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24 posts from October 2013

October 30, 2013

Ten Dolphins, Hurricanes, Heat items

A four-game losing streak. A frustrated star player (Mike Wallace) again seeking the ear of the offensive coordinator to voice those frustrations. Other players privately questioning some of the team’s personnel/lineup decisions. Players complaining about Mike Sherman's play-calling and the direction of the team’s offense.

Your best offensive lineman (Mike Pouncey) being subpoenaed to speak in a gun trafficking investigation. And now news that starting right tackle Jonathan Martin is in treatment for emotional issues.

It couldn’t have been a worse stretch for the Dolphins, whose season teeters in danger of derailing even though the AFC’s second wild card spot is still very winnable.

Lose Thursday, and you’re 3-5 with plenty of landmine games on the schedule: consecutive mid-November home games against Carolina and San Diego, at Pittsburgh, two Jets games, at Bills and Patriots here. The Dolphins likely would be a SIZABLE favorite only in the game at Tampa, based on the way both teams are playing.

It’s difficult to see Miami going 6-2 with that schedule, which would be required to compete for a wild card spot if Miami loses Thursday. The second wild card spot could still require 10 wins.

### When Martin returns, I wouldn’t expect teammates to immediately start using the nickname they gave him after he was drafted: Big Weirdo.

Teammates have enjoyed poking fun at him for his intellect and serious demeanor, and Martin had always been a good sport about it, before flipping and throwing his lunch tray aside over a prank in the team’s lunch room Monday, as detailed earlier by Fox’s Jay Glazer and in a Miamiherald.com story on the sports home page.

Martin admitted last week he’s disappointed how he has played at times --– he said he looks at the tape and says “That’s not me” –-- but this issue is believed to run deeper than his performance or a practical joke. Teammates have offered support, while trying to give him his space.

Though Martin said in training camp that he was happier at left tackle, he insisted last week that he honestly doesn’t care where he ends up, and that merely playing in the league is now enough to satisfy him.

### Mike Mayock, who works Dolphins-Bengals on NFL Network, made some interesting comments in a chat with WQAM’s Joe Rose Wednesday: “The Dolphins’ passing game inside is efficient. Their pass game outside is inefficient. Teams are doing a good job with [Mike Wallace] at the line of scrimmage, jamming him. The Brandon Gibson loss is a huge loss.”

He said Ryan Tannehill’s numbers are “eerily” similar to last season, including his 6.8 average yards per attempt, and “you would like to see those numbers improve in year 2.” He suggests pass protection is impeding Tannehill’s growth because “if you get hit enough, your eyes start to come down and you’re not as good as you should be.”

Mayock questioned the Dolphins’ play selection in the second half of the New England game. “Up 14-3, 17-3, you’ve got to keep running the ball,” Mayock said. “You made it too easy for them.”

He said Cincinnati is “not real deep or good at cornerback,” and Miami should try to exploit that.

### Al Golden said he isn’t using the fact Miami is a 22-point underdog to FSU as motivation for his players. Why? “I don’t want to use a point spread now, and then when we’re favored, we don’t use it.”

But Kirk Herbstreit, who is working the game for ABC with Brent Musburger, believes Golden should be making an issue of the fact that “nobody thinks we’ve got a chance” in order to get his players “really angry.”

### Biggest UM lineup surprise of the past two weeks? Tyrone Cornelius beating out Thurston Armbrister and Alex Figueroa for a starting linebacker job. “Cornelius has always been very gifted in his acceleration, pass defense, but now he’s a more complete player,” Golden said.

### FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, asked what Duke Johnson does well: “What doesn’t he do well? We would have a shorter conversation.”

### UM oral commitment Brad Kaaya moved into ESPN’s top 150 (at 128) and is on a roll: He completed 10 of 13 passes for 377 yards and four TDs last week and now has 14 TDs and three picks this season. UM’s other QB oral commitment, Malik Rosier, has 12 touchdowns through the air (compared with four picks) and also has run for 16 touchdowns.

### Eric Spoelstra, on the stunning 114-110 Heat loss in Philadelphia, in which Miami was outscored 29-16 in the fourth: “We earned it. You generally get what you deserve in this league, and we earned that loss. We did not come to compete."

### With Dwyane Wade out, Spoelstra opted to use Roger Mason Jr. and Rashard Lewis instead of James Jones or Michael Beasley, neither of whom played.

Lewis had 11 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes and was a plus-9. “Rashard played well every time we’ve called his number,” Spoelstra said. “He did it for us last season. Those minutes were productive” tonight.

But Mason was a minus 6, with two turnovers, in 15 minutes. Spoelstra said he played Mason instead of Jones because Mason can play two positions, “but it could have gone either way.”

### Nationally, Heat-Bulls was viewed in 3.3 percent of U.S. homes with TV sets, the highest opening night TNT rating behind only the first game of the Big Three era, against Boston to open the 2010-11 season. The game did a 17.1 here (barely behind the 17.5 for Dolphins-Patriots) and an 11.5 in Chicago.

TNT’s Steve Kerr cautioned not to read much into the result because: “Indiana with Roy Hibbert and David West made Miami uncomfortable and forced them to play big. Brooklyn can do that this year, as well. Chicago can’t force Miami to play big and that allows the Heat to stay in their comfort zone. As versatile as Chicago is defensively, they lack that versatility on the offensive end.”

October 29, 2013

More unfulfilled Dolphins promises, expectations; Heat-Bulls, Canes notes


Reason No. 206 to be discouraged about the Dolphins: Even the areas they assure us will be strengths never quite seem to measure up to expectations, and we’re seeing that play out yet again.

The Dolphins presumed they would be very good against the run and generate a bunch of explosive plays and even told us to expect more impact plays from their new linebackers and that Ryan Tannehill would make the greatest jump of the second-year quarterbacks.

Now consider reality:

### Run defense: For all of the hype around the front seven, any suggestion the Dolphins are among the best against the run is pure myth. They were at one point: In 2011, their last year in a 3-4 defense, they ranked third. That slipped to 13th in 2012, and now they’re 19th.

And despite the depth on the defensive line, this unit often wilts against the run late in games. Miami is allowing a deplorable 5.6 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, more than any team permits over an entire game. The Bills churned out 10 yards on a key run to make their game-winning field goal closer; the Patriots averaged 4.8 on the ground in Sunday’s fourth quarter.

Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are grading out very well, but Pro Football Focus ranks multiple other players in the bottom half-to-third of defenders at their position against the run: Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Chris Clemons.

And incidentally, this defense is clearly worse since Joe Philbin and coordinator Kevin Coyle arrived and switched them to a 4-3. In 2011, this unit ranked sixth and allowed 17 points per game. This defense is 20th and permitting 23.9.

### More explosive plays: Another unfulfilled promise, and a big reason why the Dolphins rank ahead only dreadful Jacksonville in AFC total offense.

The Dolphins have managed only 25 plays of 20 yards or more, tied with Cleveland and Buffalo for 23rd in the NFL. That’s 3.5 per game, barely ahead of the Dolphins’ 3.4 per game in 2012. The Jets, by contrast, have 31, despite Miami possessing superior skill position players.

Mike Wallace, billed as one of the top deep threats in the game, is tied with Jeremy Kerley and Ace Sanders, among others, for an absurd 70th with just four plays of 20 yards or more. That’s behind 69 other players, including the likes of Doug Baldwin (8), Ted Ginn and Jason Avant (6). By contrast, Baltimore’s Torrey Smith has 14.

Wallace remains frustrated and had another conversation with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman about it in recent days.

“We’ve got to be able to throw the ball deep,” said Wallace, whose seven drops are third most in the league. “We have to be able to back people up and not have people sitting us. We have to balance it out.”

Sherman said he has tried to throw deep, but “for whatever reason, something has happened here or there.”

Tannehill’s critical fumble Sunday was supposed to be a deep throw, but it was doomed by another pass protection breakdown.

And this is disconcerting: Tannehill has completed just 7 of 26 passes thrown at least 20 yards, with two touchdowns and four picks. Look how that compares with Andy Dalton (17 for 37, 7 touchdowns, no picks), Russell Wilson (14-27, 6, 2) and even Geno Smith (18-40, 3, 4).

Even after working together since May, Wallace said Tuesday he’s still not completely accustomed to playing with Tannehill. “He’s more of a timing quarterback,” Wallace said. His former QB in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger, “is a guy who extends plays and makes things happen.”

### Sherman told us in the spring that Tannehill would be the most improved second-year quarterback. Another inaccurate prediction.

It’s actually Andrew Luck, whose rating has risen from 76.5 to 91.3. Tannehill’s rating is only slightly better than 2012 (76.1 to 79.5).

### We were told to expect more game-changing plays from the new linebackers. Forget that. Ellerbe has no forced fumbles, interceptions or sacks; the man he replaced, Arizona’s Karlos Dansby, has 2.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. Fact is, the Dolphins never should have expected this from Ellerbe, who has no sacks, one forced fumble and one pick in 52 career games.

Wheeler has zeros in those categories except half a sack, which was big in that it ended the Colts’ final drive in Week 2. The man he replaced, Kevin Burnett, has one sack and two forced fumbles for Oakland.

Despite Wheeler’s skills as a blitzer, he has averaged just one sack per season in 5-plus years, so perhaps the Dolphins overstated the value of this.


### Inside the locker-room, there has been questioning of Sherman’s play-calling and frustration over the offense not having an identity. Among players, Sherman gets more criticism than Coyle, unquestionably…. Practice squad receiver Nathan Palmer said he expects the Dolphins to promote former Jets receiver Ryan Spadola from their practice squad to their 53-man roster.

### Bryant McKinnie said he played “decently” in his opener and contrary to reports, insisted he did not allow a sack. Richie Incognito said McKinnie "hasn't had one missed assignment."… The Dolphins’ visit to the Boston area Sunday coincidentally drew the exact same regular-season rating as a Heat visit to Boston last season (17.5). That would have been unfathomable a few years ago – 1 of 16 games generating the same rating as 1 in 82.


A few postgame items from Heat-Bulls:

### Afterward, Bulls center Joakim Noah said the night was “disappointing” because “we really want to beat those guys. For Game 1, their execution was pretty impressive, but we really made a lot of mistakes. They kicked our butt. No excuses. We wanted to ruin their party. [But] I really believe in this team. The potential for us is crazy.”

### Still, the Bulls' confidence was not shaken remotely. Players spoke afterward of how well they match up with Miami. Derrick Rose blamed his rusty first game back (4 for 15 shooting, five turnovers) on "just me missing shots," nothing the Heat was doing. Luol Deng said before the game: "Everyone sees that we can beat them."

### Erik Spoelstra used his NBA Finals rotation, and the Heat outscored the Bulls 33-23 when their top four reserves in the game, paired with either Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. Norris Cole was a whirlwind of activity and had the best plus/minus on the Heat (plus 17).

### The Heat's 21-point lead at halftime was their largest ever in 47 games in Miami against the Bulls.... Dating back to last regular season, Miami has won an astounding 38 of 40. Dallas, in 2006-07, was the only other team to do that... Dwyane Wade is within seven blocked shots of tying Dennis Johnson for the most blocked shots in NBA history by a player 6-4 or shorter (675).


### Phil Jackson couldn’t help but tweak the Heat, telling the Bulls’ web site that Chris Bosh is “a one trick pony type guy.

“They’ve still got to deal with Wade’s knee,” Jackson said. “And will LeBron be able to clear people out with that off arm like he’s been able to do the last three years? Can Bosh sustain it?… The bench now has changed with Mike Miller gone. Ray Allen is a year older. All those things. Still, they have the horses. They have a good chance.”

### ESPN analyst and former Nuggets coach George Karl: “I'm concerned about Wade's injury.  From talking to some people, Wade might not be an 82-game player anymore.  He might be just a 60-game player.

“His career's been long and there was a wear and tear on his body last year that was somewhat obvious. And I'm concerned about that with Miami.  There are so many teams that are close to Miami this year that me a choice of betting the field versus Miami, I think I'd take the field.” 

### Analysts continue dissing UM’s chances at FSU Saturday. ESPN’s Jesse Palmer calls UM’s record a “mirage. Miami is not top 10 caliber, not in the same class as FSU.”

UM players are tiring of that narrative. “I’ve been hearing FSU is a 20-point favorite – I don’t care,” tight end Clive Walford said. “FSU is no different than our team. No mismatch.”

And UM offensive lineman Jon Feliciano notes UM’s defensive line is “10 times better” than the one that played FSU last year. "Justin Renfrow has been a really good asset.”

### Still, Al Golden called this perhaps “the most complete team” UM has played in his 2 ½ years here, and junior linebacker Denzel Perryman said FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is the best player he’s ever faced or will face to this point. Please see the last post for more UM notes.    

Golden addresses issues; UM notes; Wade working on game

Some Tuesday afternoon Canes and Heat items:

### Saw Stephen Morris today, and he mentioned how challenging it has been to regain his mechanics while dealing with his ankle injury. But he said he’s feeling better, and Al Golden said today: “He’s looked markedly better. His personality is coming back.”

### UM has played some very good teams in Golden’s first 2 ½ seasons here: Kansas State, Notre Dame, UF, FSU and Virginia Tech, etc. But Golden said FSU “is probably the most complete team we’ve seen. White hot quarterback… Receivers can beat you deep… Big time tight ends.. Who’s who on defense in terms of talent and size… Linebackers rangy and can run.”

### Golden said since receiving NCAA sanctions last Tuesday, “our conversations are taking a different path” with recruits. “You’re not a sitting duck anymore. All those things I classified as toxic have disappeared. If [opponents] negative recruit, it won’t be about the NCAA.”

### Golden said he hasn’t decided how to allocate the loss of nine scholarships over the next three years. I asked Golden if losing nine scholarships isn’t too painful. “You don’t want to lose any,” he said. “…When people say they got a slap on the wrist, I take offense at that. It’s immeasurable what these kids have given up.”

Of the NCAA matter, Golden said on his WQAM radio show Monday night: "If you didn't live it these past 28 months, please don't have a comment on it."

### UM is a 22-point underdog – the largest for any Top 10 team in history, according to Vegasinsiders.com.

### Golden, on the state of his program: “We’re making progress. A lot of people were premature in saying, ‘The U is back.’ We’re building.”

### UM is averaging 39.6 points and allowing 17.7. FSU is averaging 52.6 and allowing 13.0. And while UM has lost 14 turnovers, FSU has lost only six.

### UM is first in the country in kickoff return average, eighth in passing yards per completion, 10th in passing efficiency defense, and 11th in sacks, scoring defense and sacks allowed.



Practice had long since ended last week, but there was Dwyane Wade — the last player on the floor — working with assistant David Fizdale on polishing his post moves.

Indiana coach Tom Crean, his close friend and former coach at Marquette, pointed out this summer that Wade is “one of the most efficient players to ever play the game.”

But even after finishing seventh in last season’s NBA’s efficiency ratings — he was second or third the previous four years — Wade said in no uncertain terms: “I’ve got to be way more efficient than I’ve ever been.”

Wade, off July’s Ossatron knee treatment, has looked very good — “best I’ve seen him since year one,” LeBron James said earlier in camp — and how his game evolves, at 31, will be fascinating.

The fierce forays to the basket will continue, but he knows continued diversification is critical.

“I’ve got to do different things than I’ve done,” he said earlier in preseason. “I’ve got to be a better post-up player. I’ve got to find ways to be involved when I’m not involved, kind of like I did with the Olympic team. Cut to the basket, rebound.

“I remember when Gary Payton and James Posey were here; they used to do all the defense, I used to do all the offense. Now I’ve got to do way more defense to get to offense. You adapt. When you’re 30, you lose some of your athleticism, but you don’t lose it all. When I’m healthy, I feel I can do anything.”

Wade’s injury-plagued postseason overshadowed this: When he was healthy last season, he was excellent, becoming one of only five shooting guards in the past 30 years to average at least 20 points while shooting at least 52 percent.

But there are areas he knows he needs to improve or maximize:

• He shot well on post-ups (57 for 119, 47.9 percent) but “the post-up is something he can be even greater at,” Crean said. “Going back to age 19, some of our best offense was to post him.

“Because it’s not just the scoring and the free throws, but his ability to pass. The vision that he plays with, it’s a very high level.”

His midrange game. Wade points to this as the area his efficiency can most improve. He shot 38.5 percent from 10 to 16 feet last season, better than 2012 but down three points from two years ago.

On all jumpers from 17 feet or less, he shot 35.3 percent, according to synergysports.com. He shot 35 percent on isolations, 36.9 percent on jumpers off the dribble.

• Free throws. Wade dropped to 72.5 percent last season, his lowest ever and down from his 76.7 career average.

Please check back later for lots of Dolphins and more Canes and Heat. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


October 28, 2013

7 p.m. update: Philbin, Sherman, Coyle address issues; Heat stars discuss dislike for Bulls

Highlights from Monday’s Dolphins news conferences with Joe Philbin, Mike Sherman and Kevin Coyle: (Please see the last post for lots of Heat stuff from Monday and other Dolphins tidbits.)


As usual, no great pearls of insight from the head coach or any shred of visible disappointment or anger about the four-game losing streak. Among Philbin’s musings:

### “I have a lot of faith in our guys. I believe in them.”

### “After watching the tape, there were a lot of positive things on the tape. Very good effort from the team. We need to play a better 60 minutes of football. We need to make those corrections quickly. I thought our guys were ready to play physically, mentally. We did not play well after” the first missed field goal.

### On Bryant McKinnie: “He did some good things for the short period he was here.”

### On Mike Wallace: “I like what Mike’s done. To get the ball thrown with distance down the field requires precision by the route running and the quarterback and a certain amount of time to get the ball down the field. I would love to have more lengthy touchdown passes and I’m confident we’ll get more out of them as the season unfolds. Things take time.”

### Asked why the team went away from the running game in the second half, Philbin said: “I don’t know that we went totally away from the run.” The Dolphins had 21 carries in the first half, 9 in the second half.

### Philbin blamed the defense’s problem on “missed tackles here and there” and the fact on “a couple occasions, our gap integrity wasn’t what it needed to be.”


### On the loss of Brandon Gibson: “We expect Rishard Matthews to step up in that situation. Gibson is a special player but Matthews has really improved in the last year. I never thought he would end up being an inside receiver. He has really developed as an outside and inside receiver, as has Gibson. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

### Why didn’t the Dolphins handle the blitz better in the second half? “When we motioned across the formation, it was on a couple of third down formations. We’re not a big motion team. We needed to re-ID some things. I’ll take responsibility for that. It shouldn’t have been a problem. It was a problem. They hadn’t been a big pressure package on third and short situations. They got us twice.”

### On Ryan Tannehill’s fumbling issues: “There’s always things you can do to be more protective of the ball.” He said when Tannehill gets hit from the blind-side, “he’s been susceptible to that a couple times. That’s something you’re always working on.”

### Sherman, who blasted Michael Egnew in front of HBO cameras during 2012 training camp, volunteered Monday: “I’m really proud of Michael Egnew. Couple weeks ago we didn’t have a fullback. Mike is like an ostrich type of guy. You don’t see many ostriches playing fullback.

“That son of a gun has become a tough guy. He made some really good blocks in the game. I’m really proud how he’s come around. We spread him out, too. He brings a dimension I really enjoy. Charles Clay has come on strong. Dion Sims has a ways to go, has made some progress. The guy that really caught my eye is Michael Egnew.”    


### On Patriots’ success on the ground in the second half: “It wasn’t a matter of we were getting the ball rammed down our throats.”

### Cameron Wake played only 34 of the 68 snaps because he’s not yet playing at his normal effectiveness because of a knee injury. “He’s still getting stronger every week,” Coyle said. “We felt we would continue the rotations. He’s getting better. I feel good we’re on the verge of Cam getting back to himself.”         

### On second- and third-round rookie corners Jamar Taylor and Will Davis not being active: “They’re working extremely hard. It’s just a matter of numbers and how guys fit within the packages we’re going to play in a particular game. You can’t carry 10, 12 defensive backs and not be short on another position.”

### On Dimitri Patterson: “He came up with another big play, played well the entire game.”


Likable John Offerdahl, who will be inducted into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll at halftime of Thursday's Bengals game, held a news conference Monday that was overshadowed by the team’s on-field issues.

“This is a dream come true,” he said.  “I had four older sisters. I played the French horn. I was not your prototypical linebacker. I went to Western Michigan. Just good enough to make the NFL.”

Please see the last post for Monday Heat news and more Dolphins items. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz


Heat stars express dislike for Bulls; Oden update; Heat, Dolphins notes

Check lower for Dolphins notes. Here's a Heat report on the eve of the season opener:

In late June, when city of Miami workers were still cleaning up the confetti from the Heat’s championship parade, Bulls center Joakim Noah shared his vision for how this Heat season will end.

“I feel like we’ll be the team that beats them next year,” Noah told USA Today at the time. “I was driving in my car, and I just didn’t feel good about it at all after they won. We don’t like them. They don’t like us.”

The feeling is mutual, which was reiterated by the Heat’s Big Three on Monday, a day before the teams christen the NBA season at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“They don’t like us, so we don’t like them,” LeBron James said.  

As Heat center Chris Bosh explained: “When you play teams a lot, you start to dislike them. I have nothing against anyone on Chicago personally. It’s just a healthy dislike for their team.

“We know they’re tired of us. And we’re tired of them… We have a special little thing with those guys.”

Nothing meaningful in the NBA is won in October, and grand conclusions should not be drawn from Tuesday’s opener.

But the Bulls, buoyed by the return of star guard Derrick Rose, certainly can make a resounding statement and ruin the celebratory mood on a night when Miami will receive its championship rings. 

“When Dallas got their rings [on Christmas Day 2011], we wanted to embarrass them on their home floor, wanted to defecate on their night,” Bosh said of a Mavericks team that beat the Heat in the Finals in June 2011. “We know [the Bulls] want to do that to us and they want to spoil what we have going.”

Despite the ill will, there also is begrudging respect between these teams. James said he would make a point to welcome back Rose, who hasn’t played in a regular-season or postseason game since tearing his ACL in a 2012 first-round playoff game against Philadelphia.

"He’s going to play with a chip on his shoulder,” Dwyane Wade said.

Rose was terrific in preseason, averaging 20.7 points, 5.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds and shooting 44.4 percent on three-pointers in 27.4 minutes per game.

