SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Chatter from the opening of Heat camp:
### LeBron James calls it “scary,” how much better this team can be with another year together and Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis now part of it. Or, as former NBA coach Sam Mitchell says: “You win a championship and you’re telling me you’re adding the all-time leader in three-pointers in Allen and the [No. 8 player all-time in three-pointers]? Are you serious?”
The Heat’s shiny new pieces began training camp Saturday eager to see where this journey leads. “It’s a great challenge. I'm enjoying it,” said Allen, starting over in Miami at 37. “It’s funny where life takes you.”
As Erik Spoelstra said: “Sometimes change can be extremely energizing. Ray seems like he’s in his mid-20s. Rashard feels as healthy as he’s ever been. He has a new sense of opportunity in life.”
As Allen sat at dinner with Pat Riley, Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning and others in July, everything resonated. He loves that Spoelstra “wants to have fun playing and not get stuck about positions and trying to figure out who’s [playing what]. His philosophy is somewhat like [his former Connecticut coach] Jim Calhoun and George Karl – getting the ball up the floor and playing fast.”
Allen admits still being driven by fear of failure (despite all his success), and his relentless work ethic fits well here. Allen is usually the first one at the arena on game nights – four hours before games – and runs to the point of exhaustion, but will not stop until he can make shots (jumpers and free throws) without panting. Few athletes are better-conditioned.
“We’ve had tremendous three-point shooters,” Spoelstra said. “But we’ve never had a catch-and-shoot player with the ability of Ray. If Ray is standing on that three-point line, [his defender] is not anywhere near that rim. You don’t leave him. You simply don’t.”
Allen, who is practicing but said his surgically-repaired ankle is still sore, has started all but eight of 1148 NBA games (four of those eight were last season). But he said he’s OK coming off the bench here.
“So many guys have made arguments why they don’t want to come off the bench,” he said. “It’s more of an ego thing. Sometimes you have to put your ego and pride to the side. I have to be willing to win on the terms of the team.”
Allen said “there are tendencies with teams like this that you overpass, and I don’t want them to do that for me. I know how to find my way within the system.”
The classy Allen hasn’t responded negatively to the chatter coming out of Boston. Rajon Rondo – with whom Allen reportedly didn’t get along - refuses to discuss Allen, referring to him as “that guy.”
Kevin Garnett said he hasn’t spoken to Allen since he signed here and has no plans to, adding: “I don’t have Ray’s number any more" even though it hasn't changed. "I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family. I just made the choice to move on," Garnett said.
Allen's response Saturday? "That's a shame [about Garnett not calling]. I'm a good person to talk to on the phone."
Though the Celtics tried to re-sign him, coach Doc Rivers said last week: “He wanted the ball more. He wanted a bunch of different things. He didn’t feel loved. If you have a lot of complaints, you probably need to go somewhere else. It’s probably best for all of us and for Ray that he moves on.”
### Lewis, 33, said it’s no coincidence that he made his first All-Star team in Seattle after Allen was traded there. “That’s why I became a better shooter when I was playing with him,” Lewis said. “He motivates you and makes you a better player,.. the way he carries himself, approaches games, his work ethic.”
Lewis, who missed 62 games over the past two seasons, said his knees are finally healthy, and Spoelstra has begun to see the “skill set that hurt us so much in Orlando. He’s not simply a three-point stretch shooter. He has the ability to post up. What we like is he can defend multiple positions.”
Playing in just 28 games for Washington last season, his 7.8 scoring average and 23.9 percent three-point shooting were well below his career marks (16.1, 38.8). “I knew it wasn’t me,” he said. “I don’t want to see the tape of myself. It’s like a nightmare, a scary movie.”
But this summer’s non-surgical knee treatment worked and “I can jump and shoot even better now. I’m getting back to getting more arc on the ball – not just shooting threes but mid-range, post-up jump hooks, my explosiveness. [Last season], I couldn’t get any lift and it seems like everything was short.”
He smiles at the possibilities of this lineup. “This is going to present a lot of headaches. The paint is going to be all theirs,” he said of the Big Three. “I’m going to get open looks.”
He said a “goal” is to earn a starting job, but it’s not a priority. And he said he will “fit in on the defensive end because I played for Stan Van Gundy and they run the same system here. He stressed defense a lot and they do that here.”
### Whose congratulations this summer meant the most to Heat players? For James, it was Oscar Robertson. For Mario Chalmers, it was Jerry Rice: “He was talking about what I did in the Finals. For him to tell me he’s a fan of mine was neat.” For Shane Battier, it was a “Congrats, Champ!” from Emmitt Smith.
### Now that Chalmers has played a key role on an NBA championship team, he hopes to be scolded less by teammates during games: “I wouldn’t say stop, but toned down a little with body language and the way it’s presented.”
### Former Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers, now operating a sports performance center in Davie and working for WQAM, said off air that it’s clear that Plaxico Burress/Jabar Gaffney would be a better third/fourth receiver tandem than Anthony Armstrong/Legedu Naanee and doesn’t understand why the Dolphins don’t recognize that.
“Gaffney is savvy, sure-handed; Plaxico is a red zone threat," Chambers said. "You can tell Naanee has lost Ryan Tannehill’s confidence. He doesn’t even look to him.”
After the Chad Johnson debacle, word is the Dolphins don’t want any more receivers surrounded with drama (such as Burress) and haven’t found anyone (Gaffney included) they consider clearly better than Naanee (no catches) and Armstrong (three drops, four catches) to motivate them to eat Naanee's or Armstrong's contracts. That could change with another bad game.
Chambers, 34, has considered a comeback and said Jeff Ireland asked him during the summer if he was ready to run routes (he wasn’t) and would have given him a tryout out of respect.
### By the way, two of the receivers the Dolphins chose not to pursue this past offseason (Reggie Wayne, Brandon Lloyd) rank in the top six in NFL receptions. And two others - Vincent Jackson and Jacoby Jones ranks among the leaders in yards per catch (20.4, 18.9).
### Don’t underestimate this in how well the Dolphins’ front seven is playing: Paul Soliai is in his best shape ever; Randy Starks has dropped from 340 pounds to 304 in the past year; and Karlos Dansby from 270 to 240 (his lowest in many years).
Dansby wasn’t used about 200 plays last year – sometimes because of former coordinator Mike Nolan’s personnel decisions (which was “frustrating” at times, Dansby said), and at times because he got winded and asked Kevin Burnett to go in for him on third down. But new coordinator Kevin Coyle has used Dansby, Burnett and safety Reshad Jones on every play.
### With UM’s basketball team ranked 24th in one preseason poll (Blue Ribbon Yearbook), it’s a critical time for coach Jim Larranaga, who needs to find much of a team for 2013-2014, to build around Shane Larkin and Rion Brown. He has six scholarships to offer and has an oral commitment from the nation’s 96th-rated player (sharp-shooting New Jersey swingman Davon Reed, who averaged 27 points a game), lost out on a few top 100 prospects but remains in the running for others, including Memphis shooting guard JuJuan Johnson (61st; he told me Friday it’s a tossup between UM and Alabama), Washington D.C. area forward Josh Hart (87) and New Jersey center Austin Colbert (89)….
One of Larranaga’s former players, DeQuan Jones, is signing with the Orlando Magic. Which reminds me: Sean Allen was asked under oath about Nevin Shapiro’s claim that he gave $10,000 to Allen to give to former assistant Jake Morton, who was then to give the money to a family member of Jones. Allen said: “It’s possible it could have happened. I just really don’t remember.”
### FOR POSTSCRIPTS and reaction from UM's win against NC State Saturday, please see our last post.
### One of several concerns we’ve heard expressed by Marlins people about Ozzie Guillen is the culture in the clubhouse, and whether it’s serious enough… Asked on 790 radio show whether Guillen is the right man for the job going forward, GM Michael Hill said: "We've had a tough year. Jeffrey Loria will make that decision."
### One Marlins front office official said Jeffrey Loria had no business saying Fredi Gonzalez was a “colossal failure” after Gonzalez claimed no manager is good enough for Loria. “Jeffrey said he was here five years, and he was here 3 ½,” the Marlins official said. “And two winning seasons with a low payroll – how can you call that a colossal failure? Come on!”