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20 posts from March 2013

March 19, 2013

The under-the-radar keys to UM's tourney team; Fins, Canes football, Heat chatter


As UM embarks on its NCAA Tournament adventure Friday, you hear four names, deservedly so, credited most: Jim Larranaga, Shane Larkin, Durand Scott and Kenny Kadji. You hear about slumping Reggie Johnson. But others, inside and outside the UM family, also deserve acknowledgement to varying degrees, players say.

That group includes a role player that everyone with the program vastly underestimated, an ex-Kangaroo, one of the Heat’s Big Three, a former NCAA Tournament MVP, the former head coach and a key staffer who recently left for Arizona State.  

Giving credit where it’s due:

### Start with quintessential role players Julian Gamble and Trey McKinney-Jones, roommates who have watched more than 100 movies together when they’re not working on their games.

“Those guys don’t have huge egos,” Larranaga said Monday. “They’re not all about me, me, me. They’re more: What can I do to help? They listen a lot more than other guys.”

Gamble’s defense, toughness and overall production (6.6 points, 4.9 rebounds) have been invaluable. Frankly, UM coaches never saw this coming from a player who averaged no more than four points or four rebounds in his first three seasons and missed last season with a torn ACL – an injury he now says “was the best thing that happened to me” because “it made me so much stronger as a player and person.”

Said Kadji: “When I came here, Julian was a decent player, but we never expected THIS. Soon [after] he went in the starting lineup, that’s when we went on our 14-game streak. With his effort, he just elevates everyone’s game during practice and games. He doesn’t get tired.”

Once largely anonymous, Gamble has heard ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Seth Greenberg call him UM’s “unsung hero” and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski call him “the most underrated player in the ACC.”

North Carolina coach Roy Williams approached Gamble after Sunday’s game and said, as Gamble recalled: “I am really proud of you. You’ve gone through a lot. To be here and come out on top the way you have, it really says a lot about you. You’re an inspiration to a lot of people.’”

Among other ACC schools, only North Carolina State made him an offer. “Never had interest from Duke or Wake Forest,” the Durham, N.C. native said. “It was a little bit of motivation. I pride myself on being an enforcer, protecting the rim and being relentless.”

McKinney Jones, who picked UM over Wisconsin when he decided to transfer from Missouri-Kansas City three years ago, forged his signature Hurricanes moment Sunday with 20 points. Beyond his three-point shooting, Krzyzewski has raved about his physical defense on the perimeter.

He went under-the-radar out of high school because he focused on track, twice winning the Wisconsin state championship in the triple jump.

“You look at the last five minutes of games – his shooting percentages and what he’s been able to contribute have been amazing,” Larranaga said. “He’s one of those steady Eddie types, doesn’t seek attention.”

### Heat center Chris Bosh and former Arizona guard Miles Simon: Johnson credits Bosh and Simon (the 1997 NCAA Tournament MVP) for giving players the jolt they needed, with summer speeches that still resonate.

Bosh’s was delivered in 2011, and Larranaga calls it “the best five-minute talk I’ve ever heard.” Bosh was playing in a pickup game with UM players, “and I remember guarding him and thinking I did so well,” Kadji said last week.

“But we then had a meeting in the weight room, the whole team, and Bosh just called us out. Told us we didn’t play hard. He felt like we couldn’t improve because our team wasn’t playing hard at all. I took it personally, because I was guarding him. That was a wake-up call.”

Larranaga said Bosh “talked about how disappointed he was that he didn't play better” in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against Dallas, and said, 'You can't compete at the highest level of college basketball with the effort that you're giving.' It was just music to my ears because that was the message we were trying to deliver."

Bosh appreciates that players mentioned that speech in recent weeks: “I am just happy to see them successful.”

Bosh’s memory of that day? “A 36-year-old man with a belly who didn’t play college basketball was working out with us, and he got an offensive rebound and put back. There was no way he was supposed to do that. Please!

“I felt they needed to be more competitive. I didn’t want them to have that feeling of regret when you don’t work as hard as you could and come up short. I told them that. I said, ‘If you want to take a day off, don’t.”

As for Simon – whose NBA career totaled just five games – he told UM players last summer that they weren’t tough enough. “That stuck with us,” Johnson said. “He told Durand and me and we took that to heart. We got the guys together and stayed in town during the summer to work out in the weight room. Now, I feel we’re one of the most physical teams.”

### There are others who deserve mention, too: Guard Rion Brown… Assistant coaches Chris Caputo, Eric Konkol and Michael Huger, who have been key in player development… Former strength and conditioning coach Jim Krumpos – whom Kadji called the under-the-radar person most worthy of credit for UM’s season – before he left for Arizona State last month. “He did an unbelievable job with us – we really look like grown men now,” Kadji said. “I lost 22 pounds, Julian [16 pounds].” His successor, Sean Muldoon, has carried on his program….

And finally, give some credit to Missouri and former UM coach Frank Haith, who left behind the nucleus of this team two years ago, excluding Larkin. “I love those guys and am very happy for them,” Haith texted. “Jim has done a tremendous job with them. Pulling hard for The U.”


### Besides looking at Sebastian Vollmer, Eric Winston and other tackles (including considering a trade for Kansas City's Branden Albert), the Dolphins also are open to upgrading at right guard, and Jets free agent Brandon Moore (ranked fourth among all guards by Pro Football Focus) is on their radar, along with Bears free agent Lance Louis. Joe Philbin said incumbent right guard John Jerry “has to do a better job of staying on his feet" and managing his weight.

(Wednesday morning update: Winston is visiting the Dolphins today.)

### Quick hits from Philbin: He said Daniel Thomas has to “play more consistently, eliminate the fumbles and mental errors”; is “excited” about safety Kelcie McCray, who missed all last year with a foot injury after impressing in minicamps; loves new receiver Brandon Gibson ("runs routes effectively,... moves the chains" and “played a little bigger than he is" at 6-0"); and said cornerback Dmitri Patterson is “athletic and fairly instinctive” but needs to evaluate him more. Patterson could end up starting.

### Jets coach Rex Ryan said of the Dolphins on Tuesday: "No question, they've added a lot of talent to their team. I'm kind of happy to see Jake Long leave, though." He isn't pleased about losing Dustin Keller to Miami: "If Dustin's healthy, he's a weapon. He's got wide receiver skills in a tight end's body.".... The 49ers signed former Dolphins receiver Marlon Moore on Tuesday.

### UM’s Duke Johnson has added seven pounds (to 192) and Al Golden said Tuesday: “We have to increase his touches." But "you have to be careful because you can overload him with the skill set he has.” Johnson averaged 11.5 carries and 16 touches per game last season.

