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2 posts from January 2, 2014

January 02, 2014

Heat-Warriors postscripts; Impressive distinction for Beasley; Canes, Dolphins

Several Heat items after Golden State’s wildly entertaining 123-114 victory Thursday night:

### Stephen Curry (36 points, 12 assists, 8 for 15 on threes) became only the third player to put up at least 35 points and a dozen assists against the Heat, joining luminaries Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson.

“It was incredible,” Dwyane Wade said. “A few times we were in his jersey and he made shots. There is nothing you can do. You can contest it and hope he misses it.”

### David Lee (32 points, 14 rebounds) was also destructive, and Curry and Lee became the first teammates to score at least 30 points against the Heat since LeBron James (42) and Mo Williams (30) did that for Cleveland against the Heat on March 2, 2009.

### The Heat (24-8) dropped 1.5 games before Indiana for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

### Miami entered allowing 97.5 points per game, seventh-best in the league. Golden State’s 123 were a season-high by a Heat opponent.

### LeBron James had nearly as many turnovers (eight) as field goals (10)... Chris Bosh, who shot 6 for 16, failed to hit 50 percent of his shots for the first time in 11 games, which would have set a career mark.

### The four players who sit atop ESPN’s efficiency ratings for small forwards are all superstars: James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.

The fifth? He’s earning just over $1 million, averaging a career low in points and minutes, and sometimes doesn’t even play.

That Heat forward Michael Beasley has risen to fifth in that category might be surprising but isn’t shocking, considering he has improved his shooting, rebounding, defense and other aspects of his game.

Beasley ranked 30th in efficiency among small forwards two years for Minnesota and 48th (of 67) last season for Phoenix. 

Beasley also plays a lot at power forward and would rank 13th among power forwards in efficiency if ESPN had listed him at that position. But ESPN lists him as a small forward.

Regardless of what forward position he plays, his efficiency rating this season tops those of clearly above-average starters such as Serge Ibaka, Kawhi Leonard, Luol Deng and Andre Iguodola.

“He has embraced the whole thing,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Players are gaining more trust in him. The staff is gaining more trust in him.”

Beasley entered Thursday’s game against Golden State averaging 19.2 minutes per game, lowest of his career and well below his 26.4 average entering the season. He also is averaging a career-low 9.9 points, purely a function of his reduced minutes.

But his 52.6 percent shooting from the field easily tops his 44.7 career average entering the season, including a career-low 40.5 for Phoenix last season.

The biggest improvement offensively has come on shots from 10 to 15 feet; Beasley is making 47.6 percent of those attempts after shooting between 32 and 38 in each of his five previous seasons.

Spoelstra said playing “with a better team” with “better ball movement” also is a factor in his improved shooting percentage, as well “as understanding where we like to get our offense.”

A career 34.5 percent three-point shooter before this season, Beasley had made 12 of 24 threes entering Thursday.

Also, Beasley is averaging 6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, topping his 5.4 career average.

And “defensively, he’s more focused,” forward Rashard Lewis said. 

Beasley's maturity off the court has been praised by several members of the organization. He arrives well before practice starts, even two hours sometimes, as his agent, Allegiant Athletic Agency's Jared Karnes noted.

Beasley hired Karnes a few months ago, and Karnes has done a conscientous job assisting Beasley off the court. So have Beasley's teammates, with Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers both saying they like filling the "big brother" role with him.

### Spoelstra played Beasley instead of Rashard Lewis on Thursday --- a change from the past, when Spoelstra played either both of them or only Lewis. Also, James Jones was inactive for the first time this season.

###  Warriors coach Mark Jackson called James “the greatest small forward to ever play this game. He is in the discussion for one of the greatest passers to ever play this game. He is the greatest frontline passer that we have ever seen.”

### The Heat and Nets will wear jerseys with nicknames during their Jan. 10 meeting – the first of a few games the Heat will do that this season – and at least two Heat players say they will not be able to use their nickname of choice because of copyright restrictions.

Mario Chalmers said he wanted to use “Super Mario,” but the NBA said he could not because Nintendo has copyright ownership of that name. He instead will use “Rio.” Shane Battier wanted to use Batman but instead said he had to settle for Battle, which was his family name before it was changed.

The Nets announced Thursday that their nickname jerseys will go on sale next week, with prices ranging from $50 to $110. The Heat also is expected to sell its nickname jerseys but hasn’t announced details or the full list of nicknames that will be used.


As of late Thursday afternoon, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had made no decisions about staff changes after hours of meetings earlier in the day, but news could come as early as Friday, with Ross in favor of assistant coach changes on offense, unless he can be talked out of it by Joe Philbin. A Ross associate mentioned how openly exasperated Philbin was during games about some of Mike Sherman's play calls.

Meanwhile, Al Golden –-- being courted by Penn State --- has told some of his staff that he’s staying at UM, according to one Internet report (CaneInsight.com). Also, Canesport.com reported Golden is "listening" to what Penn State has to say, and that Penn State's search committee is targeting Golden.

Among UM athletic department employees, opinions vary about what Golden will do. Some administrators still believe he will stay put, but one prominent member of the athletic department (and a friend of Golden) believes the job holds appeal to him, at least enough to consider it.

Golden made no comment about Penn State on Thursday but clarity should come shortly, because Penn State said it wants its coaching search to be resolved within days. Vanderbilt's James Franklin and former Colts coach Jim Caldwell are among other reported candidates.

