overtime. Miami’s zone certainly was a factor in that.

The Heat mounted its fourth-quarter rally with a small lineup, including three players who weren’t on the team to start the year (Beasley, Walker and Johnson).

Spoelstra said the Heat went to a zone defense not only because of injuries but also because “we had four guys in foul trouble. I had no bigs. UD couldn’t play in the second half. We were forced to make some kind of drastic decision to keep our guys out of foul trouble but also to change the tempo of the game.”

### Beasley’s 10-day contract expired after Saturday’s game, and he said Saturday night that the Heat hasn’t told him whether it will sign him to another one. But he’s fully expected to remain with the Heat.

“We like Mike,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve spent a lot of time developing him.”

DOLPHINS TALK

As the Dolphins make a hard push to sign Detroit Lions free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, they also were busy on other fronts Saturday, exploring the market for defensive backs, making plans to move on from two former starting linebackers and re-signing two backups.

The Dolphins’ priority remains signing Suh, who reportedly is also drawing interest from the Lions, Chargers and Jaguars, among others.

Several agents and league executives are operating under the impression that the Dolphins are the front-runners for Suh, or that he will sign with Miami, but there was no indication from the Suh camp that he has made a decision, and the Detroit News reported Saturday that the Lions remain in contention.

Beyond the Suh pursuit, the Dolphins also are exploring the cornerback market. Miami inquired about a few veteran free agents starters, including New Orleans’ Patrick Robinson. They expressed interest in Kareem Jackson before he decided to re-sign with Houston on Saturday.

Robinson, who attended South Miami High and Gulliver Prep, was the 32nd pick of the 2010 draft out of FSU and has nine interceptions in five seasons with the Saints, including two in 2014, when he appeared in 14 games and started six. He has 33 career starts.

The Dolphins would like to re-sign slot cornerback/safety Jimmy Wilson but face formidable competition from several interested teams.

The Dolphins have several other cornerbacks on their radar, including Atlanta’s Robert McClain and San Diego’s Shareece Wright, among others. Byron Maxwell, Buster Skrine and Antonio Cromartie assuredly warrant consideration, too. The Dolphins inquired about Brandon Flowers, but he reportedly is close to re-signing with San Diego.

The Dolphins have interest in re-signing safety Louis Delmas because they liked how Delmas played alongside Reshad Jones before Delmas’ season-ending knee injury in the 13th game.

But with Delmas coming an ACL injury, Miami inquired about a few other free agent safeties, including Buffalo starter Da’Norris Searcy, who had three interceptions in 2014. Kansas City starter Ron Parker is another safety on Miami’s radar.

Saturday was the first day that teams could speak legally to the agents of free agents from other teams. But teams cannot make formal offers or meet or sign those outside free agents before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

### The Dolphins are expected to officially part ways with linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler in the next few days. Wheeler will be designated as a post-June 1 cut, meaning the team will save $3 million against the cap.

Wheeler started 16 games for the Dolphins in 2013 but just four last season.

The Dolphins have explored a trade for Ellerbe (his $8.4 million salary next season would be a deterrent) and plan to trade or release him. That would save at least $5.7 million against the cap. Ellerbe sustained a season-ending hip injury in the opener last September and Jelani Jenkins proved a capable replacement.

### Buffalo reportedly expressed interest in Dolphins tight end Charles Clay. Because the Dolphins placed the transition tag on him, they have the right to match any offer.

### The Dolphins re-signed defensive tackle A.J. Francis, who missed last season with a knee injury, and safety Jordan Kovacs.

### As of Saturday afternoon, the Dolphins had not informed defensive tackle Randy Starks of their intentions with him. He has a $6 million cap hit if he’s on the team in 2015, $1 million if he’s not. His future might hinge on whether Miami lands Suh.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Please Check back Sunday morning for more

March 06, 2015

11 p.m. Friday Dolphins update; Reaction after furious Heat rally falls short; An introspective Michael Beasley reflects on his journey and how he has changed

Quick 11 p.m. Dolphins update: No surprise here, but the Dolphins plan to part ways with linebacker Dannell Ellerbe in the coming days. They have explored a trade (his $8.4 million salary next season would be a deterrent) and plan to trade or release him. That would save $5.7 million against the cap pre-June 1.

