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32 posts from May 2012

May 12, 2012

Why LeBron's teammates admire him even more; Pat Riley speaks; Fins, UM, Marlins


There has been uninterrupted excellence from LeBron James all season, which is why his third MVP award was hardly a surprise.

But do you know what else there has been inside the privacy of the Heat locker-room?

A new level of admiration from teammates, for how he has sharpened his game, matured as a person, and become more enjoyable to be around because of his mental resolve to become a happier, less distracted superstar since his Finals failure last June.

“The guy,” Juwan Howard said, “is just so warm and pleasant to be around. “He’s so misunderstood. He doesn’t get enough credit for how unselfish he is, on and off the court. I believe he would give you his last dollar or last meal.” Said Heat president Pat Riley: "He's grown as a man" this year.

For years, James has been considered a good teammate, one who bought fancy headphones for Heat players last year and takes rookie Terrel Harris and others out for meals at Soho Beach House and other pricey places. But he’s looser now – “That’s the way he needs to be; that’s his personality,” Mike Miller said. And that makes the team looser.

One example: A few weeks ago, James received permission, for the first time, to play blaring rap music when the media is in the locker-room before games; he was shaking his body to the rhythm before Game 2 of the Knicks series. “He’s happy every day now,” Udonis Haslem said. “I haven’t seen him down at all this season.”

Dwyane Wade calls it “being more at peace, more himself, more relaxed.”

Fact is, “there were days last year he let everything outside the game dictate his moods,” James Jones said. “Now, the only thing that sways his mood is the team’s performance. Everything else is irrelevant.”

As James put in at his MVP presentation Saturday: "I was playing with hate last year instead of love and passion and fun."

The new mindset was a conscious decision by James, made easier by his fiancée (who accepted his proposal last New Year’s Eve) and two children living with him in Miami; the three of them were in Ohio last season so his kids could finish their school year.

“To have my kids and fiancée around this year, and a lot of my family and friends, has done some amazing things mentally and allowed me to go out and play the game I love,” James said during a private conversation Friday, a point he reiterated during Saturday's MVP news conference. “Definitely given me peace of mind.”

Here’s what else has changed from his first season here: “The maturity level,” Jones said, “to understand peoples’ perception of him can’t define you. He’s more confident,… more efficient on and off the court as far as his time, rest, preparation. He always wanted to prove to himself he’s the world’s best player. Physically, he’s unparalleled. Mentally, he had to be tougher. He’s been that this year.”

Jones said one of James’ “biggest challenges was making the transition from the game’s most dominant athlete to the game’s most dominant, efficient and prepared athlete.” James has achieved that, and the seeds were planted last summer.

Beyond sharpening his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon, meeting with Magic Johnson and others, James worked harder than he ever did. “I stayed in the gym twice a day,” he said Friday. “I was on the court. I was in the weight room. I was on the football field running and conditioning.

"I wanted to prepare my body mentally and physically for a shortened season because I knew the lockout was inevitable but we would figure out a way to come to an agreement. It was mostly what I did before the season that got me here now. I only took a couple weeks off and then was working non-stop from July to December.”

What's more, Erik Spoelstra said Saturday that James "is the first one here," arriving 3 1/2 hours before games to do pilates and other work.

James has said what bothers him most about failure is letting teammates down. Heat players have told him to stop that. “Damn right I have,” Howard said. “I said it last year and I repeated it again this year. He wants to win more than any one of us.”

Harris marvels at how “humble” James is as a global icon. Biggest surprise for Battier? “How generous he is with teammates,” noting he will sign anything for a player’s friend’s relative, or whomever.

The biggest prize James can give them is delivering a winning performance in the Finals. But his teammates -- whom he called to the stage to join him at his MVP presentation Saturday -- will always appreciate everything he has done to this point. "An historic year," Battier said.

### Tidbits from Saturday's presentation: James said, "I haven't been nervous like this in a long time.... I'm a little emotional right now. This is more emotional than the last two... This is overwhelming to me." But... "This is not the award I want. I want that championship. I'd give all three [MVP] trophies back for an NBA championship.''... Spoelstra revealed he calls James "one through five" -- a tribute to his versatility to play any positon on the court.... James said when a fan comes to a Heat game, "I want them leaving saying LeBron is the best basketball player on the court.''... James got 85 first-place votes, 25 second-place votes, nine third-place votes, and (rather absurdly) one fourth-place vote and one fifth- place vote. Kevin Durant (24), Chris Paul (6), Tony Parker (4) and Kobe Bryant (2) got the other first-place votes.


### Riley, speaking to reporters Saturday for the first time in many months, said of his team's championship hopes: "We've got a shot. We'll be in the game for a long time with these players. I'm scared to death of everyone - traps doors, land mines." He joked he has a penchant for worrying and tries to stay away from Spoelstra because he doesn't want to worry him.... He predicted James "will get his championship and there might be a lot more there, too." (Riley didn't offer a timetable.)

### Riley commended Wade for welcoming James here and making it all work. "It would be equivalent,'' Riley said, "to have somebody ask me, 'Do you want to go on the same bench with Phil Jackson and the two of you could be co-coaches?' How would that work? It says a lot about Dwyane. Not many guys in this league would give up that platform. Dwyane is LeBron's biggest supporter."

 ### What Riley especially liked about James' season was his field goal percentage rising to a career-high 53.1, above his 48.3 career average. "He's in the post a lot more and taking less threes and being more efficient in his medium range game."

 ### With Indiana considering using some zone defense against Miami, keep this in mind: Last year, the Heat shot 38.8 percent against the zone – sixth-worst in the league. This year, it shot 48.3 - fourth-best.

### A Heat official said it would be sensible to involve James in more game-on-the-line, late-possession plays so he can get used to it again (he was more involved last year). But Amare Stoudemire said for all the endless debate, it really makes no difference whether James or Wade gets the last-second shot, admitting that Erik Spoelstra opting for Wade late in Game 3 was smart “because of the mismatch against myself.”... James, incidentally, has led his teams in points, rebounds and assists 20 times in playoff games – by far the most in NBA history. Only Larry Bird (13) and Tim Duncan (11) have more than 10.

### TNT's Kenny Smith said Heat-Pacers "is much much evenly matched than I would have thought before the playoffs started. I could see six or seven games easily.".. Shaq picks the Heat in six. "Too much firepower."


### Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said “we feel pretty good about the [receiver] position as it stands.” But ESPN Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson, the former Browns scout, contends Miami is “worst in the league in terms of weaponry and wideouts. They’re too easy to play against. Mario Manningham [who got two years, $7.7 million from the 49ers] would have been their best receiver” if Miami had signed him…. Two Dolphins veterans say Julius Pruitt has stood out the most this offseason among the team’s young, largely unproved receivers.... Plaxico Burress said Reggie Bush told him he would love to have Burress in Miami. But that's the type of veteran receiver the Dolphins have stayed away from this offseason.

 ### Players are raving about how Ryan Tannehill looked at rookie minicamp. “He has both zip and accuracy,” receiver B.J. Cunningham said. “Really good touch on his deep balls,” cornerback Vince Agnew said. Troy Aikman, who dined with Tannehill twice recently, told WQAM’s Michael Irvin that he’s a “great pick” for Miami and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t start as a rookie if he wins the job. He is “no-nonsense, a leader, a guy who will put in the time.Very athletic guy. The familiarity with Mike Sherman's [offense] is going to help him a lot.”

### We’re told Randy Shannon is seeking close to $250,000 in his lawsuit against UM. A UM official called it a ridiculous suit but said UM nevertheless wants to settle to make it go away quietly.... The NCAA’s top investigator on the UM case has retired in the middle of his investigation, but the NCAA said that won’t delay the process, expected to continue at least a few more months.

### Though Anibal Sanchez allowed two earned runs or fewer in all six starts and ranks among the league leaders in strikeouts, the Marlins haven’t offered a new contract. But they are receptive to doing it eventually, provided he stays healthy and effective. He could make $12 million or more a year in free agency this winter… The mystifying decline continues for 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who’s hitting .200 at Triple A New Orleans.

May 11, 2012

Heat responds to Pacers' shots; series' subplots; LeBron's MVP; Jacory signs

New note at 6:15 p.m. Friday: LeBron James will be named the NBA's MVP on Saturday, a league source tells The Miami Herald. It will be the third time he has won the award. He won it with Cleveland in 2009 and 2010.

# # #

Frank Vogel’s verbal volleys drew mostly a restrained response from the Heat, which felt little need Friday to debate the Pacers coach’s claims that they’re egregious floppers.

Vogel’s gripe - accusing the Heat of being “the biggest flopping team in the NBA” – has added another layer of intrigue to a second-round series with several meaty storylines. Among them:

### Vogel, who said Thursday that Heat players “often times are falling down before contact is even made,” stood by his comments Friday, telling 790 The Ticket that what he said is “harmless” but that “flopping is a problem in this league. Miami certainly has guys that do a lot of it. It’s not good for the game in general.” Vogel said he was not referring to LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

Chris Bosh said Vogel’s comments provide “fantastic motivation. You can talk as much as you want, give your game [plan] away as much as you want. If we play good defense, we’re not known for flopping.”

But James said, “There’s nothing you can say to our team that will give us extra motivation. We don’t really care. We don’t get involved in that. We’ve been thrown under the bus, we’ve heard everything” in two seasons together.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said, “I could care less. We could care less” about Vogel’s comments. Meanwhile, Udonis Haslem, informed of Vogel’s comments, said, “I’m speechless.” But “it’s a free country and everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Wade shrugged off Vogel’s remarks, saying, “We understand it’s the playoffs. There’s a lot of things to be said, mind games to be thrown out there. We can’t let that affect us. We usually don’t get into going back and forth too much.”

Said Shane Battier: “It doesn’t really matter what anyone believes or thinks or writes or spouts on TV.”

The Heat drew the fourth most charges in the regular season, with basketballvalue.com crediting them for 155.  Haslem was 12th in the league with 29. Battier (27) and Chalmers (21) were next on the Heat.

“We’re a physical team and part of our defensive philosophy is put our bodies in front of offensive players and that’s what we’ve done here for years and years,” Spoelstra said.

### The Bosh/Roy Hibbert center matchup. The Heat is 7-2 with Bosh at center and Haslem starting at power forward. But Bosh will be at a three-inch height disadvantage against the 7-2 Hibbert.

“It’s new challenges for me, and I’m taking them personally,” Bosh said. “We’re going to make Roy play in the open court, make him run and use his feet. If he gets the ball easily in the post, he’s a beast.”

Spoelstra said Bosh “has been solid” at center. “The last three weeks, he’s very focused on exactly what we need -- being big and filling that need for us in the paint on both ends of the court.”

### Matching up with the size of Indiana, which was fourth in the league in rebounding. (The Heat was 21st.) Spoelstra might either make more use of his backup centers (Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf and Dexter Pittman) or force the Pacers to adjust by playing small.

Asked if Turiaf or Pittman would play more, Spoelstra said, “very likely… Ronny is the next guy in line” at center after Bosh and Anthony. Turiaf played seven minutes against the Knicks; Pittman didn’t play.

But Spoelstra also said, “We’re not going into it anticipating a lot of immediate changes to how we play.”

That’s a good thing, according to Bosh. “I always love to implement what we do before the other team does,” he said. “They are big, but it really doesn’t mean anything. We’re fast. And we can rebound.”

### James and Wade versus the Pacers wing players. James called Danny Granger (20th in the league in scoring at 18.7) a “good player. Can shoot, drive, make pull up jumpers. He’s going to have to guard me as well. I try to stop the first move and the counter. In the last series, I stopped Carmelo Anthony’s counter and another move, and he used the fadeaway jumper in my face at the end of the third quarter” in Game 5.

Wade said of shooting guard Paul George: “He’s a young, athletic guy that can shoot from outside and be explosive in the open court.”

### The point guard battle. George Hill and Darren Collison will present more problems for Mario Chalmers than Mike Bibby and Baron Davis did. “They’re quick and I’ve got to keep them in front of me,” Chalmers said.

“Two very good point guards,” Wade said. “Collison is extremely fast. He provides a lot of pressure on the ball. He can score, break down a defense. George Hill is solid, big guard. He has really helped that team. Our guards have to change our mindset on the point guards and understand they’re just as big in this series as the big guys are.”

### The Pacers’ unwillingness to accept their position as underdogs. Vogel keeps insisting they’re not the underdog. Asked by 790 whether the Heat is better than Indiana, Vogel said, “I’m not so sure they are. There is no better team in the NBA than Miami. We’re right up there with them. We believe we can beat this team.”


Former UM quarterback Jacory Harris signed with Philadelphia on Friday after impressing the Eagles in a tryout. He becomes the fifth quarterback on the roster, joining starter Michael Vick, Mike Kafta, Trent Edwards and rookie third-rounder Nick Foles.

Harris, who previously auditioned for the Dolphins, had 70 touchdowns and 48 interceptions in four years at UM.


May 10, 2012

Pacers take shot at Heat; Morris: UM drop-off "not acceptable"; Brandon Marshall speaks


The Indiana Pacers hope the Heat flops figurately and expects them to flop literally in their playoff series that starts Sunday. Pacers coach Frank Vogel told his team and Indianapolis reporters late Thursday afternoon that the Heat is the NBA's most egregious offender in flopping shenanigans. He hopes NBA referees hear those comments.

"They are the biggest flopping team in the NBA," Vogel said. "Every drive to the basket, they have guys not making a play on the ball, but sliding in front of drivers. Often times, they're falling down even before contact is even being made. It will be very interesting to see how the refs officiate the series and how much flopping they allow."

Vogel said, "We feel like we're one of the best teams in the league. We are not viewing this in any way, shape or form like a David versus Golaith type of meeting. We are not the underdog here. This is two heavyweights going toe to toe. That's how we view this series." (Nobody believes him about the underdog comment.)

Vogel said he might play some zone defense against the Heat and might inject Dahntay Jones into his rotation to guard Dwyane Wade or LeBron James.

### More Pacers chatter from Thursday (the Heat was off, so you won't be hearing from them again until Friday): George Hill: "I don't feel like it's an upset if we win."... Danny Granger: "We actually have a better record than Miami does after the All-Star break (21-7 to 19-13). We've won seven straight road games closing out the year. I don't think we're underdogs by any means. Miami has more recognition with their Big Three guys, but I think we're a good team as well."...

Paul George:  "It's a closer matchup than what people think. I guess we have to continue to prove ourselves. Everybody in this organization believes we can pull this series out, but everybody else doesn't expect that." (Except Charles Barkley, and only if the series goes six)... Darren Collison: "Whenever you're playing the Heat, it's just that motivation that you want to beat them. They have such good players on their team."... With the Bulls being eliminated, the Heat would have homecourt advantage against every remaining playoff team except the Spurs and Thunder.


A candid Jim Morris addressed the state of his UM baseball program Thursday, amid this backdrop: Miami has one College World Series appearance in the past five years (in 2008), after making it in 10 of Morris’ first 13 seasons here, with national titles in 1999 and 2001. The program still wins -- Morris has made the NCAA Tournament every year -- but not quite at the level of his first 15 years.

“It’s not acceptable for me, my standards. I feel worse than anybody,” said Morris, whose team enters this weekend’s series against Wake Forest at 30-17 but just 12-12 in the ACC. “Everybody else in the country thinks we’re great, being ranked 21. Down here, we’re all spoiled, including me.

“It’s very frustrating being 21 and not going to the World Series in three years [after going 11] of my first 15. It was like automatic. We made hotel reservations for Omaha before the season started. We’re working as hard as we’ve ever worked as a coaching staff. Our players are working equally as hard. We’re trying to get better players, better everything. We have such high expectations in baseball and football that if you’re not mentioned in the national championship picture, something’s wrong.”

Four reasons for the program’s slight falloff:

### “We’ve been killed by the draft the last two years.” UM lost five  first-rounders (including the Marlins’ Christian Yelich) and one second-rounder in the past two drafts. “Last year, our recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the country before the draft. When all your juniors sign and you don’t get a break in the draft, it makes it pretty tough."

Morris said “we’ve got a great recruiting class signed” heading into the draft June 4-6. He said he still “wants to sign the best players” and won’t pursue lesser prospects because he doesn’t want to miss out on top players who don’t turn pro.

Alex Fernandez, Charles Johnson, Kenny Henderson went to school as  first-rounders. The highest pick I’ve ever had go to school was an eight-rounder, Jemile Weeks. I’ve never had the luxury of a first-rounder. I’d like to experience that one time before I die… I’ve heard scouts say, ‘Who does Miami have signed?’ Because they know we have the best players.”

### Moving to the ACC. He said it’s tougher to win now than as an independent in baseball because “you have to travel more, and it means in a regional or super-regional, normally we’re going to play an SEC team, and that’s tough.”

### More parity in the sport. “There are a lot more teams that are good. It’s gotten tougher and tougher to go to the World Series.”

### High tuition at UM, which makes it difficult to compete with less expensive schools (such as UF and FSU) for some players.

UM undergraduate tuition is $39,654 annually and will increase to $41,220 this fall. Students must pay another $16,132 annually in housing, food and meals. UM must split 11.7 scholarships among 33 players, so it’s essentially like a salary cap.

Southern California and Stanford – who also have storied baseball programs at expensive private schools – have made one CWS in the past 10 and eight years, respectively. “If Major League Baseball stepped in and we had 25 scholarships, we would absolutely kick butt,” Morris said. “I’d be the happiest guy in America. Florida is $15,000 and [has] grants.”

(FYI: President Donna Shalala is raising a ton of money for an endowment fund, and Morris is hopeful baseball players will get some of that. “That grant money doesn’t count as scholarships,” he said.)

There has been some grumbling among some Board of Trustees members wondering why baseball isn’t as dominant the past few years. But a prominent trustee said, “We’re good with Jim. Every program has ups and downs.”

Athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who doesn’t like to speak on-the-record much, declined to discuss his level of commitment to Morris, who has several years left on his contract. Morris, 62, wants to coach for for a lot more years; “I enjoy it. This is all I’ve done.” He said he feels he has support from Eichorst.

“I don’t need anybody to put any pressure on me,” Morris said. “I put enough pressure on myself.”

### Morris said UM needs to win four of its last six and two ACC Tournament games to host a regional. “We’re out of the possibility of hosting a Super regional.” After hosting Wake, UM closes the regular season next week at Georgia Tech…. Morris is confident that top Westminster Christian prospect David Thompson will eschew turning pro and will enroll at UM to play football (quarterback) and baseball (first base, third base or left field). Thompson’s father, Ed, said Thursday, “I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he’s planning to go to UM.”


Bears receiver Brandon Marshall told an Orlando radio station Thursday that it’s good Miami traded him because “it doesn’t make any sense to pay a guy [$9.3 million this season] and only expect him to have 60 or 65 or 70 receptions. Also, if you don’t have a quarterback, it doesn’t matter who you have out there. You can bring Jerry Rice back in his prime, and he's not going to be effective.  The fit, philosophy-wise, just wasn’t there.”

A Dolphins official told us Marshall was traded because this staff believed he would be potentially disruptive by demanding more touches than he would have gotten in this offense. Including a draft day trade-down, Miami ended up getting Michael Egnew, B.J. Cunningham and a 2013 third-rounder for him.

### The Patriots signed undrafted UM defensive tackle Marcus Forston.

### Quick broadcast note: CBS hired NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora on Thursday to replace Charley Casserly as its NFL’s insider. 

May 09, 2012

Early preview of Heat-Pacers; Barkley pick; Heat reax; details of Cam Wake's deal

With Miami dispatching New York on Wednesday, here’s an early look at the Heat’s looming second round series against Indiana:

The Knicks’ size advantage in their power rotation didn’t create any major obstacles for the Heat in the first round.

Now Miami hopes that Indiana’s size won’t be a problem in round two.

The Heat must contend with gifted 7-2 starting center Roy Hibbert, a bulldog power forward in David West, a balanced and skilled Indiana starting lineup and a pair of capable of point guards. Game 1 at AmericanAirlines Arena is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, on ABC.

Compared with the Knicks, "this is a better team," Dwyane Wade said of Indiana. "It will be a tougher series for us.... Indiana plays a lot more in the post. They play the outside game as well. That's a very good team."

"They have a lot of really good parts,” Heat forward Mike Miller said. “They’re playing well and their size will be a challenge.”

Chris Bosh said the Pacers “are a tough team, have great rebounders” and “are a little more balanced” than the Knicks.

The Pacers will enter the second round as clear underdogs, but TNT’s Charles Barkley predicts they will give Miami “trouble. That Indiana team is going to be very difficult. They are very deep. Danny Granger and Paul George can flat out play.”

Barkley - for what it's worth - predicts the series will go six or seven games and that the Pacers will win if they have a chance to clinch in game six. He said if the series goes seven, the Heat will win. OK then... 

Meanwhile, Magic forward Glen Davis told The Indianapolis Star the Pacers “have a chance,… if they defend. They are athletic and long enough and have a big bench.”

The Heat won three of the four regular season meetings, averaging 101.5 per game while limiting the Pacers to 92.3. Miami won two of the games by 35 and 15, another in overtime, and lost one by 15. The Heat held a narrow edge in rebounding (50.5 to 49.8) and a lopsided advantage in shooting percentage from the field (48.0 to 40.4).

"We gave them more problems than they gave us," LeBron James said. "It's going to be fun."

Hibbert, who has a three-inch height advantage on Bosh in the center matchup, averaged 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds against the Heat, below his regular-season averages of 12.8 and 8.8. He was fifth in the league in blocks per game at 1.97, eighth in offensive rebounding and 18th in overall rebounding.

“The key to that series is going to be Roy Hibbert,” Barkley said.

Hibbert shot only 41.9 percent against the Heat, nearly eight points less than his season average. Bosh averaged 15.5 against the Pacers but just 5.3 rebounds.

“Hibbert is a challenge, but I’m more than capable of meeting that challenge,” said Bosh, who started at power forward during the teams’ four meetings this season but now starts at center. “He’s a load down there. He’s talented. I have no problem doing my part…. I’m the center.”

West, an inch taller than Udonis Haslem at 6-9, played well against Orlando in the first round and averaged 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds during the regular season. His numbers against the Heat were comparable (12.0 points, 7.0 rebounds), but he shot only 35.7 percent (15 for 42) in the four games.

Haslem, conversely, averaged 5.8 points and 8.8 rebounds against Indiana in fewer minutes.

Also, keep in mind that the Heat will face younger, more formidable point guards than it did against the Knicks.

Darren Collison started all four games against the Heat during the regular season, averaging 13 points but producing as many turnovers as assists (13 apiece). Collison, who shot nine of 10 in the Pacers’ close-out win against the Magic, now come off the bench behind former Spurs guard George Hill, who shot 1 for 7 from the field in two appearances against the Heat. “Two quick guards,” Mario Chalmers said.

James (26.8 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Wade (22.7 points) did their usual sterling work against Indiana, though James 47.4 shooting percentage was off six points from his season average. For Indiana to have any shot, Granger cannot repeat his subpar regular season work against Miami (15 for 42 from the field, 35.7 percent).

Though the Pacers hadn’t won a playoff series since 2005 until this week, coach Frank Vogel said “we’re not happy just getting” to the second round. “We feel like this is just the beginning of a big run. We know a team can beat any group of superstars. Any given night, it can be a different guy on our team.”

Said Hibbert: “We didn’t do this the easy way. It took time. But Larry Bird and [general manager] David Morway drafted well. We got David West, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa and Lou Admundson for almost nothing. We didn’t do this by signing a couple superstars.” 

### For details on Cam Wake's new Dolphins deal and other Dolphins notes, see our last post.

May 08, 2012

Dolphins players speak out on Philbin; details on Wake's deal; Heat-Knicks buzz

Wednesday afternoon update:

Here's the breakdown on Cam Wake's new deal: He got a $7 million signing bonus, which will be prorated over the five years, which means his cap number will be $2.2 million this season.

He did not get a raise in base salary this season and will make $615,000 in 2012. He will earn $3.56 million in 2013, $5.82 million in 2014, $8.2 million in 2015, and $8.275 million in 2016, according to NFL Players Association records. His base salaries are only guaranteed in 2013 and 2014. So if the Dolphins don't pick up a $3 million roster bonus in March 2015, he would become a free agent and his deal would have ended up being a three-year deal. The deal also has several million available in incentives.

Former Indiana offensive tackle Andrew McDonald, who auditioned for the Dolphins last weekend after going undrafted, told his school newspaper that Miami plans to sign him.


Mostly Dolphins and Heat chatter today:

### Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has made a favorable initial impression on his players, and what stands out so far, Karlos Dansby said, “is his ability to get guys’ respect, which is a big thing. And his ability to have guys on point. His attention to detail is very keen and on point.

“If you treat people right, people are going to treat you right. He’s been doing a great job of that… Everything is different [from the previous regime]. He’s totally different, his approach to the game, his philosophy. It’s a good thing.”

Marlon Moore, among other players at a team charity event Monday, said Tony Sparano “was hard nosed,” and one difference is “Coach Philbin wants us to police ourselves. He doesn’t yell. Haven’t heard him yell once…. If the coach is calm, players are calm.”

(Quick aside: Ex-Dolphin Kory Sheets once said that Sparano mostly either yells or whispers. Philbin converses in a normal speaking voice. Though many players liked Sparano, some thought he was too negative and some grew tired of the screaming.)

Philbin “is always positive,” Nate Garner said. “It’s all positive motivation.”

Davone Bess likes that Philbin is “laid back but demands a lot from the players. He’s cool. Good sense of humor, very intelligent. The guys respect him and he respects us. Everything is real structured, very detail oriented. Offensively, we focus a lot more time on the details of routes we’re running.”

### Bess said the “best thing” about Philbin’s and coordinator Mike Sherman’s offense – which will be up-tempo a lot, no-huddle at times – is “everybody is interchangeable. The outside guys can play inside, inside can play outside. That’s what is going to make this offense more attacking. It’s a lot of open space, getting the ball out quickly and letting the players do what they do.”

### Though he’s ideal as a nose tackle in a 3-4, Paul Soliai said he feels comfortable in Miami’s new 4-3 base defense, noting he played in such an alignment at Utah. This defense, Dansby said, has “more unpredictability. I’m champing at the bit because I know it’s going to be totally different.”

### According to sources, the Dolphins discussed, but did not pursue, former Texans free agent receiver Jacoby Jones, who agreed to a two-year $7 million deal with Baltimore on Tuesday. They have shown no interest in the most prominent available receivers, such as Braylon Edwards and Roy Williams. The Dolphins like their receiver group but will consider adding one if the right veteran becomes available (Donald Driver might be that if Green Bay cuts him) or if the young receivers aren’t impressive in offseason practices.

### At right guard, the Dolphins haven't ruled out available veterans such as Jake Scott and Kyle Kosier, but they want to see how John Jerry develops. Garner and Artis Hicks can also play there. Hicks was signed as a tackle, but could be used at guard because of the addition of tackle Jonathan Martin in the draft. Last year's starter, Vernon Carey, remains unsigned, by the way.

### Jeff Ireland doesn't have a strong sense yet who will emerge as starting safeties among Reshad Jones (slight favorite for one job) and Tyrell Johnson, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson and Tyrone Culver. Ireland, incidentally, as especially impressed how undrafted Arkansas State safety Kelcie McCray (10 career interceptions) played at last weekend’s minicamp. More than a dozen teams tried to sign McCray, whom Pro Football Weekly calls "smart and dependable" with "good speed and tackling ability."

### The reason LeBron James should have been involved in the Heat’s last play Sunday, as Charles Barkley explained it, is “James makes people better. What separates James is he can get [guys] shots – James Jones, Udonis Haslem…. Dwyane Wade is just a scorer. It should be LeBron taking those shots. The guy's the best basketball player in the world. He had just made a three and a great three-point play. LeBron finished a lot in Cleveland.”

Even a Heat official said privately it would have made sense to involve James more in the play and get him accustomed to being an active participant in those situations again, as he was a lot previously but much less so this year.

### Though James would “love” to have the ball in that spot, he has too much respect and appreciation for Wade to make an issue of it. And he’s respectful of Erik Spoelstra’s decisions. After practice Tuesday, James shouted a few times, “Spo: Not one Coach of the Year vote! That’s crazy!”

Spoelstra smiled sheepishly and kept talking to reporters. Fifteen coaches in the league got at least one first, second or third-place vote for the award, which was won by San Antonio's Gregg Popovich. Spoelstra wasn't among them.

“Great coach, has us prepared every night,” James said during a quieter moment Tuesday.

### Because Spoelstra has been using a smaller lineup more, Haslem is averaging fewer minutes as a starter in this series (17.8) than he did much of the season as a reserve (23-plus). Haslem has just 12 points (but 25 rebounds) in four games, but the biggest mystery of his season remains this: Why did his accuracy on jumpers plummet? On 10-to-15 footers, he shot 26 percent this year after hitting anywhere from 37 to 54 percent every previous season.

### What’s worrisome about the Heat’s reserve scorers is their shooting slump isn’t merely recent. Going back several weeks for each, Mike Miller has shot 35.8 percent (on his past 109 shots), Shane Battier 37 (on his past 119) and Jones 29.5 (on his past 61). Miller and Battier are in the low 30s in this series; Jones has logged 20 minutes total. Wade made it clear Tuesday “we need our shooters and bench to play well.” The Heat can survive poor bench shooting in this round, but it's highly questionable they could against the Spurs, Thunder or Lakers in The Finals.

Bosh suggested that "if we're lucky enough... to make the Finals," the Heat probably would not survive being outrebounded in every game (as Miami has in this series; by 11 total).

### For the first time ever, a first-round Heat playoff game (Game 4) drew a comparable local TV rating (17.4) to an average regular season Dolphins game (17.7 in 2011) – much higher than the 12s for Heat-Sixers last year. And whereas top courtside seats sold for less than $6000 in last year’s first round, one sold to a rapper for $12,500 for Game 5.

### Beyond his drop in velocity, another issue with Josh Johnson is he's getting too many balls up in the zone and "trying to be perfect," Ozzie Guillen said. Opponents are hitting .359 against him - worst among all MLB starting pitchers... Guillen said Heath Bell is very "embarrassed" by how he has pitched and his "location is terrible." But Guillen will let him pitch in the ninth when the Marlins hold a comfortable lead to try to rebuild his confidence; Steve Cishek will close otherwise.

Quick note to readers: For a lot more Heat-Knicks news from Tuesday evening - including Spoelstra defending his late game decisions, Jeremy Lin news, and some eye-opening LeBron/Battier numbers vs. Carmelo Anthony - see our last post, listed on the left side... For our transcript of Jeff Ireland's interview on Sirius XM Radio today, see our post before that.

Tuesday night Heat-Knicks notes


Two days after squandering a last-second chance to tie or win Game 4, the Heat spent part of Tuesday’s practice working on late-game situations “so we’ll be more comfortable in our package,” Dwyane Wade said.

To refresh: With his team down two, Wade received the in-bound pass with 13.2 seconds left, dribbled, fumbled the ball briefly, recovered and missed a difficult 24-foot three-pointer with 2.4 seconds left.

“Look, guys,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Tuesday. “If you get Dwyane Wade going down the lane with an open lane, and you’re down by two, I think you take that. It was a pretty good opportunity to attack the rim. It was a broken play and we know what happened from there…

“We had an open trigger for LeBron James. We had an open window on the second one with Chris Bosh. Just made the wrong read and it ended up being a miscommunication between him and Dwyane. Otherwise, that would have been a pretty good opportunity.”

The Heat is now 6 for 16 this season – and 9 for 36 since the Big Three was assembled – on shots to tie the game or go ahead in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. Wade is 3 for 7 on those shots this season, James 1 for 2.

“I got a step on Amare Stoudemire, which I wanted,” Wade said of the last play. “I just lost the ball. I would do it all over again.”

James said, “Last play, we could have executed a lot better.”

Bosh said he “was trying to get to an open spot” on that play to give Wade another option. “Michael Jordan made it look so easy,” Bosh said of late-game shots. “It’s a low-percentage shot.”

TNT’s Kenny Smith said on that last possession, “I would have had the ball in LeBron’s hands and let Wade set the pick” instead of Wade with the ball and Bosh setting the screen.

“The Knicks are not going to switch and all of a sudden you have a runaway train [in James] going to the basket and/or if they switch or double team, you have the ball kicked back to Wade. Wade has hit many big shots in his career, but you still need to have the two best players involved in the play.”


Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, who had knee surgery April 2, will not play at all in the series, coach Mike Woodson said. “He’s just not ready.”

### Wade, on Spoelstra’s predicament: “It’s tougher to coach us guys together than one of them apart. Perception is it’s easy.”

### Though Spoelstra has praised the job James and Shane Battier have done on Carmelo Anthony, he said where his team erred Sunday was giving him “an incredible amount of room to gain confidence as the game went along. We talked about that today. He was struggling in the first half. Then, because of our inefficiency offensively, we gave him three open court opportunities he took advantage of. We bailed him out twice. He had 14 free throw attempts.”

Anthony, who scored 41 points in Game 4, is averaging 26 points but shooting 39.8 percent in the series. James is averaging 27.5 points and shooting 48.6 percent.

### According to ESPN’s statistics department, Anthony is shooting just 29 percent in the series with James defending him (12 of 41) but 53 percent (20 of 38) with Battier guarding him.

### Bosh said the Heat needs to do a better job on Stoudemire, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds Sunday: “Amare is too talented for us to be giving him dunks. We have to make him work harder, get someone between him and the basket.”… Bosh said he’s sleeping fine despite having a newborn: “I’m a lucky dude. I’ve got a good baby.” 

Jeff Ireland addresses state of Dolphins

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland addressed the state of the team with hosts Bob Papa and Ross Tucker on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Tuesday. Here’s what he had to say:

### On whether Ryan Tannehill is ready to compete to start immediately: “We’ve got to let this process play itself out. Certain guys develop at different levels. He has knowledge of the offense. He’s going to look like he’s ready pretty quick. There’s a competition here. There are two other experienced players who are great pros. We drafted him to let him compete for the position. We need to play better at that position, whether it’s a new player or Matt. That position really has to be more productive. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting him.”

### Would the Dolphins have taken him if he hadn’t gone to Texas A&M and hadn’t been coached by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman? “Absolutely. I started scouting Ryan back in August. My opinion of him didn’t change a whole lot when we hired Mike Sherman. It helped the process. I had a strong conviction about Ryan from October, December. The more I spent time with him, the more I broke down [tape], the more I liked him. When Mike and [assistant quarterback coach] Zach Taylor and [offensive line coach] Jimmy Turner came on board [from Texas A&M], it only helped the conviction.”

### On receiver: “We’ve got some good veteran players in Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. We’ve added depth in Legedu Naanee. We’ve got two young up-and-coming receivers in Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace. We drafted two young kids and signed two young kids.” (Ireland didn’t mention Clyde Gates, but has told us previously he expects big things from him this season.)

"We have a pretty good young corps of receivers. We have some tight ends, some backs that can play in the slot. It’s about moving the football down the field, not necessarily always trying to get the ball to receivers. We’re going to develop the position and improve the position with the players we have on our roster. We feel pretty good about the position as it stands right now.”

### On the possibility of adding another receiver: “There is always a possibility of that. As my former mentor used to say, you never know when an acorn is going to fall off the tree right before training camp. We track those things during the course of the summer. There are guys out there getting ready for that prospect. We will get a good chance to look at the guys on our roster right now. If we feel we need to address that position, we certainly will do that.”

### On Lamar Miller: “Lamar has a very good set of skills. He can run, he can catch. We’ve got to get him more rugged from a blocking standpoint.”

### On defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s defense: “What Kevin’s job is, is to keep everyone confused until we line up. I’m going to contend he’s done a pretty good job. We got a pretty good group of front seven. It’s a nickel league. You will see us in a four man front, you will see us in a hybrid front. He will be using the players we have in the best position we can to get pressure on the quarterback and disrupt the guy throwing the ball and disrupt the receiver and use the talent to the best of their ability. The vision has been ambiguous [because] I know he’s going to do a lot of things.”

### On second-round pick Jonathan Martin, the offensive tackle from Stanford: “You can expect him to be a real good pro. You can expect him to come in here and learn the offense and be very up to speed about what our protections are. He fits very well in the scheme. Even he said you use different muscles on the right side of the line [as opposed to the left, where he played at Stanford]. He’s a long arm, good knee bender, good punch, plays with great awareness, very smart.” Martin will play right tackle.

### On Cameron Wake’s contract extension: “I have to give most of the credit to the pro scouting department – Brian Gaine. Brian and the pro staff hit the Canadian Football League at the beginning of the season. Brian brought his name to me a year before we signed him. Then we found out he was not eligible to sign. We were on his radar really early on. We’re glad to get him done the next five years. He’s a real pro, a great kid, handled this thing with great patience. We felt it was a win/win for both sides.”

### Ireland, on the state of the franchise and himself personally: “We’re extremely happy with the direction of the team right now. I handle [the criticism] great. We’ve built some momentum. Most of the plan – I’m not saying 100 percent – most of the plan has come to fruition…. We’ve got to win. There’s no doubt about it. My job is on the line, just like everybody else is. We’ve all got to win here. That’s what we’ve got to get accomplished.”

### On safety: “From the safety position, it’s going to be very competitive. We’ve got some guys that have played in starting roles. You’ve got Tyrone Culver, Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones. We’ve moved Jimmy Wilson [there]. We signed [Tyrell Johnson]. It’s going to be very competitive. It’s a young position. To say I have a crystal ball to say who is going to be the starters in this group, I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to. I’m anxious to see where that plays out, to be honest with you.”

### On Joe Philbin: “Great vision. A man of integrity. A man of mental toughness. A guy around a program that has been successful. His ability to put an offense together and be productive. I liked him personally, felt like I could work with him. There are a lot of things you like about Joe. He impressed me so quickly about how he presented himself. Just had an aura about being a head coach. It’s been a really good marriage so far.”

Check back later for Heat-Knicks notes and Wednesday's buzz column.


May 07, 2012

Monday afternoon Heat-Knicks notes

A few Heat-Knicks notes on a Monday:


### Whereas the Heat had no media availability on Monday, Knicks coach Mike Woodson had a candid 30-minute session with reporters by phone:

Woodson said though it’s not out of the question that Jeremy Lin – who had knee surgery April 2 – could play Wednesday, “I’m not counting on him to play… He’s not in great shape. Playoff basketball, you have to be at an all-time high. I’m a little apprehensive about him possibly coming back.”

### With Baron Davis out with a knee injury, Woodson said he will start Mike Bibby at point guard and might use Toney Douglas. “He’s not as fast and crafty as he used to be,” Woodson said of Bibby. “But he’s still capable in short minutes of running a team. I feel comfortable [starting him] in a game like that. He can still hit big shots.”

### Davis learned Monday he will miss 12 months with a torn MCL and ACL and a partially torn patella tendon.

### Woodson said he might use J.R. Smith or even Carmelo Anthony at point guard in short stretches if Erik Spoelstra uses a big lineup. He said when the Heat plays LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Shane Battier, Mike Miller and a power rotation player such as Udonis Haslem, he worries about Bibby having to defend Miller or Battier. “That’s a bad matchup,” Woodson said.

### Woodson, on the series: “We’ve been in every game. We’ve got to control tempo and keep their fans out of the game” Wednesday.

### Woodson said he wasn’t surprised that Spoelstra had Battier – not James – guard Anthony down the stretch in Game 4. “Battier is a pretty damn good defender,” Woodson said. “They could have gone either way.”

### Very late Sunday night on TNT, Charles Barkley made a cogent case for why Spoelstra erred in having James standing in the corner, essentially a decoy, on the Heat’s final possession of Game 4. Barkley said you can’t justify having “the best player in the world” not involved in the final play.

TNT's Kenny Smith agreed, saying, "I would have had the ball in James' hands and let Wade set the pick. They are not going to switch and all of a sudden, you have a runaway train and LeBron going to the basket. You still need to have your two best players involved in the play, and LeBron James is clearly one of the best two players on the team."

Shaquille O’Neal defended Spoelstra, noting Wade’s late-game ability in the clutch.

### Wade is now 2 for 6, all time, in the playoffs on shots to tie or win the game in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. James remains 5 for 13.

This season, Wade is now 3 for 7 on those games. James remains 1 for 2.

### Haslem played just 14 minutes in Game 4, with Spoelstra more inclined to go with a smaller lineup for longer stretches.

### By going 4 for 11 on free throws in Game 4, Wade became the first NBA player to miss that many free throws in a playoff loss that narrow since Ben Wallace in 2006, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Wilt Chamberlain did that three times.

### For Dolphins, Marlins and Canes items, see our last post.

May 05, 2012

Appreciative Miller, Vernon begin Fins careers; Cam Wake gets new deal; Heat,UM

Sunday morning update:

The Dolphins have given linebacker Cameron Wake a four-year, $49 million contract extension, with $20 million guaranteed, a league source said Sunday morning. He has one year left on his current deal, worth $615,000. Wake's extension through 2016 means Miami won't need to use its franchise tag on him next offseason. That tag can be used on Jake Long if needed.

Besides Long, Miami also will try to extend Randy Starks and Brian Hartline, and possibly Reggie Bush. All of those players are entering the last year of their deals.

Before Wake's deal, the Dolphins had just under $7 million in cap space. At least $3 million of that will be needed to sign draft picks. But Wake's bonus will be prorated, so the cap hit this year won't be overwhelming. And the Dolphins will have a ton of space next offseason (more than $45 million), though a lot of that will go to current players (Long, likely Starks, etc.). 

Wake, who has 28 sacks the past three years, had skipped most of the team's voluntary offseason workout program in protest of his contract situation. His sacks dropped from 14 in 2010 to 8.5 in 2011, but he was third in the league in quarterback pressures with 52 last season.



The call before Miami's 72nd overall pick was so unexpected, as his mother tells the story, that Olivier Vernon actually asked the Dolphins, “Is this for real? This is not a prank call, is it?”

But after everyone realized it wasn’t, and after all “the cheers and mayhem” dissipated inside the Vernon home north of Miami Lakes, Olivier turned to his mother –- who told him two nights earlier that she hoped he didn’t need to move away to begin his NFL career -- and said simply, "Mom, your dream came true."

To which mom replied, "Yours did, too.”

The Dolphins haven’t given us many feel-good stories the past few months, but their selection of UM standouts Vernon (American High) and Lamar Miller (Killian) qualifies as one. “It's surreal,” Bernadette Vernon said, noting her son “always mentioned he wanted to play for the Dolphins.”

After drafting two UM players in 20 years, the Dolphins suddenly snagged two in 15 hours. “Two tremendous prospects,” general manager Jeff Ireland said. “The ceiling is endless.”

The rookies took the field for the first time as Dolphins Friday, and Miller’s speed and shiftiness were on display on several carries. They understand how fortunate they are to be staying home to begin their careers; Brandon Washington and Tommy Streeter called Vernon last week to make that point.

“I knew they needed a pass rusher, but I didn’t think I’d be the one,” Vernon said, thrilled that he and Miller will “start a new beginning and share this experience together.”

If he plays well in preseason, Vernon should seize an immediate role in the nickel package, as a rusher alongside Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick and Tony McDaniel or Randy Starks. That was a role handled by Jason Taylor (seven sacks last season), and Vernon says confidently, “I can fill those shoes.”

Some teams envisioned him as a outside linebacker – and Joe Philbin wouldn’t rule that out – but Vernon was told the Dolphins view him as an end in their defense, which will use a 4-3 base. “And I’m more comfortable with that,” he said.

Ireland was impressed by Vernon’s ability to play the run and he’s “got some strength, some pop, some snap in his body that’s hard to coach.”

One NFC scout told us, “I gave Vernon a late second-round grade, and at the Combine, he was one of four outside kids who looked comfortable dropping into coverage and didn’t look like a deer in the headlights. Good speed and quickness.” Another said: “Raw but strong and physical and I think he’s going to be a better pro than college player.”

Miller, who said he looked up to Reggie Bush growing up, thought he would be the second back drafted. Instead, he was the eighth. He said it stung every time a back went ahead of him.

“I was angry at first. Now, it’s motivation. I felt like the best running back on the board, but other teams didn’t think that so I’ve got to prove a point. I have great vision to catch the ball. I can make guys miss in tight spaces.” But the draft slide reinforced that “I’ve got to get better.”

Besides challenging for carries as a rookie (“he’s a guy we think can break tackles,” Philbin said), he also will be a factor in the passing game. Philbin said there’s a “chance he can spread himself out and play as a receiver” at times.

He will be given every chance to beat out Clyde Gates on kick returns “and I’ll probably do some punt returns,” too. Davone Bess was fifth in the NFL in punt return average, and if Bess becomes a starter, Philbin said he’s not “morally opposed” to using a starting receiver in that role.

Several scouts raved about Miller’s 4.4 speed and what a good value he was at No. 97, but one cautioned, “I studied six games, and he’s an erect runner. In the North Carolina game, he had 29 yards on 15 carries.” But he averaged 7.1 per carry vs. Ohio State, 9.2 vs. Virginia, 4.2 vs. FSU and 6.2 against ranked teams overall.

He ran best (5.8 average) in the first and fourth quarters. At UM, he was often replaced by Mike James in short yardage, and it remains to be seen whether he will be effective at that in the pros; Miller ran for 10 yards on 7 carries on third- or fourth- and one last season.

Unlike Vernon, Miller said he wasn't a Dolphins fan growing up; he didn't root for any particular team but said he enjoyed watching Bush, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.

After practice Friday, Miller – who said his surgically repaired shoulder is nearly fully healed – stopped alongside Vernon, smiled and flashed a U sign for a photographer. “We have a great bond,” Miller said of himself and Vernon. “I feel very special to be able to play for my home fans.”

### Besides Jacory Harris, two other departing UM players -- offensive lineman Joel Figueroa and cornerback Michael Williams - also are auditioning for the Dolphins this weekend. Harris, whose camp had previously announced plans for him to try out for Arizona, instead indicated he will next audition for the Philadelphia Eagles.


### ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy notes the Heat usually plays well when Mario Chalmers does; not only does this playoff series (54 percent shooting, 14.3 points) support that, but the play of Chalmers (and Chris Bosh) varied more in wins and losses than anyone else on the team. This season, Chalmers shot 49 percent in wins, 37 percent in losses. He had seven more turnovers than assists in losses, 87 more assists in wins.

“He’s become solid,” Knicks point guard Baron Davis said. “He’s really worked on his jumper, and he’s always been a good defender.” Here’s something to put on a resume: Chalmers finished third behind LeBron James and Tony Parker in the NBA’s plus/minus numbers this season, with Miami outscoring teams by 390 points when he was on the floor. Bosh was fourth, Dwyane Wade 10th.

### Bosh’s rebounding has risen since moving to center (nine per game in seven starts there), but he said that’s a coincidence. What changed, he said, is that he started telling himself to ‘Go get the damn ball!’ Said Bosh: “Rebounding is all I’m worried about in the playoffs.”

### Charles Barkley said Indiana is "very deep" and would be “very difficult” for Miami in a second-round series, noting center Roy Hibbert “is going to have a decided advantage over Joel Anthony.” Memo to Sir Charles: Bosh is starting, not Anthony, though Anthony will play Hibbert some. A reminder: Unlike the NHL, the NBA does not re-seed after each round. So even if No. 8 Philadelphia knocks off No. 1 Chicago, the No. 2 Heat would still get the Pacers-Magic winner in the next round.

### Of UM’s five football oral commitments for 2013, two of the top ones --- South Plantation’s Alex Collins (rivals.com’s 14th best running back) and South Fort Myers safety Jayron Kearse (former NFL star Jevon’s nephew) said harsh NCAA sanctions could make them look elsewhere. Other orals so far: Delray Beach Atlantic’s Keith Bryant (“one of the top d-tackles in the state,” analyst Charles Fishbein said); New Orleans’ Standish Dobard (nation’s No. 8 tight end); and Lake Mary running back Ray Lewis III (the only one of the five without a rivals.com ranking).

Elite New Jersey quarterback Kevin Olsen (formert UM tight end Greg’s brother) plans to decide by late June among UM, Wisconsin, Auburn and South Carolina…. Albert Jean-Louis, UM’s highest-rated receiver in its 2012 class, said he will enroll at Miami in January after attending prep school this fall.

### Heath Bell’s velocity is down a mile from last year (to 92.9 mph), but the bigger issue, according to a Marlins official, is he’s not throwing his curveball for strikes. Plus, metrics show batters are swinging at a lot less of his non-strikes than last year. Discouraging all around for a proud closer who converted 90.4 percent of his save chances from 2009 to 2011, behind only Jose Valverde and Mariano Rivera, and well ahead of the 12th-place closer formerly known as Leo Nunez (81.4). Ozzie Guillen hinted he's ready to give save opportunities to Steve Cishek, who deserves it. A Marlins official agreed with that move, saying giving the team the best chance to win is most important at this point.

###  Privately, Marlins players have been very impressed how notorious hothead Carlos Zambrano has handled Bell blowing three of his wins… Last year’s first-round pick, right-hander Jose Fernandez, has been fabulous at Class A Greensboro (3-0, five runs, 37 strikeouts in 28 innings).

May 04, 2012

Joe Philbin's comments after the Dolphins' first day of rookie minicamp


Here's what Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin had to say following the team's first rookie mini-camp on Friday: 

(On the first day of Rookie Orientation) – “It was good. I think the first play of team period we had about three guys fall down, like we could have predicted, but I thought overall the guys practiced hard. Sometime it’s hard for guys, I don’t care if they were first round draft picks or fifth round draft picks, as much as you work out it’s hard to simulate football practice. So I think some of them got gassed a little bit early, but I thought overall the tempo was good, I thought the effort was good. We told them in the meeting room our expectation wasn’t that the execution was going to be perfect and I am sure the film will verify that when we take a look at it. But I thought overall it was a good start.”


(On Ryan Tannehill’s first practice) – “I like the way we threw a couple of double moves, we threw a couple deep balls. I thought he threw those relatively well. It looked like he threw the ball on the move well. In general, and I think that even our quarterbacks who are veterans, our play speed at that position is something that we are going to need to work on. Given the fact that its day one, practice one, I thought he did some good things.”


(On what you want his role to be starting off more of a leader or just one of the guys) – “I haven’t had any singular one-on-one discussions with him in that regard. Part of the fun process in coaching is to get a sense for how these guys handle themselves on their own, obviously there is going to be a lot of time to give specific instructions, but we are just letting the guys go out there and compete. We told them last night that they are a part of the Miami Dolphins, unfortunately in this profession, for how long we don’t know, and so we asked them to give a great effort out here today and do the best they possibly could, and there will be time to hone everybody in. But today we just wanted to see how everybody competed and see some of the things that they were capable of doing.”


(On if he noticed any comfort level today between Ryan Tannehill and Jeff Fuller who were college teammates) – “I don’t know if there was anything specific that I noticed, obviously Jeff’s a fantastic target, he’s a big individual at that position and it looks like he did some good things, but I don’t know if there was anything special about (their relationship) today.”


(On the play of B.J. Cunningham during today’s practice) – “Well going back to the scouting process, we liked his productivity as a player, he played in one of the best reigns of Michigan State football that they have ever had at the school. It has great tradition and history and he was a part of that and he played very well. We liked the way that he caught the ball over the middle, we thought he was a guy that was courageous. Again it was one practice, but he showed some things out there.”

(On Ryan Tannehill’s familiarity with the playbook and how much it will speed his process) – “I think initially it’s going to help him, no question about it. At some point that knowledge, and I would say that David (Garrard) and Matt (Moore) have been around the system for three weeks or four weeks, so at some point that is going to even itself out and the difference is going to be the decision making and the accuracy, the playmaking ability at the quarterback position. So I am sure, as opposed to some of the other rookie quarterbacks that are practicing today, he probably feels a little more comfortable when he puts his head on the pillow at night. But the bottom line is the productivity once you get on the field, so we will see how that goes.”


(On Jonathan Martin playing right tackle during today’s practice) – “I like the way he looked like when he bent his knees, he bent his knees very well at the position. I like the way he did that, I thought that his initial footwork was good. We really liked the way in his pass protection he used his hands when he was coming out in the draft. He’s got very good length and he got very good timing on his punch. I think again, Jimmy (Turner) worked those offensive lineman pretty hard, I think some of them were a little bit gassed, so what happens then is your technique goes a little bit and gets a little bit shaky. But I was encouraged with what I saw from him.”


(On what some of the undrafted players can do to catch the coach’s eye during these practices) – “One of the most important drills that I am looking forward to watching is that cover drill, because we mentioned to the guys, the whole group in the meeting, that one of the ways that a young player can make an impact and make a difference is on special teams. That one particular drill that Darren (Rizzi) and Dave (Fipp) were doing, simulating a condensed kickoff coverage drill I think will be very valuable to watch. You are looking for guys that can play in space that can move and have balance. That’s a drill, again it’s not a live tackling, but hopefully get a handle on maybe some athletic ability and you have got to get noticed somehow, someway. So our coach’s scrutinize the film very closely. We watch it closely. In football a lot of things show themselves, maybe not in five practices, but hopefully we will get a good gauge on what these guys are capable of.”


(On if he noticed any added excitement from the University of Miami players) – “Were delighted that they are all here, the way that Jacory (Harris) is here and obviously Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, the two draft picks, again I was kind of watching the whole thing, I don’t know if I saw anything specific in that regard.”


(On if Lamar Miller will help the team returning kicks) – “I think he has a chance. I think he has a chance, there is a possibility. We will have to see, give him some opportunities and see how well he does.”


(On Lamar Miller’s pass catching ability) – “Well we liked it when he came over here, you know that we had the Miami Day, and we liked the way he caught the football. There’s a couple pictures of him being spread out. I think that there is some flexibility with what you can do with the guy. I think he has some skills that we can utilize.”


(On Nick Mandich) – “Well obviously his father was a great player here, but Nick came down through that same Miami day and obviously we brought him in because we saw some things there. The tight end position is one that has a lot of flexibility in this offense, so we’re looking for guys that show good versatility, have good learning skills and play multiple positions…  Line up different ways, go in motion and they have to be multiple in terms of both a pass catcher and blocker/pass protector. It’s a lot on their plate, and he (Mandich) showed some good things when he came the first time, so we’re going to give him some opportunities out there on the field.”


(On whether he saw the deep pass that Tannehill completed in practice) – “Yeah I thought he hit two of them, if I’m not mistaken, the real deep one down the left sideline. Yeah it looked like a nice ball, it looked like it had just the right amount of air under it so the receiver didn’t have to sit and wait for it. It kind of hit him in rhythm, which is important on those deep balls. Sometimes the timing is not right and it just turns into a jump ball, which obviously we coach (our players) to win that situation on both sides… Break it up on defense and come down with it on offense. But, I thought the timing on it was pretty good in terms of the amount of time it was in the air. Again I just think our play seed overall at that position, the quarterback position, is key.”


(On tight end Michael Egnew) – “We like his size, and we like his ability to attack the middle of the field. In the NFL you sometimes get linebackers that are 6’ and 6’1”, and now we have a guy at 6’5” with good length, even if the linebacker matches him down the field sometimes you can get a back shoulder throw you can get the ball , those guys (like Egnew) have a big catching radius where they are big targets. So I think that hopefully in the Red Zone or other area of the field he can be a threat. I don’t know if you are familiar with (Missouri’s) offense, but they move those guys around quite a bit. He’s not as comfortable yet playing next to an offensive tackle with his hand in the ground, which is something he’s going to have to work on no question about it, but because he has played out in the slot, I mean they (Missouri) ran reverses with him, I’m not sure Sherm (Coach Mike Sherman) has that in the playbook yet, were not ready for that, but I think he has some versatility. We’re going to see if we can line him up in a couple different spots.”


(On whether he has talked with Matt Moore and David Garrard about the team drafting Ryan Tannehill) – “Yeah we’ve talked to those guys. Yeah those guys are professionals and I couldn’t be more pleased with either one of those guys from what we’ve seen in the way they’ve conducted themselves. We made it very clear to both of them from the minute they stepped foot here for the offseason program that it would be an open competition between those guys. If you watch those guys on the field, they’re very supportive of one another and I expect nothing different when this group, Ryan (Tannehill) specifically joins them. They all know what the rules are and they all know that they will have opportunities, so I think they know what the drill is.”


(On what he wants to see from the rookies this weekend) –“We want to have a good evaluation of these guys from an athletic standpoint. We want to have a relatively good evaluation from a learning standpoint in regards to how quickly we feel like they can connect to our schemes. We want to lay the groundwork from a fundamental technique standpoint, and probably most importantly we just want to get them up to speed so when the OTAs start with the whole football team, our OTAs have got  to be a lot faster paced than what we had in the voluntary minicamp, they will be ready. We had some good work, and we are not at all disappointed with what we accomplished during the voluntary minicamp, but we have to accelerate the curve now. It’s getting close and time flies by, as we all know, so the OTAs are a very important time frame for us and we have to maximize those ten practices. We have to come together as a football team and integrate these guys with our veterans and get to work.”


(On if it is accurate to say that Tannehill has a better grasp on the new offense than Moore and Garrard) – “I don’t know about that. Those other guys have been studying hard now since April 10th, so we’ve installed quite a bit of offense, as you guys know, during that voluntary minicamp. We practiced Red Zone, third down, two minute drill, normal down and distance, screens and deceptives, so I don’t know (that he has a better grasp) for sure. I don’t want to say definitively yes or no, because we have exposed the other guys to a lot.”



(On if a starting receiver could also return kicks and punts) – “We’ll have to figure out the best ways to move the football, and punt returns are a big weapon in field position and impacts field position, so we’ll have to evaluate the different candidates that we have for that position and come to the best decision for the football team. I won’t rule anything out, and certainly we are not opposed to using a starting receiver."