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33 posts from March 2014

March 31, 2014

Monday afternoon update: Philbin challenging Miller; Dolphins, Heat, UM, Marlins notes

Some Monday tidbits:               

### Joe Philbin made clear this past week that while he likes Lamar Miller and that he has all the skills to thrive as an NFL back, Philbin is pushing him for more.

There's a good chance Miller could go from starter to backup with the addition of Knowshon Moreno.

“We want to see him make more explosive runs here and there," Philbin said of Miller. "His pass protection improved but there’s still room for development there. He can do all three things a running back needs to do -- he has good running skills, he can pass protect, he can catch the football. We thought Lamar played well."

But… “We’ve got to break more tackles. I may have been guilty of overcoaching, harping on the ball security issue. He really did a good job of that. At some point, running backs need to break tackles. It’s not that he didn’t break any. But he’s got to break some more. There is room that we could potentially utilize him more [as a pass receiver]. He has good natural hands, good speed.”

Moreno figures to be the back who catches the majority of passes among the team's running backs. Miller will compete with Moreno for the starting job, but Moreno enters as the favorite.

### Why has the run defense gotten worse over the past two years?

Here was Philbin's explanation: “They’re not magical things. But at times, the gap soundness was compromised. There are some missed tackle that led to explosive runs. That’s been a culprit. It’s been more an issue of fundamentals, technique, staying within the scheme, making sure we’re all tied together.”

Philbin and Dennis Hickey didn't say it, but it's obvious, as we have stated, that the move from Karlos Dansby/Kevin Burnett to Dannell Ellerbe/Phillip Wheeler made the Dolphins worse against the run.

And unfortunately, the Dolphins did not pursue the top run-stopping linebackers in free agency (Brandon Spikes, Jon Beason, Darryl Sharpton). They made an offer to D'Qwell Jackson, who graded out below average against the run, but he opted for the Colts.

### Queried by Bay Area reporters, Philbin said he wishes San Francisco-bound Jonathan Martin “the best. I hope his career goes in a positive direction. Jonathan came into work every single day and worked his butt off.”

### Philbin said Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are progressing well in their recovery from significant knee injuries and both are expected back for training camp.

### Philbin didn’t sound like the Dolphins are determined to have a natural fullback on the roster. “Priority wise, it’s not at the top of our list.” 

### According to Newsday out of New York, former Dolphins cornerback Dimitri Patterson is visiting the Jets today.

### The Heat says Dwyane Wade (hamstring), Greg Oden (back) and Ray Allen (stomach virus) are all doubtful for tonight's game against Toronto. Mario Chalmers (thigh bruise) was able to complete practice this morning and is a game-time decision.

### The Heat can pull even with Indiana for the top seed in the conference if Miami wins tonight and if the Pacers lose at home against San Antonio.

### Though UM scored six touchdowns in Saturday's scrimmage (which was closed to the public and media), keep in mind that four of them came on red-zone drills inside the 10-yard line.

But the defense was victimized by a length-of-field drive engineered by Ryan Williams and culminating in a touchdown run by Walter Tucker. The UM defense was without a key piece (Olsen Pierre) as well as without (obviously) key summer arrivals Michael Wyche and Chad Thomas, among others. 

### Though linebacker remains a concern, we hear Alex Figueroa has had a good spring; Denzel Perryman has played well in his move back to middle linebacker; and Jermaine Grace has made strides. UM wants to forge a role for Grace on defense, potentially on third down. What's more, early arrival Darrion Owens had two sacks Saturday and has made a strong early impression. And Al Golden said Raphael Kirby was the best of the linebackers in Saturday's scrimmage.

### The Marlins' batting order for their opener tonight against Colorado, barring a last-minute change by Mike Redmond: 1) Christian Yelich; 2) Jeff Baker; 3) Giancarlo Stanton; 4) Casey McGehee; 5) Garrett Jones; 6) Jarrod Saltalamacchia; 7) Marcell Ozuna; 8) Adeiny Hechavarria; 9) Jose Fernandez.

Please see the last post for more Dolphins, Heat, Canes and Marlins notes.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

March 30, 2014

"Clutch" nuggets on Marlins, Heat, Dolphins RBs; Ross to speak to Marino; Fins, UM, Marlins notes


A few timely South Florida-flavored points to consider on the topic of “clutch” play:

### The Marlins’ performance in the clutch, offensively, must change as much as anything about this team, as they await Monday's season opener. Besides being generally unproductive last season, Marlins batters were abysmal in the clutch (two outs and runners in scoring position).

Last season, MLB teams hit .232 and averaged 200 runs in that situation. The Marlins hit .193 in the clutch, ahead of only Milwaukee, and scored 151 runs.

Giancarlo Stanton hit .259 but with a league-high 22 clutch strikeouts. Among others: Logan Morrison, dealt to Seattle, hit .167 in the clutch, Adeiny Hechavarria .215, Ed Lucas .107 (3 for 28), Rob Brantly .192, Jeff Mathis .133, Christian Yelich .111 (2 for 18), Marcell Ozuna .226 and Derek Dietrich .130.

How have the Marlins’ new starters done historically in the clutch? The news is mixed.

New catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit .283 in 60 clutch at-bats in 2013, which was ninth among qualifying catchers – a big jump from .210 in his career. New third baseball Casey McGehee, who spent 2013 in Japan, has been excellent in the clutch throughout his MLB career (.318). New second baseman Rafael Furcal, who will begin the season on the disabled list, is a .261 career clutch hitter, .287 in those situations late in close games.

But Miami’s new first basemen have been poor in the clutch in their careers: Garrett Jones at .188, Jeff Baker .181. In Furcal's absence, Baker will start at second base on opening day, Monday against Colorado.

### Though Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was correct in saying he probably should have given LeBron James the last shot of the Pacers game last week, keep in mind that Chris Bosh entered the weekend with the NBA’s highest shooting percentage (minimum 40 attempts) on shots in the final five minutes of games with a margin of five points or fewer.

Bosh is shooting 54.5 percent on those shots (30 for 55), compared with 47.6 percent for James (40 for 84) and 36.4 for Dwyane Wade (8 for 22).

### Daniel Thomas exasperated the Dolphins with his inability to consistently convert in clutch situations (third and fourth and short). New Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno will be an upgrade there.

In his career, Moreno has gotten a first down on 28 of 42 rushing attempts on third and fourth down when he needed two or fewer yards for a first down (67 percent). Conversely, Thomas has converted just 13 of 25 (52 percent), and Lamar Miller only 2 of 7 (28.6 percent).


### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he will talk to Dan Marino about a potential job within the organization. But he said he has “no idea” what it might be.

### A bit more on Moreno: "Solid contributor but not a No. 1 back,” ESPN’s Bill Polian said. “Most of his success from 2013 was a function of the [Denver] system. His acceleration to the hole is the reason” why Polian gave him a “minus” grade for speed.

But “the rest of his game is good,” Polian said. “He just doesn’t hit the big plays you need from a No. 1 running back.”

Pittsburgh-bound LaGarrette Blount expected Miami interest, but the Dolphins never called him, and he isn’t nearly as good as Moreno in pass protection, which is being prioritized by Miami.

### Moreno's one-year, $3 million deal leaves the Dolphins with just over $16 million in cap space, with a little less than a third of that needed to sign draft picks.

### Postscripts from last week’s NFL owners meetings: Though some have criticized Miami’s signing of cornerback Cortland Finnegan, one competing general manager insisted it was a smart move because “he’s tough and physical” and might regain his previous form in a defensive system better suited to him.

Finnegan’s coach in St. Louis, Jeff Fisher, said “you get to that age [30] where you have to be aware of [potential loss of speed]. But when he was playing for us, he could still run.”…

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, on what Miami is getting in Branden Albert: “Great leader and an All-Pro. As good a player as he is, he's an even better person. He'll take care of your left side and do a great job for you. Pass blocking, run blocking – he’s good at both.”…

Fisher said even though Shelley Smith started only two games for the Rams in 2013, he’s a starting-caliber guard, plus “an outstanding run blocker and very physical.”

### Among coaches, there were mixed views expressed about whether Joe Philbin was culpable for not knowing about the bullying in his locker-room. One coach said it was obvious on HBO’s Hard Knocks in 2012 that Philbin was too detached and spent too much time in his office.

But Carolina’s Ron Rivera said: “A coach can't know everything. Coaches are held to a standard that sometimes is impossible. These players are men. I don’t know how we’re responsible for what they do.” Saints coach Sean Payton said: “How Joe is viewed in our circles is outstanding.”

### The last time the Marlins gave a three-year contract to an American League East catcher in his late 20s, who was coming off his best offensive season (John Buck), it was a disaster.

But the Marlins insist there’s no concern Saltalamacchia will be another Buck. “I don’t see any similarities; Jarrod is more of a contact guy, a gap hitter,” Marlins executive Michael Hill said.

The Marlins gave Buck $18 million over three years after he hit .281 for Toronto in 2010 – after never hitting better than .247 in any previous season. He bombed in Miami (.227, .192).

This offseason, the Marlins gave Saltalamacchia, a career .246 hitter, a three-year deal worth $21 million, after he hit .273 for Boston in 2013. The Marlins love how Saltalamacchia has taken charge of the pitching staff and believe he became a more disciplined hitter last year.

### Giancarlo Stanton, on the Marlins' decision not to bring in the Marlins Park fences: "I reiterate that they need to be brought in, in years to come. And it's not just my opinion. It's everyone's opinion here. And everyone's opinion on visiting teams."

But Marlins president David Samson said: "Where the fences are has helped us more than hurt us. We do measure it, because we've got smart guys. We're not ready to tell you permanently what we're doing; we're still studying it."

Over the past two seasons, Stanton actually has hit more home runs at home (31) than on the road (30). But Miami had only 31 home runs at home in 2013, compared with 59 on the road.

### The Mirage and 12 Nevada casinos have the Marlins at 100 to 1 to win the World Series. Only the Astros, at 200 to 1, face longer odds.  

### UM wouldn't allow reporters to watch Saturday's scrimmage, but it did release a few details. Among them: Ryan Williams and Kevin Olsen took all the snaps... Williams made some nifty throws: a long TD pass to Phillip Dorsett and a sharp throw to Rashawn Scott for a big gain... But Williams was sacked by Anthony Chickillo and Al-Quadin Muhammad for a safety on the first play of the day. Muhammad had a sack on another play.. Stacy Coley made a couple of terrific catches.... UM ran for four touchdowns and threw for two....

Impressive early enrollee Darrion Owens made his mark at linebacker Saturday, generating pressure on the quarterback....  Artie Burns intercepted a pass.... Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker looked good running the ball... Safety Dallas Crawford stuffed a running play for a loss... Williams said this is the most physical the offensive line has looked since he has been here. But offensive penalties were a problem, Jon Feliciano said.

### Following in the footsteps of the more accomplished Jimmy Graham, UM 6-9 forward Raphael Akpejiori plans to try out for the football team in the coming weeks, according to multiple reports.

March 29, 2014

Marlins coming up with new ways to try to get you to attend their games

When the Marlins moved into their new ballpark in 2012, they said they expected to average at least 30,000 spectators per game and sell 15,000 season tickets annually, at least for the first few years.

They fell short in the first year (27,400 and 12,000), then predictably nose-dived in both categories last season after slashing payroll, dropping to 19,584 distributed tickets per game in 2013 (ahead of only Tampa) and selling just 5000 season tickets.

And now, even after an offseason devoid of any public relations disasters, the Marlins are still trying to reach 5000 season tickets, just days before the March 31 opener. They’re hoping five factors ultimately will boost attendance:

### A better team. With the addition of four new starting position players and an augmented bench, the Marlins aren’t likely to endure another 100-loss season. But nobody is predicting playoffs.

“The ballpark is fantastic,” Marlins president David Samson said. “But now it’s time to match the ballpark with the product, and I don’t mean as a payroll. I mean as the result.”

### Lower ticket prices. The Marlins reduced prices for every seat, with an average cut of 25 percent on season tickets and 20 percent on single game tickets. Some season-ticket prices were dropped as much 69 percent, and some single game tickets as much as 55 percent.

The lowest-priced seats are now $9 on weekends and $12 on weekends.

“It’s supply and demand,” Samson said. “We want more people. We didn’t perform the way we should have performed. We’re going to lower prices.”

Samson said stubhub.com will not be permitted to charge anything less than $6 for Marlins tickets.

### A “rewards plus” points system similar to the type of programs that airlines and major hotel chains use.

Sean Flynn, the Marlins’ senior vice president/marketing, said the program will be available only to season-ticket holders this year, but to all ticket holders beginning in 2015.

Here’s how it works: Season-ticket holders will receive varying amounts of points for buying tickets, actually attending the games, posting Marlins-requested messages on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and purchasing merchandise at the team store. At some point in the next year, fans also can earn points by clicking on news stories on Marlins.com, buying concessions and other Marlins-related activities.

Points can be redeemed for tickets to future games, suite access, bats or baseballs used in games, retail items and passes to concerts or other Sun Life Stadium events.

The perks for the fans who earn the highest level of points: participating in batting practice or walking out with the lineup card (accompanied by manager Mike Redmond) before the game.

“We had two goals: to retain customers and to grow our fan base,” Flynn said. “Increasing attendance is a longterm goal when we open it up to all fans.”

The Marlins are not sharing with the general public a specific breakdown of how many points are needed to redeem what prizes, but Flynn said season-ticket holders will have that information on a secured portion of the Marlins web site by Monday. Flynn said season ticket holders are automatically enrolled.

### Faster games. The Marlins played the fastest games in the majors last season, largely because they scored fewer runs than any other team in baseball. Samson believes the slow pace of games might be hurting attendance and has told players to hurry it up.

“Our focus in Miami is pace of game,” Samson said. “It’s very important to me. The games are going too long."

MLB games averaged 2 hours, 59 minutes during the 2013 regular season and 3:22 in the playoffs.

"If we want to engage fans 18-49, we have to play faster," Samson said. "[In the new replay system], there needs to be a call on the field, a replay, and an overturn within 60 seconds. Period. We're not going to put up with 3 1/2-hour games. Our fans don't want it."

Samson said the Marlins also will encourage batters not to step out of the box as often or pitchers to step off the mound.

“For us, these four-hour games and 3 1/2-hour games, it can't happen," Samson said. "We are studying all of our home games, and we're finding out what can we do to shave our running time. This is a Marlins thing, because I've had it. Our fans have had it. There should be 2-hour, 35-minute games."

Commissioner Bud Selig told me last week that he agrees with Samson's contention that the pace of games must improve, and he's working on it.

Is Samson convinced this market will support baseball to the level the team expected in a new ballpark? “Yes, because it’s our job,” he said. “We failed so far, but we’re getting better. It’s our job to give our fans a winning franchise and a stable franchise.”

### More entertainment. Saturday night concerts no longer will be limited to the west plaza. There will be concerts and parties (with disc jockeys) in the Clevelander area on the east plaza on select Saturdays, beginning April 5, when DJ Laz hosts.


March 28, 2014

Media column: Hochman ready to go head-to-head with buddy Le Batard; More radio, NFL TV changes


For eight years, Marc Hochman was the creative architect behind his buddy Dan Le Batard’s radio show, combining with Le Batard and Jon Weiner to present the highest-rated and most compelling sports-talk radio program in South Florida.

Friends since they were classmates at the University of Miami, Hochman and Le Batard have traveled together, to Las Vegas and the Bahamas, and Le Batard appeared in Hochman’s wedding 16 years ago. Le Batard hired him as his executive producer when 790 The Ticket launched.

So when Hochman officially joins rival WQAM-560 next week and starts competing directly with Le Batard on Tuesday, “it will feel a little strange because I still take great pride in that show,” Hochman said.

Nevertheless, Hochman insists going head-to-head with Le Batard from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays won’t be daunting or intimidating or any other frightening adjective. That’s partly because Le Batard’s show on 790 AM and 104.3 FM airs nationally on ESPN Radio from 4 to 7 p.m.

“My show is hopefully going to be this place where anyone who lives in South Florida can hang out for a couple hours, talk about things interesting to people in South Florida,” he said. “Dan's show has grown into a national show. It's got a different feel to it.

“I can’t compete with him on guests. He's going to get an A list of sports guests. But he is doing something I'm not trying to do. I want to work in South Florida the rest of my life.”

Competing with Le Batard “is not daunting because I know he's rooting for me. He was one of the first people I called when I decided to take the job. He was thrilled for me, wished me the best. He's such a unique individual.

“I'm not competition to him. He's a network radio host. He's got bigger fish to fry than worrying about what is happening about the show against him on the local station.”

Hochman, 44, hasn’t worked professionally with Le Batard since becoming The Ticket’s morning show co-host in the spring of 2012.

Though the Ticket wanted to keep him, Hochman left that job in December, partly because he felt his future would be more secure at WQAM. Hochman couldn’t start at WQAM immediately because of a three-month non-compete clause, and WQAM management said it’s still not permitted to comment publicly about him.

“The real motivating factor was picturing myself 10 years from now doing a talk show in Miami and who I think would afford me that opportunity,” he said. “I have seen that happen at WQAM, with Hank Goldberg, Neil Rogers, Jim Mandich. The Beasley family [which owns WQAM] is committed to radio in this market. Lincoln Financial [which owns The Ticket] is a multi-million dollar insurance company. I am making a calculated decision.”

He said WQAM also appealed to him because they share a similar vision of doing “an entertaining radio show” rather than a hard-core, sports-only program. “Sports will be the backbone and I love sports, but I love pop culture and current events. Each show will be the vibe of that particular day.”

He will use some segments he created on The Ticket, including “Mount Rushmore” and “Honked off like a goose.”

Hochman hired Zack Krantz, Joe Rose’s former radio producer, as his co-host because “I love a guy who's always smiling and laughing and enjoying sports and life the way I try to. If Joe Rose didn't give his blessing, I wouldn't have pursued it.”

Producer Victor Bermudez and Sha Tabb, a former model and Dolphins cheerleader, also will have on-air roles. And Hochman made an eye-opening hire by convincing legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger to become the “voice” of the show, narrating introductions and more.

Perhaps Hochman will give WQAM the long-term stability it has lacked in afternoon drive since the retirement of Mandich, who died in 2012 after a battle with cancer. Sid Rosenberg (now doing mornings on WMEN-640) lost his WQAM afternoon gig because of a DUI arrest, and Jorge Sedano – who was a strong hire – left in September for ESPN Radio.

But it will be very difficult for Hochman to post ratings comparable to Le Batard, who has become a radio juggernaut.

This much is clear: Hochman, a native of Highland Park, Ill., has come a long way from the guy who was making $165 a week as a disk jockey in Belle Glade after graduating from UM 23 years ago.


### The Dolphins on Thursday hired WQAM's Greg Likens --- one of the more thoughtful, polished young hosts on local radio --- to replace Jesse Agler as host of WINZ's Finsiders. Agler left for a job with the San Diego Padres.

### Jeff Fox and Ed Freeman, who have handled WQAM’s 3 to 7 p.m. shift the past three months, will go back to being fill-in hosts on the station.

### The Ticket, which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald, hired a new program director: Len Weiner, who was an executive for radio stations in Tampa, Orlando and Melbourne.

### Fox dropped NFL analyst Brian Billick… NBC lead analyst Cris Collinsworth is giving up his gig on Showtime’s Inside the NFL and may do some cable work for NBC Sports Network before or after the Sunday games that he calls with Al Michaels on NBC. The move will reduce Collinsworth’s travel load. Collinsworth, who lives in Cincinnati, needed to travel to Mount Laurel, N.J. every week to do the show. 

The chemistry between Collinsworth and Phil Simms made the show especially lively and will be missed. CBS said it hasn't decided how Collinsworth will be replaced.

### Heat-Pacers on Wednesday night generated a strong 12.7 rating in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market: a 7.4 on Sun Sports and a 5.3 on ESPN.

### Fort Myers sports anchor Clayton Ferraro is the new No. 2 sportscaster at WPLG-10, replacing Victor Oquendo, who was promoted to a news anchor position. 

March 26, 2014

What Fins are getting with Moreno; Heat-Pacers postscripts; UM impact of major court ruling

The Dolphins have upgraded at running back by agreeing with Knowshon Moreno on a one-year deal. Some tidbits about him, some of which we posted last week:

### Here is what Pro Football Focus said about him entering free agency: "The No. 1 running back [in free agency], almost by default, comes from this year’s Super Bowl runner up. Knowshon Moreno is the only back on this list without injury, workload, or age concerns. This last season Moreno proved that he can produce effectively in an every-down role over the course of the season. In terms of pure ability, there are probably six or seven free agents I’d prefer, but none are proven commodities at this point in time. At just 27years old, and with just 992 career touches to his name, Moreno is sure to have at least a few more productive seasons in his legs before the dreaded running back decline sets in.

"2013 was by far Moreno’s most accomplished as a pro," PFF went on to say. "He set career highs in snaps (724), rushing yards (1,038), receiving yards (548), touchdowns (13), and PFF grade (+9.9). His 241 carries were more the most Moreno’s had in a season since his rookie year and his 60 receptions were a career high by a wide margin. With his rushing (+4.2 grade), pass catching (+7.0 grade), and adequate pass blocking (0.0 grade) ability, Moreno provides the ability to plug and play 600+ snaps immediately."

### But ESPN's Bill Polian said: "Solid contributor but not a No. 1 back. Most of his success from 2013 was a function of the system."

### Moreno is a productive back coming off his best season (1038 yards rushing, 4.3 per carry, 10 rushing touchdowns, 3 receiving touchdowns and 548 receiving yards playing behind a good offensive line and with a Hall of Fame quarterback).

But the metrics suggest he’s not clearly better than Miami’s other backs in breaking tackles.

Last season, Moreno averaged 2.0 yards after contact, which was tied for 39th among 55 backs, according to Pro Football Focus.  Who was he tied with? Daniel Thomas, whom Moreno presumably would replace. Lamar Miller was 31st at 2.1.

### Moreno broke or avoided 21 tackles --- the same number as Thomas and one more than Miller, despite having considerably more carries than both. Those 21 were 29th most among running backs. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, conversely, had 75 broken or avoided tackles.

### Moreno doesn’t break a lot of long runs, either. He had five carries of 20 yards or more, which tied for 17th, but needed 241 carries to do it. Miller and Thomas each had four such runs in substantially fewer carries --- 177 for Miller, 109 for Thomas.

### Moreno’s 4.3 per carry averaged tied for 21st among 55 backs. By comparison, Miller averaged 4.0, Thomas 3.7.

### PFF ranked Moreno eighth among all running backs as a pass blocker. For perspective, Miller was 33rd, Thomas 34th.

### Moreno had only one fumble in 241 rushing attempts last season. He’s young (26) and coming off his best season, albeit in an offense loaded with talent.

My conclusion? Good move to sign him. He’s a more proven, accomplished back than Thomas, has a better per carry average and is a superior pass protector. A Miller/Moreno tandem is an upgrade over a Miller/Thomas combo.




Hard fouls. An ejection. Playoff-type intensity. Lineup changes. Dramatic swings. This was as riveting as it gets in the regular season for two teams that will be judged solely on the playoffs.

And if these teams go seven games in the Eastern Finals, it looks increasingly likely (though not certain) that Game 7 would be in Indiana, with the Pacers now up two games in the loss column with 12 games left for Miami and 10 for Indiana, and the Heat likely to rest its starters late in the season.

Miami can tie the season series by beating Indiana on April 11, but the Pacers have the better conference record, which would be the tiebreaker if the teams split their four-game season series.

### Erik Spoelstra second-guessed himself for calling the last play for Chris Bosh, who took a pass from LeBron James and airballed a jumper to end this 84-83 loss. Spoelstra said he probably should have put the ball in the hands of James, who had 38 points, on 11 for 19 shooting, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Bosh, the Heat’s best shooter in the clutch this season, was open on the play but had to rush the shot.

"You can't make two passes and set for the shot at the end," Bosh said. "There's not much you can do in two seconds. It was a 20-second timeout. We didn't have much time for discussions."

“Unfortunately that was what I diagrammed and it might not have been the best [call],” Spoelstra said. "It was probably a little too gunslinger."

Dwyane Wade wasn't in the game on the final possession of a cramp in his hamstring.

Asked about the last play, James said only: “It was the play drew up. And we got a look.” Asked again about the play, he said: “I just ran the play.”

James said he “was surprised” that two hard fouls against him weren’t called flagrants, and yet James was called for a flagrant against Roy Hibbert, which James questioned afterward, noting Roy Hibbert's face "happened to hit my elbow."

“Me and Blake Griffin take some hard hits, and they call it how they want to call it," James said. "It’s very frustrating, very frustrating. As a player, you play the game the right way, and it just doesn’t fall your way.”

Bosh was upset about the the fact Indiana didn't have a flagrant foul called against them: "We were getting punched in the face and clothes-lined out there. We are going to have to revisit what flagrant foul means. They had one (flagrant foul called against Miami) and we had none, even though LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined."

### Bosh, in foul trouble, didn’t return in the fourth quarter until there were less than two minutes left. It was a forgettable night for Bosh --- 8 points on 3 for 11 shooting and four rebounds. With Bosh’s increasing reliance on his three-point game, Jeff Van Gundy noted that Bosh “has to figure out how to get closer to the basket. He’s more versatile than he’s showing.”

### Wade left with 1:59 left, finishing with 15 points. "I felt cramping," he said. "Had to get off of it. Once you get cramps, it's not going to stop right away."

### The Heat ultimately was undone by fourth quarter turnovers (seven of them), and 19 in the game, leading to 26 Pacer points. James and Wade had six turnovers apiece....

Miami tied a season low with four fourth-quarter field goals (on 13 shots) and was outscored 21-15 in the fourth. The Heat’s 83 points were a season low, and the Heat is now 0-6 when it scores fewer than 90 points. "We didn't get our guys in the right spots," Bosh said. "We had so many empty possessions where we didn't get any movement."

### The defense, at least after the first quarter, was plenty good enough. “That part was encouraging,” Spoelstra said. But “we weren’t able to get over the hump. It’s a tough one. We didn’t get the type of looks we wanted going down the stretch.”

### Who would have thought that the Heat would play key moments down the stretch with Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis? “They need to be in the rotation,” James said.

Erik Spoelstra opted for Lewis, who scored his first basket since Feb. 21, instead of Shane Battier, which Spoelstra attributed largely to Ray Allen’s absence because of the flu. Battier has struggled against David West in the past.

“I like Rashard’s minutes,” Spoelstra said. “He always keeps himself ready. He gives us something that works for us offensively. He’s a very smart player and he competes defensively.”

Like Battier, Michael Beasley was a DNP-coach’s decision.

### Haslem, stuck to the bench for weeks, has been a revelation the past two weeks, and his defense against Roy Hibbert was exceptional.

As Gundy noted, Haslem forced Hibbert into tough shots by getting good leverage --- unlike Greg Oden, who couldn’t do anything to stop Hibbert in Hibbert’s 11-point first quarter. Haslem (four rebounds in 21 minutes) replaced Oden to start the second half, and Hibbert scored just eight points after the first quarter.

“His minutes were good,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not an indictment of Greg. I’m not down on him. This isn’t making any decisions. He’ll start the next game. He’s getting there. The bottom line is still winning, and that’s my job to make those decisions, whether they’re right or wrong. Greg is getting better.”

### A second half three-pointer by Wade was disallowed because he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds. (Replays showed he didn’t.)

But Wade showed restraint by not responding to Lance Stephenson’s jawing. Stephenson, in a classic knucklehead moment, picked up his second technical foul (and automatic ejection) after yakking at Wade with 4:59 left. "I don't play the games Lance plays," Wade said. "The refs took care of it."

### Dreadful night for Mario Chalmers, who shot 2 for 10, with two assists and two turnovers and was beaten off the dribble several times.

### David West was only 3 for 12 on three-pointers last season before his key late-game three.

### Two encouraging signs: The Heat held Indiana to 37 percent shooting and played the Pacers to a 37-37 draw on the boards.

### Van Gundy said he’s “not as convinced both teams are going to get the Eastern Finals” as he was previously. He said Indiana would be more vulnerable than Miami and that Brooklyn is “very dangerous.”


### Al Golden said after practice today that Kevin Olsen is “starting to close ground” with Ryan Williams, but that “Ryan is ahead of Kevin, and Kevin is ahead of Gray Crow. Obviously Ryan has been the leader and is doing a really good job.”

### Golden can’t stop raving about Stacy Coley. “He’s raised the level of his play, and everyone is trying to catch his intensity and preparation.”

### Tight end Standish Dobard “is getting better,” Golden said. “He prepares really hard, wants to do well. Stan gives us a real physical presence on the line of scrimmage yet can get down the field and make plays because he's so long. Really excited about Stan right now."

### Freshman Darrion Owens had a sack Wednesday and UM really likes his pass rush potential.

### Please see the last post for a look at the landmark NCAA/Northwestern/union decision today and how it could affect UM.

Synopsis of landmark Northwestern/ union/ NCAA ruling and how it could affect UM

In a decision that could dramatically change the landscape of college sports, especially at private schools including the University of Miami, the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that NorthwesternUniversity football players will be recognized as employees.

Unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, it sets a precedent for students at private universities, including UM, to petition to form a union, which would enable them to engage in collective bargaining with their universities.

In his ruling, Chicago NLRB Director Peter Ohr said that he "found that all grant-in-aid scholarship players for [Northwestern’s] football team who have not exhausted their playing eligibility are ‘employees.’"

As employees, players can bargain for limited contact in practice, guaranteed scholarships and post-career medical benefits, which are some of the union’s CAPA’s stated goals.

Compensation, or "pay-for-play," is not one of the goals for the union.

UM officials declined to comment, but a UM source said the decision was viewed as a bad thing for Miami, should it result in players being able to negotiate for benefits.

But Miami attorney Darren Heitner, a partner at Wolfe Law Miami, said it was too soon to tell whether the decision, if upheld, would impact UM positively or negatively.

“If anything it may be a positive more than a negative at first because potential college players may see this as an opportunity to bargain for benefits that they couldn't at a public university,” Heitner said. “That scenario of paying players is too far off to be concerned about at the current stage.

“If at some point we see this turn into a true pay-for-play debate, and private universities start ponying up the cash, it could put private universities on a pedestal, for those that can pay players above and beyond. UM might not be in the best position among private schools to do that. But it might give them a competitive advantage over FSU and UF.”

Heitner said players might seek more control over equipment, a limit to the number of hours they are required to be involved in football activities and a potential increase in scholarship money. He also said players might request that independent physicians be available to examine players’ head injuries during games.

In a scenario of ultimate chaos, Heitner said “there would be potential for lockouts and strikes. We could potentially see universities locking the players out if they come to an impasse. Perhaps there are replacement players that [could be] used.”

The Northwestern case began to take shape on Jan. 28, when former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter announced current players signed union cards and petitioned to form a union in front of the NLRB.

In late February, a five-day hearing between the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) — the name for the union — and Northwestern was held to debate the issue of an employee-employer relationship between football players on scholarship and the school.

"This was a complete victory," CAPA lawyer John Adam said after the decision was announced.

Colter, a senior last season, who led the union effort for the players, emphasized that players at Northwestern were not mistreated. Instead, they wanted a voice in the process.

"It is important that players have a seat at the table when it comes to issues that affect their well-being," Colter said in a statement. "Football and basketball players generate billions of dollars per year. Players will gain a number of important protections once this union is in place."

In a statement from spokesman Al Cubbage, Northwestern expressed disappointment in the ruling, and said it will appeal the decision to the national office in Washington, D.C. The appeal is expected to be heard shortly.

 The NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, also said he was "disappointed" in the regional board’s ruling, adding that athletes play "for the love of the sport, not to be paid."

“Over the last three years,’’ Remy’s statement said, “our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules. While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college.”

The marathon hearing sessions drew considerable attention in Chicago, as Colter testified against his former university. Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald also testified, as did former players and university administrators.

Northwestern argued that education always comes first for its athletes and placed blame on the NCAA system.

CAPA lawyers argued during the hearing scholarships effectively act as compensation for athletes, who are treated as employees due to because of strict rules and special circumstances that which do not apply to normal students. Ohr agreed with these assertions.

UM spokeswoman Margot Winick said the university was "declining comment on this," and it’s unknown if any UM players are planning to form a union.

Desmond Perryman, father of UM football player Denzel Perryman, said he’s skeptical about whether UM players would even form a union, at least initially. He said he has never heard Perryman or other UM players express a desire to be paid, beyond scholarships, or receive other benefits.

“For what all these kids are given, I don't know if it will happen here,” Perryman said. “I know they get compensated by the NCAA paying for their education, but sometimes you feel like this should be a little more because of revenue brought into the school. It can cause a lot of chaos.”

University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley declined to comment because he said he didn’t have enough information to form an opinion.  “It's not a 'no comment,'” he said.  “I've simply seen the headline and that's it. I haven't read the story."

Ramogi Huma, president of CAPA and former football player at UCLA, said “this decision clears the way for other FBS football and Division 1 basketball players at private schools within the NCAA to organize.”

Huma worked closely with Colter and the United Steelworkers Union to kick-start the players’ unionization effort.

Heitner said though it’s not mandatory that athletes at private schools form a union, “it is likely that many of them will choose to do so because they can bargain for greater rights.”

Heitner said he doesn’t know if the decision will stand, but if it does, “It would make things very convoluted and potentially blow up the system. [And] pay-for-play might be something these athletes negotiate for, which would run counter with NCAA rules.”

My thanks to former Herald intern Rohan Nadkarni for assisting greatly on this story while I was on assignment at the NFL owners meetings earlier. Please check back later for Heat-Pacers postscripts and Dolphins chatter

March 25, 2014

Tuesday night update: More nuggets and evaluation from Philbin; Heat, Marlins items

Some Tuesday night notes:

### During his hour-long meeting with reporters at the NFL owners meetings earlier today, here’s what Joe Philbin had to say about some of his new players:

On Branden Albert: “We’ve been studying him for a couple years. We feel like he’s a good fit schematically, will be good in the locker-room. All the research we did is he’s a good person. There are good clips of him on the back side and front side on outside zone plays that you want an outside tackle to do.” (And the Dolphins will remain a zone blocking team in their running game, incidentally.)

On guard Shelley Smith, who started just two of the 14 games he appeared in last season: “Really liked his ability to pull and run and move. He’s schematically a good fit for what we do.”

On cornerback Cortland Finnegan: “We studied the tape extensively. We liked what we saw on film. He will have to earn play time just like anybody else. The one thing he does give us is some position flexibility. He played some inside (slot); he can play outside.”

On safety Louis Delmas: “He’s very aggressive and he doesn’t hesitate. That play speed, that tempo he brings to the defense are things we feel he can add.”

On defensive tackle Earl Mitchell: “He runs to the football every single snap and plays hard. He’s only missed one game in four years. He’s been durable and available.”

Philbin said he and Dennis Hickey watched tape of all the free agents the Dolphins signed “so we both would have a comfort level. It’s not good if only one person has a comfort level.”

### The Dolphins will add a right tackle in the draft and possibly a guard, as well. They also will monitor the free agent market at guard.

“We still have some unsettled pieces we’re not certain of,” Philbin said. “We expect to have a competitive, competent offensive line when we open the season. There’s work to be done but there’s time to do it. We have a plan to address it and we will.”

Philbin said there are starting guard possibilities on the roster, including potentially Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner and Sam Brenner (“he made a lot of strides,” Philbin said).

### On balls thrown 20 yards or more, Ryan Tannehill completed only 6 of 36 such passes to Mike Wallace last season and Philbin said that's “going to be a focal point for us moving forward. We’ve got to connect more on the vertical throws down the field.

“Some of it’s timing between the guys. Some is ball location. Some is the receiver being in the exact right spot. We’ve got to increase our explosive plays. We’ve got to score more points. We just have to. [Deep balls are] a part of it. It’s not the only part. We’ve sliced up those routes and studied why and how. We definitely addressed that.”

### Philbin also wants Tannehill to improve his accuracy (his 60.4 percent completion percentage was 22nd-best) and throw fewer picks (he had 17, compared with 24 touchdowns).

### Philbin said “one of the things that was attractive to me” about new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor “is he’s been around some excellent coaches: Joe Gibbs, Dan Reeves, Chip Kelly, Mike Holmgren. He played quarterback [at Cornell], worked with a lot of quarterbacks.”

### How is Lazor’s offense going to be different than Sherman’s?

Here’s how Philbin responded: “The things I’m interested in seeing is, and Bill and I have discussed, is… we have to protect the quarterback better. The starting point of any deep ball or three-step drop, the focus has been on protection. The reason we haven’t scored the points you need to score to consistently win is we haven’t protected the quarterback well enough.

“We’re going to have a variety of formations. I don’t know that it’s going to be all that different. We will have multiple formations like we have in the past. What I am most interested in is the execution and protection of the quarterback, more explosive plays and protection of the football. We’ve turned the ball over too much. We had 26 last year. It’s too many.”

He said “it was not very easy at all” to part ways with Sherman.

### Philbin and Dennis Hickey wouldn’t rule out moving Ellerbe from middle to outside linebacker. Philbin, asked how the linebackers played last season, conceded: “There were some inconsistency there. There was a lot of productivity there but we’re looking for more consistency from the linebacker position, without a doubt.”

### Reshad Jones appeared to play worse in 2013 than in 2012. Asked about that, Philbin said he doesn’t necessarily agree. “We thought he played well, but there are still some things we can see him doing better --- playing a little faster, a little more decisively at times. We’re counting on him to do that this year.”

### Philbin said Jimmy Wilson will remain at safety instead of moving to cornerback.

### Philbin wouldn’t rule out re-signing Dustin Keller. Hickey said he has spoken to Keller’s agent (Eugene Parker) but wouldn’t say if he wants Keller back.

“He’s one of those guys we’re evaluating and considering like a lot of other free agents out there,” Philbin said. “We’ll see.”

### The Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns, who missed last season after a training camp knee injury. “He’s been in [the facility] every day diligently working to improve,” Philbin said. “He’s a big body type. We don’t have a lot of those 6-3 guys. He’s a little different. We like that about him. He’s a guy worth working with.”

### The Dolphins are happy with their three quarterbacks: Tannehill, Matt Moore (“We’re very confident in Matt as a backup. We like him a lot, Philbin said”) and Pat Devlin. “There is a chance we’ll add somebody,” Philbin added.

### Please see the last post for a lot more from Philbin from earlier in the day, including his plans for Dion Jordan and his thoughts on the rest of the under-utilized 2013 draft class.

### It will be interesting to see Heat center Greg Oden match up against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers Wednesday in an expected Eastern Conference Finals preview.

Memphis point guard Mike Conley, Oden's workout buddy and former Ohio State teammate, said: "He's not going to be back to where he was [previously]."

He said you will know Oden is all the way back when he is "not being as passive offensively, when he takes the pick-and-roll pop shots. He can make a jumper from the free throw line."

### The Heat (48-21) will pull even with Indiana (51-20) in the loss column if it wins Wednesday night’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

### Dwyane Wade (strained Achilles) practiced Tuesday and expects to play Wednesday. The Heat said he will be a game-time decision.

### With the Marlins’ roster moves today, the bullpen could end up being Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Carlos Marmol, AJ Ramos, Brad Hand, Henry Rodriguez and Kevin Slowey. But don't rule out lefty Dan Jennings making it. The Marlins had hoped Carter Capps, acquired from Seattle Logan Morrison, would make the team, but he needs more work at Triple A. Two scouts said they expected he would throw better this spring.

### Please see the last post for a lot more Dolphins from earlier in the day.... Twitter:@flasportsbuzz

Philbin expects expanded role for Jordan, discusses entire 2013 class; Moreno mulls options; Fins notes

ORLANDO --- No team received fewer offensive and defensive snaps from its rookie class than the Dolphins last season. But Joe Philbin made clear this morning that he expects the 2013 class to assume more prominent roles this season, starting with Dion Jordan and the rookie cornerbacks.

“We have a lot of hope for that draft class,” Philbin said from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. “You usually see a significant jump from year one to year two.”

Philbin said he sees Jordan as a defensive end primarily, not a linebacker. That creates challenges in creating playing time behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, especially because Philbin said reserve end Derrick Shelby deserves playing time also. (Shelby played 446 snaps last season, Jordan 339).

Nevertheless, Jordan "will make a big jump this year,” Philbin predicted today. “We expect his role to expand. He played [339] snaps. We definitely want to see that increase. The most natural place is on third down. He’s going to have to have more snaps on first and second down. I think he will have a very good season. We know he has a lot of talent. He plays fast. When he did get snaps, they were quality. We see his role increasing somewhat.”

Philbin denied a published report that the coaching staff was dissatisfied with Jordan and his work ethic. “Not sure where that came from,” Philbin said. “He’s definitely a hard worker. He loves the game.”

He said Jordan’s progress was limited somewhat last season because of his offseason shoulder surgery ---the shoulder injury was aggravated during training camp --- and because his Oregon class schedule didn’t permit him to report until June.

“He missed a good number of practices at training camp,” Philbin said. “We don’t have a ton of individual time [during the season]. He missed a lot because of the academic calendar and injuries in the spring."

But he suggested he’s not going to bench the undrafted Shelby to play Jordan a ton more. “Shelby was one of the highest graders we had on the defensive line,” Philbin said. “Derrick Shelby earned every snap. We expect Dion will as well.”

Here’s what Philbin said to say about the other members of the 2013 draft class:

### At the moment, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are in the top four cornerback rotation and both will have a chance to beat out Cortland Finnegan for a starting job.

“We expect to see progress there,” Philbin said of Taylor and Davis. “Whoever performs best should be the starting cornerback. Those are guys we thought highly of. They had injury issues. Will was having a really good training camp; he was getting his hands on the ball a lot. That's what jumped out at us. Jamar's play speed attracted us to him in the film evaluation a year ago.” Davis played just 65 defensive snaps last season, Taylor 45.

### Philbin said the Dolphins staff needs “to find a home” for Dallas Thomas, who played just two snaps last season. He said he’s not sure whether he’s better at guard or tackle but could play either.

Philbin said Thomas has been one of the “hardest-working guys” in the team’s offseason program but the staff needs “to give him a place to anchor down. It’s a matter of consistency, gaining trust and confidence of himself and the guy next to him.

“One of the things that intrigued us when we watched him is when he played left tackle. We don't anticipate that's where he's going to be. He's going to give us roster flexibility --- either right tackle or one of the guards. He can play at either guard position. Once the dust settles, we'll figure out where the best spot is for Dallas Thomas to reach his potential. That's on us to figure it out. You want a guy to get comfortable and acclimated. A [starting job] is certainly a possibility. There's a lot of opportunity in the offensive line. We're an equal opportunity [employer] there.”

### Philbin said tight end Dion Sims, who played 280 offensive snaps, “has a chance to be a very good blocker in this league. I like what I see in that area. And he has soft hands.” But he said “his play speed has to become more consistent” and that on tape, “there were pictures of him being indecisive” at times. “But there’s a lot to work with.”

### Philbin said he does “not have a great feel yet” for Mike Gillislee as a running back but liked his work on special teams. He played only nine offensive snaps last season. He also likes the special teams work of seventh-round pick Don Jones.

### Linebacker Jelani Jenkins got more work late in the season and could earn playing on third down.

“He's very bright guy and picked up the system well," Philbin said. "He's athletic and has good zone awareness and has the skill set to run with receivers and play man-to-man. We hope he pushes for play time.”

### On Caleb Sturgis, who was a somewhat disappointing 26 for 34 on field goals, Philbin said: “He has all the qualities you look for. You see the leg strength and accuracy; there was a little spell there with a little inconsistency. We have to work through that and we will. I expect him to improve.”


### Regarding running back Knowshon Moreno --- who visited the Dolphins on Friday --- Denver coach John Fox said Moreno can return to the Broncos if he wishes, and we hear rumblings another team (besides Miami) also has him on their radar. The Dolphins remain interested but only at a price with which they’re comfortable. They remain in contact with his agent.

Moreno, who liked his visit to Miami, wasn't done considering his options as of late Monday night. One person with knowledge of the situation said it’s a toss-up whether he signs here and it could go either way at this point.

Maurice Jones-Drew remains an option, but the Dolphins haven’t yet been motivated to bring him in for a visit. Philbin declined to discuss Jones-Drew but left the door open on Moreno.

### Philbin said his linebackers need to be more consistent and that Lamar Miller must “break more tackles.”… He said he expects Dannell Ellerbe to improve playing middle linebacker but left open the possibility of moving Ellerbe outside…. He said Branden Albert and Shelley Smith are good scheme fits for the Dolphins’ offensive line and that Miami will remain a zone blocking team… He said the deep ball chemistry between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace must improve, and that will be a focus. But he said there’s no bigger priority on offense for him than pass protection.

### Philbin indicated the Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns. But offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Will Yeatman were not tendered, according to their agents.

### Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said the seventh-rounder that the Ravens acquired from the Dolphins for Bryant McKinnie will be in 2015, not 2014 as had been widely reported.

### Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson raved about Erik Spoelstra’s speech to the Seattle team last summer, but Philbin indicated no plans to bring in the Heat coach to address his players. “I have great respect for him, for what he does as a coach,” Philbin said. Philbin added that he and Spoelstra have texted several times but not spoken. 

### Check out Armando's Dolphins blog for more from Philbin, and check back here later for more updates from the NFL meetings in Orlando.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

March 24, 2014

Dolphins/Knowshon Moreno update; NFL owners meeting; Wade doubtful; Spoelstra reacts; UM/MLS

A few Monday afternoon quick hits:

### Three days after hosting him on a visit, the Dolphins remain interested in signing free agent running back Knowshon Moreno, according to a league source. The Dolphins and his agent have continued discussions since his visit on Friday.

Moreno has interest in Miami. The Dolphins believe he would be an upgrade over Daniel Thomas. But whether they can agree to terms financially remains to be seen.

Even beyond running back, the Dolphins aren’t necessarily done in free agency. They will continue to monitor the market for guards and other positions. Don’t rule out adding a linebacker; it was confirmed that Miami did make a good offer to D’Qwell Jackson before he signed with Indianapolis.

The Dolphins have signed every free agent who has visited except Jackson and, as of yet, Moreno (though that obviously might change).

### A few quick items from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando: Arizona coach Bruce Arians told me the subject of locker-room conduct was discussed in the coach’s session today. Also, commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized “respect” at the end of his introductory speech…. Though the Dolphins spoke to Darrell Revis’ agent before he signed with New England, Miami was never a contender because Revis wanted to play with a championship contender. (Miami was reluctant to pay him as much as he was seeking anyway, for cap reasons primarily.) Patriots owner Bob Kraft said today that Revis could have made more money elsewhere but came to the Pats “because he wants to win.”…

Kraft expects the NFL will pass the Patriots’ initiative to increase the length of the goalposts (upward) so there’s no confusion about whether field goals are good or not…. The playoffs could expand to 14 teams by 2015, but that is not expected to be voted on this week…. If Sun Life Stadium renovations happen, the first Super Bowl that the Dolphins could realistically land is 2019.

### Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Dwyane Wade is expected to miss his 19th game of the season tonight because of an ankle injury sustained in the Celtics’ game last week. Miami is 11-7 without Wade.

### Spoelstra indicated he had no problem with Chris Bosh and LeBron James criticizing the team after Saturday’s loss in New Orleans. Bosh, you’ll recall, said: “We suck.”

Said Spoelstra: “Yes, that will stir up emotions. Those emotions now have to motivate us to play better. I don't mind any of that. Everybody probably makes a way bigger deal of it than it is. I'm sure it's good for storylines. That's what this game does to you, it brings you to the brink. As long as these guys come at it with purity, that they care, that's what you need. We all probably need a lapse of sanity right now."

