Ten tidbits entering the weekend:
### Even after another exceptional game Friday in Utah, LeBron James was again being scrutinized for passing up the last shot. ESPN devoted a chunk of its halftime show to it late Friday night. As Magic Johnson said, passing to Udonis Haslem was the right basketball play because LeBron was double-teamed. Johnson could have left it at that. But Johnson said he still wanted LeBron to take the shot anyway because making it would give him confidence for the playoffs.
### LeBron sent out this tweet after the loss: "Man, I have a sick feeling in my stomach right now. Really wanted tonight's game. I just had to make one more dang play out there - a stop, rebound, a shot, assist, a block, whatever it took. I fell short again."
### Even in praising the Heat, the TNT analysts still couldn’t be completely positive early Friday morning - well before the Utah loss. Charles Barkley said, “You can beat them up on the inside, and when they go to their bench, they get even smaller.”
Shaquille O’Neal chimed in: “If Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire can play at a super level, the remainder of the season, I see the [Knicks] giving Miami trouble in the first round.”
But at least Barkley said “if LeBron James keeps playing like this, the Heat are going to win the championship because he is playing on a whole other level.” He said James and Dwyane Wade will be in the discussion of Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen comparisons in a couple years, but not yet.
And Reggie Miller said: “Don’t turn the ball over against the Heat. Because from defense to offense, they may be the best since [the] Showtime” Lakers of the '80s.
Chris Bosh obviously would have helped Friday, but the Jazz loss reinforced the need to upgrade at backup center over Dexter Pittman.
### More updates on Peyton Manning's health surfaced Friday, three days after my report that Manning is throwing well and making good progress.
First, Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz - citing sources not connected to Manning - reported that Manning is "throwing much, much better." Kravitz reported a few weeks ago that Manning had a "noodle arm."
Most significantly, Manning's father Archie spoke to the Indianapolis Star at a Friday news conference for the Maxwell Award.
"What I've seen, he certainly looks fine as far as throwing and velocity on the ball," Archie Manning said. "I did see him a couple of weeks ago. I saw him throw and he looked like Peyton. He hasn't had any setbacks throwing. He's been throwing for two months and there are four, five months to go before the season starts. He will be ready to play."
Manning has had four neck procedures in the past 19 months but was cleared by doctors, in early February, to return to the field.
The Colts must decide by next Thursday whether to pay Manning a $28 million roster bonus. It has been widely reported that the Colts are unlikely to pay that bonus. But ESPN's Chris Mortensen, who has been on top of the story, said Friday there's a "chance - less than 50 percent" that the Colts will pick up the roster bonus. "Those discussions are ongoing," Mortensen said, adding that Manning already is "throwing better than 80 percent of quarterbacks" in the league.
ESPN has verified the authenticity of a brief Manning YouTube video posted on the Internet Saturday morning. It shows Manning throwing well in a workout at Duke.
If he's set free, Mortensen told 790 The Ticket he puts Arizona "right there" with the Dolphins as good possibilities, with Washington also in the top five. He said Manning is aware that Joe Philbin is a good coach to play for, and that he respects Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
### For the second time in a year, former UM linebacker Jonathan Vilma – a solid player who we’ve always liked personally – has been named in a “bounty” controversy, of all things.
In the wake of Friday’s bombshell in which the NFL condemned the Saints for setting bounties, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Vilma threw $10,000 on the table before the 2009 Saints-Packers NFC Championship game and said it would go to the player that successfully knocked out Brett Favre. Nobody was successful.
In its investigative piece on the Nevin Shapiro story last August, Yahoo alleged that Shapiro offered $5000 to any UM player who could knock FSU quarterback Chris Rix out of the Hurricanes-Seminoles games in 2002, ’03 and ’04. “Guys were all going after that $5000 in cash,” Shapiro said. “Vilma tried to kill him – just crushed him – a couple times trying to get $5000. And he almost got it, too.” Vilma has never commented on that claim.
### Heading into spring practice, UM coach Al Golden takes some comfort in the fact his team is physically stronger. UM got pushed around at times, including in embarrassing home losses to Virginia and Boston College. “Last year, we had 11 guys that could [bench] 225 over 20 times,” Golden said. “This year, it’s 31.”
### Why is Andrew Swasey the first team safety (instead of Vaughn Telemaque), opposite Ray Ray Armstrong? Golden said Swasey had the second-highest grade in the offseason U-tough program, behind Armstrong. That program is overseen by Swasey’s father, strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey. Telemaque finished third, so it’s not as if he’s doing anything wrong.
### Jermaine Johnson enters the spring first-team right tackle, ahead of Seantrel Henderson, because of his good work in the offseason program. “He’s stopped worrying about the big picture and is focusing on getting better today,” Golden said. Malcolm Bunche is the first-team left tackle.
### Two free agents who could have helped the Dolphins came off the market Friday when Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell and 49ers safety Dashon Goldson received the franchise tag.
### Marlins individual game tickets – excluding those for the April 4 opener – will go on sale at the new Marlins ballpark and at floridamarlins.com at 10 a.m. Saturday. The team’s first FanFest at Marlins Park runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with town-hall meetings, interactive games and autograph sessions. All players on the 40-man roster are expected. Admission is free; parking in the garages is $5.