### For more Dolphins and Canes notes from Tuesday evening, please see our last post.

### One official with another team said the Heat expressed frustration with Mario Chalmers’ inconsistency earlier this season, but that has changed. He has been very good during this win streak (79 assists, 33 turnovers). And this shows his value: Not only is Miami 17-1 when he scores in double figures, but he is shooting 46 percent in Heat wins, 29 percent in losses. 

Tuesday night Dolphins and Canes quick hits

Ten quick Fins and Canes items from Tuesday:

### Not much surprising from Joe Philbin in his lengthy media session at the NFL owners meetings today, but one thing that struck me, after listening to Philbin’s comments, was the difference between Philbin's and Jeff Ireland’s public evaluation of Michael Egnew.

While Ireland has continued to defend Egnew and insisted he has a bright future even though he played just 17 snaps as a rookie, Philbin was as blunt as you’ll ever hear him, saying:  “We just didn’t quite see it on the practice field enough to feel like he was ready to make a meaningful contribution or give him a big chunk of the game plan.

"We didn’t see enough from him in special teams where we could validate, ‘OK, Even if he doesn’t have a big role here maybe he can have a big role there.’ So we just didn’t see enough on the tape to warrant an active spot most of the season.”

The big problem, Philbin said, was “his play speed. If I had to say one thing, it would be his play speed. Get that up! Get off the ball quicker, get a better release off the line of scrimmage, get down field quicker. Just speed it up.” Some teammates remain skeptical of his chances. Egnew is doing MMA training this offseason.

### Charles Clay, the other backup behind Dustin Keller, “is working his tail off” in his recovery from late-season knee surgery. Philbin said “we’re going to keep looking” for another tight end. Preferably one with blocking skills (my words, not his).

### Philbin's most telling comment about replacing Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler: The new linebackers “might be able to make a couple more impactful plays.”

### Philbin clearly was thrilled with Ireland re-signing safety Chris Clemons. He used “delighted,” among other words. “He’s tough, physical, good player.”

### Philbin, on his defense: “We can’t survive [again] on 16 takeaways.”

### He’s eager to see more of young corners Julian Posey and DeAndre Presley in the offseason program.

### Lamar Miller clearly is the front-runner to start at running back, but Philbin didn't say. What Philbin did say is he likes Miller's "explosiveness." He said "he impressed us with his running skills. He can catch the ball. He's an instinctive guy with the ball in his hands."

### UM offensive lineman Brandon Linder was on crutches with a knee injury at Tuesday's UM spring practice, the fifth of the spring. He will miss some time but Al Golden said he won’t require surgery. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Jacoby Briscoe has been moved to guard.

### Golden confirmed our story that suspended linebacker Eddie Johnson is no longer enrolled but didn’t want to discuss the issue beyond that. But we're told that even if UM reinstates him, he will need to make up the classes he misses this semester to be eligible.

### Golden said tight end Asante Cleveland is having a great spring. Beau Sandland will need to beat out Cleveland to be Clive Walford’s top backup. Golden said Sandland, an excellent receiving tight end, “has to get more comfortable with in-line blocking.”

 ### Check back later for the Wednesday buzz column, with more Fins, Canes and Heat.

March 18, 2013

Incredible Heat numbers off Boston game; UM NCAA Tourney notes, Golden addresses issues

A few eye-opening numbers to emerge from the Heat's 23rd consecutive win, achieved Monday in Boston:

### During this winning streak, Miami has outscored opponents 145 to 75 during clutch time, as defined by the NBA: the final five minutes of a game with a margin of five points or fewer. That covers 49 minutes during this streak. The Heat outscored the Celtics, 11-4, during clutch time on Monday.

### According to ESPN's Stats and Information, an opponent has scored at least 31 points against the Heat nine teams this season. Miami's opponents are 0-9 in those games. Jeff Green scored 43 on Monday.

### LeBron James became the first player to register 37 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds in a game at Boston since Scottie Pippen in 1995. LeBron, of course, had 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists in that season-saving Game 6 win in Boston in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.


Tidbits from Monday’s UM NCAA Tournament news conference, and Al Golden’s first comments after his team's 10-day spring break:

### Jim Larranaga’s team enters the tournament confident, but Julian Gamble insisted there’s so sense of contentment simply from winning the ACC title. UM players wore “Full Speed Ahead” T-shirts this afternoon.

“This team has all the ingredients to win every game it plays. It also has the characteristics to lose any game,” Larranaga said. “…We had the toughest non-conference schedule in the history of the school. We’ve got size, speed, shooting ability, can rebound, defend. We have a very good team.”

### What does UM know about first round opponent Pacific? Gamble Googled them and determined “they’re in California.” (Stockton, specifically). Well, that’s a start.

Fortunately, Larranaga knows a bit more. “They’re a hard nosed defensive team,” he said.

Said Gamble: “We’re not going to take them lightly. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. By no means are we letting up on the accelerator.”

### Keep in mind that two No. 15 seeds knocked off two No. 2 seeds in last year’s tournament. UM enters as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional; Pacific is 15th. If UM is still alive after two games this coming weekend, it would play next Thursday night in Washington D.C. in a Sweet 16 game.

### No UM player has played in an NCAA Tourney game. Gamble was a redshirt freshman on a UM team that made the tournament. Kenny Kadji was a redshirt sophomore on a Gators team that made it.

### Kadji, by the way, said he received an ovation when he walked into his English class this morning.

### Larranaga and UM players appreciated how North Carolina coach Roy Williams waited outside UM’s locker-room after Sunday’s game, then came in and wished UM well. “Roy was very nice, very congenial, very respectful of our team,” he said.

### Larranaga will fly to New York Tuesday to attend the funeral of his high school coach and mentor, Jack Curran. “I loved the man. He was my inspiration to be a coach.”

### Count Digger Phelps among those picking UM to win the title. 



A few tidbits from Golden’s always informative sessions with WQAM’s Joe Rose:

### He said late four-star addition Derrick Griffin, who still must qualify academically, “is a big X receiver, red zone threat like Tommy Streeter was. Maybe he’ll grow into a Jimmy Graham.”

### On Duke Johnson: “I’d be crazy not to give him the ball more.” But he said backups Danny Dillard and Dallas Crawford have looked good through four spring practices.

### He believes “we should be really improved on defense” and ran off a list of 2012 freshmen who have matured or bulked up.

### He said UM “should be much improved” at defensive tackle. “Curtis Porter has been steady and consistent. He has really improved his approach. Olsen Pierre looks so much different.” He said Pierre is probably playing the best of the group, but Luther Robinson also has emerged.

### Receiver Malcolm Lewis, who suffered a dislocated ankle against Georgia Tech last year, likely will cleared for contact in May or June. “It’s a marvel – he’s [already] running routes, catching some ball,” Golden said.

### Of the offensive linemen, Golden said: "You can make the case Ereck Flowers is playing the best of any of them. This is the best stretch Seantrel Henderson has had." And he said he's "pleasantly surprised" by guard Danny Isidora.

### He appreciates that new offensive coordinator James Coley has eased the transition for his players by not changing much the verbiage the team uses. "Really impressed with James Coley and [new tight ends coach] Larry Scott," he said.

### Golden said: "This is the most fun I've had since I've been here.... I feel different about this team."

### UM spring practice resumes Tuesday, with a scrimmage scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Traz Powell Stadium.

March 16, 2013

UM NCAA time set; Analysts, GMs assess Dolphins' moves; UM, Heat, Marlins chatter

Quick Sunday night note: UM's NCAA Tournament opener against Pacific has been set for 2:10 p.m. Friday on TNT and WQAM-560 from Austin, Tx. If heavily favored Miami wins, it would play the winner of Illinois-Colorado on Sunday.


The view on the Dolphins first week of free agency? Mixed, but tilting positive. The feedback I solicited from three professional talent evaluators, including two former general managers - plus analysts Cris Collinsworth and Dan Dierdorf - was largely positive, but several NFL Network voices keep pounding the Dolphins.

“They’ve got a plan,” said Collinsworth, who’s encouraged by what he has seen. “They’re young. They’re growing together. They’ve got a good core nucleus and a good coach.”

Dierdorf’s take: “It’s still New England’s division. Let’s not kid ourselves, as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are there. Underestimate them at your own risk. But the Dolphins have really taken positive steps and I’m not sure you can say that about the Jets and Bills.

“Nobody has looked at the Miami offense for years and thought quick strike big play offense. That changes now.” With Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess (if the Dolphins keep him, which they haven't told him) and Brandon Gibson, “this is an impressive receiver group – it’s a nice blend, can make a lot of quarterbacks look good.”

Said longtime former Falcons/Packers/Raiders executive Ken Herock: “Now you have receivers who make the quarterback better. You can see the Green Bay influence, with Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman, in the players they’ve gone after. Jeff Ireland should thank them. Dannell Ellerbe is a perfect fit for them, and I thought Philip Wheeler was Oakland’s best defensive player last year. I’m more optimistic about them now.”

Still, there are loud detractors, mostly former players and executives employed by NFL Network. Warren Sapp blasted Miami for giving $35 million to Ellerbe, and former NFL offensive lineman Jamie Dukes said: “The Heat won. The Dolphins won’t win this way. A lot of big money for a lot of questionable players.”

Chatter on Miami’s signings:

### Wallace: NFL Network’s Charley Casserly, the former Redskins and Texans general manager, said Wallace is “not a complete receiver” and Miami “absolutely overpaid. He’s not a premier top receiver in the NFL. But in free agency, you want a player, you overpay.”

Former Colts GM Bill Polian added: “You can argue, as Bill Parcells did, that’s too much for one player, and I accept that argument. But that deal was a market price deal. Now they’ve got a three-level passing game which is the basic premise of a West Coast offense. With the talent of the quarterback and the other receivers, Wallace is the perfect complement to what they have.”

ESPN’s Ron Jaworski said: “Yes, you overpaid. He’s going to touch the ball about six times a game…. You hope he’s going to take the top off the defense, create intermediate areas where other receivers can make catches.”

Keep in mind that Wallace ranked second in yards per reception (21.0) in 2010 and 20th in 2011 but fell to 54th last season (13.1). His 4.4 yards after catch in 2012 tied with Davone Bess for 45th of 102. “But Pittsburgh wasn’t a deep ball oriented offense under Todd Haley last year,” said ESPN Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson, a former Browns scout.

Williamson’s concern: If Wallace “has hamstring or ankle injuries” that reduce his speed slightly, “what is he going to bring to the table? He’s not going to break tackles, not going to beat you with crafty route running. This front office is in a little bit of a desperation mode. But what he does is better than anybody. Whoever is covering him is generally going to be very afraid.”

Wallace drops far fewer passes than, say, Brandon Marshall – 17 the past three years.

“Wallace is the only one I see in the league making those kind of over the top plays, and that’s a difference maker,” Collinsworth said. “I don’t think he’s polished [as a route runner], but he makes tough catches over the middle. With Miami’s receiver situation and attendance situation, they had to something. But it’s a huge roll of the dice. You better be right.”

Dierdorf makes a good point: “A guy like Wallace makes it a lot harder to drop that eighth guy in the box, so he’s a huge addition to the running game. Denny Green once told me, ‘I feel Randy Moss is worth 50 yards a game to our running game.’ And he’s going to make the routes that Hartline and Bess run more effective.

“Wallace has been inconsistent at times, but he has game-changing abilities and game-changing speed. Those are two things in short supply in the NFL, and people will always pay to have them.”

### Dustin Keller: Williamson ranks him about 12th among 32 starting tight ends: “He’s what they need, can create mismatches against linebackers. A better weapon than Anthony Fasano, but not much of a blocker.”

Pro Football Focus consistently ranked Fasano much higher than Keller because of far superior run blocking metrics, and Keller’s hamstring and ankle injuries that cost him eight games in 2012 give pause for concern.

But in his last three full seasons (2009-2011), Keller averaged 55 receptions and 675 yards, compared with 34 and 439 for Fasano. Keller has just four drops in his past 24 games, after 14 his first two seasons.

“If he’s the guy who gave the Jets those good years, he’s a nice addition,” Dierdorf said. “He’s got a good feel for the passing game, good hands, good route runner, can find openings in a defense.”

### Gibson: Forty three of his 51 catches went for first downs, and that 84.3 percent ranked third in the league behind only Vincent Jackson and Lance Moore.

His yards-per-catch have risen every year (to 13.5, higher than Wallace last year) but he’s not a speed demon and his 2.4 yards-after-catch was fourth-worst among 102 receivers in 2012.

“He’s a jack of all trades, a really solid No. 3 receiver,” Williamson said. “Last year, Miami’s skill positions were bottom two or three in the league. Now it’s in the middle.”

### Ellerbe: Among 53 inside linebackers, Pro Football Focus ranked him third as a pass rusher and 13th against the run. Polian really likes his skills as a blitzer.

He ranked 48th in pass coverage, but that’s somewhat misleading. Quarterbacks had a 97.1 rating in his coverage area – 18th best and better than every 2012 Dolphins linebacker.

“Ellerbe was Baltimore’s best inside linebacker, even when Ray Lewis was healthy,” Dierdorf said. “He’s the loss Baltimore is most lamenting. He’s got good range, can make blockers miss. Has shiftiness, can really run.”

Collinsworth was impressed by “his ability to decipher what was going on the offensive side. The speed and hustle stick out. He can cover running backs.”

But Williamson cautioned: “Ellerbe isn’t Pro Bowl caliber – Karlos Dansby, at his best, I would take over him. And I don’t know that Ellerbe is great in coverage.”

### Wheeler: Perhaps the most polarizing signing. “He’s a journeyman – I would have put signing Sean Smith ahead of him,” former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said.

Said Casserly: “Wheeler is a good player, but I’m not sure spending that money [five years, $26 million] doesn’t come back to bite them later because they have other needs.”

The bad news: Of 43 outside linebackers, Wheeler ranked worse against the run than Kevin Burnett (25th to 6th). He allowed 51 of 61 passes thrown against him to be caught, though the 9.6-yards-per-catch was above average for his position.

The good news: In 126 pass rush chances, he had three sacks, 14 hits and 13 hurries; Pro Football Focus ranked only Von Miller ahead of him as a rusher among 4-3 outside linebackers.

Polian, who drafted Wheeler in Indianapolis, calls him an “excellent player who took a little while to adjust to the pro game. He’s a very tough, smart guy, a big hitter. The light went on in his third year (2011).”

Herock said: “I studied Oakland’s tape, and he’s fast, active, goes hard all the time. He’ll be one of Miami’s top couple defenders.”

### Please see our last post for Saturday Dolphins news regarding Elvis Dumervil, John Abraham and corners still available.


### After preliminary discussions with the Heat, Greg Oden’s agent said he will resume talks with Pat Riley this summer about Oden possibly joining Miami to start next season. Five teams are in the mix, with Cleveland and Miami having as good a shot as anybody. “Miami is high on his list, and Pat is still excited about him,” agent Mike Conley Sr. said.

### One of the things that bothers UM about the NCAA’s notice of allegations is the NCAA included, without much or in some cases any noted corroboration, claims that Nevin Shapiro gave financial inducements to several players to try to get them to sign with his sports agency, AxCess Sports. UM expected most of the AxCess Sports violations would be removed when Sean Allen’s deposition was tossed.

### UM’s Dyron Dye said it was his idea to ask Al Golden to move from tight end back to defensive end because he believes his pass rush skills (32 sacks his last two years of high school) can help fix one of UM’s biggest weaknesses.

### West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman receiver Travis Rudolph de-committed from Miami on Friday largely because he wants to play receiver, and UM sees him as a cornerback. That leaves UM with four oral commitments so far for the 2014 class.

### Even former Duke guard Jay Williams said Saturday that UM should be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, ahead of Duke, if the Hurricanes win the ACC Championship game today. But his ESPN colleague, Digger Phelps, said UM would be best off as a No. 2 behind Gonzaga in the West Regional.

### Marlins bullpen update with two weeks left in spring training: Steve Cishek, Jon Rauch, Mike Dunn, Ryan Webb and likely A.J. Ramos are safe, with Chad Qualls, John Maine, Kevin Slowey, Evan Reed and Sam Dyson top contenders for two or three other spots. 

Dumervil would love to hear from Dolphins; Fins, Heat chatter

A quick Saturday update:  

Not surprisingly, elite pass-rushing defensive end and Miami native Elvis Dumervil would have interest in joining the Dolphins, his agent told us this morning before being replaced as his agent.

But Marty Magid said the Dolphins so far have not called about Dumervil, who was released Friday by Denver after Dumervil returned paperwork agreeing to a paycut minutes after a deadline to accept it.

[SATURDAY 5:30 P.M. UPDATE: Dumervil has parted ways with Magid this afternoon in the wake of Friday's fiasco with the Broncos.]

Before Dumervil told Magid he was switching agents, Magid said “a handful” of teams had called about Dumervil and he will “reach out” to teams he “fits well with” or has interest in. He said Miami would be one of those teams. Now his new agent can do that.

Magid said he spoke to Denver Friday night, but the Broncos did not clarify whether they have interest in re-signing him at this point.

It would be tricky – though not impossible - for the Dolphins to both re-sign Jake Long (Miami was still waiting on a decision from Long on Saturday morning) AND sign Dumervil and have money left over for the draft and to fill other needs, such as cornerback.

The Dolphins were feeling more hopeful about their chances of keeping Long, who reportedly spent part of Saturday's at the team's facility.

Dumervil, 29, had agreed to take a paycut from $12 million to $8 million with Denver before Friday’s bizarre turn of events. The Denver Post reported Saturday that the Broncos asked the league office if it would honor the verbal agreement it had with Dumervil to restructure his contract. The league said no. Had the Broncos not released Dumervil by Friday's 2 p.m. deadline, his $12 million salary would have become guaranteed for 2013.

Now, the Broncos would face additional salary cap consequences by re-signing him.

NFL union cheif DeMaurice Smith today asked for an inquiry into the matter.

Dumervil, who attended Miami Jackson High, is undersized as a 5-11, 260 pound defensive end, but his production has been exceptional: 17 sacks in 2009, 9.5 in 2011 and 11 in 2012, plus 54 tackles and six forced fumbles last season. (He missed 2010 with an injury.)

He is expected to visit interested teams after the conclusion of next week's owners meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. Coaches and GMs attend those meetings.

The Dolphins have explored adding another pass rusher, but as of Saturday morning, nothing had materialized to the serious stage. Michael Bennett, who visited Thursday, signed with Seattle, and the Dolphins haven’t advanced initial discussions with former FIU and San Diego linebacker Antwan Barnes.

The agent for John Abraham (10 sacks for Atlanta last season) said Saturday that Miami has made no offer to his client. According to a credible source (not his agent), Abraham visited the Dolphins Tuesday night, and Miami is still a possibility for him. He also visited the 49ers and Seahawks.

### It looks like the Dolphins will address cornerback in the draft, but it would make sense to add a veteran, too. Besides Brent Grimes (who visited Friday), here are the other veteran corners left: Quentin Jammer, DeAngelo Hall, Antoine Winfield, Nnambi Asomugha, Sheldon Brown, Terence Newman, Nate Clements, Tracy Porter, Captain Munnerlyn, Drayton Florence, Kelvin Hayden, Pacman Jones, EJ Biggers, Shawntae Spencer, Cedric Griffin, Rashean Mathis, Joselio Hanson, DJ Moore, Mike Jenkins, Marcus Trufant, Brandon McDonald, Ryan Mouton, Jacob Lacey, Terrence McGee.

Check back later for a Dolphins-heavy Sunday buzz column.

### No player has taken more subtle tweaks at the Heat than Boston guard Jason Terry in the past couple years. His latest was delivered Friday, when he said of the Heat’s winning streak: “Not really impressed with it or anything that they do.”

Perhaps Terry is still miffed about missing that shot to end Game 6 of the Heat’s series-clinching win in the 2006 Finals in Dallas. Or about Miami pursuing Ray Allen instead of Terry in free agency last summer.

March 14, 2013

Wade quietly making history; NCAA again does UM no favors; Fins free agency; Marlins


So let’s see if we have this straight: In two months, Dwyane Wade has gone from Charles Barkley claiming he was lost his “athletic ability” and “talent”; to a national web site (Bleacher Report) publishing a story asking whether he’s underrated, to quietly doing something that only two Hall of Fame guards ever accomplished.

You all know how well Wade is playing. But here’s some perspective on how historically good Wade has been:

### Largely overshadowed by Miami’s 20-game winning streak is the fact Wade is the first guard to shoot at least 50 percent and score at least 20 points in 11 games in a row since Michael Jordan in 1995-96.

### Only two shooting guards in the Hall of Fame have done in a season what Wade is on pace to do – average at least 20 points and shoot better than 52 percent. Those would be Jordan, who did it six times, and George Gervin, who did it four times (twice as a starting two-guard, twice at small forward). And the 6-4 Wade, who’s averaging 21.8 points and shooting 52.3 percent, is three inches shorter than Gervin and two inches shorter than Jordan.

Among the great shooting guards of all time, Kobe Bryant never shot higher than his 46.9 this season, Pete Maravich never higher than 44.6. Clyde Drexler’s career high was 50.6, Earl Monroe 51.7, Reggie Miller and Jerry West 51.4 each.

What’s more, in the past 30 years, a Herald study shows only three shooting guards other than Jordan have done, over a full season, what Wade is doing (at least 20 points per game while shooting at least 52 percent): Monta Ellis (2007-08), Rolando Blackman and Andrew Toney (both 1983-84).

“Five years ago, he had to shoulder the entire burden and a lot of times was put in situations where he had to take bad shots,” James Jones said. “Now he doesn’t have to take bad shots. His jump shot has gotten better, his finishes have gotten better.”

A few points to consider:

### Wade is shooting a career-high 43 percent from 16 to 23 feet (he was 37 the past two years), and 43 percent from 10 to 15 feet (he was 38 two years ago). “His mid-range game is better,” Chris Bosh said.

### He’s shooting 75 percent at the rim, compared with 66 or 67 each of the past six years.

### He’s shooting at least 50 percent on post ups (51 for 100) for the first time ever. “He has reinvented himself,” Udonis Haslem said.

### Perhaps the biggest key to Wade shooting a career high: He’s on pace to take only 86 three-pointers. He shot 278 and 206 in the previous two non-lockout seasons. (Wade is shooting only 25.8 percent on threes, but because he has taken so few compared with past years, it hasn't been very damaging to his overall shooting percentage.)

He’s shooting above 54 percent during the streak, aided by the fact he’s averaging five dunks or layups per game. Overall this season, Wade ranks behind only James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul in the NBA’s efficiency rating.

This would mark the fourth time in five years that Wade has led all shooting guards in shooting percentage – he was edged out by Wilson Chandler in 2009-10 – and he’s doing it in a year he’s averaging fewer  points than any time since his rookie season. And, by the way, he’s first among all shooting guards in blocks per game, second in steals (his 23-game streak ended Wednesday) and fourth in rebounds and assists.

“I just got to understand, for me, especially when I'm healthy, that I'm one of the best in this game," Wade said, noting he feels better than any time since 2010. "When you’re doubted, you want to, what’s the phrase, shove it up their? My role is just different, you know? When I’m not healthy, people can say things about me. But when I’m healthy, there’s not much you can say.”


Unfortunately for UM, former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins - the one member of the NCAA’s 18-person infractions committee who expressed strong skepticism about using Nevin Shapiro as an NCAA source - was excluded from the committee that will hear UM’s case in mid-June.

According to a person involved in the UM case, UM’s fate will be determined by Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky, Bowling Green athletic director Greg Cristopher, Notre Dame senior deputy athletic director Melissa Conboy, law professors Eleanor Myers (Temple) and James O’Fallon (Oregon), Kansas City-based attorney John Black, Washington D.C.-based attorney Roscoe Howard and Tampa-based attorney Christopher Griffin.

### Classy move by Missouri and former UM coach Frank Haith to reach out to a few of his former players on this Hurricanes team. “Pleasant surprise,” Kenny Kadji said. “Coach Haith texted me after the Duke game and during the win streak, saying good job.”

### An associate said cornerback Darrelle Revis, the subject of trade rumors, would welcome Dolphins interest if the Jets don’t keep him and if Miami decided to pursue it. There's been no indication that Miami has any interest in trading for Revis, who's coming off a major knee injury and could be a free agent next spring.

### Davone Bess hasn’t been told if he will be jettisoned if Miami beats out the Jets and Titans for receiver Brandon Gibson, who visited Dolphins camp Thursday. But Miami has told other people that its vision -- if Gibson agrees to a contract -- would be to pair Gibson, Bess and starters Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline when it uses four-receiver packages.  [FRIDAY UPDATE: BRANDON GIBSON SIGNED WITH MIAMI THIS AFTERNOON.]

That said, the Dolphins sometimes say one thing and end up changing their mind, and Miami also likes Rishard Matthews and Armon Binns. Marlon Moore wasn’t tendered a contract offer.

### Despite the Dolphins saying publicly how much they valued them, they never made a formal offer to Sean Smith and their offer to Anthony Fasano was well below Kansas City’s, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Dolphins never made an offer to Reggie Bush but told him he could let them know when he got an offer elsewhere. Bush -- perplexed by Miami's approach -- didn't bother, and who could blame him at that point? He took Detroit's offer without going back to the Dolphins, who presumably wouldn't have matched.

### Please see The Herald's story on the home page on the Dolphins signing Dustin Keller.

### A dozen Nevada casinos, including the MGM Grand, set the Marlins' over/under for wins at 63, which would mean 99 losses. Only the Astros have a lower over/under for wins (59). Both teams have 250-to-1 odds to win the World Series. 

March 13, 2013

Four more Thursday Fins visits; ex-GM questions Fins; Mike Wallace press conference; Magic's suggestion

A few Fins notes and a couple hoops item at the end:

### St. Louis receiver Brandon Gibson is indeed visiting the Dolphins today and Friday, a source said. Though the Jets wanted to sign him during his visit there on Wednesday, Gibson wanted to take visits to Miami and then Tennessee. 

The possibility of the Dolphins trading Davone Bess can't be ruled out if they sign Gibson, but remember that Joe Philbin made ample use of four receivers in Green Bay, and it's very conceivable Miami could use all four (Mike Wallace, Bess, Hartline, Gibson) in passing situations if Gibson signs. 

### Tampa defensive end Michael Bennett is visiting the Dolphins today, a source confirmed. He had nine sacks last season and would give the Dolphins another high-caliber pass rusher opposite Cam Wake if Miami signs him. But Miami won't get his brother, Chicago-bound tight end Martellus Bennett.

### Linebacker Thomas Howard and guard Lance Louis -- two veterans coming off torn ACLs -- also visited, the team announced. Howard played only one game last season before the knee injury but has been a starter for the Bengals and Raiders. Louis, who can also play tackle, started 11 games for the Bears last year before his knee injury in November. 

### Jets tight end Dustin Keller's visit to Miami ended without a deal being struck but the sides will keep in touch and a deal hasn't been ruled out, according to a report out of New York.

### Despite the excitement generated by the Dolphins' moves early in free agency, they're still catching a lot of criticism on NFL Network, with all three of their high-priced signings being questioned by at least five analysts, including Warren Sapp questioning spending $35 million on Dannell Ellerbe. "Are you kidding me?" Sapp said of replacing Karlos Dansby with Ellerbe.

Then there was this from fired Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said: “The one I would have proceeded with caution is Philip Wheeler. He’s a journeyman. I’m not sure if I understand that so quickly in free agency. I would have put signing Sean Smith ahead of Wheeler. You’re trying to beat New England.”

### Before being limited to eight games last season because of hamstring and ankle injuries, here’s how Keller’s receptions compared with Anthony Fasano: 45 to 31 in 2009, 55 to 39 in 2010, and 65 to 32 in 2011. He has averaged 11.9 yards per reception in his career, barely ahead of Fasano’s 11.6. Fasano signed with Kansas City this week.

### The Dolphins believe Ellerbe will be better both in pass coverage and as a blitzer than Karlos Dansby or Kevin Burnett. His agent, Nova graduate Hadley Engelhard, got Ellerbe one of the league’s best deals for an inside linebacker (five years, $35 million; $17 million guaranteed) and said Ellerbe will play middle linebacker here. The Dolphins inquired about Ellerbe during the weekend and beginning Monday night “got more and more aggressive. We knew it would be a great fit.” Baltimore was not given a chance to match Miami's offer.


Here’s the Mike Wallace Dolphins press conference from Wednesday, for those interested:

(On what the last week has been like for him) – “It was just, it felt like forever. It took forever just for this last week to pass, but I’m very excited to be here. I’m very excited to start this next chapter in my life down in South Florida.”

On the rumors connecting him to the Dolphins and if he had been thinking about it the past couple of months) – “Not really the last couple of months. A couple weeks – two or three weeks. (I) was just trying to fit myself in in each organization and see where I think I would fit best and I think this one just stood out to me. I love being down South. I love everything that’s going on here. I think they’re very competitive. They’re in the right direction – a young team, second-youngest team in the league actually last year. I think we can do some good things. I like Coach (Joe) Philbin. He’s a good guy. I like the offense first and foremost.”

(On working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill) – “It’s going to be different playing with a guy who’s actually younger than me. Ben (Roethlisberger) always treated me like his little brother. So actually being a big brother is going to be a little bit different, but I’m excited. I’m excited about the different changes. I know he’s happy for me.”

(On if he considered signing with other teams) – “Yes, of course. You don’t get this opportunity too often. Not very many people get this opportunity. You have to look at each situation and try to feel it out and see what’s the best situation for yourself. I think this one stood out to me.”

(On what other teams were involved in trying to sign him) – “There were a couple of teams, but I’m not really going to get into all of that.”

(On the high expectations for him now and if he feels pressure) – “No, actually it feels crazy. It feels like a dream, so I’m still trying to figure everything out. But I don’t have any pressure at all actually. I feel that I put enough pressure on myself just to be good – for myself, my family, my teammates and my organization, the fans. (There’s) enough pressure already, not really too much added from where I come from.”

(On who he brought here today) – “I’ve got my dad here with me. I’ve got my agent Bus (Cook). I’ve got the young guy over here with me. He’s hanging out, enjoying South Florida.”

(On if he’s talked with Ryan Tannehill yet) – “We had dinner last night. (He’s a) cool guy. He’s ready to get down to work just like me.”

(On where they went to dinner) – “I don’t know. I know they had boats and stuff (laughing). I don’t really know too much about where we go. I just get out of the car. I get in and get out. I just know they had a lot of boats. Big boats.”

(On if there will be a discussion about he and Tannehill having same jersey number – “We’ll talk about it, but if he’s up to it. I’m not a guy who’s just going to try and pressure anybody about anything. If he wants it, he keeps it. If not, I’ll talk it.”

(On Dannelle Ellerbe joining the team and his past rivalry with him when they played in the same division) – “I guess we don’t have a choice but to get along now (laughing). But I don’t like too much of those guys where he comes from (Baltimore Ravens). We’re on the same team now, so I’m excited.”

(On if there’s a lot of excitement about the Dolphins right now) – “Yes, definitely. I feel like we made a great splash yesterday (and) with the guys that they have, a young team and I feel like they’re competitive. That’s the main thing. I don’t feel like this is a team that was 7-9 in a bad way. I feel like it was all hard fought games. Some of them get away from you sometimes. We were 8-8 this year, so I know that every game’s not going to go the way you want. I think this is a competitive team and I think we can do some good things.”

(On if he’s had a chance to meet with the other receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess) – “I talked to Brian yesterday. I haven’t had a chance to meet him.”

(On the list of qualifications that he looked for in his next team) – “Really for me it was about my family and just seeing where I thought they would be comfortable at. I don’t think they really like the north too much. They don’t have a problem going there if need be, but you want to put them in the best situation. And I just think the direction that the team is going in is a good one, and I’m excited about it. I like Coach Philbin. I like what he brings to the table, and I just like the offense in general. I like the quick hits, the big plays. I think we are going to do some big things.”

(On whether being the third highest paid receiver and being the focal point of opposing defenses is a daunting challenge) – “Not really. I feel like the last three years I’ve been the focal point when I’m on the field, so I don’t really feel too much pressure on me. There’s a lot of relieved stress and a lot of just excitement right now.”

(On whether he is going to move down to Florida immediately) – “Pretty soon, pretty soon. I’ve got to figure things out. It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet. I’ve got a lot to figure out.”

(On the process of dealing with the front office and Jeff Ireland) – “I feel like they were really aggressive. They really wanted to show me that they wanted me here. As soon as Saturday, when we were able to talk, they were really aggressive. I think they wanted me and wanted me in their plans, and we’re excited.”

(On the recruiting process and whether he went out to dinners and watched film of the team) – “I really didn’t want to do too much of that. I wanted to figure stuff out on my own. I think (his agent Bus Cook) Bus did a great job of being in contact with everybody, and I just let Bus handle that business. I just did a little research on each team on my own.”

(On whether he looked at video of the teams) – “Yeah definitely. I watch a lot of film so I like it.”

(On whether he studied Tannehill) – “Yeah of course. This guy has a lot of upside. I know that for sure. (I like him) over a lot of guys in the league. I think we can build.”

(On whether he could sense that Tannehill was excited about his signing when they met) – “Yeah he was happy. A lot of smiling. He is a young guy, and I’m a young guy, so I think we are going to be on the same page. He can put it up there.”

(On how he responds to people who say that Ben Roethlisberger made him the player he is) – “I don’t really have anything to say about anybody. Really I don’t care what anybody says. I’m here with this team. I have Ryan Tannehill. Ben was a great player, and people are going to have their opinion, so I think we’ll take care of that and we’ll see.”

(On whether he thinks he can continue to produce touchdowns at his current pace regardless of system) – “Definitely. I think just being on the field, my will will get me some touchdowns. We have a good enough quarterback, two of them actually. A lot of guys can’t say that. A lot of guys can’t say that you have two guys you feel comfortable playing with all the time at any moment. I think they will get me enough touchdowns on their own.”

(On if it was tough leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers) – “Definitely. That’s the only place I’ve ever been. That’s the only thing I know. It’s just different. It’s a new experience, but I’m excited about it and I think it’s going to be good for me.” 



Magic Johnson on Wednesday became the first national commentator to endorse Erik Spoelstra for Coach of the Year: “Coach Spoelstra is pulling out all the stops making sure this team is focused and ready. He should probably be Coach of the Year.”

### At an ACC Tournament practice Wednesday, UM sophomore guard Shane Larkin reiterated what he told me in this space a month ago: He will return for his junior season instead of turning pro.

March 12, 2013

UM plotting NCAA strategy; NCAA throwing up obstacles; Fins free agency; Heat, Marlins


The University of Miami is preparing to make its next move in its battle with the NCAA, but the NCAA already is throwing up obstacles.

In a highly unusual step, UM plans to submit to the NCAA a motion to dismiss the case against Miami before a March 29 deadline to submit documents, according to a source.

But according to two sources, the NCAA last week sent a letter to UM and the implicated former coaches with a warning: The infractions committee “does not believe it has the authority under the bylaws to dismiss the case” prior to the case going before the infractions committee in mid-June.

Even so, UM likely will let the process play out before considering a lawsuit.

A UM administrator said the school has prepared a compelling argument for why the case should be dismissed before the June 14-16 hearing, though it knows it’s highly unlikely to be dismissed.

Among the arguments UM will make in seeking dismissal:

### The NCAA’s decision to use Nevin Shapiro’s attorney and the bankruptcy court to extract evidence resulted in a “tainted” investigation. Yes, evidence obtained from the bankruptcy court proceedings has been tossed, but UM believes that's not good enough.

### The most serious allegations against the highest-profile people named in UM’s notice of allegations are uncorroborated beyond what Shapiro told the NCAA. That includes largely uncorroborated allegations involving Vince Wilfork, among others, according to a source. 

As the Associated Press reported, in the NCAA’s allegations, Wilfork and Antrel Rolle account for $90,000 of the $170,000 that Shapiro is alleged to have spent on UM athletes, coaches and UM recruits. So a lot of the money in the NCAA’s charges is linked to allegations that UM believes are uncorroborated beyond Shapiro’s claims.

### UM was outraged that former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar, who was fired last May, wrote a letter on Shapiro’s behalf. UM learned of the letter in recent weeks, which was reported by AP and obtained by The Herald. For a copy of the letter, please see our next-to-last post.

One person involved in the process said the letter was written before the NCAA interviewed other people besides Shapiro or informed UM it was being investigated.

“That’s the definition of pre-judgment or prejudice,” said the source. “And it’s a cover up because the NCAA didn’t tell Ken Wainstein to include it in his report.”

So why was that letter not included in the 52-page report by Wainstein, who was hired by the NCAA to investigate the NCAA’s improper handling of the case?

“During the inquiry,” Wainstein e-mailed me, “the team [that was investigating the case in Wainstein’s law firm] learned that Mr. Najjar sent a letter to Nevin Shapiro’s sentencing judge several months before the bankruptcy subpoenas were discussed.

“The NCAA had engaged [our law firm] to focus on the use of Mr. Shapiro's counsel and the circumstances surrounding the role of the NCAA enforcement staff in securing depositions in a bankruptcy proceeding to further its investigation of the University of Miami.

“The report focused on those circumstances and was not intended to exhaustively describe all aspects of Mr. Shapiro’s relationship with the Enforcement Staff.”

That explanation obviously doesn't placate UM and the former coaches.

Former UM assistants Aubrey Hill, Jorge Fernandez and Jake Morton also plan to add the letter as a supplement to their previously-filed motions to dismiss.

The NCAA has given the involved parties a two-week extension -- until March 29 -- to submit documents and opinions about whether information that’s included in the allegations should be eliminated from the evidence.

One infractions committee member then will be appointed to review the written submissions and determine whether a procedural hearing is warranted. But that person does not have the authority to dismiss the case.

If the case against UM isn’t dismissed, UM likely will not consider a lawsuit until it learns, sometime between August and October, what – if any – additional penalties are handed out by the infractions committee. If UM is given any significant penalties, including another bowl ban, it very likely will appeal. A lawsuit likely will be considered if UM loses an appeal.

UM prefers not to go to court. “We have to exhaust the normal remedies first, and we could win” without going to court, a UM administrator said.


### UM coach Jim Larranaga said Tuesday that his staff discusses slumping center Reggie Johnson "more than any player on our team, and by a lot. At some point, he's got to feel well enough [mentally] to play well."

With UM opening ACC Tournament play at noon Friday (against the Georgia Tech-Boston College winner), Shane Larkin said: "We need Reggie to have 15 and 10 one of these games. Reggie has to get back to being Reggie - a big, strong dude who rebounds" and makes "good post moves."

### Please see our last post for a new development on UM linebacker Eddie Johnson's status.

### The Dolphins have made inquiries about several free agent cornerbacks, including San Diego’s Antoine Cason and Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn. Detroit’s Chris Houston also is on Miami’s radar, a source said. And they called about former Arizona free agent Greg Toler before he signed with Indy on Tuesday night.

### The Dolphins put out on feelers on San Diego free agent linebacker and former FIU standout Antwan Barnes, who has 17.5 sacks in his past 38 games, but stopped short of making a significant offer. At least as of Tuesday.

### After losing Anthony Fasano and being spurned by Jared Cook, the Dolphins are bringing in Jets free agent tight end Dustin Keller for a visit.

### Though the Dolphins inquired about Packers free agent safety Charles Woodson, they decided not to make an offer before re-signing Chris Clemons on Tuesday. Woodson will visit with the 49ers on Wednesday.