If he is released with a post-June 1 designation, the Dolphins' cap saving would be $8.4 million but that extra savings cannot be applied before June 1. Ellerbe injured his hip in the opener and missed the rest of the season. The Dolphins are expected to go with Jelani Jenkins at weakside linebacker; he was 22nd in the league with 110 tackles last season.

Phillip Wheeler also remains at serious risk.

For more on the Dolphins' plans at linebackers and other Fins news from Friday, please see the last post.

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

A night that could have been punctuated with the biggest comeback win in Heat history instead ended with Miami falling out of playoff seeding, this 99-97 loss in Washington dropping the Heat to ninth in the East at 27-34.

The Heat has the same record as No. 8 Indiana, but the Pacers own the tiebreaker. And the Hornets leapfrogged the Heat into seventh, by half a game.

Down by 35 in the third, the Heat staged a remarkable rally, closing to within one late despite being without Dwyane Wade (hip), Luol Deng (calf) and Mario Chalmers (knee). Miami also lost Goran Dragic (18 points) to a bruised tailbone after a hard fall in the third quarter.

Dragic said his back "locked up and I couldn't move. We'll see [about Saturday against Sacramento]. It's an important game."

Miami had two chances to take the lead in the final seconds, but Henry Walker missed a corner three with six seconds left. And after a Wizards free throw with just over a second left, Michael Beasley (who scored all 13 of his points in the fourth) regrettably took a dribble on an in-bounds pass before launching a shot that came just after the final buzzer. Beasley said "that was a lack of experience. I was so anxious to get the last shot and do great for my team that I just had a brain cramp. That was my fault."

"The execution was adequate but wasn't perfect," Erik Spoelstra said of the last shot.

"[Beasley] was very good in the fourth quarter, a two-way player."

Beasley said collective "embarrassment" fueled the Heat's comeback. "We showed a lot of character, a lot of perseverance. We could have literally lost by 100 points." Instead, the Heat outscored the Wizards, 58-32, after halftime to make it a game.

"In the second half, it was about revealing what your makeup is," Spoelstra said. "It shows you, and it's a shame because we didn't have it in the first half, what unmitigated effort, passion, connection, what you can accomplish in a short period of time. It is not a moral victory, but I do commend those guys on the court and their level of competition."

### Hassan Whiteside played just 20 minutes (10 points, 2 rebounds) and picked up another technical. "He'll be fine; he knows our culture," said Spoelstra, indicating that a sideline conversation with Whiteside that drew some comments on Twitter was nothing more than a normal player/coach discussion.

### Spoelstra said Wade's hip is "sore, didn't loosen up the way we thought it would. It wasn't right enough to play tonight. We'll see [about Saturday against Sacramento]."

### Beasley, who figures to stick around with the Heat after his 10-day contract ends after Saturday's game, showed maturity and self-awareness in a lengthy conversation with a few reporters this week. Here's what he had to say:

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

Fear can be a great motivator. So if there is ever any temptation for Michael Beasley to do something he will regret, to display the immaturity he has tried to put squarely in his past, this is the deterrent that resonates:

“My biggest fear right now is my daughter starting to read three-, four-syllable words,” the Heat forward said Tuesday.

“It’s nothing for her to read in a paper: Michael Beasley in trouble. I’m trying to change the way I live for them because they deserve a better example than what I’ve been giving them. That’s where everything is coming from.”

As a first-team All-American at Kansas State and a former No. 2 overall draft pick, Beasley never figured he would be in this position, clinging to an NBA career, playing on 10-day contracts at minimum money.

He views this third opportunity with the Heat as his final NBA chance. “Definitely,” he said. “I’m really playing with desperation. When this goes, I go.”

