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32 posts from May 2012

May 03, 2012

Media column: Showtime has a hit with Marlins; 790 The Ticket news; NFL notes


Media news and views, from the couch:

### Judging from the preview episode, it seems Showtime’s reality series on the Marlins will be far more compelling television than, well, the team’s games during their underachieving first month. The Showtime series debuted last week and will resume with episodes on eight consecutive Wednesdays beginning July 11.

Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ general manager, said it will “probably be more entertaining” than HBO’s Hard Knocks training camp series on the Jets two years ago. That would be a high bar to reach, but the Marlins are doing their part by serving up intriguing storylines (several unintentionally), from the Ozzie Guillen/Fidel Castro fiasco, to the new ballpark, to the team’s distressing start.

In the debut episode, we saw Marlins president David Samson tell Guillen he was being suspended, and Guillen taking the news respectfully, without any open display of anger.

“It’s been the worst week we’ve ever had,” Samson told Guillen in another conversation. “On the phone every day, all day, dealing with it.” But “I hope you’re still going to be Ozzie.”

We saw Guillen’s first speech to his players, where he told them their “ugly [butt] uniforms” and last year’s “ugly [butt] ballpark” do not matter to him. He said he wants opposing teams “to [bleeping] hate us because that means you’re good.”

Owner Jeffrey Loria counted 97 f-bombs in Guillen’s first speech to his players. “That’s the only way you get their attention,” Guillen said.

Showtime has been allowed to film whatever it wants except Guillen’s speech to his players after he was suspended. Guillen requested privacy for that.

“It’s been more entertaining than what we expected,” Espinoza said.

Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson said Showtime “has done a pretty good job of staying out of the way.” He said during the spring, Showtime held microphones over players during some private conversations, but there is less of that now.

Said pitcher Randy Choate: “You try to act natural, but sometimes you can’t when they're [filming]. You’re mindful of cursing. You don’t want your daughter to hear five F-bombs.”

### 790 The Ticket looked down the hall and found two hosts who are popular among listeners, have comedic rapport and are delivering the type of whimsical banter that management craves for its morning show. Problem is, Jon Weiner and Marc Hochman already have jobs working with Dan Le Batard on their highly-rated afternoon show.

Station manager Jeff Dinetz said Weiner and Hochman are merely filling in on mornings until the Heat’s playoff run ends. He hasn’t considered asking them to do mornings permanently because he appreciates their chemistry with Le Batard and “we’re not going to sacrifice Dan’s show.”

But the chance of them doing mornings long-term hasn’t completely been ruled out. Dinetz admits a difficult decision potentially awaits if the program generates very high ratings the next two months.

“They are really entertaining,” Dinetz said. “They do the type of show I want to do in the mornings.” Weiner and Hochman are now on air for seven, 7 ½ or eight hours a day on weekdays – four in the morning, as many as four with Le Batard – but neither wants to give up the afternoon gig.

“I don’t think it’s feasible for them to do both permanently,” Dinetz said. “It would kill them.”

Asked if he's interested in doing the morning show longterm, Weiner said, "My only interest is to survive the next six to eight weeks of two-a-days and getting back to my normal life and hopefully getting some sleep."

Dinetz said hundreds of people have expressed interest in succeeding former morning host Jorge Sedano, who left to focus on his TV career. “We won’t be doing an X’s and O’s type show,” said Dinetz, who wants a mix of sports and pop culture.

### TMZ reported Junior Seau’s death 70 minutes before ESPN acknowledged it Wednesday afternoon, but ESPN showed sensible restraint by waiting to independently confirm it.

### With Ron Jaworski’s re-assignment to the studio leaving Jon Gruden as the sole analyst on Monday Night Football, we can only hope the quality of Gruden’s work will be comparable to his performance on the NFL Draft.

Gruden, far more likely to praise than criticize as a game analyst, was more even-handed alongside Mel Kiper, asserting that elite cornerback Morris Claiborne “missed some tackles he needs to be held accountable for,” and that tight end Coby Fleener (who went 34th to the Colts) doesn’t deserve to be taken before very late in the first round because “How can you take a tight end that early who doesn’t block?”

### Sports Emmy winners this week included NBC’s Cris Collinsworth (for event analyst), studio analyst Charles Barkley (who promptly had champagne dumped on him by Kenny Smith after TNT’s double-header Monday), studio host Bob Costas (for NBC and MLB Network), Joe Buck (for Fox football and baseball) and reporter Michele Tafoya (for NBC NFL).       

### ESPN averaged 6.6 million viewers for the first round of the draft, NFL Network 1.4 million. At the league’s request, the two networks agreed not to show players receiving phone calls indicating they had just been selected, at least not before the picks were announced.

But Adam Schefter, Jason LaCanfora and others released picks on Twitter, and though some fans didn’t like that, they would have been remiss if they had withheld the information. ESPN's Chris Berman clearly knew the picks of teams that are run by executives with whom he has a relationship (including Cleveland’s Mike Holmgren) and released the info, coyly, on air.

### ESPN’s Lisa Salters, who asks sensible questions on NBA telecasts, will be a solid addition to MNF. The last time Salters worked with Gruden and Mike Tirico (on the Orange Bowl), Gruden regrettably identified her as Michelle Obama. (Gruden noted the Obama was on the sideline; Tirico corrected Gruden and said it was Salters. ) Oops.

May 01, 2012

Chris Bosh arrives back in New York and will start; other notes

Thursday morning update:

### Chris Bosh returned to South Florida late Wednesday night for the birth of his child, but was hurrying back to New York on Thursday. He arrived after 5 p.m., was rushing to Madison Square Garden, and Erik Spoelstra said he will start Game 3. He arrived at 6:30 p.m., receiving cheers from teammates.

LeBron James said he expects Bosh to play: "I would bet he would be here."

Dwyane Wade said: "We expect him to be here."

Bosh said previously that the due date was the third week of May, but he was summoned home in the evening and arrived on a private plane shortly after 2 a.m. His son - who was named Jackson - was born at 3 a.m. Bosh and the Heat had arrived in New York at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

His wife, Adrienne, posted this on Twitter Thursday morning: "From a Dream to a Thought to Reality to being in our Arms. Thank you all for the positive wishes and thoughts."

This is Bosh's second child and first with Adrienne. The couple married last summer. Bosh joked last month that he has been carrying a "baby beeper."

### Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who had hoped to be ready for Game 4 Sunday, said today he's unlikely to play in that game and isn't sure if he would be ready for a Game 5 Wednesday, if needed. Lin is still working his way back from April 2 knee surgery.

### The NBA announced Game 5 of Heat-Knicks, if needed, would start at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at AA Arena.

 ### For our two stories previewing Game 3 of the Heat-Knicks series, please look elsewhere on the sports home page.

### Former Hurricanes football coach Randy Shannon filed a lawsuit against UM on April 27, court records show. Shannon claims he was not paid a portion of what he was due for the three years remaining on his contract when he was fired in November 2010.

In the suit, Shannon claims he is still owed about one/sixth of the money that UM was obligated to pay him when he was fired.

Shannon also alleged UM has breached his employment contract and did not pay him for what he was due for leading UM to the Sun Bowl in 2010. He did not coach in that game because he had been fired a month earlier.

Shannon, who went 28-22 in four years, claimed he was fired without cause. (Insert your own punch-line here.)

UM declined to comment, but said in the lawsuit that because Shannon was dismissed before completion of a full year under his new contract, Shannon was overcompensated for his services (insert your own punch line here as well). The school said it made payments but deducted money overpaid for the first year.

Shannon has spoken to several schools about becoming an assistant coach, but a friend said he has held off for now because he prefered to find a head coaching job. The friend said he had hoped to be considered for a Pac-10 head coaching opening (such as Arizona when it came open last fall) but none of that has materialized.


 At some point in these playoffs, the steamrolling Heat will play a close game, which will lead to the usual discussion about whether LeBron James is “clutch” and who should take the last shot. Some Heat “clutch play” numbers and misperceptions to keep in mind as the playoffs roll on:

### James, Dwyane Wade and the entire team improved in the clutch this season, with Wade – unlike last year - taking more critical late shots than James. On shots to tie or take the lead in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime, the Heat drew derision by shooting 3-for-20 in 2010-11, with James 1 for 8 and Wade 1 for 4.

But this season, Miami was 6 for 15, with Wade 3 for 6 and James 1 for 2. Mario Chalmers was 0 for 4, Udonis Haslem 1 for 2 and Chris Bosh 1 for 1.

“We’ve done a good job of figuring out who’s going to close games,” Wade said last week. “We’re comfortable with who has the ball at the end.”

### On those types of shots (to tie or take the lead in the final 24 seconds) in all career playoff games, James is 5 for 13, much better than Kobe Bryant’s 7 for 25. Wade is 2 for 5. But what fuels this annoying perception that Bryant is more clutch that James is how those two have done on those types of shots during the regular season.

Among some of the NBA’s best players, here’s their percentage on those shots the past three years: Carmelo Anthony 50 percent; Dirk Nowitzki 45.4; Bryant 40 percent (but just 3 for 15 this season); Derrick Rose 34.4; Wade 33 percent (6 for 18), James 26 percent (6 for 23), Kevin Durant 23.4 and Russell Westbrook 11.7.

### But there are two other ways of looking at “clutch” play that make James look good compared to his peers. For their entire careers, including playoffs, James has shot better on final-minute shots to take the lead or tie the game than Bryant, Wade, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, among many others.

### The NBA defines clutch play as shots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime with a margin of five or less, and James shines in this category. James shot 45 percent (29 for 63), and Wade 42 percent on those shots this season, compared with Durant (39), Anthony (38), Bryant (36) and Nowitzki (34). The one negative: James shot 71 percent from the line, Wade 67.

But from the field, James shot better than Bryant – and Wade, for that matter - each of the past five years in this category, better than Nowitzki four of the past five, and much better than Rose, Westbrook and Durant each of their pro seasons.

TNT’s Reggie Miller said Monday that “in crunch time, the ball needs to be in Wade’s hands because he’s a natural born scorer.” Actually, a strong case could be made for Wade or James, but most critical is getting the best shot – close to the basket, not contested jumpers. As ABC's Jon Barry said, "You can't isolate LeBron late in games and expect it to work against good teams."


### With Amare Stoudemire out, consider that New York had a better record without him (14-5) than with him (22-25). Without Stoudemire, Anthony will shift to power forward, where he has thrived.

### Talking to a few scouts, the Dolphins’ draft pick drawing the most skepticism is third-round tight end Michael Egnew. “If you can find me a recent Missouri tight end that’s done well in the pros, let me know,” one NFC scout said. “They’re too one-dimensional.” They’re supposed to be good receivers and weak blockers. But Chase Coffman, picked in the third round in 2009, has three catches in three years. Martin Rucker, a 2008 fourth-rounder, has two in four years.

### If the Dolphins ultimately decide their backup receivers (Legedu Naanee, Clyde Gates, etc.) aren’t as good as some of their backs and tight ends, look for Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman to make even more use of lining up Reggie Bush, Lamar Miller, Charles Clay and Egnew in the slot, as pseudo-receivers. A Texas A&M official noted this week how Sherman would sometimes use three tight ends at once, even splitting out all three on occasion. Jeff Ireland said he has “a lot of confidence Joe will scheme… to get the ball to the best playmakers that we have.”

### Sherman used a ton of no-huddle with Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M; it was high tempo but not breakneck speed by any means. At times, Tannehill waited patiently at the line for the play to be signaled in. Philbin told us he wants to use no-huddle offense at times, but ESPN’s Trent Dilfer said he was merely speculating when he announced during the draft that the Dolphins “are going to blow up the old way of thinking about NFL offensive football” and be “pedal to the metal the whole time. There are a lot of people who don't think it will work. I think it will." Clay told WQAM's Joe Rose that the "tempo will be a lot faster."

### A Marlins official said though management is very frustrated, they believe it’s too early to consider major changes or trades. Problems, problems: Heath Bell is baseball’s only closer with as many as three blown saves (Ozzie Guillen said he will stick with Bell for now but consider changing closers if his problems persist). Ace Josh Johnson’s 5.34 ERA is 95th among 110 qualifying pitchers. And not only did the Marlins score by far their fewest April runs in their history, but four of their starting position players (Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Gaby Sanchez, John Buck) rank among the bottom three or four in batting average among National League starters at their positions….

Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said Marlins Park is “huge; that’s the way they built it and they’ll have to deal with it.” But don't blame the ballpark for Ramirez, Reyes, Sanchez and Buck; they are hitting far better at home than the road.... Guillen, on Marlins Park: "I don't see any problem with any other team. They're kicking our butt pretty good. If that is going to be the excuse, that's a no-no to me. If [Marlins players] don't want to hit here, they can call their agents and get traded.''

### Even though he missed spring ball after back surgery, UM’s Stephen Morris actually has improved his already strong chances of starting, and not only because Ryan Williams fizzled after a strong start.

When asked his most pleasant surprise this spring beyond receiver Rashawn Scott, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said, “Stephen. His growth as a leader, mentally, how quickly he processes it, has been amazing for someone who hasn’t taken snaps. Listening to him, it’s like having a coach back there. It’s awesome.” As Al Golden said, “He’s so much more mature now.” UM wanted him to speak more clearly and authoritatively in the huddle, and he has worked on that by practicing in the mirror.

### All the notable departing UM players will be at NFL rookie camps the next couple weeks except Aldarius Johnson, who wasn't invited to join any NFL team after missing all of last season on suspension. The Dolphins  - who will give Jacory Harris a tryout - declined Johnson's overtures the past few days. Johnson has received a "sniff" from the CFL, an associate said. For a look at where the other undrafted Canes ended up, see our second-to-most recent post.