WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Four decisions facing the Heat during training camp, which opens Saturday:
### Starting power forward: With Chris Bosh expecting to remain at center, the options are natural small forward Shane Battier, who handled the job for most of the final three rounds of the playoffs; Rashard Lewis, looking to resuscitate his career; and Udonis Haslem. Using Battier or Lewis with the other starters would spread the floor; Haslem would provide more rebounding.
Battier and Lewis aren’t big rebounders -– the 6-10 Lewis has, at times during his career, ranked among the lowest rebound-per-minute starter for a player of his size -– but LeBron James’ work on the boards could compensate for that. The question is whether Battier, at 225 pounds, can sustain a full season at power forward.
“I think I could get away with it,” he said. “The regular season is not as physical as the playoffs. Guys aren’t hitting as hard.”
### Which two young centers to keep: Two likely will make the team from among Dexter Pittman (a front-runner), Josh Harrellson, Mickell Gladness and Jarvis Varnado. Pat Riley opted for youth over a veteran such as Mehmet Okur or Darko Milicic. Juwan Howard is still working out with the Heat, hoping for a one-year contract.
Pittman is the only one of the four with a guaranteed contract, but Riley made clear he expects more from him than his uneven, foul-plagued performance in summer league. The Heat likes his rebounding and offensive growth but has grown exasperated, at times, by his penchant for fouling: one every 4.1 minutes last season).
Harrellson, 6-10, is the best shooter of the four: 20 for 59 on threes, but probably the worst defender. But here’s what intriguing: In four of the five games when he played at least 27 minutes for the Knicks, he produced 14 points and 12 boards; 11 and 7; 8 and 7; and 18 and 9.
The coaching staff likes the upside of the 6-11 Gladness; he’s a natural shot-blocker and less foul-prone than Pittman (one every 7.9 minutes).
The 6-9 Varnado, who spent the past two years in Italy and Israel after being drafted 41st by Miami in 2010, is the biggest long shot of the four but ranks as the NCAA’s all-time career leader in blocked shots (at Mississippi State) and one of two players in NCAA history (with David Robinson) to produce at least 1000 points, 1000 rebounds and 500 blocks.
“Harrellson can be exposed defensively, but he’s a better player than Gladness and more skilled,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “Gladness is athletic and long but has no offensive game. Harrellson can shoot it and plays his butt off.” That scout gives the edge to Pittman and Harrellson among the four.
### How deep the rotation goes: Besides the Big Three and Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Battier and Haslem will play, Joel Anthony likely will get limited minutes (unless Pittman or one of the other young centers outplays him), and Lewis will play unless he shows nothing in camp. That’s nine.
The conundrum for Erik Spoelstra is whether to regularly play Norris Cole or give those minutes to Mike Miller, with Allen or Wade as primary ball-handlers when Chalmers is out. That could depend partly on matchups. Though Miller avoided back surgery, his health bears watching. It’s difficult to envision much time for James Jones.
### Terrel Harris or Garrett Temple for the last perimeter spot (or possibly Nigerian national team member Chamberlain Oguchi, who has impressed the Heat but hadn't been offered a contract yet as of Tuesday evening):
Harris and Temple both went undrafted in 2009 and both must improve their shooting. Harris, 6-4, showed growth in summer league but shot 34.9 percent as a rookie. He spent the summer working on that and his ball handling.
"Can he handle the ball? Yes. Can he bring it up the court and enter us into an offensive set? Yes," Riley said earlier this offseason. "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."
The 6-6 Temple, from LSU, has played 51 NBA games for five teams, averaging 3.8 points and shooting 37.9 percent.
“Close call,” the scout said of Harris/Temple. “Temple is an all-purpose guy who can play point guard. Harris is a little better athlete.”
### With the Dolphins auditioning veteran NFL cornerbacks Alphonso Smith, Aaron Berry and Morgan Trent on Tuesday (see our last post for details), this should trouble them: Of 100 qualifying cornerbacks ranked by Pro Football Focus, Richard Marshall is 78th and Nolan Carroll 89th. (Sean Smith is 43rd.)
Also troubling: Of the 21 passes thrown against Marshall this season, 14 had bad results (10 catches, for 140 yards plus four penalties). Of the 12 thrown against Carroll, seven had bad results (including five catches for 88 yards).
But if there’s any consolation, the Colts’ Vontae Davis has been worse (12 of 14 caught, for 165 yards).
### Reggie Bush said on the Paul and Young Ron Show on Big 105.9 FM that he feels no sympathy for the Jets losing Darrelle Revis for the year with a knee injury because "what goes around comes around. They talked all week about putting hot sauce [on me] and this and that and they ended up losing their best player." Bush says his injured knee is merely bruised and he's trying to do what it takes to play Sunday.
### So what’s the deal with two promising Dolphins and UM tight ends that have been nearly invisible? The Dolphins’ Charles Clay (16 catches for 233 yards last season) has just one for two this season. “Part of that is him; part of that is us putting him in position to make plays,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said.
Clay said Sherman’s preseason criticism of him on HBO’s Hard Knocks “was good; it got me refocused. I needed it.” But it hasn’t translated to production.
Asante Cleveland, UM’s first-team tight end for six months until Dyron Dye beat him out opening week, is now on the third team and has two catches for 12 yards. UM wanted 60 catches from tight ends; they’re on pace for 39. “We’ve got to get them the ball more,” Al Golden said.
### UM coaches expected receiver Robert Lockhart would contribute immediately, but he hasn’t even played. Why? Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he needs to “keep studying and play faster.”
### No, UM’s Tracy Howard (who has played 100 snaps in three games) is not in the doghouse. Golden said the ballyhooed freshman corner “has been great” and displayed a good attitude but didn’t play much against Georgia Tech because he wasn’t “ready for the triple option. It was hard enough having Deon Bush back there at safety. It's scary. The option is no place for freshmen.” Senior Brandon McGee said: “I let Tracy know you can’t freelance.”
### How much has UM’s conditioning improved (which was key in the Georgia Tech win)? In August 2011, 40 players failed Golden’s conditioning test. None did this year.
### One National League general manager said this week that the struggles of Ozzie Guillen (Marlins) and Bobby Valentine (Boston) reinforces it’s better to have a “steadier” manager who isn’t “larger than life” and looking for attention for himself… Though some Marlins people thought he should have gotten his veterans to play better, Guillen countered: “Hanley Ramirez hasn’t performed in five years.” (Actually, two years.) “And John Buck hit .210 last year, too.” (Actually, .227.)