1 p.m. Friday news update (Heat/Dolphins); Analyzing Spoelstra's choices; Dolphins books visits; Canes notes
A quick 1 p.m. Friday update heading into Heat-Pacers tonight:
### Dwyane Wade will miss his ninth game in a row with a hamstring injury, and Erik Spoelstra did not answer definitively when asked if he would play before the end of the regular season next Wednesday. He implied Miami wants to be cautious.
"Look around the league with hamstring injuries," Spoelstra said, adding that "you don't want" a player to return and then have a "setback."
(The Heat is not making Wade available to the print media.)
### Greg Oden will miss a ninth straight game with back spasms. "He hasn't been able to get over the hump," Spoelstra said. "But the knees are fantastic."
### Udonis Haslem will return tonight after missing two games with the flu and will spend much of the time defending Roy Hibbert, who holds a six-inch height advantage. Hibbert praised Haslem's defense during Indiana's media availability this morning.
### Chris Andersen is a game-time decision because of assorted minor injuries.
### Spoelstra bemoaned Miami losing nine games, over the past month and a half, in which it was tied or led in the fourth quarter.
### Hibbert said Heat and Pacers get along, contrary to perception. "I have a lot of respect for them," he said. Hibbert saw Andersen on South Beach last night, shook his hand and shouted "Birdman! Birdman!" --- doing his best Shaquille O'Neal routine.
### The Dolphins officially announced the signing of receiver Damian Williams a short time ago, with Dennis Hickey calling him "a proven NFL player who brings with him talent and experience, both on offense and special teams, which will enhance a very talented and competitive receiving corps.”
Williams said "the direction of the program is headed toward success. I'm a complete receiver, a cerebral player. I'm a disciplined player. I can help as far as leadership in the room. They asked how I felt about being in the return game. We briefly spoke about that. Marcus Thigpen did a great job for them in the past. The competition will make Thigpen a better player."
Miami is already deep at receiver, but Williams said: "I went to Southern California where I thought about the value of competition. I add another element to the wide receiver room. That competition will make us stronger."
Please see chatter below for Dolphins draft notes.
FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Among some TV analysts, there’s this clamoring for clarity about the Heat’s playoff rotation, as if everything must be chiseled in stone by the opener.
Aside from obviously craving a healthy roster, Erik Spoelstra said he doesn’t need such clarity. And his flexibility is smart and commendable, considering several veterans demonstrated recently they can help if needed amid assorted injuries.
Nevertheless, several lineup decisions await Spoelstra in this playoff odyssey that begins next weekend (as well as Friday night against Indiana). Examining some of those decisions, provided everyone is available (which is far from certain for the Pacers game):
### Distribution of power rotation minutes, particularly with Udonis Haslem and Greg Oden. Haslem likely will play ahead of Oden in postseason because he has earned that chance, even before Oden was sidelined with a sore back. Haslem defended Indiana’s Roy Hibbert much more effectively than Oden did in their March 26 meeting.
Haslem is averaging 12.0 rebounds per 48 minutes, Oden 11.9. Haslem has been hitting his mid-range jumper recently, while Oden’s offensive game remains limited; he’s 3 for 14 when shooting beyond two feet, including 1 for 8 on hooks shots.
The Heat has outscored opponents by 42 during Haslem’s minutes on the floor in his six most recent starts. (He missed the past two because of a stomach flu.) Miami was a minus-one during Oden’s minutes in five starts before his injury.
Haslem’s overall metrics are skewed because they were so bad early in the season. But even though Oden, at his best, makes an impact defensively, Miami has allowed more points per 100 possessions when Oden is on the court (111) than when he’s off (107) and averaged seven fewer points per 100 possessions offensively when he’s on the court than off. And the Heat’s starting unit was outrebounded narrowly when Oden played alongside them.
So should Oden play at all? Yes, in certain matchups against teams with great size, or if Haslem is overmatched, or if Haslem, Chris Bosh or Chris Andersen are in foul trouble.
### The Shane Battier/Rashard Lewis choice. If everyone is healthy, only one of those will get significant minutes unless Spoelstra goes 10 deep (without using Oden) or unless he benches Norris Cole and uses Dwyane Wade for some minutes at point guard, which could be justified because of Cole’s struggles.
Battier is a better defender than Lewis, with synergysports.com grading his defensive work as “very good” this season compared with “average” for Lewis. Despite those grades --- which take into account team defense --- players defended by Lewis have shot a lower percentage than those guarded by Battier (40.5 to 40.9).
The Heat outscores opponents by 5.4 per 36 minutes with Battier on the court, and by 2.7 with Lewis, but that’s skewed because Battier has played more of his minutes with the starters.
But Lewis has shot better this season, both overall (43 to 38.6 percent) and on threes (35.4 to 34.8), with Battier well below his 43 percent accuracy on treys last season.
It would be interesting to see Lewis play more with the Big Three and Mario Chalmers; in 61 such minutes this season, Miami has outscored teams by 22 and shot 58 percent. “Rashard is a huge piece of our team. It’s always great having him out there,” LeBron James said Wednesday.
### The Cole question. He has shot just 35 percent overall and 26.9 on three-pointers since the All-Star break, leading some to wonder why he has played so much, including some late-game minutes during Wade's injury absence.
What’s more, Cole’s 1.93-to-1 assist to turnover ratio ranks 41st of 48 qualifying point guards. (Mario Chalmers ranks 36th.) And Cole can’t finish well; he’s shooting just 52.6 percent when directly under the rim.
On the flip side, he’s the Heat player best equipped to defend quick point guards, and players he’s guarding are shooting 37.9 percent against him. (Toney Douglas is at 42.3 percent in defensive field goal percentage against, by the way.) Synergy.com rates Cole’s defensive work as “excellent” and Douglas’ as “poor.”
Douglas, starting in Wade’s absence, hasn’t shot well (38.2 percent, 27.3 percent on threes as a member of the Heat) but has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Cole (3.2 to 1). It's difficult to envision a role for Douglas when Wade is healthy.
One more factoid on Cole: When Cole and Chalmers play together, the Heat has outscored teams by 6.1 per 48 minutes, compared with 5.4 overall. And when Cole and Chalmers play with the Big Three, the unit has been great: plus-18 in 27 minutes and a sizzling 28 for 43 shooting.
But Spoelstra needs to re-think playing Cole so much if his two-month slump continues.
### Any use at all for Michael Beasley or James Jones? It appears unlikely, barring more injuries or something unforeseen, even though Jones is shooting 22 for 40 on three-pointers, and even though Beasley’s 24.9 points per 48 minutes rank third-best on the Heat and in the NBA’s top 55.
### Please see the bottom of this column for another Heat note.
### Ja’Wuan James, who started at right tackle at Tennessee, has been invited to visit Dolphins headquarters and has emerged as a legitimate option for them in the second or third round of next month’s NFL Draft.
Tennessee left tackle Antonio Richardson is more ballyhooed, but James is well-regarded and improved his stock at Tennessee’s Pro Day.
Here is NFL.com's assessment of James: "It is difficult to be overshadowed at 6-6, 324 pounds, but given the high profile talent in Knoxville, James qualifies. James is more fundamentally sound than Antonio Richardson and yet offers a similar package of size and athleticism."
### Meanwhile, Kansas State left tackle Cornelius Lucas also visited Davie this week and met with Dolphins officials, according to Lucas. A projected sixth- or seventh-rounder, Lucas is dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, sustained in workouts before the NFL Combine.
He was the tallest player at the Combine (6-8) and had the longest arms. Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton has spent considerable time talking to him.
### Among the most highly-regarded players scheduled to work out for the Dolphins on Friday: UF and former Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Marcus Roberson, a potential second-rounder.
Besides all the UM, FIU and FAU prospects, others invited to the Dolphins' local day Friday include Eastern Illinois receiver Eric Lora (from Columbus High), Northern Michigan outside linebacker Rodney Lamar (from St. Thomas), FSU running back Devonta Freeman (Miami Central) and Syracuse cornerback Keon Lyn (Miramar High).
### Please see my story on the Dolphins page for details about Miami signing Titans receiver Damian Williams tonight.
### Offensive line coach Jim Turner, fired by the Dolphins for his role in the team’s bullying scandal, was at UM practice this week, armed with a pen and notepad.
Turner, who asked UM assistant Art Kehoe if he could attend, is angry about his Dolphins dismissal and not the least bit contrite, believing he did nothing wrong, according to an NFL source with whom he speaks. But Turner privately has raved about Joe Philbin for sticking up for him with owner Stephen Ross, who fired Turner.
### UM’s Duke Johnson and incoming running back Joseph Yearby have been practically inseparable this spring, with Johnson mentoring his protégé, who’s coming off a fractured fibula. And Johnson predicted Thursday that Yearby “can be just what I was my freshman year. He’s that good.” (Johnson ran for 947 yards on 6.8 per carry and scored 11 touchdowns as a freshman.)
Johnson said Yearby can provide “a change of pace, excitement, kickoff returns, punt returns.” Yearby ran for 1700 yards and 19 TDs at Miami Central in 2013.
### Athletic UM senior forward Erik Swoope, who never played football in college or high school, auditioned for the Denver Broncos on Thursday. At 6-5, he could play receiver or tight end.... Please see the last post for UM football items from Thursday.
### Whether it's LeBron James being honored at Eric Reid's and Tony Fiorentino's event, or James Jones being inducted into the UM Hall of Fame, you can count on Pat Riley being in attendance. (Riley was joined by GM Andy Elisburg, coach Erik Spoelstra and other Heat officials at Thursday's UM Hall inductions on Jungle Island.) It's one thing to talk about being a family, but the Heat consistently demonstrates it with their actions.
Spoelstra, by the way, was flooded with requests for pictures tonight --- more than the inductees.
The Heat wasn't the only team that bought a table at Thursday's UM Hall of Fame ceremonies. So did the Houston Texans, in honor of inductee Andre Johnson.
### Lamar Thomas cracked during his induction speech: "It's about time! Up to a point, I thought I would never get in!"
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz