Wed. 7 p.m. update: LeBron address Cleveland media; UM talking to FIU about renewing football series; Fins, Marlins
The Wednesday buzz column is below. First, an update from an interesting Heat scene tonight in Cleveland:
CLEVELAND – Four men unaffiliated with the Cavaliers stood across the street from Quicken Loans Arena, in freezing temperatures, handing out “Come Home LeBron” T-shirts before the Heat-Cavaliers game on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, LeBron James stood outside the Heat’s locker-room before the game, acknowledging that the T-shirt giveaway is “very flattering” but offering no clue to his intentions next summer, when he can become a free agent.
Asked if he will ever return to the Cavaliers, James said: “You guys know I’m not talking about free agency right now. My only concern is hopefully win a third straight championship.”
James said “it’s always fun to be back” and that returning to Cleveland “is still weird. I stayed home last night. I’m going to stay home tonight. To drive up to the arena and actually walking into the first locker-room is still weird. I spent seven years here.”
James offered an amusing answer when asked if the bitterness from Cavaliers fans has dissipated. “I have no idea. I haven’t done the whole Family Feud thing where you ask 100 people on the street, ‘Do you still like LeBron or not?’”
Asked what reaction he expects from the fans: “I don’t know. That’s not for me to worry about. If you’re not wearing [their uniforms] they don’t like you. That’s how it should be.”
What does he miss about Cleveland? “I’ve always said the fans are amazing, the excitement they give to their team. It’s one of the best in the league [with] OKC, Chicago, Detroit, San Antonio, Miami for sure.”
The four men handing out the T-shirts were not permitted on arena grounds and instead stood across the street, near a garage. About 20 people were lined up for shirts when a truck delivered them two hours before the game.
Tom Miano, one of the 20, conceded the T-shirt giveaway “will make no difference” in James’ decision, admitted he booed James vociferously when he first returned to Cleveland as a member of the Heat and said he simply wanted a free T-shirt. “But we need him,” Miano said.
Joe Wisniewski, a student who also waited for a shirt, said he planned to sit behind the Heat’s bench and cheer James.
### James said his back is about 95 percent: “It started the season at about 50. It’s sore in the morning, when I first wake up. I’ve felt great the last few weeks.”
### James said: “I’m the most complete player I’ve been. I feel like I’m a better player. I’m not done. I’m not satisfied where I’m at…. Everything is comfortable for me. I’m in a good place right now.”
### Forward Shane Battier traveled with the team but missed Wednesday’s game with the flu, allowing Udonis Haslem a chance to play after being a DNP-CD the past two games (did not play/coach’s decision).
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
### Seven years after an ugly brawl prompted the Hurricanes to end their football series with FIU, UM says it’s now willing to play the Golden Panthers again.
Though talks are still in the early stages, both sides have expressed willingness to renew the football series and potentially resume playing in other sports as well.
“Our hope would be we are able to work something out,” UM athletic director Blake James said of football specifically. “We would play one game at Sun Life for sure and then explore opportunities for other potential games.”
FIU president Mark Rosenberg said he spoke to UM president Donna Shalala about the universities starting fresh and playing again. “It’s something we would like,” he said. “She would like to see it.”
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said his stadium would not be big enough to host a football game against UM, but he would be interested in having one game at Sun Life and another at a different venue, with Marlins Park a possibility.
UM hasn’t played FIU in any sport since 2010 and decided not to play the Golden Panthers in football and basketball, beyond games already scheduled, after a bench-clearing brawl marred the 2006 football game.
The brawl started in the third quarter after an FIU player pushed Miami's holder on a PAT attempt in what many considered a cheap shot. UM’s Anthony Reddick swung a helmet at FIU players, UM’s Brandon Meriweather kicked an FIU player, and FIU’s A’Mod Ned swung at Miami players with his crutches.
Thirteen players were ejected and 31 were given additional one-game suspensions. The teams played in 2007, without incident, in a game that had already been scheduled, with UM winning 23-9.
It makes sense for UM and FIU to play in multiple sports, considering their proximity, and it’s good to see both sides willing to move past the brawl.
### UM and the NCAA have offered some clarity about exactly how the UM’s football scholarship sanctions will work, and it’s pretty manageable from Miami’s perspective. Though UM can allocate its nine-scholarship loss any way it chooses over the next three years, it must take at least one a year.
If UM decides, hypothetically, to dock itself five scholarships in 2014 and three the next, then UM could have 80 players under scholarship in 2014 (five below the NCAA limit) and 82 in 2015. Though UM will be docked nine scholarships in all, it would never be required to cut down to 76 scholarship players (85 minus nine). And remember that UM only has about 76 players under scholarship this season.
UM signed and enrolled fewer than 20 in the 2013 class and can accommodate its 27 oral commitments and a few other late additions by counting some of the January 2014 arrivals toward the 2013 class.
### UM continues to pursue several UF oral commitments, including four-star Immokalee cornerback JC Jackson and Miami Central four-star running back Dalvin Cook (who will visit UM Dec. 7), and hopes to seize on the Gators’ on-field struggles. FSU also is very much in play for Cook.
Jackson told Canesport.com that UM has a “pretty good chance” of luring him: “Because they’ve played defense badly, I can come in there and be an impact player.”
### Four-star receiver Johnnie Dixon is the top uncommitted player UM covets, and Palm Beach Dwyer coach Jack Daniels e-mailed that UM remains the front-runner but “it’s close,” with Alabama, N.C.State and Ohio State in pursuit. He plans to announce the weekend of Dec. 7.
### UM isn’t assuming that highly-regarded football/basketball prospect Derrick Griffin will qualify academically but will gladly take him if he does. Griffin has insisted on Twitter that he’s enrolling at Miami in January, but UM doesn’t have evidence that he has qualified yet. Griffin is a four-star prospect in both sports, as a receiver and power forward.
### Cameron Wake, the Dolphins’ best defensive player, has been on the bench for 23, 16 and 18 defensive snaps in the past three games and consistently plays less than the Dolphins’ other starting end, Olivier Vernon. Why is that?
“People say he’s not playing enough, but Cam is playing against 350-pound tackles and they’re chipping him,” defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said. “You want to keep him fresh for the fourth quarter. O.V. gets one-on-ones and no chipping. Wake gets chipped and doubled.”
### It’s difficult to find many things the Dolphins have done really well this year, but here’s one: They’ve permitted only one touchdown pass to a receiver. And of the 20 NFL cornerbacks who have allowed the lowest passer ratings in the league, four are Dolphins: Dimitri Patterson (36.1), Nolan Carroll (64.5), Brent Grimes (67.5) and Jimmy Wilson (69.4).
### The Dolphins are considering promoting safety Jordan Kovacs to the 53-man roster for the second time this season. Miami began Tuesday with two open roster spots and filled one with defensive tackle A.J. Francis, who spent training camp with Miami and the past two-plus months with New England's practice squad.
### The Marlins have been receiving interesting trade offers for first baseman Logan Morrison, to the point that they will now strongly consider dealing him in the coming weeks, according to a source in touch with the Marlins' front office. The Marlins aren’t sure what they would do at first base if they trade Morrison. Fox's Ken Rosenthal mentioned pricey free agent Mike Napoli as a possibility but not a likelihood.
### Several Ohio residents are mounting a “Come Home LeBron” campaign and will distribute 2000 T-shirts at Wednesday’s Heat-Cavaliers game and then erect two billboards encouraging James to sign with Cleveland.
One will be near James’ former high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary.
Those who take a picture wearing the shirt and tweet @Come Home LeBron will be eligible to win 2014-15 Cavaliers season tickets.
“Our main goal is not to beg him to come back,” Josh Raggi, one of the organizers, told The Akron Beacon Journal. “We’re going to accept him coming back…. We realize LeBron had a point [when he left for the Heat in 2010]. He didn’t have the supporting cast here he needed to win.”
### A friend of James said he could envision James signing with only the Heat or Cavaliers next summer, barring something totally unexpected, and makes the Heat the favorite.
### Cavs forward Anderson Varejao was asked by Cleveland media on Tuesday about the possibility of James returning next summer.
“It could happen,” he said. “Bron is from Akron… Eventually in his career, he probably want to play at home…
“The way he left was wrong. But regardless, he helped me a lot, helped my game and helped me as a person. I have nothing against him.”