### Greg Oden will start for the Heat tonight against his former team, Portland.

### The person handling the stadium deal for David Beckham and MLS today confirmed my February report that MLS and Beckham are seriously exploring having a joint stadium for MLS and UM football. In fact, he said MLS and UM are in "active discussions." Please see The Herald's story on the MLS stadium on our web site at this hour.

As I have written, MLS says it's still about 60 days from knowing whether a joint UM/MLS stadium is feasible. Even if MLS determines it's do-able, UM would need to somehow escape the final 18 years of its Sun Life Stadium lease for it to happen. UM has told MLS that it must have no fewer than 40,000 seats for UM to be interested in playing there. If the stadium is only for soccer, it likely would have a capacity of 20,000 to 25,000.

March 23, 2014

Loria rejects overtures from S. Florida's most successful owner; More angry Heat reaction; Dolphins, UM


For many Marlins fans, the idea of the market’s most successful sports owner buying their baseball team would be the best news since the opening of the new ballpark.

It might happen someday. But not yet.

Going back to last year, Heat owner Micky Arison has expressed interest in buying the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, according to a Major League Baseball official close to the situation.

But Loria isn’t interested in selling to Arison, Jeb Bush or anyone else who has inquired.

Arison has informed the Marlins of his interest on more than one occasion but did not make a formal offer because he was specifically told that Loria would not consider it.

Loria isn’t speaking to reporters, but associates said he loves owning a team and has no intention of selling unless health issues or some other unexpected circumstances arise.

Arison, who declined to comment about interest in the Marlins, is the model owner locally. He hires the right people, spends money freely (having paid a luxury tax every season of the Big Three era) and has fostered an environment that has earned praise from players. He lives year-round in South Florida (unlike Loria and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross) and doesn’t meddle on personnel.

Loria’s slashing of payroll in the second year of the new stadium has been well-documented and is difficult to forgive.

But in Loria’s defense, he’s the only owner in this market who has won a championship besides Arison, and he wisely stopped meddling in baseball decisions this past offseason, allowing executives Michael Hill and Dan Jennings to execute their plan with his full support. He has been at spring training less than past years.

At 73, Loria is nine years older than Arison. So Loria could sell at some point, but not now. If he does, let's hope it's to Arison.


### I was in New Orleans for the Heat's seventh loss in its past 11 games last night and to hear the angry reaction that followed. Please see my last post for a comprehensive look at what was said in an emotional postgame locker-room.

### From Feb. 3 through Friday, Norris Cole was shooting 32 percent, with 37 assists and 26 turnovers, and it's clear Miami cannot go into next season projecting him as the starter if it loses Mario Chalmers in free agency. Some teammates believe Chalmers will be seeking a big raise from his $4 million annual salary, which is unlikely to happen here.

But in some ways, Chalmers has more value to the Heat than to other teams, and Chalmers says he would love to stay. If the Heat makes a competitive offer, Miami has a good chance to keep him. But the Heat is uncertain how it will play out. Toronto's Kyle Lowry will be the top free agent point guard this summer.

### Before being taken out of mothballs last week, Udonis Haslem had the worst plus/minus in the league of any prominent player on a team with a winning record. (Miami was being outscored by 10 per 36 minutes with him on the court.) That all changed last week, as Haslem got meaningful minutes in all four games (including two starts) and generally played well.

"The best word I can use for [this season]? Humbling,” Haslem said. “I'm not going to sit here and say it's been easy. It's not easy at all. I still have a lot of basketball left in me. I have been patiently waiting."

### The law firm representing ousted former Dolphins trainer Kevin O'Neill said O’Neill is unlikely to pursue legal action against the team, and that O'Neill hired the firm to speak for him, because of alleged inaccuracies in the Ted Wells report. Though O'Neill (who will be paid two more years by the Dolphins) has a good reputation, a couple of Dolphins players privately voiced displeasure about how he handled their injuries last season.

Incidentally, Don Shula said he has been given no indication if Ross’ five-person committee, armed with formulating a Dolphins locker-room code of conduct, will ever meet by phone or in person. “It got so blown out of proportion,” Shula, one of those committee members, said about BullyGate.

### Travelle Wharton, 32, who allowed no sacks last season and was rated Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best guard, has interest in Miami, and the Dolphins told his agent that he possibly will be considered only after Miami considers younger options…. That Miami gave cornerback Cortland Finnegan, coming off two poor years, $11 million over two seasons shocked some agents. One asserted Miami could have gotten him for millions less by waiting a week.

### Agent Marvin Demoff said Dan Marino, 52, who has refused to speak publicly after being dropped by CBS, is still "formulating" what he wants to do with his life. A Dolphins job remains a possibility, though not a powerful one. Simply being Dan Marino is still profitable; he commands more than $100 per autograph, according to his firm.

### The UM basketball program is compiling a list of every redshirt junior on a team that has had a coaching change, hoping to lure another Donnavan Kirk-type senior transfer.

Coach Jim Larranaga loves his incoming class: "[Guard] Ja’Quan Newton just became the leading scorer in the history of the Catholic School League in Philadelphia. [Guard] James Palmer played in the best league in the country, in Washington, D.C., is a very good shooter, an outstanding passer….

Omar Sherman [6-9] has a beautiful left-handed touch from three-point range, like Kenny Kadji….Ivan Uceda is 6-10, a junior college player, can hit a spot-up three, excellent passer. He's not a gifted athlete. We'd like to have somebody his size with a little more physical ability."

UM covets 7-1, 261-pound Miami Beach High freshman phenom Zachariah Brown, who averaged 18.1 points, 17 rebounds and 8.0 blocks and is drawing interest from Louisville, UCLA and traditional powerhouses, according to his AAU team director, Michael Lipman, who became Brown's legal guardian after the state took him away from his home.

"NBA scouts tell me he's a one-and-done in college," Lipman said. "He's so dominant.”…

UM also is strongly pursuing Norland sophomore 6-11 power forward Dewan Huell. His coach, Lawton Williams, calls him the "best power player in Dade in a while." Williams said Huell is considering UM. But many believe FSU has the inside track. Even if UM gets either player, it won't be for several years.

### Another example of how much UM coach Al Golden cares about his players: We hear that when Hunter Knighton collapsed and lost consciousness earlier this month, Golden spent two nights in the hospital with him.

### Golden, on new defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou: “Oh my God! Calvin’s really strong!” But Herald freelancer David Furones, who was at Saturday’s practice, said coaches were getting on Heurtelou hard and that he wasn’t coming off the snap hard enough.

“You’ve been here for seven practices!” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was overheard saying, per Furones. “This is what we brought you in for.”

UM needs Heurtelou to play better than the tackles who haven’t done much here (Earl Moore, Jelani Hamilton, Corey King), unless any of those three significantly improve.

“It’s time for me to wake up and help this team,” said Hamilton, a former four-star recruit. Golden has said as much about Hamilton, without the “wake up” part. UM people expect Olsen Pierre and summer arrival Michael Wyche to be the team's top two d-tackles.

### Again, please see my 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning post for explosive comments from the Heat's locker-room last night.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz