We'll get to Monday Heat news in a second, but first a quick UM update:
Defensive end Ricardo Williams has sought his release from UM and UM will not stand in his way. Receiver Robert Lockhart also has explored transferring. Canesport.com reported that both have been granted their release, but UM said it could not confirm that and has nothing to announce on either player.
Williams, a three-star prospect out of Homestead High, redshirted in 2011 and played in one game in 2012.
Lockhart, a four-star prospect from Boca Raton High and Fork Union Military Academy, was injured in the second game he played in 2012 after sitting out the first six games.
UM was not counting on Williams being a major contributor this upcoming season, and its outstanding depth at receiver will make Lockhart's potential departure a non-issue.
The coach on the other sideline in a playoff series generally doesn’t get under the skin of the opposing team, but Pacers coach Frank Vogel has managed to do it two years in a row – one of them for reasons not of his doing.
First, Vogel accused the Heat last year of a penchant for flopping, which resulted in the NBA fining him $15,000.
On Saturday, he called the Heat the “next team in our way,” though he was misquoted later as having said the Heat “is just another team” – which drew a strong reaction from LeBron James.
"We’re not just another team,” James said Sunday. “I don’t understand what he’s saying.”
Vogel heard James’ reaction on SportsCenter and issued a statement, saying he never said anything of the kind.
Vogel told 790 The Ticket today: “They’re better this year than last year. They’re not just another team.”
Asked by WQAM-560 whether he should have even said the words “the next team in our way,” Vogel said: “I’m sitting with my daughters on my lap, elated [about beating the Knicks]. I wasn’t thinking about saying anything dismissive.
“We have a great deal of respect for them. They’re even better this year than last year. It was a quote taken out of context.”
James said he had no reaction to Vogel’s clarification. “We have respect for them as well,” James said. “It’s two really good teams.”
Vogel said he regrets calling the Heat floppers last year “because I got fined. I don't want to give away money.”
WQAM’s Jorge Sedano then asked: “So you still think they’re floppers?"
“No,” Vogel said.
Asked kiddingly if he was lying just then, he said, “Yes” before quickly saying “No.”
Vogel, as usual, came across as confident and engaging in interviews this week with two local radio stations.
Asked by WQAM about people who say he is arrogant, Vogel said: “We’re definitely confident. We’ve got a good basketball team. But they’ve got a great basketball team. We know we need to play a great series to beat this team. We know we can. Anytime a team has gone through that championship experience, they become that much stronger the following year.”
He said the Heat is better than the team that eliminated the Pacers in six games last season not only because of that championship experience, but also because “Chris Bosh is back. The efficiency he has on the offensive end for a big man is ridiculous. The depth they have off the bench – Ray Allen in particular, Norris Cole seems to be playing at a higher level. Birdman makes a big difference for them.”
But Vogel said the Pacers also “are a better team. We’re more mature. We’re a better defensive team this year than last year. We have better discipline to play without fouling.
"We were 29th in fouling last year. We moved up to 14th this year. Foul trouble last year cost us a couple games in this series. We’re playing a much more disciplined brand of basketball this year. We led the regular season in most defensive categories.”
But the Pacers also were fifth-worst in the league in turnovers and finished 19-21 on the road, compared with 30-11 at home.
But “we got quality road wins in the first two series in Atlanta and New York,” Vogel said. “We are very young and we’re new to roles. Lance Stephenson is a third-year player, but this is the first year he has been in the rotation. Paul George is a third-year player, but this is the first time he has had to carry the scoring load.”
Asked by 790 The Ticket what scares him most about his team, he said: “Turning over the ball. That’s a weakness of ours, a strength of theirs…. Turnovers equal dunks against the Miami Heat.”
He said what scares him most about the Heat is James’ and Dwyane Wade’s “ability to just take over a game.”
What’s the most unknown thing about his team? “Our players’ names,” he told The Ticket. “America doesn’t know a whole lot about our team. We’re playing as well as a team as anyone has this year.”
### Bosh, on his ability to draw centers away from the basket: “It’s a weapon that we have that a lot of teams don’t have.”
### Spoelstra called Roy Hibbert “arguably the best rim protector” in the league.
### Asked about how to attack a shot-blocker like Hibbert, Wade said: “To be smart. You have to always know where he is. Sometimes you have to go in to attack, sometimes you have to go in and make plays to draw the defense in.”
Asked if he’s physically up to consistently challenging Hibbert at the rim, he said: “We’ll see. I’m going to do what my body says I can and cannot do… I’ll figure out a way to be effective.”
### James: “Every team wants to play physical with us. We always accept that challenge.”
### James, asked how he developed the restraint to not respond to especially hard fouls or over-the-top physicality by opponents:
Such tactics against him "started when I was in sixth, seventh grade," he said. "I was a lot faster, taller than a lot of kids. It took a while, honestly. It’s maturity. Leadership. I can’t afford to get out of my game and get unfocused if the play becomes more than basketball. It’s difficult at times, for sure. There are times I want to retaliate but I can’t. Football has given me an advantage. I’ve been around physical play.”