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1 posts from January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013

Heat signs Birdman; Financial decisions loom for Heat, Dolphins, Marlins; Fins, UM chatter


The Heat signed veteran center Chris Andersen to a 10-day contract, giving the team a skilled rebounder and shot-blocker. Andersen, 6-10, auditioned for the Heat on Jan. 8 and remained in South Florida for the past week while trying to improve his conditioning.

Andersen could carve out a role on a team that ranks next-tolast in the league in rebounding. Miami also re-signed center Jarvis Varnado to another 10-day contract. I'll have a thorough story with reaction from Anderson, Erik Spoelstra and the Big Three posted on the Herald home page by 2 p.m. (Look for it under breaking news on The Herald's sports home page, to the right of this blog.)

### UM picked up an oral commitment from junior college defensive end Ufomba Kamalu, who had 14 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles for Butler CC in Kansas last season. He was rated a two-star recruit by rivals.com and three stars by ESPN. Canesport.com said he could play end, d-tackle or tight end.



So much of sports is about money now, and the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins will face financial decisions, in the coming months, that will shape their teams. Among them:

### Heat: Sports Illustrated suggested the Heat might need to dump one of the Big Three when the luxury tax becomes far more onerous in 2014-15. But owner Micky Arison said a year ago: “We can keep it together,” and a Heat official reiterated last week that remains the intention.

That assumes, of course, that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh want to stay when they can opt out of their deals in the summer of 2014, and that none becomes diminished by injury or something unexpected.

Last week, an Akron newspaper said “more and more people around the league believe there is a strong possibility James will return to Cleveland after next season.” A James associate couldn’t rule that out but also said he’s happy here.

What’s clear, though, is that the rest of Miami’s roster will be affected by the tax. This season, teams must pay $1 for every dollar spent above the $70.3 million threshold, meaning Miami will have a tax bill in the $13 million range for its $83 million payroll.

But next season, the tax rates increase, and a team $12 million over the threshold (which hasn’t increased much in recent years) must pay a $21.25 million tax.

That likely will motivate the Heat to reign in 2013-14 payroll somewhat from $85.6 million. Using the amnesty clause on Mike Miller ($6.2 million) would help, and Miami could save a meager $1.1 million if it doesn’t extend a qualifying offer to Dexter Pittman. Ray Allen will decide after the playoffs whether to opt out of his $3.2 million contract for next season.

The real problems begin in 2014-15, when Miami almost assuredly would fall into the new “repeat taxpayer category” for teams above the threshold four years in a row, or a fourth time in five years. As a repeat taxpayer, Miami would be required to pay $2.50 per dollar if it’s between $1 and $4.99 million over the threshold. The tax is $2.75 per dollar for teams between $5 million and $9.9 million above it, and so forth.

If James, Wade and Bosh opt out in the summer of 2014, and if Miller is amnestied by then (very likely), then the only players under contract for 2014-15 are Norris Cole ($2.1 million team option), Udonis Haslem ($4.6 million) and Joel Anthony ($3.8 million).

Haslem or Anthony could essentially be given away to teams with lots of space, replaced by minimum-salary players who would comprise much of the supporting cast around the Big Three. Keep in mind that because of the rising tax, a lot of decent players --- some of whom are now getting exception money -- will settle for the minimum.

So a cast of James, Wade, Bosh and cheap complementary pieces should still be formidable in 2014-15, provided the Heat finds the right veteran minimum players to surround them, unearths a couple of young rotation players (like they once did with Haslem, Ike Austin and Voshon Lenard) and that Wade -- who just turned 31 --- maintains a high level.

### Marlins: The 2013 payroll projects to $32.5 million, but it’s $45 million counting money they owe other teams from salary-dumping trades. An MLB Players Association source said if owner Jeffrey Loria doesn’t increase their payroll in the coming months, they plan to pursue the issue with commissioner Bud Selig.

“We don’t have to wait until next October to pursue it,” the source said. If the Marlins don’t raise payroll in 2013, former commissioner Fay Vincent expects “the commissioner and union will strongly encourage Loria to spend some money. They can make it very uncomfortable if he doesn’t.”

In 2010, the MLBPA forced an agreement with MLB that required the Marlins to boost their payroll for three years. It jumped immediately, from $37 million in 2009 to $46 million in 2010. According to MLB’s Basic Agreement, any club that receives money from revenue sharing must use those funds “to improve its performance on the field.”

But the Marlins privately believe MLB won’t force them to increase payroll during 2013 or before 2014 for a couple of reasons: They assert they lost $40 million last season and won’t make much, if anything, this season, because they expect attendance and associated ballpark revenue to plummet. MLB and the players union are given the Marlins’ books.

Also, the Marlins expect to collect much less in revenue sharing this year (between $10 million and $15 million) than past years. They reportedly averaged $33 million annually in revenue sharing from 2002 to 2010. Another MLBPA/Marlins conflict is inevitable, and it will be interesting to see how Selig deals with it.

### Dolphins: With the team’s cap space now at $46 million, owner Stephen Ross reiterated: “All my resources are there and if the right players are there, I don’t care what it costs. We’ll go after them.”

But Ross also said free agency “isn’t the answer” and during a visit to the Miami Herald last week, he told me: “I hope we find the right free agent if there is one out there. [But] we’re committed to the draft. We are not going to sign free agents for the sake of signing free agents.

“They’re going to have to fit in and not be people playing for a contract. You can’t be signing free agents just to think you’re going to be satisfying the public.”

When I asked him if the Dolphins will pursue the two top free agent receivers, he mentioned one of them “was injured.” He wasn’t permitted to give a name because of league rules, but Greg Jennings missed eight games before returning late, and Mike Wallace missed the finale with a hamstring strain.

“We’ll see what’s out there,” Ross said, noting the team might draft a receiver instead. “We know we have to become more explosive.”

### By the way, the Panthers enter this season with $60 million in cap commitments --- 18th highest among 30 teams. That's $10 million below the cap.


### Several former UM coaches were briefed on their violations last week, and one who expected to be punished for recruiting rules-breaking said there were no surprises in what he was told. But the NCAA forbids them from discussing it.

### The NCAA has tried very hard the last couple of months to prove some of Nevin Shapiro’s new basketball allegations, including claims of violations in UM’s recruitment of John Wall. We hear Wall’s AAU coach, Brian Clifton, told the NCAA in a meeting -- late last year --- that while he met Shapiro, Wall never met Shapiro; that UM offered no inducements; and that neither he nor Wall asked for any. One UM assistant was pushed hard on exactly what Frank Haith knew.

### With Jedd Fisch leaving for the Jacksonville Jaguars, keep this in mind: Before hiring Fisch two years ago, Al Golden also spoke with Brian Daboll. Daboll then took a job as the Dolphins' offensive coordinator (he was fired after one season) and then took the same job in 2012 with the Kansas City Chiefs, which also ended in his dismissal. Daboll re-joined the New England Patriots' offensive staff this past week; Bill Belichick wouldn't specify his responsibilities but he won't be coordinator..... For those wondering, new UM tight ends coach/associate head coach Mario Cristobal has never been an offensive coordinator.

### Neither UM’s Brandon McGee nor Mike James was invited to the Senior Bowl, and Mel Kiper projects both as late round picks, though some scouts believe McGee could rise to a mid-rounder.

“James could push his way on a roster as a third back,” Kiper said, adding no other Cane player will be drafted in April. By the way, James, McGee, Darius Smith and Vaughn Telemaque were on rosters for other draft showcase games this weekend, neither as prestigious as next Saturday's Senior Bowl.

### The Dolphins conveyed they would like to re-sign safety Chris Clemons and see a potential future here for cornerback Dimitri Patterson. But Patterson’s $4.5 million salary likely puts him at risk if there’s not a restructuring.

### The Marlins are hearing from agents from several older veteran free agents who “would love to play here,” the latest including Miami residents Freddy Garcia (7-6 for the Yankees in 2012) and outfielder Bobby Abreu (.242, 24 RBI for the Dodgers).