Please see my comment below, in the comment section, about the sanctions Golden would be facing if he goes to Penn State. It's more severe than what he faces if he stays at UM, which has been docked a total of nine scholarships over the next three years --- which UM considers a management amount.

### Palm Beach Cardinal Newman four-star receiver Travis Rudolph orally committed to FSU on Thursday, choosing the Seminoles over UM, UF, Alabama and Auburn.

If you missed it, please see the previous late Thursday morning post for more Dolphins and Canes notes. 

How Dolphins running backs measured up; Golden/Penn State; UM recruiting

Some Thursday Dolphins and Canes items:

One of the many decisions looming for the Dolphins front office (whoever that might be) is deciding how much of the running game’s shortcomings should be blamed on the backs and how much should be pinned on the blocking. The Dolphins ranked 26th in rushing yards per game and 17th in yards per attempt (4.1).

Too many times, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas simply had no place to run because of blocking breakdowns. Our sense is that even an elite back would not have produced great numbers behind this line.

But the Dolphins’ backs also bear some level of accountability, and the question is whether the management (be it Jeff Ireland or his replacement) will deem it necessary to add someone to compete with, or replace, Miller or Thomas.

A strong case could be made for adding a hefty back who excels in short yardage – one who could potentially replace Thomas --- or supplement Miller and Thomas, who are both under contract for next season. (The Dolphins like Mike Gillislee, but he’s not a short-yardage back and the Dolphins aren’t sure when or if he will become more than a third-stringer.)

A few points to consider when assessing the work of Miller and Thomas:

### Among the 55 running backs who played at least a quarter of their team’s snaps, Miller’s 4.0 per carry average tied with Bilal Powell and Danny Woodhead for 31st, and Thomas’ 3.7 tied with Pierre Thomas for 39th.

Thomas averaged 5.3 yards as a senior at Kansas State but has averaged just 3.5, 3.6 and now 3.7 yards with the Dolphins. At this rate of a tenth of a yard per-year improvement, he’ll average 4.5 yards per carry (Reggie Bush’s average this season) by his 11th season!

Or Thomas will go somewhere else and average four yards a carry there, because that’s what happens when players leave the Dolphins. Bush, by the way, finished 14th in the NFL in yards per carry average for Detroit this season.

### In terms of yards after contact, Miller ranked 31st of 55 backs at 2.1 (same as Bush) and Thomas was 39th at 2.0 (same, surprisingly, as Frank Gore and Stephen Jackson) . Both obviously ranked in the bottom half of the league in that category. Miller sustained a few runs after contact in the Jets game, but that’s an area he needs to improve.

Of the top seven running backs in yards after contact this season, three will be free agents: Indianapolis’ Donald Brown (first at 3.3), Oakland’s Rashad Jennings (sixth at 2.8) and New England’s LeGarrette Blount (seventh at 2.7). Any of them would obviously help the Dolphins.

### Mike Sherman said he was disappointed that the Dolphins didn’t generate more big-play runs; Miami finished with only eight runs of 20-plus yards, which ranked 22nd in the league and was well behind San Francisco (20) and Philadelphia (19).

Of those eight, Miller had four and Thomas one. Ryan Tannehill had the other three. Miller, with his speed, should produce more than four 20-plus yard runs a year, but he also needs holes to run through.

### We could get clarity on Dolphins firings today or Friday, as Stephen Ross spends another day talking with confidantes and trying to make decisions.


It will be a nerve-racking next several days for UM, amid reports that Penn State is interested in Al Golden for its coaching job. The Harrisburg (Pa.) newspaper reported that Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Golden top Penn State’s wish list.

The UM administration expects Golden to stay at UM and would be surprised if he left.

But one of Golden’s friends at UM --- who has not spoken to him about this job --- predicted the Penn State job will appeal to him because it’s his alma matter, because Penn State has better facilities, more fan support in terms of attendance, among other reasons.

That said, Golden has repeatedly said how much he wants to see this through here, and his family likes it here. He appreciates that UM, more than a year ago, extended his contract through February 1, 2020, and gave him a significant pay boost last January.

Only Golden could end the speculation by saying that he is not interested in the job, but it serves him no purpose to do that if he is interested or if he wants to use it as leverage. Golden declined overtures from Wisconsin last December.

### UM hoped to come away with an elite receiver among three local prospects in this recruiting class, but they have lost out on two and a third said he is leaning toward Alabama.

Palm Beach Dwyer’s Johnnie Dixon, rated 17th among receivers by rivals.com, orally committed to Ohio State two weeks ago.

Homestead’s Ermon Lane, ranked sixth, said this week he’s “85 percent committed” to Florida, but there’s rampant speculation he might switch to FSU to join buddy Dalvin Cook, the Miami Central running back who committed to the Seminoles Tuesday.

Meanwhile, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman receiver Travis Rudolph told Canesport.com that Miami is in “good position,” but told another reporter that "Alabama is my leader." FSU also remains in the mix.

Rudolph said he will announce at halftime of Thursday’s Under Armour All American Game at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

UM is expected to continue recruiting all three, even after their announcements. Remember, Al Golden has said UM was able to flip Stacy Coley very late in the recruiting process last year.

### Please check back later today for Heat notes.