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.
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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.”
### 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.