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3 posts from June 11, 2014

June 11, 2014

Bosh denies ESPN/Carmelo report; D. Jordan quandary; Examining how the Heat could fit Carmelo under the cap

A quick 3 p.m. update:

### As ESPN reported, the Heat is expected to at least explore the pie-in-the-sky scenario of acquiring Carmelo Anthony to partner with the Heat’s Big Three if Anthony opts for free agency by his June 23 deadline. The New York Daily News reported this afternoon that Anthony plans to opt out, barring a dramatic change of heart.

But Chris Bosh on Thursday denied an ESPN report that the team’s top players have already started to explore ways to create enough salary cap space to pull this off. In fact, Bosh said he, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have never once discussed the scenario of adding Anthony to the mix or how it can be accomplished. (It would require monumental pay cuts by all four.)

“I think that’s very, very unlikely,” Bosh said of such a Big Four scenario, with Anthony as the fourth.

Of Anthony possibly joining Miami, James said tonight: "Obviously, Melo has his own decision to make. That's not even crossed by mind at this point of the season."

The Heat views the Anthony scenario as a long shot but not out of the question.

ESPN's report said "the team's leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitous run at Carmelo."

But Udonis Haslem doesn’t believe adding Carmelo is that far-fetched.

“It doesn’t seem unrealistic,” he said today. “There was a time nobody would have thought you could put this team together, with those guys taking pay cuts, and even myself taking a paycut. You can never say never.”

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN ON THIS POST FOR A DETAILED EXPLANATION ABOUT HOW THE HEAT COULD FIT CARMELO UNDER THE CAP

### Joe Philbin likes the idea of having Dion Jordan play special teams because “he’s a big guy that can run and is hard to block.” But Jason Taylor, a guest coach during the offseason program, told the Dolphins-owned radio show that there is “not a whole lot of time” to work with Jordan on pass rush moves because a lot of his practice time is being spent on special teams. That’s not ideal, obviously.

“Dion is bigger than me, more athletic than I am,” Taylor said. “He's going to be stronger. He's so willing to learn. Anything I tell him or suggest, he's like a sponge.”

### UM football is up to 14 oral commitments after landing two this week from Texas-based Drew Galitz (a punter who’s also rated the nation’s No. 2 kicker) and Venice, Fla., offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier. Eleven of those 14 recruits are rated three-star prospects by rivals.com; the others are four-star.

### Jacob Turner, 23, has allowed a .330 opposing batting average, combined with an awful 6.38 ERA, but the Marlins are in a quandary because he’s out of minor league options, and he likely would be claimed by another team if they expose him to waivers. But Andrew Heaney (3-0, 2.74 at Triple A) and perhaps Justin Nicolino (5-2, 3.29 ERA in Double A)  would seem like better rotation options.

### Dan Bylsma appears the best choice for the Panthers’ head coaching job; he made the playoffs each of his six seasons in Pittsburgh, won a Stanley Cup in 2008 and went 252-117-32 before being fired recently. But Panthers ownership was also very impressed by Detroit assistant Tom Renney in their meeting Thursday, even though Renney made the playoffs only three times in nine years as a head coach, with the Rangers, Vancouver and Edmonton.

 

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If you have, well, Internet access, you might have seen two stories tonight linking Carmelo Anthony to the Heat:

### A Stephen A. Smith story that Anthony and LeBron James have expressed a desire to play together before their careers end, and that they will look into teaming up if both end up on the open market in July 2015.

### Another ESPN.com story (by Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein) reporting that “Heat officials and the team’s leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at” Anthony this summer.

If Anthony does not opt out of his Knicks contract in the coming days, he would earn $23.3 million next season. He must inform the Knicks by June 23 whether he’s opting out.

If the Heat’s Big Three doesn’t exercise early termination clauses this summer, James and Bosh would earn $20.59 million each next season and Wade $20.04 million. They must let the Heat know by late June.

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that all would need to take huge pay cuts to make room for Anthony in Miami next season, presuming all of them expect comparable salaries. It’s tough to imagine that happening, but it would be foolish to completely rule it out, either, because crazy things sometimes happen.

Bosh told me and others months ago he plans to stay with the Heat and he told ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard two weeks ago that he might be willing to take less money to stick around.

Wade strongly suggested to ESPN.com’s Mike Wallace last week that he does not feel obligated to opt out and take less money to keep the Big Three together.

Wade has told me previously he’s not sure he will opt out, won’t decide until after the Finals end, and that either scenario --- sticking to the last two years and $41 million of his contract --- or opting out for a longer deal --- would be appealing.

James declined to address his future when queried by an out of town reporter today, but an associate has said the Heat is the heavy favorite to keep him.

Also important to keep in mind: The salary cap is expected to rise from $58.6 million to $63.2 million.

So what would be the mechanics needed to fit Carmelo under the salary cap, along with the Big Three? Here’s how it would work:

### James, Wade and Bosh all would need to opt out of their contracts this summer. The Heat, if it tries to sign Anthony, would become a team operating under the cap rather than one over the cap. It would thus not be able to exceed the cap except to sign players to minimum-salary deals.

The Heat, in this scenario, would also have a room exception of $2.732 million, NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon tells us.

### The Heat would need to renounce all of its free agents (who haven’t already agreed to new deals) to clear their cap holds but could then immediately re-sign them to agreed-upon amounts, presuming they fit under the cap (or to minimum deals which can exceed the cap). When players are renounced, they lose their Larry Bird rights.

### The Heat has one player under a guaranteed contract for next season who has no early termination clause or player option: Norris Cole, at $2.15 million. Justin Hamilton has a non-guaranteed deal at $816,482.

Udonis Haslem has a player option for $4.6 million, which he assuredly will exercise unless the Heat talks him out of it by offering a multiyear deal at lower money. Chris Andersen has an option for $1.44 million.

### Let’s say Cole, Haslem and Andersen all return. Their salaries would add up to $8.14 million. Let’s say the Heat uses the 26th pick in the draft, which would come with a cap hold of just over $1 million. So that’s about $9.2 million.

### During the offseason, the league assesses an “incomplete roster charge” for any unfilled roster spots up to 12. So let’s say the Heat got the Big Three, Anthony, Cole, Haslem, Andersen and a first-round pick under contract.

That’s eight, meaning it would need to assess four “incomplete roster charge” cap holds of $507,336 --- the league’s minimum salary for rookies next season. That would add up to $11.2 million in cap commitments for Cole, Haslem, Andersen, the first-round draft pick and four roster holds. It would be about $300,000 more if the Heat keeps around Hamilton.

If you subtract $11.2 million from the projected cap of $62.3 million, that would leave $51 million to be split up among the Big Three and Anthony. If each agreed to take the same amount, that would be $12.75 million per player --- which would represent more than a $10 million paycut for Anthony, $7.3 million for Wade and $7.8 million for Bosh and James.

It would be slightly less money for the Big Three and Anthony if Hamilton stays on the cap.

To keep this going for three years or more, each of the Big Three and Anthony would lose tens of millions of dollars compared with what they would make if they signed max deals.

### A bit more wiggle room could be created if the Heat deals its first-round pick and if Haslem agreed to opt out of his $4.6 million deal and accept, say, $2 million annually instead over several years.

But even then, it’s difficult to come up with a scenario where each of the Big Three and Anthony could make more than $13.7 million apiece, presuming they all wanted an equal share of the pot. And it likely would be less than that.

### The Heat is not permitted to trade its first-round pick before the draft but can make a selection on behalf of another team and trade the pick after the draft for some commodity (a future second-rounder, perhaps) that wouldn't clog its cap this summer.

### Teams at or above the cap can sign veterans to the minimum, so the open roster spots temporarily being held by “incomplete roster charges” could be filled by Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis or James Jones and others at the minimum. (And a point guard to replace Mario Chalmers.)

In this scenario, the Heat could use its $2.7 million room exception to add a quality free agent who wants more than the minimum, perhaps a point guard (Chalmers, Ramon Sessions, Kirk Hinrich, etc.)

### A final thought: The Big Three each sacrificed about $15 million over the length of their contracts to play together.

To ask them and Carmelo to sacrifice considerably more than that, if they choose to commit to this “Big Four” concept for several years, would be a lot to expect, even though all make a lot of money in endorsements and off-court ventures (LeBron the most, obviously).

Oh yes, there's an NBA Finals going on. Please see the last post for a ton of Heat NBA Finals notes from today.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Wednesday night Heat report: What players had to say a day later; Finals news, notes

Less than 15 hours after they were torched like no team ever has been in a first half of an NBA Finals game, Heat players returned to the scene of the Game 3 debacle on Wednesday and watched the disaster on the tape, analyzing and agonizing over every defensive miscue, every late rotation, every lazy close-out.

It was both excruciating and enlightening.

“Pretty brutal,” is how Shane Battier described Wednesday’s one-hour film session that exposed everything Miami did wrong in the Spurs’ 71-point first-half blitz, in which they shot an NBA Finals-record 75.8 percent.

“It sucks,” Ray Allen said of the film session. “But it’s probably the best time because there are so many small things that you see.”

Several players said coach Erik Spoelstra did all the talking.

“We don’t talk back to the coach,” LeBron James said. “Let him make his point, whether he’s right or wrong. He gets up under us and we have to own our mistakes.”

Identifying their shortcomings isn’t the problem. Whether they can solve them will help determine whether they can win Game 4 on Thursday and tie this series.

"Probably the worst game we’ve played together,” Chris Bosh said Wednesday of the 111-92 drubbing.

“It’s disappointing to see the lack of effort. We just weren’t doing our jobs. It seemed like they were playing a home game. We’re supposed to have the momentum. We were at home! When we deviate from what we normally do, we get our [butt] kicked.”

Through three games, the Spurs are shooting 53.3 percent; the NBA Finals record is 52.7 by the 1991 Bulls. Also, the Spurs are shooting 47.9 percent on three-pointers, a smidge below the Lakers’ all-time Finals record (48 percent in 2001).

During the season, the Heat ranked an uncharacteristically low 15th in field-goal percentage defense, at 45.7 percent. The Spurs shot 48.6 percent, second-highest behind Miami.

For some perspective, consider this: Kawhi Leonard, off a career-high 29 point blowup in Game 3, is shooting 59.3 percent in this series, and yet that’s only the fourth-highest shooting percentage by a Spurs player in these Finals.

Tiago Splitter (8 for 12, .667), Tim Duncan (20 for 31, 64.5) and Danny Green (14 for 22, .636) are all higher. Tony Parker is at 50 percent.

Dwyane Wade said the Heat cannot dismiss what happened Tuesday as an anomaly.

“No, no, no, no,” Wade said. “You don’t chalk it up to, ‘Oh, they just shot well. It was their night. It wasn’t our night.’ No, you have to do something about it. They shot well for a reason.

“Each person individually has to look at themselves in the mirror to see what you can do better…. They shot the ball well because of mistakes we made.”

Rashard Lewis said the Heat’s biggest defensive failing was “being beaten off the dribble. They got into the paint all night. Seems like we were a step slow on everything.”

There were other issues, too, many resulting from the Spurs’ exquisite ball movement.

“I thought we didn’t help as much,” Wade said. “When you get to a point in the game where you’re tired or just thinking it’s not going to be hard, that’s when you make a mistake.

“You have to help your teammates on the drive. You have to cover the shooter. You have to cover the cutter. They make you think. It’s hard.”

James said some of the Heat’s problems stemmed from “mental breakdowns. Against the Spurs, any little minor mistake you make, they’ll make you pay.”

Spoelstra would never discuss rotation changes, but Bosh --- while not publicly advocating it --- conceded,  when asked, that Shane Battier (who was out of the rotation the past two games) and Udonis Haslem (who has played two minutes in the series) could offer something defensively.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan said Wednesday that Haslem has “always” played him effectively.

“Coach will have to make some decisions,” Bosh said. “Any time you have a game not putting out on defense, you do have to question who you are going to play.”

The Heat can take some solace in this: The Spurs also won Game 3 last year in a blowout, by 36 points, putting them ahead 2-1 in a series they would ultimately lose. And Miami has won 13 playoff games in a row after losses.

The Heat can also take solace in knowing Leonard is unlikely to repeat Tuesday’s eruption, considering he hadn’t before scored 29 points in a game since high school.

Leonard became the first player in 62 years (since Slater Martin) to score more points than anybody else in an NBA Finals game after not doing it in any previous game in the playoffs or that regular season.

But Wednesday was not about seeking solace. It was about accountability and a realization that a loss Thursday would leave their three-peat bid in grave peril.

“We have to fix some things for sure, but I’m not too concerned… because we played some good basketball in the postseason,” James said.

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said what the Spurs achieved, from a shooting standpoint, in the first half of Game 3 “is almost unrepeatable. They’re not going to turn the ball over 20 times [again]. That’s for sure…. They’re going to be upset. It’s a tough, tough challenge.” 

THE BOSH ISSUE

It’s difficult for a 6-10 All-Star to become lost during an NBA Finals game.

But that seemingly happened to Chris Bosh on offense in Game 3 of the Finals, for reasons partly beyond his control.

The Heat’s versatile center, perhaps the NBA’s best mid-range and long-distance shooter for a player of his size, touched the ball only 12 times, compared with 39 in Game 1 and 40 in Game 2.

"We hate when that happens because he’s too big for our team for him to ever get lost,” LeBron James said Wednesday. “We can’t allow that to happen for us to be successful.”

What’s more, Bosh attempted only four shots, making all of them. He had attempted that few shots in a game only once before this season: in a November game against Charlotte.

