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March 03, 2014

Postscripts on LeBron's historic night; Two-fold reason for Dolphins' interest in Jackson; TV notes

Postscripts on LeBron James' historic night in a 124-107 win Monday against Charlotte:

### James' 61 points topped his previous career high (56 vs. Toronto in 2005) and the Heat single game record (56 by Glen Rice, in 1995). And he did it with his usual efficiency, closing 22 for 33 from the field. He scored 24 points in the first half, 25 points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth. His 37 in the second half were the most ever by a Heat player in a half.

### James' reaction afterward, on Sun Sports: "The man above gave me unbelievable abilities to play this game of basketball. We couldn't get stops in the fourth quarter. That allowed me to stay in the game. It was 13-point game with six minutes to go."

Later, LeBron said: "Those are the shots everyone wants me to take [speaking of the three-pointers and jump shots], but I knocked them down. I'm shooting 58 percent from the floor... To be able to do it with a group of guys I would do anything for means so much. These guys are true brothers.... It's a surreal feeling for me right now. I haven't really grasped what just happened... The excitement of the fans showed me I was doing something special.... [At halftime], when I walked out of the locker-room, D-Wade said, 'You better get 40.' I had 40 when he walked out of the locker-room to take his seat."

### LeBron shot 8 for 10 on threes: "I just had it going. Once you get into a zone, you feel like you're shooting a golf ball into the ocean. I'm not much of a three-point shooter, but it was great to knock a few down."

### James made his first eight three-pointers before missing his last two. And for good measure, he added seven rebounds and five assists. He was 9 for 12 from the line. The Heat outscored Charlotte by 16 in his 41 minutes.

### According to Elias, only two players have shot a higher percentage while scoring at least 60 points in the shot clock era: Wilt Chamberlain (82.9) and Karl Malone (80.8).

### Erik Spoelstra's take, afterward: "At a certain point in the third quarter, that's what we were all doing [watching]. He can compete for the leading scorer in the league every single year if he chose to be that aggressive looking at the rim. But he's as much a facilitator as he is a scorer for himself. It was a special performance. It was a little uncharacteristic.

"I almost took him out at the end of the third to give him a rest but he was in a great groove. The rim looked like an ocean to him. The last few possessions, we were trying to design some three-point [shots] for him. He wasn't playing out of context until the last seven minutes of the fourth....

"I still remember the first preseason game I coached him. He made seven or eight straight plays, and I said, 'This is different.' He can really do so many different things, that nature of who he is, he's an anomaly. He's a physical anomaly, but also the way he approaches the game and reads the game --- those things are once in a generation."

### This was James' 10th career 50-plus point game in the regular season, but the first time he has done it in his home arena. James is 8-2 in those games.

"To do it with these fans, their excitement was able to get me through. I wouldn't want to do it in front of anyone else," LeBron said. "My first career 50 turned into 60 right here at home. That's great."

Among active players, James trails only Kobe Bryant for 50-point games. Kobe has 24.

### James' 61 were the second-most in the NBA this season, behind Carmelo Anthony's 62 (also against Charlotte). The NBA's last three 55-plus point games all came against the Bobcats: LeBron, Carmelo and Deron Williams.

### Chris Bosh's reaction, on Sun Sports: "That's the most efficient 60 I've seen in the history of the game. It kind of happened pretty quickly... We kept giving him the ball. Once he got to 35, he got 40 and it started multiplying. He was hitting those threes." Bosh joked that he expected a gift from LeBron because "I kept passing him the ball."

### Bobcats coach Steve Clifford: "If he's going to shoot the ball like that from that range, nobody's going to beat them. He scored his points in a way there's not much you can do. Every time we were more aggressive, he scored layups."

### LeBron's 25 points in the third quarter were his highest output ever, topping his previous high of 24, set with Miami. It was also the most points ever by a Heat player in a quarter.

### James made at least 20 baskets for only the second time in his career. The other was in a 2009 playoff game vs. Orlando. His 22 field goals were a Heat franchise record.

### LeBron is averaging 37.3 points and shooting 67 percent in his three games with a mask protecting his broken nose.

### LeBron said he had 45 text messages on his phone after the game.

"Every night I go on the floor, I want to be the MVP," he said. "There are so many kids that look to me as the best, a role model, a leader. I have a responsibility."

