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31 posts from July 2012

July 12, 2012

Jason Taylor on new career, Parcells, Dolphins defense; local radio changes brewing

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Jason Taylor begins his ESPN analyst gig in a few weeks, and he’s glad his former Dolphins boss has no control over his new career.

Considering Bill Parcells dumped Taylor twice when Parcells ran Miami’s front office (once in a trade, once by not re-signing him), Taylor cracked that it’s a good thing Parcells – now an ESPN analyst - has no say in the network’s personnel decisions.

“If Bill had anything to do with hiring me,” Taylor said, “they wouldn’t have hired me or they would get rid of me…. I haven’t talked to Bill since he got rid of me a second time.”

Taylor, articulate and media-savvy, has all the tools to be a capable studio analyst, provided he doesn’t curb his candor.

He was cautious at times in media interviews as a player, when he often was asked predictable, repetitive questions. But he spoke succinctly about the Dolphins defense in a recent phone conversation, and his past appearances on Dan Le Batard’s radio show have produced substantive exchanges.

Taylor will start the gig in early August, appearing on SportsCenter, NFL Live, NFL32 and contributing to Sunday Countdown.

The job also begins a new chapter in his life – one that he said might include books, films and other TV projects. He finished as a runner-up on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in 2008, and that could open non-sports avenues.

In his ESPN role, he said he will have no hesitation criticizing players if warranted, but he sees his job largely as “helping fans understand what a player may be thinking, why a play happened. I’m not here to make waves. I won’t criticize just to criticize.”

Taylor, who retired with 139 ½ sacks (including seven last season) and six Pro Bowl appearances, offered an assessment of the Dolphins defense:

### On the change in scheme to a 4-3 base: “I don’t think it’s an uncomfortable fit. Some would say they have 3-4 personnel, and you had the [third-ranked run defense], so why mess with it? But they have guys with good crossover ability. Cameron Wake fits well in a 3-4 and 4-3.

Jared Odrick fits well in a 4-3: big run stopper, athletic guy, can rush the passer. Randy Starks and Paul Soliai fit well in both defenses. Soliai will take up two guys.” He likes how the linebackers project in a 4-3, too.

### He hopes the new scheme will use Wake exclusively as a pass rusher on passing plays. Former coordinator Mike Nolan used Wake in pass coverage several times last season, and Taylor said, “I don’t want Wake dropped into coverage” because of his value as a rusher.

### Taylor questioned the Dolphins’ release of safety Yeremiah Bell, who signed with the Jets.

“There are no deep-rooted loyalties in the NFL, but I thought Y.B. was good enough to be there,” he said. “I would not have gotten rid of him.”

Taylor said even beyond Bell’s play, he has value “getting guys lined up. The type of locker-room guy he was, he has a calming effect. A lot of things go into the value of a player.”

### Taylor challenged Reshad Jones, a likely starter at safety. “You can’t play, ‘I’m the young card’ forever,” Taylor said. “You’re a pro. Now it’s time to eliminate mistakes and be a leader.”

That includes things like “paying attention in meetings,” he said. Speaking about Jimmy Wilson’s move from cornerback to safety, Taylor said, “We all know he can play.”

### On cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, Taylor said, “They both have talent and it’s time to show that on a consistent basis. Vontae is a special athlete. If you can keep him focused, he’ll be fine.”

Taylor said he likes how Smith “cut his hair” – eliminating the dreadlocks – and changed his demeanor somewhat, “and hopefully that translates.”

ESPN has high hopes for Taylor.

“Jason worked as a guest analyst in studio on a few shows last year, and we were extremely impressed with his performance and the depth of knowledge he was able to share with the viewer,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman said.

### Taylor and Reggie Bush will co-host a football camp for boys and girls, ages 7 to 14, on July 23 and 24 in the Dolphins’ practice bubble. Cost is $150 – with proceeds benefiting Taylor’s charity foundation – and each camper receives merchandise worth more than $150. To sign up, call 888-389-2267.

AROUND THE DIAL

For the first time, the NFL is allowing teams to lift the blackout if they sell only 85 percent of the non-premium seat tickets to a game by 72 hours before kickoff --- as opposed to 100 percent, which has been the case for many years.

The Dolphins might use a number higher than 85 percent -- presumably because teams must give a greater share of the gate revenue to the road team for every seat sold over the "blackout" percentage that a team is using. The Dolphins haven't decided what number they're using, but a final decision is not due until Aug. 9. The Dolphins say they have sold 6000 new season tickets - the most in several years.

As usual, the Dolphins' hope is that every game will be on local TV. The team hasn't had a regular-season game blacked out since 1998.

"Every year it's our goal to sell every seat to have the games on TV," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said Thursday. "We feel it's important to have games on local TV."

But Dee stopped short of saying every game would definitely be on local TV, saying every season "brings a different dynamic" but that the team will "work tirelessly" in its marketing efforts to try to make it happen.

### No surprise here: NFL Network analyst and former Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin is not expected to remain host of WQAM-560’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. show much longer. His contract expires shortly. Irvin and the station have discussed the possibility of a more limited role. Irvin likes living in Texas and WQAM was never thrilled with him doing a show from Dallas rather than South Florida.

Jorge Sedano, who left 790 The Ticket’s morning show in April to concentrate on a TV career, is the heavy front-runner to replace Irvin. His 790 non-compete clause doesn’t end until Aug. 9 and he cannot begin negotiations with WQAM before that.

### It’s likely that Marc Hochman – the highly creative producer for Le Batard’s radio show – will become a permanent co-host on the 790 morning show after filling in the past three months. He probably will be paired with Jon Weiner, Jonathan Zaslow or some combination of the two.

In June, the Hochman/Weiner combo ranked ninth in the market, among men 25 to 54, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., while WQAM ranked 20th. (The Ticket’s morning show assuredly got a boost from the station owning Heat radio rights.)

Weiner is adamant about remaining Le Batard’s co-host and isn’t sure if he can realistically juggle a morning gig, too. Unless he spends the rest of his day napping.

Thursday afternoon update on NFL supplemental draft, Heat, Marlins, Canes

A few notes, updated with a few items since this morning:

### The Dolphins closely studied and scouted former Baylor receiver Josh Gordon in advance of today's supplemental draft, but the Browns just took him in the second round - higher than several teams reportedly had him rated. But the Browns were desperate - they have Greg Little and little else, beyond Travis Benjamin.

That means Miami' s only supplemental draft pick will remain the immortal Manny Wright, whose Dolphins tenure spanned all of three games.

### As we reported two weeks ago, James Jones said he is not retiring, which we mention only because he reiterated it today. He intends to play out the final two years of his contract. 

### For those asking about Greg Oden, his agent told us last week -- as he told us in May - that Oden would love to play for the Heat but that Miami has not called to express interest. Oden and agent Mike Conley Sr. do not know when he will be able to play after his fifth knee surgery but hope it will be at some point next season.

### One thing to keep in mind when quality players get amnestied (such as Elton Brand and reportedly, Brendan Haywood, any minute now and Darko Milicic): Players must completely clear amnesty waivers to be eligible to join a team without cap space, such as the Heat. Teams with cap space can bid on them first, offering to pay only a portion of their contracts.

So the likelihood is that Brand and Haywood get awarded to a team with cap space before the Heat ever gets a chance to bid for either. Brand reportedly is hoping Dallas claims him.

The amnesty deadline is Monday. Pat Riley has said the Heat will not use the amnesty clause on anybody. Using it on Mike Miller would give the Heat some relief against the luxury tax, but would not create ANY additional spending money to use in free agency.

Riley, incidentally, said Wednesday that any more free agent moves are on hold until he watches the Heat's summer league team in Las Vegas next week. He mentioned possibly adding a player in September, late in free agency. The Heat has players with guaranteed contracts.

### As if the regular season MVP award, the Finals MVP award and a championship were not enough, LeBron added three ESPYs to his trophy case Wednesday night: for best Male Athlete, best NBA player and best championship performance. James told reporters covering the U.S. Olympic team practices Wednesday that he's "tired" but enjoying the pre-Olympic experience. The Heat got the ESPY for best team in a vote on Twitter.

### Riley, who has moved away from a post-oriented power game because of the makeup of this Heat roster, was asked Wednesday if he has changed his perspective on what wins in this league. Here’s how he answered:

“There’s no more Alonzos or Patricks,” he said of Mourning and Ewing. “There are two or three centers in the league you can actually throw it out and create the power set offense. It isn’t as much as my evolving to this. It’s watching Erik Spoelstra continue to be innovative with how the NBA has changed.

“The game today has changed a lot, where it’s space and pick and rolls. I’ve evolved to a point where the game today is different than it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. Players like Rashard, Ray Allen, LeBron. It isn’t a traditionalist game. We don’t talk about point guards anymore or two guards or power forwards. When the word power forward comes out, I want to use some oatmeal and make them smaller. We’re getting to the point with this team, until the next center comes along that we can throw it to him on a regular basis, this is how we’re going to play.”

### UM lost its top basketball recruit Wednesday when St. Benedict’s (N.J.) Prep School guard Melvin Johnson was released from his letter of intent, with UM declining to offer any additional explanation. His mother told The New York Post it was a mutual decision but wouldn’t elaborate.

Johnson, who was scheduled to enroll in August, was rated the 99th best player by rivals.com, and the 23rd best shooting guard. He might have played immediately, because Malcolm Grant graduated.

### Venice (Fl.) four-star defensive tackle Dante Phillips, who committed to Florida in February but was denied admission because of academics, will visit UM with his family this weekend, according to CaneSport.com. He hopes to be admitted to UM, but that remains to be seen.

### Tom Deahn resigned today as UM's director of football operations to take a job in the private sector.

### After Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen announced on 790 The Ticket on Tuesday that he would use “closer by committee” instead of Heath Bell, Bell appeared with WQAM’s Dan Sileo, who told Bell that Guillen should have told Bell before telling the media.

Bell initially didn’t want to say anything controversial about that, but Sileo prodded him and Bell said, “I do kind of have a problem [with that]. But I’m not going to second-guess.”

Added Bell: “I’ve got to earn my job back. For whatever reason, I’m not getting the job done.”

     

July 10, 2012

What Allen, Lewis said at their Wednesday press conferences; buzz on Dolphins' free-agent pickups; Marlins, Canes

The Wednesday buzz column is below. First, we'll run some comments from the press conferences for Heat additions Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis:

### Allen: "I've seen Pat Riley in several situations. We've shared small conversation. I had a chance to discuss basketball philosophy with him. He had a lot of great stories [when they met last Thursday]. I followed him as long as I followed basketball. Same with coach Spoelstra - we share very similar ideals offensively, defensively. He said I don't know if you're coming, but I'll tell you this anyway. Him asking me what I liked, how I saw their team. I agreed with a lot of directions the team was going in. I was excited. We got home and had to decide what was best for us and the kids, too."

### Allen was asked if friction with Boston guard Rajon Rondo contributed to the decision: "I can't say it factored into my decision. As teammates, we were brothers. We all have differences. Paul eats corn flakes. I might not like corn flakes. I haven't spoke with him at all. When I came down here, I texted Paul [Pierce] and Kevin [Garnett]. It is sad to me, knowing I'm not going to be with those guys anymore. I'm looking forward to... being a teammate of Dwyane, LeBron, Chris Bosh. Just met Joel Anthony."

### Allen joked: "You mean I'm not starting? [Spoelstra] should have told me that last week." He said "starting or coming off the bench wasn't really an issue" --- "This team won a  championship without me. I'm not going to expect coach to cater to who I am or what I do. Whether you start or come off the bench, the best compliment is who you finish the game with. I've always been a guy who goes with what the coaches need or want. I'm not coming here to win on my terms."

### Spoelstra said Allen "will have a big role. We want to get to a point where we are position-less. Ray fits that. His skill set, professionalism as a champion. He fits very well with who we already have here. There are only a handful of players that absolutely strike fear into their opponent, and Ray is one of those players. We brought him here to be a big part of what we do."

### Allen said on "July 6, there was a moment I had to decide. I felt I contributed a great deal to the organization and they've been so good to me. I was thinking is Miami going to be a good fit for me? There was a moment people around me said change is not bad. You have to consider this. It was that moment I said this is going to be a great opportunity for me."

### Allen loves the way the Heat plays, with spreading the floor: "That's what they did to us. That's what we talked about when I met with coach [Spoelstra]. I always played that way in Seattle. I'm looking forward to having a high octane offense, with Dwyane and LeBron pushing it and creating so many shots for everybody else."

### Allen on his surgically repaired ankle: "The [June 14] surgery was good. I was walking within four or five days, not a lot of swelling. I haven't been cleared to work out yet. If I do too much walking, it gets a little tender.... I still have a lot of basketball left in my legs."

### Spoelstra: "Hopefully, we can play faster. Hopefully, it will be less sets than we're running."

### Allen, on the aftermath of the Game 7 Eastern Finals loss in Miami: "I remember walking out of the locker-room and being very disappointed. I remember crying in the locker-room and feeling a sense of letdown. Being at such a high a few days earlier, where we had won here."

### Allen, on Riley's power of pursuasion: "This was my first opportunity to swap stories with him. Very disarming guy. I got a book from him - The Four Agreements. Movie suggestions. He's a guy from my own heart. We talked four or five hours over the course of that day. I took a lot from him. The next day, he texted me some other good quotes."

### Allen said he got texts from both Wade and James before he signed here.

### He said he understands "the sense of sadness and hurt" that Celtics fans feel, "but our home is still in Boston." He said criticism from Celtics fans "doesn't bother me."

### Riley, in introducing Allen: "We have added one of the most professional professionals this league has ever seen. We hope he ends his career here. We hope we can be the one to add his number up in our rafters. He's part of new generation of athletes that may have become better athletes after 30. He averaged 14 points and shot 45 percent from 3. We expect that next year."

### Lewis said: "I'm hungry just to win. With Orlando, I got a taste of being in the Finals. The year and a half I did spend in Washington was tough for me. I tried to be strictly professional, but I was battered by injuries - quad tendinitis the year I got traded, bone bruise in my left knee last season. I've been on the All-Star team, played 13, 14 years, made a pretty good amount of money. My next goal is to try to win a championship. I looked at more than the Heat, but I thought this was a perfect fit for me. I'm not looking to make an All-Star team and score 20 points a game. I just want to help this team reach the goals they're trying to reach."

### Lewis: "I'm a three-point shooter but I'm working on every aspect of my game. With the way the team is built, the way I shoot the ball, I think it can open it up for me in the paint. If it's playing 5 to 10 minutes or 30 minutes, it's doing whatever the coaching staff asks me to do to win games. It's not just knocking down threes. It's defending. When I was in Seattle, I was strictly a 3-man." But then he became a power forward in Orlando.

### Lewis, on his health: "I feel good. I've been working out with a trainer and trying to get my body back in top condition."

### Lewis: "Me and Ray are real close. He helped me get to my first All-Star game. My wife is close with his wife." He said Allen told Lewis that Lewis signing with Miami was "the best news I heard in weeks."

### Lewis on what he expects: "They're going to double LeBron, Dwyane and Chris. And you don't think they're going to leave Ray Allen open? They've got to leave somebody open. I got to shoot a million jumpers tonight to get ready."

### Pat Riley: "His name and record speaks for itself. We're excited and delighted Rashard decided to come to Miami. We found out the last couple days how hungry Rashard is."

### Asked what RIley says in the room to lure free agents, Lewis didn't have a chance to answer before Riley interjected: "Let me answer that. I mention LeBron, Chris and Dwyane and they take it from there. They know coming in what the situation is. They want to be here because of the organization and the Arisons and they see a team that has an opportunity to be a winner. At this stage of their career that's what it is all about. My back pocket bankroll is a little less. We have built a team players want to play for. It isn't me or anything that we do."

### Erik Spoelstra, on Lewis: "I have an hour and a half edit on him. About 40 percent of it was from Seattle, so I could see a lot of he and Ray together on the court. He's a winner. We've had some great battles against us. It's terrific. The versatility is what's key. It's the versatility to play multiple positions. The more we can become position-less, the more exciting it can be. He really adds a dimension to that."

### Riley: "We have 13 players under contract. We will hold right now. The other two roster spots - we have a bunch of eager, young hungry guys [competing in summer league]. What we do with those final roster spots will be determined by the summer league, what happens late in the summer in free agency. There's a trading market we're not really exploring. We're on hold right now." Riley said Mike Miller will meet with doctors again this week, but there is no final decision about whether back surgery will be needed.

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

The Dolphins went mostly bargain shopping in free agency, and their veteran pickups have received generally decent - but not entirely positive - reviews. Three of the eight are immersed in legitimate battles to start.

Some buzz on the newcomers and where they stand, with feedback from an AFC personnel executive, a longtime general manager, Dolphins people and ESPN Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson:

### Chad Ochocinco (one year, $925,000; worth up to $2 million with incentives): He looked very good in his first week of practice, making a couple of acrobatic catches. But the key will be how quickly he learns the offense after having 4 ½ weeks to study, in between his wedding and VH1 reality show. Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee took more first-team snaps than Ochocinco in mini-camp, with Brian Hartline sidelined by an appendectomy.

Ochocinco’s best quality, at 34? “His first step,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “He’s still pretty quick off the line. Gets on top of you quickly.”

Ochocinco was thrown only 31 passes in New England last year and caught 15. For Cincinnati in 2010, he caught 67 (out of 118 throws) but had eight drops, and Pro Football Focus ranked him 70th of 110 qualifying receivers. His yards-after-catch average (2.9) ranked 89th, and remember, YAC is important in Miami’s West Coast offense.