### We'll have more on the Mike Wallace signing in the coming days, but here are a few tidbits on the Dolphins' musical chairs at linebacker, with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler replacing Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett:

Pro Football Focus ranked Ellerbe 14th among all inside linebackers for 2012, one spot behind Dansby. But Ellerbe was a better pass rusher last season (4.5 sacks in 13 games). Dansby, who often was used in pass coverage, had one sack even though he played nearly 500 more snaps than Ellerbe in 2012. Dansby flashed pass rush skills in Arizona, but that never translated here, partly because of how Miami used him. 

Ellerbe, who at 27 is four years younger than Dansby, has started only 14 games in four years, including seven last season. But he has no interceptions and just one forced fumble over the past three seasons. Dansby wasn't much better with impact plays --- only one interception and three forced fumbles over that period. But Ellerbe is highly regarded, played very well for Baltimore last season (initially filling in for Ray Lewis), and ESPN analyst and former Colts GM Bill Polian said he was the free agent (other than re-signed Joe Flacco) that Polian deemed most important to the Ravens.....

Pro Football Focus ranked Burnett fourth among all 4-3 outside linebackers (based on 2012 performance) and ranked Wheeler sixth. Their 2012 stats were nearly identical: Burnett had 110 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Wheeler had 109, three and two for the Raiders.

Neither was great in pass protection. Quarterbacks had a 101.2 rating in Burnett's coverage area and a 111.1 rating in Wheeler's. But Wheeler, at 28, is two years younger and cheaper. Ellerbe and the speedy Wheeler are better blitzers than Dansby and Burnett.

Miami brought in Wheeler for a workout last spring but decided not to sign him, opting for Gary Guyton instead. Jeff Ireland changed his mind this time around, after watching Wheeler put together his best pro season last year, which was his first in Oakland after playing previously in Indianapolis.

### Even beyond LeBron James’ greatness, Rashard Lewis marvels at this: He said James already bought his teammates five gifts this season, including two sets of head phones, a Playstation travel game system and a Galaxy Notebook. “Everything is done for his teammates,” Lewis said. “He takes [generosity] to another level.”

Said LeBron: “That’s just the person I am. My mom always told me to share.”... Please see our last post for more Heat notes.

### Marlins roster battles: Among position players, Casey Kotchman (.425), Kevin Kouzmanoff (.375), Chris Coghlan (.344) and Chone Figgins (.333) are making a strong case to stick. Matt Downs (.167), Austin Kearns (.085) and Bryan Petersen (.071) are not.

Wade LeBlanc, who has allowed no earned runs in nine innings, remains the front-runner for the No. 5 rotation spot.

UM player leaves school; See the NCAA's letter to Shapiro's judge; Dolphins, Heat notes

A few Tuesday afternoon notes, on a day the Dolphins are landing prime free agent target Mike Wallace:

### UM linebacker Eddie Johnson continues to hurt his chances of getting back on the Hurricanes football team. Johnson has left school, at least temporarily, and is not enrolled this semester, UM tells us.

Johnson, who was third on the team with 59 tackles and had a team-leading 7.5 tackles for loss, remains on indefinite suspension. UM people are highly skeptical about his chances of being reinstated, though Al Golden has not ruled it out. His missteps include tardiness, not showing up and other violations.

### While we were away the past couple weeks, I’m sure many of you saw the letter than since-fired NCAA investigator Ameen Najeer filed on behalf of Nevin Shapiro to his sentencing judge, as first reported by the AP. I also obtained a copy of that letter. Please click on the last post for that. Everyone involved in the UM case is fuming about the letter and with good reason.

### The agents for several prominent free agent cornerbacks and offensive tackles say Miami hasn’t made an aggressive effort to sign them, which suggests that the Dolphins want final decisions from Sean Smith and Jake Long before they move on to other options. Long is visiting the Rams tonight.

Besides adding Wallace, the Dolphins continue to make a push to sign Tennessee tight end Jared Cook. UPDATE: Cook has chosen to sign with the Rams instead, leaving Dustin Keller, Martellus Bennett (who said he wants to sign with Chicago) and Fred Davis as the top free agent tight ends available. Miami hadn't been pursuing Davis as of Monday but that could change.

Also, Miami cut Karlos Dansby after signing Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who's younger, cheaper and more of a play maker.

(I'll be covering the Heat game tonight, but Armando and Adam Beasley will have updates throughout the night. There's a Wallace story on the home page.)

### Friday’s meeting with Milwaukee – the Heat’s second game on a five-game road trip – could be being a preview of a first-round playoff series. And at least one Bucks player believes that would be the preferable matchup for them.

“The two games that we played Miami so far, we matched up well against them,” guard Brandon Jennings told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If you ask me, that’s who I would want to play first round, Miami.

“Right now we haven’t really played well against the Knicks. I just feel better if we play Miami first round, just the fact we have good games against them.”

### LeBron James said Heat players “haven’t talked much” about their winning streak – which stood at 18 entering Tuesday – but “we do appreciate it. We have a lot of guys who haven’t won as many games in a season as we’ve won in this win streak. It’s pretty unique and special.”

Four teams have won at least 20 in a row: The 1971-72 Lakers, who own the all-time streak at 33; the 2007-08 Rockets (22), the 1948-49 Washington Capitols (20) and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20).

Dwyane Wade said before Tuesday’s game that he’s a long way from considering the possibility of breaking the Lakers’ all-time record. “The only time I would think it’s do-able is if we get to 32, and we’re playing for 33,” he said. “It’s so far away. It’s nothing we’re contemplating. It’s laughable in a sense to even think about that.”

He said the streak “will mean more one day when someone else, one day, gets on a streak and they bring your name up and show highlights of your team.”

### Shane Battier missed Tuesday’s shootaround with flu-like symptoms.

### The Heat signed Juwan Howard to a second 10-day contract.

### Coach Erik Spoelstra offered a surprising opinion before Tuesday’s game, asserting that “I don’t think last year’s [Heat] team is good enough to win this year.”

He added the level the Heat is “playing at right now might not be good enough. We don’t know how good we can become.”

Magic Johnson said on ABC on Sunday that he spoke to Heat president Pat Riley on Friday “and he said, ‘We’re really not playing that well.’ We’re not playing our best basketball. We’re just playing good enough to beat everybody.’ He says they have room for important and he’s looking for improvement.”

Spoelstra, asked about that comment on Tuesday, said: “I’ve had plenty of conversations with Pat and those haven’t been the conversations. We’re trying to play at a standard that’s adequate to us.”

### Check back later for the Wednesday buzz, with more Dolphins, Canes and Heat. And please click on the last post to see that NCAA letter to Shapiro's judge. 


The NCAA's letter to Nevin Shapiro's judge