Beasley, 26, hoped last season’s Heat reunion would rejuvenate his career, would serve as the linchpin to earn him a decent contract somewhere, ideally in Miami. He stayed out of trouble, finished 50th in the NBA in points per 48 minutes and appeared in 55 games.

But he played sparingly in the playoffs and received no guaranteed offers from any NBA team last summer, amid concerns about his maturity, his checkered past and his defensive acumen.

He said the lack of NBA interest didn’t surprise him because “I know the questions that were being asked. Only I could prove those questions right or wrong. I was a little disappointed, disheartened, but surprised? Not really. I had nobody to blame but myself.”

Questions about maturity have swirled around Beasley since his rookie season. He has never been suspended by the NBA but has found himself in a few regrettable situations, including a September 2013 arrest on suspicion of marijuana after a traffic stop. The Suns released him a month later.

Without any guaranteed NBA offers last summer, Beasley attended training camp with the Memphis Grizzlies on a non-guaranteed deal but was released Oct. 9 and signed with the Shanghai Sharks, where he averaged 28.6 points and 10.4 rebounds for a team owned by former NBA star Yao Ming.

He would awake at 5:30 in the morning in China to watch NBA games on television. The thought would often creep into his mind: I could be helping one of these NBA teams.

“Every time that thought comes, there would be a missed screen from somebody… or any easy shot [missed],” he said. “Not the Heat, in particular. I stopped that because I thought I was hating. I stopped trying to compare myself. I love the NBA. I missed it.”

He said the experience in China, being on his own thousands of miles from home, helped him mature.

“I took the opportunity to really find myself on and off the court,” he said. “When you’re by yourself -- professional athletes, entertainers can relate to this  -- you are never really by yourself until dishes are not being washed, food is not being cooked.

“You’ve got to go grocery shopping and wash your clothes. You don’t realize you’re by yourself until you’re alone. Your stomach is growling and there’s nobody there to feed you.”

When his season in China ended, Beasley returned to Miami, where he has maintained a residence, and spent three weeks working out at AmericanAirlines Arena and UM.

The Heat began considering a reunion after Chris Bosh was lost for the season with blood clots on his lungs.

“It was fate,” Beasley said. “And I hate that my triumph has to come from misfortune.”

Beasley met with Heat president Pat Riley before Riley offered him a 10-day contract, and “it was comfortable. We just spoke about life.”

Beasley said the conversation “got heated” when they disagreed about whether he was playing hard during the final few minutes of a game in his second season.

“Ain’t no winning with him,” Beasley said, smiling.

Heat forward Henry Walker has kept in close contact with Beasley since their time as teammates at Kansas State and sees signs of maturity.

“He pays more attention now,” Walker said. “A lot less joking. He’s playing hard as well. He’s playing both sides, not taking any plays off. Once he gets his legs together, he’ll be a monster down the stretch.”

Beasley puts it this way: “I’m still that fun-loving guy that likes to joke but now I understand what’s needed of me, the level of focus I need to bring to every game and every practice.”

One key, Beasley said, has been reducing sugar in his diet.  

“I would lie if I told you I didn’t eat candy but I definitely don’t eat as much,” he said. “I try to eat more grilled instead of fried, more salads instead of snacks. The day I stopped eating loads of sugar, I started feeling more energetic. There wasn’t a crash at the end. I used to go home and fall, hit the floor, and wake up an hour, two hours later.

“Now I’ve got energy the whole day. I can actually do things, be vibrant in my life without a crash at the end. It’s nice.”

Dwyane Wade mentioned Beasley’s defensive improvement last week, and Beasley said he’s “trying to be more than one dimensional. [In the past], I wasn’t committing 100 percent like I was on the offensive side.”

He drew a charge against Phoenix on Monday and “the reaction from my teammates gives me the joy,” he said.

What’s also apparent is the increase in self-awareness, the greater level of accountability.

“I can say [the journey] hasn’t been hard but I would be lying,” he said. “It’s been tough. I used to always [think], I’m cool. [Critics] just need something to talk about.

“I’m not going to get in trouble no more. You have to take ownership. My maturation process is not done at all, by far. I made personal progress and goals I’ve set for myself. I’m definitely going to keep working towards that. I’m optimistic to see what happens next.”

He admits “my public persona is not perfect at all. Definitely working every day toward fixing it. Right now, I’m happy. I’m blessed with an opportunity to play basketball again with people I know, people I loved, people I grew up with and I’m actually playing for something that means something to the city. I’m playing for Miami, not just for me…. I’m definitely blessed and humbled.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

March 05, 2015

1 p.m. Dolphins update; Marlins president cautious after 2012 flop, but bettors, Buck with high hopes; Dolphins, Canes notes; Whiteside

Quick 1 p.m. Dolphins update:

### As the Dolphins prepare to bid for Ngamukong Suh (contact with his agent is legally permitted beginning at noon Saturday), they have continued to hold Jared Odrick in limbo.

Despite previously conveying that they planned to make an offer, the team had not made one as of Friday morning. Still, the Dolphins haven't ruled out trying to re-sign him (presumably if they don't get Suh). Mike Tannenbaum said in a radio interview last week that the Dolphins want to keep him.

Odrick would consider a Dolphins offer but he's expected to attract a lot of interest and likely will command a deal in the range of $7 million or more a year. The Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Bears and Jaguars are among teams expected to have interest.

While Odrick's return to Miami doesn't seem likely at this moment, it cannot be ruled out. Remember: Miami showed zero interest in re-signing Randy Starks for the first two months of the off-season last year, then made him an offer (which he accepted) early in free agency. But it's almost impossible to envision Miami having the cap space for Suh and Odrick.

If the Dolphins sign Suh, the logical next step would be to cut Randy Starks to save $5 million against the cap, and go into next season with Suh, Earl Mitchell, a veteran free agent who's cheaper than Starks and Odrick, with AJ Francis and Anthony Johnson and perhaps a draft pick as depth.

### As Armando Salguero noted, the Dolphins are confident about their chances with Suh. The deal could be worth $17 million a year and $60 million in guarantees. The Dolphins told at least one person they would like to not have to pay as much as the numbers bandied about, but the Dolphins likely will do what it takes to be a serious player and agent Jimmy Sexton is likely going to find a team (Miami or another) who's willing to pay what he wants.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio told WQAM's Joe Rose today that "it's the Dolphins or Lions" for Suh. "Other teams are just leverage."

### The Dolphins very much like linebacker David Harris, who re-signed with the Jets Friday. They might turn their attention now to Tampa Bay free agent Mason Foster, who they also like. The 49ers' Dan Skuta also is on their radar, and Nate Irving and Brandon Spikes would seem to warrant consideration.

Miami would like to upgrade over Koa Misi at middle linebacker, according to several people who have spoken to the team. Misi could be moved back to strongside linebacker if the Dolphins are successful in finding a replacement in the middle.

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

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

The Marlins opened Grapefruit League play on Thursday awash in optimism. Michael Hill, the president of baseball operations, says this team is “unbelievably talented” and has the best outfield in baseball. Owner Jeffrey Loria cites “the incredible combination of players” and “the best chemistry we’ve ever had.” Second baseman Dee Gordon said this roster is comparable in talent to last year’s 94-win Dodgers.

But president David Samson won’t ever forget the last time the Marlins entered a season with such lofty expectations. Those 2012 Marlins flopped, finishing 69-93, and that’s why the team president is speaking more cautiously than most internally.

“I’m very measured in my expectations,” Samson said. “I’m not going to feel the way I did in 2012. Talk is cheap. They’ve got to do it. All our moves don’t mean a thing if we chose the wrong players.

“I’ve had personal experiences winning the offseason. This year is a different approach. Giancarlo [Stanton] and I have talked about that. No talk about how good we are or we’re favorites for this or expected to do this. I want the play to speak for itself.”

So why will this year be different than 2012? General Manager Dan Jennings says the pitching staff is deeper. Loria said the outfield is better. And Mike Dunn, one of only seven holdovers from that 2012 team, said: “On paper, this team blows 2012 out of the water.”

Samson puts it this way: “Going into 2012, everything we did we thought was right and it turns out everything we did was wrong. I think what we’re doing now is right. My hope is that the chemistry and the culture change that have taken place will make this year completely different.”

Don’t underestimate that culture issue. Dunn has told us some former Marlins were more concerned about themselves than the team and it had a negative effect. The Marlins made it a point to add players with good clubhouse reputations.

Martin Prado is one of the greatest teammates; I can’t say enough good things about him,” Dunn said. “Mike Morse is a great teammate from what I’ve heard.”

Nationally, bettors are responding. MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos have changed the odds of the Marlins winning the World Series from 40 to 1 to 30 to 1 and now 25 to 1 in response to a “lot” of people betting on the Marlins at those higher odds. The Marlins are still middle of the pack in odds; Washington has the shortest odds (5 to 1).

Among those especially high on the Marlins is the television voice of the World Series, Fox announcer Joe Buck.

A couple of months ago, Buck named Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria when asked by Sports Illustrated Richard Deitsch who would be the most fascinating person in sports in 2015, calling Loria “a quirky art dealer who really does love the game and his players will emerge with the last laugh after the failed try in 2012.”

I asked Buck to expand on why he picked Loria.

“I got to know him last year when my wife [NFL Network reporter Michelle Beisner] and I ran literally into him in Paris,” Buck e-mailed. “Sat with he and his wife at dinner and got the feel for his passion with his team and the personal connection he has to some of his key players.  He told me he had hosted the artist formerly named Mike [Giancarlo Stanton] in Europe when he was just getting started.  He loves the guy and proved it with the deal they agreed to.

“They have studs in the rotation (and hopefully health), made shrewd moves around the big contract, and I think they will win the East. He is a guy who has received more than his share of criticism and I think it will come full circle for him this year and in the next few to come.

“He got killed for dismantling that team that didn't fit together, and while he saved money, I still think that took guts after the opening of the new stadium.  So I just think his passion and those moves pay off in 2015.”

CHATTER

### According to someone directly involved, the Dolphins remained genuinely uncertain Thursday about whether they will keep Mike Wallace, with one factor being whether Miami can do what it needs in free agency while sustaining Wallace’s cap hit. There is front-office support for keeping him, but the cap hit is an issue.

### Among the receivers the Dolphins have discussed internally: Cecil Shorts, who had 53 receptions for 557 yards for Jacksonville last season. Eddie Royal, Nate Washington and Hakeem Nicks also would make sense among reasonably-priced receivers.

The Dolphins know they need receivers that are better with yards after the catch. Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline, both released by Miami, ranked 81st and 84th among 109 receivers in average YAC. (Hartline and the Dolphins haven’t ruled out a return.) Mike Wallace tied Hartline with a 3.3 YAC average. Conversely, Royal was 19th, Shorts 37th and Miami’s Jarvis Landry 44th.

### In his latest mock draft, Mel Kiper has Miami picking Louisville receiver Devante Parker at No. 14.

"Wide receiver is a bigger need now than it was a week ago prior to the release of Hartline and Gibson," Kiper wrote on ESPN.com. "The future of No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace, who is on the books for $9.9 million next season, is also in the air, and tight end Charles Clay received the transition tag but will negotiate with other teams starting Saturday. The Dolphins need a big target on the outside for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Parker is listed at 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, and he plays physically. I’m not sure Parker falls this far in the first round. But if he's available at No. 14, this would be a solid value pick for Miami." 

### As the Dolphins prepare to try to make a splash in free agency, they addressed their need for depth at offensive tackle on Thursday by re-signing Jason Fox to a two-year, $2.5 million contract.

Fox played well filling in as a starter at right tackle the final two games. He is expected to be Miami’s No. 3 tackle, behind starters Branden Albert, who has said he’s progressing well a major knee injury, and Ja’Wuan James.  If Albert “is not able to go Week One, I’ll be ready,” Fox said.

“I love the situation there with this team, where it’s headed,” said Fox, who was in Haiti on Thursday volunteering at a friend’s orphanage.

### Fox, on his former teammate, Ndamukong Suh, who (as we've written all week) the Dolphins are prepared to bid for:

“He’s obviously a dominant player, one of the best defensive tackles, if not the best defensive tackle in the NFL. He’s a game-changing type of player. In the locker room, he’s not the ‘rah-rah’ guy and he speaks up when he feels like it’s necessary. He’s one of the guys that leads by example. He’s a hard-worker and that shows.”

Count Pro Football Talk among those calling the Dolphins the favorite for Suh. NFL.com's Mike Silver reports the Raiders expect Suh to visit next week.

### The Dolphins resigned safety Jordan Kovacs, who appeared in eight games last season, his agent, David Canter, said on Twitter.

### More remarkable achievements from Hassan Whiteside: Besides leading the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes, he’s averaging more rebounds per 48 minutes (21.9) than any player this century. (Four-time rebound leader Dennis Rodman averaged 22.2 in his best season)…

He’s averaging 18 points, 16.4 rebounds and four blocks per 36 minutes. No center has done that for a full season since blocks became an official stat in 1973-74… And he has more 20-rebound games in 33 career games for the Heat (four) than Alonzo Mourning had in 593 games for Miami….

When Whiteside wrapped his arms around Phoenix center Alex Len’s legs this week, Mourning told Whiteside to “keep my cool.” Whiteside said he hasn’t seen Zo’s famous leg-wrap of Jeff Van Gundy but would try to find it on the Internet…. Pat Riley told Sun Sports he thinks Whiteside can get 16 points and 12 rebounds “without even going to him.”

### UM is encouraged by the spring work of Stacy Coley, who had two touchdown catches in Thursday’s scrimmage and is responding well to new assistant Kevin Beard’s coaching, which emphasizes creating leverage. Coley, who dipped from 591 yards receiving and eight touchdowns as a freshman to 184 and none last season, said:

“Ever since we played the [bowl] game, I told myself I won’t [allow it] again,” he said. “I blame everything on me. I wasn’t as focused as I am now. [Beard] is elevating our game. I want 14 [touchdowns next season]…. I feel like I’m having fun again.”

Coley has been working tirelessly since the bowl game: “We came back to Ft.Lauderdale and I got back at it. Every Saturday, my high school coach comes down here to work with me.”

He said Beard has taught them that “once you attack the DB’s leverage, there's nothing the DB can do. If they can't jam much, it's over.”

Brad Kaaya said Coley was "killing the DBs" Thursday.

### UM running back Gus Edwards has been terrific this spring, but Trayone Gray --– who could be a real weapon if he gets his act together --– is “not consistent right now which is making him consistently inconsistent,” Al Golden said.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz      

March 04, 2015

Report: Suh prefers Miami; Suh notes; Postscripts, reaction from Heat, UM wins tonight

A six-pack of notes on a Wednesday night:

### It has reached the point with Ndamukong Suh that it would be a mild disappointment if the Dolphins don’t snag him. As we have written the past two days, the Dolphins are interested in signing him, and Yahoo (citing a source in his camp) reported tonight that Suh --- who reportedly has been in South Florida this week --- has a slight preference for Miami, but that the Colts and Lions aren’t far behind.

Yahoo also reported Miami and the Colts are expected to make the strongest push for Suh and guaranteed money in the deal could top $60 million.

As cap guru Joel Corry noted today, the Dolphins could sell Suh on the fact there’s no state income tax in Florida. He noted that a  six-year, $102 million deal with Miami or Oakland would be worth $58.9 million after taxes if he signed with Miami, compared with $51.1 million in Oakland because of California’s 13 percent state income tax.

Said Corry: “For instance, a six-year contract with $94.3 million over six years and $50.85 million in the first three years is equivalent to a six-year, $102 million deal with $55 million over the first three years in Detroit, after taxes.”

As we mentioned yesterday, Miami figures to structure the contract in a way that would be more onerous on its 2016 cap (when the Dolphins have just $102 million in commitments) than its 2015 cap. As a point of perspective, Mike Wallace’s cap number was just $3.25 million in his first year with the Dolphins, but $17.5 million the second….

ESPN's Mark Dominik, Dennis Hickey’s close friend and former boss, insisted on Sirius Radio that he doesn’t have any inside information but lists the Dolphins among the top five contenders for Suh, with the Jaguars, Redskins, Giants and Cowboys.

"The reason I added [Miami] with Jacksonville is because they play in Florida with no state taxes," Dominik said. "No state income taxes has a huge advantage. I didn't mean to say Suh is coming to Miami and I've talked to Dennis Hickey. It's not like that."

### If Suh signs, it will put even more pressure on Cam Wake to play up to Pro Bowl form next year. Wake’s 2016 cap hit is $9.8 million if on the team, $1.4 million if he’s not. Dumping Wake after next season will be very tempting for Miami unless he’s a monster next season…

Brent Grimes’ 2016 hit is $9.5 million if he’s on the team, $3 million if he’s not. So even with about $50 million in 2016 cap space, the Dolphins can clear a lot more, including $8 million with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, who figure to be gone before then.

### One of many measures of Suh’s dominance: With Suh anchoring their line, the Lions have ranked sixth and first in run defense the past two seasons.

Over the past three seasons, Pro Football Focus rated him fourth, second and third among all defensive tackles. He led all tackles with 37 quarterback hurries last season; he had 54 the year before.

### Another monumental night for Hassan Whiteside tonight, and every one of his 18 points, 25 rebounds and four blocks were needed in this 100-94 win over the Lakers.

Whiteside’s 25 boards were the second-most in franchise history, behind Rony Seikaly’s 34.

Whiteside had 24 rebounds twice this season, including Monday against Phoenix. He converted two nifty passes from Dwyane Wade --- one for a layup, one for a dunk --- in the final 1:05.

"Some players sometimes you have that instant connection, and we saw that early on," Erik Spoelstra said of the Whiteside/Wade chemistry. "Dwyane has the ability to make those reads at the last [moment]."

Whiteside's only blemish? Seven missed free throws in 13 attempts. "I was just rushing it," he said. "I'm better than that."

Wade was outstanding, with 25 points and six assists and Goran Dragic had 21 points (including a big three to put Miami ahead with 3:28 left) and six assists.

"Good to see us show some grit in the fourth quarter," Spoelstra said. "In the first half, we did virtually everything wrong. But guys were holding each other accountable."

At 27-33, the Heat is one half game ahead of 26-33 Charlotte for seventh in the East and one game ahead of 26-34 Indiana, which is ninth.

### UM’s NCAA Tournament chances remain very much alive after tonight’s huge 67-63 win at Pittsburgh. UM led 7-0 early, trailed by four at halftime, but rode Sheldon McClellan late in the game to move to 19-11 and 9-8.

McClellan closed with 20, Davon Reed had 19 and Tonye Jekiri had 10 points and 11 rebounds. And Miami did it without Angel Rodriguez, who was sidelined by a wrist injury. This was a quality win against a team also on the NCAA bubble.

“Great win for our team,” assistant coach Chris Caputo told Joe Zagacki on WQAM afterward. “Without Angel, they banded together. Sheldon made some terrific shots. DeAndre Burnett went 0 of 5 but he was so important for us down the stretch the way he was defending.”

UM closes Sunday at Virginia Tech and Jim Larranaga believes UM needs to win that game and two in the ACC Tournament in order to be invited to the NCAA Tourney.

### Brian Hartline visited the Browns and Bears this week and agent Drew Rosenhaus has said Hartline is expected to make a decision on a new team this week. Incidentally, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called Hartline after his release, according to reports.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz