« June 2012 | Main | August 2012 »

31 posts from July 2012

July 24, 2012

Samson speaks out on Hanley trade; Embarrassing Marlins Showtime episode; Chad Johnson unfiltered

The Wednesday buzz column --  including a candid one-on-one with Chad Johnson - is below.

First, in the wake of the Hanley Ramirez trade to the Dodgers, here's a late Wednesday afternoon update on what Marlins president David Samson told Herald colleague Dan Le Batard on his weekly 790 The Ticket radio show:

### Samson, asked whether the salaries purged by dumping Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante will be re-allocated on other players, was non-committal: "We're not even thinking about next year. None of that is the focus. Now we're going to figure out what we have to do to win more games.... There is no cash being pocketed."

### Samson, asked whether the jobs of Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill are in jeopardy, paused for a few seconds, then said: "Everybody is being evaluated at the end of the year. [Owner Jeffrey Loria] does this every year from me down to the traveling secretary."

### Are the Marlins now building around Josh Johnson or is he on the trading block? "Nobody is on the trading block," Samson said. But... "If someone overwhelms us with something that makes us win more games, of course you make that trade."

### Samson, on what the Marlins have done the last 72 hours: "This is not a fire sale. This is saying: Mediocrity really isn't good enough. We're not trying to be a .500 team. We're trying to be much better. We want to win games and we think this is the better way to win games.

"The pitcher we got from the Dodgers [Nathan Eovaldi] will go into our rotation. We wanted to get a pitcher back that would go into our rotation. Hanley is a .240 hitter the last couple years, and I love Hanley. We wanted to build around him, but it wasn't happening. What people think of Hanley is not the reality. We were looking to get better because we were not winning with him. It's time to try to see if we can try to win without him.

"The baseball people... said having Hanley Ramirez hitting .240 is not helping us win. We went seven years with Hanley being the center of our team. We didn't make the playoffs. He can't be the center any more."

### On this season going horribly wrong: "What we said is we simply were wrong. The players we thought would be better weren't. It's not the world's greatest mystery. We didn't think they would win in 2013."

### Looking for behind-the-scenes insight into the Ramirez trade? You weren't going to get it on Wednesday's episode of Showtime's reality series on the Marlins.

Instead of re-editing parts of the show Wednesday to incorporate the Ramirez trade, Showtime gave the topic less than 20 seconds at the end of the show - spending far more time on Edward Mujica's family life (are you kidding me?); the friendship between Mujica and Ryan Webb; and a fluff-filled vignette on Ozzie Guillen's marriage - a segment that could have been held for a later episode.

Showtime promised more on Ramirez next Wednesday, but the topic will be far less relevant in a week. The show's producers should have adjusted to the news by making changes to the episode in the 19 hours between the completion of the Ramirez trade and the time it went to air. That's not a lot of time, but editing in a couple minutes of reaction to the trade could have been done.

It was an embarrassing moment for a program that Showtime producers promised would be "ground-breaking." 

### Also Wednesday, Olivier Vernon and Michael Egnew signed with the Dolphins, leaving only Ryan Tannehill unsigned.


With training camp opening Friday, Dolphins receiver Chad Johnson is changing more than merely his name. He has reverted to the flamboyant personality, the relentless offseason worker, who flourished in Cincinnati before what the Dolphins hope was an aberrational 15-catch season in New England.

After changing his name back from Ochocinco, Johnson told us Monday: “This season is going to be a monster year. I don’t care who’s playing quarterback. I’m going to have a great year. The first day I get to camp, everybody’s mouth can drop [the bleep] open. My game is at the point where it doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback. Oprah can play quarterback and we’ll be all right.”

He’s so convinced he will be celebrating routinely this season that he plans to send Commissioner Roger Goodell a check for $100,000 “right after the last preseason game” to pay for anticipated regular-season fines, though he says he will be careful to avoid excessive celebration penalties. (That can be done by delaying the celebration and doing it on the sideline.)

"I’m going back to my normal ways,” he vowed after a photo shoot for Zico Coconut Water. “My normal ways, when I was at my best, when I got fined, look at the production those years. Usually things don’t go right when you try to change the way you do things. I’m back to normal.

“My personality was controlled last year. You didn’t hear me at all last year. Zero. Zilch. When my mouth is running, it forces me to perform. It’s never been vindictive. I never got anybody in trouble.

“One of the things I like about being here, that’s so refreshing, and is such a weight off my back, is I can be me, whatever that entails. When I can be me, I am loose. Everything just flows for me. Whether it’s the style of play, the way I learn.”

Besides getting married and starring on a VHI reality show, Johnson, 34, sharpened his skills during a grueling 10-day program with mentor Charlie Collins, a former assistant with the 49ers and Bengals.

“Do you want to be honest? Do you want to know why my numbers dropped?” he said. “It’s because I got complacent, I got somewhat comfortable thinking I had the formula and could do it on my own.

“I know how I’ve been to six Pro Bowls. It’s Charles [bleeping] Collins. Case closed. My preparation with him, before the season started, is what got me to Pro Bowls. Getting back with him has me mentally prepared to be the same again.

“People base it off numbers. My numbers last year would tell everyone this [expletive] is done. But there’s nothing wrong with me physically. You will see with your own eyes. You will see the speed, the quickness. It’s ridiculous. I’m willing to do whatever I have to do, race [speedy receiver] Clyde Gates, whatever.”

Asked about reports that he failed to completely learn the Patriots offense, he said, “The stuff that I do well, I do extremely well. The Pats know what I do well. You put that player in position to make those same plays he’s been making his whole career. It’s not rocket science.”

He said the Dolphins don’t need to tailor the offense for him “because I came in with what we have here and didn’t miss a beat. Picked it up like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.

“One of the things they like to say is, ‘How much does he have left in the tank – which is very dumb when it comes to me because I never ran on gas in the first place. I take care of my body. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Training ridiculous. Gym rat. But I don’t want anyone to see that side. I want you to see the fun side, the [expletive] talking side.”

What about criticism that his off-field antics create a distraction?

“That’s a distraction??? The tweeting?” he said incredulously. “My answer when people say that is, “Shut the bleep up.’ Be real! How many [NFL] arrests have we had this offseason? But my tweeting is an issue? Get an [expletive] life, people.’

“I’m the least of anybody’s worries,” noting the only time he broke the law was when “I stole a candy bar when I was eight, Snickers, King size. I didn’t complain once last year. Not once. I would be more surprised I wasn’t a distraction after last year’s [expletive] year. That’s what people should be talking about.”

He said he has choreographed celebrations for this season - more will be disclosed later - and he’s hoping that “anytime I score, not only am I celebrating, but fans have to follow along. Something real short: five, six seconds. There won’t be a penalty for that. It’s people in the stands, unless they want to fine an entire stadium! Once you stand up, you know what to do.”   

Johnson said starting isn’t important to him and acknowledges, “I have to earn a roster spot, most definitely.” He said he “loves” Joe Philbin: “Very cool. He will tell you straight up what he expects out of you. [Offensive coordinator] Mike Sherman, same thing. The first thing coach Sherman said is ‘You put the team first. Everything else is going to be all right.”

He said he likes all the quarterbacks and doesn’t have a inkling for who will start. He hasn’t spoken to owner Steve Ross, a fellow Miami Beach High alum, but “he and I will meet at some point, have a cigar or two.”

Evelyn Lozada, who married Johnson on July 4, senses Chad’s determination to re-establish himself: “He’s happy. Yesterday he was in his car, singing, ‘I can’t wait.’ He’s beyond excited.”

Johnson puts it this way: “I had a few places I could have gone, which was pretty cool. It was important for me to be able to come home, close to my family, my kids, my grandma. With my focus the way it is now, it’s going to be good for both ends.”


### A source confirmed profootballtalk.com's report that the delay in signing Ryan Tannehill has resulted from the Dolphins' request for offset language that would get them off the hook for some of his salary if he's cut in his first four seasons. Of course, if he's released during that time, this regime might not be around to be concerned with that issue.

### An American League official said the Marlins’ asking price for Hanley Ramirez “has not been ridiculous. They’re looking for younger players.” Why are they suddenly open to dealing him? Besides the prolonged mediocre offensive play, several Marlins baseball people (both on field and off) have soured on him, with at least two endorsing a deal. [UPDATE: As most of you probably know, Ramirez and Randy Choate were traded in the middle of the night to the Dodgers for two pitchers.]

The AL official said the Marlins will at least listen on offers for anyone except Giancarlo Stanton, though they prefer to keep Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes.

###  Though the Marlins want to fashion their moves as a restructuring and not a salary dump, there are serious second thoughts internally about last winter’s decision to have a $100 million payroll… There was no anger inside the Marlins’ clubhouse about Monday's trade of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, with one player saying it’s understandable because “we’re playing like [garbage].”

### Right-hander Jacob Turner, the top prospect acquired from Detroit, “could be a top half of the rotation guy,” one AL scout said. “Heavy sink on his ball, good breaking ball, good feel for pitching.” The Marlins aren’t concerned that he has given up 23 runs in 25 big-league innings because of the youth (21) and small sample size. MLB.com ranks him 10th among all big-league prospects.

### The NCAA has renewed efforts to try to get former UM players to corroborate Nevin Shapiro’s claims and has asked UM for help in contacting them. Predictably, the former UM players have been ignoring the NCAA’s calls. UM is in a tough spot, because it wants to cooperate with the NCAA but doesn’t want any former players giving credence to Shapiro’s allegations, either.

### Heat assistant and Summer League coach David Fizdale said rookie center Justin Hamilton “was a big surprise and raised eyebrows” in Summer League play and thought Miami’s “first thought” was stashing him in Europe, “guys are  giving some thought” about whether to bring him to training camp instead. 

As of Tuesday morning, with Pat Riley vacationing overseas, the Heat had not decided whether to sign a cheap veteran such as Darko Milicic or go with another developmental center such as Mickell Gladness or Hamilton.


July 23, 2012

Tuesday update: Marlins open to dealing Hanley; Fins roster breakdown by position

We'll get to Dolphins stuff in a bit, but a quick Tuesday update:

### An official with an American League team tells us Hanley Ramirez is very much available - if the Marlins can get the right pieces in return - and that the asking price "is not ridiculous." The Marlins wants young players in return, but want quality pieces - not a salary dump, per se.

We've heard Oakland and Boston have interest, and USA Today mentioned Toronto as another possibility.

Fox's Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday afternoon that teams also have been inquiring about Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Lee and Randy Choate. Lee and Choate are impending free agents, and it wouldn't be surprising if either is moved. The Marlins would love to dump Heath Bell, but good luck with that.

# # #


The Dolphins have been holding monthly conference calls with season-ticket holders, allowing fans to ask questions of Joe Philbin, Steve Ross or in Monday night’s case, receiver Brian Hartline.

Some snippets from Hartline’s remarks to fans:

### On whether he will be 100 percent after an offseason appendectomy: “I’m feeling pretty good. 100 percent is a lost thing, at this stage.” Hartline said previously he doesn’t expect to miss any games.

### On whether Ryan Tannehill should play his rookie season, considering Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III likely will start for Indy and Washington: “If you look at the [Colts and Redskins], they’re not as fortunate as we are to have [veteran quarterback] talent. No one wants to win more than the coaching staff and players. You are going to play the best guy. If he separates himself and is the best guy, he’s going to play. We’re fortunate we’ve got a couple veterans that can handle it and take the starting spot.”

### He echoed other players in noting: “Coach Philbin communicates on an excellent level. I’m excited about the offensive coordinator…. We aren’t that far away. We have a lot of great pieces.”

### On where Miami stands at receiver: “I love being evaluated…. I’m not worried what the world thinks of the Miami Dolphins receivers. I know what I think of them. I’m impressed. It’s definitely the best overall group we’ve had” even without Brandon Marshall. Hartline said he knows some fans like “flashy names” but “there is more involved than just personnel.”

### He said “a guy people are sleeping on, who’s going to be around here, is Julius Pruitt. Breakout, Victor Cruz kind of thing? That’s not what I see. [But] he’s doing a great job at it. He’s going to have a huge impact on the special teams.” Among other receivers, “Roberto Wallace is doing a great job as well.”

### Asked by a fan how he will be used, he cracked: “I have Philbin’s number, if you want to give him a call… I’m ready [for] a bigger load.”

# # #

Here's a quick look at how the roster breaks down at every position excluding quarterback, with camp set to open at 8 a.m. Friday: (R denotes rookie)


Automatics: Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller

Competing for two spots: Steve Slaton, Marcus Thigpen, Jonas Gray ® and fullbacks Jerome Messam ®, Jorvorskie Lane ® and Ryan Mahafee

Comment: Bush closed last season with four consecutive 100-yard games before missing the finale and hopes to duplicate last year’s 5.0 per carry average. But Bush -- well suited to the West Coast offense -- expects the Dolphins to throw more and he will be lined up at receiver at times. Bush said the speedy Miller is ready to contribute immediately. And Thomas, who has much to prove after an injury-plagued rookie season, said the Dolphins’ new zone blocking scheme suits his skills. Thigpen needs to impress on special teams to have any shot of sticking. Miami would like to keep a fullback and hopes one of the three seizes the job.



Automatics: Brian Hartline, Davone Bess.

Good chance to stick: Chad Ochocinco and Legedu Naanee

Competing for two or three spots: Roberto Wallace, Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, Chris Hogan, B.J. Cunningham ®, Rishard Matthews (R), Jeff Fuller (R)

Comment: The Dolphins say Ochocinco must earn a roster spot (and learn the playbook), but he looked good in minicamp and still might be the most physically gifted receiver on the roster. Naanee had a solid offseason and has a good shot to be in the top-four rotation. If Wallace and Pruitt impress as much as they did in May and June, the question is whether the Dolphins will give up this soon on the speedy Gates. That would be surprising because: 1) it's only his second year; 2) he has value on kickoff returns: 3) Jeff Ireland has said this offseason he believes Gates has a bright future and was disappointed coaches didn't use him more last year.



Automatics: Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Michael Egnew

Competing for any remain roster spots: Jeron Mastrud, Will Yeatman, Les Brown

Comment: Joe Philbin’s Packers kept five tight ends last year, but Mastrud and Yeatman must show more in camp to justify roster spots. The tight ends will be a key part of the passing game, and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has crafted packages to use Fasano, Clay and Egnew together on occasion.



Automatics: Tackles Jake Long and Jonathan Martin ®, guard Richie Incognito, center Mike Pouncey

Very likely to stick: guard/tackle Artis Hicks and tackle Lydon Murtha

Competing for two or three spots: guards John Jerry, Ray Feinga and Derek Dennis ®; guard/center Ryan Cook and Josh Samuda ®; tackles Will Barker, Dustin Waldron ® and Andrew McDonald and guard/tackle Nate Garner.

Comment: The Dolphins hope Martin, their second-round pick, can win the right tackle job. Hicks and Jerry figure to compete at right guard, but Jerry could be in jeopardy if he bombs in camp. Samuda got some work at center this offseason and would a cheaper alternative to Cook, who’s due $1 million if makes the team. Garner’s $1.4 million salary could put him at risk.



Automatics: Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Olivier Vernon

Very likely to stick: Tony McDaniel, Jamaal Westerman

Competing for one or two spots: defensive ends Ryan Baker, Jarrell Root ®, Derrick Shelby ® and Jacquies Smith ®; tackles Kheeston Randall ®, Isaako Aaitui ® and Chas Alecxih ®

Comment: The Dolphins played a 4-3 well over the half the time last year, so they anticipate a smooth transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base. The starters appear set (Wake, Odrick, Starks and Soliai), but the Dolphins hope to get a consistent pass rush from Vernon and Westerman (3.5 sacks for the Jets last year), and productive snaps from McDaniel, who’s earning the highest base salary of any backup on the team, at $3 million.



Automatics: Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, Koa Misi

Very likely to stick: Jason Trusnik, Gary Guyton

Competing for one or two jobs: Austin Spitler, Jonathan Freeney, Josh Kaddu ®, Cameron Collins ®, Shelly Lyons ®.

Comment: Dansby has transitioned smoothly to a 4-3 middle linebacker – a position he said he never played before. Misi has a good grasp of the third starting linebacker job and hasn’t yet been pressed by Guyton as much as some expected. The Dolphins consider Trusnik their best special teams player.



Automatics: Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Richard Marshall

Competing for potentially two or three spots: Nolan Carroll, Jonathan Wade, Vincent Agnew, Marcus Brown, Anderson Russell, Quinten Lawrence ®, Kevyn Scott ® and Trenton Hughes ®.

Comment: Marshall will be on the field more than half the time. Carroll needs a good camp to hold off Wade and others for the No. 4 cornerback job. Among the backup corners, Wade and Lawrence made the most impressive plays in offseason practices open to the media.



Automatics: Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson

Competing for one or two spots: Tyrone Culver, Tyrell Johnson, Kelcie McCray ®

Comment: Jones and Clemons are the heavy favorites to start, and Culver has a good chance to stick after playing well when called upon last season. Johnson, a former second-round bust with Minnesota, must show more playmaking ability after a disappointing offseason program here. McCray impressed the front office during the Dolphins rookie minicamp.



Kicker: Dan Carpenter. Unopposed after hitting all 26 extra points and 29 of 34 field goals last season.

Punter: Brandon Fields. Returns unopposed after finishing fourth in the league with a 48.8 net average.

Long snapper: John Denney is back for his eighth year in the role.

### Note: See our last post for Monday news on the Heat, UM recruiting and Randy Shannon's expected next job.



Major UM recruiting news; Heat news, including skinny on the Heat's 2012-13 schedule

A quick Monday update:

The Heat will play host to Oklahoma City in a Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch, according to several league sources that have seen the NBA’s tentative schedule due to be released this week.

That Heat-Thunder game is set for 5:30 p.m. on ABC.

Though the league has the right to change anything before the schedule is released Wednesday or Thursday, the schedule being circulated around the league has the Heat playing the first game of the NBA season, at home against the Boston Celtics, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30. That game would be on TNT.

If they follow protocol of most NBA champions, the Heat will receive its championship rings that night. The game not only would be a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals, but also Heat guard Ray Allen’s first game against his former team.

The last time the Heat won the championship (2006), it lost its first game of the following season, 108-66, at home against Chicago.

The Heat’s opening-week schedule will have one other marquee game: Miami will visit the Knicks on Friday, Nov. 2, with ESPN televising.

Other tidbits: The Heat will play a New Year's Eve day game at Orlando, and the Lakers will visit Feb. 10.


UM has landed its first oral commitment from a South Florida player in the top 100 of national prospects. Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns, ESPN's 69th best prospect in the nation, orally committed to UM today. 

University School defensive tackle Maquedius Bain, who de-committed from FSU recently, also is strongly considering UM. ESPN has him 41st among all prospects.

UM now has two oral commitments among the nation's 100 prospects. The others are New Jersey quarterback Kevin Olsen (67) and Tampa area receiver/tight end Travis Johnson (77).

Carol City assistant coach Dennis Alexander said UM informed him Monday that it has changed its mind and wants high-scoring combo guard DeAndre Burnett to enroll at UM in August instead of going to prep school for a year. “DeAndre is excited,” Alexander said. “It’s 95 percent set that he’s going to UM” this fall.

Burnett, who averaged 36.2 points and was third in the nation in scoring at one point, would fill the slot vacated by UM’s decision to part ways with New York guard Melvin Johnson, who was cut loose for academic reasons. The graduation of Malcolm Grant could create immediate playing time for Burnett, behind Durand Scott, Rion Brown and Shane Larkin.

### A close associate of Randy Shannon told us this morning he has taken the linebackers job at TCU.

TCU has refused to confirm it, but ESPN and other outlets are now saying a deal is being finalized.

### For lots of Dolphins and UM/NCAA news, see our last post.

July 22, 2012

Dolphins battles brewing; UM/NCAA news, fallout; Ray-Ray story revealed; Heat, Marlins notes


Touching on Dolphins issues with training camp opening Friday:

### Most interesting position other than quarterback: Has to be receiver. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are safe; Chad Ochocinco is still too gifted physically not to make it unless he struggles grasping the offense: “He’s still got it; he looks like a young kid out there,” Reggie Bush said. Joe Philbin really likes Legedu Naanee, who's in the top four now but can't allow the young guys to badly outplay him in preseason.

"I'm excited about our wide receivers," offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. "I know it's an unknown group."

If Ochocinco and Naanee stick, that leaves one or two spots for Roberto Wallace (most impressive of the unproven ones), Marlon Moore (good speed but some exasperating drops), Clyde Gates (still thinking too much), Julius Pruitt (three touchdowns in one June practice), and long shots Chris Hogan (the second-year kid from Monmouth who was decent in May/June work), B.J. Cunningham (too many drops), Rishard Matthews (will get a look on returns) and Jeff Fuller (practice squad potential).

### Veterans on the bubble: Gates, guard John Jerry (needs to get in much better shape), center Ryan Cook (pricey at $1 million) guards Nate Garner ($1.4 million is steep) and Ray Feinga, safety Tyrell Johnson (if he doesn’t show more), Tyrone Culver (if Johnson surpasses him), linebacker Austin Spitler and tight ends Jeron Mastrud and Will Yeatman (neitherof whom did much notable in May/June to stick as a fourth or fifth tight end, though keep in mind that Philbin’s Packers kept five last year).

### Quarterback chatter: With David Garrard the slight front-runner, here's what some people are saying: Center Mike Pouncey: “Garrard has been great, has been the main guy running with the first team. He brings leadership. Matt Moore did a good job last year but when Garrard is in, it’s a whole different tempo.”… Legedu Naanee: “David has that confidence about him." But also...  "Guys believe in [Moore], which is important….

Jimmy Johnson said he’s eager to see what Moore could over a full season and believes he will surprise people…. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett sees a no-lose situation: “Moore can be a good starter; Garrard has a track record of success.”… Rams coach Jeff Fisher: “You can win with Matt Moore. He’s very talented.”

CBS’ Phil Simms: “Moore is a natural thrower. And those types of guys, they get better every year. But do not discount Garrard. He’s big, good pocket presence, spins it. He has thrown for a lot of yards in this league and played for a team that had success. The ball comes out of his hand pretty easy. People trying to tackle him fall off him more than they do even Tim Tebow. He’s one big dude. They have three potential NFL starters and two have proven it.”

### Second-best starting battle after quarterback: Right tackle (Miami wants to insert second-rounder Jonathan Martin right away, but the staff will turn to Lydon Murtha if he can’t handle it) and right guard (Miami ideally would like Artis Hicks as its top backup but had to rethink that because of Jerry’s inadequacies). Ex-Titan Jake Scott is still available (and would love to sign here) if both flop.

"Does Jonathan Martin look as smooth at right tackle as he does at left tackle? No," Philbin said. "Do I believe he can make the transition effectively? Yes."

### Most intriguing non-starter competition: Daniel Thomas enters as the No. 2 running back behind Reggie Bush, but if he doesn’t improve his 3.5 per carry average and yards after contact (fifth-worst among NFL backs), that will open a window for rookie Lamar Miller, who’s more elusive than Thomas, and perhaps Steve Slaton, who this staff really likes. Thomas was an awful 3 for 13 in short yardage run conversions last year.

### Battle that may be of interest only to me: Fourth cornerback. Nolan Carroll has incumbent status, but Jonathan Wade looked very good in minicamp and Quinten Lawrence (a second-year player from McNeese State) made a bunch of plays, including a pick and a perfectly-timed hit on Ochocinco to force a drop. Carroll made the fewest notable plays of the three.

### Under the radar players we want to see more of: Quinten Lawrence… Running back Marcus Thigpen showed speed and shiftiness in mini-camps, but must make an impact on returns to have any chance…. Fullbacks Jerome Messam (the CFL import who shows surprising speed in the open field) and Jorvorskie Lane (ran for 49 touchdowns in 49 games at Texas A&M several years ago). There's no assurance that any of the three fullbacks (including Ryan Mahaffey) will stick, though Miami would like to keep one.

### Position we’re most eager to see deployment of personnel: Tight end, where Miami has cooked up multiple creative formations featuring Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay and/or third-round rookie Michael Egnew. Sherman used some three tight end sets at A&M, often confusing defenses by splitting all of them out on occasion.

“We will be able to get a lot of tight ends on the field and create mismatches,” Fasano said. “Week to week, we’ll see what we want to exploit and use that package. We saw some of Charles Clay’s big-play ability last year. Now, we will exploit that even more and have his role grow. And Egnew is going to be a great player in this league. A little green, but a big, athletic kid than can run.”


### So what led to former equipment manager Sean Allen's testimony against UM, more of which came to light in Friday's Yahoo piece? Days before UM's part of the bankruptcy case was settled last December, Nevin Shapiro's attorney, Maria Elena Perez, subpoened Allen, eager to obtain incriminating information that would corroborate Shapiro's claims against UM.

The deposition did nothing to advance the bankruptcy case - according to people directly involved - but Perez made sure the NCAA got the tape. (Whether she gave the tape of the deposition to Yahoo's Charles Robinson, as many suspect, has not been confirmed, though Perez told me previously how much she likes Robinson.)

The bankruptcy trustee never even got a copy of the deposition, though an attorney for the trustee did listen in via conference call. Perez has not subpoenaed any former UM players.

### Make no mistake: Implicated coaches will face serious consequences. One already has. Former UM assistant basketball coach Jorge Fernandez -  on the UM staff that provided improper travel benefits to one of Durand Scott’s AAU coaches and Reggie Johnson’s mother (airfare allegedly provided through Fernandez's frequent flyer miles) - recently resigned from Marshall.

An out-of-town associate said Fernandez indicated it wasn’t his choice. Asked if he was forced to resign because of the UM investigation, Marshall’s athletic director declined to comment. Fernandez said he's not allowed to comment.

We’ve heard other coaches told the NCAA they did nothing wrong, but at least three players have implicated Clint Hurtt (now at Louisville) and at least one has accused Aubrey Hill (now at UF) of taking him to Nevin Shapiro.

There’s no love between former UM basketball coach Frank Haith and his former assistants because Haith did not hire them at Missouri.

### One high-ranking UM official told us Friday that school administrators were fed up with Ray-Ray Armstrong not being honest with them. Late Saturday night, his father Albert confirmed that Armstrong was bounced from the team largely because "he wasn't truthful" about a recent incident.

Albert Armstrong told us that Ray Ray's girlfriend owns a public relations firm that works with professional athletes but is not affiliated with any sports agent. Albert said his son's girlfriend was staying at the Loews Hotel on Memorial Day weekend when Ray-Ray visited her and took a picture of some of the hotel rooms. Ray-Ray then distributed the pictures via Instagram, and UM became aware of it.

When UM confronted him about it, he worried about his future and told the school he wasn't there with his girlfriend that night, his father said. "He told them the truth eventually, but it was a day late and dollar short," Albert Armstrong said.

Last year, UM suspended him for a game for tweeting about a dinner at Prime 112 with that same girlfriend. Booting him from the team was "unfair to extreme measures," Albert Armstrong said. "They need a sacrificial lamb to show, 'We're putting our foot down.'"

Armstrong’s father said InsideTheU's report that his son had interaction with a booster, then tweeted about it, is "completely untrue." He said his son will transfer to another school and play this fall. He said he did not know if the NCAA would punish his son for the Instagram but there was a possibility Ray-Ray might be suspended briefly after he transfers.

The Hurricanes aren’t especially worried about his loss. They feel good about Vaughn Telemaque, AJ Highsmith, Kacy Rodgers, and newcomers Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins.

### Two sources said UM parted way with highly-regarded New York guard Melvin Johnson because of academic issues. UM now has an opening for this season that it could use on high-scoring combo guard Deandre Burnett, a UM commitment who planned to spend the 2012-13 academic year at a Virginia prep school. Carol City assistant coach Dennis Alexander said UM hasn’t ruled out taking Burnett this season instead of next, but that Jim Larranaga told him he prefers to use Johnson's slot on a big man.  Burnett averaged 36.2 points as a senior.

### Hanley Ramirez - whose longterm future here is now very much in question - homered in consecutive games this week immediately after Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson told him he needs to look like he’s having fun. Dawson said it “mind-boggling” Ramirez (.249) has declined so dramatically, since hitting .342 in 2009.

“Hanley has got to do some soul searching,” Dawson said. “He has gotten by just on talent but pitchers have made adjustments, throwing a lot of balls off the plate. Now he has to adjust. Talent isn’t enough. Players look to Hanley for leadership and he has to have more enthusiasm.” 

Dawson said Jose Reyes’ season has been “dismal. The most surprising thing is he’s stayed healthy.”   

### Please see our last post, from earlier Saturday evening, for Heat news on free agency and a wrap-up of summer league.

July 21, 2012

Saturday night Heat summer league wrap up

The Heat ended its Las Vegas Summer League schedule with a thud on Saturday, losing 81-55 to Portland, while playing without leading scorers Terrel Harris and Norris Cole.

Heat assistant/summer league coach David Fizdale, whose team finished the week 3-2, also opted not to use center Mickell Gladness and forward Drew Viney, a Loyola Marymount alum who was probably the most impressive of Miami’s rookies in Las Vegas.

Center Dexter Pittman led Miami with 13 points on Saturday and had some good moments offensively during the week, averaging 11.5 points and 4.3 rebounds. But he remained foul-prone, committing 21 in 76 minutes.

Harris, who hopes the Heat offers him a new contract, scored 25 points in Miami’s Friday win against the Spurs and averaged 15.5 points on 45.5 percent shooting in four games, with just two turnovers. Cole averaged 13 points, 4.8 assists and 2.3 turnovers and did his best work in Monday’s 106-56 thumping of the Lakers.

The Heat, which has 13 guaranteed contracts, eventually will decide whether to sign a veteran center or instead opt for a young player such as Gladness, who played just 12 minutes per game but looked good at times (5.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks).

Rookie center Justin Hamilton, the Heat’s second-round pick, missed the first two games with a hamstring injury but averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 19 minutes in the other three. He might be stashed in Europe next season. Jarvis Varnado, another internal candidate at center, played only two games because of an injury (2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds).

Among veteran centers, the Heat has had conversations with Darko Milicic, whose agent said Saturday there’s no update beyond an initial “fact-finding” inquiry from Miami.  The Heat hasn’t ruled out re-signing Ronny Turiaf if he’s interested in taking the $1.2 million minimum. Miami has not called about Chris Anderson, released by Denver. Power forward Andray Blatche, amnestied by Washington, could be an option, though Miami did not contact his agent when he initially cleared waivers.

NOTE: Check back Saturday night for the Sunday buzz, including lots of Dolphins and UM/NCAA investigation tidbits.

July 19, 2012

Media column: Marlins' reality series good, but could be better


Showtime billed this Marlins reality series as “groundbreaking,” suggesting it would lift sports reality television to a new level.

File that under “overselling your product.”

Is The Franchise fun television, worthy of 30 minutes of your week? Absolutely.

Is it extraordinary television? Not quite.

Aside from several noteworthy exchanges involving team executives and owner Jeffrey Loria or manager Ozzie Guillen, much of the content has been light-hearted fare: a medley of field-level replays of big hits, breezy vignettes about players and their families, and comments from talk show hosts that essentially serve as transition between topics.

In Wednesday’s second of eight episodes, Showtime provided an inside look at Giancarlo Stanton’s knee surgery (not recommended for those with queasy stomachs) and invited us inside Justin Ruggiano’s home.

We accompanied Logan Morrison (the show’s most amusing subject, aside from Guillen), his girlfriend and mother on an All-Star break trip to Kansas City, where Morrison met idol George Brett, then later poked fun at himself for repeatedly using the word “absolutely” during their conversation. Morrison shook hands with Derek Jeter when he came off an escalator, then muttered: “He has no idea who I am. No clue.”

Showtime clearly aims to appeal to a wider audience that serious seamheads. The result has been a program that’s usually entertaining, but not quite as enlightening as expected.

One disappointment is that Showtime hasn’t offered a single clip of Marlins executives discussing specific trade offers or players they would consider targeting.

It would have been fascinating to watch executives Larry Beinfest or Michael Hill negotiate with Houston on the Carlos Lee trade, but all we saw was Hill calling Loria to tell him the trade was official. Big deal! Or as Guillen might say, “Big [bleeping] deal.”

Players told reporters how surprised and impressed they were when Hanley Ramirez spoke passionately in a team meeting last month. But Showtime aired none of that, instead opting for a clip of Greg Dobbs telling four teammates that it’s satisfying to play the game the right way. (You don’t say?)

Ramirez’s failure to fulfill expectations has been largely overlooked, even though it’s a significant reason for the Marlins’ predicament. Showtime didn’t bother mentioning Ramirez cutting his hand, on a fan, in frustration (to Guillen’s dismay) and inexplicably has passed, so far, on airing a clip in which Ramirez’s agent asked for a contract extension, and team president David Samson remarking later that this wasn’t exactly the best time to make that request.

Another huge omission: Ignoring Josh Johnson’s disappointing first 3 ½ months.

The first episode smartly devoted considerable time to Heath Bell’s problems but failed to mention his blown save in the last game before the All-Star break – a watershed moment that cost him his closer’s job and one that happened 77 hours before the program aired, more than enough time to incorporate it.

Some of the production decisions have been questionable, including spending a few minutes on a softball game between the wives of Marlins and Rays players, and catcher Brett Hayes’ wife taking practice swings. That time could have been better allocated.

The Franchise offers its most gripping television when it allows us to eavesdrop in private conversations. A half dozen, or so, have clearly stood out.

We saw Bell telling Guillen: “I feel nobody has my back here,” and Guillen responding: “You are [bleeping] wrong. I am the only one who believes in you.”

We saw Samson asking Guillen if he keeps using Bell because he’s earning $9 million. “No [bleeping] way!” Guillen said. “That’s your [bleeping] fault.”

We saw Guillen asking Hill: “Do we just [bleeping] got a horse [bleep] team and I don’t know it?” Responded Hill: “Maybe we’re just not as good as we thought.”

We saw Samson telling Guillen he was suspended five games for the Fidel Castro fiasco, and Guillen responding passively.

We saw Hill and Samson, on the day the Marlins traded for Lee, telling Gaby Sanchez he was being sent to the minors after Sanchez hit a game-tying home run in the ninth, and Sanchez quickly shuffling out of the room.

All compelling stuff. But if Showtime’s access is as incredible as it claims, viewers should be seeing more closed-doors conversations that go beyond team executives merely lamenting this mess, but actually discussing ways to fix it. (We presume those conversations are happening, but Showtime has aired nary a word of them.)

The Franchise can be absorbing at times, but based on the expectations that Showtime set, we’re left craving more “A” material, considering the access Showtime has been given, and considering Guillen provides more spicy sound bites than anybody in his sport.

### Quick news note: Craig James, who left ESPN in January to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, wants to return to television after finishing fourth in a nine-man Republican primary race. ESPN doesn’t want him back, so he’s exploring other options. Former Georgia and Bengals defensive end David Pollack will replace James alongside ex-Gator Jesse Palmer in ESPN’s Thursday night college football booth.


Wednesday night Heat news: free agency, summer league, looming financial obstacles

Couple quick notes before we get to our longer piece on looming financial obstacles for the Heat:

### Darko Milicic's agent, Marc Cornstein, cautioned not to overstate Heat interest in the free agent center. He said he had a preliminary "fact-finding" conversation with the Heat, but Miami has not made an offer. The Heat can make offers only at the league minimum. The Clippers, Brooklyn and Chicago also have been linked to Milicic.

### Not a particularly good night for the three incumbent Heat players in Golden State's 65-62 Summer League win against Miami late Wednesday night in Las Vegas. Norris Cole scored 15 points but shot 3 for 9 with as many turnovers as assists (four apiece).

Terrel Harris (10 points) shot 2 for 11 and committed eight fouls (no misprint) in 29 minutes. On the plus side, he had four steals.

Dexter Pittman remained a foul magnet, drawing seven in 17 minutes on a six-point, four-rebound night. He also had five turnovers.

FYI: You need 10 fouls to be expelled from a summer league game.

### Rookie second-rounder Justin Hamilton, who missed Miami's first two games with a hamstring injury, had four points, one rebound and five fouls in 14 minutes. His only basket (in three attempts) was a layup off a nice pass from Cole. He was physical and active defensively and drew a charge.

### Former Heat second-rounder Robert Dozier also returned from injury and started at forward, closing with four points and two rebounds in 11 minutes. Loyola Marymount rookie Drew Viney, who has been the best of the Heat players without NBA experience, shot just 3 for 10 but had 10 points, 8 rebounds, a steal and a block in 27 minutes. He looks like a player worthy of a training camp invitation.

# # #

The Lakers, the Thunder and perhaps the Celtics could pose obstacles for the Heat next season in its quest to repeat as champions.

But long-term, the Heat’s most daunting obstacle might not be another team, but a document.

The collective bargaining agreement ratified last December will create serious challenges, depending in part on owner Micky Arison’s willingness to pay a luxury tax bill that could reach $20 million or more annually in a few years.

If the Heat wins the next championship or two, it would be surprising if the Big 3 is broken up in two years, considering Arison’s desire to win. But it’s not out of the question, considering the luxury tax becomes far more punitive beginning with the 2013-14 season. And keep in mind that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can opt out of their six-year contracts after 2013-14 or 2014-15.

But if the Big 3 stays intact, the luxury tax will impact how the Heat constructs its supporting cast. And other stipulations in the agreement will limit how the Heat can fortify its roster as long as it retains three contracts at or near the maximum.

The Heat was one of six teams required to pay a luxury tax for this past season, with Miami owing $6.1 million (or $1 for each $1 spent over the $70.3 million threshold).

But beginning with the 2013-14 season, teams that are between $1 and $5 million over the tax threshold must pay $1.50 on every $1 above the threshold. Teams that are $5 million to $10 million above the threshold must pay $1.75 for every $1.

And teams that are taxpayers in four out of any five seasons (starting in 2011-12) must increase their payment by $1 for each dollar spent, which would be financially painful for any owner.

Heat president Pat Riley said Arison “loves winning championships, but there is also a limit, and we have to be very conscious of that. We haven’t had long discussions about the luxury tax. Micky has always had the opinion, you give him the right name and that right name can lead this team to the promised land, he has always said yes.

“With how punitive the luxury tax is, and not only that, but the bite he has to take from a revenue sharing standpoint, that has to be considered, but that’s going to be his decision.”

For 2013-14, when the luxury tax threshold is projected to be in the $73 million range, Miami will have $85.6 million in cap commitments if Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis don't exercise opt-in clauses; if it exercises a $4 million option on Mario Chalmers; and if it doesn't use the amnesty provision. And that’s before the Heat even considers using its $3 million taxpayer’s mid-level exception.

Amnestying Miller and his $6.2 million salary for 2013-14 would save the Heat as much as $10.2 million in taxes that year and as much the following one, making it highly tempting.

Two summers from now (after the 2013-14 season), James, Wade and Bosh all have opt-out clauses, with James and Bosh set to earn $20.6 million and Wade $20 million for 2014-15 if they do not opt out.

How much more, if anything, could they make if they opt out? That’s undetermined and will remain so until the summer of 2014. Cal-Irvine computer scientist and ESPN analyst Larry Coon, considered the foremost expert on the NBA salary cap, explained it this way:

“Players can receive either the league wide maximum (which for them would be approximately 35 percent of the cap) or their personal maximum (105 percent of their previous salary), which is greater. We won’t know the league-wide maximum for 2014-15 until July 2014, but right now, it’s $19,136,250.”

But that figure is expected to grow – and potentially surpass their “personal maximums” - because league revenues are projected to grow.

All three players sacrificed some salary in 2010 to leave the Heat with enough money to re-sign Udonis Haslem and add Miller. Whether they would be willing to do that again eventually is conjecture.

If all three opt out in two years, they would be eligible to sign five-year deals with 7.5 percent annual raises from the Heat, compared with four years and 4.5 percent pay hikes if they change teams.

Miller ($6.6 million), Haslem ($4.6 million) and Joel Anthony ($3.8 million) also have opt out clauses that summer of 2014 but seem unlikely to use them, and there's a good chance Miller will have been amnestied by then.

Each team can amnesty only one player during the length of the new 10-year labor agreement, but can only use it on a player signed before the deal was ratified last December.

The Heat’s other challenge is the strong likelihood that regardless of whether it amnesties Miller, Miami will have only the $3 million taxpayer’s exception – not the $5 million exception – next summer and likely beyond in the Big 3 era, unless it dumps at least one player from among Haslem, Anthony and Mario Chalmers.

That’s because non-tax paying teams that use the $5 million exception have a hard cap that’s $4 million above the tax threshold ($74.3 million this season, likely in the $77 million range for 2013-14). 

Arison has said he does not believe the Heat will end up making money for this past season, despite winning a championship.

“Every year in [AmericanAirlines Arena] we’ve lost money aside from last year under the old collective bargaining agreement, because of LeBron,” Arison told CNBC. “This is a hobby and passion – it’s not a business.

“The reality is we’re not a big market team,” added Arison, who was one of five owners who voted against the new labor agreement. “Minnesota is a larger market than Miami.

“Where we find ourselves struggling is our local TV revenue. It’s smaller than big markets, and despite sellouts, we’re only seventh or eighth in gate revenues. Obviously, our payrolls are up and our revenues are not because of limitations of the market.”

Arison recently noted that the Knicks and Lakers make $175 million to $120 million annually for TV rights, but the Heat’s number is in the $20 million range.



July 17, 2012

Miller decides against retirement, expects to avoid surgery; Heat, Fins, Canes, Marlins notes


Not only has Heat swingman Mike Miller decided against retirement (contrary to an ESPN report from last month), but he also now expects to avoid the back surgery that many thought was inevitable.

“The plan is to avoid surgery,” Miller said Tuesday while hosting a basketball camp for children in Hialeah. “We’re doing everything we can. I fully intend on being ready for training camp.” And he’s optimistic about playing a full 2012-13 season.

Miller, who has said he has multiple bulging discs, was in pain throughout the playoffs but still drained seven three-pointers (in eight attempts) in the Heat’s series-clinching win against Oklahoma City. But Miller feels “a ton” of improvement since the playoffs: “There’s no comparison.”

Noted neurological surgeon Barth Green is optimistic surgery can be avoided, Miller said. Aside from traveling for promotional appearances (including for his new energy drink, Let It Fly, that hits the market Aug. 10), Miller has been resting his back. Green and Miller will meet Wednesday and discuss when to move on to the next phase of “strengthening it and doing exercises.

“I was nervous [seeing Barth Green]," said Miller, who had hernia surgery last offseason. "People who are the best at what they do also know how to do alternatives and what it takes to prevent having surgery. Even though he's known for being the best as a surgeon, he was trying to avoid it, which is a credit to him.

"The problem with not having surgery is it doesn't go away," he added. But "the doctor says it looks fantastic. So we're going to continue to rehab it and see how it goes.”

Miller, 32, said his epic Game 5 of The Finals still doesn’t seem real. “The one thing it has done is it makes me want to do it again, not the 7-for-8, but being part of a playoff run.”

He said retirement “crossed my mind” but “if I didn’t believe I can play, I wouldn’t have come back.” He said he probably would have retired if he had needed surgery.

Regarding Miller, Heat president Pat Riley said, "I remember one year Dan Majerle was going to retire because of a severe back injury. He said, ‘I can’t practice.’ We put him on a bike every day. Never practiced once and started every game for us. There are ways to maintain guys that have had a number of injuries.”

With the addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the Heat is loaded with shooters, but Miller didn’t sound concerned. He averaged 6.1 points and 19.3 minutes last season, shooting 45.3 percent on three-pointers. Coincidentally, Allen also shot 45.3 percent on threes last season but made twice as many as MIller (106 to 53).

“Minutes are always hard on this team. That’s what makes it good and competitive,” Miller said. "You're not just adding two more shooters. You're adding the best shooter of all time when it comes to makes, and Rashard Lewis is right up there, too."

Owed $18.9 million over the next three years, Miller said the fact players continue to take less money to sign here “shows commitment to winning. This is a special organization to be a part of it. The Arisons and Rileys should both be patting themselves on the back. Whenever you’ve got players that take less money, that means you’re doing something right.”

As Riley said two weeks ago, the Heat did not use its amnesty provision on Miller - or anybody - before Tuesday's deadline.


### Chris Bosh has a message to Heat center Dexter Pittman: “You have to stop fouling!” Pittman has shown offensive growth during the first two Summer League games but the 10 fouls in 37 minutes is ridiculous, especially considering the competition.... Though FIU alum Raja Bell would love to play here, the Heat has shown zero interest since he became a free agent.

### Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is so hands-on that his wife, Diane, said “he was interested in changing the Dolphins’ letterhead and I was shocked he was concerned with that.” Philbin has been very involved in changes throughout the facility, including choosing photos of former Dolphins to put in the halls (and the cutlines/captions) and posting slogans such as “champions practice here.”

### Players have talked about how detail-oriented Philbin is, and Diane says as a couple, they actually write five-year lists of “our goals for life and our kids.” She calls Joe her “meat and potatoes. He’s always there, dependable, steady. His best quality is he takes a stressful situation, puts it in perspective, and makes it less stressful.”

### General manager Jeff Ireland, speaking about Ryan Tannehill to the Dolphins’ web site: “I’m trying not to put too many grandiose expectations on the kid. I think the kid is our future. Obviously, I wouldn't have drafted him with the eighth pick [otherwise]. I feel like he's the kind of guy you want in the locker-room, the kind of athlete you want running an offense. But we’ve got two other quarterbacks here that are very established, very good competitors, so it’s not going to be easy for him."

Tannehill has been slow in making decisions at times and has taken a lot of sacks. But Ireland said, "the speed of the game is challenging for any rookie.”

### The Dolphins have discussed cutting capacity at Sun Life Stadium, but now are re-evaluating that because they’ve sold 6000 new season tickets, mostly since the draft. That's the most in several years, team CEO Mike Dee said. 

### UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who attended a Dolphins practice last month, isn’t using the no-huddle like the Dolphins are, but wants to hasten the tempo.

“We would like to go from 66 plays a game to 76,” he said. “We’re trying to break the huddle at about 23 seconds rather than 15. And we’ve eliminated some of our motions to get going quicker. Our guys really responded to that.”

### One National League scout, on Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson (5-6, 4.28): “He can’t keep his pitch count down, and they have to get him out after five or six innings. He doesn’t have the same stuff, and hitters can foul a lot of pitches off. He’s got enough velocity on his fastball. It’s more an issue of life and angle on the fastball.”

According to fangraphs.com, his fastball velocity is down to 93.0 - from 94.9 two years ago – and hitters are swinging and missing on nine percent of his pitches, compared with 12 two years ago. On pitches swung at, batters are making contact on 91 percent of balls in the strike zone, compared with 83 two years ago, which is telling.

### The Marlins say they don't expect Juan Carlos Oviedo (elbow problems) to pitch again this year. He's a free agent after the season.

### The Marlins’ average home attendance of 28,442 (18th in baseball) is below the 33,000 they privately hoped for, resulting in lower gate revenue than they projected. Could that lead to a payroll reduction for 2013? That decision hasn’t yet been made. But one Marlins official expects major winter roster changes (and perhaps a trade or two in late July) if this team doesn’t start winning.

July 16, 2012

Late Monday night Heat-Lakers notes; Heat assistant meets with Portland; Marlins; Michael Irvin bids farewell

A Monday night update on the Heat's Summer League victory, Marlins items and a local radio shakeup:

### The Heat's 106-56 thumping of a dreadful Lakers team in Las Vegas was not only immensely impressive but also historic: It was the largest margin of victory ever in an NBA Summer League game. (Do you get a prize for that?)

Here's what was most encouraging: Norris Cole's exceptional work. He was in attack mode throughout, driving to the hoop and drawing fouls or making pinpoint dishes for baskets. He closed with 13 points (three for four from the field, 7 for 9 from the line) and nine assists, and just one turnover.

Some of the assists were highlight-worthy: a bounce pass to Dexter Pittman, a back-door lob to former Duquesne forward Damian Saunders, and another nifty dish to Pittman for a dunk. 

"I want to continue to get better so I can have a role," Cole told NBA TV afterward.

### Pittman scored 14 points - including an impressive sweeping hook - but remains a foul magnet, picking up five in 14 minutes. He had one rebound and no blocked shots, but managed to have two of his shots blocked for the second consecutive game.

### Terrel Harris, who shot 4 for 12 in Miami's first game, was more efficient offensively, closing with 13 points (6 for 11 shooting) and three steals. On defense, Harris drew two offensive fouls.

### With Justin Hamilton and Jarvis Varnado sidelined by injuries, Mickell Gladness continues to make a strong case for the Heat's No. 4 center job. He had three blocks in 18 minutes and his 10 points included a snazzy jump hook. "He reminds me a little of Rasheed Wallace," NBA TV's Rick Mahorn gushed.

### Drew Viney, a 6-8 rookie forward from Loyola Marymount, continues to impress (12 points, four rebounds, five assists). He's a very good perimeter shooter and also made an impressive move for a layup. He has led the Heat in plus/minus each of the first two Summer League games, confirming the impression that Miami plays very well with him on the court. (We assume this will be our first and last ever reference to plus/minus in a summer league game.)

### Adrian Thomas, who played what seemed like 14 years at UM (actually, six), hit three three-pointers (in eight attempts) but is obviously a long shot to make the NBA. He spent last season playing for Bakersfield in the NDBL. Saunders, a 6-7 forward who was cut by the Rockets during training camp last year, had 13 points and two blocks.

### Heat assistant David Fizdale, who is coaching Miami's Summer League team, told The Oregonian at the Las Vegas Summer League that he met with Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey about the team's head coaching job on Sunday but then removed his name from consideration.

"Head coaching will always be there for me," Fizdale said. "I still have a lot to learn from coach Riley, coach Spoelstra, coach Rothstein. I didn't want to waste Neil's time at all, but I'm flattered he would even think of me to interview."

### Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said before Monday's game that there's "nothing" more he can do to jump-start the team's wheezing offense. "It's on them," he said. "We have everything they ask us to have. When you go to the plate, the video, the hitting coach, the manager can't help."

### The Marlins then scored five runs, a veritable eruption considering the way they've been hitting. Miami entered with a .241 average, which would be lowest in franchise history, and with 337 runs (third worst in baseball, ahead of only the Cubs and Padres). What's more, the Marlins are hitting .201 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

### With his contract expiring, former University of Miami great Michael Irvin left his WQAM-560 talk show on Monday, telling listeners that it "hurts" that his two-year stint on the station has ended.

Irvin’s agent, Steve Mandel, said WQAM wanted to keep the former Dallas Cowboys star but only if he moved from Dallas to South Florida.  Irvin “wasn’t prepared” to do that, Mandel said.

After Irvin declined that request, the station asked if he wanted to appear weekly on Joe Rose’s morning show and make other occasional appearances, Mandel said. But Irvin said no.

WQAM general manager Joe Bell said he prefered Irvin do the show from South Florida because it would have been easier to market it.

Irvin, who has been an NFL Network analyst since 2009, plans to explore options elsewhere in the market, with WMEN-640 and WINZ-940 among stations he is expected to approach.

Though 790 The Ticket has an opening, Irvin appears unlikely to end up there in a full-time role. The station is looking at pairing Marc Hochman with either Jon Weiner or Jonathan Zaslow on its morning show.

“I promise you – stay tuned,” Irvin told listeners. “I will find my way back on the air to you.”

He told listeners that leaving WQAM “absolutely hurts” because “I’ve got a season coming up at UM. I wanted to talk you through this season. But business is business. I can’t begrudge anyone. I wish everybody the best.”

Irvin hosted the show for the first year with former TNT NFL analyst Kevin Kiley before Kiley retired last year. This year, his co-host has been South Florida-based WQAM staffer Curtis Stevenson. In January, Irvin’s program was shifted two hours earlier (to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

Jorge Sedano, who left 790 The Ticket’s morning show in April to concentrate on a television career, is the front-runner to replace Irvin. Because of a non-compete clause in his 790 contract, Sedano could not join WQAM until after Aug. 9.

### One other broadcast note:  ESPN announced Monday that it will carry the Gators’ first three football games of the season: against Bowling Green at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1, at Texas A&M at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 8 and at Tennessee at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15.

In past years, CBS often has aired the Gators-Volunteers game as its college football opener. But CBS is opting for Alabama-Arkansas instead in that 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15 slot.

The Gators’ opener will compete with UM’s opener at Boston College at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1, which will be an ABC regional telecast.             

July 14, 2012

Buzz on Dolphins' young players; Surprising news on Ray Allen; Marlins, Heat, UM notes


See the first chatter note for some fresh news about Ray Allen's Heat deal. But we start off with Dolphins chatter, as the July 27 start of training camp fast approaches:

### Though some of the young veterans have not progressed as much as hoped (Clyde Gates, John Jerry primarily) here’s what should encourage you: Several others showed clear growth during offseason practices, from Roberto Wallace to Reshad Jones to Charles Clay to Jared Odrick to Jimmy Wilson. (Of course, we need to see this growth in August and September, not merely in May and June.)

Wallace made leaping catches, tight-roped the sidelines for others and used his size (6-4) and speed to make people notice.

“Roberto is going to be a pretty good receiver in this league,” David Garrard said. “He’s that guy I’ve really been looking at and trying to work with. When he puts it all together, he can be a big talent.” Julius Pruitt also turned heads but faces longer odds to stick.

The Dolphins are more convinced than ever that they have a dangerous weapon in Charles Clay, who lined up at receiver and tight end and often found seams for 8 to 25 yard chunks. If he’s this open against other defenses, he’s going to be trouble.

Defensively, Jones and Odrick have solidified starting spots. Jones is taking better angles in coverage and grabbed at least four interceptions in June – one pick-six off Ryan Tannehill. Odrick was very active, knocking down a pass from Garrard, frequently applying pressure and setting the edge on runs.

Wilson, smoothly transitioning from cornerback, has a good chance to be the No. 3 safety. “I like what he’s doing: good acceleration, good instincts,” Joe Philbin said.

### As much as Miami wants Jonathan Martin to start at right tackle, he needs a lot of work after playing on the left side at Stanford, and he knows it.

But players believe rookie Olivier Vernon will make an immediate impact as a situational pass rusher. “He plays with a low center of gravity and with good angles, just like Cam Wake,” Odrick said.

Lamar Miller often has turned the corner on running plays to the sidelines and flashed electric open-field skills as a receiver. “Lamar is very shifty, and you see that with him running routes,” Reggie Bush said. “He’ll learn quickly. He’ll definitely be able to help us this year. He can be a huge addition.”

Tight end Michael Egnew came on strong during June minicamp, using his size (6-5) and speed to catch several balls downfield.

### Among undrafted rookies, receiver Jeff Fuller shows flashes – “long, lanky, really gets out of his breaks,” Garrard said, though he couldn’t recall his name, oddly enough. But Fuller also has some drops (a problem for him at Texas A&M) and it’s difficult to envision him making the 53-man roster. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Chas Alecxih, Oregon State linebacker Cameron Collins and Missouri defensive end Jacquies Smith also have had their moments.

Les Brown, the former accountant who hadn’t played football since 2006 but was signed after an impressive workout at BYU, displayed steady hands (for the most part) and decent run-after-the-catch ability and looks like he’s worth developing on the practice squad.

### Karlos Dansby has looked good in transitioning to a 4-3 middle linebacker, including a pick of a Matt Moore pass that would have been returned for a touchdown. Coaches believe the move to a 4-3 will go smoothly because all of Miami’s starting linemen have experience playing in it: Wake in the CFL, Paul Soliai and Odrick in college and Randy Starks with the Titans.

### That anticipated battle between Koa Misi and Gary Guyton for a starting linebacker job? Hasn’t happened. Misi said he was with the first team in every practice this offseason.

### Offseason disappointments, beyond Gates, Tyrell Johnson and the uncertainty of the right side of the offensive line? Here's another: too many dropped passes, not only by receivers but all the tight ends, as well as Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. Tannehill's up-and-down play hasn't surprised the Dolphins (they never were counting on him to start the opener) and hasn’t eroded longterm faith.

“I would have taken him before [2011 first-rounders] Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder,” CBS’ Phil Simms told us. “He made more NFL throws than any quarterback I saw in this year’s draft. Very good pocket presence.”


### Heat fans should appreciate Ray Allen next season, because there's no assurance he will be here beyond that. Two sources with direct knowledge tell us that Allen’s two-year deal with the Heat includes a $3.2 million player option for 2013-14. So if Allen wants to become a free agent again next July, he can. So can Rashard Lewis, due $1.4 million in 2013-14.

Regardless of whether Allen and Lewis both “opt-in” for 2013-14, Miami again would have only the $3 million mini-mid level exception, even if its amnesties Mike Miller, barring trades.

This year's amnesty deadline is Tuesday, and Pat Riley has said Miami won't use it. (Miami wouldn't have a dime more to spend this summer even if it amnestied Miller.)

### Keep this in mind when envisioning a lineup of the Heat’s Big Three and three-point marksmen Allen and Lewis: The Heat played 53 minutes (including playoffs) last season with the Big Three and two non-point guard wing players (Shane Battier, Mike Miller or James Jones). That group outscored the opponent, 127-79. So imagine that type of lineup with Allen, who shot 48.4 percent on catch-and-shoot three pointers last season, compared with 37.9 for Battier/Miller/Jones.

### If you want to watch the Heat's summer league team play in Las Vegas (Norris Cole, Dexter Pittman & Co.), at least four of the games will be live on NBA TV: sunday vs. the Raptors (5:30 p.m.), Monday vs. the Lakers (8:30 p.m.), Wednesday vs. Golden State (10:30 p.m.) and Saturday vs. Portland (4 p.m.)..... Heat second-round rookie center Justin Hamilton and former Heat second-rounder Jarvis Varnado and Robert Dozier were left in Miami because of injuries but could re-join the team at some point this week.

### One National League scout said one of the Marlins’ mistakes was “paying Jose Reyes off what he did last year when he hadn’t done it before. He has not been a guy who hits .300 every year and they paid him like one.”

And the scout made the same point on John Buck, noting the Marlins were fooled by his .281 in 2010, mistakenly ignoring his more representative averages the previous three (.222, .224, .247).

Buck, hitting .178, is on pace to set an ignominious record: lowest batting average by a catcher (minimum 100 games) in at least 40 years. Tony Pena holds that distinction (.181 in 1993).

Reyes, who got far more from the Marlins (six years, $106 million) than anyone else dangled and didn’t even get an offer from the Mets. Bell, at .265 this season, looks closer to the player who hit .279 and .282 in the two years prior to last year's .337.

### At least Heath Bell apologized to Buck on Friday after giving reporters the impression he was criticizing Buck's pitch calling. Marlins people, including at least a couple players, have grown tired of Bell's excuse-making. After blown saves, Bell has mentioned the team's training staff, the Marlins' advance scouting reports and bad luck, among other factors. 

### Juan Carlos Oviedo, who is eligible to return from suspension on July 23, pitched 1/3 of an inning for Triple A New Orleans Saturday night before leaving with elbow pain.... In need of catching depth in their system, the Marlins quietly added 10-year MLB veteran Humberto Quintero, 32, on Friday and sent him to Triple A. He was hitting .232 for the Royals (much better than Buck) when Kansas City released him July 5. He has 16 homers and a .234 average in 10 seasons, seven with Houston.

### UM has oral commitments from two of ESPN’s top 100 senior-to-be prospects (quarterback Kevin Olsen at No. 67 and Tampa tight end/receiver Travis Johnson at 77), but is still trying to land one from among the eight South Florida players in the top 100.

Of those eight, one each is orally committed to UF (Belle Glade Glades Day running back Kelvin Taylor, at No. 22) and FSU (University School defensive tackle Maquedius Bain, at No. 41), Ohio State (St. Thomas defensive tackle Joey Bosa, at 45) and Oklahoma (Delray Beach American Heritage running back Greg Bryant, at 30).

Of the four undecided local players among ESPN's top 100 national prospects, UM is in the top five for Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas (13), University School receiver Jordan Cunningham (46) and Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns (69), and firmly in the mix for Oakland Park Northeast receiver Stacy Coley (33). Northeast coach Donnell Bennett, the former Hurricane, said UM, UF, FSU, Clemson and West Virginia - in no particular order - hold appeal to Coley. Cunningham told us he has UM even with Notre Dame, Stanford, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Thomas has Miami fourth, with Alabama the leader, but it's fluid. UM, FSU and LSU stand out to Burns.