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2 posts from April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

NBA TV column: Analysts assess Heat; UM basketball player on Dolphins' radar


Sampling views of TV analysts on the Heat heading into postseason:

### Former Knicks and Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said today that the Western Conference champion will win the NBA Finals (he picks Houston, surprisingly) and leans toward Indiana beating Miami in the Eastern Finals.

“They have a lot of guys that are not in their prime right now,” Van Gundy said of the Heat. “Their ability to consistently play well individually is just not there.”

He said their chances will hinge partly on “how often those aging, really good players can play well. Can Chris Andersen be good two out of three nights, and Shane Battier and Ray Allen? Mario Chalmers is really, really good. How often will he be really good in these playoffs? Three out of every four, two out of every four? A lot depends on Chalmers and those aging guys.

“Then you have the health issues. If they didn’t have some of those health issues, they would be a 60-win team and they would be the favorite. If Dwyane Wade can stay healthy, they have as good a shot as anybody. I don’t feel they will get challenged until the Eastern Conference Finals. They will have methodical series wins” before then.

Van Gundy said the Heat’s field-goal percentage against, down more than a bit from past years, is a “concern” but “because of their speed and quickness, and if they’re healthy and if they have a renewed commitment, which I am sure they will have, I am sure their defense will be very disruptive in the postseason. If it’s not, they could lose in the Eastern Conference Finals.”

In those Eastern Finals, “I believe home court will be important and that’s why if you have to favor someone, I would favor Indiana," Van Gundy said. "They went through a real struggle but will be getting a fresh start. Indiana would be my pick to come out of the East. Indiana is very good. They are somewhere between their incredible start and their poor finish.”

### TNT’s Reggie Miller favors the Heat to win the East but said today: “Everyone thinks it’s a foregone conclusion it’s Indiana against Miami in the Eastern Finals. The way both have finished the last month and a half, it’s not a foregone conclusion. If I’m [seeds] 3 through 8, I’ve got to somewhat like my chances. When healthy, Miami is the best team. But when have they been healthy for a consistent amount of time?

“I will be curious to see if everyone is on the same page. I’m not sure they have a great rhythm going into the playoffs. If they want to three-peat, Wade has to be at 85 or 90 percent. There’s a reason the Pacers went out and got Evan Turner…They are going to put so much pressure on Dwyane Wade to score and defend, because you’re not going to stop LeBron James.

But if you take Dwyane Wade out of the equation the Heat become more vulnerable. If [Wade is] healthy, Miami will come out of the East. If not, it’s wide open.”…. Al Jefferson is playing off the charts and we know size and physicality affects the Heat. Al will be a load down low.”

### TNT’s Chris Webber: “Wade is the biggest question, not just defensively where you need him, but it puts such a load on LeBron. I believe they will get their rhythm back. They are my favorite to come out of East, but I would not be surprised if a team stops them. When Wade is not healthy, that team is very vulnerable.”

### NBA TV’s Dennis Scott: “My concerns are the others. I believe Wade and LeBron and Chris Bosh will show up. I’m concerned about Ray Allen. He’s not shooting the ball well. Mike Miller is not there, who made three-point shots, a ball-mover, a pretty good rebounder. Udonis Haslem is older. Shane Battier is beat up because they played small ball a lot. Michael Beasley hasn’t worked out. I’m concerned who are the others this year that are going to make those big shots and help out the Big Three.”


### Van Gundy indicated he wasn’t bothered by radio shock jock Howard Stern’s recent 10-minute rant against him. Van Gundy said he was joking when he said on air that the Knicks should stop giving tickets to Stern if he leaves games early.

Stern then unleashed an on-air tirade against Van Gundy, calling him a douche-bag, midget and schlub.

“I was sitting in the movie theater watching [Sabotage] and a friend texted me and said, ‘Can you believe what Stern said about you?’ I’m sitting in the theater, saying why would David Stern be talking about me now? I texted, 'What did he say?' He texted back, and I said that’s not like the [former] commissioner to call me a douche-bag.

“Then when I got out of the theater and called this guy, he told me it was Howard Stern. I didn’t know why he was upset or talking about me. And someone told me it was about me saying something jokingly about him leaving a game early. I didn’t even know he was still on.”

### Van Gundy said he abstained from voting for NBA honors this year because “I don’t watch all the teams as I did when I was coaching. I didn’t feel I was worthy to vote. Voting should be done by coaches, players and management of the teams."

### Dick Stockton won’t return to Turner’s NBA playoff coverage. The first-round games not announced by Marv Albert and Steve Kerr, or Kevin Harlan and Miller, will be worked by Milwaukee Brewers announcer Brian Anderson and Greg Anthony (including Game 2 of the Heat series) and Joel Myers and Webber…. Mike Breen and Van Gundy are working ABC games on opposite coasts within 24 hours this weekend: Warriors at Clippers on Saturday and the Bobcats-Heat game on Sunday.


### According to a UM source, the Dolphins have expressed interest in highly-athletic 6-5 UM basketball player Erik Swoope --- who has never played Pop Warner, high school or college football --– in the wake of the Denver Broncos working him out last week.

The Broncos called UM coach Jim Larranaga to express interest, and “I was completely shocked,” Swoope told Yahoo.com. “That was the last thing I expected Coach L to tell me.” Besides Miami and Denver, the Kansas City Chiefs also have inquired.

The Broncos believe he can make the transition from a basketball forward to a football tight end, like former UM and New Orleans Saints standout Jimmy Graham has.

It will be interesting to see how many teams offer Swoope a free agent contract after the draft, presuming he goes undrafted. Swoope has not hired an agent but has declared himself for the NFL Draft, opting to do that instead of playing football for a season at UM while attending graduate school.

Swoope, who has talked about the transition with Graham, avaraged 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds last season, and Larranaga has conceded that he wishes he had played him more early in the season. He showed a knack for dazzling dunks and for leaping over taller players for rebounds.

The Dolphins had some interest in Graham in the 2010 draft, but Tony Sparano loved John Jerry and Bill Parcells --- after consulting with Sparano and his scouts --- decided Jerry would be a better choice than Graham at No. 73. The Saints took Graham 95th, and Miami has regretted that decision ever since.

Of course, Swoope isn't the prospect Graham was. But it's certainly worth exploring the possibilities.

Meanwhile, UM basketball player Raphael Akpejiori, 6-9, is attending football meetings, will attend camp in August and hopes to earn playing time at tight end. One UM person said he struggled catching passes on the side on the day he observed Akpejiori.

### Please see the last post, posted very late last night, with more Heat nuggets and Dan Marino's thoughts on Ryan Tannehill.

Thursday morning report: Wade, Heat chatter, Heat schedule; Marino musings on Dolphins

Dwyane Wade ended up sitting out 28 games this season after missing a combined 36 in the first three seasons with LeBron James as a teammate. But Wade enters these playoffs in a much better place, from a health perspective, than last year, when a knee injury lingered throughout the postseason.

This time around, he said the knee is “doing very well.” And he also has recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for nine games before he returned for the final three of the regular season.

“It’s a lot better than going into it last year,” Wade said late Wednesday night. “Hopefully, I’ll have a better first round health wise than I did first round versus the Bucks last year, when I had to miss [Game 4] in Milwaukee. I look forward to Game 1 and hopefully not having any setbacks.”

Erik Spoelstra said: “I’m encouraged just by the health that he’s had. He feels strong. He still has to work on the game conditioning but that will have to happen on the fly in the playoffs.”

Wade played 23, 18 and 23 minutes in the three games since returning from the hamstring. He said he’s not concerned that fatigue could be an issue in the postseason, though he hasn’t played 30 minutes since logging 31 March 26 in Indiana.

“We’re well-conditioned athletes,” he said. “You get tired, you can come out for two minutes and go back in.... These were a good three games for me. It’s better than going into the playoffs without playing. I’m glad I was able to get a few games in, different teams, different styles, see how they guarded me a little different.

“I tried to do pull ups, do it all just to see how it felt – quick moves, spin moves. I did what I wanted to do, pushed myself to do things I needed to do. I’m happy going into the postseason. After missing those nine games, it’s tough for me because I wanted to play well down the stretch. I wasn’t able to get that rhythm.”

Though he has played only one game with James in the past three weeks, Wade said: “I’m not worried about continuity with him at all. The biggest thing is we both know what we need to do. We played together for four years. That’s enough continuity right there.”

Wade said Thursday “will be the last day anybody can bother me. Sorry. You lock in for roughly two months and get into the mental place you need to be.”

### The Heat has beaten Charlotte all 15 games since James has been a member of the Heat and 16 in a row overall.

This season’s scores: 97-81 Nov. 16 in Charlotte, 99-98 Dec. 1 in Miami, 104-96 in overtime on Jan. 18 in Charlotte and 124-107 March 3 in Miami, the game in which James set a Heat franchise and personal scoring record with 61 points.

James averaged 37.8 points on 62.9 percent shooting in the four games. Wade played in just two of the games, averaging 10.5 points.

“They deserve the respect of how they have played for the last six weeks,” Spoelstra said. “They’ve been one of the better teams in the league, certainly in the Eastern Conference. They defend and give themselves a chance every night. Al Jefferson, since January, since the All-Star break, has been one of the top players in this league. The speed and quickness and the shooting they have, they’re worthy, worthy opponents.”

Jefferson averaged 25.3 points and 15.3 rebounds in four games against the Heat.

“The team competes very hard,” Wade said. “They have a great one-two punch with Kemba Walker and Big Al Jefferson. They have a great system and all of them are involved. We’ve got to come with our hard hats on.”

Wade said guards Walker and Gerald Henderson “present some challenges. Walker is a very quick guard. He’s always getting around pick and rolls, getting through small gaps. He is going to challenge our defense. Henderson is an athletic guard with the ability to post-up, mid-range game.”

### ABC wanted and will air Game 1 of the series Sunday but had no use for the fourth game, which will be played a week from Monday night instead of Sunday. Twice in recent years, ABC committed to airing Game 4 of a Heat first-round series and was stuck with an unappealing matchup because Miami was up 3-0.

ABC instead will get Chicago-Washington and Golden State-Clippers as its double-header on the second Sunday of postseason (April 27).

Here's the full schedule:

Game 1 - Sun  April 20  Charlotte at Miami               3:30PM      ABC

Game 2 - Wed  April 23  Charlotte at Miami    7 p.m., SUN, TNT

Game 3 - Sat  April 26  Miami at Charlotte 7 p.m., SUN, ESPN

Game 4 - Mon  April 28  Miami at Charlotte 7 p.m., SUN, TNT

Game 5 (if needed) - Wed  April 30  Charlotte at Miami Time TBD; SUN, TBD

Game 6 (if needed) - Fri  May 2     Miami at Charlotte  Time TBD; Sun; TBD

Game 7 (if needed) - Sun  May 4     Charlotte at Miami  Time TBD; TBD 

### The Heat ended up winning 12 fewer games than last season’s 66-16 team. “When you get into the second season, you have no idea what’s going to happen,” Spoelstra said. “It’s an unknowable future.”

### What most needs to improve from the Heat’s regular season performance? “Our consistency with our defensive principles, being in the right place,” Shane Battier said. The playoffs “is ultimately what we’ll be judged on. And we need to be at our best. We have not been close.”

### Battier, who is retiring after the season, was pleased that Spoelstra played him 39 minutes on Wednesday against Philadelphia, allowing him to surpass 30,000 in his career.  Battier, who finished at 33,003 minutes, said he told Spoelstra at Wednesday’s shootaround how many minutes he needed to reach the milestone.

“I was joking,” he said. “I didn’t expect to play that many minutes and then Michael Beasley turned his ankle in the second half and Spo said, ‘get back in.’ I turned to him and said the milestone is cool and all, but I don’t need to go back in. He said, ‘No, Mike got hurt.’ I’m like, ‘All right, if you put me in, let me go get it. And so once I sniffed it, it was like a dog to a T-bone.

“It makes me smile when I think about it,” he said. “Thinking about my career, and if you would have told me when I was a little boy, ‘One day you’re going to play 30,000 regular season NBA minutes,’ I’d say, ‘Get out of here.’ I needed 36 minutes going into [the game], and thanks to circumstance, I got about 39.”


Dan Marino agreed to appear on the Dolphins-owned radio show on WINZ-940 Wednesday but asked the show’s hosts not to ask him about his ongoing discussions with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross about a job in the organization.

Instead, he addressed two other topics:

### On Ryan Tannehill: “Sometimes owners and teams are not as patient as they should be. It’s the third year. It’s time… to get better…. You would like to see that….

“Everybody runs the same stuff. It’s a copycat league. It’s how you execute. It comes down to knowing your personnel and reading your coverage and making good decisions and being a leader and being a tough guy. You lead by example.

### He said Denver quarterback Peyton Manning told him he thinks new Dolphins and former Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno “is a really tough guy, a guy you can rely on, understands what his assignments are. He has good hands, a solid player and will bring some toughness for sure.”