“His best asset is his ability to get separation on routes,” the longtime general manager said. “But you want a disciplined receiver to be in the right spots, and that’s not what this guy is. I would not have touched him. His personality issues are not going to change. I don’t know if he’s ever going to get it.”

### Richard Marshall (three years, $16 million): He likely won’t start, barring injury, but he will be on the field well over half the time. “A really good third corner,” Williamson said. “He was better two years ago in Carolina, OK at the end of last year for Arizona. His skill set isn’t top notch, but he won’t embarrass himself.”

PFF ranked Marshall 52nd among all corners in 2011, worse than Vontae Davis (43rd) but better than Nolan Carroll (78th), Will Allen (79th, now with the Patriots) and Smith (106th). Joe Philbin likes what he sees, especially “his competitiveness. He has value inside defending as a nickel.”

### Tyrell Johnson (one year, $700,000): The biggest disappointment of the eight pickups. He ended the offseason program no better than fifth on the depth chart. “He was an NFL Combine warrior – a strong, size, speed guy that hasn’t shown anything,” Williamson said.

Among 86 safeties, PFF rank Johnson 65th last season. For perspective, ousted Yeremiah Bell (now with the Jets) ranked 77th and Reshad Jones was 56th.

“We had some mild interest in Johnson, and it wouldn’t shock me if Miami hit on him,” the AFC executive said. “He has speed, some play-making ability, but he’s also had some injuries.” But Miami hasn’t seen any of the play-making skills so far.

### David Garrard (one year, $3.35 million): Ranked 13th in NFL quarterback ratings in his last active season (2010) and enters camp as the slight front-runner.

Still, Williamson asserts that “last year’s version of Matt Moore was better than David Garrard has ever been.” The GM also was skeptical, wondering what’s the point of investing a year in Garrard as a caretaker starter.

The AFC executive added: “Before the back injury, he was tough to bring down. He’s always been efficient, but he doesn’t make a lot of wow plays.”

### Jamaal Westerman (one year, $615,000): Will get work as a backup defensive end and also can play outside linebacker. Made a few plays in the offseason, but Olivier Vernon drew more notice. “Jamaal’s a tough, great kid with some pass rush ability,” Jets coach Rex Ryan told us.

But the Jets didn’t want to tender him at $1.3 million after last year’s 3 ½ sack season. PFF ranked him 20th of 28 outside linebackers in a 3-4. “He’s not a good enough pass rusher to be a starter or as good a special teams player to be a core unit guy,” the AFC executive said.

### Gary Guyton (one year, $700,000): Was effective as a blitzer in minicamp but hasn't challenged Koa Misi for a starting job. “More of a backup than a starter on a good team,” the AFC executive said, noting Bill Belichick lost faith in him last season because of shaky pass coverage. “He’s a nickel guy, not a hammer in the run game,” Williamson said.

### Legedu Naanee (one year, $700,000): Looked good in May/June practices and has a good chance to be one of Miami’s top four receivers. But he needs a solid camp to hold off several younger players on the bubble, such as Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore. “We like his size [6-2] and his ability,” Philbin said. “He can attack the middle of the field.”

But this is discouraging: PFF ranked him 115th and last among all receivers last year. “To me, he’s a fourth receiver,” the AFC executive said. “A solid blocker, good hands, but he’s not going to stretch the field a lot.” Said Williamson: “Good special team player, but I’m far from excited about him.”

### Artis Hicks (one year, $1.2 million): Signed primarily to play tackle, but he ended summer workouts as the starter at right guard, ahead of disappointing John Jerry. PFF ranked him 91st of 142 tackles for 2011. “The ideal sixth offensive lineman,” Williamson said. The best Browns coach Pat Shurmur could say about Hicks? “He’s an effective pass blocker.”

CHATTER

### The Dolphins have inquired about, and shown some interest in, receiver Josh Gordon, the top prospect in Thursday’s supplemental draft, and also attended his Tuesday workout in Houston. Gordon caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven touchdowns for Baylor in 2010, then was suspended after a marijuana arrest, transferred to Utah but turned pro before playing there.

Gordon, 6-4, ran a 4.51 in the 40 on Tuesday (despite a pulled quadriceps) and could go in the third or fourth round. Miami has picked only one player in the supplemental draft: Manny Wright, with a fifth-round pick, in 2005.

### Rookie second-round center Justin Hamilton has impressed the Heat this week, displaying a nifty jump hook. “He’s tough, fundamental, very skilled, physical, has a great motor, doesn’t get tired and he’s seven feet,” said David Fizdale, who’s coaching the Heat summer league team.

### With Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen giving the Heat 13 players under contract, the last two spots likely will go to a center and a perimeter player (John Lucas III, Terrel Harris or somebody still with upside). The center could be a veteran (perhaps Joel Pryzbilla, Nazr Mohammed or Ronny Turiaf), or a prospect such as Hamilton or Jarvis Varnado.

At the moment, Miami can offer players only the minimum. But if Mike Miller is ruled out for next season because of a back injury, the Heat would have a good chance of landing a $2.9 million disabled player's exception, which could put them in the running for Kwame Brown if he hasn't already come off the market by then. Chris Kaman appears much too expensive regardless.... For an update on the Heat's summer-league team, see our last post.

### Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who plans to replace Heath Bell with a “closer by committee,” told 790 The Ticket he is unhappy that his son Ozney tweeted, “This [bleeping] guy” after Bell blew another save Sunday. “I don’t like my kid to talk about [that],” Guillen said. "That's not his business."

Oznie was asked why his father keeps using him. "$27 million," Ozney tweeted.

Earlier, Guillen's wife asked him why he keeps using Bell, fearful that it would give Guillen a heart attack.

We spoke to two scouts who blasted Bell’s weight and conditioning: “He’s completely out of shape," one said "It’s one thing with C.C. Sabathia because he has played at that weight all his life. But I've watched Bell a lot over the years and he has never been this big." The scouts believe it's hurting his performance, though Guillen isn't sure about what one way or the other.

Meanwhile, a Marlins official bemoaned, “We’re going to have to live with this” because he’s essentially untradeable, with his salary jumping from $6 million to $9 million in both 2013 and 14, with $9 million guaranteed for 2015 if he finishes a combined 100 games the next two years.

### One player said though the Marlins have warmed up other pitchers on some days that Bell has struggled, the team at one point told relievers not to get in their bullpen work while Bell was pitching so he wouldn’t see that and be distracted. (Not that Bell asked for that.)

Bell has had at least two uncomfortable conversations with Guillen – one when Guillen questioned his pitch selection (which infuriated Bell) and another (airing on Showtime Wednesday) in which he accused Guillen of not having his back. That second conversation made Guillen laugh. “The only thing I do the last three months is try to protect him,” Guillen told 790. “… When you don’t do your job, you try blaming somebody else.”

FYI: When Bell has pitched an inning or less, he has allowed at least two runs 10 times – the most in the majors, and equal to his previous three seasons combined.

### Booker T. Washington’s Matthew Thomas, a five-star linebacker and the top local Class of 2013 prospect, told rivals.com that UM is running fourth on his list, behind Alabama, FSU and Georgia… Vancouver continues to ask for a top prospect for Roberto Luongo, and the Panthers won’t budge. The Panthers are content to patiently wait this out, knowing Luongo prefers to be in Florida and can veto any trade, and that the Canucks want to move his contract. 

Lewis signing with Heat; Summer-league microscope on Cole, Pittman, Harris

Rashard Lewis is joining the Heat, his agent told us moments ago. He is signing a two-year deal and will earn the $1.35 million veteran's minimum this season. (The second year of the deal is at Lewis' option, for $1.45 million.)

He also has considered overtures from Boston and Atlanta, but felt most comfortable with Miami. And salary was not a big issue to him because he will collect $13.7 million from a New Orleans Hornets buyout this coming season.

Lewis was very impressed by the Heat's presentation on Sunday. A skilled three-point shooter, Lewis will share power forward duties with Udonis Haslem, starting small forward LeBron James and Shane Battier, who can play either forward spot.

The addition of Lewis and Ray Allen will give Miami 13 players under contract. I'll have a full story up next to this blog very shortly.

Meanwhile, veteran forward Grant Hill is considering overtures from the Heat, Lakers and Thunder, as first reported Tuesday by TNT's David Aldridge.

Hill's mid-range game declined last season but he still averaged 10.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 49 games for Phoenix.

The Lakers have been considered the favorite for Hill, even more so because of their impending sign-and-trade for Steve Nash, Hill's former teammate in Phoenix.

But Aldridge said Hill, 39, is also considering the Heat and Thunder. Miami could offer only the $1.3 million veteran's minimum.

# # #

For the three Heat veterans on Miami’s summer league roster, the euphoria of winning an NBA title has been replaced by the stark reality that they must polish and augment their skills this summer to either retain or carve out more significant roles on a veteran-laden team.