### LeBron and the Heat play in Houston Tuesday. The only player to score 60 in two straight games is Chamberlain (multiple times).

### Tweet of the night, from Shane Battier, who scored three points tonight: "Anytime @kingjames and I combine to score 64 points, it's going to be a good night."


The Dolphins’ decision to bring in former Cleveland starting inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson for a visit on Tuesday suggests what many have suspected --– that new GM Dennis Hickey isn’t completely thrilled with Jeff Ireland’s overhaul of the linebacker crew last season.

But it also speaks to Hickey’s admiration for Jackson, according to a league source.

The Dolphins like Jackson not only for his ability, but also for his leadership --- something Miami is trying to address after last year’s locker-room scandal. He was a respected and vocal leader in Cleveland, and this locker-room needs that.

When Cleveland cut him last month, general manager Ray Farmer called him “the epitome of class, leadership and professionalism.”

Hickey has tap-danced around questions concerning both Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, but keep in mind that both have guaranteed salaries next season, Ellerbe at $6 million and Wheeler at $5 million. There’s a big cap hit cutting both.

So it’s not out of the question Miami could keep Wheeler and Ellerbe for now, even if they sign Jackson or another starting-caliber linebacker. And Miami repeatedly has said how much it values Koa Misi, who is also under contract. Misi is Miami's best linebacker against the run and isn't expensive ($1.7 base salary in 2014).

Keep in mind that Ellerbe and Wheeler would have little incentive to take a pay cut because their base salaries are guaranteed.

Jackson is well-regarded and has been credited with 158, 118 and 141 tackles the past three years, among the highest totals in the league. Some of his Pro Football Focus metrics weren’t great last season, though that’s not always a completely accurate gauge.  

Here’s how the three linebackers compared in 2013, according to PFF:

### Tackles: Jackson was seventh in the league with 141. Wheeler had 118, Ellerbe 101.

### Impact plays: Jackson had 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. Ellerbe had one sack, two interceptions. Wheeler had half a sack, nothing else.

### Run defense: PFF gave Jackson a minus 11.3, which ranked 47th of 55 inside linebackers. Ellerbe was minus 17, which ranked 53rd of 55 inside linebackers. Wheeler was minus 16.8, which was 34th of 35 outside linebackers in a 4.3.

### Pass coverage: Jackson allowed 9.7 yards per catch and a 91.3 rating in his coverage area – better than Wheeler, who allowed 10.3 and 108.7, respectively. Ellerbe was very good in pass coverage (7.7 yards per completion, 73 rating).

Overall, PFF ranked Jackson 42nd and Ellerbe 50th of 55 inside linebackers. PFF ranked Wheeler 35th of 35 outside linebackers in a 4-3. But Jackson was better than Wheeler in every statistical category.

Jackson already has visited Tennessee and Denver and is expected to visit one other team after visiting Miami on Tuesday. He will then make a decision. (For an update on safety Louis Delmas from earlier Monday, see the last post.)

By the way, the Dolphins did not use the franchise player tag by today's 4 p.m. deadline. Brent Grimes signed a four-year, $32 million contract earlier (see the last post), and neither Randy Starks nor Paul Soliai were slapped with the franchise tag.


The Heat just announced that Dwyane Wade won't play tonight against Charlotte, but he's not injured. Erik Spoelstra said he had "no setback"; the team, on its Twitter feed, says he's merely being rested. The Heat plays in Houston on Tuesday. Wade has missed 16 games this season.... Toney Douglas was expected to start in Wade's place tonight.


### Fox named Harold Reynolds and Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci as its new lead baseball analysts, replacing Tim McCarver, who resigned after last season. Reynolds and Verducci will join Joe Buck on the call of several regular season games, the All-Star Game, one league championship series and the World Series.  

McCarver, who has announced every World Series since 2000, moved on from his national stage but is announcing 30 St. Louis Cardinals games for Fox Sports Midwest.

Verducci is unique in that he’s not a former player or former manager. Before Verducci, only one person was an analyst (not play-by-play, but analyst) on World Series games who didn’t play or manage: Howard Cosell.

### In retrospect, Michelle Beadle made a career misstep by leaving a prominent role on ESPN to join NBC Sports Network in 2012. On Monday, she returned to ESPN as co-host of SportsNation, with Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley.