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2 posts from May 14, 2014

May 14, 2014

1 p.m. update: UM get QB commit; Postscripts, reaction on Heat's series-clinching Game 5 win; conference finals schedule

1 p.m. update:

UM has landed a "soft" oral commitment from Tampa Hillsborough High quarterback Dwayne Lawson, a three-star prospect who has been generating considerable interest from major schools recently.

Last season, Lawson threw for 2200 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions and ran for 1000 yards and nine touchdowns.

He told canesport.com that he should be considered a "soft" commitment, will make a final decision in October and plans to visit Tennessee, Ohio State and Mississippi in the coming months.

He had more than 25 offers, including from FSU, UF, Auburn and Louisville.

"I just think Miami is the place for me to be," Lawson told canesport. "That's what made me commit. I prayed on it, think that's the best situation for me. It's a perfect situation, I feel, it really is. There's the playing time chances, the players they have on the team and the coaches, the coaches are great coaches."

At 6-5 and 207 pounds, Lawson has been compared, physically, by some analysts to Cam Newton. He says he's a pass-first quarterback who runs when the pocket breaks down.

James Coley and Larry Scott have been his primary recruiters.

UM recently lost out on New Jersey quarter Brandon Wimbush, who orally committed to Penn State, and is no longer in the top five for American Heritage four-star quarterback Torrance Gibson.

Lawson is UM's 11th oral commitment for 2015 and first quarterback in the class.

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Postscripts, reaction from the Heat’s series-clinching 96-94 win to close out their Eastern Conference semifinal against Brooklyn:

### If Indiana wins at Washington on Thursday, the Heat would open the Eastern Finals at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Indianapolis on ABC, with Game 2 at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. There would then be a sizable break before Game 3 next Saturday (May 24) in Miami. They would play every other day from that point until conclusion.

### If Washington forces a seventh game, the Eastern Finals would begin Tuesday, with games every other day. Miami obviously would open the conference finals at home only if the Wizards are the opponent.

### Every conference finals game (except Sunday's, if there is one) would start at 8:30 p.m.... ESPN has the Eastern Finals this year, TNT the Western Finals.

### Dwyane Wade had an uneven first four games of the series but he carried the Heat offensively in the first half Wednesday, scoring 20 of his 28. And LeBron James did the heavy lifting in the second half, scoring 20 of his 29, including 14 in the fourth quarter.

Of being double teamed a lot, James said: "I figured they would do that, coming off the [49-point] explosion I had in Game 4."

As for Wade, he said: “Tonight, my mindset was just to be aggressive. I kept that aggressive mindset the whole first half. It was sensing what we needed.”

Said James: “He kept us afloat, as much as he could during our struggles. He was attacking. He was making his pull-ups. He was very aggressive. We needed it.”

### Miami closed the game on a 13-3 run, with the Nets missing nine of their last 10 shots. Ray Allen was 0 for 6 on threes before putting the Heat up for good with his three with 32 seconds left.

And Allen poked the ball away from Joe Johnson on Brooklyn’s final possession, with LeBron keeping Johnson from retrieving the ball as time expired.

Johnson claimed he was fouled on the play but “obviously it shouldn’t have come down to that.”

Allen’s take on the final play: “I was so aware of Paul Pierce and I was nervous to not give up a three-pointer, so I was trying to help but not to help too much and then he had his back to me, I just kind of stuck my hand in there and dug it away a little bit."

### Erik Spoelstra said he thought the final play “was probably going to Pierce, but that’s the one thing you can definitely say about Jason Kidd. He was very unpredictable in this series.”

### Wade, on Allen: “We’re lucky to have that guy on our side. We’re just glad he’s wearing a Heat jersey. He has continued to write his legacy --- one of the best two-guards of all time.”

### James shot and made more free throws (15 for 17) then the entire Nets team (12 for 15).

The Heat went 29 of 31 from the line, which compensated for Brooklyn making eight more field goals (37 to 29), shooting a higher percentage (47.4 to 43.3) and outrebounding Miami, 36-33.

### And so the team with the $102 million payroll and the $80 million luxury tax bill --- the NBA’s highest in both categories --– ultimately couldn’t make it out of the second round of the playoffs. The Nets missed nine shots in a row after Johnson’s jumper put them ahead 91-83 with 4:49 left.

### Some Nets reaction afterward:

Johnson: “There were some questionable calls down the stretch. It’s tough because this obviously was a game we should have won. It’s very disappointing to go out like this. This team was assembled to win the championship. It’s very frustrating.

“More than anything, down the stretch with about two or three minutes left, we had a lead, we were playing too cautious. We were playing against the clock, not being aggressive making plays. Then the clock got down to five and three seconds and taking tough shots. We made it hard on ourselves.

“Defensively, we had a lot of miscommunication and breakdowns,” Johnson added, citing Allen’s go-ahead three-pointer. And offensively, “we had some great looks down the stretch but they just didn’t go down.”…

Johnson scored 34 ("he was torching me," LeBron said) and opened the second half making 10 of his first 11. But he missed two of his last three and lost the ball late.

“They played tough, smothering defense,” said Deron Williams, who scored 17 but went scoreless (0 for 2) in the fourth quarter and shot 22 for 60 (36.7 percent) in the series….

“Too many breakdowns defensively,” said Pierce, who scored 19. “We just came up short in a game of inches. We played as hard we could but we didn’t play smart.”

### Pierce, an impending free agent, said he would like to play one or two more seasons but was non-committal about whether he wants to remain with the Nets.

### Kevin Garnett didn’t comment afterward. Wade said of Pierce and Garnett: “We can credit them for the team we are. Playing them made us mentally tough. We’ve enjoyed the battles versus them.”

James –-- who has faced Pierce/Garnett five of the last seven postseasons --– said: “They helped me become the player I am today because they challenged us. Even seeing them in black and white, you still see [Celtics] green in Paul and KG. They still have championship DNA.”

James said playing against them when he played for Cleveland made him realize he "needed some help."

### Chris Bosh didn’t get his first rebound until 2:07 remained in the game but scored six of his 16 in the fourth quarter.

"We could have sat back and complained the whole game," Bosh said. "We could have been frustrated with the way things were going because I don't think it was going our way for most of the game. We had bad bounces. They were beating us to losse balls. We were 1 for 16 on threes in the first half even though we had a ton of wide open shots. You just have to stay with it no matter what happens."

### The Heat closed 9 for 29 on threes and became the first team to make at least eight threes in 12 consecutive playoff games since Orlando did it 13 times in a row in 1995 and 1996.

### Miami became the fifth team in NBA history to win a postseason series against the team that swept them. And the Heat became the first team (out of 26) to win a playoff series against a team that went at least 4-0 against them in the regular season.

### A couple more feats: The Heat became the fifth team to win 10 consecutive playoff series, and the first since the Lakers won 13 in a row from 2000 to 2003...  Since 2011, the Heat is 13-3 in closeout games. Oklahoma City has the second best closeout record (7-4) during that time.

Please see the last post (from Wednesday afternoon) with more Heat notes, LeBron addressing the Donald Sterling boycott issue and a health update on UM's Ryan Williams... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

6 p.m. LeBron boycott talk, Ryan Williams update; History offers mixed messages for Marlins' Fernandez; Dolphins, Heat, Canes chatter

HEAT 6 PM UPDATE

Former Heat guard Roger Mason Jr. on Wednesday essentially retracted his comment, a day earlier, that LeBron James told him he would boycott the start of next season if Donald Sterling is still owner of the Los Angeles Clippers at that time.

“LBJ never said anything about boycotting,” Mason tweeted. “He’s a friend and I would never want to imply something he didn’t say… My bad if I was not clear.”

Nevertheless, Showtime on Wednesday night went ahead and aired Mason’s comments claiming James told him he would boycott.

James did not completely rule out a boycott but indicated that’s not the way he’s thinking at the moment.

“As players, we see what [commissioner] Adam Silver is doing and he’s moving forward,” James said. “If he continues to move aggressively, which we believe Adam Silver will do, on the situation, then as players, we have nothing to worry about.”

Asked if it would be good enough if the league continues attempts to remove Sterling but can’t complete it by the start of next season, James said: “We don’t know. Right now, it’s good enough for us. We don’t know what’s going to happen. The legal system can be a pain.”

Asked under what parameters a boycott could happen, James said there would be “more in depth longer conversations that would need to be discussed” to get to that point.

James, who said he’s not using his phone during the playoffs, said neither he nor an associate called Mason to ask him to retract his statement.

“Roger’s a great guy,” James said. “I don’t have a problem with him at all.”

James said “the fact we have to continue to talk about [Sterling], which is a strong issue, sucks… I’m not sure Donald Sterling has ever put on a basketball uniform in his life.”

James Jones, a member of the player association’s executive council, said he does not support boycotting the start of the next season, if Sterling is still in place, because “we’ve taken steps to remove Donald. We’re moving forward. We’re a long way off from a final resolution.”

Udonis Haslem said the boycott discussion has never come up among Heat players.

### The Heat denied an unsubstantiated radaraonline.com story that Nets forward Paul Pierce punched James in the jaw in a tunnel following Game 4 on Monday night in Brooklyn.

The NBA did not investigate the matter because it is convinced the story is not true.

Pierce, oddly enough, declined to comment Tuesday when asked about it.

### James said he didn’t know that Pierce asked to guard him before Game 4 and that it wouldn’t give him any extra motivation. “I don’t believe there’s a one on one matchup that can guard me anyway,” he said.

### In the wake of former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy receiving a five-year, $35 million contract to become coach and president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons, Spoelstra said he now understands why he hasn’t received any text messages from Van Gundy in the past week.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for a coach to have that type of control,” said Spoelstra, who worked as an assistant on Van Gundy’s Heat staff and remains a close friend. “It has to be an exciting opportunity for him to want to leave Florida. I knew something was up. We text all the time. All of a sudden, hadn’t heard from him in a week. I said, ‘Something must be going on.’”

Haslem, who played for Van Gundy, said: “I’m looking for that franchise to be a lot better. Stan is a great leader, a great coach, has very high basketball IQ, will bring in the right guys. I’m expecting Detroit to be right up there with some of the top teams in the East in the next couple years.”

### Chris Bosh, asked if James can score 49 more often: “Yeah, but we don’t need him to. At home, I don’t think he needs to do that.”

### Regarding the wild swings in the Indiana Pacers’ play during this postseason, Bosh said: “I learn from other peoples’ mistakes. That’s what I take from it. It’s a very unique situation.”

Haslem said: “We can’t focus on the Indiana we see against other teams, because when they play against us, it’s a whole different ballclub.”

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Quick 1 p.m. update: Twice in the last week, UM coach Al Golden has given encouraging updates on the status of injured quarterback Ryan Williams.

Speaking to Hurricanes fans in Orlando last Friday, Golden indicated he was hopeful Williams could return at some point in September, though UM won't know for sure until later in the summer.

Golden also said the progress of Williams' recovery is in the top one percent for people with a torn ACL.

And in the past day, Golden --- speaking at the ACC meetings ---  told ESPN.com that Williams' recovery is "phenomenal. We know he'll be back. it's just a question of how early because his recovery right now is phenomenal."

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With Jose Fernandez expected to undergo “Tommy John” elbow surgery in the coming days, what can be expected when he returns?

The good news is that a bunch of prominent pitchers have been very good after returning, including Tommy John (146 wins after the operation), A.J. Burnett, John Smoltz, Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg (who sat out from Aug. 22, 2010, until his big league return on Sept. 6, 2011, then went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 2012).

But two recent studies give cause for some concern. In March, Yankees physician Christopher Ahmad released a study that analyzed every pitcher who had the surgery between 1974 (when John became the first) and 2011.

Of the 160 pitchers who had the procedure once before 2011, 18 percent failed to pitch again in the big leagues and 52 percent returned to the disabled list at some point due to a condition with their pitching arm, including 23 percent who went on the DL for elbow-specific conditions. (Last month, former Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson underwent the procedure for the second time.)

Ahmad’s study showed that “of the 105 pitchers who completed at least one entire season before and after surgery, many performance statistics showed a decline following surgery, most notable in ERA, opposing batting average and percentage of fastballs thrown.” And pitchers lost nearly half-a-mile off their fastball.

Another recent study, by researchers at Detroit Henry Ford, studied pitchers’ stats for three years before the surgery and three years after and found average ERA rose from 4.15 to 4.74 in the three years after, as did hits and walks, while wins decreased (45 to 42 percent).

### Even if Fernandez declines slightly, he would still be very good. The Marlins won 64 percent of Fernandez’s starts since he debuted last April, compared with 36 percent by everyone else. Opponent’s batting average against him (.183) is MLB’s lowest since the start of last season.

### FYI: The Marlins designated Henry Rodriguez for assignment early Wednesday morning, a day after he walked four while retiring only two batters.... Rookie Anthony DeSclafani, promoted from Double A, will take Fernandez's turn in the rotation this week.

CHATTER

### The Dolphins tried to sign UM’s Stephen Morris after the draft, but Jacksonville made a better offer and Morris liked the idea of working with Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, his former coordinator at UM.

UM, once dubbed Quarterback U, has now gone 11 years since having a quarterback drafted (Ken Dorsey, seventh round, 2003) and 22 years since it had a quarterback selected before the last round (Craig Erickson, fourth round, in 1992).

### Some Dolphins players believe the team over-reacted by fining Don Jones and barring him from team activities until he undergoes sensitivity training, after he made remarks critical of Michael Sam on Twitter.

The NFLPA indicated Tuesday there has been no decision regarding whether Jones, though the union, will appeal the discipline through a grievance. “The Dolphins want to protect their organization; I want to protect my client,” Jones’ agent, Chris Martin, said, declining to elaborate.

### The Dolphins’ undrafted free agent addition with the highest pre-draft grade? LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, rated a second- or third rounder by NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki before he reportedly had a positive drug test at the NFL Combine.

“He didn’t play up to his potential, but he’s big, strong and can move really well, and it’s tough to find those guys,” an NFC scout said. Another Dolphins post-draft addition, Utah State center Tyler Larsen, was viewed as a potential fourth-rounder by some.

### Please see the last post for Dolphins transactions from Tuesday, and LeBron James' boycott option.

### One of the challenges for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra in these playoffs is deciding how to distribute minutes among Shane Battier, James Jones and Rashard Lewis. Who’s most worthy? Consider:

This postseason, Battier is shooting the best of the three (6-13, 46.2 percent), narrowly ahead of Jones (12 for 27, 44.4 percent), with Lewis struggling at 27.3 percent (6 for 22).

Defensively, even though Battier is considered the best of the group, synergysports.com – which breaks down every possession – rates Battier’s defense as “poor” in these playoffs; he’s allowing the player he’s guarding to shoot 53.6 percent. Jones and Lewis are rated “below average” defensively this postseason; every other Heat rotation player except those three is rated good or very good.

Here’s the big disparity: With Jones on the floor, Miami has outscored its opponent in every game he played and by a remarkable 58 points in 88 playoff minutes. Miami is plus 34 in Lewis’ 88 minutes and minus five in Battier’s 81 minutes.

And here’s why LeBron James was justified in calling for more minutes for James: When those two play together in postseason, Miami is plus 53 in 83 minutes (the best two-man pairing on the team) and shoots 57 percent. Conversely, Miami is plus 21 when James plays with Dwyane Wade, plus 17 with James and Lewis and minus three with James and Battier.

Spoelstra admitted Tuesday that plus/minus has influenced his decision to play Jones. “He has an effect on our game, where it’s a positive effect generally,” Spoelstra said. “J.J. gives us an element that we need. In this series, spacing is important.”

Spoelstra has stuck with Lewis through his shooting slump because “Rashard gives you that length in a perimeter series and he’s a threat” on three-pointers. “Offensively, our game is based on flow and rhythm. That flow and rhythm happens very naturally when Rashard is in there.”

In this series, “we need both” Lewis and Jones, Spoelstra said.

There could be fewer minutes for Battier, Jones and/or Lewis in a potential conference finals against Indiana, when Udonis Haslem figures to return to the rotation.

### ESPN announced Tuesday there will be a sequel to its 2009 documentary on the University of Miami football program, ESPN’s fifth-highest rated documentary ever.

But ESPN said it will not offer any details or a timetable for production, and producer Billy Corben and director Alfred Spellman also are respecting ESPN’s wishes not to comment.

UM refused to participate or grant access to employees in the first movie and hasn't been informed about the sequel.

Some high-ranking UM people didn’t believe the original film helped the program, because they want the public to associate UM with high education and winning with class, not swagger and colorful antics and boasting.