His return gives the Bulls the offensive punch they lacked in last year’s five-game Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Heat.

“He looks like he came back improved from where he left off, and that was MVP level,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Also significant for the Heat Tuesday: The players cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the pre-game merriment, as the 2006-07 Heat clearly was. That Heat team lost by 42 to the Bulls on Miami’s championship ring night.

Last season’s Heat handled the situation far better, beating Boston by eight.

“That will be the final burial for us of last year,” Spoelstra said of a pre-game ceremony scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. “We’ve been trying to throw dirt on it, respectfully.

“We have to let it go and move on, but we don’t do that until that banner is up. It’s not the ideal moment [to receive rings]. We have to manage our emotions and understand we’re going to be in for a dogfight after that ceremony.”

Said Udonis Haslem: “I wish we could get the rings on the day of the parade. That would make things a lot easier.”

The two-team defending champion Heat enters with arguably its deepest team ever. The question is how much of that depth Spoelstra will use, beyond his starters and top four reserves: Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Chris Andersen and Norris Cole.

That leaves Michael Beasley, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Roger Mason Jr., Greg Oden (when healthy) and Joel Anthony competing for any remaining minutes.

For perspective on how Spoelstra uses his bench, consider these numbers from the Heat’s 27-game winning streak last season and the streak-busting loss to Chicago: Of the 16 close games during that streak, Spoelstra used a 10th player only 10 times, for 4.2 minutes per game. He used an 11th (Joel Anthony) for a total of five minutes.

"We really brought down the minutes of our main guys down to career-low levels last season,” Spoelstra said. “I don't anticipate us taking them down to 30 minutes a game."

Oden sounded Monday as if he doesn’t expect to play. He hasn’t been cleared to participate in five-on-five work in recent days, and Spoelstra said his status will be evaluated daily.

“I would rather be playing,” Oden said. “Once I am out there, I will be even happier.”

Wade succinctly captured the essence of this regular season for the Heat.

“Our goal here is not to get bored,” he said. “Don’t get bored with trying to be great. Don’t think because we show up we’re going to win a game. That’s not how it goes.”

There’s assuredly no risk of boredom Tuesday.


A few Dolphins notes:

### There was no great, miraculous news in Brandon Gibson’s test results Monday. He is expected to miss the season with a serious knee injury. The team will audition unemployed receivers this week.

### Though the Dolphins keep saying Dion Jordan will play more, it never seems to happen. He played just 18 of Miami’s 68 defensive snaps Sunday and rushed the quarterback on seven of them. Cam Wake, still somewhat limited by a knee injury, played just 34. Reserve defensive tackle Isaako Auitu pleased nearly as many snaps as Jordan (16).

### Here’s Pro Football Focus assessed responsibility for Sunday’s sacks: Richie Incognito was charged with two, Bryant McKinnie one, Jonathan Martin 1 and Lamar Miller 1. One of the sacks went unaccounted for in their grades.

### Pro Football Focus gave Martin by far the worst grade among Dolphins offensive players. He allowed three hurries, in addition to his sack.

### After Gibson’s injury, Miami gave most of his snaps to Rishard Matthews (37) but also made more use of tight ends Dion Sims (29) and Michael Egnew (30). Charles Clay played 67 of Miami’s 80 snaps. Lamar Miller played 51, Daniel Thomas 27.

### Mike Wallace was targeted most of the Dolphins' receivers (10 times), but only three were completed, and he dropped one. And of course, Tannehill's first interception was intended for Wallace.

### Though Ryan Tannehill struggled at times with the blitz, his numbers were slightly better against the blitz: 12 for 23, 130 yards than when he wasn't blitzed (10 for 19, 62 yards).

### Please check back later for lots of quotes from the late afternoon press conferences of Joe Philbin and the Heat coordinator.  

October 26, 2013

Disturbing trend that should concern Dolphins; Fins, Heat, UM, Marlins notes; UM-Wake postscripts


Whenever the Dolphins face New England, we’re always reminded how Bill Belichick can take players that the Dolphins deemed expendable –-- specifically Wes Welker (now with Denver) and Rob Ninkovich (19.5 sacks over the past three-plus seasons) – and turn them into key starters.

This raises a larger disconcerting issue: Of the veterans that joined the Dolphins from other NFL teams in recent years – via trade or free agency – several have become less productive after coming here.

Conversely, several key veterans who recently bolted Miami have become more productive elsewhere.

What does this say about the Dolphins? In many ways, it’s a reflection of coaching, of personnel evaluation, of the player’s maturity, of the quality of players around them, among other factors.

A few points to consider:

### It’s notable that many of the veterans that moved on from Miami during Jeff Ireland's tenure --– though some of the early decisions were made by Bill Parcells –-- have performed clearly better elsewhere, from Brandon Marshall (averaged 83 catches in two years here; 106 in four other recent years with the Broncos and Bears); to Ninkovich (a backup and special teams player here); to Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis (cut by Miami and now rated the NFL’s No. 1 guard by Pro Football Focus), to Reggie Bush (averaging 121 yards per game with Detroit, compared with 79.8 last season in Miami).

Cornerback Sean Smith, rated the 74th best cornerback last season with Miami, is 12th with the Chiefs, and the quarterback rating in his coverage area has dropped from 85.1 to 58.2.

Vontae Davis, traded for a second-rounder that Miami used on cornerback Jamar Taylor, has risen to fourth among all cornerbacks and drew praise for his work last Sunday against Denver’s high-octane offense. He was 37th in 2011, his last season in Miami.

Jake Long, ranked 46th among all tackles last season, has jumped to 12th in his first season with St. Louis.

In Marshall’s case, it obviously helped having a better quarterback (Jay Cutler over Chad Henne). But questionable coaching and evaluation also have been  factors. The Dolphins mistakenly didn’t believe Mathis was worth developing and didn’t see the pass-rushing upside in Ninkovich that Belichick did.

This coaching staff couldn’t maximize Bush’s unique gifts in the open field. And the Chiefs are allowing Smith to play press/man coverage, which he preferred and thrives in. The Dolphins used him a lot in off-zone and off-man, which everyone knew wasn’t his strength. No wonder he's playing a lot better in Kansas City.

In fairness, a few players –-- Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Camarillo and Ronnie Brown –-- put up lesser numbers after leaving Miami, but that’s largely because they went from being starters to backups.

### Also worrisome: Though the sample size is still limited with this season’s additions, several veterans have become less productive after signing here.

Mike Wallace is on pace for fewer than three touchdowns; he averaged eight his previous four seasons. Dannell Ellerbe, ranked 14th among all inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus as a Raven in 2012, has dropped to 32nd here. Phillip Wheeler has plunged from sixth to 19th among outside linebackers since leaving Oakland for the Dolphins.

Tackle Tyson Clabo went from allowing five sacks all of last season for Atlanta to eight in six games with Miami, a pace that would easily shatter the NFL record. (He won't get the chance because he's headed to the bench.) And the list goes on, from Richard Marshall to Brandon Marshall to nearly the entire eight-man 2012 free agent class that signed and was cut months later.

There are myriad factors: injury (in Lance Louis’ case), to diminishing skills (Clabo) to an overestimation of players skills when they’re signed (Legedu Naanee, many others).

Two very recent former NFL general managers who asked not to be named said they were dumbfounded by the Dolphins giving a $27 million contract to Wheeler, who’s allowing a 121 quarterback rating in his coverage area and missed a key third-down tackle on Buffalo’s final possession before its winning field goal last Sunday.

Coaching assuredly also plays a part, including how Wallace is being used.

Conversely, what veterans acquired by Miami in the past four years have become clearly more productive after coming here? Not many: Richie Incognito (thanks largely to his improved maturity), Matt Moore and Brandon Gibson, who's on pace for 858 receiving yards, which would top his career high of 691.

So what conclusions should we draw from all this? Former Falcons, Packers and Raiders executive Ken Herock said coaching is a factor in some of this (as in Smith’s case) and noted “most GMs listen to the coach, and with a new coach, there’s always something you don’t like about a certain player.”

For example, Joe Philbin was troubled by Davis’ immaturity, which was obvious on HBO’s Hard Knocks in 2012. Philbin was excessively irked about Davis needing to go to the bathroom once during practice in August 2012 and endorsed trading him when Ireland presented the idea to the coach.

The Colts view him far differently. "Since he walked in this door, I've seen this guy every day get better and take on a leadership role," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said last week. "He's got that mental makeup you need to play out there on an island."

So Philbin probably was too hasty in judging Davis.

“Davis is still a good starting corner and those are tough to find,” Herock said. “You don’t let him go. He's better than what they have. And I would rather have Kevin Burnett than Philip Wheeler for $27 million. Reggie Bush is better than what they have.”

Bottom line: When many of your key players play better after they leave, it raises questions not only about player evaluation but whether the coaching staff can maximize their talents.


### Jonathan Martin hasn't complained at all about moving back to right tackle, the upshot of Miami’s trade for Bryant McKinnie. But he admitted recently he was uncomfortable playing on the right side at times in 2012, and he gave up the most quarterback hurries of any right tackle last season (47) – even more than turnstile Marc Colombo’s league-leading 40 for the Dolphins in 2011.

Martin said at times this season, “I look at film and say: ‘I’m not sure who that guy is.’” He expects more of himself…. Though McKinnie has allowed only one sack, he’s rated the worst run-blocking left tackle in the league, per PFF.

The one right tackle Miami coveted in free agency was Gosder Cherilus but the Dolphins wouldn’t match the five-year, $34.5 million deal he took from the Colts. Cherilus has allowed one sack.

### Cameron Wake, off a knee injury, wasn’t himself in 22 snaps last Sunday, and the Dolphins hope that changes against New England. Though teammates said Wake looked better this week, he said Friday: “I’m not pleased. When you do what I do, this injury is quite a bit more [impactful] than other positions.”

### One encouraging sign with the Heat’s Michael Beasley: He was often a ball-stopper during his first stint here --– partly because the Heat isolated him a lot --- but Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem said that’s changing. “It’s not sticking,” Haslem said.

Beasley cracked: “I only play 10 minutes a game. I don’t have time to hold the ball! The more the ball sticks, the less chance for our shooters to get it quickly.”

We all know, as Ray Allen said, that Beasley “can create his own shot.” But Allen said: “If he can create shots for others, if he added that, it would be lights out. If Beasley and Greg Oden get to the point where they’re playing at the high level they’re capable of, it will be a scary roster.”

### Plantation American Heritage's Sony Michel, rated the nation's No. 2 running back by rivals.com, attended the UM game Saturday and continues to be heavily recruited by Miami. But Michel told rivals.com last week that he remains "100 percent" committed to Georgia... Elite football/basketball recruit Derrick Griffin tweeted that he will enroll at UM Jan. 2, but the Hurricanes don't have official word yet that he has qualified. They remain hopeful. He could practice with the basketball team this season but cannot play this season because of NCAA rules, UM says.

### Two rookie Hurricanes basketball players cut in the past two days: forward Kenny Kadji by Cleveland and forward Trey McKinney-Jones by Milwaukee.... Please see the last post for UM-Wake Forest postscripts and reaction.

### The Marlins quietly gave three-year extensions, through 2018, to their recently promoted top two baseball executives: Michael Hill and Dan Jennings… The Marlins tell us that they have decided not to bring in the fences at Marlins Park, despite the wishes of Giancarlo Stanton, who said in September that the park is too big and “everyone” knows it. Pitchers disagree, of course.  

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

UM-Wake Forest postscripts, reaction; Heat cuts; Miller vs. Heat update; Media notes

Postscripts from UM’s 24-21 win against Wake Forest Saturday at Sun Life Stadium:

### Another disconcerting first three quarters. Another great escape in the fourth. Bottom line: Miami opens 7-0 for the first time since 2003 and extends its winning streak to nine overall (tied with Oregon for fourth in the country as of 4 p.m. today).

Once again, there was plenty of angst along the way: UM -- which didn't take its first lead until 5:36 remained in the game -- became the first FBS team to win three straight games in which it trailed by double figures (Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Wake) since Michigan in 2007, according to ESPN.

### Among Al Golden's comments afterward, from his postgame press conference and WQAM interview: “I was more worried than ever this week because nobody was talking about Wake. Everybody was talking about the NCAA. I was proud of the way we fought. It wasn’t all pretty. We missed some tackles. What can you say about the effort Duke Johnson gave? Just the way he did it. So proud of him. As tough as you can be. He lowered his pads. His stiff arm was awesome all day. He ran with a purpose and anger we haven't seen from him. What tremendous conditioning!" 

“I know it wasn’t all perfect for Stephen Morris. It’s not going to be. But he made really good decisions. He looked better mechanically than he has over the last three weeks…. I know it wasn’t all perfect. It can’t be. It’s college football. There are no quality points.

“Our guys found a way to win. Wake dinked and dunked us. We’ve got to tackle better.... Everybody here is exhausted. It’s almost like everybody just wants to go to sleep. It’s been that kind of week” –-- with the NCAA sanctions and Saturday’s stressful game. In his first news conference since the NCAA decision, Golden said: "Obviously, the kids were thrilled. You want to talk about an emotional roller-coaster!" 

### Johnson has produced games with more explosive runs, but this might have been the most timely and impactful performance of his young career. His 30 carries shattered his previous career high (22 against Georgia Tech this season). Remember that he never had more than 16 carries in a game last season.

His 168 yards fell 18 short of his career high (186 in the season-opening blowout of FAU). He did his best work when Miami needed him most, churning out 87 yards and scoring touchdowns on the Canes’ final two drives, both of which put Miami ahead.

“I put all the thanks in coach for trusting me with the ball after the number of times I fumbled [earlier in the season],” he said. He had no fumbles Saturday on a day the Canes didn't commit a turnover. It was the seventh time he has topped 100 yards.

### Credit offensive coordinator James Coley for excellent play-calling on Miami’s final two drives, and the offensive line and Clive Walford (among others) for good work creating holes for Johnson, Dallas Crawford and Stacy Coley (who had nine yards on a reverse on the next to last drive).

The first drive, ending in a Duke four-yard TD run, covered 51 yards in eight plays. The second, ending in Duke’s game-winning one-yard TD with 53 seconds left, covered 73 yards in 10 plays, lasting 3:09. Duke delivered 37 yards on the first of those two drives, 50 on the other. He probably should have been given a touchdown on a 9-yard run that was reviewed with 59 seconds left, just before his game-winning score.

“The offensive line wanted to run it, and Duke did a great job,” Stephen Morris said. “Offensively, we did a pretty good job.”

### Morris was erratic early, overthrowing a few passes. But he threw an excellent deep ball to Herb Waters for a 35-yard TD late in the first half, guided UM efficiently on the final two drives, didn’t throw a pick and closed 17 for 28 for 191 yards.

“I really learned from last week,” he said of the four-pick game against UNC. “I’m glad last week happened. It made me get back to the basics. You always want to stay positive in the huddle.”

### Two remarkable catches: Clive Walford's one-handed grab on the TD drive late in the first half, and Stacy Coley bobbling the ball three times before grabbing it and holding on, while on his back, for a 42-yard reception. Coley finished with two catches for 52 yards, Walford 4 for 33.

Other receiving numbers: Waters 4 for 47 and a TD, Allen Hurns 2 for 25 after returning from a hip pointer, Asante Cleveland 2 for 18 (his first two catches of the year) and Malcolm Lewis 2 for 9. Rashawn Scott did not play, according to WQAM.

### With FSU looming Saturday, UM’s defense must do a better job on third downs (Wake converted its first 6 and finished 8 for 16) and defending screens and shallow crosses. Tackling MUST improve.

Freshman cornerback Artie Burns, awarded his most playing time of season, was beaten several times. Tyrone Cornelius was beaten, and then failed to make the tackle, on the 44-yard TD pass to Dominique Gibson that put Wake ahead with 4:02 left.

Wake QB Tanner Price closed 25 for 45 for 302 yards; Michael Campanero caught 10 passes for 88 yards.

There were positives defensively: More exemplary work from Shayon Green, who had a sack and a few other high impact plays.… Antonio Crawford sealed the game with a late pick… Crawford and Tracy Howard knocked away passes on Wake’s next-to-last drive, before Gibson’s big touchdown.

### UM’s first four drives of the second half couldn’t have been more frustrating. The first ended with Matt Goudis missing to the left on a 40-yard field goal. The second stalled with Dallas Crawford (7 carries, 35 yards) failing to convert on a 4th and 1 from the Wake 10.

On the third, Jon Feliciano was beaten, forcing Morris to throw incomplete on a third and five. On the fourth, Waters caught a two-yard pass on a 3rd and 4, and Golden opted to punt from the Wake 38. Wake’s 14-10 halftime lead thus held up until Miami’s fifth drive of the half, which ended with Duke’s four-yard run to put UM briefly ahead.

“It’s deflating if you let it be,” Golden said of the first few second-half drives. “But our guys just move on. It’s a credit to them. They have complete belief they’re going to go down and score.”

### Asked about the media frenzy that awaits for FSU week, Golden said: "With all respect, there has been more national exposure the past 28 months than any of us can handle. If it's about football, we're all in."

### Short stuff: Seantrel Henderson again came off the bench, as did Deon Bush… Cornelius and Green had UM’s only sacks… UM opened in a 4-3, unlike past games…Coley was effective on punt returns (2 for 37 yards)... Wake fell to 1-53 against top 10 teams…UM’s nine wins in a row trail only Ohio State (19), Alabama (11) and Baylor (10). Oregon will try to stretch its streak to 10 games against UCLA tonight. FSU entered Saturday's N.C. State game on an eight-game win streak.


As expected, the Heat cut its roster to the maximum-permitted 15 by releasing Eric Griffin and Justin Hamilton on Saturday.

Of the 15 players on the Heat's roster, only two have non-guaranteed contracts: forward Michael Beasley and guard Roger Mason Jr. Both won roster spots in training camp, and their contracts would become guaranteed for the entire season if they remain on the roster past Jan. 10.

Griffin, a rookie from Campbell who impressed the Heat with his athleticism, said Friday he is considering playing in China, though it's conceivable another NBA team could claim him.

Hamilton, the Heat's second-round pick out of LSU in 2012, said he would consider an offer in the NBDL. The Heat is looking to stock its NBDL affiliate in Souix Falls, S.D.

Teams have until 5 p.m. Monday to reduce their rosters to 15. Teams must keep at least 13 players.

The Heat opens the regular season at home Tuesday against Chicago.


Please see the last post for the weekly media column and an update on the Mike Miller/Heat legal situation. Check back tonight for the Sunday buzz, with Dolphins, Heat and Marlins. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz.

October 25, 2013

Miller vs. Heat update AND Media column: More ABC/ESPN NBA changes; NFL, MLB


If there’s one thing you can count on with the NBA on television, it’s turnover and instability in the ABC/ESPN studio.

Both networks keep tinkering and tinkering, hoping to create a chemistry and dialogue to rival TNT’s rollicking studio show, which has won five Emmy awards thanks largely to Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith.

Despite annual changes to the cast, the results never seem to quite measure up to ABC’s expectations.

This season, gone are Magic Johnson (his choice, not ABC’s) and Michael Wilbon, who was removed from ABC’s studio so he could focus on co-hosting ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption and handling other assignments.

Doug Collins, who resigned last spring after three seasons as 76ers coach, will fill Wilbon’s chair on the ABC set.

And ESPN anchor Sage Steele was promoted this past week after Magic’s departure, as ABC/ESPN essentially replaced its most prominent analyst with Steele, a natural host who will serve as a traffic cop – a task handled awkwardly by Wilbon and Jalen Rose in recent years when they weren’t spewing opinions in their analyst role.

Steele and Collins will join Rose and Bill Simmons in ABC’s studio (beginning on Christmas) and on many of ESPN’s Friday night studio shows (beginning with Heat-Nets Friday).

The Johnson departure was unexpected; he called ESPN officials Oct. 9 and told them he wanted to focus on his Dodgers ownership and other business ventures and did not have to time for television.

### ESPN’s other big change: Doris Burke, who has capably handled sideline reporting and game analyst assignments, will join ESPN’s Wednesday night NBA Countdown in a hybrid host/analyst role, teamed with Rose and Avery Johnson.

### Collins, who has done mostly game analyst work in previous stints as a broadcaster, will be a game analyst on 10 Wednesday games and a studio commentator on 10 Friday ESPN games and nine Sunday ABC games, then work in the studio throughout the playoffs.

“I’m through coaching,” Collins said by phone this week. He left the rebuilding 76ers because “at this stage of my life, I didn’t want to go through all those losses. Another big part of it is my son [Chris] becoming head coach at Northwestern.”

Collins spoke to TNT, his previous employer, but Turner didn’t have an opening.

FYI: He picks the Heat to return to the Finals.

“You have to try to punish them when they go small,” he said. “They don’t want to play LeBron James on a power forward; they want to put him on the opponent’s best player, like [Indiana’s] Paul George.

“Teams match down and go small against them, and their small team is better than your small team. So you have to try to stay big against them and hope your big guys are better than theirs.”


For the first time since 1990, Hall of Fame coach and former Heat TV analyst Jack Ramsay won’t be calling games this season. Ramsay, 88, decided to step away from broadcasting, largely because of health reasons and also because he had grown weary of the travel.

Ramsay, who has battled cancer several times in the past decade, said he is “doing well” in dealing with his latest health scare, which he declined to disclose.

“I am doing well within the limits,” he said. “My doctors expect me to be around a while. But I can’t be confident of my medical situation. I wouldn’t want to start broadcasting and not be able to do it all the way through. I will miss it. But I will find things to do.”

Ramsay, who keeps himself in immaculate shape, has been riding his bicycle five to seven miles every day in Ocean City, N.J., and regularly swims 100 strokes.

On the Heat’s chances of a three-peat, Ramsay said: “I would still favor them, but Dwyane Wade needs to play at his best level” for that to happen. He said Chicago is best-equipped to beat Miami.


### Tim McCarver, who's working his 24th and final World Series, has told Fox he doesn't want the network to make a big deal of his departure and was somewhat hesitant to discuss it on a conference call this week. 

"I'm elated I've lasted this long," he said. "Fox has been terrific throughout in understanding what I want. The person I'm going to miss most is [broadcast partner] Joe Buck."

### Nationally, World Series ratings are up slightly over last season's Giants-Tigers Series. The first two games have averaged a 6.4 locally, placing Miami-Fort Lauderdale 49th of 56 metered markets. 

### Will Manso, lead sportscaster at WPLG-Channel 10, will succeed Jorge Sedano as Sun Sports’ studio host on Heat road games. Sedano gave up the gig (and his WQAM-560 talk show) to join ESPN Radio.

Jason Jackson will continue to handle the studio gig for home games and sideline reporting for all games.

### There were several reports this week that the NFL will consider splitting its Thursday night package between NFL Network and another cable network. Turner, FS1 and NBC Sports Network are the likely contenders. That could generate more than $600 million in additional revenue for the league, especially if a wild card playoff game is included in the package.

### When Chris Mullin joined the Sacramento Kings as a consultant this summer, ESPN quickly ended his employment. But TNT sees no conflict in retaining Shaquille O’Neal, who purchased a minority interest in the team. TNT isn’t carrying any Kings games this season.


A quick update on the Mike Miller/Heat squabble that we detailed in the last post:

Miller is angry his attorney told the Herald on Thursday that Miller is strongly considering a lawsuit against the Heat.

But Miller did not say Friday whether he would go ahead with the lawsuit. His attorney was prepared to file the suit immediately, but that is now on hold, perhaps for good, as Miller re-thinks what he wants to do.

With Miller’s authorization, his attorney, Andrew Fine, has drawn up a complaint against the Heat after settlement discussions with the team stalled in recent weeks.

In the complaint, which I obtained, Miller alleges that a Heat sales executive who is no longer with the team introduced him to Haider Zafar, who allegedly defrauded Miller.

Fine said previously that Miller lost $1.7 million in the scam, and that Zafar used $700,000 of the money stolen from Miller to pay for Heat season tickets.

Fine has said that Miller has asked the Heat to return that money. The Heat employee, Stephen Weber, is no longer with the team.

Miller said Fine was not authorized to tell the Herald that he was considering a lawsuit.

“I regret the unauthorized information shared disclosing a potential lawsuit and my private business dealings in the recent news reports,” Miller wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. “The Heat has always supported me and my family and we are grateful for our relationship with the team and its owners. They have given me and my family more than we could have ever asked for and for that I am so thankful!!”

Fine, who had believed as late as Thursday that Miller likely would file the lawsuit, declined to comment Friday. Another attorney who handles some of Miller's other interests did not respond when asked if Miller would file the suit.

Another associate said Miller doesn't want to deal with this at the moment. Miller was comfortable pursuing the matter behind the scenes but didn't like the publicity the story generated Friday, the associate said.

Meanwhile, the Heat has invited Miller to attend Tuesday's opener for the purpose of receiving his championship ring and is awaiting a response.

October 24, 2013

Mike Miller mulling lawsuit against Heat; Dolphins call about Pro Bowler; UM, Marlins


Mike Miller, a popular and contributing piece of two Heat championship teams before the team released him in July, is strongly considering filing a lawsuit against the team because he believes the franchise bears some responsibility for him being swindled by a con man, his attorney tells us.

Miller, who now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, lost $1.7 million in a scam allegedly orchestrated by Haider Zafar, a South Beach bling king who presented himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family.

According to Miller's complaint that has been drawn up but not yet filed, a Heat employee introduced Miller to Zafar, and Zafar used $700,000 of the money he stole from Miller to pay for courtside Heat tickets.

Settlement talks between Miller and the Heat have stalled. Miller asked for that $700,000 back from the Heat, plus attorney’s fees, but “the parties were far apart,” Miller’s attorney, Andrew Fine, said.

In the potential lawsuit, Miller is seeking a lot more: the entire $1.7 million that he lost in Zafar’s scam.

According to the complaint which I obtained, Zafar last December agreed to spend $3 million over three seasons for Heat courtside seats and other benefits but did not submit payment.

A month later, Zafar asked Stephen Weber, who was then the Heat’s executive vice president/sales, to introduce him to “Heat players with businesses Zafar… could invest in.”

According to the complaint, Miller, “at Weber’s urging, met with Zafar at Heat offices,” and Weber told Miller that Zafar was “the real deal.”

The complaint said at the time of that January meeting, the Heat and Weber “knew that Zafar had not paid his obligation to the Heat and had disclosed he was using a false, or at least, unofficial, identity and had disclosed he was under IRS investigation.”

Miller and Zafar then began a relationship in which Miller allegedly was defrauded of $2 million, of which $300,000 was eventually repaid to Miller.

In February, Miller sent Zafar $2 million to invest in what Zafar portrayed as a private investment fund with a high-interest yield. Fine said Zafar had access to no such fund and ended up keeping most of Miller’s money.

Zafar, who is imprisoned in Ohio awaiting trial on fraud charges in an unrelated case, also reneged on a promise to invest $40 million in three of Miller’s businesses.

Miller determined that Zafar was a fraud in late April. Until that point, “Weber continued to vouch for Zafar even though he never paid” some of the $1 million due the Heat, according to Miller's complaint.

Between February and April, Zafar paid $700,000 of the money due for the courtside tickets. Miller's complaint claims that cash was money that Zafar stole from Miller, and the Heat needs to give that money back to Miller.

“Prior to introducing Zafar to Miller and prior to representing that Zafar was a suitable business and investment partner, the Heat… and Weber had a duty to fully investigate whether that patron was, in fact, a suitable partner,” Miller’s complaint says.

“Upon discovering information that would have led a reasonable person to conclude that Zafar was a fraud,… the Heat and Weber had a duty to notify Miller, instead of continuing to endorse Zafar…. Due to the acts and omission of the Heat and Weber, Zafar was able to steal a large amount of money from Miller.”

Besides the Heat, Weber and the team’s seat licensing company are also named as defendants in the complaint. The complaint claims Weber, who left the Heat during the playoffs, “occasionally set up side deals for his own benefit.”

Weber declined to comment.

Asked for a comment about the potential Miller lawsuit, Heat outside counsel Alan Fein said: "We were distressed to learn that the Heat and the members of the Heat family were victimized by an elaborate fraud conducted by an individual currently in custody in Ohio. We continue to remain in constant contact with the appropriate federal authorities investigating this fraud."

Heat forwards James Jones and Rashard Lewis also were defrauded by Zafar and suffered undisclosed losses, but neither is pursuing claims against the team.

Fine said Miller “has good feelings for the organization. He just feels like they should accept their share of responsibility for this situation.”

The Heat used the one-time amnesty clause on Miller because keeping him would have resulted in $17 million in luxury tax payments, president Pat Riley said.

“Losing a guy like Mike Miller didn’t make us better,” Riley told The Souix Falls (S.D.) Chamber of Commerce Tuesday in an appearance to promote the Heat’s NBDL team. “We wish him nothing but the best. I’d like to have him back in the seventh game.”


### We hear the Dolphins are among several teams that have called about four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who was released by Dallas and hasn’t played this season because of sports hernia surgery.

Ratliff, 32, hopes to meet with teams within a couple of weeks and the Dolphins are among teams that interest him. He hopes to play this season, but it's not determined if he will. He has been cleared medically to resume football activities

The Dolphins are deep at defensive tackle with Paul Soliai, Randy Starks and Jared Odrick, but Soliai and Starks are impending free agents and contract talks have gone nowhere.

The Dolphins gave Soliai what they portrayed as a take-it-or-leave-it offer in August, which he rejected. Talks haven't resumed since. The Dolphins' offer to Starks in February was nowhere close to what he's seeking, and his camp expects him to become a free agent.

The Dolphins value Soliai, and nobody should be surprised if they eventually reach a deal. The Dolphins also view Odrick as a longterm solution at tackle. But if the Dolphins are confident that Ratliff is over his health problems -- including a groin tear -- it wouldn't be surprising if they offer him a multiyear deal. Remember, Jeff Ireland was part of the Dallas front office that drafted him, and Ratliff has been a very good player over the years.

### One Hurricanes player said Al Golden got emotional talking to the team after the NCAA saga concluded Tuesday.

### Has UM’s reputation been damaged by the Nevin Shapiro mess? “No,” insisted Leonard Abess, chairman of UM’s Board of Trustees. “It has been enhanced because we handled it well… It’s embarrassing we fell into a position that needed to be investigated, but we handled it as well as we can. Our reputation is intact.”

### Remember that threat we reported last November that the NCAA sent by mail to former Canes, saying if they don't talk to the NCAA, they would be barred from UM's campus?

A bunch of players didn't talk but feared they would be banned from UM's weight room, which many like to use in the offseason. But the NCAA, whose reputation was damaged enough by its improprities in the case, decided not to prohibit any former Canes from going on campus.

### Four-star Jacksonville based power forward Dante Buford visited UM this week and also is considering South Carolina and Oklahoma.

### The Marlins have budgeted a payroll between $40 million and $50 million and will lower some season ticket and individual ticket prices. (Some prices will stay the same. None will increase.)

### Marlins president David Samson, on Thursday: “I promise you this: We’re not going to lose 100 games next year. Not close. Look what the Red Sox did. They had the same record we did in 2012. They turned it around to be in the World Series in 2013. Well it’s time for us to do the same.” He said Marlins Park hasn’t booked October concerts because “we should be and will be playing playoff games.”       

October 23, 2013

Belichick butters up Dolphins; Oden, Beasley, Heat chatter; UM notes

Some Dolphins, Heat and Canes items:


Patriots coach Bill Belichick weighed in on the Dolphins today, in advance of Sunday’s game in New England. And as always, he made them sound like a perennial powerhouse.

But in between all the plaudits, he gave a few insightful answers, including this about where specifically Ryan Tannehill has improved:

“I’d say overall he looks like he’s much better at seeing the field and using all of his players in the passing game whereas maybe last year I think there were times where it seemed like he was more locked in to either one side or one guy. Now, I think his vision has definitely improved, his accuracy, particularly on the outside throws. They throw a lot of outs and comebacks and plays like that right on the sideline where the receiver is kind of just kind of getting his feet down as he’s going out of bounds. So, good timing, accuracy throws and I’ve seen a lot of that from Tannehill this season as well. I think he’s doing a lot of things better. Plus, we know he can run. He’s active and mobile in the pocket. He presents a lot of challenges for us.”

Belichick had a lot of nice things to say about everyone, including the backup tight ends!:

### On the coaches: “Coach Philbin has done a good job with the team. Kevin Coyle has done an excellent job with the defense.”

### On the offense: “They’re certainly an explosive group; they’ve added a lot of firepower. It’s really a good group."

### On the running backs: “Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas have done a really good job running the ball, inside and outside. They have good vision, good quickness and good strength. They don’t go down easy with arm tackles and sometimes guys that don’t wrap up, they just bounce off them and keep going for extra yards. II’ve been impressed with the running of both of them.”

### On the tight ends: “Charles Clay has definitely been a big play player for them, as he has in the past. He’s had long plays, he’s very capable with the ball in his hands. I think he’s very competitive as a blocker too. He’s more than just a receiver back there; he does a good job of being aggressive and sticking it in there, competing in the blocking game. [Michael] Egnew and [Dion] Sims, they compete well as well, too.”

### On the struggling o-line: “Look, everybody has plays that they’d like to have back that aren’t perfect, but I think overall those guys have given them, that offensive line has given them a solid level of performance.” OK then.

### Defensively: “They have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL. The way they rush the quarterback, the way they play the run, and how stout and how physical they are is pretty impressive. I feel like we’ve played some really good defenses this year, and I would say Miami’s defense doesn’t take a backseat to anybody. They’re really good up front, they’re really athletic at linebacker, and they cover in the secondary.

“I haven’t played against Brent Grimes much, but from what I see on film he’s really a true cover corner, and Reshad Jones and [Chris] Clemons, I’ve played against them a bunch, and Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson are really talented and experienced players.... They don’t sit in the same thing all the time. You have to deal with a lot of different problems and a lot of good players.”

One thing about Belichick: He's one of the few coaches in the league who will volunteer an assessment about most players on the team's upcoming opponent.


Encouraging first game for Greg Oden on Wednesday in New Orleans: a dunk after he got good position in the post (his only shot), two rebounds, a blocked shot and another altered shot, in 3:59, all in the second quarter. He also had two fouls.

Oden was paired with Chris Bosh and the two of them forced a turnover on one sequence. He set good screens. He ran the court generally well for someone who hasn’t played in, well, four years. He clearly was a presence in the paint defensively, though he was stuck with the disadvantage of defending guards a couple of times. (Eric Gordon easily drove past him, though Gordon would do that with a lot of centers).

“I’m happy I’m able to walk off the court and play another day,” Oden told Sun Sports’ Jason Jackson afterward. “I’m happy my first shot was a dunk and I made it. I’ve got a long way to go… It’s been three long years.”

Before Oden entered late in the second quarter, Erik Spoelstra had stuck largely to his NBA Finals rotation: the starters, plus Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Chris Andersen. Also, new addition Michael Beasley played the final 13 seconds of the first quarter, and then entered late after the outcome had been decided.

Spoelstra was non-committal when asked if Beasley will be in the rotation, saying only: “He's been diligent with his work and his focus."

Beasley said his concern isn’t making the rotation but “to make it to tomorrow. I feel as nervous and anxious” as when camp started.

Beasley is the only Heat backup who can regularly create his own shot, which has been evident during preseason. He would be of value when James and Wade are both on the bench, but there aren’t a lot of times that happens.

But the Heat must be able to trust other elements of his game, especially his defense.

“I’m a whole lot better defensively – a lot more active,” he said.

For perspective on Spoelstra’s approach with his bench, consider these numbers from the Heat’s 27-game winning streak and the streak-busting loss to Chicago: Of the 16 games during that streak without extended garbage time, Spoelstra played only nine players in six of them.

He played 10 players in 8 of the other 10, but the 10th player (now-departed Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis or Joel Anthony) logged just 42 minutes, or 4.2 per game. He played 11 players in two of the 16 games, with the 11th player (Anthony) logging just over five minutes and playing only because of foul trouble to others.

Playing Oden and Beasley regularly would mean going 11 deep. If Wednesday night was a dress rehearsal for the regular season, which it seemed for the most part, then Beasley wouldn't be in the rotation. We'll see how it plays out.


Who will replace Phillip Dorsett as UM’s primary deep threat while he recovers from a knee injury the next four to six weeks? UM people expect Stacy Coley and Herb Waters to be targeted with deep balls. Rashawn Scott, who can beat people deep, will assume some of Dorsett’s snaps now that he’s back from his injury. Malcolm Lewis’ snaps also will increase.

### Even with 26 players already orally committed, UM expects to have the space to add a few more – despite the NCAA’s modest scholarship reductions. St. Thomas defensive tackle Anthony Moten and Palm Beach Dwyer receiver Johnnie Dixon are high on the priority list.

### Duke Johnson practiced this week and continues to respond well after being sidelined for much of the North Carolina game with a migraine.

####We hear Garrius Adams has been very impressive in UM basketball practice. The most competitive positions are point guard (freshman Emanuel LeComte might end up starting) and power forward (Donnavan Kirk trying to hold off Erik Swoope and James Kelly).