WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Note: We'll add Heat chatter after Game 5 tonight.
### The Dolphins’ two highest-paid players are psyched about this season, but for different reasons. Karlos Dansby is adjusting to a new position that has him feeling “like a kid in a candy store.” Jake Long, meantime, is determined to rebound from the most disappointing season of his four-year career.
“Definitely wasn’t the type of year I wanted,” Long said. “I was battling health stuff all year, but that’s no excuse. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’m going to have a better year.”
Long had issues with his knee and shoulder after 2010, suffered a back injury last season that snapped his streak of 61 consecutive starts and missed the final game with a torn right biceps. Pro Football Focus ranked him 21st among 76 tackles in 2011, including 30th in run-blocking, after placing him second overall in 2009 and 2010.
“Wasn’t one of my best years, but I’ve corrected the mistakes and I’m going to make sure I work to not make those mistakes again,” he said.
Long enters the final year of his contract (worth $11.2 million in 2012) and said he “couldn’t care less” about a new one. But he will be here for a long time – through either a new deal or the franchise tag.
“I’m not even worrying about that,” he said. “I’m worried about playing better and helping this team win.”
Dansby, one of two starting inside linebackers in Miami’s 3-4 defense last year, is now a middle linebacker in a 4-3 base – a position he said he has never played before, and one that Zach Thomas handled splendidly for 12 years here (1996-2007). With good speed for a man his size, Dansby is a lot taller than Thomas (6-4 to 5-11) but at 250, only eight pounds heavier than Thomas’ listed weight before retiring.
“This is fun, to have a new challenge,” said Dansby, due to earn $8.8 million, $6.1 million and $9.1 million the next three years. “I can attack the line more now. It’s my God’s gift to be able to play three linebacker positions at a high level. There will be unpredictability with this defense, and I’m looking forward to every ounce of that.”
Dansby had 103 tackles, two sacks and an interception last season, and PFF ranked him 13th among 50 inside linebackers. He allowed 35 of 52 passes thrown against him to be completed for an 11.0 average, but the quarterback rating in his coverage area (81.0) was eighth best among the 50 qualifying 'backers.
“This guy can play anywhere,” general manager Jeff Ireland said. “He’s very smart, very good athlete. I don’t think it’s going to be a tough transition.”
HEAT GAME 5 POSTSCRIPTS
### The disappointment of LeBron James' 30-point, 13-rebound night? He shot just 4 for 13 in the second half. "We had great looks all night - we just didn't connect on them," he said. "They made us stagnant offensively.''
### Dwyane Wade had another distressing first half (3 for 9 shooting) but scored 20 of his 27 in the second half and now has scored 81 of his 110 points in this series after halftime. "I never thought we would be in this situation [down 3-2]," he said. "I am not really really surprised by much. We are not going to have any excuses.
"At this point, it's not about schemes, it is not about play-calling, but it is about mano-a-mano and see who comes out next game and wants it the most. We normally respond really well to desperation. We haven't won much in that arena but we won one last year that gave us that confidence that we can go up there and get a win. We have to play a great game, as close to perfection as possible."
### The big question about Chris Bosh's first game back is why we didn't see more of him in the second half. Bosh had nine points and six rebounds in 10 first-half minutes but played just 3:48 in the second half and not at all in the fourth. He had no points and just one rebound during those limited minutes after intermission. Bosh never told Erik Spoelstra he was tired and he clearly wasn't too rusty. So what's the deal?
"I didn't think it would necessarily be fair to him to throw him in with three minutes to go," Spoelstra said. "I didn't see a great deal of rust. I think he might be able to play a handful more minutes."
Said Bosh: "I was ready. If he felt it wasn't fair [to use him late in the game], then that's great. But I think we still had enough to win the game."
### Ugh: Historically, teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 series go on to win 83 percent of the series. "We wouldn't want to be in this situation," James said. "But we never get too high or too low in a series."
### The Heat shot 48 percent against zones this season, but Mario Chalmers said, "I think the zone might have given us a little trouble. We got away from what we do best - getting into transition and getting stops."
### The Dolphins continue to be open-minded about taking chances on players with unconventional backgrounds, such as tight end/former accountant Les Brown (who has displayed nifty pass-catching skills in offseason practices) and fullback/former tailback Jorvorskie Lane, who signed with Miami Tuesday after spending time in an indoor league and the Arena League.
Lane, coached one year at Texas A&M by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, ran for 2090 yards (4.5 average) and a school-record 49 touchdowns in 49 games at A&M (2005-08) but has never played in the NFL. The paternal half-brother of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, Lane will compete with CFL import Jerome Messam (recovering from knee surgery) in training camp.
Lane, now 277 pounds, was born prematurely (four pounds) and spent the first 14 days of his life hospitalized. He eventually ballooned to more than 283 pounds in college, to the dismay of NFL teams, and went undrafted.
### Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle are demanding more consistency from Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, and Smith said he actually has told coaches "to make sure they stay on me to keep me going." He said coaches "are doing a great job" of doing that "day after day, each drill,” Smith said.
### UM and Randy Shannon reached a settlement and Shannon will drop his lawsuit against UM. Shannon had been seeking nearly $250,000 in money he claimed UM owed him, and Shannon will get much of that. The issue has been resolved “fully, fairly and amicably,” UM told us. “We are grateful for coach Shannon's service as a player, assistant and head coach. Coach Shannon will always be a Hurricane.”
A friend said he still hopes to land a head coaching job next year, with Tennessee among several schools of interest to him if it comes open.
### UM coach Al Golden told fans at a spring tour event that he will “be real” with them and people need to understand that UM is indeed rebuilding. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst asked for fans’ trust and said it must be unconditional, even through tough times.
### The Marlins have internally discussed but not made an offer to coveted Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler. The team is interested but one club official reminded us he’s only 19; he’s not big-league ready or close to it, as Yoenis Cespedes was when the Marlins and others lost out to Oakland. Bids are reportedly due to Soler's agent by Thursday and he could fetch a contract worth $25 million to $35 million. Soler has above average speed and power.
### Hanley Ramirez’s position switch has gone so well (two errors, fewest among all starting third basemen except Philadelphia's Placido Polanco) that Ozzie Guillen said Tuesday he’s the best defensive third baseman he has seen this year: “He’s played up to David Wright’s [level]. He’s 100 percent better than what I thought. I thought there would be more mistakes mentally.” Ramirez is pace for six errors after averaging 18.6 at shortstop the past six years.
### Braves and former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, after seeing Marlins Park for the first time Tuesday: “It’s Miami! It’s perfect… In Atlanta, [Marlins pitching coach] Randy St. Claire said to me it’s a fair, fair park. I asked [Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez] and he said it’s too big.” The Marlins are inclined to leave the dimensions status quo next season, but that decision doesn’t need to be made yet.