For Norris Cole, improvement is essential to give Erik Spoelstra incentive to give him regular minutes instead of using a steady three-guard rotation of Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen.

For Dexter Pittman, development is critical to have any chance of unseating Joel Anthony for the primary backup center job.

And for Terrel Harris, growth is vital to motivate the Heat to offer him a new contract.

Because the Heat did not make him a qualifying offer, Harris is an unrestricted, not a restricted, free agent. Though president Pat Riley said “we like him a lot,” Harris said Tuesday the Heat has “not really” indicated if it wants to keep him.

“I guess they’re evaluating me still,” Harris said after he and the Heat’s other summer-leaguers practiced at AmericanAirlines Arena in advance of five games in Las Vegas, beginning Sunday.

“I want to stay here and they appreciate my talent. I talked to coach Spoelstra and Pat Riley and I understand they like me as a player. I don’t sit here and stress about, ‘Am I going to be here or not?’”

Harris, 6-4, averaged 3.6 points in 22 games, shooting just 34.9 percent from the field (29 for 83) and 20.5 percent on three-pointers (8 for 39).

“We would like to see him improve his long-range shooting and play-making ability,” Riley said. “Can he handle the ball? Yes. Can he bring it up the court and enter us into an offensive set? Yes. Can he be a point guard? That would be a stretch. But I would play him as a scoring point guard if I had to.”

Harris said developing his point guard skills will be the summer priority.

“We won’t have him play point a lot, but we will have him handle so we’ll get the ball to him in the halfcourt offense and let him initiate some offense,” said Heat assistant David Fizdale, who is coaching the Heat’s summer league team. “So if we wanted to play him with Dwyane and LeBron and no point guard, even though we know LeBron is really the point guard, T-Harris can enter some offense and get them off the ball a little.”

As for Pittman, his $854,369 salary for next season has already been guaranteed, and Riley expects improvement in his third year: “We are going to give him a great shot and we expect this year he might be able to really contribute.”

The 6-11 1/2 Pittman, who said Tuesday he weighs 280 pounds after ballooning to nearly 400 in high school, has been told to reduce his body fat from 12.75 to the 10 to 12 percent range.

“Anytime we can get him lighter, we want to,” Fizdale said. “It’s important he stays on top of his diet and exercise. We want him to be able to play more minutes, get his conditioning to a high level. The lockout really set him back.”

Though his only playoff start (Game 3 against Indiana) was forgettable (three minutes, no points), Pittman showed signs of growth in a few late-season games, including a 16-point game against Charlotte. He ended up averaging 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 8.6 minutes in 35 appearances, including six starts.

Eager to expand his shooting range and “basketball IQ,” Pittman said he returned to the gym three days after The Finals. He has been studying tapes of Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard and views this summer “like I’m auditioning for a job.”

Though Cole ended the season well – with eight key points in the first half of Game 4 of the Finals – he must give Spoelstra reason to carve out regular minutes for him, instead of using Wade or Allen as the ball-handler when Chalmers is out of the game.

His summer to-do list includes improving on reading defenses when he comes off screens, finishing more efficiently in the paint and working on his jumper after shooting 39.3 percent from the field as a rookie.

“He’s a quiet kid, and I got on him yesterday at practice about being more vocal, yelling out the plays,” Fizdale said. “There’s a kid that helped us big time in the Finals with 17,000 in the arena. He’s got to have a bigger voice.

“The offense is in his hands to really quarterback the team. We’re breeding Norris a different way. Norris is a hunter. Norris doesn’t care about people coming after him. We’re developing him to be an attacker.

“He’s going out to Vegas with the intent to destroy whoever he’s playing against. I don’t want him to ever think he has arrived to the point where he’s now being hunted. He has to stay hungry and play this summer like a guy that did not win a title.”

Cole, who returned to his hometown of Dayton after the Finals, noted: “My popularity has increased a lot, but I’m getting used to it as much as you can. Most of the people say congratulations and want pictures. You can never tell a kid no.”

Cole said “Allen is a great addition – he is going to help us spread the court even more.”

### Former UM forward Adrian Thomas said “putting on a heat jersey feels crazy, surreal. I didn’t get much sleep.”

FOR OUR LOOK at Heat second-round pick Justin Hamilton, see our last post. Check back this evening for the Wednesday buzz, including lots of Dolphins, Marlins and other stuff.

July 09, 2012

A look at the Heat's newest big man project

With Marcus Camby opting to join the Knicks (through a sign-and-trade), the Heat will continue canvassing the landscape for another center to supplement Chris Bosh (who very likely will remain at center next season), Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman.

The Heat eventually could add a veteran who's forced to settle for the $1.3 million league minimum, re-sign Eddy Curry (not sure why either party would be interested in that), or hope that Jarvis Varnado or Justin Hamilton proves worthy of a roster spot.

Pittman, Varnado and Hamilton will be a part of the Heat's 16-player summer league roster headed to Las Vegas this weekend.

Also on the roster: Terrel Harris, Norris Cole, second-year former Northwestern State guard Trey Gilder, former Heat second-round pick Robert Dozier (a 6-9 forward), third-year former Washington State shooting guard Kyle Weaver and eight undrafted rookies: former UM forward Adrian Thomas,  Texas guard D'Covan Brown, Georgetown guard Jason Clark, St. John's center Lamont Hamilton, St. John's guard Dwight Hardy, Boston University guard John Holland, Duquesne forward Damian Saunders and Loyola Marymount guard Drew Viney.

Heat coach David Fizdale will coach the team. All the Heat games will be televised on NBA TV.

Here's a look at Hamilton, the Heat's only pick in last month's draft:

# # #

Being drafted by the NBA champion was so thrilling, so unexpected, for former LSU center Justin Hamilton that when “I woke up the next day, I wasn’t sure the draft really happened.”

Hamilton, selected 45th overall, will join 15 other players on the Heat’s summer league team next week in Las Vegas. But how long he will be wearing a Heat uniform remains very much in question.

Team president Pat Riley said the Heat might stash Hamilton in Europe for a year. And even if there is a trans-Atlantic odyssey in his future, there’s no assurance it will eventually end up with Hamilton in a Heat uniform.

“If I can help the team out, I will be here,” said Hamilton, who will get married after his Summer League works ends. “If I need improvement, I’m not sure. They like the way I shoot the ball and how hard I work.”

For perspective, former Memphis forward Robert Dozier (selected by Miami with the 60th pick in 2009) and forward Jarvis Varnado (picked 41st by the Heat in 2010) are still awaiting their NBA opportunity. Both are also members of the Heat team that will play five games over seven days in Las Vegas, beginning Sunday. And Riley said the Heat wants to try Varnado at center.

But while Dozier and Varnado are 6-9, Hamilton has the advantage of being a seven-footer.

“He has quick feet, big, takes up a lot of space,” Riley said. “Not an above the rim player. Has a nice touch from 15 feet. Smart player, played in a good program. A big body that can go into the pipeline with our other bigs and keep developing.”

Hamilton averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore at Iowa State, then transferred to LSU, where he averaged 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a junior, shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the line. Hamilton graduated from LSU with a sociology degree and decided to turn pro early, even though nobody projected him as a first-round pick.

Hamilton, who weighs 260 pounds, evaluates his game thusly: “I’m a skilled player that can shoot the ball pretty well. I’m a smart player on offense and defense. I’m never going to quit. I take up a lot of room. [But] I know the NBA is a whole other level and I want to get a bigger body and get stronger.”

Partly because he lacks a developed post game and dynamic athleticism, Hamilton wasn’t listed among ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects. But he insists that didn’t bother him.

“Ever since I started playing basketball in high school, that’s how it has been. Everyone has kind of written me off,” he said. “It’s about what the NBA guys thought I was, not what everybody else thought.”

Hamilton’s father, Larry, was a standout in football and wrestling at BYU, and his mother Tami was a two-time All-Conference volleyball player at BYU and holder of the NCAA record for most assists in a season, set in 1986.

No matter how long Hamilton’s Heat experience lasts, he will relish it.

“It’s great to be chosen by the world champions,” he said. “When I worked out for them, I really enjoyed it. I’m really excited and happy to be a part of this. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go play summer league and then have a wedding.”

Hamilton said he is securing a Croatian passport not only because his motive is a native of Croatia, but also “to make sure I had backup plans.” He might need that backup plan, but his play in the next two weeks will go a long way toward determining that.

### For more Heat notes, see our last post or my Heat notebook on the sports home page.   

July 07, 2012

Heat loses out on Camby; Heat notes; Dolphins quarterback news and notes; Canes, Marlins

We'll get to the Sunday buzz column below, but first, a quick Heat update:

1) The Heat lost out in its pursuit of Marcus Camby Monday evening, when the Knicks and Rockets finalized a deal that will send Camby to New York. The Rockets will get Toney Douglas, Josh Harrelson, Jerome Jordan and two second-round picks --- a package more appealing than anything the Heat was willing to offer. Camby will get a three-year, $13 million deal from New York.

If the Heat adds a veteran big man in free agency, it likely will have to be someone willing to take the minimum. Chris Kaman will get far more than that, and Kwame Brown probably will get more, too.

2) Rashard Lewis ended his meeting with the Heat on Sunday night without giving Miami a decision. "It went well," his agent, Tony Dutt, told us. "We're talking to a couple more teams and will make a decision later in the week."

Lewis is expected to speak with the Hawks (who can offer more money than the Heat) and the Knicks (who potentially could, depending on what means they use to acquire Jason Kidd, who has said he is joining New York).

Dutt denied an ESPN report that Lewis has a meeting planned with Boston.

3) The Heat has inquired about several other free agents in recent days, including Courtney Lee (Miami cannot afford him) and John Lucas III. There has been no offer to Lucas and no visit is planned, but the Heat might speak to his representation later this week.

Lucas, a 5-11 point guard, averaged 7.5 points in 49 games for the Bulls last season and is a skilled three-point shooter. But keep in mind that the Heat felt no need to add a third point guard last season, because they know LeBron James or Dwyane Wade could handle point guard duties if neither Mario Chalmers nor Norris Cole is in the game.

4) The Knicks are trying to get Kidd and Camby $3 million salaries by doing a sign-and-trade for one and giving the $3.1 million mini midlevel to the other. So could the Heat do a sign-and-trade for Allen, thus preserving its mini mid-level to use on another player? 

"I doubt it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe. "I don't know if they have anything to give us. I doubt it."  So with Allen taking the mid-level, the Heat is operating under the assumption that all it has left is minimum contracts, maxing out at $1.3 million.

5) Wade will undergo knee surgery in the next couple days, as expected.

# # #

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

 Lots of Dolphins quarterback chatter:

### Nothing will be determined until training camp, but this is the expectation that has emerged inside the Dolphins: Look for a tight competition between David Garrard and Matt Moore for the starting job, with Ryan Tannehill likely to begin the season on the bench.

“I would probably agree with you on that,” Reggie Bush told me. “Ryan can watch the veterans and learn. When he gets the call, he’ll be ready.”

Judging from offseason practices open to the media and feedback from multiple people, including players, Garrard has been the most impressive of the three, but not by a wide margin over Moore, who rallied the final two days of minicamp.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and in-the-loop agent Drew Rosenhaus (on his WSVN-7 segment) named Garrard the favorite, though Rosenhaus notes it’s too close to call. Remember, August performance is paramount over anything so far. “Close” is how coach Joe Philbin describes the Garrard/Moore competition.

Garrard said he and Moore shared first-team snaps evenly all season. But Garrard joined the starters on the first day of the final minicamp.

### Tannehill isn’t completely out of the running and could play at some point this season. But he got by far the fewest first-team snaps and it was an issue to the point that he went to Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to discuss it in mid-June. (Tannehill confirmed those discussions.)

“I would like some more, for sure,” he said the day before he got by far his most first-team snaps of the offseason (the final day of the offseason program). “They are planning to slowly get me more first-team reps.”

But how exactly? With Tannehill running third, can the Dolphins afford to give him a lot of first-team work in training camp?

“I don’t know of any team that has had three compete for a starting job,” CBS’ Phil Simms said, off the air, regarding the Dolphins. “It’s impossible to give three the same number of snaps. If you do, you’re doing a disservice to your team.”

### Here’s what’s encouraging from offseason practices: Garrard, 34, and Moore, 27, displayed generally quick decision-making, nimble feet, strong arms, ability to throw on the run and the acumen to run a West Coast offense.

One difference: Moore tends to run more hot-and-cold in practices. He has never been a great practice player, and remember, Philbin wasn’t around to watch his good work in Miami’s 6-3 finish to the season. 

### Philbin speaks well of Moore, but his praise of Garrard has been more extensive and effusive the past three months.

“Garrard’s impressive,” Philbin said. “He looks you in the eye, shakes your hand and you feel good about the guy. He can still move well. He throws the ball with a lot of velocity and his accuracy has been good. His command of the offense is good.”

What about Moore? “I like the way he caught onto the system,” Philbin said. “He’s doing well.”

### Garrard’s back, surgically repaired last fall, hasn’t caused problems, but he admits the true test won’t come until he’s hit in August.

### Tannehill has made a bunch of sharp throws, and Dolphins players rave about his arm. But the speed of the game has been problematic; he holds onto the ball too long at times. Timing issues – throwing too early or late – have contributed to interceptions and a bunch of the drops that seem to plague him. Tannehill was sacked only seven times at Texas A&M in 2011 but has taken a lot of would-be sacks here.

### Garrard’s rise to slight front-runner would surprise many. One AFC head coach told me at the March owners meetings he would definitely start Moore over Garrard; an NFC head coach insisted Moore’s talent is underestimated; and ESPN’s Ron Jaworski called Garrard’s addition “underwhelming,” noting he’s "solid" but “not a guy that will elevate a team.”

CBS’ Rich Gannon said “Garrard has to re-dedicate himself, study, be more of a vocal leader. He’s got a ways to go, and that’s unusual for a guy with as many starts as he has.” A Jaguars source said Garrard got fat and happy after Jacksonville gave him a big contract in 2008. But Garrard has impressed the Dolphins with his performance and professionalism.

### We did a statistical analysis of Moore’s 2011 and Garrard’s most recent NFL season (2010 with Jacksonville), and a few numbers stood out.

Their ratings were similar – Moore 12th among all quarterbacks, Garrard 13th - but Garrard had the better completion percentage (64.5 to 60.5), critical in a West Coast offense.

### Moore was the better quarterback in the first through third quarters. But Garrard was far better in the fourth. Garrard's 108.3 fourth quarter rating in 2010 was second in the NFL behind only Ben Roethlisberger, with seven touchdowns and one pick. Moore was 34th last year with a 68.8 fourth-quarter rating (three touchdowns, four picks). 

What about Tannehill's fourth quarter performance at A&M last season? He wasn't extraordinary but pretty good (five touchdowns, three picks and a 59.4 completion percentage, a number diminished by receiver drops.) Several A&M losses resulted from defensive meltdowns.

### This might surprise you: Factoring in defensive penalties, ESPN’s KC Joyner tells us Garrard had the best deep ball percentage of any NFL quarterback in 2010 (20 completions, five defensive penalties in 46 passes of 20 yards or more). Conversely, Moore completed 23 of 59 such throws last season (38.9 percent), and Tannehill was 16 for 58 (27.6 percent).

### The Dolphins worry about Moore’s penchant for fumbling – 14 last season, six lost.

CHATTER

### So who, besides Ray Allen, were the handful of players the Heat had atop their free-agent wish list? Agent Bill Duffy tells us Pat Riley called Steve Nash just after the midnight start of free agency July 1. “He expressed interest and told him he admired him,” said Duffy, who told Riley the Heat’s $3.1 million mini mid-level exception would not be enough.

The Heat knew it would need to do a sign-and-trade with Phoenix but determined it didn’t have the pieces. But Duffy said Nash would have been interested in Miami (as well as the Lakers and Knicks) if the Heat could have done a sign-and-trade.

NBA officials say Miami also planned to make a strong (though long-shot) pitch to Kevin Garnett had he not re-signed with Boston (for three years, $34 million) and to Lamar Odom had the Clippers not traded for him June 30. But Allen was always Miami's first choice, and the Heat's thrilled to get him.

### Some of the Heat/Allen reaction: Michael Vick tweeted of the Heat: "Loaded. Final Piece. Notfair. LOL."... Suns forward Jared Dudley: "The rich get richer."

### Celtics coach Doc Rivers told The Boston Globe Saturday night that he is "disappointed" about Allen leaving the Celtics. "He should have stayed," Rivers said. "We recruited him just as hard [as Miami]. I respect him for all he did for us, but I thought he should have stayed with us."

Rivers said he spoke to Allen after he made his decision and suggested that Allen might have been irritated by Boston making Garnett its off-season priority.

"I think emotionally, he probably got bent sideways a little bit by us courting Kevin for some reason," Rivers said. ".... Garnett was our focal point and should have been. If that got anyone ruffled, then that's probably too bad." Asked if he agrees with Allen's reasons for leaving, Rivers said, "No. But that doesn't matter."

### Please see our last post for news of Marcus Camby postponing his visit with the Heat, and the sign-and-trades discussions between the Heat and Rockets.

### Though Larry Bird told ESPN he’s bothered by players taking less money to join the Heat for one year, he said of LeBron James’ playoffs: “Has anyone ever had a better run? It would seem like you’d have a bad game once in a while. He never had a bad game. Maybe he can get close to [Michael] Jordan.”

### A UM official said Ray-Ray Armstrong is expected to speak to the NCAA in the wake of allegations of interaction with a booster. But UM is optimistic it's not serious.... Though UM has declined to publicly address the status of embattled baseball coach Jim Morris, a UM administrator said his job is safe for 2013.

### During a front-office summit a couple weeks ago, one Marlins official talked about this season simply not working out and suggested Miami play the season out without making trade.

Then Jeffrey Loria, who was on the phone, said absolutely not, that this team can compete with anyone and he isn’t giving up. That’s why the Carlos Lee trade followed a week later, even though factions of the front office initially opposed the idea, because of Lee's subpar defense and the fact the Marlins believe Logan Morrison would be better at first base than left field. 

Camby postpones Heat visit; sign and trade discussed; Van Gundys, others react to Allen pickup

A Saturday afternoon Heat update plus a Marlins note (Giancarlo Stanton will have knee surgery Sunday and will miss four to six weeks):

Free agent center Marcus Camby’s scheduled Saturday visit to South Florida to meet with the Heat was postponed Saturday morning because the Heat no longer has its $3.1 million mini mid-level exception (which is going to Ray Allen) and Camby first wants to see if there’s a realistic possibility if the Heat and Houston Rockets can work out a sign-and-trade that would deliver him a salary in that range or higher.

The Heat and Rockets have had discussions about a sign-and-trade, according to an NBA source, with Joel Anthony, Norris Cole and a future first-round draft pick among the potential pieces to a deal. The Heat does not have its own No. 1 pick next year but does have Philadelphia's from a draft night trade, though that pick is lottery-protected should the 76ers miss the playoffs.

The Rockets are believed to be interested in Cole, but it’s unclear if Miami would give him up as part of a trade for Camby. And the Rockets reportedly have far more interest in what the Knicks have to offer than what the Heat would.

The Knicks could offer Toney Douglas ($2 million expiring contract) and/or center Josh Harrellson and the non-guaranteed contract of Dan Gadzuric ($1.4 million) or Jerome Jordan. The Knicks also have their $3.1 million mini midlevel, though that could be used on New York-bound Jason Kidd unless New York does a sign-and-trade with Dallas to get Kidd.

Camby, who has no interest in taking the $1.3 million minimum from Miami or any other team, likes the Heat but also has interest in New York, Brooklyn, and potentially others. The Rockets have spoken to several teams about potential sign-and-trades. Camby is expected to meet with the Knicks on Sunday in Houston, then might visit with the Nets, who have strong interest in him. The Spurs also are a possibility.

According to CBSSports.com, the Rockets hope to use some of the pieces they acquire for Camby in a bid to trade for Orlando center Dwight Howard.

Camby would be receptive to meeting with the Heat if it’s determined that the teams believe a sign-and-trade is a good possibility. But neither team could provide him with that answer Saturday morning, and the meeting was thus postponed.

MORE ALLEN REACTION         

The Heat’s playoff success re-affirmed that the team’s stars often do their best work when surrounded by skilled shooters that can spread the floor and give them space to operate.

That’s why Miami’s addition of Ray Allen, among the elite long-range shooters of his generation, holds such tantalizing possibilities.

“Great pickup for the Heat,” former Magic and Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said in a text message Saturday. “Ray Allen is a great veteran player. Can play a Mike Miller role as a shooter. Mike has more size and is a great rebounder, but Ray is a great shooter and has stayed healthy, which Mike can’t do.”

Van Gundy’s brother, ABC lead analyst Jeff Van Gundy, also praised the move, though he added, “As you get up to that age, you don’t know how health is going to treat you. I was surprised. I thought he would go back to Boston, to stick with what they had started.”

Allen, who turns 37 on July 20, underwent surgery June 14 to remove bone spurs in his right ankle but is expected to be fine for the season.

“I coached Ray and you’re talking about one of the fittest players to ever play,” NBA TV analyst Sam Mitchell said. “He can run all day. I can see him playing even better than last year. He’s going to get even more wide open looks now.”

Allen’s three-point accuracy last season (45.3 percent) was the best of his career – a product not only of his natural gifts, but his impeccable work ethic. Allen, whose 2718 three-pointers are the most in NBA history, typically arrives at arenas five hours before games to launch jumper after jumper.

“Ray Allen is the ultimate professional, a great player and a great team player,” ESPN Radio analyst and Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay said. “He’s great moving without the ball and he knows how to get open.”

The Heat cannot discuss the acquisition until he is allowed to sign on July 11. But coach Erik Spoelstra is expected to use Allen in a guard rotation with starters Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers.

Ramsay said either Wade or Allen could be the primary ball-handler when they are paired together in the backcourt. "Ray is very good with the ball," Ramsay said. "There were times he served as the point guard."

James and Wade were thrilled with the pickup.

“Heat Nation continues to grow,” Wade tweeted Friday night.

James sent out two tweets – one showing Allen, photo shopped, in a Heat uniform and another that read: “Heat Nation, please welcome our newest teammate, Ray Allen.”

Earlier in the day, before Heat owner Micky Arison announced the news on Twitter, James told reporters covering the U.S. Olympic basketball team practice in Las Vegas: “Who wouldn’t want a dead-eye shooter like that, a complete professional and a champion?”

Does Allen’s acquisition significantly help Miami’s chances of winning two, three or who knows how many titles?

“I already thought that,” Jeff Van Gundy said. “It doesn’t change my belief in what I think they can do. You admire their aggressiveness.”  

LEWIS VISITING   

Forward Rashard Lewis is expected to visit Sunday, knowing all Miami can offer is the $1.3 million veteran's minimum. He has told associates that he’s not hung up over salary because he’s making $13.7 million in a Hornets buyout next season. The Spurs, Knicks and Hawks also have shown interest, and though Lewis likes Miami, he has indicated he plans to speak to other teams as well.

Riley, incidentally, has spoken on the phone with both Lewis and Camby.

         

Early Saturday morning postscripts, reaction to Heat's acquisition of Ray Allen

A few quick postscripts on the Heat’s signing of Ray Allen:

### Once he signs July 11, Allen will give Miami 12 players under contract. And there’s a decent chance Rashard Lewis becomes the 13th. Lewis is visiting Sunday, and now that Miami has given its $3.1 million exception to Allen, Lewis likely would not object to taking a minimum salary from the Heat --- unless another attractive team offers substantially more.

Lewis has told associates that he’s not hung up over salary because he’s making $13.7 million in a Hornets buyout this coming season. He also has told associates that Miami very much appeals to him.

Unless the Spurs and Knicks swoop in with a better offer, I like Miami’s chances here.

### (UPDATE: PLEASE SEE MY SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST, TO THE LEFT OF THIS, ABOUT MARCUS CAMBY POSTPONING HIS VISIT, ACCORDING TO SOURCES): Marcus Camby says he is visiting Saturday, but he has made clear he’s not interested in a minimum deal. Unless Camby gets no better offers, the only way Miami gets him is through a sign-and-trade with Houston. It wouldn’t be surprising if Pat Riley dangled Joel Anthony, who has three years left on a five-year, $18 million deal. The Rockets' interest in that could hinge partly on whether Chicago matches the Rockets' three-year, $25 million offer to Omer Asik.

The Heat and Knicks hold particular appeal to Camby. But the Heat will be fine with or without him, because Miami proved in the playoffs how effective it can be when it plays with just one natural power rotation player.

### LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who lobbied Allen all week on Twitter, responded quickly to the news of his decision. “Heat Nation, please welcome our newest teammate, Ray Allen,” James said.  James then tweeted out a picture of Allen in a Heat jersey with the words: "Welcome! Looks fitting."

Wade tweeted: “Heat Nation Continues to Grow.”

### Then there was Hornets guard Jarrett Jack, who tweeted: “Am I wrong for thinking Ray Allen is a traitor for signing with his rival team?” Yes, Jarrett.

### James obviously doesn’t buy that logic. Before Jack sent his tweet, James told reporters at the Olympic team basketball practice in Las Vegas: “We’re not stealing him. He’s unrestricted. He isn’t with nobody, man. Who wouldn’t want a dead-eye shooter like that, a complete professional and a champion?”

### Not only was Allen thoroughly impressed by the Heat’s presentation (hardly a surprise), but if you believe a Yahoo report, a big factor in him leaving was a fractured relationship with Rajon Rondo.

### One of 1000 positives of Allen's signing: The Heat can cut back Wade’s minutes a tad, from 33.2 last season. That will prolong his career in the long run.

### Difficult to envision Norris Cole getting regular minutes with this roster, because Erik Spoelstra can now give all of the backcourt minutes to Wade, Allen and Mario Chalmers. Mike Miller's minutes also would be impacted if he is able to play next season. A decision on whether Miller will need back surgery will be made later this month.

For a full report on Allen's signing, see my story on the sports home page.

 

 

July 05, 2012

Allen joining Heat; Camby, Lewis visiting Heat; Dolphins media column

Heat owner Micky Arison sent a tweet Friday night saying: "It's 2:30 a.m. in London and I was just woken up with great news: Welcome to the family, No. 20!"

The Ray Allen camp was fine with letting Arison break the news, and second source close to Allen also confirmed it.) Allen is getting a two-year deal worth $6.3 million. He turned down $12 million over two years from Boston. Please see my full story on the sports home page about Allen joining Miami.

Heat president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra met with Allen in Miami on Thursday afternoon. After a break, Heat officials - including Riley, Spoelstra, Nick Arison, Andy Elisburg and Alonzo Mourning - dined with Allen on Thursday night at Il Gabbiano on Brickell.

When the day was done, Allen did not tell the Heat if he planned to sign with Miami.

On Friday, he apparently made it. Allen cannot sign until July 11.

The Heat can pay him no more than $9.1 million over three years. The Celtics were offering $12 million over two years and reportedly might include a no-trade clause to ease his concerns after nearly dealing him this past February. The Clippers canceled their Friday meeting with Allen after deciding instead to sign Jamal Crawford to a four-year deal, using their $5 million mid-level exception.

2) Free agent center Marcus Camby is visiting the Heat on Saturday and also is expected to meet with the Knicks, according to a source. Camby initially thought he was going to re-sign with Houston, but that is now less likely.

The Spurs and Mavericks are also in contention. But Camby is not interested in signing for the veteran's minimum. Because Allen is getting the Heat's exception, the Heat likely would need to do a sign and trade to get Camby.

Camby, 38, averaged 4.9 points (on 44.6 percent shooting), 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks last season for Portland and Houston. His rebound average was 16th in the league and his block average was 21st.

He already has spoken with Heat president Pat Riley, who expressed strong interest.

3) Forward Rashard Lewis will visit the Heat on Sunday, according to agent Tony Dutt. The Knicks, Spurs and Hawks also remain interested, but Lewis is very intrigued by the Heat. Miami "is one of his final couple choices," Dutt said.

Lewis is not necessarily opposed to taking the $1.3 million veteran's minimum because he's due $13.7 million this season in a buyout from the Hornets. But if a team offers him the mid-level exception, that could be tempting. (Miami is obviously holding that $3.1 million exception for Allen.)

Lewis, 32, made 87 three-pointers two years ago, is a career 38.8 percent three-point shooter, and is the type of "stretch" forward that Miami covets. Lewis, 6-10, can play either forward position and is committed to regaining his past form after a knee injury limited him to 28 games last season with Washington. 

# # #

MEDIA COLUMN

Reality television crashes the South Florida sports scene next week, offering a level of fly-on-the-wall access and intimacy and insight unlike anything the Dolphins or Marlins have ever allowed us to witness.

The eavesdropping should make for fascinating viewing, first with the Marlins’ eight-week reality series that debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday on Showtime, and then dovetailing into the Dolphins’ five-episode Hard Knocks series that launches at 10 p.m. Aug. 7 on HBO. All you need is a subscription to HBO and Showtime, or a friend with one.

The Herald covered the Showtime/Marlins series in Thursday’s newspaper and on the web site. Here’s an early look at what to expect from Hard Knocks:

### NFL Films’ Ken Rodgers, producing his fifth installment, said nothing will be off limits, but coach Joe Philbin will be permitted to review the show on the morning it airs.

“That’s for one purpose – to make sure we don’t reveal anything that affects competitive balance,” Rodgers said. “Our concern is not to give other teams audible calls or phrases they have not yet revealed in game situations. Our job is to make good television, not be scouts for other teams.”

Contrary to a report, Rodgers said no player or union member will be allowed to view the show before it airs or given any veto power over content. “We’ve been assured access to EVERYTHING in the Dolphins’ facility,” Rodgers said. “We wouldn’t do a show that has limitations on access.”

### Hard Knocks was very fortunate that the Dolphins added colorful character Chad Ochocinco, who was featured prominently during the 2009 Hard Knocks, which chronicled the Bengals.

“As a television producer, I’m glad they signed Chad because I think it’s good television,” Rodgers said. “I’m more interested in him as a player than a TV personality.

“In Cincinnati, he was a lovable goofball. We are interested much more in Chad’s football story than we were in Cincinnati. He’s got an A-list storyline as far as trying to resurrect his career. He doesn’t have too many chances left.”

### Besides Ochocinco, what other storylines appeal to Rodgers and his crew?

“Position battles are interesting and the quarterback battle is something every fan likes to see,” he said.

Tight end Les Brown, who hadn’t played football since 2006 and left an accounting job to join the Dolphins, “is an interesting storyline. We’re interested in the plethora of receivers heading into camp and how they will shake out. The desire of the cornerback duo to raise their game and be in the top tier of NFL cornerbacks is one we’re interested in following. The offensive line has some good characters.”

Director Rob Gehring chimed in with a few other potential angles: “We’ll spend some time with the defensive line. Cam Wake has a great back story. He’s at the peak of his arc. Who’s going to play off him? Is Olivier Vernon going to step up? Jared Odrick is an interesting character, has an engaging personality.”

### But Rodgers cautions that “half of our plans go out the door immediately upon arrival because other storylines are better. We will shoot up until Monday for every show, which airs Tuesday nights. I can’t even say the quarterback battle will be in Show One. We’re not locked into anything.”

### Talk about a massive editing job: NFL Films shoots 250 hours for every one-hour episode. There’s a 100-person staff “that works every day, 18-hour days for six weeks – no weekends, no breaks,” Rodgers said. Hard Knocks will again be narrated by actor Liev Schreiber.

### Rodgers and Gehring already have spent several days at Dolphins camp during offseason practices, researching and shooting footage for the opening. Two observations, in particular, have stood out to them.

“The overall impression I was struck with was the desire to re-define the franchise: This is a team intent on re-capturing the glory years,” Rodgers said. “You can see it in the hallways, in the redecoration of the practice facility.”

Rodgers described the new attitude thusly: “We are proud of who we are at the Dolphins, and we’re going to live up to the glory of the past.”

Gehring said of Philbin: “When you’re around him, you’re like, ‘This is a guy that can turn this thing around.’ He’s a leader. After having just been around him for less than a month, I’m like: I’ll run through a wall for that guy.”

Said Rodgers: “Don’t mistake Joe Philbin’s quiet, thoughtful demeanor as not being in touch with everything that is happening on the field. It might seem like there is a detachment, but he is deeply ingrained with everything.”

NOTABLE

### Next Wednesday’s first episode of “The Franchise” - the Showtime/Marlins series - will be an hour, with the seven others running 30 minutes.

MLB Productions executive producer David Gavant said the Marlins provided them more access than the Giants did last year, specifically to members of the front-office and ownership. “It’s ground-breaking,” he said.

### Erin Andrews, 34, who cultivated her sizable fan base as a sideline reporter, made a sensible career move this week by leaving ESPN after eight years to join Fox, which will give her NFL assignments (features on the pre-game show, sideline reporting during playoff games), a reporter’s role on marquee baseball telecasts (including Tuesday’s All-Star Game) and a high-profile studio host job on the network’s new Saturday night Pacific 10/Big 12 football package.

July 03, 2012

Marlins makes moves; Wednesday Heat news; Wade, LeBron rally for Allen; UM freshmen impress

We'll get to the Wednesday buzz column in a minute, but first a quick July 4 Marlins and Heat update:

### The Marlins have acquired 36-year-old first baseman/left fielder Carlos Lee from Houston for minor league third baseman Matt Dominguez (who could proved he could hit especially well for average, even at the Triple A level) and minor league pitcher Rob Rasmussen.

Lee has a no-trade clause and vetoed a trade to the Dodgers two days ago. But he approved a trade to the Marlins, with talks heating up Wednesday morning.

Lee is the final year of a six-year, $100 million contract. The Marlins coaching staff advocated a trade for Lee a couple months ago. The front office was initially reluctant because of Lee's suspect defense and high salary and the hope that Gaby Sanchez would get going.

But Sanchez continues to hit below .200, and was sent to Triple A New Orleans after the game - even after hitting a home run to tie Wednesday's game in Milwaukee with two outs in the ninth inning.

Meanwhile, Houston agreed to pay nearly all of the $8.8 million that Lee is still owed this season.

Lee is hitting .286 with five homers and 29 RBI. A right-handed hitter, he hit .275 last year with 18 homers and 94 RBI.

Lee previously played for Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox. He figures to play first base, with Logan Morrison remaining in left field.

The Marlins clearly need help in the middle of the lineup, even more so now because Giancarlo Stanton has a knee issue that could sideline him at least through the All-Star break. Morrison also has dealt with a knee issue all season.

# # #

The Heat confirmed Wednesday that Terrel Harris will be an unrestricted free agent, not a restricted free agent, because Miami did not make him a qualifying offer. The move will save the Heat $200,000 if he re-signs for the league-minimum $760,000 for a player with his experience level.

The Heat wants to keep him. "We like him a lot," Pat Riley said. "I expect him to have a great summer league. We would like to see him improve his long-range shooting and play-making ability. We like him as a prospect."

### LeBron James and Dwyane Wade continue lobbying for Ray Allen, who will visit the Heat on Thursday. Wade tweeted Wednesday: "2Morrow is a big day for Heat Nation." James - who previously expressed his desire for Allen to sign here - retweeted Wade, then added: "Absolutely! Heat Nation Stand Up."

# # #

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With nearly all of UM’s freshman class already on campus, some early buzz on a 31-player group that was rated ninth in the country by rivals.com:

### Coach Al Golden said “the majority” of the freshmen will play. “You can’t be afraid to play young people,” he said. Fact is, UM needs them after being depleted by graduation and early departures.

Expect freshmen to be major contributors at cornerback (Tracy Howard and at least one other), running back (Duke Johnson), defensive line (at least two) and likely, receiver (assuming one or two of the five freshmen beats out Kendal Thompkins for a spot in the rotation alongside Allan Hurns, Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott).

Several have looked great in summer drills. Howard has returned interceptions for touchdowns and “is everything everyone makes him out to be,” running back Eduardo Clements said. “The footwork, the breaking on the balls.”

Predictably, players have been impressed by Johnson, especially his quickness and elusiveness. “Wow! He’s a playmaker,” Clements said.

Receivers Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart also look ready to make a serious push for playing time. “Those two have stood out,” fullback Maurice Hagens said. “Both catch the ball very crisply and have learned the offense well.”

Receivers coach George McDonald said Lewis “makes people miss and is probably the fastest” of the five new receivers. UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said Lockhart, a polished route-runner, “can be an impact player pretty quickly.”

Coaches are eager to see the three other new receivers: Herb Waters (“once he catches the ball, there’s going to be a lot of yards,” Fisch said) and D’Mauri Jones and Jontavious Carter (a pair of 6-3 athletes with "great ability to go up in the air and catch it,” McDonald said).

And Deon Bush, who can play corner but has been working at safety, “has really impressed me,” Clements said. “Deon grasps everything quickly.”

### Players have noticed this is a particularly conscientious, mature group of freshmen. Both Golden and Hagens have used the words “very serious” to describe them. As Hagens said, “They don’t want to play around.” All business, in other words.

### Fisch is carving out a diverse package for Johnson to take advantage of his unique talents, both as a runner and receiver. “Every time he runs, there’s a certain level of excitement,” UM running backs coach Terry Richardson said. “You look at the balance, the change of direction, the vision, the multiple ways he broke tackles” at Miami Norland. “You don’t always have to line him up in the backfield. You’ve got to get him the ball in different ways.”

UM’s other tailback signee, Danny Dillard, probably won’t know for awhile if he will be cleared academically to enroll. Other than receiver Angelo Jean-Louis, every other recruit has been cleared academically and is enrolled, UM says.

### Because there's no experienced depth at defensive end beyond Anthony Chickillo, Shayon Green and former linebacker Kelvin Cain, at least one freshman must emerge among Jelani Hamilton (“a game changer,” according to linebackers coach Micheal Barrow), Tyriq McCord, Dwayne Hoilett and Jake O’Donnell, with linebacker Gabe Terry also factoring in as a speed rusher (ran the 100 meters in 10.9 seconds).

Chickillo predicts McCord will help immediately: “He’s going be a contributor to us on third down.” With Chickillo and McCord, this staff is making strong inroads in the Tampa area.

### UM is optimistic at least one tackle will help immediately from among Earl Moore, Jacoby Briscoe and Dequan Ivery. “Ivery is going to be an incredible nose guard for us,” Golden said. “Same with Briscoe.”

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said “Moore will be ready to play. He’s really strong.”

### UM is hopeful Raphael Kirby, off an impressive spring, can make the type of immediate impact that Denzel Perryman did last year. “He’s going to be tremendous – explosive with a great change of direction,” Barrow said.

UM is curious to see what it can extract from Perry, who was "a true under the radar kid," Barrow said. "He came from Nebraska to Palm Beach in August. Shane McDermott said, 'We have a guy at my school who's pretty good.''  Josh Witt and Jawand Blue (the former Virginia Tech oral commitment) will also get a look at linebacker.

### Among January arrivals, nobody drew higher praise than Norland offensive tackle Ereck Flowers. UM coaches believe that eventually, he’s going to be exceptional.

### Defensive backs coach Paul Williams believes four incoming cornerbacks will be in his top six. Howard, assuredly, will be one, and early arrival Ladarius Gunter was UM’s third-best corner this spring behind Brandon McGee and Thomas Finnie, Williams says. Larry Hope, Vernon Davis, Nate Dortch and possibly Bush will also compete here. While Bush could play either position, UM sees Rayshawn Jenkins as its one definite safety in this incoming class.

### UM has high hopes, eventually, for quarterback David Thompson, who will miss three to six months after shoulder surgery. "It was a huge shock to David and his family and coaches," said his father Ed, who said the tear likely occured during a practice for the Semper Fedelis All-American game.

Thompson, as you know, will try to juggle football and baseball after he gets healthy. Only a limited number of UM athletes have been able to pull that off especially well (Jim Maler, Maurice Crum, among them) and none recently.

“Obviously, it’s not the easiest thing to not practice in the spring,” Fisch said. “It will be a challenge. He is going to have the handle the learning curve of playing quarterback. He’s a good decision maker and I like a lot of things about him.

### Realistically, there will be serious challenges for UM this season after the departure of a dynamic running back, two solid receivers, an exceptional college linebacker (Sean Spence) and four key defensive linemen, among others. These freshman cannot be expected to lead this program back to where the Canes want to be in their FIRST year. But the hope, internally, is they will form the nucleus of a top-20 caliber team in a year or two, and lift UM in ways the top-rated Class of 2008 could not. Time will tell.  

### One other UM note: In the wake of an InsideTheU.com report that senior Ray-Ray Armstrong has been suspended indefinitely for discussing interaction with a booster on Twitter, his father Albert said he was told his son “is definitely” going to be on the team this season. “And he’s not turning pro.” Besides, the deadline for next week’s NFL supplemental draft has passed. Albert Armstrong said his son has not mentioned the suspension to him, and UM isn't confirming or denying the report, with staff on strict orders not to discuss it.

Seantrel Henderson also disputed Internet speculation, insisting he’s not suspended and not in trouble. Henderson reportedly arrived one day late to the start of the second summer session, which isn't exactly egregious.

CHATTER

### Rashard Lewis' agent, Tony Dutt, said Lewis and the Heat spoke Tuesday about him possibly visiting Miami in the next week or so. Heat interest in Lewis is strong and mutual, and Lewis - who has made a lot of money in his career - is not necessarily opposed to taking the $1.2 million veteran's minimum.

Remember, Lewis will pocket $13.7 million in buyout money this season from New Orleans -- the last year of a six-year, $118 million contract with Orlando. So his decision is not being driven by money.

The Knicks, Lakers, Spurs and Hawks are also under consideration, and Lewis sees positives in all of them. But he is VERY intrigued by Miami.

### If the Heat cannot land Ray Allen, who visits with Miami on Thursday, its options with its $3.1 million exception would be limited to players such as Marcus Camby, Kyle Korver (if the Bulls opt out of his $5 million deal by mid-July), Grant Hill and Nick Young. O.J. Mayo, Jamal Crawford and Chris Kaman appear too expensive (barring a surprise), and Charlotte looks ready to give a ton to Antawn Jamison, who visits there Thursday. The Lakers and Warriors also have shown interest in Jamison. The Heat also likes Lakers free agent forward Jordan Hill, but he likely will get more elsewhere.

### The Dolphins were pleased this spring with the play and professionalism of Sean Smith and Vontae Davis, who noted he's making an effort to maintain his concentration every play, every day. (Smith pointed out that Davis' focus was especially sharp in the recent mini-camp.)

Ex-Dolphin Yeremiah Bell, now with the Jets, said he told Davis, “You can be one of the great players in the league, but you can’t play great one week, mediocre the next, bad the next.’ I’ve told Sean that it’s not all about speed. It’s about technique, learning how to use his length.”

### Despite a report that the Marlins are reluctant to give Giancarlo Stanton a seven-year contract, the Marlins and Stanton’s camp have not had a single conversation this year about a longterm deal. He cannot be a free agent until after 2016.

### The Orange Bowl, which was last played during the day in 1964, announced Tuesday the game will be moved to 1 p.m. Jan. 1 for 12 years, beginning in 2015. But for four of those 12 years, the OB will host a national semifinal playoff game and could be moved to prime time.

The OB will feature an Atlantic Coast Conference team the other eight years. On years an ACC team is in the four-team playoff, the OB would get another ACC team instead.