Point guard Norris Cole said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made clear during a film session on Wednesday that Bosh must get the ball more.

“He definitely has to have more touches,” Cole said. “It’s our job to get it to him.”

Rashard Lewis said Bosh was “wide open” several times when he didn’t get the ball. And Bosh said he held his palms open on several occasions during Game 3 to signal to teammates that he was open.

He attributed his lack of involvement to lack of “side-to-side ball movement.  Everybody knows I don’t get any play calls. That’s how it has been since I’ve been here. I’m very reliant on side-to-side ball movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to shoot it every time.

“But [not getting the ball] doesn’t give me the chance to read and react to the defense to get in certain spots to make them second guess what they’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll do a better job of moving the basketball so everyone can be involved to really be effective.”

Whereas the Spurs had 25 possessions with at least six passes, Spoelstra said the Heat had 37 with two or fewer passes.

TURNOVER PROBLEMS

The Heat has more turnovers (54) than assists (47) through three games, with James committing 15 and Dwyane Wade 12. Those two combined for 12 in Game 3 “and we can’t have that if we want to win,” Wade said.

With the Heat’s point guards struggling, Spoelstra indicated he would feel comfortable playing without a point guard at times but declined to say whether he’s less comfortable doing so with Mike Miller no longer on the team.

### Wade, asked to assess his defense, which has been spotty in this series: “I’ve had good moments. I’ve had bad moments. I have great moments of helping. I’ve had bad moments of helping. I’ve had good on-ball moments, bad on-ball moments.”

### James Jones bemoaned picking up three fouls in two minutes of Game 3. “I was in a bad situation making bad plays,” he said.

### James, who has an early termination clause in his contract this summer, declined to discuss his future intentions….. Though Ray Allen reiterated he hasn’t made a decision about whether to play next season, he also said: “I love how my body feels and I love the position I’ve been in the past few years.”

BY THE NUMBERS

### The Game 3 winner of an NBA Finals tied at one has won 30 of 36 series (83 percent). Among the key exceptions: Last year’s Finals, when Miami lost Game 3 and won the series.

### The home team that lost Game 3 of a 1-1 Finals series, as Miami did Tuesday, has gone on to lose 20 of 22 series.

### The Heat bench, which outscored its Spurs counterparts by 25 points in last year’s Finals, has been outscored by 45 by Spurs reserves in this year’s Finals.

### According to Elias, Mario Chalmers is the only starter in an NBA Finals over the past 30 years to play 50-plus minutes, score 10 or fewer points and shoot 25 percent or worse from the field. Greg Cote will have a column posted later on Chalmers' disastrous Finals. And check out our post from Tuesday about options to replace Chalmers this summer, should the Heat decide to part ways with him.

 

Postscripts, thoughts, what Heat had to say after dismal Game 3 loss; UM's Morris gets extension

Postscripts from the Heat’s jarring 111-92 loss in Game 3 of the NBA Finals:

### The Heat has played more than 2250 games in its 26-year history.

Never has a Heat opponent shot as high a percentage in the first quarter or first half of a game as the Spurs did on Tuesday.

Let that marinate for a minute.

So how could this happen, this remarkable offensive display by a team that the Heat had limited to 18 points and 6 of 17 shooting in the fourth quarter just two nights earlier?

How could the Spurs shoot an unfathomable 13 for 15 (86.7 percent) in the first quarter and a sterling 75.8 percent (25 for 33) in the first half?

“We did nothing right; we weren’t focused at all,” Chris Bosh said. “One on one defense was really bad. Help was bad. Containments were bad. Everything was bad. Our rotations were late. They got everything they wanted. We can’t do this. It’s the Finals! We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re going to win a championship playing like that…. Any questions about defense, you can ball it up and throw it in the trash. It was all bad.”

Yes, some of this was otherworldly shooting, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green sinking long jumpers as if they were layups, as if the basket had been expanded to the size of Biscayne Bay.

But there was far more to it than that. This was sloppy, deplorable defense, as the Spurs scored on 19 of their first 23 possessions.

Dwyane Wade was beaten off the dribble by Leonard and Tony Parker, among others, and left in the dust in transition. Yes, even LeBron James was beaten off the dribble, by Tim Duncan and Green.

Of the Spurs’ 10 first half three-point attempts (seven makes), Spurs shooters were given too much airspace on at least half of them, with Bosh not even in the same zip code as Boris Diaw on one of them. One issue was the Heat wasn’t quick enough in its rotations, leaving too many uncontested threes.

Heat point guards couldn’t keep Parker from penetrating, or even Patty Mills, for that matter.

Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen and Bosh were flummoxed by crafty moves by Duncan and Diaw under the basket.

This was most telling about the Spurs’ 19 for 21 start: Eleven of those shots were in the restricted area directly under the basket. Thirteen were in the paint, with the Spurs making 12 of them.

Of the other eight shots in that 19 for 21 start, six were threes (one in the corner) and two were jumpers from the top of the key.

“There were a lot of breakdowns early,” Ray Allen said. “Wasn’t any urgency. We yelled at each other, encouraged each other, a range of emotion, trying to find anything to spark us. Kawhi Leonard attacked us. They got the ball inside on us early. We weren’t ready for it.”

### LeBron, afterward: “We hate the performance we put on, but it’s 2 to 1. It’s not 4 to 1. They jumped on us. They were the aggressor tonight. They had us on their heels from the beginning. This was something at this point of the season shouldn’t happen. This is the last team in the NBA you can dig yourself a hole against. I don’t think we had a lack of urgency. They were very aggressive and we didn’t match that. They came in with a desperation that we didn’t match.

“I turned the ball over way too much [seven times]. Some were over-dribbling at times.”

### Wade, afterward: “They jumped on us early, and now you’re fighting to get back. You’re forcing things. A little frustration. That’s the nature of the playoffs. It’s not always good. We’ve got to learn from it, come out and make the adjustments. We dig ourselves a pretty big hole. We’re a resilient team. We’re going to keep fighting."

Want some historical perspective? Consider:

### The Spurs’ 41 points were the most by any team in the first quarter of a Finals game since Game 6 of the 1967 Finals.

### Their field-goal percentage both in the first quarter and first half were NBA Finals records.

### The 71 points allowed were the most the Heat has ever relinquished in the first half of a playoff game, smashing the old record by seven. It was also the most Heat points allowed in any half of any playoff game. Previous record: 68 by Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1992.

If you’re wondering, the most points the Heat has ever allowed in a first half were 80 against Philadelphia in a regular season game in 1992.

### The highest shooting percentage in a half that the Heat ever yielded before Tuesday was 72.1 percent by Seattle in 1990 (regular season) and 68.9 percent by the Spurs in the second half of Game 1.

Other observations from Game 3:

### Clever move by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to start Diaw, who has a diverse offensive game and the versatility to play any position. The Spurs were a team-high plus 20 with Diaw on the floor, and he made several key plays, including a drawn charge from James. “He allows us to have more variety in our offense,” Popovich said afterward.

### If Mario Chalmers cannot snap out of this miserable funk (0 for 5 shooting, three turnovers on Tuesday), Spoelstra needs to consider playing more without a natural point guard, especially because Norris Cole is just 10 for 39 in 10 Finals games against the Spurs, including 3 for 9 on Tuesday.

Spoelstra played without a point guard for five minutes in the second quarter and two in the fourth, but the Heat was outscored during each of those stretches.

The problem with playing without a point guard for long stretches is that it usually requires James to defend Parker, which expends a lot of energy.

Spoelstra said afterward he would stick with the Heat’s point guards.

“We’re going to continue to give Mario confidence,” Wade said. “He’s a big piece of what we do and we’re missing that piece for whatever reason. Defensively, Mario is somebody we depend on to cause havoc, and we need him to do that.”

Please see the last post for more on Chalmers’ future.

### Spoelstra again bypassed Shane Battier for James Jones. Again, it didn’t go well, with Jones picking up three fouls and not even taking a shot in two first half minutes. Battier and Udonis Haslem didn’t play until the final 1:36 of garbage time.

### Though the Heat closed to within seven in the third quarter, Bosh said: “We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re coming back from 25 down.”

### James and Wade each scored  22, with James closing with those seven turnovers and Wade five. Those were 12 of the Heat’s 20 turnovers, leading to 23 Spurs points. Conversely, the Spurs had only 13 turnovers, which the Heat converted into just six points.

### The Spurs’ 25 point-lead tied for the largest deficit ever for a Heat home game during the Big Three era… Leonard’s 29 points were the most he has scored since high school… Highest price ticket sold Tuesday: $25,000 for a courtside seat.

UM NEWS

### Look for UM to announce shortly that baseball coach Jim Morris has been given a three-year contract extension, through 2018. Morris guided the Canes to 11 College World Series appearances in his first 15 seasons but none in the past six.

But the UM administration has high confidence in him and knows there are factors beyond his control. Among them: UM’s high tuition hurts baseball recruiting, where only partial scholarships are usually awarded.

By the way, the extension was agreed to before UM was eliminated by Texas Tech in the regionals. 

### Please see the last post for a look at the Heat’s future at point guard and Dolphins chatter.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz