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UM gets four commitments; Looking ahead: Rising tax creates challenges for Heat

UM began the day with 11 oral commitments for its football class of 2014. UM ended it with 15, with all four of the new commits in attendance today at Al Golden's Summer Camp in Coral Gables.

The most ballyhooed of the four additions are Miami Northwestern's Mike Smith, rated the nation's 21st best defensive end by rivals.com; and Orange Park linebacker Darrion Owens, who had attracted a slew of recent offers.

Smith had 73 tackles and 18 sacks last season and also had offers from Georgia, FSU, Tennessee and others. (Check out Manny Navarro's UM blog for more about Smith.)

Owens played safety last season and had 101 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. He had more than 20 offers, including from Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan.

The other new oral commitments are under-the-radar: Norcross (Ga.) tight end/H-back Christopher Herndon and Fort Lauderdale Dillard cornerback Dennis Turner.

UM assistant coach Micheal Barrow was impressed with Herndon when he made a recruiting trip to Georgia, and UM made him an offer a week ago. Herndon, 6-5, is rated the nation's 64th best tight end by 247sports.com and had only one other offer from a BCS conference school: Mississippi State. Western Kentucky and the fledgling program at Charlotte were among others that offered. But FSU reportedly had been showing some interest.

UM projects Turner as a cornerback, though he also can play receiver. He told recruiting services that he was shocked by UM's offer Saturday. He picked Miami over offers from Arkansas, Wake Forest, N.C. State, FIU and Northern Illinois.

But UM lost out - at least for now - in its pursuit of Chaminade Madonna four-star defensive tackle Khairi Clark, who orally committed to UF. Defensive tackle remains UM's biggest area of need.

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Some thoughts about the Heat's future:

### So much of what happens beyond this season depends on how much owner Micky Arison decides he is willing to pay in luxury tax penalties that becomes far more punitive next season and even more onerous in 2014-15.

Arison said his front office “is going to have to be very creative” in crafting a roster around the stars, noting “that’s going to be very tricky going forward.”

And even though LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh cannot opt out of their contracts until the summer of 2014, a few decisions loom this summer regarding the supporting cast.

Though nobody internally is predicting the breakup of the Big Three in the wake of two championships – Pat Riley said in April he wants to keep all three together long-term – a bit of tinkering is expected.

Three factors will create challenges: 1) The tax; 2) The Heat’s lack of cap flexibility (Miami is well above next season’s projected cap of $58.5 million) and 3) The supporting cast’s limited trade value.

### Teams above the luxury tax threshold pay $1 for every $1 they’re over the threshold. Last season, the Heat paid a $6.1 million tax.

But beginning next season, there’s an incremental tax rate, with teams charged $1.50 for every $1 over the threshold between $1 and $4.99 million; $1.75 per every dollar over the threshold from $5 million to $9.9 million, and so forth. The threshold is expected to be $71.6 million.

So even in the highly unlikely event that the roster returns with everyone except free agents Chris Andersen and Juwan Howard, Miami would already face a tax bill of more than $28 million next season.

Throw in Andersen and a free agent with the taxpayer’s $3.18 million exception, while keeping everyone else, and Miami’s tax bill would swell to more than $38 million. It’s difficult to envision Arison paying that kind of tax or anything close to it because he has said the team is making very little profit during the Big Three era.

That’s why it makes sense this summer to use the one-time amnesty provision, which is available until the 2015-16 season and removes a player’s salary from a team’s cap, though the player would still be paid. By using it on Mike Miller - who is due $6.2 million next season and $6.6 million in 2014-15 – the Heat would save nearly $14 million in taxes based on its current roster.

Amnestying Joel Anthony instead would save substantially less – he’s due $3.8 million each of the next two seasons. This summer, the amnesty window is July 11-17. Players who are amnestied cannot return to that team for the length of their contracts.

### The Heat would owe $85.6 million to 12 players next season, if Miami picks up Mario Chalmers’ $4 million option, as expected, and if Ray Allen ($3.3 million), James Jones ($1.5 million) and Rashard Lewis ($1.4 million) exercise player options. Jones and Lewis say they will exercise those options; Allen remains non-committal. A 13th player, Jarvis Varnado, has a non-guaranteed deal worth $789,000.

### Considering the tax ramifications, there’s no guarantee Miami will use its $3.18 million exception. The Heat hopes to re-sign Andersen to the minimum. Instead of using the exception, Miami might opt instead to sign another veteran free agent at the minimum.

Some notable unrestricted free agents could end up commanding only a portion of an exception, or the minimum, such as centers Zaza Pachulia, Greg Oden, Samuel Dalembert and DuJuan Blair; forwards Jason Maxiell, Lamar Odom, Antawn Jamison and Josh McRoberts; and swingmen Dorell Wright, Martell Webster, Mike Dunleavy, Matt Barnes, Marco Bellinelli and Nick Young. Oden's agent has said he will strongly consider the Heat; Oden has had knee surgery five times, but his agent said he will be ready for the start of next season.

So the Heat, if it wishes, can patiently wait out free agency. And others will join the market. Richard Hamilton and Al Harrington are among those eligible for buyouts. Drew Gooden, Metta World Peace, Tyrus Thomas and Kendrick Perkins are among potential amnesty cuts.

### Miami doesn’t have a draft pick but will field teams in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues and wants to find a few developmental projects. Among those who will suit up for the Heat team: centers Varnado and Justin Hamilton (last year's second-round pick who played in Europe this season).

### Please see the last post for more from the championship aftermath. We'll post the Sunday buzz later tonight, with Heat, Dolphins, Canes and Marlins.

 

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