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Players appreciate Spo's flexibility, amused by his language; Dolphins, UM, Marlins buzz

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The intensity amps up for the Heat when the playoffs begin next weekend, and though Erik Spoelstra has a lot to keep his head spinning, at least he no longer will need to worry about motivating his players after the drudgery of a largely insignificant regular season. Players aiming for a three-peat don’t need Knute Rockne speeches once the playoffs start.

“Spo did a great job of keeping us motivated,” Dwyane Wade said, though Miami didn’t always look especially engaged.

There have been multiple thorny issues for Spoelstra this season: Trying to extract better defense from a team that declined greatly in that regard until the past three weeks…. Tinkering with a lineup that has been without Wade for more than one-third of the season….

Trying to keep his men intently focused on his message, even with Chris Bosh admitting that players already have heard Spoelstra say “about 75 percent” of what he tells them. And “the other 25 percent will be current events. He talked about Nelson Mandela, for example.”

Therein lies one of the challenges for long-tenured coaches, with Spoelstra tied for second with Dallas’ Rick Carlisle among active head coaches in tenure with his team, behind San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. But Spoelstra feels no need to keep his message fresh when addressing players: “Whatever point we need to make, we make it.”

What keeps players listening when they’ve heard the message before? “Winning,” Shane Battier said. “Want your players to tune you out? Lose a few.”

Bosh admits Spoelstra’s message “gets repetitive, but we have to hear it. Sometimes it gets old, but we say, ‘Hey man, he's right.’ So we have to meet him halfway.”

Let’s be clear: Players respect Spoelstra and his flexibility and X’s and O’s acumen and appreciate his willingness to genuinely listen to their suggestions. Two championships have firmly established their trust in him.

But they still get amused by his repetitive use of terms they affectionately call Spoisms. At last check, 229 people were following a “Spoisms” Twitter account.

“It's rare they don't amuse guys,” Battier said. “It's rare they don't elicit laughter at some point.”

Their favorites?

"It's a grind,” Bosh said. “I’ve heard that about a hundred thousand times. And then we start saying it….

“And ‘It’s part of the process’ -- that's another one.  He says, ‘You guys are going to kill me for saying it but….’… ‘Sacrifice’ is another one. We may joke about it, but it's got a heavy dose of truth and we try to listen to it."

Battier’s favorite? “Burn a calorie. That means you're not working hard enough.”

Wade’s favorite? “’Embrace the moment’ and ‘We’ve got to own it.’ And ‘Do not let go of the rope’ is funny.”

Wade said Spoisms are “cool at first and then at the end of the year, you're like, 'I know what he's going to say now.' But he's consistent to who he is.”

After a while, players even start sounding like him. What's the first thing LeBron James told Sun Sports' Jason Jackson after beating the Pacers Friday? "It's all about the process!" Ah yes, another Spoism. 

There are several things Spoelstra has done this season that his players appreciate: from scheduling fewer practices (“Spo giving us all this rest; it helps us all,” LeBron said), to allowing his stars to suggest late-game play calls, to drawing up a new package for Wade to get him more involved offensively during a time in February when he felt mostly like a facilitator.

Why the willingness to take his players’ suggestions more than some other coaches do? “Desperation to win,” Spoelstra said, smiling.

“With this group we’ve gotten to a point where it’s whatever it takes. It took a lot of failures to get to that point, to figure out what works. We’ve been through enough disappointments that it has forced us all to look inward. More player-to-coach, coach-to-player and player-to-player input was better for this team.”

Spoelstra also has shown flexibility with his rotation, and his decision to re-insert Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis has paid dividends in recent weeks.

Spoelstra remains big on self-improvement. “That was one of the reasons I wanted to meet with football coaches during the summer,” he said.

“I met with [Eagles coach] Chip Kelly, [Seahawks coach] Pete Carroll and [University of Tennessee coach] Butch Jones to dig deeper into managing personalities and leadership and motivation. I've found it incredibly valuable.”

What’s struck Roger Mason (before he was cut) and Toney Douglas is that Spoelstra doesn’t have different rules for his stars.

“Spo holds everyone accountable –-- LeBron, D-Wade. If something is wrong, he will tell them and that’s good,” Douglas said.

Mason liked how Spoelstra pushes and “challenges” his stars, in front of everyone. Mason recalled a speech earlier this season about the team’s defense, when Spoelstra implored LeBron: ‘Listen, you can be Defensive Player of the Year!’”

The motivational aspect of Spoelstra’s job becomes far easier next weekend, but the strategic elements do not, especially if his team is not at full strength. (Miami is still hopeful it will be.)

But Spoelstra’s willingness to adapt remains one of his greatest strengths, from inserting Mike Miller in the starting lineup midway through last year’s Finals, to taking Haslem out of mothballs in March. “He’s analytical,” Battier said. “He thinks the game.”

One continuing challenge: Scripting creative late-game plays that the Heat hasn’t used very often. James expressed frustration that he didn’t take the last shot in the March 26 Indiana and Minnesota games.

### With Sunday's win against Oklahoma City, Indiana needs only a win on Wednesday in Orlando or one Heat loss to clinch the No. 1 seed. The Heat appears likely to be the No. 2 seed and play either Charlotte (the current No. 7 seed) or Washington in the first round, beginning next Saturday or Sunday.

CHATTER

### Besides using some of their 30 allotted non-local draft visits on offensive linemen, the Dolphins  booked Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief (a potential second-rounder) and speedy Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines (possible third-rounder) to come to Davie to meet with team officials. Gaines visited this past week, according to a source.

Here's what CBS draft analyst Rob Rang said about Moncrief: "Moncrief's thick frame, deceptive speed and smooth route-running make him a nightmare for cornerbacks. He does not possess the explosive moves of Southern Cal's Marqise Lee or Clemson's Sammy Watkins but might be a better player than either of them. He shows the ability to generate separation even against tight man coverage, and accelerates quickly, often leaving defenders in his dust on double-moves. Moncrief tracks the ball well and generally shows excellent hands (one drop vs. Texas), as well as the body control to make the dazzling grab. 

(But Miami doesn't really need another receiver.)

Here was CBS' assessment of Gaines: "He has the size, length and aggressive nature to match up well against receivers at the line, to press. Shows footwork and redirection skills. Inexperienced in the backpedal. Holds the Rice record for most career passes defended (42). Just needs to come down with more interceptions."

### Seantrel Henderson’s agent, David Levine, said his client “had an amazing workout for the Dolphins [Friday] and great meetings with the staff, including a private meeting with Joe Philbin after his workout. He hopes Miami drafts him.”

### The Dolphins had conversations with the agent for free agent tight end Jermichael Finley and said they could have interest if he’s cleared to resume his career after neck surgery. But other teams have been more pro-active. Joe Philbin was offensive coordinator during part of Finley's tenure with the Packers. Incidentally, Dustin Keller also remains unsigned.

### According to the Delaware County Times, the Dolphins rejected Philadelphia’s offer of a second-round pick and linebacker Brandon Graham (a backup with three sacks last season) for Dion Jordan.

The Dolphins, who denied a report that Jordan is available, have been auditioning pass rushers in the draft. They dispatched their defensive line coach to Minnesota to privately work out Concordia-St. Paul defensive end Zach Moore, who has 33 college sacks and has created a buzz.

### Snapshots from the private rooms of the UM Hall of Fame banquet Thursday: Warren Sapp hugging Pat Riley, then later complaining about UM’s ACC-worst defense… Andre Johnson raving about Stacy Coley (“tremendous talent; his speed stands out most of all”) and how new Dolphins tackle (and his former Texans teammate) Earl Mitchell plays bigger than his size…

Former UM assistant Don Soldinger calling UM safety Jamal Carter “a stud” and predicting he could be another Sean Taylor… Inductee Lamar Thomas, now receivers coach for Louisville, talking about “how it will be a little strange” playing UM on Labor Day.

Thomas told Al Golden a couple of years ago that he would love to coach at UM, but Golden’s staff was full. “I’m in a better situation because I can learn from one of the great minds, and it will make me a better coach,” Thomas said. “Bobby Petrino is an offensive genius…. I was thinking of going to UM practice [Thursday] but I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea.” 

### The Marlins not only rejected overtures for now injured Jacob Turner, but also for prospects Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino, not wanting to trade pitching for hitting.

Their Double A rotation is among the best in the minors: Heaney, Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Angel Sanchez and Jose Urena. “We call them the Jacksonville five instead of the Jackson five,” Marlins scouting executive Marty Scott cracked.      

### Please see the last post for some UM spring postscripts, views and reaction.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Comments

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The Boss

Hmmmm....Dashi isn t going to like this article Barry.Especially about what Wade and LeBron and other players think about Spo.Dashi knows more than all of the above mentioned.Just ask him.

Michael

I agree with Sapp Our Defense was horrific last year but I do believe they will be much better this year even though we don't have a Dominant DT we should be better in the back half with our LB's and Secondary.

Lamar Thomas will learn a lot from Bobby Petrino he is and offensive genius and hopefully Lamar will return to Miami in the near future and will be better equipped.

NaplesCane

UM hasn't had a genius on its staff since JJ. Erickson was pretty smart, too.

N_D_Boochiss

Phenomenal blog post Barry!

IMAWriter

Nice blog Barry. Too bad Lamar decided OT to attend a practice. SOMEONE (grin) could have snap a pix, forward it to the NCAA. Nice little penalty on UL.
Make up for the illegal recruiting UL conducted against UM during the prior 3 dark years.

Dashi

I like that you hold Dashi to such High Standards that you need to mention me without making any valid point. (Should have put your name on it, since you put mine in it so freely, whomever you are, you Dashi Troll)

I have said many times, Spo is lucky to have Superstars that don't talk back or demand greatness out of their coach.

This team is self-motivated. We all knew that. Spo can't motivate a Fly. And he won't hurt one either. He has no back bone.

"CONSISTENCY"!!!!

THIS TEAM HAS BEEN TOGETHER FOR 4 YEARS!! AND THEY ARE PLAYING THE MOST INCONSISTENT THEY HAVE EVER PLAYED!!

you might be happy that the Heat have won 2 Titles in 4 Years, Hooray for you!!

I am disappointed that LeBron won't ever pass Jordan with Spo as his coach!!

LeBron had the chance to be the Best Ever!! Now I just hope he can be one of the Top 5!!

LeBron is still the Greatest Athlete to play any game!! He just has ZERO shot of being the Best Basketball Player Ever, with Sweet Cheeks as his coach.

AnonymousCane

Good stuff Barry and my advice to Sapp is to stuff it! Tell him to go back and watch his defense in the 1995 Orange Bowl against Nebraska in the 4th qtr and then get back to me about defense!

Brandonspikesandtebowareboyfrnds

Agree with anonymous

Warren Sapp should know betterthan to talk negative sheet on his alma mater

Lets go back to 1995, fat boy. Youre running around talking nonsense after every tackle wore you out by the 4th quarter and that "slow" Nebraska offense pounded your tired a55 into smithereens. Miami had that game inthe bag, but our "defense" led by Sapp gave it away. That could have been Miamis 2nd ship in the 90s.

Do us a favor player. Keep your opinions to yourself when it comes to Miami- that doesnt look good on you

dunnelloncane

it sure is nice not having to put up with reality bites on our UM site. I guess he will disappear for months now that his Gators choked in basketball. Same thing happened when Um beat Uf in football last year. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Gary

As a UM grad I hate when ex players say negative things about the current kids. Give the coaches their 4 or 5 years & if things don't get better move on. Sapp is an ass. I agree w/ Brandon..........

Reality Bites

Posted by: dunnelloncane

There you go again my non ami. For the umpteenth time, "choking" is not being considered for the NIT.
Choking is going from playing in The Big Dance one year and being so bad the next you are not invited to any tournament.
Choking is what the sorry canes do.

Good article Barry, it shows what we all know.
Sapp frustrated about the efense under Onofrio and Thomas realizing it is much better for him to be coaching and learning under Pitrino than under Alverage.
Former cane greats that know and verbalize that Onofrio and Golden are clueless and an embarrassment to what they knew their school used to be.
Used to be. Has been. A cane thing.

Not our rival

Posted by: Reality Bites | 04/14/2014 at 12:41 PM

Hush nerd, no one cares about your fake internet rivalry, don't take someone calling you a loser as an invitation to continue to be one.

billb

Hey, Reality Bites: The Huskies just scored again!

D-Rod

Hey Pushi or Ditzy..whatever you call yourself...

So Riley was then lucky with the Showtime era Lakers,as Phil was in Chicago and LA too since they both had no "Superstars that talked back, or demanded greatness out of their coach." Idiocy at its greatest there Kimmie.

If you aren't even competent enough to accuratley state that it is 2 titles in 3 seasons. 3 NBA Finals in 3 complete seasons, with 1 pending, why even bother writing anything else from here on out. Nobody finds you even the least bit credible.

Miami Heat going for 4th championship, and 3rd consecutive out of 4 in the LBJ era! Go Heat!

green

Replay of Saturday's #UNITE14 Spring Game on @ESPNU now
-- Hurricanes Football ‏@MiamiHurricanes

meanwhile f$u on endless loop ...
our broadcast partner continues to marginalize us ...
and nary a peep from the pantywaist AD ...
well here's mine ...
mad as hell ...
not gonna take it anymore ...

BUT WE'RE SO F_CKING LUCKY

green

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcjJmn6PpxU

The #Canes new uniforms took over social media: RenewedIdentity.com . The video of the unveiling to the team was viewed 250,000 times.
-- Chris Freet ‏@ChrisFreet

VIEWERS LIKE U

you serious

Shocker, a staged marketing video where players pretend to be excited over ugly ass uniforms was viewed a bunch of times.

212

21-16.

So says the dumb cluck

The uniforms will make all the difference this year. Why didn't someone change them before? We had to suck for a decade before someone realized it was time to change the unis.

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