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3 posts from June 6, 2014

June 06, 2014

Friday Heat report and media column: Who's more popular here: Heat or Dolphins? Here's some data; Media notes

Please see the last post for a full Friday report about on-court Heat matters and LeBron's health. Meanwhile, here's the...


The Heat commands most of the South Florida sports fan’s interest this time of year, as the Dolphins do during football season. But has the Heat, in winning two consecutive championships and bidding for a third, surpassed the Dolphins in overall local popularity?

There’s no magical formula to answer that, and it’s impossible to make a completely fair comparison because of the difference in venue capacity and number of games and the lack of any recent Dolphins playoff games to use as a measuring stick.

Here’s what we do know:

### Dolphins ratings keep falling and Heat ratings keep rising.

Even though the Dolphins were in playoff contention all season, their 17.1 average local rating last season was down from a 17.7 in 2012 and ranked lowest of any market with only one NFL team and the fourth-lowest overall behind Oakland, the Jets and Giants.

That means 17.1 percent of TV households in Miami-Dade and Broward counties tuned in a Dolphins game, on average, equal to 283,000 per game.

By comparison, the dreadful Jaguars averaged an 18.3 rating in Jacksonville and the Buccaneers a 19.0 in Tampa.

Conversely, Heat regular-season cable ratings were the third-highest in the country, behind only San Antonio and Oklahoma City, and averaged a 6.9 on Sun Sports – up 22 percent from 2012-13.

Keep in mind that nearly 10 percent of Dade/Broward TV homes do not have cable or satellite service, whereas all Dolphins games air on free TV.

Dolphins games almost always outdraw Heat regular season games by a substantial margin, which isn’t surprising considering there are 16 Dolphins games and 82 Heat games. There were a few exceptions the past two seasons.

But Heat playoffs versus Dolphins regular season is a different story, once the second round of the NBA postseason begins.

The average local Heat rating during the first round against Charlotte was a 15.5, less than the Dolphins’ 17.1 average local rating in 2013.

But the Heat-Nets second-round series averaged an 18.9 rating in Dade/Broward homes. On the night of the first round of the NFL Draft, 16.7 percent of local homes tuned to Game 2 of Heat-Nets, compared with 6.3 for the draft.

Locally, the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals averaged a 23.4, easily surpassing Dolphins regular-season ratings. NBA Finals ratings assuredly will do the same, with Game 1 Thursday generating a 30.5 local rating.

### The Dolphins played to 85.5 percent capacity last season in terms of tickets sold, which was third-worst in the league (64,319 per game). The Heat, conversely, has sold out every game since LeBron James arrived.

### If you’re making the case that the Dolphins still command greater interest locally, this helps your argument:

Last year, there were 35.3 million page views for Dolphins/NFL content on The Herald’s site worldwide (10.8 percent from South Florida readers), compared with 13.1 million for Heat/NBA content (12.3 percent from South Florida readers).

And during the first four months of this year, the Herald’s web site had 201,132 unique local visitors for Heat/NBA stories, compared with 274,411 for Dolphins/NFL stories. Data is not available to distinguish Heat from non-Heat NBA stories.

And consider this: Last month, the Herald’s Dolphins blog drew 45 times as many worldwide hits as the Heat blog, though local numbers weren’t available and there were more Dolphins than Heat posts, which skews the numbers. (And in fairness, Heat content on this blog drew sizable readership.)


### ABC’s 9.0 national rating Thursday tied for the second-highest for a Game 1 of an NBA Finals since 2004 and topped the 8.8 for the first game of last year’s Heat-Spurs series.

The 30.5 local rating ranked second among metered markets, with San Antonio first at 40.4. The rest of the top five: Austin (17.9), West Palm Beach (17.2) and Las Vegas (13.7).

### A year after preempting ABC’s NBA Finals pregame to carry its own program, WPLG-Channel 10 made the right decision by not repeating that mistake during these Finals. Station general manager Bert Medina, hired last October, is taking the viewer-friendly approach: airing a local show 60 minutes before tipoff and ABC’s national show 30 minutes before the game.

### Credit Doug Collins for elevating the quality of the ABC/ESPN studio show; the former coach doesn’t waste words and virtually every point he makes has merit.

For instance: When Sage Steele suggested the Thunder blowing a big lead in Game 4 against the Clippers was a case of complacency, Collins corrected her.

“It’s not complacency,” he said. “It’s bad habits,” going on to explain how OKC has this proclivity, at times, to stand around while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook try to win the game on their own.

### Shane Battier decided to accept a college basketball analyst job at ESPN instead of waiting to see if he would land a network NBA job. ESPN hasn’t decided which college conference to assign him.

### Personnel moves: Marv Albert is leaving CBS’ NFL coverage to reduce his workload. He will continue to announce the NBA for TNT and college basketball for CBS and Turner… Fox, which dropped Brian Billick as an NFL game analyst, hired former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl to replace him…. Adam Zucker will replace Tim Brando in CBS’ college football studio. Brando, who left CBS in January, this week took a college basketball play-by-play job with the new SEC Network. 

### Please see the last post for on-court Heat news from Friday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Friday Heat report: LeBron update; Chalmers "trying to figure out where I fit in"; Wade calls for change

A Friday Heat update:

### Colleagues Joe Goodman and Greg Cote will have pieces on LeBron and CrampGate posted later, but here's a Cliff Notes version of where things stand:

The Spurs announced the air conditioning at AT & T Center has been fixed. LeBron said he "should be 100 percent" on Sunday, though he said was "pretty sore" on Friday "from muscles spasming up."

He said he has done all he can to prevent cramping, but the issue has happened several times, in high school, in the 2012 NBA Finals and several other incidents.

"The body just decides to shut down. I've hydrated as much as I could, to the point where your stomach feels like you can't take it anymore.... I could have gotten myself in more trouble if I had tried to play through a cramp and I pulled something and it got worse."

LeBron conceded it was "bad timing on my part. It's not an excuse but there were some extreme conditions."

Erik Spoelstra said James took seven cramping pills Thursday and James said he had 2 1/2 bags of IV last night. He said he had to get up six or seven times between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. and couldn't sleep at all.

James said he has been tested for cramps throughout his career and has been cleared medically.

"Very angry, very disappointed in myself," he said. "Body failed me. Wasn't there to help my teammates when they needed me."


Mario Chalmers doesn’t necessarily need to deliver one of those classic Mario moments, such as a key late-game basket or a 20-point outburst. But the Heat needs a more efficient, productive Chalmers than the one who was turnover-prone and foul-prone in the Heat’s Game 1 loss.

“Everybody knew I was frustrated with the foul trouble I got into early,” he said. “When I got back in the game, I was trying to press too much, trying to get back the minutes I wasn’t playing. I’ve got to be more patient in my pick and rolls and try to find more gaps.”

Limited to 17 minutes by foul trouble, Chalmers committed five turnovers compared with one assist and scored three points, missing two of three shots. Tony Parker, who was outscored by Chalmers in the final two games of last year’s Finals, thoroughly outplayed him Thursday, with 19 points and twice as many assists (eight) as turnovers.

“I’ve got to be careful with my touch fouls,” Chalmers said. “I get a lot of touch fouls, got to figure out a way to adjust to the referees.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Chalmers “needs to be more attentive to technique and [quicker] in his thought process.”

Chalmers’ 2.3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio in postseason is actually slightly better than his regular season ratio, but his scoring average is down from 9.8 to 6.8. In fact, the 6.8 would be the fewest points per game he has averaged in a postseason, down from 11.3 and 9.4 during the Heat’s past two championship runs.

That’s largely a result of taking fewer shots. Chalmers averaged 9.0 field-goal attempts per game in the Heat’s 2011-12 title run, and 8.0 last postseason.

This postseason, that number has plunged to 5.8. Chalmers is shooting well on threes (40.5 percent) but has taken only 37, compared with 92 and 68 over the previous two postseasons.

“The shot is always open, so you’re supposed to shoot those shots,” he said. But “I’ve got to keep my teammates involved.”

Chalmers said there is “nothing injury-wise, nothing personal” that’s affecting him, but he indicated he’s still adjusting to a subtle change that Erik Spoelstra made.

“I don’t think I’m handling as much as I was in the previous playoffs,” he said. “But it’s something coach made an adjustment to. I’ve got to figure out another way to be effective.”

So even in his fourth Finals, Chalmers conceded Friday that he is “just trying to figure out where I fit in in the playoffs right now.”

Shane Battier reiterated Thursday that when Chalmers “plays well, we play well. When he takes care of the ball, we’re a markedly better team. Turnovers were an issue [for him in Game 1]. There wasn’t the crispness we needed. Against Parker, when you are not dialed in, it makes for a long night.”


Spoelstra played nine players in Game 1, opting not to use Udonis Haslem, among others, and Dwyane Wade said that must change.

“We’ve got to go a little deeper into our bench,” he said. “I look forward to us using more guys next game, keep guys fresher. I feel part of our downfall in that game was mental and physical fatigue down the stretch.”

### The Heat is 12-0 after its past 12 postseason losses. Also, the Heat lost the first game in each of the past two Finals --- against Oklahoma City and San Antonio --- but went on to win both series.

### Bosh and Shane Battier laughed uproariously when informed that Jonathan Martin, who quit the Dolphins midway through last season, tweeted during the game about James: “C’mon bruh. Drink a Gatorade and get out there.”

Said Battier: "Everyone's got an opinion."

Postscripts, reaction from Heat's Game 1 loss in NBA Finals; What LeBron said afterward; Jon Martin's foolish tweet

Postscripts from the Heat’s 110-95 Game 1 NBA Finals to San Antonio in a miserably uncomfortable AT & T Center:

### This was a rare snapshot: A pained, frustrated LeBron James sitting helplessly on the bench, unable to play the game’s most meaningful moments because of cramping after toiling in oppressive heat caused by malfunctioning air conditioning.

James managed just five fourth-quarter minutes, and his teammates couldn’t muster enough without him, buried under a tsunami of Spurs’ three-pointers.

LeBron, who spoke to a pool reporter instead of the general media, said the cramps were "a 10 out of 10."

Bottom line: The Heat was outscored, 33-12, in the second half during the time when LeBron wasn’t on the floor.

### Here's what LeBron said afterward to a pool reporter (he did not speak to the general media): "I'm feeling better than I did when I came off the floor.... I was going to give it a go [late in the fourth] and Spo said no. It sucks at this point in time in the season. After I made that layup [with 4:33 left], we were down two, as well as they played, we still had a chance. After I came out of the game, they kind of took off. And it was frustrating sitting out and not be able to help our team."

James said he felt "frustration and anger, but at the same time, it's something you try to prevent, you try to control. I got all the fluids I need to get. I do my normal routine I've done and it was inevitable for me tonight, throughout the conditions on the floor. I lost all the fluids that I was putting in the last couple of days out there on the floor. It sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point of the season."

How much pain was he in when his legs buckled? "The best option for me to do was not to move. I tried and any little step or nudge, it would get worse. It would lock up worse and my muscles spasmed 10 out of 10. Best thing for me to do was just not to move."

Was it just the left leg or more to it? "No, it was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side. I was losing a lot throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building. Everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot."

Asked what he tried to do at halftime, LeBron said: "Drank a lot at halftime, even changed my uniform, just tried to get the sweat up off of you. Our training staff tried to do the best they could by giving us ice bags and cold towels on timeouts, keep us dry. I never played in a building like that. It's been a while, like high school game. But... it's no discredit to what they did. They played extremely well. They had 30 assists (to the Heat's 16)." 

How thankful is he to have a few days before Game 2 on Sunday? "I need it. I need it. We're going to start tonight, continue to get the fluids in me and get me ready for Sunday. Look forward to Game 2."

### Outscored 36-17 in the fourth, the Heat ultimately was undone not only by James’ absence but deficient pick-and-roll defense and an inability to defend the three in the fourth quarter, when the Spurs shot six for six from beyond the arc, with Danny Green making three and Kawhi Leonard two.

The Spurs shot an absurd 58.8 percent for the game and an unreal 14 for 16 in the fourth.

"Maybe one of those six threes was well defended,” Chris Bosh said.

The Heat had to figure that Green, who plays exceptionally at home, would eventually come alive after shooting 0 for 5 through three quarters. Green, who hit 27 three-pointers in last year’s Finals, scored 11 in the fourth.

### Until fatigue set in and cramping began, this was encouraging: James attacked the basket far more forcefully and frequently than he did in last year’s Finals. So did Dwyane Wade, for that matter.         

James took 9 of his first 12 shots within 10 feet of the hoop, Wade 8 of his first 10, with many in the basket area.

That was a dramatic change from last year’s Finals, when James took only 46 percent of his shots with 10 feet and Wade 43 percent. And it was more like their regular season metrics, when James took 61 percent of his shots within that range and Wade 69.

But both started settling for jumpers as the second half progressed, likely a function of exhaustion from playing in 90-degree temperatures.

James (25 points, 9 for 17 shooting) missed three jumpers in a row before leaving with what appeared to be cramping with 7:36 left in the fourth. The Heat led by two when he exited.

He returned with 4:33 left and drove for a layup that pulled the Heat to within 94-92 but immediately left again with more cramping, this time for good.

“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping back to the bench,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Instead of giving James a sizable cushion, as they did last year, the Spurs played more tightly against him, and James seized on that strategy for the game’s first 30 minutes before cramping short-circuited his night.

Wade (19 points, 8 for 18) missed his first two shots on 14- and 18-foot jumpers, then changed his approach. His next eight shots were within 10 feet of the basket, most of them layups or floaters or nifty spin moves, and he made six. But he hit just 3 of 10 shots in the second half, operating more from the perimeter than the paint.

### More reaction on the heat (not the Heat): Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, on the electrical problems that caused the air conditioning malfunction: “Hopefully, we can pay our bills.”… Bosh, on James’ departure: “It’s tough without him. But there is no time for emotions. But the heat has nothing to do with taking care of the ball.” (Miami committed 18 turnovers leading to 27 Spurs points).. .

Ray Allen: "We just have to find a way to keep getting Gatorade into him while he's on the bench, making sure he stays hydrated.... [The heat] did fatigue us a lot faster than we would have been otherwise."...

Shane Battier: “I like a hot gym but this is a little ridiculous.”… Duncan: “I don’t think I’ve ever played in anything like this since I left the islands. It was pretty bad out there. I thought we played through it well. I think it affected both teams. Pop continued to switch guys in and out, keep us as fresh as possible and we finally got to a point where we took care of the ball and we got a chance to make a run and made them pay.”... Has Wade ever played in conditions like this? "Yeah, not in the NBA, not in the Finals."

### NBA president/basketball operations Rod Thorn said: “Had the referees felt at any time or had I felt at any time --- I was in sitting in the second row midcourt --- that the game shouldn’t be continued, then they would have come over and said something to me. Never did. I never said anything to them regarding the fact the game should be canceled. In live sporting events, sometimes things transpire that you don’t expect. Obviously, the conditions were the same for both teams. There wasn’t anything that could be done about it. We ascertained that very early.”

### Yes, that was 38-year old Ray Allen dunking ferociously in transition – even more notable considering Allen had only nine dunks in two years with the Heat.

### The Spurs’ Boris Diaw remains capable of affecting the game even without scoring much. He shot only one for five in Game 1 but had 10 rebounds and six assists, and the Spurs outscored the Heat by 30 points with Diaw in the game.

### Bosh had a good night (18 points, nine rebounds, 7 for 11 shooting), but Duncan was better (21 points, 10 rebounds, 9 for 10 shooting).

### Yes, Wade is feeling better physically than he did in last year's series, but so is Manu Ginobili, who was huge (16 points, 11 assists).

### Mario Chalmers --- who had 18 turnovers and 15 assists in last year’s Finals – needs to give the Heat more than this. Limited to 17 minutes by foul trouble, he had more turnovers (five) than points (three) and assists (one).

### Most amusing moment from Game 1: James telling Duncan: “I just gave the media something to talk about because they didn’t have nothing else to talk about.” That was in reference to Duncan saying the Spurs would win the series this year, and James then saying that the Spurs dislike the Heat.

### Second-most amusing moment from Game 1: Touched minimally by James, Tiago Splitter falling to the floor as if he had been shot by a sniper. But at least the referees changed it from a flagrant to a common foul.

Splitter, who had a total of 34 points in last year's series, was surprisingly a factor Thursday, with 14 points and four rebounds.

### Most mindless moment of Game 1: The Heat committing a second-quarter five-second violation, when nobody bothered staying in the backcourt to take the inbounds pass.

### Most ironic and absurd tweet of the night: Jonathan Martin, who quit the Dolphins last year, tweeted: "C'mon bruh. Drink a Gatorade and get out there." Martin, of all people, calling for LeBron to suck it up and play? Hard to find anything more jaw-dropping that that. (Martin eventually deleted the tweet.)