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3 posts from June 8, 2013

June 08, 2013

Heat faltering in clutch; A bundle of Heat notes; Dolphins chatter; UM recruiting

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

A 10-pack of Heat items, with Game 2 of the Finals looming:

### Nobody could have seen this coming: In clutch situations, Miami has gone from profoundly dominant in the regular season to the NBA’s third-worst statistically in the postseason.

The Heat has been outscored by 12 points in 36 playoff minutes that fall under the league’s definition of clutch — final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer. Only the ousted Knicks (minus-13) and Nets (minus-16) were worse.

What’s more, Miami is 3-4 this postseason in games featuring clutch minutes after finishing 32-8 in those games during the season and outscoring teams by an absurd 131 points in 176 clutch minutes. No team was nearly as spectacular late in close games; Denver was second at plus-59.

The regular-season Heat averaged 116 points per 48 minutes of clutch time. The playoff Heat? Just 86.6. The regular-season Heat shot 48.8 percent and had 88 assists and 40 turnovers in the clutch; the playoff Heat has shot 36 percent, with nine assists and 14 turnovers (worst playoff ratio).

So who's to blame? This sticks out: Chris Bosh led the league in clutch shooting during the regular season (minimum 30 attempts), going 27 for 35. But in the playoffs, he’s 3 for 11. Only Nets guard Deron Williams has been worse, minimum 10 shots.

LeBron James is shooting 6 for 13 in the clutch this postseason, Dwyane Wade 6 for 11. But Ray Allen is 1 for 4 (after shooting 25 for 51 in-season) and Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers 0 for 4 each.

### One peculiarity: The clutch lineup that coach Erik Spoelstra used most before the playoffs — Allen, Battier and the Big 3 — was plus-41 in 53 clutch minutes in the regular season, but has played just two of Miami’s 36 clutch playoff minutes (and is plus-7).

Meanwhile, the Heat’s second-most used clutch lineup — Allen, Chalmers and the Big 3 — has gone from plus-34 in 46 clutch regular-season minutes to a dreadful minus-23 in 15 playoff clutch minutes, with 4-for-18 shooting.

No wonder Spoelstra closed the final three minutes of Game(1 with Mike Miller, Allen and the Big 3 — a lineup that played only 33 minutes together all season (and was minus-5).

### Battier hasn’t talked to Spoelstra about his reduced role because “there’s no time for hand-holding.”

How upset is he? “I’m 34. I’m good looking. Two beautiful kids. Rarely have a bad day. I’m playing with LeBron, have billboards in China.” The point? “I’m not going to let a little playing time dictate how I feel.”

Battier is 15 for 69 in the postseason, and Stan Van Gundy said on 790 The Ticket: “It’s killing Erik not to play him, but the guy is totally ineffective right now.” But Battier countered: “Shooting is only a sliver of what I do,” and that he needs to “make [Spoelstra’s] life miserable by playing well, make him say, ‘How can I sit Shane?’”

Battier said Saturday there’s a “good possibility” he will retire after the 2013-14 season, when his contract expires. “I’ll be 36,” he said. “Time to do something else.”

### A downside to not playing Battier much: According to synergysports.com, players guarded by Battier are shooting 29.1 percent in the playoffs, best on the team. Players guarded by Wade are shooting 45.4, compared with 35.1 in the regular season.

### Miller knows this could be his final two weeks here, as amnesty looms: “If you look at the financial part of it, [amnesty] makes sense.”

He would be paid $6.2 million and $6.6 million the next two seasons, but the money would come off the Heat’s salary cap. Miller calls this his toughest season, considering how little he played (59 games, 15.3 minutes average) because “it’s the most healthy I’ve been, best I’ve felt in six years.”

### For those preferring Bosh drive more -- and that makes sense -- consider: His shooting at the rim has plunged from 71.7 percent in the regular season to 52.3 (23 for 44) in the playoffs. The Bulls’ Joakim Noah and Pacers’ Roy Hibbert had a lot to do with that.

Here’s what’s harder to figure: Whereas his three-point shooting has improved to 42.9 percent, his accuracy between 16 feet and the three-point line has dropped from 50.3 during the season to 35.6.

Bosh, by the way, is already tired of talking about Tim Duncan but told us previously he spent some time last summer studying tapes of Duncan’s and former Lakers great James Worthy’s footwork in the post. Duncan said “it’s really odd to hear” that Bosh had a Duncan poster on his wall growing up Dallas.

### Ray Allen calls this the most enjoyable team he has played for and “the weather does wonders for your body. It feels like you’re on vacation.” His approach has rubbed off on teammates.

Not only did James copy his free-throw technique, but Udonis Haslem said he started using a paddleboat because Allen does. “It’s similar to rowing, but standing up,” said Allen, who does it for 30-minute stretches to “build up muscles.”

Two aspects of Wade’s game that have developed nicely have betrayed him in the postseason: runners (shooting 8 for 27) and post-ups (6 for 19). And Wade has had huge drop-offs from the regular season on shots from 3 to 10 feet (he’s at 27.5 percent) and 16 to 23 (28.9 percent).

With his knee injury, “it looks like he’s lacking confidence in some of the things he’s accustomed to doing,” Spurs forward Tracy McGrady said.

### From the spare-no-expense file: A partner in a Connecticut-based hedge fund paid $21,000 each for three courtside tickets for Game 2 – most ever spent on a Heat ticket, according to White Glove International, which re-sells high-end Heat tickets. And some German tourists doled out $1,500 to go by boat to Game 1, which is offered from the Miami Beach Marina, instead of fighting traffic.

###  It’s awkward enough for Chris Andersen when people make the flapping bird sign at him in public. But that’s better than the guy who approached Joel Anthony to give him a high-five at a urinal. Anthony warded him off with a friendly elbow bump.


NON-HEAT CHATTER

### The Dolphins want “offset language” in rookie first-round draft pick Dion Jordan’s contract — which lessens their financial burden if he’s cut. But that’s no longer unusual for NFL top 10 picks, and the sides remain hopeful of striking a deal before camp.

### How athletic is new Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who has thoroughly impressed? He said he shocked people by jumping over cars when playing “chase” with friends as a teenager.

### Not only did UM last week add two-star linebacker and Plantation American Heritage graduate Walter Tucker — an elite hurdler who had no other football scholarship offers — to its 2013 class, but Canesport.com said UM also offered a 2013 football scholarship to a player who has never played football: New York-based Connor Center.

Center taped a workout and sent it to UM — which projects him as a tight end — and other schools. Center, 6-7, said UM is “at the top” of his list with Colorado. He plans to visit in the next week.

As for Tucker, he previously committed to Clemson on a track scholarship, but changed his mind because he decided to play football and that wasn't going to happen at Clemson. Some schools, including Texas and Wisconsin, had interest in him for football but didn't offer him a scholarship because of his past preference for track. Tucker was a high productive running back at American Heritage, but UM offered him as a linebacker.

### Meanwhile, Albany, Ga.-based linebacker Juwan Young on Saturday became UM's 10th oral commitment for the 2014 class, picking UM over North Carolina, Mississippi, Western Kentucky and others. Rated a three-star prospect by rivals.com, the 6-2, 228-pound Young had 118 tackles, 10 sacks and 8 forced fumbles last season.

### Unlike several recent years, UM didn't lose a first-round pick to the MLB draft. But the Hurricanes' top two recruits in their incoming class indicated they likely will turn pro: Arizona fourth-round pick Matt MacPherson (a speedy outfielder from Maryland) and Dodgers fifth-round pick J.D. Underwood, a pitcher from a Palm Beach junior college. 

 

Saturday 6 p.m. Heat update;SI preparing UM/NCAA expose; Shapiro makes another allegation

Please see the last post for a Saturday Heat update from the NBA FInals

 

With the University of Miami just days away from its hearing in front of NCAA’s infractions committee, two sources confirmed to The Miami Herald that Sports Illustrated is in the final stages of writing an expose about the NCAA and its investigation into the school’s athletics program, including not-previously-published allegations from former UM booster Nevin Shapiro.

Shapiro told SI that he used inside information obtained from UM coaches to gamble on Hurricanes football games, according to the sources.

Shapiro alleged that coaches shared with him information --- such as whether a particular injured player would be available to play --- in at least two games, including in 2005 and a 2007 game against North Carolina, which UM lost, 33-27.

According to a third source, the NCAA previously investigated Shapiro’s gambling claims but found no concrete evidence and did not make any allegations regarding gambling in UM’s Notice Of Allegations.

That frustrated Shapiro, who believed the NCAA did not adequately investigate his claims involving the matter.

In general, any school and involved coaches might be at risk of NCAA punishment if it was determined that they gave inside information to a booster with the knowledge it would be used for gambling purposes.

Shapiro was friendly with several former UM assistants, but it’s unclear which, if any, of the coaches will be named by Sports Illustrated.

It’s also unclear how the release of the story would affect the case, if at all. The NCAA might choose to ignore the SI report. Re-opening the investigation would seem unlikely, because the NCAA already has explored the gambling allegation and found nothing.

Shapiro had a serious gambling problem – he has said he lost $9 million gambling on sports. He paid substantial fees to a high-profile South Florida sports handicapper, Adam Meyer, for his advice on game picks.

In 2011, Meyer agreed to return $900,000 in payments from Shapiro to a bankruptcy court trustee seeking to repay Shapiro’s investment victims, according to public records.

A UM contingent led by president Donna Shalala will appear before the infractions committee on Thursday through Saturday in Indianapolis. During the hearing, UM will defend itself and answer questions from the eight committee members hearing the case.

Five former UM coaches – Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill (football) and Frank Haith, Jorge Fernandez and Jake Morton (basketball) – also will be in attendance with their attorneys to respond to the NCAA’s charges against them.

UM, which already has self-imposed two football bowl bans, expects to learn later this summer or fall whether it will receive additional sanctions. After a hearing, the NCAA typically takes anytime between six weeks and four months before issuing sanctions.

Shapiro, serving a 20-year sentence for running a $930 million Ponzi scheme, told The Miami Herald last month that he would soon unleash a “Category 5 tsunami” against UM and implied he would make new allegations.

UM has been highly skeptical that he would cause the program any additional harm, based on the belief that he told the NCAA everything he had to tell in 2011 and 2012.

Before going to the NCAA with numerous allegations against UM in March 2011, Shapiro said he was angry that numerous UM people – including coaches and players – turned their back on him after he was arrested.

“I can assure you that this will not be the last of this story from my end,” Shapiro told The Herald recently, declining to discuss the allegations he shared with Sports Illustrated.

Sports Illustrated's timing on this story, which is expected to be released very soon, will be questioned because of the hearings next week. After all, this was the same magazine that once called for UM to drop football.

Two prominent SI reporters have been working on the story, and it will be interesting to see how much the magazine prints of what UM has dubbed Shapiro's "jailhouse tales."

SI also is expected to write about how the NCAA mishandled the case.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

(My thanks to Herald colleague Jay Weaver for his contributions to this story.)

 

Heat notes from Saturday's NBA Finals availability

Please see the previous post for UM/NCAA investigation news from Saturday.

 

Last year’s Heat starting lineup in the NBA Finals – with Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers joining the Big Three – proved to be the ideal mix against Oklahoma City.

But this postseason, when Battier has come off the bench and joined the four others, that unit has been a disaster statistically. And Erik Spoelstra has used that lineup a total of less than one half of one game in these playoffs.

The group of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Battier and Chalmers has been outscored by 19 points in 23 playoff minutes, due in part to poor shooting (7 for 28) and poor ball-handling (nine turnovers, four assists).

Spoelstra decided before the playoffs to stick with Udonis Haslem as a starter instead of going back to Battier, who has struggled offensively throughout postseason and has logged just 18 minutes in the past four games. He didn’t play at all in Game 7 of the Indiana series.

During last year’s playoffs, that group of Battier, Chalmers and The Big Three outscored opponents by 32 points in their 159 minutes on the court together. This season, that quintet has played just the eighth-most minutes among Heat lineups.

“It’s hard right now [to play that lineup] with the way the rotation has shaken out,” Heat assistant coach David Fizdale said.

By sticking with Haslem as a starter throughout the postseason, “we’re not at an immediate [size] disadvantage,” Fizdale said. “Most teams we play against want to punish us early, so we try not to put LeBron and Shane in that position early in the game. As the game wears on, we can get to those groups that are not as big and physical.”

### Fizdale, who is widely respected around the league, reportedly is among candidates on the radar of the 76ers, who are looking for a head coach after Doug Collins moved to a consultant role with the team.

Fizdale, 38, said he hasn’t been contacted but would listen if approached after the Finals.

“They’ve got great personnel, great history,” he said. “That’s a team you would really have to consider, especially with Jrue Holiday as a point guard. Holy cow. I hate scouting against that guy.”

Fizdale, who has a year left on his contract, declined an opportunity to interview for Portland’s head coaching job last June.

"With me just signing my new contract with Miami, us just coming off winning one last year, I wanted to take another shot at getting multiple [rings] with this group,” he said. “I didn’t feel at the time the Portland thing was the right timing.”

Now, after being “tutored” for years by Heat president Pat Riley, Spoelstra and assistant Ron Rothstein, he would be open “to the right situation…. I’ve really tried to soak up everything they say about that seat. Am I ready? Probably not. You’re never really ready. Eventually, it just has to happen and you do it.”

### Dwyane Wade said Saturday: “We’re not a team that really says this is a must-win game. But this is a must-win game” Sunday, with the Heat down 1-0 in the series. “I don’t think we’ll make the same mistakes we made in Game 1.”

### Heat guard Mario Chalmers said compared with the series against the Bulls and Pacers, this matchup is “a lot less physical.” Battier cracked: “Indiana and Chicago were like MMA on ABC. It was a shock to play a [less physical] basketball game” Thursday.

### Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said the Heat differs from Western Conference teams primarily on the defensive end, “how they press for the ball, how they guard pick and rolls and rotate. We don’t normally face teams like that in the West.”

### LeBron James shot 2 for 8 when guarded by Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard in Game 1, and Leonard said he’s “pretty sure” James will try to take more control of the game.

But James said when people say he needs to be more aggressive, “I can’t get involved in that honestly, because I’ve done more and lost before. I can’t really get involved or care.

“Offensively, I attract some much attention that if a guy is open on my team, I will pass the ball. And the Spurs did a good job of shrinking the floor. So if that’s their game plan, we’re going to continue to exploit that.” But he said there were also “a few plays I could have been more aggressive.”

### James said “it has been a toll for myself to go through what I’ve been through the last 2 ½ years” with two long playoff runs and an Olympics.

“I would love to have rest, but not at this time of the year. I wouldn’t substitute sitting down in my house right now watching The Finals.”

### Wade said his knee is feeling better “but I didn’t say pain free.”