We'll get to Sunday's buzz column in a moment.
First, 10 post-game snippets from Game 7 of Heat-Celtics:
### Keyon Dooling articulately captured what the league thinks of LeBron James. "He is great for our game," Dooling said. "He IS our game. We need to uplift him instead of trying to tear him down. He is the most unselfish superstar I have ever seen. He rebounds the ball, assists and empowers his friends from his community. He is a model citizen. He should not have a stain on his reputation. I hope that it stops."
### Dwyane Wade, who finished with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists and dealt generally with frequent double teams, said afterward, "No matter what everyone on the outside says about me, I'm a winner, I'm a team player."
### James spoke about the value of having Chris Bosh come off the bench but stopped short of saying that should be his role in the Finals. Bosh's and Udonis Haslem's size and rebounding will be needed in tandem a lot against Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
James said Bosh coming off the bench the past three games has been "great for us. We haven't had the firepower off the bench since we got here."
### Wade said everyone sat in the huddle and breathed deeply before the Heat unleashed a 28-15 fourth quarter barrage. As James put it: "We were saying to each other, 'It's time.'"
### Bosh has had an incredible six weeks - the birth of a child, the adbominal injury that sidelined him for nine games, and Saturday's splendid Game 7, when he had 19 points and eight rebounds. Bosh said it has been the craziest six weeks of his life.
"I think about those things every day," he said. "What's I've experienced, what I've seen. These situations don't come every day. Game 7, Eastern Conference Finals, I've been thinking about things like this since I was a kid. I just wanted to seize the moment. The way I could do it is by being relaxed, being myself and do what I do."
### James and Celtics coach Doc Rivers hugged after the game, and "he told me he's very proud of the team," Rivers said. "And I basically told them to go do it. Proud of him. I think he gets too much heat."
### The Heat's series victory marked just the 27th time in 165 instances that the team that lost Game 5 of 2-2 series went on to win the series (16.4 percent).
### James set a Heat record for most points in a postseason series with 235. Wade held the old mark, with 208 in the six-game NBA Finals victory against Dallas in 2006. What's more, he has scored at least 25 points in 10 consecutive postseason games. Most impressive: James has averaged 34.6 points in his Game 7s in his career, more than Michael Jordan's 33.7. James, Wade and Bosh scored the Heat's last 31 points, including all in a 20-6 run to end the game.
### The Heat and Thunder split two games this season -- OK City winning 103-87 at home March 25 behind 28 points from Kevin Durant, and the Heat winning 98-93 on April 4 behind James' 34.
### The last word to Shane Battier, on making the NBA Finals for the first time: "It is an amazing feeling. I told my teammates it felt like I have been wandering the NBA wilderness for the last 10 years. Going to the FInals is something you are not sure you will ever attain. It is almost a surreal feeling."
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Here's the SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN, which - for print-edition newspaper deadine purposes - is mostly Dolphins, Canes and Marlins talk:
When the Dolphins were considering former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, general manager Jeff Ireland gave thought to this point that he verbalized later: “When you watch the Packers, you see there’s development in every phase of the offense. That’s what we need. It’s a developmental league. If you’re not moving forward in the development of players, we’re not going where we need to be.”
So Philbin and his Dolphins offensive staff have been charged with extracting more from the young players, including three that Ireland coveted in last year’s draft and are key to his vision for the offense: Daniel Thomas, Clyde Gates and Charles Clay. Thomas and Gates exited their rookie seasons with more questions than answers.
Thomas managed just a 3.5 per carry average – 59th among 67 qualifying backs - and now faces competition from Lamar Miller for playing time behind Reggie Bush.
“I can’t worry about who they’re drafting,” Thomas said of Miller. “I know I’ve gotten better. The injuries affected me a lot last year. They messed my mind up. I lost the confidence I had. I didn’t have the same burst I had earlier” when he ran for 107 and 95 yards in his first two games. (He ran for just 379 in the 11 others.)
Thomas said his 3.5 average (including 2.9 in the fourth quarter) is unacceptable and “very disappointing,” adding, “I think I can average 5.0 a carry in this league.”
Also troubling: his 1.9 yards-per-carry average after contact – fifth-worst among NFL backs. That’s one reason he added seven pounds, to 235. “I wanted to get stronger because I lost some of the leg drive I had early on. I was stopped on first contact and that’s not me.”
Thomas, who averaged 5.2 per carry in two years at Kansas State, is encouraged because “our offense is doing a lot more zone running, and we ran well last year when we zoned. That’s something I did in college a lot.”
Thomas was the fifth back drafted (62nd overall) after Mark Ingram (3.9 average), Shane Vereen (just 57 yards) and Ryan Williams and Mikel Leshoure (both injured reserve). What’s worrisome is the sixth back taken - Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, nine spots after Thomas – was far better than Thomas (897 yards, 5.5 average). And Thomas’ per-carry average trailed that of the seventh back (Stevan Ridley at 5.1), the ninth (Roy Helu, 4.2) and 10th (Kendall Hunter, 4.2), though all had fewer carries.
The Dolphins drafted Gates 111th and hoped he would produce immediately, like his close friend and fellow Abilene-Christian alum Johnny Knox did when the Bears drafted him 140th in 2009. But Gates played only 155 snaps, was targeted 10 times and caught two passes for 19 yards. “The only thing I was discouraged about,” Ireland said, “was not getting him more opportunities. He has a great future.”
Gates, who has a 4.3 speed, said last year “was confusing” but that the game has started “to slow down for me” mentally. But it’s not happening for Gates as fast as some of the other receivers; Philbin said he needs work on making route adjustments based on defensive coverages.
If he doesn’t improve in that area – vital in the West Coast offense – it’s difficult to envision him beating out front-runner Legedu Naanee for the No. 3 job or even winning the No. 4 job. Gates has bigger goals than that: "I want to be an every-down receiver.''
Clay, who split his 405 snaps last year between tight end, H-back and fullback, said this offense “suits me well” partly because it exploits mismatches, such as Clay on a slower linebacker.
“We love his versatility,” Philbin said after watching tape of the sixth-rounder’s rookie season (16 receptions, 233 yards, three touchdowns). “If you can keep him in the game and line him up as a tight end, [then] line him up next to the tight end, and [then] line him up as a receiver, you’re helping yourself offensively.” At times, the Dolphins will use Anthony Fasano, Clay and rookie Michael Egnew together.
### Some Dolphins players have been especially impressed by David Garrard in offseason sessions – he’s polished, practices well (Matt Moore isn’t considered a great practice player) and has skills well suited for the West Coast offense. Don’t dismiss his chances in this competition, though there’s also a chance he doesn’t make the team if Moore or Ryan Tannehill wins the job. That’s because Miami must pay him at least $3.35 million if he sticks.
### Though ESPNCleveland reported last week that Tannehill’s maturity “as a quarterback and field leader were so lacking, that he turned [the Browns] off in interviews,” the Dolphins felt the opposite, believing highly in his leadership. We would trust Miami’s evaluation more, because of Mike Sherman’s familiarity with him.... Please see my story elsewhere on the sports home page for more on the Dolphins' plans to work out free agent receiver Chad OchoCinco.
### UM baseball coach Jim Morris (under contract through 2015) and his staff – which is out recruiting - are under the impression they are returning next season, but athletic director Shawn Eichorst refuses to say anything about Morris’ status.
### A high-level UM official said the school hasn’t been given an updated timetable by the NCAA but will not be surprised if it doesn’t receive its punishment until after National Signing Day in February. The UM official was disgusted by minor violations found in the basketball program, such as providing transportation (including flights) to players’ family members: “That should never happen.”
Missouri and ex-UM coach Frank Haith has said privately he had no idea his assistant coaches were providing those benefits and has told the NCAA that UM never paid basketball players.
### One Marlins official bemoaned how difficult it is to win when three or four of nine regulars are hitting so ineptly; besides the pitcher, John Buck, Logan Morrison and part-time starter Chris Coghlan are all hitting between .164 and .216.
The Marlins, who view Brett Hayes as a backup, are frustrated with Buck’s offense and defense, and if they can find an upgrade this winter, they could swallow the last year of his deal, worth $6 million. Problem is, it’s difficult to trade for quality catching and they have no minor league option ready or close. Kyle Skipworth, the sixth pick of the 2008 draft, is hitting .213 at Double A Jacksonville.
### Here’s what will doom the Marlins if it doesn’t change: They entered Saturday 5 for their last 51 with runners in scoring position and .219 overall in that situation – 27th in baseball and well below the .250 MLB average. Hanley Ramirez is at .194 with runners on base - worst among third basemen who have nearly as many at-bats.