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32 posts from May 2012

May 19, 2012

NBA analysts, scouts, competitors assess Heat; Wade "needs to let go of ego"; Dolphins, Canes notes


With Sunday's critical Game 4 looming, we solicited input on the state of the Heat from a team official, ABC's Jeff Van Gundy, TNT's Steve Kerr, two veteran NBA scouts and an Eastern Conference general manager. Reaction ranged from Kerr chastising Dwyane Wade (“he needs to let go of his ego and stop pouting”) to the Heat official criticizing the underachieving bench. Some highlights:

### The Heat better hope that Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem (who had 19 combined minutes the past two games), Mike Miller and James Jones aren’t as bad as they have looked the past month because those four – combined with Joel Anthony – are due $52.3 million over the next three years. And even if the Heat uses the one-time amnesty clause to remove Miller from its salary cap, a league spokesman said Miami – barring unlikely additional cost-cutting - still would have only the $3 million mid-level exception available to teams paying the luxury tax, not the $5 million full mid-level exception.

The problem, as one Heat official put it, is the bench players “are very limited offensively. They cannot drive to the basket, they cannot create their own shot. And they can’t make a shot at the moment. A lot has to be done with the bench.” The scouts agreed, saying this is “not a championship-caliber bench.” ESPN's Kurt Rambis said, "The pieces don't fit. They need to find a better supporting cast.''

Battier, Miller and Jones have three of the four worst shooting percentages among all qualifying players still alive in postseason. Haslem, yanked from the starting lineup in Game 3, is 2-for-14 on mid-range jumpers in the playoffs. Not only has his jumper been off all year, but opponents this season blocked an unholy 20 percent of his shots in the paint --- third-most in the league.

The Heat hoped quality reserves with something left would take substantially less to sign here, beyond washed up Mike Bibby. But that isn’t happening.

Keep in mind that Miller ($18 million), Haslem ($13 million) and Anthony ($11.3 million) have three years left on their contracts, Battier ($6.4 million) and Jones ($2 million) two each. And unless Miami can convince a very good player to take the mid-level (we should all be skeptical because money drives most of these decisions) or unless Pat Riley makes a lopsided trade, this will remain an issue long after these playoffs. The onus is now on Riley to hit on most every move (including the draft), because of Miami's financial limitations in the Big Three era.

“Miami needs to get younger and more athletic on their bench,” Kerr said. “San Antonio has done a better job with their bench. They bring in a lot of energy with [Manu Ginobili], Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal.” With Battier (33), Miller (32) and Haslem (31), Kerr wonders, “Is it age? Is it just the end for those guys to be consistent?”

One scout said, “Miami’s role players shrink from the challenge. The tools you think are there with Miller haven’t added up to the player you would expect.” Remember that in 2010, the Heat gave far more to Miller ($29 million) than the Bulls gave Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson ($21.5 million combined).

The other scout said, “Notice how those one-dimensional shooters have struggled in the playoffs – Battier, Steve Novak, Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner. In the playoffs, teams have more time to prepare for them and do a better job closing out. Besides spot-up threes, Battier basically has no other way to score. You can talk a lot about center with Miami, but if they had a capable sixth and seventh man, that would make a big difference.”

### Kerr, on Wade: “Dwyane needs to get over himself right now. He’s worried too much about his own stuff. That will kill you as a team. His pride is getting in the way. He needs to bust his [butt] and play hard, stop complaining. His image took a huge hit Thursday.

“It’s like he’s almost embarrassed and complaining about every call. He’s not getting back on defense and when he does, he does something like taking out Darren Collison [with a flagrant foul in Game 2].” He said the coaching staff must talk to Wade about failing to get back on defense. But Erik Spoelstra insists it’s a non-issue.

Kerr said Wade’s confrontation with Spoelstra “isn’t inexcusable, but what would be inexcusable is if he doesn’t address it with the team and with Spo and doesn’t come out and play as hard as he can.”

Wade attempted only two field goals within 10 feet in Game 3 (his lowest total of the season), and Kerr said, “I don’t even think he should take another three until he has made a few 15 to 17 footers.” Wade is 8 for 33 outside the paint against Indiana.

### One scout said the onus is on Spoelstra to get Wade better shots, in part by posting him up “or running back doors with LeBron.” But Van Gundy said it doesn’t make sense to post the 6-4 Wade up against 6-8 Paul George.

### Van Gundy’s biggest concern is this: Without Chris Bosh, “they are a very unbalanced team. They could lose Wade or James and they have enough perimeter players where they can offset that better than losing Bosh. It doesn’t mean Bosh is better.

“Indiana is not concerned about Miami’s bigs because they don’t feel like Miami’s bigs can consistently hurt them," Van Gundy continued. "Offensively is where they’re hurt the most without Bosh." The Pacers big men have said they can roam free in the paint more without having to worry about Bosh. And Bosh's absence really hurts Wade on pick-and-rolls.

Van Gundy said if the Heat is going to continue going small so much, the poor shooting defeats the purpose of that, and leaves Miami vulnerable on the glass. "They're being pounded on the boards," Van Gundy noted. That's why Van Gundy wouldn't be surprised if Haslem re-gains a prominent role in Game 4.

So did Van Gundy - who picked Miami to win the championship in 2011 and 2012 - and others overestimate this team? “They’re top heavy and perimeter heavy, but it’s the wrong time to evaluate a team when you have a major injury," he said. "I said last week, before the series started, that last year’s Miami team is better than this year’s team, and I did not think that before the season. But I still think they will find a way to win this series. They have to accept responsibility for their predicament and play better.”

### Kerr said Miami’s offense -- which is 3 for 19 on unguarded catch-and-shoots in this series (including 0-for-7 for Miller, Battier, Jones) -- “is so inept, that Indiana said, 'These guys aren’t that good and if we’re patient, we’ll score enough and shut them down.' Their half-court offense is not very good and it’s hard to run half-court offense with Dwyane and LeBron because they’re both ball stoppers.”

### The GM chuckled at all the uproar about the Heat and said, “Let’s not jump off a bridge here. Wade is going to play great before this series is over. The concern I would have is Indiana is strong in areas where Miami is not.”

### One of the scouts questioned Spoelstra starting Dexter Pittman at center and Battier at power forward in Game 3. “Is Battier going to defend David West better than Udonis Haslem? Of course not,” he said. “He’s not going to rebound. That’s grasping at straws. And Pittman? Come on. That’s outsmarting yourself. I wouldn’t have deviated from Haslem even though he has struggled offensively. Indiana doesn’t respect any of their centers, and why would they?”  

### Kerr said if Miami loses in this series, “it’s not too soon to consider breaking it up, if you believe the pieces don’t quite fit.” The GM said he doubts that would happen this summer because the Heat could attribute what's happening now to Bosh's absence.


### Because Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill knows more about Mike Sherman’s offense than Matt Moore and David Garrard, Moore admits “it’s a little awkward” that “if you have a question, you ask the rookie. But Ryan’s been great with that.” Receiver Legedu Naanee was so impressed with how Tannehill looked on field in recent days (“puts the ball in the right spot”) that he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the three wins the job. It’s very, very close” so far. Philbin cracked that Tannehill knows the offense better than he does.

### Moore, speaking Friday about the new offense: "I feel really good about how it uses the entire field. There's no pressure to get the ball to one specific guy. You can go back there and just wing it."

### The Dolphins have signed only two draft picks, but Jeff Ireland said the others will be signed "soon - things are rolling." As of Saturday night, they had signed sixth-rounder B.J. Cunningham and seventh-rounder Kheeston Randall... Ireland said he "could be done at receiver" but doesn't know for sure. He and the coaches want to take a long look at the young receivers in the next four weeks before deciding whether to consider another veteran.

### Though a Yahoo story suggested the Big 12 – which has more a lucrative TV deal than the Atlantic Coast Conference – might pursue FSU and UM, two UM Board of Trustee members said it hasn’t been discussed inside UM and they could not envision Miami being interested. One pointed out UM would need to pay more than $15 million in ACC exit fees even if it wanted to move.     

May 18, 2012

UM lands big-time quarterback: Yeremiah Bell signs with Jets

UM landed a key verbal commitment for the 2013 class, when Wayne Hills (N.J.) High quarterback Kevin Olsen called Al Golden Friday morning and told him he is going to Miami.

Olsen is the brother of Carolina Panthers and former UM tight end Greg Olsen.

"Kevin always felt very strong about Miami," said his father and high school coach, Chris Olsen.  "He had some good choices. Last week or two, he indicated to my wife and me that he wanted to go to Miami. My wife and I said, 'Let's make sure.' On Wednesday night, he wanted to call coach Golden. I wanted him to make sure [and take another day]."

Chris Olsen said Kevin "bought into Miami getting back to being Miami. He built up a great relationship with Jedd Fisch. We've had a good relationship with Al. The offense that Jedd is running fits Kevin. Jedd's background with the NFL is a plus with the quarterback position. They have a beautiful campus, outstanding academic school. All those things factored in. Greg was happy to hear" of his brother's commitment but never put any pressure on his brother.

Chris Olsen also said Al Golden was happy to hear the news, and he does not expect UM to sign another quarterback in the 2013 class. Though his oral commitment is non-binding, Chris Olsen said his son will DEFINITELY go to UM.

Olsen, 6-3, is rated the nation's No. 7 quarterback by rivals.com and 131st among all prospects. ESPN ranks him 77th among all high school players.

On a run-oriented team, he threw for 1786 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions last season. He is 22-2 in two years as a starter, 6-0 in state playoff games and 2-0 in state championship games.

South Carolina, Auburn and Wisconsin were Olsen's other finalists. FSU, Iowa and North Carolina were among others that offered.

Olsen will play in the Under Armour Game in January in Orlando and has been invited to the Elite Eleven in California in July, where he will be coached by Trent Dilfer and other former pros. Typically, the top quarterbacks in the nation are invited to that event.

Looking ahead to 2013 - when Olsen arrives - Stephen Morris will be a senior in 2013 and Ryan Williams will be a junior then. Gray Crow and Preston Dewey will be freshmen this season, but one or both likely will redshirt in 2012. And Westminster Christian's David Thompson also will enroll at UM this summer if he passes on becoming a pro baseball player instead. Thompson's father said he plans to enroll.

Meanwhile, both Morris and Williams spoke Friday and offered different takes on their ongoing competition. Morris is widely considered the clear front-runner by people in and around the program, but would be at risk if he's clearly outperformed by Williams in August.

But when asked who has the edge, Williams said Friday, "I would guess me because [Morris] didn't play spring. He still has to get back into it, still recovering. He doesn't know what his physical limitations are. Hopefully, he's back to 100 percent, so he doesn't have any."

Morris, who missed the spring after back surgery, said he is fully recovered and is having no issues with the back.

Morris said, "I think we're even. Ryan is doing a great job for himself... A lot of guys look up to me, so I feel I'm a leader right now."

### Safety Yeremiah Bell, cut by the Dolphins in March, signed with the Jets for one year and $1.4 million. The Dolphins essentially replaced Bell with Tyrell Johnson, who is much younger but was a second-round disappointment for the Vikings.

Friday media column: Mixed news on Heat ratings, CBS hopeful about Dolphins



Whereas the Heat remains a network darling, the Dolphins now sit at the opposite end of the spectrum --- one of eight teams deemed worthy of only one full (non-regional) national TV appearance in 2012. But the president of CBS Sports voices optimism that the Dolphins can reverse fortunes and once again become a formidable TV draw.(More on that in a minute.)

The Heat, of course, has no such concern. Consider: ABC will have televised eight playoff games by Sunday, with four of those involving Miami, compared with only one for the Lakers. ABC’s two highest-rated playoff games so far have featured the Heat, and seven of the 10 most-watched NBA games on cable during the regular season involved Miami.

But Heat-Pacers, early on, isn’t capturing America’s fascination as much as Lakers-Oklahoma City. Perhaps that will change on ABC on Sunday, with the nation’s curiosity now piqued by the Heat trailing 2-1.

Consider that Game 2 of the Heat series on TNT drew a 2.9 national rating (4.5 million viewers), compared with a 4.3 (6.7 million viewers) for Game 1 of the Lakers series. And ABC’s 5.2 rating for Game 1 of Heat-Pacers trailed the 7.0 for Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics second-round series last year.

Locally, the 16.1 for Game 1 of Heat-Pacers on WPLG-ABC 10 trailed the 17.4 for Game 4 of Heat-Knicks.

### As for the Dolphins, to demonstrate how much they have declined as a national TV draw, consider that not a single Dolphins game outside of the Pacific Time Zone will be played at 4 p.m. Raiders-Dolphins originally was scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Sept. 16 but was moved because of the Jewish holiday. Even so, CBS always intended to make Steelers-Jets the primary late game that day.

The NFL, for the first time, is requiring every team be given at least one full national TV appearance. The NFL decided to have six of the eight one-appearance teams play each other, just to get them out of the way. That’s why NFL Network has Buccaneers-Vikings, Colts-Jaguars and Dolphins-Bills during a stretch of four Thursdays in late October through mid November. Cleveland and St. Louis also received only one full national game.

Of those eight teams, the Dolphins have the most national drawing potential – if they start winning.

“Miami is a really important team to us and has a big impact on us and our ratings,” CBS Sports president Sean McManus said. “They have great tradition, can be a national team when they are competitive.

“Knowing how committed Stephen Ross is to putting a winning team on the field, when that does happen, it will make the AFC on CBS that much stronger. The more competitive the teams are in the AFC East, the better it is for CBS. I have faith Mr. Ross will figure out a way to get that done.”

Despite the Dolphins’ loss in luster, keep in mind that not a single Heat playoff game so far this spring has topped the 17.7 average local rating for Dolphins games last season. But that will change at some point in the playoffs.


### Adam Kuperstein on Thursday was promoted to lead news co-anchor, with Jackie Nespral, on NBC 6’s 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. The station said it will begin a search for a new No. 2 sportscaster to back up Joe Rose. Freelancer Kristina Pink, who has been filling in, is a candidate. NBC 6 said Kuperstein will be permitted to continue co-hosting his WQAM weekday afternoon radio show with Steve Goldstein.

### ABC announced it will regionally televise UM’s football opener at Boston College at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1; UM’s home opener Sept. 15 against Bethune Cookman will be televised at noon on ESPN3 (Internet). No TV info has been announced for UM’s second game, Sept. 8 at Kansas State.

### TBS was awarded rights to MLB’s two newly-created wild card playoff games. MLB Network will air two games in the divisional round, with TBS carrying all the other games in those four series.

### Michelle Beadle, who achieved terrific chemistry with Colin Cowherd on ESPN’s SportsNation, reportedly will nearly triple her annual salary (to $750,000) by moving to NBC. Her new duties include an unspecified role on NBC Sports Network, appearances on NBC’s Today Show and Olympic coverage and a reporting role on Access Hollywood.

### CBS believes it will have a newsier edge by adding NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora to replace former general manager Charley Casserly on its pregame show. But we’ll miss the no-nonsense, professorial style of Casserly; aside from NBC’s Tony Dungy, nobody on the pregame shows was better dissecting tape. Casserly’s pre-draft segments on NFL Network were consistently exceptional, and he will retain a role there.

### WQAM-560 struck a new deal for UM radio rights through 2016-17… The station dropped producer Marc Eisenberg, who made frequent on-air appearances.

Please see our last post for a look at a very emotional day at UM. We'll have Heat and Dolphins blogs during the weekend.

May 17, 2012

Former Canes QBs, coaches, many others mourn Paul Dee's passing at Thursday funeral

University of Miami leaders, distinguished local businessmen, two great Canes quarterbacks and three generations of Hurricanes football coaches were among those who gathered at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Coral Gables Thursday morning to mourn the death and celebrate the life of a good man – former UM athletic director Paul Dee.

Dee’s sister, Catherine, spoke of how her brother “had a heart full of love. Humility, sense of humor and aspirations to make the institution he served great were the hallmarks of his life.”

Dee and his wife, Cathy Zuckerman Dee, were supposed to be on a cruise to Italy this week. But Dee underwent surgery for tongue cancer last week, took a turn for the worse in ensuing days, and died last Saturday night at 65.

Among those in attendance at the funeral: former Hurricanes coaches Randy Shannon, Butch Davis and Howard Schnellenberger, former quarterbacks Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh, UM president Donna Shalala, former UM president Tad Foote, FIU athletic director Pete Garcia (who previously worked at UM), and Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms.

Davis, who was hired by Dee, said after the funeral that Dee “was a terrific guy and deep thinker. He was a great sounding board, never made a knee jerk reaction. I am very grateful to Paul for giving me the opportunity. I learned a great deal from him about managing crises and adversity.”

Dee served as UM’s general counsel, then took over as athletic director in 1993 and held the job until 2008. He taught classes on campus the past few years and was set to retire June 1.

In an on-campus ceremony afterward, Shalala said Dee “was a man of many facets and talents – to many, a wise and trusted adviser, a dear friend. He was a class act. His was a life of integrity and purpose…. He built a legendary athletic program. His legacies are around us: BankUnited Center, [renovations] to Mark Light Field…. He was a true champion for our university and communitry.”

Shalala said the only time she ever heard Dee curse was after the regrettable pass interference call against Miami in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State, which cost UM a sixth national title.

Shalala recalled the university’s move from the Big East to the ACC, which “turned out to be more complicated than Paul advised me.”

When the Big East filed a lawsuit, Dee gathered necessary e-mails and other correspondence. When he asked Shalala why she hadn’t saved any of that information, Shalala cracked, “I worked for Clinton. They told us not to collect anything!”

Dee’s sister mentioned how Paul worked at Winn Dixie as a teenager, then came home and asked her to sort his coins, putting the quarters together, and so forth. In exchange for doing that and polishing his shoes, Paul would give his sister 25 cents.

“Those were the early signs of a masterful negotiator,” she said.

I knew Paul for two decades and found him to be a kind, decent, caring, witty man who treated everybody with respect. In recent years and even recent weeks, when we discussed UM, the state of college sports, the charms of Hendersonville, N.C. (where he and his wife had a vacation home) and other topics, he was always engaging and upbeat – even while dealing with several health problems.

He will very much be missed.

# # #

We'll post a media column and news from the Heat series and Dolphins events in the next couple days. Two quick notes from Thursday afternoon: NBC 6 promoted sportscaster Adam Kuperstein to become its co-lead news anchor, alongside Jackie Nespral... ABC announced it will regionally televise UM's opener at Boston College at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1. ESPN3 (Internet) will air Bethune Cookman at UM at noon Sept. 15.... The Dolphins signed sixth-round receiver B.J. Cunningham, making him the first Miami draft pick to sign.


May 16, 2012

Barkley blasts Spoelstra; Oden discusses Heat; Dolphins bring in free agent; UM


There were plenty of reasons for Tuesday's Game 2 Heat debacle - horrific three-point shooting (1-for-16), poor free throw shooting in the fourth quarter (5 for 10), subpar offensive play from the Heat's supporting cast, rebounding (Indy won the battle 50-40), 8 for 22 shooting from Dwyane Wade and too many isolations and too little ball movement. But Charles Barkley said there was another problem, too: the Heat's coach.

During an animated discussion on TNT early Wednesday morning, Barkley pointed to Dwyane Wade's missed layup with 16 seconds left and said, "I blame this squarely on Erik Spoelstra. I have no idea why the best player in the world is not closing. The play was to go into the corner for Shane Battier. This wasn't LeBron's fault. They ran the play for Dwyane Wade, as they usually do. The Heat is only going to go as far as LeBron James takes them, but those coaches in Miami are apparently living in the past when Shaq and Alonzo Mourning were on the team. People say LeBron didn't play well in the Finals. Neither did Dwyane Wade, and he never gets any blame."

Barkley said "it's time for LeBron... to go to coach Spoelstra and say, 'I want the ball.'" Barkley said he noticed Tuesday, reading a newspaper, that "Dwyane said, 'I learned something when I was out. This is LeBron's team.' But apparently, coach Spoelstra didn't read the article. Last play of the game, Spoelstra did the same thing he did in New York last week. Dwyane Wade is a terrific player, don't get me wrong. But when you've got a nuclear weapon like LeBron James, you have to unleash him.

"This guy is unbelievable. He ran the play. He's not selfish. That kid is too unselfish. The one thing I've always said about LeBron is he's too nice a guy. The coach has got to give him some help. I don't understand why they don't run plays for him."

But Shaquille O'Neal said: "We don't know if the play was for LeBron or D-Wade. If you want LeBron to be the go-to man, LeBron has to act like he wants to be the go-to man. When he gets the ball, he's got to make an aggressive move. LeBron could have put the ball down and drove, but D-Wade came in the way."

Said Barkley: "That's exactly right. D-Wade came and got in the way. If he had put his head down and drove, he would have run right into Dwyane Wade."

Kenny Smith said, "I would have loved to have seen LeBron James more aggressive in that moment. Did he run what the coach told him to do? Probably so. Was he correct in his assessment? I don't think so. Sometimes, you know better. You can look Dwyane Wade off at times. Wade's advantage isn't as great as LeBron's advantage."

Said Barkley: "Will you please tell coach Spoelstra that?"

Said Smith: "Coach Spoelstra, Wade's advantage is not as great as James' advantage. You have to put the ball in his hands and draw the play" that way. 

### For our story on the Pacers' reaction to their Game 2 win, see our last post.


There’s a 24-year-old free agent center who’s affordable, has impressive career rebounding averages and has interest in playing for the Heat eventually once he recovers from his latest knee surgery, according to his agent. The only problem? It’s a very big one: He's not healthy and can't seem to stay healthy.

Greg Oden, 7-0, hasn’t played since 2009-10 and is recovering from his fifth knee surgery in five seasons. A Grantland.com story said that "right now" Oden's plan is to take next season off to rehab, then come back in 2013-14. But his agent, Mike Conley Sr., told us Oden is positioned be ready to play in December or January "as far as being effective and in shape" and will explore options in the coming months, with the possibility of joining a team next season. But nobody obviously can know for sure when he will be ready.

The Heat hasn’t called but “Greg has talked about Miami," Conley said. "He has interest. He’s not retiring.” Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, has played just 82 career games for Portland (which released him in March) and averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

Whether the Heat takes a flyer on Oden or not – and Miami has nothing to lose, really, if or when they ever deem him healthy - the bigger question is this: With limited financial resources, can Pat Riley significantly upgrade at center during the Big Three era?

It’s looking increasingly doubtful, and the most realistic option might be sticking with Bosh at center, where he was playing well. Keep in mind that Bosh seemed to genuinely embrace center before the injury: “I’m a [center] no matter what. I’ve accepted it. Everyone can start calling me Big Fellow.”

ABC’s Jon Barry complained at halftime Sunday that the Heat “has had two years to get a center and hasn’t.” But in fairness, Riley has done all he realistically can, given the restraints of the salary cap and the high price for big men that can block shots and chew gum at the same time. Heck, even Kwame Brown got $7 million from Golden State this season, well above what Miami could do.

Turiaf was a smart March addition, and Anthony has demonstrated his value off the bench. Coaches didn’t see enough from Eddy Curry to believe he can help; he played 53 minutes all season and wasn't even active Tuesday despite Bosh's absence.

Beyond minimum contracts (at barely over $1 million), the Heat’s only available money this summer with be a $3 million exception available for tax-paying teams. (That won’t change even if Mike Miller is amnestied.) That won’t be enough for the top free agent power players: Chris Kaman, Kevin Garnett, Ersan Ilyasova, Spencer Hawes, Carl Landry, Jordan Hill, Brown or heck, even, Dallas’ Ian Mahinmi.

There had been some thought that Rockets free agent Marcus Camby, still effective at 38, might consider Miami, but he told ESPN he wants to finish his career in Houston: “I know, talking to my representative, that there’s going to be a lot of suitors, but this is where I want to be.” 

The affordable options are backup types: Joel Pryzbilla (already turned down Miami once), Nazr Mohammed, Aaron Gray, Jason Collins, Hamed Haddadi, Hasheem Thabeet, Tony Battie, Daniel Orton, Troy Murphy, Dominic McGuire and power forwards Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans. Nothing Miami is willing to trade would net a high-quality center in return.

So unless the Heat gets lucky with someone like Oden or a first-round draft pick, the best option might be sticking with Bosh at center, adding a serviceable power forward who can hit a jump shot to complement Udonis Haslem, and using Anthony, Turiaf (who has a $1.2 million player option this summer) and Dexter Pittman off the bench. Remember, by leaving Bosh at center longterm, that creates more minutes for LeBron James at power forward.

The Heat is hopeful Pittman can become a competent rotation player. But the Heat needs to see Bosh play center against a big team in the Finals to get a true sense of whether that’s the best way to go.

### Though Shaq said Bosh has “to take four to six weeks off and is probably out for the rest of the playoffs,” the Heat is hopeful he can return at some point in the Eastern Finals, depending on how he responds to treatment.


### Do no underestimate the value of UM coach Al Golden’s recommendation in the Dolphins drafting Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon. Before the draft, Golden told Jeff Ireland he would be getting two first-round talents a year early if he picked them.... The Dolphins, still searching for a fullback, are bringing in Falcons veteran free agent Ovie Mughelli, who has started 50 games in nine seasons, including five last year. He missed most of last season with a knee injury. Released last week by the Falcons, Mughelli spent the past five years with the Falcons, after spending the previous four with Baltimore. He has averaged 2.9 yards on 42 career carries. Fullback Jerome Messam, the Canadian Football League import, had knee surgery but expects to be back for training camp... Former Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell is visiting with the Chiefs.

### Two out-of-town agents said UM’s new policy prohibiting football players with any remaining eligibility or their families from having contact with agents is highly unusual and will be impossible to enforce. An underclassman can ask UM for permission to talk to an agent, but a UM official must be in the room – which an agent said he has never heard of.

### Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen bemoaned Tuesday, “If we don’t start hitting, sooner or later our pitching staff will break.” He said he’s convinced his lineup is “pretty strong” and that other managers agree… What players are better than Guillen thought when he took the job? “Omar Infante, Randy Choate and especially Steve Cishek."… Marlins reliever Edward Mujica said Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) doesn’t expect to get a visa until June at the earliest. With an eight-week suspension to follow, his season will be short, at best.

### The lighter side: As if being the NBA’s best player isn’t enough, James shocked shoppers by working the cash register for 20 minutes last week at his Aventura urban footwear clothing store, unknwn.  He spent 45 minutes in the store overall, helping in a variety of ways. “Everyone was taken aback,” store co-owner Frankie Walker said. “He was signing autographs, answering questions.” 

Gruesome numbers for Heat's supporting cast; Riley talks with Haslem;Barkley rips Spo

Here's our Wednesday afternoon update from Heat practice, with some perspective on just how ineffective the Heat's supporting cast has been offensively.

Note: For a look at why Charles Barkley is ripping Erik Spoelstra; info on Greg Oden's interest in the Heat; and the Dolphins' latest free agent visit set for Thursday, see our last post.

# # #

Most call them the supporting cast. Shaquille O’Neal simply calls them the “others.”

Whatever term you prefer, this much is clear: With Chris Bosh out, the Heat’s ensemble around LeBron James and Dwyane Wade hasn’t done enough offensively against the Pacers.

And that must change for the Bosh-less Heat to thrive as the series shifts to Indianapolis for Game 3 Thursday.

“D-Wade and LeBron will do their jobs,” Mike Miller said. “The rest of us have to find ways to put the ball in the hole.”

Excluding Bosh (who played the first half of Game 1), James and Wade, the other Heat players shot a combined 29 percent --- 16 for 55 --- in the two games, with 44 points. Game 2 was especially gruesome for the supporting cast: 9 for 34 with seven turnovers and two assists. The Heat is 1 for 22 on three pointers in this series, though James has seven of those misses and Wade two.

Though the defense has been mostly stout, here’s what should alarm Heat fans about the players assembled to complement the stars:

### Game 3 marked the first time in franchise history that the Heat’s third-leading scorer in a game did not produce more than five points.

### ESPN noted that among 92 players that have logged at least 125 minutes in the playoffs, Udonis Haslem ranks last in its efficiency ratings. He played only 12 minutes in Game 2, because Erik Spoelstra opted to use only one natural power rotation player (Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf) the rest of the time.

### Whereas David West and Roy Hibbert each produced double figure rebounds in both games, James (15 in Game 1) is only Heat player that has achieved that.

### More significant: Among the eight teams still alive, Shane Battier (32.3) and Miller (33.3) have the third- and forth-worst shooting percentages in the playoffs, ahead of only the Lakers’ Matt Barnes and Boston’s Mickael Pietrus. (Minimum five shots.) Mario Chalmers (36.7) has the 10th worst.

What’s worrisome is that Battier and Miller have been in mired in prolonged slumps. Miller, 1 for 6 in this series, has hit 35.8 percent of his last 120 shots. Battier, who has the Heat’s only three-pointer in the series, made 36.7 percent of his past 128 shots.

“I believe in the law of averages,” Battier said. “We have good shooters. It’s just a matter of time before that number goes up to what our historical average is.”

Spoelstra said: “We had a lot of open, open threes. We also had some possessions where they defended the heck out of us and forced us into tough shots.”

Asked if the Heat has had fewer open jumpers than against the Knicks, Miller said, “Oh, yeah. There have been a lot of contested shots. That’s no excuse for not making shots. We’ve got to try to expose their game plan and make it change.”

Desperate for better shooting, Spoelstra gave James Jones 10 minutes in Game 2, but he shot 1 for 4 and is now 18 for his last 61 (29.3 percent).

Chalmers’ recent funk has made matters worse. After playing brilliantly early in the playoffs, Chalmers shot 6 for 24 in his past three games and 2 for 13 against Indiana. He was limited to 22 minutes on Tuesday because of foul trouble.

He said his shot “is not in rhythm. I can’t get consistent minutes because I’m always in and out with foul trouble. Once I get consistent minutes, my shot will be consistent.”

Wade said, “We need Rio to learn from his mistakes and learn now. He made a lot of mistakes. We need him to stay on the court.”

