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2 posts from June 2, 2013

June 02, 2013

Jeff Ireland speaks out; Sunday Heat update; Canes, Marlins; Twist to Duper arrest




As Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland sits back and assesses his team, he feels confident the Dolphins “have closed the gap” with New England.

But how much? That’s where Ireland still isn’t sure.

“Hard to say how much,” he said. “Right now, we have really high-profile names on paper.... We've got to go perform. We have to jell. That sometimes takes time. Expectations are high.”

Ireland addressed a few topics in two recent interviews – one joint session with me and Dolphins.com – and another with NBC Sports Network. Among his musings:

### He said winning the AFC East remains the goal and “anything short of that is probably in our mind not successful.”

### He gives himself and his front office high marks for the offseason moves: “We did as good a job as we could have done in the draft and free agency. That’s what I’m so proud of. We wanted to be more physical and more explosive on defense. We wanted to be faster and more experienced on offense. We did what we had gone out to do.”

But he also conceded: "We didn't get everything we wanted." He declined to offer specifics, but tight end Jared Cook and left tackle Bryant McKinnie took better offers elsewhere, as did Jake Long, of course.

### He believes the Dolphins are now better equipped to “run the offense [we] wanted to run – a high tempo offense.”

### He predicts if rookie end/linebacker Dion Jordan develops as the organization expects, he ultimately is “going to be something to reckon with.”

### He predicted Ryan Tannehill “is going to make a big jump this year. He has a lot of room to grow. He’s brilliantly smart. The upside is tremendous.”

### Why did he opt to go exclusively with running backs with less than three years of NFL experience, which is very unusual?

“I feel very comfortable with Daniel Thomas,” citing his “power,” and with Lamar Miller’s “speed and explosion. I thought we had a good combination there.

“We feel very good about Jonas Gray coming off the knee. Then [rookie] Mike Gillislee. There’s youth at the position. There’s special teams value there. We feel very good about their skill set. Obviously, we need to see them play a little more and solidify the position.”

### On why he replaced Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler: “Really fell in love with the two players we got. Nothing against Karlos and Kevin. They’re very good players.

“[But] I felt like this gives us a chance to get a little bit faster, a little bit more physical at the point of attack. Like their style of play.”

### Despite losing Long -– who accepted a slightly better deal with St. Louis and never gave Miami a chance to match, which it might have -– Ireland said: “I feel we’ve got a very good unit with Jonathan Martin, Mike Pouncey and Richie Incognito. [Right tackle] Tyson Clabo stabilizes it on paper. That group has to solidify itself over the next four weeks.”

### On Tim Tebow: “I don’t believe we’ll be looking into that.”

### For those interested in only the Dolphins and nothing else, please scroll down to chatter for a bit more, including news in the Mark Duper arrest.


### On the eve of the Heat’s second Eastern Conference finals Game 7 in as many years, an upbeat Erik Spoelstra delivered the same six-word message three times during his briefing with the media on Sunday:

“We’re not above a Game 7.”

Many expected the Heat’s run through the Eastern Conference playoffs would not be quite as arduous, but Spoelstra said: “It’s not a failure. We’re not above having to earn it.

“We’re not entitled to anything. There have been plenty of champions before that have had to go through Game 7s. Nobody just runs through the playoffs” – although a few have come close, including the Lakers’ 15-1 sprint through the 2001 postseason.

The Heat is 11-4 in these playoffs. But Miami is just 4-5 against the Pacers this season, including 3-3 in this series.

Aware of rampant criticism about the Heat’s play in the Eastern finals, Spoelstra said: “Come on! We’re tied. It’s not like anybody is up in this series. That’s where the narrative on the outside is skewed.”

### The Heat didn't practice Sunday, but Spoelstra said Chris Bosh came into AmericanAirlines Arena to watch tape and do on-court work, as he and the staff try to figure out a way to get him going. When Spoelstra met with reporters at 1:30 Sunday afternoon, he said he expected Dwyane Wade to come by today, also. Spoelstra reiterated his priority will be coming up with ways to put both players in spots where they can be "comfortable" and "aggressive."

"It's on me," Spoelstra reiterated for the second day in a row.

### Spoelstra said Mike Miller “gave us good minutes” in the fourth quarter of Game 6 – including two three-pointers – but stopped short of saying he definitely would play in Game 7.

“Everything is on the table,” Spoelstra said. “In a Game 7, our guys understand anything goes.”

### In the second half Saturday, Spoelstra opted for Miller instead of Shane Battier, whose four minutes all came in the first half. Battier didn’t attempt a shot and is 15 for 66 (22.7 percent) in the playoffs.

“The rotation we [had] been playing has been extremely successful,” Spoelstra said. “That might be the way we still go…. Shane will be there [Monday] and have an impact.”

Spoelstra said he didn’t go sooner to Miller – who played just seven minutes in the first five games – because “we were up 3-2 and we won a lot of games and already won two series with a rotation we were playing all year.”

### Spoelstra indicated his confidence hasn’t wavered in guard Ray Allen, who is shooting 13 for 46 in the series. “Ray will be there,” he said. “He’s hit some big ones when we needed.”

### The Pacers confirmed they are packing for eight days and will fly straight to San Antonio if they win Monday.

“We believe we can win there,” coach Frank Vogel said Sunday. “We believe we can win the series. We always have.”

### The NBA fined Pacers center Roy Hibbert $75,000 for using "inappropriate and vulgar language" during his postgame media session Saturday night. "While Roy has issued an apology, which is no doubt sincere, a fine is necessary to reinforce that such offensive comments will not be tolerated by the NBA," Commissioner David Stern said. Please see the last post for an account of what he said.


### At the MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos, the Dolphins’ odds of winning the Super Bowl have improved from 50 to 1 in February to 30 to 1 now. But not many people are taking that bet, according to an MGM official. Thirteen teams have shorter odds.

### One UM football player said the team finally has purged itself of players who can’t be counted on and don’t buy in.

“It’s a very mature group,” Al Golden said. Former UM running back “Mike James spoke to the team after the NFL Combine about why these things we preach every day are so important."

But with the defense’s problems last year, there’s disappointment about the decision to part ways with Gabe Terry, Eddie Johnson and Gionni Paul after multiple team violations (and Thomas Finnie for his arrest). “Terribly frustrating,” Golden said of the missteps he hopes are now over. “To lose a kid because of poor choices off the field is disappointing.”

### Former Canes point guard Shane Larkin declined to work out for the Knicks, who pick 24th, because his agent now feels he will not be on the board when New York picks. Most expect him to go in the teens or low 20s at worst.

### Though some of the Marlins’ younger players are injured or struggling, the disappointing play of the veterans has been especially hurtful on a team that remains on pace to break the 1968 Chicago White Sox record for fewest runs in a 162-game season.

Here’s where several veterans ranked at their position entering the weekend: Juan Pierre (last among all left fielders in OPS – which is on base average plus slugging percentage); Placido Polanco (last among third basemen in OPS), Justin Ruggiano (23rd among 25 qualifying center fielders with a .210 average). And Greg Dobbs, at .219, is well below his .279 average in his first two years here.

“Pierre’s bat has slowed down, but at least he battles his [butt] off – doesn’t give away at-bats like half their lineup,” a National League scout said. Ruggiano said earlier has been thrown more breaking pitches than last year.

Incidentally, Giancarlo Stanton (.227 in 20 games) said he hopes to return from his hamstring injury before the All-Star break. The Marlins hope it will be much sooner than that in light of the progress he has made the past two days. And the good news is that Chris Coghlan has revived his career the past month, pushing his average to .297 after a poor start.

### An update on one of the most shocking former Dolphins arrests ever:

Two months after former Dolphins great Mark Duper was arrested in Jacksonville for battery on his son, the Jacksonville state attorney’s office and a judge have given to go-ahead for the 17-year-old to return to the family house with Mark and his step mother. The court order says “Mark Super Duper” – that’s his legal name – can have “contact with the victim” but cannot administer corporal punishment.

“A psychologist recommended it – we thought it was in everyone’s interests to re-unite them,” assistant state attorney Alan Mizrahi said. “The child had nowhere else to go.”

The son had been staying in a treatment facility but was recently discharged. Duper was charged with misdemeanor battery and one count of felony child abuse at the time of the arrest, but formal charges have never been filed, and Mizrahi declined to say if they would, though that appears unlikely.

“There are ongoing discussions with the state attorney’s office, and we cautiously anticipate an appropriate resolution,” said Duper’s attorney, George Cholakis, who said the facts in the arrest report are not accurate. “Mark is concerned about the welfare of his son. Mark has never placed his son in danger.”

Former Dolphins linebacker Hugh Green witnessed the March incident and told the Florida Times Union that Duper, who caught 59 touchdowns in an 11-year career that ended in 1992, learned his son had sent a text to his girlfriend, threatening violence, and Duper began to discuss it with his son. The son disputed that and “challenged his father,” Green said.

The arrest report said Duper “punched his son several times and “slammed him to the ground” and when the son returned to the house after being ordered to leave, “Duper threw him on the bed and punched him in the face and head.”

Green said he came in and stopped the fight, but it resumed outside after the son rammed his father’s car with a bicycle. The arrest report said Duper then again punched his son and started choking him, and that the son -- by the end of all the altercations -- had a cut lip and scratches on his elbow and ear.

But Green said: “There were no punches. It was more wrestling as Mark defended himself.”

### The lighter side: Rapper/Heat hater Lil’ Wayne -- who was told he was not welcome back at AmericanAirlines Arena after his mean-spirited, obscene anti-Heat tirade at a Houston club in February, a week after he argued with fans and security at a Heat game -- paid thousands of dollar to root against the Heat from a courtside seat at Saturday’s game in Indiana.

Heat-Pacers Game 6 notes, quotes, postscripts; Wade wants more involvement

We’ll post the Sunday buzz column, with Dolphins and more, later on Sunday.

First, postscripts from the Heat’s dreadful 91-77 Game 6 loss at Indiana, which sends this series back to Miami for a Game 7:

### What an offensive abomination. The numbers are nauseating:

Miami closed at a season-low 36.1 percent from the field. Its 77 points tied a season low. The Heat had more turnovers (13) than assists (10). And the combined 15 points and four field goals from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were their lowest combined total as teammates.

So what the heck is going on with Bosh and Wade (aside from Wade’s injury)?

“We have to make shots,” Bosh said. “We just have to play better. I’m just really disappointed in myself.”

Of Wade and Bosh, Erik Spoelstra said: “If anything, it’s on me. I’ve got to find those guys ways to get them in places where they can be really aggressive. That will be my focus. I know those two men’s characters – they come in big in those moments. I’ve got to get both those guys in places where they can be aggressive and comfortable.”     

Wade and Bosh were kept on the bench for the first 8:05 of the fourth quarter, as Spoelstra stuck with a lineup that keyed a 17-4 fourth quarter rally.

Wade finished with just 10 --- his 12th consecutive game failing to reach 20 points. He missed eight of 11 shots, showing little confidence in his wayward jumper, and he had just one assist (to go with two turnovers).

“Early on, I had some shots I missed,” Wade said. “I thought in the third quarter I was starting to get my groove. Came out aggressive. Thought I had a pretty decent third quarter. Hopefully, I will try to have a better start in the next game.”

Asked if he and Bosh need to do more, Wade offered an interesting answer: “We have to do a good job of making sure me and Chris have opportunities to allow us to succeed throughout the game. That’s something we’ll have to look at…. We have to do a better job – all of us – of getting each other involved in the game.”

Asked by TNT’s Craig Sager what percentage his knee is, Wade said: “I don’t want to talk about it…. I’ve been talking about it for two months. Nothing more to say.”    

### Bosh’s night was perhaps even more disappointing. He followed two consecutive 7-point games with a five point, 1 for 8 clunker. Bosh’s five points, by the way, were a playoff career low. And it’s the first time since his rookie season that he has gone three straight games without scoring in double figures.

“We missed a lot of point blank shots,” Bosh said. “I missed 18 footers. I missed a turnaround jumper. I missed everything I threw up there. It’s the part where you have to be mentally tough. It really hasn’t been going my way this series. I will play better and I have to play better in Game 7. I feel my rhythm is off. I’ve been searching for it the whole series. I’ve got to find it. I’ve got less than 48 hours to do it. As much as this sucks, we have to put it behind us.”

Bosh had his ankle re-taped but said it wasn’t an issue.

### LeBron, on the struggles of Wade and Bosh: “They’re struggling right now, obviously. Chris is struggling with his shot, and him hurting his ankle didn’t help him. He will find it. It’s my job as a leader to keep him motivated, to let him know how important he is to our chances to go back to the Finals.

“They’re two great players. Those guys as champions will figure it out. When they don’t shoot well or play well, it’s more them [than Indiana]. It’s taking no credit away from Indiana’s defense. They’ve seen every kind of defense that has ever been applied to them in a 10-year career and they’ve always been able to figure it out. This one has just taken a little longer.

“Dwyane had one that rimmed out, and another that rimmed out. Those are rhythm plays. I know he wishes he had those back. I will look at the film and see ways we can help him get back on track.”

### As if the Heat’s shooting wasn’t enough of a problem, Miami was again pounded on the boards (53-33). The Pacers have now outrebounded the Heat by 105 in nine games this season.

### Spoelstra finally went to Mike Miller to start the fourth, and he hit two threes during that Heat comeback that ended with Miami down four.

Spoelstra stuck with the lineup of Miller, James, Joel Anthony, Norris Cole and Ray Allen until 3:55 remained in the game, by which time a 9-0 Pacers run had extended Indy’s lead to 81-68.

Spoelstra probably stuck with that lineup a minute too long, but it was understandable because Wade and Bosh were so ineffective. And though Chalmers played well in Games 4 and 5, Cole was having a good night.

Spoelstra said that when Miami closed to within four, “I figured we’d get some stops, but they made some big plays,”

### Anthony, replacing the suspended Chris Andersen, acquitted himself well, with eight rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes, and Miami was outscored by only two points with The Warden on the floor.

But as usual, Anthony couldn’t finish around the basket – unlike Birdman. Anthony missed four of five shots. Andersen, by contrast, has missed only six of 43 shots this postseason.

### Allen’s 2 for 8 shooting tonight left him 13 for 46 in this series and 7 for 24 on threes.

### LeBron had 29 (10 for 21 shooting), plus seven rebounds and six assists, but he also had four turnovers and the Heat was outscored by 22 points in LeBron’s 42 minutes.

The enduring LeBron snapshot of Game 6? LeBron being called for an offensive foul, racing downcourt (stunned look on his face), and being called for a technical with the Heat down 77-68. Assistant coach David Fizdale also got a technical.

“I don’t have no idea why that was called an offensive foul,” LeBron said. “To stop me from being ejected, I just got away from the ref. I said absolutely nothing. I ran down court to get me away from the scene of the crime. I thought it was a pretty bad call.”

Charles Barkley cracked: “LeBron’s thinking – Damn I miss those Cleveland days.”

### Two offensive droughts ultimately doomed the Heat. Miami scored just two points in the first 6:29 of the third in falling behind by 17. Then, after a 17-4 run closed Indiana’s lead to 72-68,  Miami went 2:37 without scoring, as the Pacers built the lead back to 13.

### The Heat ended up being outscored 29-15 in the third, shooting just 4 for 16.  

“Total domination by the Pacers in the third and we missed some very easy shots,” LeBron said. “Dwyane had a chippie in transition. C.B. had a couple pretty good looks.”

### Spoelstra - in the fourth quarter - opted for Miller over Shane Battier, who played only four minutes and none in the second half. Battier didn’t attempt a shot on Saturday and is 15 for 66 (22.7 percent) this postseason.

### Spoelstra’s take: “Even though all of us were very disappointed about this game, and letting this opportunity slip through our hands, you have to move on immediately. Game 7s are a treasure in pro sports. Game 7s are the ones you’ll remember 20 years from now.”

### Looking ahead: LeBron is 1-2 in Game 7s but 1-0 as a member of the Heat (vs. Boston last season). He has averaged 34.3 points in those games. “I probably won’t be able to relax because of the excitement of a Game 7 in our building,” he said. “That’s what we had the best record in the league for. We can fall back [on homecourt]. We hate to be in this position. Just go out and have fun.”

### The home team is 89-23 (79.5 winning percentage) all time in NBA Game 7s.

### Barkley: “People say I picked Indiana because I don’t like the Heat. First of all, it’s stupid. What we’ve said from day one is the only way to beat the Heat is if you have big guys down low. Hibbert’s a good player, but he ain’t this damn good.”

### Paul George was terrific, with 28 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists.

### Hibbert, as usual in this series, was a force, with 24 points and 11 rebounds. But he showed horrible misjudgment in the postgame press conference, using a homophobic slur and an obscenity. (Hibbert apologized Sunday morning for his "insensitive remarks" but a fine is likely.)

He ended a response to a question with "no homo" when asked about his defense on James.

Asked why he finished only 10th in Defensive Player of the Year voting, Hibbert offered this response:

 "Y'all mother(expletive) don't watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth. That's fine. I'm going to be real with you. And I don't care if I get fined. You know what, we play, we're not on TV all the time. Reporters are the ones that are voting. And it is what it is. If I don't make it, that's fine. I'm still going to do what I have to do."