### We wrote last night (scroll further down on this post) about the Dolphins being linked to Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. As it turns out, he met with the Dolphins on Monday, Plantation High's coach told The Sun Sentinel's Steve Gorten. Scroll down for more on Shazier.
### Shane Battier, who played just two minutes in the first round against Charlotte, is starting tonight in place of Udonis Haslem. He's better equipped than Haslem to defend Paul Pierce, who is starting at power forward now, or Joe Johnson, who's at small forward.
### Greg Oden is inactive for the Heat tonight, with Justin Hamilton. Michael Beasley is active.
### LeBron James, who won the previous two MVP awards and four of the past five, finished second behind Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in 2013-14 MVP voting announced Tuesday, as expected.
Durant received 119 of the 125 first-place votes. James received the other six.
The six who voted for James were play-by-play announcers for the Suns (Al McCoy), Spurs (Bill Land), Warriors (Bob Fitzgerald), Kings (Grant Napear) and Hawks (Steve Holman), as well as Celtics radio analyst and former player Cedric Maxwell.
Everyone who voted for Durant first also voted for James second except one person: longtime NBA writer Chris Sheridan, who previously worked for ESPN and now runs his own web site. He had the Clippers’ Blake Griffin second and James third.
In overall league MVP voting, Griffin, the Bulls’ Joakim Noah and Houston’s James Harden rounded out the top five.
### Ten years ago, Paul Pierce and LeBron James were assessed technicals for jawing at each other during a game, and Pierce spat toward the Cleveland bench after yelling at the Cavaliers reserves to sit down.
But that was the last public incident between the two stars, and Pierce indicated Tuesday that there is no animosity between them.
“When aiming for the same prize, there’s going to be dislike,” Pierce said, adding that “nothing has carried off the court. I think any dislike between me and LeBron in Miami or Cleveland is all based on what we’re both chasing.”
Asked if he has a relationship with James, Pierce said: “I don’t have a relationship with anyone in the NBA outside of my teammates. It’s mutual respect.”
ESPN’s Chris Broussard told Pierce that he has never seen him intimidated when he plays against James. “That’s a big part of my success period,” Pierce said. “I’ve never been intimidated by anyone.”
Chris Bosh said the Heat has “begrudging respect” for Pierce and Kevin Garnett. “Some of the greatest players to ever play this game,” Bosh said. “I don’t like to lose against them. We go way back. It’s hard fouls, extremely tough defense, competitiveness at its finest.”
### Erik Spoelstra, on facing Garnett and Pierce in postseason: “They don’t ever go away.”
### Shane Battier on the long layoff: “It’s like we got punished a little by sweeping. We want to be part of the action. We’re all ready to listen to Spo in a different setting… in the heat of battle instead of the heat of practice.”
### TNT made a curious decision by not assigning either of its top two announcing teams (Marv Albert-Steve Kerr or Kevin Harlan-Reggie Miller) to its first two telecasts of the Heat-Nets series (Games 1 and 4), opting instead to use Milwaukee Brewers announcer Brian Andersen and Greg Anthony.
Why? Several factors: Turner likes the Andersen/Anthony team; Anthony lives in Miami; and Turner sees benefit to having Kerr and Miller do Western Conference semifinal games because TNT has the Western Conference Finals this year.
ESPN2 and ABC assigned Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown to the second and third games of the series. Sun Sports cannot televise any more games because the national rights-holders have exclusivity beginning in the second round. But Sun Sports is carrying Heat postgame shows.
Touching on several topics as we await Heat-Nets, the Dolphins' draft and the fallout of another misstep by Seantrel Henderson:
As expected, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was non-committal on Monday about whether Udonis Haslem would remain a starter against a Nets team that has been beginning games with a small lineup featuring Paul Pierce at power forward.
Haslem said he was given no indication if he would move to the bench. “We haven’t changed anything yet,” Haslem said. “We can adjust. If somebody has to take my spot in the starting lineup, so be it. He’ll be ready.”
Shane Battier, who would be a natural fit to defend Pierce, said he hasn’t been informed if his role would increase, which seems likely. Rashard Lewis said he wasn’t told, either.
"I’ll be ready to rock,” said Battier, who played just two minutes in the Heat’s first-round series sweep of Charlotte.
Asked if Haslem would continue to start, Spoelstra said: “We’ll see. We can go whatever way we need to go. Whether we start that way or don’t, we’ll go as deep into the rotation as we need to.”
Haslem said he would study tape to prepare himself for the possibility of defending Pierce or Joe Johnson, who has been opening games at small forward instead of shooting guard.
“If I had to guard Pierce, I think I could,” Haslem said. “It would pose a different challenge to me. It’s nothing I’m most accustomed to, but if I get in the film room and put my mind to it, I feel like I have a pretty good opportunity to guard 95, 96 percent of the guys in this league. There are a couple of guys I probably can’t quite keep up with, but the majority of them I can.”
Lewis said there’s value in making the Nets match up to them at times. He expects the Heat will use Bosh and Chris Andersen in tandem on occasion. “We were successful the way we beat Charlotte,” Lewis said, with Miami opening with a bigger lineup before shifting to a lot of smaller lineups.
### The Nets’ bench has hurt the Heat in all four games: Andray Blatche averaged 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game against Miami; Mirza Teletovic had a 17-point outburst in one of the games; Marcus Thornton had a 16-point game; point guard Shaun Livingston (now coming off the bench) had an 11-rebound game as a starter. Mason Plumlee blocked a LeBron James in the final second of their last meeting, and Andrei Kirilenko can pose problems.
“The most significant thing is they have great veteran depth,” Spoelstra said. “They can go 12 deep if they need do. We feel we can do the same.”
The Heat needs a strong series from Ray Allen, who shot 5 for 19 in the first round, including 3 for 11 on three-pointers.
### Besides averaging more than eight points per game fewer versus Brooklyn than against other teams this season, the Heat also had nearly five-and-a-half fewer possessions per game against the Nets than they did against other teams.
"We played passively all four games against them,” Battier said. “When we are passive, we don’t create turnovers. We can’t allow their switching [defensively] to make us passive. We need aggressive, attacking games at both ends.”
Spoelstra said one challenge is that the Nets “have speed, quickness, length at all the perimeter positions. We need to get out in the open court. They want to grind halfcourt possessions.”
### Though both sides have said the Nets’ 4-0 series sweep of Heat means nothing in this series, here are two historical factoids to consider: According to Stats Inc., no team that went at least 4-0 against an opponent in the regular season ever lost to that opponent in a best-of-seven playoff series, covering 25 series. (Several teams that were swept 3-0 went on to beat that team in postseason.)
And according to Elias, the Nets will be the third team that swept a defending champion to meet that team in a postseason series. In the other two instances, the team that swept the season series (the 1995-96 SuperSonics and 2002-2003 Spurs) beat the defending champ (Rockets and Lakers) and ended up advancing to the NBA Finals.
### LeBron James, who won the past two MVP awards and four of the past five, said Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant deserves the award. Durant reportedly will be named MVP sometime this week.
“If the reports are correct, kudos to him; much respect there; he deserves it,” James said. “He had a big time MVP season.”
Chris Bosh said of James: “He’s the best player in the world, but you can’t win it every year. Somebody [else] is going to have a good year, too.”
The buzz is increasing around Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, and he’s emerging as one of several real possibilities for the Dolphins at No. 19, unless they trade down to take an offensive tackle (which is also a consideration if Zack Martin is off the board).
Mark Dominik, a close friend and former co-worker of Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, said today that Shazier “should be drafted ahead of” Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Dominik called him a “great tackler and playmaker who has all the tools.” (Dominik and Hickey often share the same view of players, incidentally.)
Shazier said his game is especially comparable to Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. (Dominik told us previously that Hickey strongly advocated drafting David, who has become a terrific player.)
“I feel I compare to Lavonte David or NaVorro Bowman,” Shazier said.
Shazier had monster numbers last season: 134 tackles, 23 for loss (third in the country), six sacks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.
“Shazier flies around the field and his unique athletic ability stands out,” NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki said. “Offers a tremendous combination of speed, tackling and coverage skills to become a playmaker.”
Shazier's father, Vernon, has been the Dolphins’ chaplain for the past five seasons.
At just over 6-1 and 237 pounds, Shazier wouldn’t be big enough to fit the prototype of former Dolphins personnel czars Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland. But Hickey has said he has no such size requirements with linebackers.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has Shazier going 20th, a pick after Miami, in his mock draft.
### Tight end Dustin Keller, working his way back from a horrific knee injury, visited the Patriots last week but reportedly left without a contract.
UM people certainly weren’t shocked today to hear of ESPN’s report that Seantrel Henderson tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine.
UM’s frustration with Henderson could be summed up this way: The staff thought he had the ability to dominate every play and he simply didn’t do it because he wasn’t serious enough about his craft and capable or willing to change his behavior, including a pattern of bad decisions, immaturity and lack of discipline.
One UM person said the belief internally was some of his behavioral patterns probably result from the fact that he had young parents (his father, a rapper in the Minneapolis area, was a teenager when Seantrel was born) and believe he didn’t learn discipline at home.
But ultimately, Henderson is responsible for his own actions, which likely have cost him a ton of money in his first NFL contract.
### Carol City’s Trayone Gray, who UM has big plans for, told Canesport.com that he’s still waiting on an ACT score to see if he will qualify academically. He said he was told he will play running back in UM’s Wildcat packages and receiver otherwise.