Haslem’s season-long offensive decline has been perplexing. In the regular season, he shot 30 percent on 3-to-9 foot shots, 25.9 percent on 10-to-15 footers, and 39 percent on 16-to-23 shooters – all well below his career averages, according to hoopdata.com. And now, he has gone three consecutive fourth quarters without playing at all.

Heat president Pat Riley spoke with Haslem after practice Wednesday, and Haslem said Riley told him to “keep being a good teammate.” Haslem said, good-naturedly, that he’s “losing minutes to the MVP. If we choose to go with a small lineup, with LeBron at [power forward] and Ronny and Joel playing [center], part of my job is to be supportive.”

Beyond the supporting cast, the Heat needs better offensive efficiency from Wade, who has shot 16 for 45 in this series (35.5 percent). And James, who scored 28 in Game 2, must hit his free throws, after missing four in the fourth quarter Tuesday. This season, he is 10 for 17 on free throws in the final minute or overtime of one possession games.

James did no work extra on free throws Wednesday because “I’ve got enough work in over the years.” Overall, “I was satisfied with my performance.”

James, who played 42:29 and didn’t get a rest in the second half, said a short break would help, but he understands Spoelstra needed to keep him in the game with the Heat down nine entering the fourth quarter. Wade, who played 37:22, said, “coach is going to do a better job of trying to look” to give them one-to-two minute breaks.

As Battier cracked, “In the playoffs, rest is a luxury not too many teams can afford. It would be great if they could serve drinks with umbrellas in it during time outs. But it’s the playoffs. You have to pull through it.”

### Game 5 of Heat-Pacers will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday at AA Arena if the Spurs-Clippers series goes to a fifth game. If the Spurs sweep that series, the Heat game will start at 8.

### Including playoffs, the Heat has now taken 18 shots this season to try to tie or win the game in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. Miami has made just six. Most surprising: LeBron James has attempted just two of the 18, making one.

May 15, 2012

Pacers after Game 2 win: We expect this

Pacers reaction after their Game 2 win:

Chris Bosh’s injury cracked open the window of opportunity for the Pacers Tuesday night.

The Heat’s dismal third-quarter shooting opened it even more.

And the Pacers plowed right through that window in Game 2, unleashing a 20-4 third quarter run and escaping AmericanAirlines Arena with a win that evened this series at one.

They did it by bottling up the Heat defensively for much of the second half, dominating the boards (50-40) and dramatically improving their offensive efficiency during much of the second half.

“Huge win for the franchise,” Pacers forward Danny Granger said. “But we expect to win. We’re not saying we hope we win because we’re playing the Miami Heat. We expect to win. We know we're not the underdog.”

The Pacers said were not excessively exuberant after the win – though Wade disagreed. “We don’t need confetti,” George Hill cracked. “We’ve got to expect to win. We’ve been there.”

As the Pacers left the floor, David West told his teammates, “It’s just one game.” Said West, later: “We can’t get too excited because we won one game.”

Several Pacers noted that beyond LeBron James’ 28 and Dwyane Wade’s 24, no other Heat player scored more than five. The Heat shot 34.6 percent from field, which helped Indiana overcome 37.8 percent accuracy.

“Our guys competed harder than the entire season,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Guarding the Orlando Magic’s spread offense [in the first round] helped us understand how to slow down their small lineup. Stan Van Gundy’s defensive system is similar to Erik Spoelstra’s defensive system.”

Among the key plays for Indiana down the stretch: Leandro Barbosa’s driving layup to put Indiana ahead for good with 3:55 left, West’s nifty move around James for a layup that pushed the lead to three; Paul George blocking a James layup with 1:21 left; and Barbosa corralling a long rebound on West’s miss, then passing to Hibbert, who made a free throw with 32 seconds left, putting the Pacers up two.

With 16 seconds left, Wade swerved about Hill, but badly missed a layup. “I tried to take away his left,” Hill said. “When I stepped back, he tried to go into me, which threw him off balance. I was shocked he missed. He’s a great player and normally makes it.”

Darren Collison offered resistance on Mario Chalmers’ missed three-pointer with 3.8 seconds left. Chalmers claimed afterward that he was fouled.

Of course, what helped the Pacers the most was the Heat shooting 5 for 10 on free throws in the fourth quarter. James was 4 for 8 from the line in the fourth, and Wade 1 for 2.

West made a big difference, collecting 14 points after halftime – seven in the third, seven in the fourth. “He’s our backbone, our leader, led us in the huddles,” Vogel said.

The Pacers survived two more poor shooting games from Danny Granger (5 for 14, 11 points) and Paul George (4 for 11, 10 points). But Granger and George came alive briefly during the Pacers’ terrific third quarter, with Granger hitting 3 of 5 shots and George making 2 of 4 in the period. “Me and Danny didn’t score and we’re still able to win,” George reminded reporters.

Roy Hibbert had seven points and four rebounds in the first nine minutes of the game, but took only two shots the rest of the way, his only point in the final three quarters coming on the free throw with 32 seconds left, leaving the Pacers’ lead at 77-75.

The Pacers missed 17 of 19 during a 12-plus minute stretch that began midway through the first quarter, but rallied with a 9-0 run. Then, with the Heat shooting blanks (2 for 13 in the first nine minutes of the third quarter), Indy erupted on a 12-0 third quarter stampede that eventually turned into a 20-4 run and a 61-50 lead.

Vogel told his team at halftime to “take a deep breath, calm down.” The Pacers squandered all of that lead, with the Heat surging ahead, 72-71, before Indiana went back ahead for good on Barbosa’s driving layup.

### Granger and James exchanged words after the two got tangled up following a James basket in the fourth quarter and the Pacers leading, 65-62. Both received technical fouls. “I got an elbow and he probably felt like he got an elbow,” Granger said. “It got chippy. It’s real playoff basketball.”




Tuesday afternoon Heat-Pacers notes: LeBron discusses challenges of PF

Some Heat and Pacers notes from Tuesday morning's shootaround:

Though LeBron James is willing to play any position where he’s needed, he admitted before Game 2 on Tuesday that logging significant minutes at power forward takes a toll. With Chris Bosh sidelined by a strained abdominal muscle, James is expected to play more minutes at power forward to compensate for the loss of the Heat’s top power rotation player.

“It’s a lot more taxing being in there with bigger guys,” James said. Defensively “is the biggest difference. When you’re on the perimeter, there’s more space. The interior is more cramped and physical…. But I’m ready for the challenge.”

The advantage of playing power forward is that “I can get more rebounds and start the break.” James said he has played more positions this season than any of his seven years in Cleveland.

### James noted Tuesday that when he has the ball, “I don’t really see the defender in front of me. I’m looking at the next guy. I believe I can go around and beat the guy that’s in front of me any time I want to.”

### James, who entered Game 2 averaging nearly 39 minutes per game, said, “Forty minutes in the playoffs is different than 40 minutes in the regular season. Intensity is raised. The grind is much more intense. Hopefully, I can get a few minutes here and there.” James said he’s staying off his feet on off days more than he would in the regular season.

Dwyane Wade said he stares at Erik Spoelstra when he needs a brief rest. “Forty minutes – when you play both ends of the court – it’s like 80 minutes,” Wade said.

### Wade said when Bosh is out, “me and LeBron are a lot more aggressive at the same time. That would be a good thing. It’s something our team needs us to do.”

Wade also said he would be inclined to post up more often in Bosh’s absence. Wade was generally effective when he did that this season.

### Ronny Turiaf said he takes no joy in his expanded role because it resulted from an injury to Bosh. “There is no way for me to be happy about it,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not Chris Bosh, but I’ll do my best.”

James and Wade called Turiaf to lobby him to sign with the Heat after he received a buyout from Washington. “It’s very fortunate” he signed, James said. “A luxury to have.”

### Coach Erik Spoelstra, on Bosh’s injury: “It’s a no-excuse season. We’ve prided ourselves on being a no-excuse team.”

### Pacers forward Danny Granger conceded, “We have the height advantage but it doesn’t mean we have an advantage. Every time you drive to the basket, there are defenders. Before you get to the basket, there are a couple guys there. They have a shot-blocker in Joel Anthony.” But Granger said Bosh’s injury “weakens them in halfcourt sets because he can score in the post.”

May 14, 2012

Monday Heat-Pacers practice report

Notes from Monday's Heat-Pacers practice:


### As noted in our previous post, Chris Bosh expects to be out awhile with his strained abdominal muscle. The injury sidelined Spurs guard Manu Ginobili for two weeks earlier this season. Kevin Garnett once missed three weeks with the injury, D.J. Augustin 3 1/2.

"This season has to be extended for me to play again," Bosh said. The Eastern Conference Finals will begin May 26 or May 28. (For more on Bosh's injury, see our full story on this to the right of this blog, on the sports home page.)

###   During key fourth quarter moments, Udonis Haslem usually is more likely to be on the floor than any Heat player excluding the Big Three. But Haslem, who remains a big asset as a rebounder and defender, hasn’t played at all in each of the past two fourth quarters, and hasn’t been able to snap out of his puzzling season-long shooting slump.

Now, with Chris Bosh likely out for awhile, there’s an even greater burden on Haslem, who’s averaging 3.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and shooting 31.8 percent (7 for 22) in the playoffs. He went 0 for 4 from the field, with five rebounds, in 22 minutes in Game 1 against Indiana.

“I can’t judge myself on how I’m playing on offense,” Haslem said. “The way I look at the game is how I’m doing on the boards and how I do defensively. On the boards, I led us in rebounds per minute last series, and I intend to do the same this series.”

One of the great mysteries of this Heat season has been the decline in Haslem’s shooting percentage to 42.3, well below his 49.4 career average. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he has no explanation. “All I know is he has [made shots] in big moments,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t want to rest his value on whether the ball is going in.”

Haslem said he has not been asked to look for his shot more in Bosh’s absence. “I was fortunate when Chris was out before, I rebounded a little better, so hopefully I can carry that on,” he said. “But the other guys, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, will pick up the scoring load, so I’ll focus on the energy and rebounding part.”

Bosh missed nine games this season, including the last six. During three games that he missed after the All-Star break, Haslem had 20 rebounds but shot 7 for 22.

Asked about not playing in the past two fourth quarters, Haslem said, “I want to be out there, but guys have been getting it done in the fourth quarter. This is the rotation coach is going with. I support my guys.”

Spoelstra declined to answer directly when asked if he has considered moving Haslem to the bench and starting LeBron James at power forward. “All options are open,” he said. But James said, “I don’t think I’ll be starting at power forward.”

### The Heat is 4-5 without Bosh this season and 7-7 without him since the Big Three came together.

### Pacers coach Frank Vogel said when the Heat plays a small lineup – with only one natural power rotation player and James at power forward – “you’ve got to pound it inside. But even when they’re small, they defend the same way…. They have different lineups that are sometimes more effective than the lineup with Bosh in it. Their small lineup is very difficult to guard.”

Spoelstra went with that smaller lineup – with one natural power rotation player (usually Joel Anthony) – for all of the fourth quarter Sunday.

### A day after shooting 1 for 10, Danny Granger said he expects Vogel to find creative ways to get him the ball in better places. “It’s not brain surgery,” Granger said. “When you watch the tape, answers pop into your head. I’m fighting three pick-and-rolls. It’s taxing on me.”

Vogel said, “The plan was not for him to get 10 shots. Miami is probably the best in the business at taking away your first option. We didn’t execute getting good ball reversal to free him. He’s got to probably be a little more assertive.”

### Granger again reiterated that the Pacers “have to make [James and Wade] play defense. Vogel didn’t dispute that, but added, “It’s impossible to wear those two guys down. They could play 48 straight minutes two games in a row and not be worn down.”

### Vogel called Haslem, Anthony and Ronny Turiaf “three of the best dirty work guys in the business.”

### Pacers president Larry Bird told reporters than LeBron James "is just spectacular. He's our best player in the league. This is his time of year. With his body, his skill, his ability to get out and run and jump, I don't think we've quite seen anybody play his position who can do what he can do. We've seen scorers, we've seen rebounders, we've seen defenders but to have the total package... It's fun to watch him play... He took Granger complete out of everything he wanted to do."

### The Pacers committed 31 fouls in Game 1, compared to Miami’s 22. But Vogel said, “The officiating didn’t beat us in Game 1. The Miami Heat beat us. We fouled unnecessarily way too much.”


Bosh out indefinitely, doesn't sound optimistic about a quick return

The Heat announced Monday that Chris Bosh has a strained abdominal muscle and is out indefinitely. Bosh, speaking Monday afternoon, did not sound optimistic about returning in this round against Indiana, though he didn't rule it out. He said he had no idea when he will play again.

"This season has to be extended for me to play again," Bosh said in his strongest comment about the possible timetable. "We've started treatment. We'll see how my body responds. If I came back, it wouldn't surprise me at all."

Did Bosh mean coming back in this round or in the playoffs at any point? "Playoffs, period," he said. Earlier in the interview, when asked if he might play in this series, he said he's "not sure."

He said the injury is "sore."

Manu Ginobili missed two weeks this season with a similar injury. But Utah's Al Jefferson did not miss a game when he suffered a strained abdominal muscle this season. Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick missed 17 games with an abdominal injury, but his required surgery. So the timetable can vary widely.

But the injury is not a tear, according to an MRI.  "It's not the worst thing that could have happened," he said.

The Eastern Conference Finals would start either Saturday, May 26, or Monday, May 28 -- which gives Bosh 12 or 14 days to heal.

Erik Spoelstra declined to say what his new lineup might be, but he could opt for Ronny Turiaf at center, with Udonis Haslem continuing to start at power forward. Though Spoelstra would not rule out LeBron James starting at power forward, James said that is not going to  happen.

# # #

Postscripts from the Pacers locker-room Sunday night, plus a few other Heat notes:

(For the Sunday buzz column, including Dolphins, Heat, UM and Marlins notes, see the last post.)


### On a day the Indiana Pacers did plenty right, they picked an inauspicious time to go cold. The Heat defense certainly had something to do with that.

Down by one with 4:50 left, the Pacers didn’t hit another field goal the rest of the day, missing their final nine shots from the field. Their only point in that span was a free throw by Paul George, who also missed one. The Heat closed the game on a 9-1 run.

“We had this game,” said George, whose team led by as many as nine in the first half. “We felt like we gave it away. We played great enough defense to win it.”

### But Danny Granger, the Pacers’ leading scorer this season, had a dismal game, finishing with seven points and missing nine of 10 shots, including 0 for 3 in the fourth quarter. Granger suggested none of that was his fault. He said coach Frank Vogel apologized to him for not getting him the ball in better spots.

“It’s not me,” Granger said. “I’ve got to play in the system. It’s on all of us. None of the shots were in the flow of the game. We have to get creative finding ways to get me the ball. A lot of it was forced shots. If I didn’t [force shots], I would have had three shots” all game.

Granger went on to say that “when we play Miami, they like using me as a decoy. It’s hard. Up to six minutes in the third quarter, I had only taken three shots. I got screened 100 times by Joel Anthony.”

Vogel said “we are going to have to get Danny better shots. I do not know if he is going to have a huge offensive series, especially when he has to guard LeBron James for 38 minutes.”

But Granger said “the way to attack LeBron and Dwyane Wade is to make them play defense. You have to make them work both ways.”

### Besides Granger, George also had a subpar night. He battled foul trouble throughout and fouled out with two minutes left, finishing with six points on one for five shooting.

Indiana got good work from center Roy Hibbert (17 points, 11 rebounds) and power forward David West (17 points, 12 rebounds). But Indiana’s 0-for-9 drought began after George Hill’s three-pointer trimmed the Heat’s lead to 86-85.

### Hill said it was both a case of the Pacers missing makeable shots and the Heat playing disruptive defense. The Pacers shot 6 for 21 from the field and 3 for 8 from the line in their 16-point fourth quarter, with three turnovers and three assists.

“We relied too much on our first option,” said point guard Darren Collison, who didn’t play the final 7:52. “We have to go to our second and third option. If we get more ball movement, we’ll be fine.”

Ball movement is something Vogel preached to his team in recent days. “They can’t guard great passing teams,” he told his team during a huddle, adding his players should “do what the Mavericks did” in last year’s Finals and do it even better.

But Indiana closed with just three more assists (18) than turnovers (15). The Pacers shot 40.3 percent from the field and committed 31 fouls, to Miami’s 22.

“We played a decent game,” Vogel said. “We did not shoot very well, we let the Heat get too many second shots and points in transition. Our guys are fouling too much.”

### Do the Pacers feel like they squandered an opportunity because injured Chris Bosh missed the second half? “No,” Hibbert said. “They still have good players. Ronny Turiaf brings lots of energy.”

### Hibbert got a lucky break and avoided fouling out when referees called a foul on George with 4:32 left, even though replays showed Hibbert made contact with James. Hibbert had five fouls at the time.

Hibbert said he wasn’t surprised the Heat fronted him on defense. “They’re the quickest team jumping to the ball we’ve seen in a while,” he said. “They have really good post defenders.”

### The Heat will know more about Chris Bosh’s abdominal strain on Monday, after MRI results are evaluated.

### Indiana was called for 31, compared with 22 for the Heat. George fouled out and Hibbert and Hill (five fouls apiece) also were in foul trouble.

"Foul trouble was huge," George said. "It took us out of everything.''

### The Heat failed to hit a three-pointer for the first time in a playoff game. Miami was 0 for 6.

### The Heat has won 13 straight home playoff games against Eastern Conference teams.

### James reached 15 rebounds for the third time in his postseason career.

### The reason the NBA fined coach Frank Vogel for accusing the Heat of being the league’s biggest floppers? Commissioner David Stern said Vogel was trying to manipulate the referees.

### In the point guard battle, Hill and Collison (10 points apiece) outscored Mario Chalmers, 20-4. Chalmers went 0 for 4 from the field.

### Indiana was the NBA’s fourth-best rebounding team, while the Heat was 21st. But the Heat won the battle on the boards, 45-38, including 15-8 on the offensive boards. Beyond James' 15 boards, Joel Anthony (9 points, seven rebounds, one block) deserves major kudos.