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34 posts from June 2012

June 30, 2012

Sunday 2 p.m. Heat free-agency update; Lots of Heat chatter and Fins, Canes, Marlins

The Sunday buzz column, which we posted Saturday morning, can be found below. But above the column, we'll post breaking updates from NBA free agency. Six from Saturday night and Sunday:

1) TNT's David Aldridge reported the Heat, Knicks, Pacers, Raptors and Suns will make pitches to Steve Nash on Sunday. An official in contact with the Heat confirmed Miami's interest, but the Heat isn't optimistic because it knows three of the other four teams can offer substantially more. Like the Knicks, the Heat can offer only the $3.1 million mini mid-level. UPDATE: Toronto has offered Nash $36 million over three years, ESPN's Chris Broussard reported.

In fact, CBS reported Sunday morning that Nash's agent has told suitors that he's looking for a deal starting at $12 million annually. Nash expressed interest in Miami in March but also has said in recent days that money is important to him and he would have some concerns about joining a great team and then seeing one of that team's stars go down with an injury.

2) The Celtics are willing to double what the Heat is offering Allen, according to ESPN's Broussard. He says Boston is offering $12 million over two years. The Heat could offer $6.2 million for two years, but no more than that because it has only the mini mid-level exception. Memphis - which had the $5 million exception - has offered $10 million over two. Atlanta and the Clippers also have shown interest in Allen.

3) Aldridge said Allen prefers to start. He obviously wouldn't start here. But he likely wouldn't start in Boston, either, where the Celtics prefer to go forward with Avery Bradley starting. He would start in Memphis. Still, the Heat remains very much in the running.

4) The Hornets bought out forward Rashard Lewis, who likely would have appeal to the Heat at the league minimum, if he is willing to settle for that. The Heat, Atlanta and Lakers are among numerous teams expected to have interest.

5) The Heat is among five teams that have reached out to Lakers power forward Jordan Hill, according to The Sporting News. But Los Angeles wants to keep him.

6) Yahoo lists the Heat among many teams interested in Celtics free agent forward Brandon Bass, potentially through a sign-and-trade, but hard to see this happening.

# # # # #

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

These NBA playoffs brought not only redemption for the Heat, but also clarity that will shape the team’s plans beginning Sunday in free agency, and well beyond.

For years, Pat Riley’s winning blueprint included a prototypical center and a rugged, dirty-work power forward alongside – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and A.C. Green (or Kurt Rambis) for a time in Los Angeles, Patrick Ewing with Charles Oakley in New York or Alonzo Mourning and P.J. Brown here. Riley modified that blueprint when he signed the Big Three, and now, he is altering it even more to adapt to his personnel.

"When Chris Bosh got hurt, that opened the necessity of playing small for a while, and we found it was good,” Riley said this week. “There was a silver lining in the interim that sort of helped our team prepare for Oklahoma City. Smallball is becoming a big thing in the league. I think it’s going to become even bigger in how you can find space for your great players with one big that can be an offensive-minded player that has to be guarded.”

That’s why Riley made clear he’s comfortable moving ahead with Bosh as his center: “Will he play the five spot? Yes,” Riley said. And that’s why the Heat will be prioritizing skilled shooters (including Ray Allen) over bulky, lumbering big men in free agency, which starts Sunday. (Players cannot sign until July 11.)

Though Riley wouldn’t rule out pursuing “a real big that has to be guarded and has some versatility,” he’s likely not going to find that for $3.1 million. (Power forward Lamar Odom was dealt to the Clippers Friday; Chris Kaman is expected to get substantially more than $3.1 million; Kevin Garnett reportedly is re-signing with Boston for three years and $34 million; and Marcus Camby swears he wants to stay in Houston.)

“If we can add a shooter, that would help us, because we are that kind of a team,” Riley said. “If there’s a three-pointer shooter that is long and can defend, we might go in that direction.

“It depends on the name. I just know we want to find as much space as we can on the floor for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to be able to operate. We found somewhat of a formula in the playoffs. We’re really a team that developed a strategy that became very impactful.”

James made clear last week that the lineup with Shane Battier starting and only one natural power rotation player was one that was “so needed” and opened up the lane for both himself and Wade.

Consider this: When James, Wade, Battier, Mario Chalmers and one power rotation player were on the court together in the playoffs, Miami outscored teams by 95 points in 426 minutes, or plus-10.7 per 48. Miami was plus 32 with Bosh alongside those other four; plus 32 with Haslem and those four; plus 28 with Joel Anthony and plus three with Ronny Turiaf.

Overall, the Heat outscored teams by 113 with only one natural power forward or center on the court, and by 17 points in 14 minutes when James played center, without any natural power rotation player even on the court. Miami was plus-33 the rest of the time.

Even though Heat coaches identified Battier as the power forward after he became a starter in the second round, Riley said: “We have a legitimate power forward and that’s LeBron James. He’s not a power forward, but he’s 6-8, 260 and he gets 15 rebounds a game when he plays the 4 spot.

“If I’m a player and I have that kind of versatility that all I have to do is move around a little bit to help the team and it equals a championship, I’m asking to play there a lot more. Now I haven’t talked to them like this, so I don’t know how they feel about it.”

Earlier in the week, James, 27, said, “As the years go on, I don’t see a 31,32 year-old LeBron playing power forward. But we’ll see. Whatever it takes.”

Battier, who has played mostly small forward in his career, said he would be fine playing a lot of power forward during the regular season.

Riley could see Battier continuing in that combo forward role; he asserted after midnight Thursday night that NBA positions are now essentially obsolete.

“Offenses have evolved in a way that conventional center/power forwards that we’ve had for years, and the offenses that were run to be able to use these lineups, it’s no longer that way," Riley said. "Shane is so smart and so knowledgeable about players that he can play bigs without being exploited.

"Same thing with LeBron. And if you want to win today, you’re going to have to do those things. We will continue to use Shane any way we can to help us win and most importantly, to help us complement our great players.”

MORE HEAT/RILEY CHATTER

### Unless the Heat surprisingly can snag Nash, Miami is expected to offer its $3.1 million mini-level exception to Ray Allen. If Allen and Nash say no, the Heat also is expected to have interest in Jamal Crawford and Jason Terry and likely, O.J. Mayo, who was not tendered by Memphis on Friday. If none of those players take the Heat's $3.1 million, second-tier possibilities include Nick Young, Randy Foye, Michael Redd, Leandro Barbosa, Shannon Brown and Mickael Pietrus.

Grant Hill is a possibility - he's reportedly more willing to take the mid-level than last season - but he's 39 and his offensive game declined last season (10.2 points, 14 for 53 on three-pointers). Kyle Korver would be available if the Bulls pass on his $5 million option - something the Chicago Tribune reported Friday is more likely than not. Power forward Antawn Jamison - a strong perimeter shooter with 91 three-pointers each of the past two years - would be appealing if he surprisingly settles for a huge pay cut. 

“We’ve got a compelling team and it excites me to try to make it better,” Riley said. “This is the beginning of trying to build something that can be very unique." He said he will “definitely run names by” his stars “because I would want to know what they think of them.”

### Turiaf opted out of his contract on Saturday and will become a free agent. "His intention always was to test the market," said agent Mark Bartelstein. He would have made the veteran's minimum $1.2 million had he stayed with Miami.

### Even as great as he already is, can the best basketball be ahead for James?

“I hope so,” Riley said. “That’s up to him. He said, ‘It’s on me to figure this out.’ He was very impactful from the post and from the elbow.

“His game sort of looked like it changed. His greatest skill is he’s a great, great, great passer and unselfish. Only when he knows he needs to win does he tell people to really get out of the way and be a scorer. But when a game is not in the balance, he’s dishing and orchestrating. He’s got a clock of how to read that situation.”

### Asked if he worries about “the disease of me” – one of Riley’s terms – possibly infesting this team, he said: “That’s always a threat. But I don’t think that’s going to creep into it. They want to win so badly that any kind of real selfishness like that will be snuffed out quick.

"There are some real smart guys in that locker-room and they’re not going to let any of that stuff happen. There are little tiffs and little blowups that happen all the time because they’re annoyed with one another because they see each other every day. [But] there’s no jealousy on this team.”

### Riley's advice to his players? "All of us have to think how we felt after we got beat by Dallas. Whatever the players did last summer, I advised them to go back to their caves and hibernate again and get back to that state of mind.... Everybody celebrated to the limits. I'm over it.”

### Though Miami is interested in Nash, Riley said “we feel very good” about the Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole point guard tandem: “Mario has had some great games. Norris is sort of a revelation. He just lives for the big moments. We don’t need a prototypical point guard that needs the ball 80 percent of the time.”

 

CHATTER

### Jose Reyes, who's hitting .268 – well below last year’s league-leading .337 and his .291 career average - said: “Anything less than .300 is not acceptable to me. I’m not playing at the level I should be. I’m better than a .270 hitter. I have not been consistent – two hits one day, 0 for 4 the next."

Biggest surprise for Reyes, who's making $106 million over the next six seasons? "You would think we would score more runs. You say, ‘How does that team not score more runs when we have this speed and power?”

### The Dolphins exited their offseason program uncertain about the right side of their offensive line, with rookie Jonathan Martin getting first team work ahead of Lydon Murtha at right tackle (Martin struggled in his first minicamp, not surprisingly) and Artis Hicks ahead of overweight John Jerry at right guard.

“We’re fiddling around – I don’t know if we have a great answer,” coach Joe Philbin said. The Dolphins summoned former Titans guard Jake Scott for two visits (March and two weeks ago) but haven’t made an offer and remain non-committal with him.... Receiver Brian Hartline told WQAM he is recovering from an appendectomy. He will be fine for training camp.

### UM says that all of its new players have enrolled except highly-regarded receiver Angelo Jean-Louis (who is prep-school bound but plans to come to UM in January) and bruising running back Danny Dillard (status uncertain; he had been waiting on test scores recently). Former Westminster Christian two-sport standout David Thompson, who enrolled at UM in June, will miss several months after shoulder surgery but wasn't going to play in football games this season anyway. He will be fine for baseball season, and Jim Morris needs him.  

June 29, 2012

Report: Ray-Ray suspended; Riley addresses draft, free agency and Heat's future in late-night press conference

Friday afternoon update: UM is declining to comment on an InsideTheU.com report that safety Ray-Ray Armstrong has been suspended indefinitely for discussing interaction with a booster on Twitter. UM often comments when a report is inaccurate. Armstrong's father said he doesn't know anything about his son being in trouble.

Also, Chris Bosh has pulled out of the Olympics to rest his abdominal injury. Please see my story on the home page and sports home page.

# # #

Heat president Pat Riley held his season-closing news conference after midnight Thursday night. Some of the highlights:

### Riley said the Heat traded the 27th pick in Thursday's draft to Philadelphia for the 45th pick and a future first-rounder in order to acquire a first-rounder that “could be 10 or 11 picks better than this year.” The Heat used the 45th pick on LSU 7-0 center/power forward Justin Hamilton.

The first-rounder from the 76ers is lottery protected through 2015. But if Philadelphia makes the playoffs again next year, the Heat would get the 76ers’ first-rounder in 2013. The Heat does not have its own first-round pick next year; Cleveland gets it as part of the LeBron James sign-and-trade.

“The trade had nothing to do with the luxury tax,” Riley said. “We wanted to defer our asset to next year. The players we had on the board were not there at the time [at 27], and we felt we had a great option with Philly to get a lottery-protected first next year. So we’ll have back to back first-round picks and all our second-round picks.  Roster spots are very valuable. We wanted someone who can fill a roster spot. We weren’t sure somebody” picked 27th would make the team.

### Riley compared Hamilton to former Heat center Michael Doleac but said there’s a possibility he will play overseas. He reportedly has been working on a Croatian passport.

Hamilton is “a big body 7-footer that can go into the pipeline with our other bigs and keep developing them. There’s a possibility [of going overseas]. You want that flexibility with a second-round pick. He has quick feet, big, takes up a lot of space. Not an above the rim player. Has a nice touch from 15 feet. Smart player, played in a good program. We had him in for workouts and he had a great workout.”

### Riley said a decision has not been made on whether Mike Miller will have back surgery and won’t be for at least a couple weeks. “He has been examined. There hasn’t been any real prognosis. We are going to treat it and rehab it before the doctor makes a final decision. Mike is going to go through a summer of real rehabilitation.”

### The deadline to amnesty players is July 19 but “we’re not looking at amnestying anybody,” Riley said. “If Mike Miller could guarantee me a seventh game in the Finals, I would let him sit out all year.”

### On free agency, which starts Sunday: “We have five or six guys earmarked. We go into free agency with an open mind. We’re encouraged we can talk to some players that may be interested in taking a little bit less. There’s a lot of room out there but not many teams that have a chance of winning a title. It depends on the name, whether it’s a big or a shooter or a versatile three-point shooter/defender that’s long. Whatever the name is, and the experience and the talent level, will determine [what we do].

“If we can add a shooter, that would help us. If we can add a real big, we might try to go in that direction. If there’s a three-point shooter who is long and can defend, we might go in that direction. We want to find as much space on the floor with Chris and Dwyane and LeBron to operate.”

### Riley said the Heat will guarantee Dexter Pittman’s contract by Friday’s deadline. “Big guys, when you draft them late – it’s a two or three year project. He’s going into his third year. We expect improvement.”

### Asked about interest in re-signing Eddy Curry, Riley said: “Everyone is open to the possibility” of keeping him. “He’s motivated. It’s a shame he didn’t get a chance.”

 ### On Dwyane Wade’s decision to have knee surgery and miss the Olympics: “It is in his best interests. We had a conversation about that. It’s a big year for Dwyane. We want to make sure what’s ailing him will be corrected this summer. He’s got to re-center everything. There isn’t anyone that’s played the game like him for nine years that hasn’t had issues.”

### Though the luxury tax becomes more punitive in 2013-14, “If you give [owner Micky Arison] the right name and that right name can lead the team to the promised land, in the past he has always said yes.”

### RIley said, "I’m confident this team is ready to compete at a very high level every year. I felt great about the team last year. I felt great about the team this year. We’ve got a compelling team and it excites me to try to make it better. As long as you can improve this team, that’s what it’s about. The championship felt great. Everybody celebrated to the limits. I’m over it. We’re over it. Coach Spo is going to be over it. We’ve already talked about getting ready. It’s a short two months.”

### Riley said he hasn’t spoken to Bosh about whether he will play in the Olympics, but “Chris is still nursing an injury. He had a significant abdominal injury. If we weren’t in the playoffs against Boston, he probably would not have played for another three or four weeks. Chris has represented his country already. That’s up to him.” (Friday 12:45 p.m. UPDATE: Bosh has pulled out of the Olympics. See my story on the sports home page.)

 

Note: Please see our last post for this week's media column, including what Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and others say the Heat must do to win multiple championships.  

June 28, 2012

Media column: Pundits assess what Heat needs to become multi-champion juggernaut

MEDIA NOTES

The question was posed to several pundits: What must the Heat do with its roster to be a multi-champion powerhouse like the Spurs (four in a 12-year stretch) or the Lakers (five since 2000)?

All agreed the Heat needs help, though resources are limited beyond a $3.1 million mini mid-level exception. Some feedback:

### While the Heat would be fine going forward with Chris Bosh at center and proved it can win playing small, TNT’s Charles Barkley insists Miami cannot win multiple titles without adding a quality “big guy. And they need more depth. They’ve got flaws.

“LeBron James covers up a lot of their flaws. He leads them in rebounding because they don’t have a legitimate big guy [aside from Bosh]. They’re a very small team. They are going to play against some bigger teams in the future. Oklahoma City did not have any big guys down low who can beat them up. The Bulls will be back and they have a good size team. You don’t know what’s going to happen trade-wise.”

### ESPN’s Jack Ramsay said Miami’s “bench really isn’t good. They need better backups.” (Adding at least two will be an offseason objective.)

### TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal insists the Heat needs not one, not two, but three additional players to win more than one title: “Another big man and two more bona-fide shooters.”

Miami plans to pursue shooters in free agency, including Ray Allen, who reportedly likes the Heat. But Stephen A. Smith reported Thursday that contrary to reports saying Allen-to-Miami is inevitable, there’s “a very good chance” Allen re-signs with Boston. Also, Yahoo reported Thursday that the Heat is not the leader for Allen and that the Suns plan to pursue him. Suns president Lon Babby was Allen's agent for much of Allen's career, and Phoenix could offer more than Miami.

### ESPN’s Kurt Rambis has two words: Steve Nash. He said if the Heat can convince him to take $3 million, “it would be unbelievable, scary and absolutely terrifying in transition. Getting Nash [or another] top-echelon point guard would put them on a level way beyond what anyone could see.”

But the notion of Nash taking $3 million would be very surprising, especially after he made this comment this week: “I definitely feel like I want to be validated monetarily to an extent. Maybe not to the same extent, but it’s still very important.”

### ESPN’s Jalen Rose counters: “You don’t need a point guard! They have a point guard! Mario Chalmers. And they have a backup with Norris Cole. I like what they’ve done there. What they need is somebody that can consistently give them baskets in the interior.

“Chris Bosh is going to give it you mid-range. Joel Anthony gives it to them on the defensive end. I have a good pulse on that team, and that’s what they need. I like Lamar Odom as a good fit.” But Odom reportedly could be dealt to the Clippers.

AROUND THE DIAL

### Poor judgment by WQAM host and former UM defensive lineman Dan Sileo for tweeting a picture of himself standing over a Penn State quarterback, celebrating an apparent sack, with the words: “This is how you molest a Penn State player the right way.”

### Warren Sapp said he apologized to fellow UM alum Jeremy Shockey, at a Heat game, for claiming he was the “snitch” who informed the NFL about the Saints’ bounty scandal. But it wasn’t much of an apology because Sapp added, “The information that was passed to me, I stand by my source.” Shockey and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have denied Sapp’s allegation.

So what exactly was Sapp apologizing for? “For putting it on the street level and making it derogatory towards you.” Oh.

### The NFL announced Thursday that the second game of CBS and Fox double-headers will start at 4:25 p.m., 10 minutes later than past years. That will reduce frequent overlapping of games.... ESPN will have Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer call the second game of its opening Monday night NFL double-header (Chargers-Raiders), which follows Bengals-Ravens…. NFL Network will add a live 6-10 a.m. weekday studio show beginning July 30.

### NBC’s 115-person Olympic broadcast team, unveiled Thursday, includes two active NBA coaches: Doug Collins working men’s basketball games and Doc Rivers serving as a studio analyst; Olympic speed-skating legend Apolo Ohno as a reporter; Ryan Seacrest and John McEnroe as contributors; and Dan Patrick and Al Michaels sharing daytime host duties (with Bob Costas again handling prime time).

All events will be streamed live on NBC’s Olympic web site, and NBC and its cable partners will carry live events in the morning and afternoon. But NBC’s prime time show will be taped, because of the time difference with London. The Olympics begin July 27.

### Decisions will be made soon on 790 The Ticket's morning show (the station was pleased with how Jon Weiner and Marc Hochman did as fill-in) and Michael Irvin's future at WQAM. If Irvin leaves this summer, Jorge Sedano would be the favorite to replace him. Sedano left The Ticket's morning show this spring to concentrate on his TV career, but he might be able to juggle those endeavors with a midday show.

Note: See elsewhere on the site for a story on Wade deciding to have knee surgery and skip the Olympics. He expects to be fine for training camp.

June 26, 2012

Wednesday update: Heat discusses its draft plans; James on Wade's role in marriage proposal

Highlights from Heat vice president/player personnel Chet Kammerer's draft news conference Wednesday:

### Kammerer suggested it's unlikely Miami will pick a big man at 27. He indicated he has a high regard for Syracuse center Fab Melo, but believes he will be gone before Miami's pick at 27, and also believes he's a year or two from contributing.

"Mock drafts have him in the teens, early 20s. That's probably pretty accurate," Kammerer said. "There's a player that has a lot of upside. He's played only four organized years of basketball. He's very raw but a pretty interesting player because of his length and athleticism. He's a hard working big man. I think his future is bright. He could be a pretty significant player in the league."

As a result, Kammerer said "it will be difficult for us to find a big man at 27 that will totally excite us." But that doesn't exclude power forwards - which he said is the deepest position in the draft.

### Kammerer revealed the Heat "more than likely will stay at 27" and likely won't trade for a second-round pick.

### He said the goal is to "find someone who will complement the key guys that are part of the Heat roster." He added the player "may not be a rotation'' player but hopefully will contribute next year.

### Kammerer, Riley and other Heat officials spoke this week about the Heat using smaller lineups in the postseason. "We found playing smaller turned out to be pretty good," he said. "That's part of our thinking. We would look at a perimeter more now than [a few weeks] ago. If we can find a player that's versatile and can switch and create mismatches, that's pretty important."

### He said "every year, Pat Riley asks: Is there a good big? I don't think that has changed." Kammerer said he advocates taking the best available player.

One intriguing power forward, if he surprisingly slips to 27, would be St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, an excellent shooter who averaged 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds. Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie would be an option if he slips.

ESPN's Jay Bilas said Melo “has improved a great deal. He’s not an offensive player but a pretty good rebounder and has done better blocking shots. His fitness level improved, so he's able to run better. He's more mobile. But he was anchored in the middle of that zone. You put him in the NBA and he will be put in a lot of pick-and-roll situations and asked to move around the floor. That’s not a strength of his.”

Among perimeter players projected for Miami’s range: Vanderbilt 6-4 shooting guard John Jenkins (probably the best shooter in the draft but “doesn’t do much else and not an elite defender,” Bilas said); Vanderbilt 6-7 small forward Jeff Taylor (“excels at getting to the rim; terrific defender; made major strides as a shooter,” according to ESPN draftnik Chad Ford) and Memphis 6-6 shooting guard Will Barton (Bilas expects he will be gone by 27).

Also in that group: Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb (sharp-shooting combo guard; shot 47 percent on threes); Baylor 6-10 small forward Quincy Miller (concerns about knee, but big upside and can knock down open shots); French guard Evan Fournier (compared to Thabo Sefolosha); plus Texas A&M small forward Khris Middleton (14.3 ppg), Kansas swing guard Tyshawn Taylor (a 48 percent shooter, 16.6 ppg) and Oregon State shooting guard Jared Cunningham, an athletic slasher with a quick first step.

Ford, meanwhile, has Miami taking 6-8 Michigan State forward Draymond Green, a solid mid-range shooter and excellent rebounder who “can be a point forward type who does a little bit of everything Think of him as a better passing Udonis Haslem.

### The Heat has no second-round pick (which was dealt to New Jersey in 2010 as part of a cap-clearing Chris Quinn deal), but Miami has auditioned several potential second-rounders, including Duke center Miles Plumlee, Georgetown forward Hollis Thompson, Gonzaga center Robert Sacre and Purdue forward Robbie Hummel.

CHATTER

### Please see the bottom of this post for an update on LeBron James' comments on The View Wednesday morning - including his comments about his marriage proposal.... The Heat has a good chance of getting a $2.9 million disabled player’s exception this summer if the NBA determines that Mike Miller’s back injury will keep him out all next season…. James Jones said he has decided not to retire.

### The Dolphins, who don’t want excessive celebration penalties, hope wise-cracking Chad Ochocinco was kidding when he tweeted this to Commissioner Roger Goodell this week: “I love you but I will be a problem this year. All fine money this year can be collected from @Miami Dolphins management.” Said David Garrard: “Hopefully, he can get back to the old Chad without being fined all the time.”

Ochocino and fiancee Evelyn Lozada spent Tuesday filming their reality show at The Catalina Hotel on Miami Beach. He also sent an obscene tweet to ESPN's Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, who trashed him for his tweet to Goodell.

### Chris Clemons has emerged as the front-runner to start at safety alongside heavy favorite Reshad Jones; former cornerback Jimmy Wilson has come on strong, while free agent pickup Tyrell Johnson has disappointed… Classless move this week by Brandon Marshall to claim he hasn’t had a good receivers coach since coming to the NFL. He was a pain in the neck here for Karl Dorrell, who had to be moved to quarterback coach by Tony Sparano because Marshall was so difficult to work with, according to a person in regular contact with the former coaching staff.

### The Panthers are interested in re-acquiring Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, who would waive his no-trade clause to come here, and the teams have discussed it. But the Panthers are reluctant to yield top prospects for Luongo, 33, who has 10 years left on his contract and an annual $5.3 million cap hit. For the deal to get done, the Canucks might need to settle for mid-range prospects and a contract Florida would gladly dump, such as Scottie Upshall's (three years, $10.5 million left).

Loungo’s .919 save percentage was nearly identical to Jose Theodore’s .917. Theodore has one year left at $1.5 million. The Panthers, who want to keep prospect Jacob Markstrom in the minors one more year, will resume talks this week with impending free agent goalie Scott Clemmensen, whose agent has exchanged offers with the team.

### Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen hasn’t erupted at his underachieving team once this season, but “I will pretty soon,” he said Tuesday. “I have to be careful how I treat these kids. I don't have a veteran team. I try to be positive. We need that.” The Marlins fell to 34-40 after Tuesday's loss.

### Guillen added: “I’m very disappointed, very sad, embarrassed, down in myself. It’s confusing because we went from the best team to the worst.” But “I’m not going to show them weakness.”

### Tampa’s Travis Johnson, Rivals.com’s 50th ranked receiver, became UM’s eighth 2013 oral commitment, turning down Oklahoma, Notre Dame and others… Butch Davis’ son Drew, who spoke to UM about walking on at quarterback, opted for North Carolina. But UM added Connecticut-based Grant Heyman, the Toronto Blue Jays’ 11th-round pick, who will play baseball here (outfield) and walk on at quarterback.    

# # #

College football is implementing a four-team playoff beginning in 2014, and the Orange Bowl is expected to be one of six bowls that will share the national semifinal games in a rotation, according to a source. The means the OB and Sun Life Stadium would get a national semifinal once every three years or four times over the length of the 12-year deal.

The OB will solidify its spot in the national semifinal game rotation by agreeing to continue its longterm tie-in with the ACC. The extension of the OB's allliance with the ACC will run through 2025 and is expected to be announced shortly.

On years when the OB plays host to a national semifinal, that game would serve as the Orange Bowl and the ACC champ would play elsewhere if it's not one of the four playoff teams.

During years the Orange Bowl does not host a national semifinal, it will pit the ACC champ against an at-large team, provided the ACC champ is not one of the four playoff teams.

The OB also plans to bid to be part of the rotation for the national championship game, though even if the OB and Sun Life get a piece of that, it's unlikely to be awarded that game on years it hosts a semifinal.

The OB will host its 20th national championship game on Jan. 7, 2013, in the next to last year of the current BCS system. The OB game will be Jan. 1.

# # #

James said on The View on Wednesday morning that Wade was holding his ring before he proposed to his longtime girlfriend on New Year's Eve. Just after midnight, James turned to Wade and said: "I'm ready." Wade said: "You sure?" James said: "If you don't give me my ring now, I'm not going to do it."

James was asked on The View if he wants to say anything to the haters. "This trophy speaks for itself," he said.  James said: "We knew it was going to be tough - not quite this tough." What did he think as the final seconds elapsed during Game 5? "It was a relief - like a weight off my back."

Click on our last post for a transcript of James' conversation with David Letterman.

Here's LeBron's interview with Letterman that will air Tuesday night

PORTIONS OF LEBRON JAMES INTERVIEW FROM TONIGHT’S “LATE SHOW with DAVID LETTERMAN, Tuesday, June 26

 (LeBron walked out on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theater to a standing ovation and Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra playing “Some Like It Hot” by Power Station)

Dave: “Well, now that you’ve got this out of your system, are you ready to back to Cleveland and play some ball?”

LeBron (laughs): “Oh, right now, I’ll play no ball right now.” Dave: “Now, I was on you, I was furious at you.  I just thought, you know – you don’t care, do you?”

LeBron:  “That you [were] on me?”

Dave: “I just thought, ‘The opportunity was there, by God, I’m gonna stick it out in Cleveland and lift that city.’”

LeBron: “I heard all of that too from you.  You know, and I thought we were friends.”

Dave:  “We are friends.  That’s why it hurt me so bad.”

LeBron:  “You know, this is my fifth time on here with you, David.” (Dave, audience applaud) Dave: “You must have got tired of punks like me wising off.”

LeBron:  “You know what brought me here?  It was our shootout we had outside.” (referring to an earlier LATE SHOW on which LeBron was a guest) Dave: “I showed you something that night, didn’t I?”

LeBron:  “Yeah, you did.  You showed me that you [were] a great man and I was going to come over here and say, ‘You know, I’m gonna sit down,’ and then I was gonna leave, but I was like, ‘That’s a great man right there.’” 

Dave: “Thank you very much.” (audience applauds)  “This championship changes many things in your life, doesn’t it?”

LeBron: “Oh, absolutely.  Uh, I went from being ringless on Wednesday night to, you know, having a ring on Thursday night, so it changed that.”

Dave: “And also I think leaving Cleveland, a lot of people rooting against you and, therefore, rooting against your new team.  I think that’s changed now, don’t you?”

LeBron:  “No, it has changed some.  And the best thing about it, we were able to come together as a team through all the adversity that we’d faced in the last two years.”

Dave: “Had some injuries late, right in the middle of the playoffs.”

LeBron:  “Absolutely.  A big part of our team, Chris Bosh, got hurt in Game 1 and we didn’t know if we [were] going to have him for the rest of the playoffs, but guys stepped up, it gave him an opportunity to get healthy, and he was able to come back.”

Dave:  “Now, here’s another Cleveland question:  there’s no way to know this, but what would it have felt like if you were still in Cleveland and won the championship there.  Would it have been better or would this one be better?”

LeBron: “I think the feeling that I had on Thursday, I could have been on Mars and won that championship – it felt amazing…It was better than I expected.”

Dave: “Yeah, well, it’s transcendent because like I say, the force was against you and now, a friend of mine was telling me, in the NBA, nobody loves a winner more than basketball fans, and you certainly are the big winner...”

LeBron: “I appreciate that, thanks.” (audience applauds, cheers) Dave: “…Yeah, good for you.” *     *    

*Dave: “And Miami, what is it like? People just crazy over you in Miami?”

LeBron:  (jokes) “No, you got – Miami is, it’s the slowest city we have in America, you guys know that, right?” (audience, Dave laugh) 

Dave: “And then, if it were me, I’d take the summer off. I’d go fishing.  I’d play golf.  I’d do something – no, you guys and your buddies are going to the Olympics…” Later in the interview, Dave continues: 

 “…And now how many [games] will you play in the Olympic tournament?”

LeBron: “Uh, well, hopefully, if we win every game, we don’t have to play that many, so, uh…You know, I’m looking forward to it.” (audience applauds)

Dave: “Is this your first Olympic team?” LeBron: “No, this is my third, actually.  I was on the ’04 team in Athens, I was on the ’08 gold medal team in Beijing and now on ’12 in London.”

Dave: “It always seems like there’s no possibility that anybody in the Olympics can beat the American basketball team.  Am I right about that?  Is it a given or not a given?”

LeBron: (laughs) “The world of basketball is great.  You know, it’s expanded all over the country, all over the world and, you know, but as you know, the Team USA, we try to go out there and showcase our talent at the highest level and represent our country the right way, so, you know, we always look forward to bringing home the gold.”

 Dave: “Who will be a game for you guys?”

LeBron:  “Oh, Argentina is always pretty good, Spain is also a pretty good team, France – those are some really good teams that’s going to be competing in the tournament so we look forward to the challenge and we will be ready.”

Dave: “How long have you been playing in the NBA?  Since you were, like, 19 or something?” LeBron: “Uh, yeah, I got drafted when I was 18, so nine years.”

Dave: “Nine years, and you’ve now won your first championship younger than when Michael Jordan won his first championship.  So, you’re pretty much on target for winning multiple championships, aren’t you?”

LeBron: “Well, I would hope so.  That’s my dream and I looked up to Michael Jordan growing up and, you know, I’d seen the struggles he went through early in his career, so…And I looked at his situation and that always kept me positive and I’m happy to be in that championship room now.” *     *    *

Letterman ended the interview by taking the championship trophy out behind my desk and when LeBron saw it he said, “That’s my baby right there” and then kissed the trophy. *  
  
 

June 25, 2012

More best of Heat-bashing and egg on Skip Bayless' face; highlights of Monday Heat bash; Spo opens up

If you read our weekend post listing the best of the worst things said about the Heat this season (most now laughable), here are two more:

"LeBron doesn't have any clutch genes. LeBron James is made for the regular season. Come postseason time, he's the most overrated, overhyped superstar in my history in this business." -- ESPN's Skip Bayless, during the playoffs.

"They have flagrantly failed to live up to expections. They're certainly not winning an NBA championship." --- ESPN's Stephen A. Smith during the playoffs.

For 15 more fun quotes, see our post from 2 posts ago.

###

Mike Miller said he will meet with Dr. Barth Green on Tuesday to help come to a decision about having back surgery. He said there's a better than 50/50 chance he needs it but is trying to avoid it. If he needs it, he's not sure if he will retire and he's also not sure if he would be able to play next season. If he doesn't have the surgery, he said he will play next season. He said he has been diagnosed with multiple bulging discs.

 # # #

In case you couldn’t see the Heat’s midday celebration Monday inside AmericanAirlines Arena, here's what (most) everybody had to say (And, why again, was Mike Inglis interviewing Eddy Curry and Dexter Pittman?):

LeBron James: “This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my basketball career. This was my dream – to be able to hoist the Larry O’ Brien trophy up – hug it, grab it, never let it go. To do it with such an unbelievable organization, unbelievable teammates, unbelievable fans. It’s unbelievable.”

Told by Jason Jackson that Akron is his hometown but he should never leave here, he said: “I’m here. I’m here.”

James heard all the jokes: “No matter if I heard, ‘Give LeBron a dollar. He’ll only give you 3 quarters.’” In spite of that, “they came to see us perform, came to see us live,” James said. “That’s why I call us the Heatles.”

# # #

Dwyane Wade, who has a watch sponsorship, gave watches to Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley (actually, to his wife Chris, “because you’ve got too many watches”) and owner Micky Arison.

Wade, on Spoelstra: “The only thing he used to be able to do was the Christmas videos when I first got here. Then I said, ‘Who is that guy who does the videos?’ Then he was an assistant coach. Then he wore big long ties, trying to do Pat Riley knots. Now he’s our coach. A championship coach.”

Wade, when he brought Riley to the stage to give him a watch: Before the 2003 draft, “there was a lot said about me being 6-4 on a good day. A lot about where I would go in the draft. I was a tweener, all that nonsense. Being picked fifth by the Miami Heat, thinking I would go 20 something, was one of the great days in my life because it showed someone appreciated me. Every day, I come here trying to show my appreciation by giving my all.”

Wade, when he brought Arison on stage: “Unbelievable owner. Mr. Arison, if I had to say one thing: 2010 was a tough summer for a couple guys in here. Tough decisions to make. Where are you going to spend the rest of your career? I wanted to be a part of my family. I’m from Chicago and that’s where my family is. When I thought about it, I said my family is in Miami. I thank you for making me family, treating me like family, it means so much to me. It means so much to the guys who came here in 2010.” 

 # # #

### Wade: “The joy that this trophy brings us all is amazing. This one feels a lot sweeter [than 2006]. All the hard work, the sacrifices. It means so much to us to celebrate this championship with this city and these guys.”

### Chris Bosh: “This fits me. It feels right. It feels like how it’s supposed to be. I would like to do it all the time.”

 ### Bosh said coming back from his abdominal injury “meant everything to me. Just sitting on the couch watching the games, I said, ‘When I get back out there – I’m not going to leave anything to chance. I’m going to play my heart out and play as hard as I possibly can.’ Coming back to this building [tied 1-1], I knew with the most confidence in the world [Oklahoma City] wasn’t going to make it out of here.”

### Heat president Pat Riley: “We are just talking about how different one year makes. I don’t want to talk about last year, because it’s gone, a distant memory. But everyone dug down deep. It’s about the players. It’s always about the players.”

### Owner Micky Arison said six words: “Thank you, Miami. We love you.”

### Udonis Haslem: “I’m changing my name. I’m not Mr. Miami. I’m Mr. two-time.”

### Mario Chalmers, on the verbal abuse he takes from teammates: “It’s tough sometimes, but you got to keep fighting. That’s my motto. You got to keep fighting through everything. Norris [Cole], you’re going to go through the same thing I did, little bro.”

### Shane Battier, on Mike Miller: “We wouldn’t be here without him playing NBA 2K on the court in Game 5.”

### Miller told Riley: “Thank you for not putting me behind a barn and putting me to sleep.”

### James Jones: “My dream coming into the NBA was being drafted by the Heat. That didn’t happen. But I will retire as a Heat player. So my dream came true. This has been the greatest experience of my life.”

### Battier: “This is a true team. Everybody knows if we played our roles, we’d be the best team.”

### Juwan Howard: “We shocked the world. We won this ring for the Michigan Fab Five.”

### Terrel Harris: “I’m lucky. I came to the right place.”

### Ronny Turiaf: “I only speak when I don’t have to speak in front of 15,000 people.”

SPOELSTRA'S NEWS CONFERENCE

Highlights from Erik Spoelstra's press conferences afterward:

###  “That’s the dream we’ve all been living for – the parade on Biscayne Boulevard. It’s surreal. As many fans as far as you can see – it’s incredible. In 2006, I had to jump on the back of somebody’s pickup truck.” This time, he sat on the front of the bus with his 5 ½ year old nephew. “You want to be part of a team that matters,” he said.

### Spoelstra, looking back at his Heat career: “I’ve worn so many different hats. Some of the players have known me as the workout guy. Some knew me as the stat guy. Some knew me as the guy who cracked on everybody in the Christmas video and didn’t know I had another job. Some knew me as the video coordinator. It’s interesting all the jobs I’ve had over the years.…. I’ve learned so many things in 17 years working for Pat and Stan Van Gundy. The most important thing is managing personalities and getting them on the same page. That’s the part I find the most fascinating.”

### Spoelstra, asked if the questions about his ability and his players will disappear now: “A part of me said that will be a part of our world. It’s the world we’ve lived in for two years. You just become so accustomed to it. My family tells me all the nice things they’re saying. I almost kind of cringe when they say it. Won’t it still be the lightning rod? The players saw the authenticity and integrity of my messages, and it allowed us to have a real connection and a level of trust.”

### On the future: “You have a moment like this and you have thoughts of being greedy. You want more. Nothing is guaranteed. The competition that will continue to get better, that will drive us. If we don’t get better, we’ll get worse and teams will pass us.”

### Spoelstra had a black trophy made to scale – he didn’t even tell Riley about it: “It was a covenant we made to each other - the coaching staff and player - that we would commit to a handful of things each and say to each other. We signed our names to make sure we brought those things to the table. If we didn’t, we wouldn't have a real opportunity to win and play for the title. When we weren't, the trophy would come out and we would remind ourselves we signed our names and we're not being true to it.”

### Spoelstra said: “We’re so thrilled for LeBron because of all the unjust criticism. He has proven he’s a transformational, once-in-a-generation player. There is a brilliance to his game. And you add his work ethic and thirst to always get better. When you’re the best player in the world and still want to get better, that’s inspiring to the rest of us.”

### Spoelstra said coaches don’t have time to celebrate this week because “this is an important week. Free agency is coming up. I'll be the voice of reason in a handful of weeks to make sure we reel it back and the celebration doesn't go too long... I looked at the [draft and free agent] board and realized how far behind I am. I have a lot to catch up on.”

Note: Please see my last post for news from Wade's and James' news conferences late Monday afternoon. Wade talked about the possibility of knee surgery and hiring a shooting coach. James talked about why Bosh's injury was a good thing, in retrospect.

 

Monday afternoon final Wade/James news conferences; Wade addresses knee, Olympics, shooting coach

Dwyane Wade isn’t sure if he will need off-season knee surgery that could knock him out of the London Olympics but might hire a shooting coach regardless. LeBron James, meanwhile, wants to add another element to his game and admitted he never believed he would be considered among the all-time greats unless he won a championship.

The Heat’s two biggest stars shared those and other nuggets after the team's championship parade and gala Monday.

For Wade, a decision on how to deal with his troublesome left knee could be made as early as this week.

“When everything dies down this week, I will sit down with doctors – those that I trust – and make the best decision for me and my career,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I won’t know until I sit down with Doc and have an MRI and see what’s wrong with my knee and what I have to get done.”

If he needs surgery, Wade said he would not be inclined to go to the Olympics if he cannot play.

Wade admitted the knee caused him discomfort throughout the entire postseason and “I had to go through a lot to play. If people knew what I had to go through just to play, it was crazy. The biggest thing was I had a lot of swelling.

“My left knee is my power knee. It’s my explosion knee. When you are dealing with knee issues, you are dealing with lateral quickness [issues]. I dealt with it. At times, I did great with it. At other times, I didn’t do great with it. But I did what I could to help my team win.”

He said contrary to reports, he did not have his knee drained after his Game 3 clunker against Indiana – when he shot 2 for 13 and scored five points – but before that game. “Very sore,” he said. “It was so much swelling and I wanted some relief.”

Wade said he believes this team will respond to winning a title better than the 2006 team which was swept in the first round by Chicago.

"It’s a different group,” he said. “That time we had a lot of guys who played their whole career to win a championship. And once they did, it was their relief. And guys checked out of it a little bit. Guys came in going through the motions a little bit.

“They were still on a high because they worked their whole careers for it. We had an older team. This team will be fine. Our core is in the prime of their game. I don’t think we’ll have a problem being motivated to compete for another title.”

Wade also said he might work with a shooting coach “for the first time ever” after a postseason in which he shot 31 percent on mid-range jumpers (50 for 163) and 29 percent on three-pointers (10 for 34).

The goal, he said, “is to try to do more in the sense of my three-point game and mid-range game, getting that back. My mechanics aren’t that bad. I don’t have an ugly shot, not one of those Shawn Marion shots. There are certain things in my shot I can change.”

He said a shooting coach could “give me a different look on my shot and where I can get better.” He said he also wants “to continue to get better in the post.”

James, meanwhile, said his thoughts already have turned to next season. “I have thought about what it will take to compete and match this year’s run that we had. I’ve thought about what I’m going to do personally to improve my game. I always love the offseason. I’ll have an opportunity to come back with something new. There is more to add. Not telling you guys yet.”

James offered more self-analysis Monday, noting: “I always wanted to be one of the greats. I knew I couldn’t be one of the greats until I entered that championship room. It’s a relief. I feel happy today to be a championship. It’s been a dream come true for me. This city is amazing.”

After losing in last year’s Finals, James didn’t leave his home for two weeks. In the first four days after winning a title, he has been home only “to shower and get changed again. That’s all.”

A couple of his high-school teammates came down for Game 5, and two others came down to enjoy the celebration with him. “They knew the struggles I’ve been through,” he said. “To celebrate with these guys the last couple days was great.”

Winning a title has renewed his faith in some of life’s lessons.

“There are sayings you hear and you start to wonder if they’re true,” he said. “Like hard work pays off. And good things come to people who are patient. And  patience is a virtue.  Sometimes you question if it’s actually true, but there’s a truth to it. I was very patient; I tried to work on my game as hard as I possibly could and tried to change my mindset to be more of a leader.”

In the aftermath of winning a title, Wade said James “is more relaxed. It takes a burden off of you. Like they say, the monkey is off your back. It didn’t get off by him riding a coattail. It came off by him going to get it. Losing last year humbled him so much and made him grow up.”

Looking back, James said “the best thing that happened to our team, which was the worst at the time, was [Chris Bosh] getting hurt because it gave [Erik Spoelstra] a lineup change we didn’t think was possible, with [Shane Battier] starting at the 4.

“We always envisioned Shane being a backup 3, when I went out, he would come in. When he started at the 4 and guarded David West and takes one of the bigs out of the paint, that opened up the floor for me and D-Wade and gave us a lineup we so needed and the space that we needed and an unbelievable defensive lineup.”

Said Wade: “The day of you need a Shaquille, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning kind of centers, it’s not here as much. It can be successful as long as we all do our jobs.”

### James will spend the next week appearing on David Letterman’s show on Tuesday and with Wade and Bosh on both "The View" (undetermined day) and with Oprah Winfrey (on her OWN network at 8 p.m. Sunday).

“I’m going to train with the [Olympic] team and after the Olympics, I will take some time off and try to get my legs back under me,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s another long season for us next year. I’ll be ready.”

Note: Please see our last post for highlights from today's championship celebration and what Erik Spoelstra had to say.

           

June 23, 2012

Exploring Heat's offseason options; Finals fallout; Best of worst said about Heat; Fins, Marlins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

The most pertinent question of this Heat offseason: What can $3.1 million get you? It landed Miami a pretty significant piece last December, with Shane Battier’s signing looking much smarter today than two months ago.

Beyond trades, the only avenues for the Heat to improve are the $3.1 million mini-mid level exception given to tax-paying teams, veteran’s minimum contracts topping $1 million and the 27th pick in Thursday’s draft.

If Mike Miller is ruled out for next season after back surgery (which remains to be seen), the Heat could apply for a $2.9 million disabled player's exception, as well. (Houston was awarded one for Yao Ming and Portland for Greg Oden in the past couple years.)

The Heat will be judicious with the exception because it will be at least $7 million over the luxury tax threshold, with the tax becoming more onerous in 2013-14. The hope would be to find a quality player – such as Steve Nash, Lamar Odom or Ray Allen – willing to settle for less to play here.

If Miller, who’s due $5.8 million next season, retires or is amnestied,  the tax would be less of an immediate concern. A look at Miami’s options entering free agency July 1:

### Power rotation: Miami doesn’t have a strong chance of finding a center good enough to warrant moving Chris Bosh back to power forward, and the Heat is comfortable with keeping Bosh at center.

Perhaps the only affordable, somewhat appealing center option would be Kwame Brown, who got $7 million from Golden State last December but played just nine games before tearing his pectoral muscle while defending Udonis Haslem. He averaged 7.9 points and 6.8 rebounds for Charlotte two years ago and his price tag will be lower off injury.

The Heat is in no position to land free agents Kevin Garnett, Marcus Camby (insists he wants to stay in Houston), Tim Duncan (will stay with the Spurs), Chris Kaman or Spencer Hawes, or probably even Jordan Hill or Ian Mahinmi.

All that’s left are cheap backup types:Aaron Gray, Jermaine O'Neal, Jason Collins, Nazr Mohammed, Daniel Orton, Joel Pryzbilla, undersized Boris Diaw. None are better than what Miami already has.

Here’s a better option: Leave Bosh at center and add a rotation-worthy power forward to supplement Haslem and Battier, who proved he can play either forward spot.

Odom, 32, would be appealing if both he and the Mavericks agree to a buyout, as expected; he averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Lakers in 2010-11. Odom always has liked the Heat, even after being traded, but reportedly prefers a return to Los Angeles – with either the Clippers or the Lakers (who could not re-sign him until Dec. 11, per NBA rules). And it’s questionable if he would settle for $3 million.

Also worth exploring would be a $3.2 million bid to Cavaliers power forward Antawn Jamison (17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds), though he presumably will command more elsewhere, even at age 36.

If Odom or Jamison don’t materialize here (and the odds are against both), it would make sense to use the $3.2 million exception on a bench scorer who can back up Dwyane Wade or play with Wade at times - perhaps Allen or Jamal Crawford.

Under that scenario, Miami then could address the power rotation by adding a power forward at the veteran’s minimum from the likes of Reggie Evans, Shelden Williams and Kenyon Martin.

Forget the top restricted free agent big men: Roy Hibbert, Omer Asik, Javale McGee, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez and Marreese Speights. All are out of Miami’s price range. The Heat is aware of Greg Oden’s interest, but he might sit out next season while getting healthy.

### Point guard: The Heat is expected to be among several teams that will at least place a call inquiring about Nash, who averaged 10.7 assists (second in the league) and led all NBA guards by shooting 53.2. Though Nash has publicly expressed interest in Miami, it would be surprising if he takes $3 million; the Suns reportedly plan to offer $10 million a year. A Canadian report Friday listed Phoenix, Portland and Toronto as front-runners.

“I’m considering everything at the moment,” Nash told Slam Magazine a week ago. “I would love to win a championship, yes. But I’m not one of those people who believe I must win one to have a fulfilling career. So other factors such as salary, family, playing time, and opportunity for team success also factor in.”

Unless Nash signs here, Miami likely would stick with Mario Chalmers starting and Norris Cole backing up, though several veterans will be available for modest money (Jason Kidd, Kirk Hinrich, Keyon Dooling, Derek Fisher). Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Andre Miller and Goran Dragic are too expensive, and Chauncey Billups reportedly wants to stay with the Clippers.

### Small forwards or shooting guards: Guards Allen, 36, and Crawford, 32, reportedly have interest in Miami, but it’s debatable whether either - or Jason Terry, 34, or Grant Hill, 39, for that matter - would take the mini-mid level. Allen might be most likely of those four to accept $3 million. Don’t rule out Brandon Roy, who is 27, has a 19.9 career scoring average, and is planning a comeback after retiring before last season with knee problems.

The need for a bench scorer who can back up Wade will become even greater if Miller doesn’t return.

Other options: Gerald Green, Randy Foye, Mickael Pietrus, Marquis Daniels, Anthony Parker, Matt Barnes, Von Wafer and Michael Redd. Nick Young, Marco Belinelli and Carlos Delfino probably would be too pricey.

### Juwan Howard and Eddy Curry are the Heat’s free agents, and Terrel Harris is a restricted free agent. The Heat has a team option on Dexter PittmanRonny Turiaf must decide whether to exercise a $1.2 million player option.

MORE HEAT CHATTER

### After meeting with doctors, Wade will decide in the next week or so whether to have knee surgery and miss the Olympics.

### The admiration for LeBron James was evident on Twitter Friday. “Great year for LeBron – comes out a winner on all counts,” Minnesota’s Kevin Love tweeted. “LeBron James [equals] NBA champion. I wonder if this will set in for Skip Bayless.”… Tweeted Metta World Peace: “LeBron is playing exactly how any superstar should – unselfish [and] together.”

### Yankees star Alex Rodriguez said, “I was very happy for [LeBron] and I know he’s going to take a deep breath now and really enjoy the rest of his career. We probably haven’t seen the best of him and I think we will now.”

### As Oklahoma City players met with the media for a final time Saturday, Kevin Durant admitted crying after Game 5 and said, “I’m not ashamed of it. If you put that much into it, you’re allowed to cry.” Asked if he could see himself and LeBron having a Bird/Magic type rivalry, he said: “Well, I hope so. I would enjoy that.”

### Meanwhile, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Saturday: “LeBron, it wasn’t natural what you were seeing on the court. He was at a special level that I’ve never seen before.” Classy move from Brooks to tell his players in a late-game huddle that Miami beat them “fair and square” and that he expected them to to shake Heat players’ hands afterward.

### James closed these Finals with 14 points (4 for 7 from the field) in clutch situations using the NBA’s statistical definition (final five minutes of games with a margin of five or fewer). In last year’s Finals, he shot 0 for 7 in clutch moments, with no points and no free throw attempts.... James will appear on David Letterman's show on CBS Tuesday night.

### While Heat players were spending more than $200,000 at Club LIV after winning the title, Pat Riley had a quiet dinner at Prime 112, where he received a standing ovation when he walked in at 2:45 a.m. and was approached with congratulations from Charles Oakley and Tim Hardaway. Also at Prime that night: Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, sitting silently at a corner table (which he requested) and looking miserable.

CHATTER

### Rip job of the week: Former Jets defensive lineman Kris Jenkins, now a New York-area broadcaster, on Sirius XM Radio: “Chad Ochocinco is all about self. I don’t think [his act] has any positive place in football. It’s really in his best interests to stick to reality TV, instead of possibly weighing a team down because he wants to go out there and be pretty. It is definitely going to be to the detriment of the Miami Dolphins. They don’t have the type of talent to get things done.”

### But Ochocinco was impressive at minicamp last week. Roberto Wallace and Julius Pruitt appeared to be the best of the receivers battling behind Ochocinco, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee.

### Dolphins safety Reshad Jones – who has emerged as a heavy favorite to start - says he has no grudge against Jake Long, who tore into him in front of everybody last week when Jones made contact with David Garrard on a blitz at minicamp (a no-no), and Long ran on the field shouting: “Reshad, don’t [expletive] touch the quarterback, [expletive] hole.”

Jones cursed back and explained later: “When coaches tell me to let off, that’s when I will. Jake was just mad because I had a sack on him.”

### The Marlins are looking to trade for outfield help but do not want to take on a lot of payroll. Among others, they are open to trading first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who has hit just .208 since last year’s All-Star break, but his value has plummeted.

### FIU is closing in on a raise (from $550,000) and extension (through 2016) for Mario Cristobal, who rejected offseason overtures from Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Houston and Southern Mississippi.

Note: For an amusing look back at some of the best of the worst, so to speak, that was said about the Heat this season, see our last post.  

The best of the worst said about the Heat this year

In doing stories for our Heat commemorative section that runs Wednesday, I took a look back - to refresh my memory, to get a chuckle - at some of the comments made by the analysts about the Heat as this season was unfolding. Here are a bunch that stand out that should amuse many of you in retrospect:

“My problem with Miami is they don’t have a will to win. Boston is stronger mentally, executes better.” -- ABC/ESPN’s Magic Johnson, during the Celtics series.

“Your teammates look to you to dominate at the most crucial time. When are you going to realize this is important?” – ABC/ESPN’s Magic Johnson, speaking about LeBron James late in the regular season. Johnson, as noted on ESPN’s web site archives, also said several months ago that the Heat will not win the championship because James and Wade are such close friends.

“They don’t have the personnel. Maybe LeBron was right. They won’t win 1, 2, 3, 4.  They won’t win any.”  -- ABC/ESPN’s Jon Barry during the Indiana series.

“LeBron James and Dwyane Wade don’t make each other better. They don’t complement one another.” -- ABC/ESPN’s Jon Barry, uttered several times this season.

“They’re front-runners. They point fingers at each other when things don’t go well. They can't be trusted. I'm done with them.” --  ABC/ESPN’s Jon Barry, during the Celtics series.

“They’re not better than a year ago.” – ABC/ESPN’s Jon Barry, during the regular season.

“They still need pieces to be a championship team. They’ve never addressed the center position. They have no interior presence. Not a lot of depth. Teams that win have great depth. There’s no real calling card. What do you know that you’re going to get out of the Heat on a nightly basis? You don’t quite know what you’re going to get. The great teams, you always know what you’re going to get.’’ -- ABC/ESPN’s Jon Barry, hours before the NBA Finals started.

“When Shaq and I said the Celtics would win in six games, there is a reason for that. LeBron and Dwyane play great but they don’t need each other. They don’t have enough diversity in their offense…. [And] Miami would have trouble against Western Conference teams.” --- TNT’s Kenny Smith, after the Heat fell behind 3-2 to Boston.

“These other guys on Miami – you all know you get a paycheck, right? Feel free not to back up to the window with a blindfold on.’’ -- TNT’s Charles Barkley, after the Heat fell behind 3-2 to Boston.

“If it goes six games, Indiana is going to win. If it goes seven, Miami is going to win.” – TNT’s Charles Barkley, before the Heat-Pacers series that ended with Miami winning in six.

“I don’t feel they’re well coached. This team needs somebody with the credibility to kick them in the butt and make them perform and make them play with intensity. A Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, somebody of that ilk. Erik Spoelstra is just in over his head. He never should have been put in charge of this situation. Doc Rivers is coaching circles around Spoelstra, just like Rick Carlisle did last year.” – ABC/ESPN’s Chris Broussard, during the Celtics series.

“This team is soft. This is not a tough team.” – ABC/ESPN’s Chris Broussard during the Indiana series.

"They failed LeBron a little. It's starting to look like what happened in Cleveland. Look at how they spent $20 million - on Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier isn't playing that well. He went to Miami to get some help and he hasn't gotten that. Nobody is beating the Spurs. They will roll through Miami." -- Grantland's Bill Simmons, early in the Heat-Celtics series.

"You can't win five against eight. This game is one of the all-time jokes. I'm so disgusted by this game and the league as a whole."  - Grantland's Bill Simmons, an unabashed Celtics fan, after Game 2 of Heat-Celtics. 

Couple caveats: In Barkley's defense, he picked the Heat against the Celtics (when Shaq and Kenny Smith did not), and consistently expressed his admiration for LeBron. Magic also couldn't have been any more complimentary about the Heat and LeBron as the Finals unfolded. And a FEW of the analysts' criticisms were justified at the time they made them, with regard to the bench play and the team's handling of late-game situations. But some comments, as we've noted in a previous column, were simply absurd (including Magic's will-to-win and too-good-friends remarks).

We'll post the Sunday buzz column later Saturday night.

June 22, 2012

Taking you inside the joyous Heat locker early Friday: players, Arison, Gabrielle Union speak out

Champagne flowed, music pulsated and joy washed over the euphoric Heat locker room into the wee hours Friday morning, players jumping on their seats, dancing to the rhythmic beats and relishing every moment of this exhilarating coronation.

Amid the merry mayhem, members of the Heat family, and their loved ones, paused for reflection:

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For owner Micky Arison, winning in Dallas in ’06 “was great, but to do it in front of your home fans is the greatest feeling in the world. It’s unbelievable. To get behind three series in a row – this is unbelievable! I thought we were the better team last year, but we weren’t ready.”

These playoffs, Arison said, “were the biggest rollercoaster ride I can ever remember, down 1-2 to Indiana, and everybody saying we’re too small now that Chris Bosh was out. Down 3-2 to Boston, everybody wrote us off.  I got thousands of tweets – 'trade this, fire this.’ Let’s wait until it’s all done and then see who’s smiling.”

Mike Miller, whose seven three-pointers were the most ever by a non-starter in a Finals game, eyeballed Arison afterward, “and I told him, ‘You have the world’s greatest timing!” Arison said. “So much contribution – Norris Cole. Shane Battier was huge. Everybody kept saying we’re a two-man team or three-man team. Well, which team was a two-man team?  Oklahoma City is an amazing team and they’re going to have a lot of opportunities for this.”

And what about LeBron James? “LeBron’s the best!” Arison said, smiling ear to ear. “He’s gotten so much crap and he doesn’t deserve it. I don’t care where they live, they should enjoy his special talents because he’s a special player. Game 6 in Boston may have been the greatest performance I’ve ever seen. He’s amazing.”

And Dwyane Wade “had an up-and-down playoffs, but when it counted, he was there,” Arison said. “He had a great game in Indiana. We needed it.”

Did the world root against this team? “I never believed that, going around the country, seeing Heat jerseys every where I went, places like the Philippines and China,” Arison said. “It felt sometimes like all the national media was against us. I felt [people] appreciated what a unique talent we have on this team, not just LeBron. This was a special team to watch.”

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There was Jennifer Miller, standing on her husband’s locker-stall, soaking in the moment while Mike ambled around the arena, having his picture snapped and doing interviews.

“He’s a warrior, he’s a great player, and it was such a time coming for him,” Jennifer Miller beamed on a night her husband drained the second-most three-pointers ever in an NBA Finals game (behind only Ray Allen’s eight). “His mom and I were holding each other crying.”

She knows her husband’s back causes him “some pain. But he won’t tell me how much. Getting out of bed, he’s like, ‘Argh!' Every time I say, ‘Are you OK?’ he says, ‘I’m fine.” I tell him to stop grimacing because I can’t take it anymore in the stands!”

In the bowels of the arena, Miller speaks about his “roller-coaster” two-year Heat tenure – “up and down, but worth every minute of it. Through the injuries, I’m just glad they didn’t take me back to the barn and put me down.”

Miller faces a decision about whether to retire at 32. He needs back surgery, but it’s difficult to envision any athlete walking away from $18.6 million left on a guaranteed contract.

“I’ve got to make the best decision for everybody involved, not only myself but the team, and make sure I’m not a liability,” he said. “We’ll  visit the doctors and see what parts work and don’t and go from there. If it is [the end], I couldn’t picture a better point to go out on top like this.”

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Gabrielle Union stood on boyfriend Dwyane Wade’s locker seat, trying to put it all in perspective.

“This,” she said, “was the game I wanted him to play. When he got in early foul trouble, he didn’t hang his head.”

What do you most admire about Dwyane? “His resilience,” she said. “Everybody makes mistakes in life. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. We’re all just so supportive, whether that’s his mom, me and his dad. Everyone who loves him. He never makes excuses, he’s never going to complain, he’s going to get back.”

And then, a playful jab: “Sometimes I wish he would get back a little sooner,” she joked about his occasional tendency to linger a bit in the backcourt when he doesn’t get a foul call.

Wade couldn't fall asleep until 4 a.m. the night before Game 5, then woke up and called LeBron four hours later.  

"What they wanted to do, more than anything, was to play a complete game of basketball," Union said. “They kept saying, ‘We haven’t played a complete game yet. We have defensive lapses. We have offensive lapses.’ For them to play such an amazing, complete game was a beautiful thing to watch.

“Mike Miller was an assassin! Shane Battier has been an assassin! Chalmy [Mario Chalmers] is like the baby I’ve never had. For Chalmy to step up the way he did, unbelievable. After all the negativity and all the haters, they didn’t win today!

"The poor man who was a survivor of the bath salt attack [Ronald Poppo]. When they said, 'Anything you want to say?' He said, 'Let's go Heat!' It's about surviving and living for the next moment. If that man did not personify what that is, nothing will. Real Heat fans. Charles Barkley said we don’t have real Heat fans. Point to that man. We have real Heat fans.”

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There was Udonis Haslem, who’s the happiest man in the world who willingly gave up $14 million - the difference between what Dallas and Denver offered him in 2010, compared to the five-year $20 million deal he signed to stay with the Heat.

“We rolled the dice, we sacrificed to come here, and it all paid off,” he said. “Our character showed.”

Haslem and Wade were the only players on both the Heat’s 2006 Heat championship team and this one. But this title is “way better, 10 times better,” Haslem said, “because of all we’ve been through. It felt all the time like the world was against this Heat team. LeBron’s postseason was similar to what we got from D-Wade in ’06.”

# # #

Standing in the middle of the blissful bedlam was Shane Battier, who noted that after Bosh’s injury, “it took a 215-pound power forward” – speaking of his move over from small forward. “Indiana tried to out-tough us. Boston tried to out-kick us. We were supposed to kneel by the end. We were not going to be denied once we got here. We got better with every game. We always figured it out.”

Battier, who won an NCAA title at Duke, waited 11 years for a NBA one. “You never think it’s going to happen to you,” he said. “But that’s why I wanted to come here. All I wanted was a chance.”

# # #

There was Juwan Howard, exulting and dancing, redness in his eyes and passion in his voice, speaking emotionally not about himself, but LeBron.

“I don’t know what people will say now,” Howard said. “He’s done everything! Now, what are they going to try to beat him up about? What did he do wrong this time? He’s LeBron James, world champion! Give the guy a break. Everybody wrote us off, like we weren’t going to win the big one.”

For Howard, it was first championship of an 18-year career, ending one of the league’s longest droughts. (Kevin Willis needed 19 years to win his first). He’s also the first member of Michigan’s famous Fab Five college team to win a ring. ESPN's Jalen Rose, another member of that Fab Five team, came into the locker-room after the game to give Howard a tearful embrace.

“I gave Juwan a hug,” Arison said, “and I told him the irony of the commissioner voiding that [Heat] deal, I don’t know, 15 years ago, and for you to win a championship here. The Fab Five finally got one!”

NOTE: For postgame comments from James and Wade - and a look at where James' postseason run ranks historically, plus what five Hall of Famers told me about that run - please see my post.