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Dolphins free agency, Heat notes, Riley/Shula/LeBron moment, Marlins, UM chatter

Sunday morning tidbits:

### Keep this in mind about new Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who was a very good player before declining and battling hamstring and orbital injuries the past two years:

One recurring issue is that he has allowed simply too high of a percentage of passes to be completed against him: 66.7 and 63 percent in 2010 and 2011 (his most recent very good season), 73 percent in 2012 and an absurd 76 percent last season (26 of 34).

By comparison, Nolan Carroll (who left for Philadelphia) allowed just 47.8 percent last season, and Dimitri Patterson (who was released) just 58.1.

The problem is Finnegan’s per-catch average has ballooned, from 8.8 in 2011 (fourth-best among all cornerbacks) to 13.6 last season. At his best, Finnegan, 30, is a feisty corner who gets under the opponent’s skin. But the Rams thought he had lost a step. “It’s the first job I’ve ever been fired from,” he said of the Rams cutting him recently. “I have a chip on my shoulder.”

### Here’s how Pro Football Focus evaluated new Dolphins guard Shelley Smith, who started only two games last season but played in 14: "In Smith’s 371 snaps this season he put up a run blocking grade of +12.3. He had the fifth-highest percentage of [running play] snaps graded positively among all guards. Those kinds of numbers are too impressive to just be a fluke. The Rams’ guard plays with great leverage at 6-foot-3 and was a terror pulling all year.

"The only problem is in Smith’s 731 career snaps he has a pass blocking grade of -10.1. A lot of teams aren’t willing to sacrifice that much pass protection for a good run blocker and Smith could have a tough time winning a starting job wherever he goes.”

### The Dolphins have been giving thought to having Koa Misi play middle linebacker, which would shift Dannell Ellerbe outside. But they’ve also toyed with that before.

### Though the Dolphins remain interested, right tackle Zach Strief's priority remains trying to get a deal done with New Orleans... 

Though the Dolphins could do worse than Bryant McKinnie as a veteran tackle backup – and he would welcome a return – Miami has not discussed that, according to his representation. Incidentally, McKinnie will host a celebrity basketball game at 7:30 Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena to benefit underprivileged students in the Miami area. Cost: $25 for adults, $15 for kids. (The arena will be cleared after the 3:30 p.m. Heat game).

### Pretty neat tonight to see Pat Riley and Don Shula on stage together at Heat announcers Eric Reid's and Tony Fiorentino's outstanding annual charity event, which benefit's Lauren's Kids. "There's nobody I respect more than coach Shula," Riley said, on stage at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. "Don Shula for me is an all-time, all-time."

### Riley flew in from Atlanta, where he was scouting the SEC Tournament, to give a testimonial to LeBron James, who was honored at the event. "I just got off the plane from Atlanta; I was looking for somebody to help LeBron," Riley quipped.

Riley said there are ups and downs in his career but "with LeBron, it's been nothing but great. He's not just an incredible player. He does so much for other people." Riley called James "a person I admire and love." (Top that, Phil Jackson!; a New York Daily News column speculated today that Jackson will try to lure James to the Knicks, which is a major longshot.)

Riley said the arrival of LeBron in Miami in 2010 and the Heat's two subsequent championships "has changed the state. It has changed the city. I knew somewhere along the way, the impossible could really happen. And it did."

### James gave a classy speech. "So blessed and excited," he said. "I represent more than myself. I represent every single kid that looks up to me as a role model, a superhero... I take that role very seriously."

Then he said the "real superhero" is Lauren Book, who was the victim of sexual abuse by her nanny as a child and is the founder of an organization that educates kids and adults about sexual abuse and raises awareness. (She's the daughter of prominent lobbyist Ron Book, who also has been instrumental in helping his daughter's organization.)

 ### After showing promising signs earlier this month, Greg Oden's play has leveled off in recent appearances, raising questions about how much can be realistically expected as he works his way back from four years of injuries. In the last four games, spanning 20 minutes, Oden has four points, two rebounds, five fouls and three turnovers, and Miami has been outscored by 27 points during his time on the floor.

Overall, Miami has been outscored by 22 in Oden's 138 minutes. The other Heat players with a negative plus/minus: Michael Beasley (minus 9), Toney Douglas (minus 80) and Udonis Haslem (minus 106).  

### One Marlins official said if center fielder Marcell Ozuna continues to struggle offensively and doesn’t make the team out of spring training, one good possibility is moving Christian Yelich to center and have Brian Bogusevic and Reed Johnson platoon in left. The Marlins also could opt for defensively-gifted Jake Marisnick if he is absolutely exceptional offensively all spring, which they aren’t necessarily expecting. But they’re still hopeful Ozuna will turn it around.

### What led to UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton losing consciousness earlier this month? According to multiple people, he had been sick for a few days, hadn’t eaten much and tried to participate in the U-tough training program before collapsing. It was very scary, “touch and go” for a few days, but he’s now out of the hospital and doing well.

### UM is no longer pursuing four-star football/basketball standout Derrick Griffin, who couldn’t make it academically. 

 

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