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1 posts from June 25, 2014

June 25, 2014

4 p.m. Heat/UM update; Media column: Do national pundits hate Heat? Simmons, Wilbon, Barkley weigh in; Bayless dodges

Quick 4 p.m. update:

### Yes, forging on together in Miami holds appeal to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh --- something Wade and Bosh have stated publicly. And yes, the odds of that happening are better than odds of any of them leaving.

That said, there are a lot of moving pieces and a lot that needs to be resolved for the Big Three's future to be solidified in Miami.

Their meeting over salads Wednesday did not result in anything definitive as far as the precise amount of money any or all of them definitely would be willing to sacrifice to give the Heat more cap space, according to a Big Three associate who was briefed on the situation.

With regard to Wade and Bosh, all of that will need to be sorted out during ongoing discussions between the Heat and Henry Thomas, who represents Wade and Bosh and also Udonis Haslem, whose willingness to opt out of the one-year and $4.6 million remaining on his contract, in exchange for a longer deal with a lower annual salary, would also give the Heat added flexibility under the cap.

As of mid-afternoon today, Wade and Bosh had not opted out of their contracts, which has been widely expected to happen before the June 30 deadline. It's a necessary step for the Heat to operate with any cap space this offseason and could happen at any time.

Before that happens, both Wade and Bosh need to have a clear understanding of --- and be comfortable with --- how much money they would be asked to sacrifice and toward what players that money could go.

A Wade associate has said he would have interest in considering a four-year contract in the range of $60 million to replace the two-year, $42 million deal he would be opting out of.

The Carmelo Anthony scenario isn't happening, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, who said the topic of Anthony joining the Heat has not even been discussed. Anthony will visit the Rockets, Mavericks and Bulls next week.

For Bosh and Wade --- or even James, for that matter -- sacrificing a significant amount of money in the short term would have to be done for the Heat to make a competitive offer for the likes of Kyle Lowry (the Heat likes him), Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat or Trevor Ariza.

As for LeBron, barring something unforeseen, associates expect him to listen to the pitches of select suitors next week, perhaps by phone, perhaps in person.

Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, both Los Angeles teams and both New York teams and others are all expected to reach out when free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, according to various reports. 

The Heat remains the front-runner, but James wants issues with the roster addressed.

### As for Wade, he was in a cheerful mood on social media today, sending out a picture, on Instagram, of a new food program, one that he has spoken with Ray Allen about.

Wade's picture of vegetables and healthy foods was tagged with the words "Day 1 of the new challenge" and mentioned James and Allen.

### As we reported a month ago, UM and UF formally agreed to a home-and-home men's basketball series -- early this coming season in Gainesville and during the 2015-16 season in Miami.

### UM quarterback Ryan Williams, off a serious knee injury, told several reporters today (including our Manny Navarro) that he remains hopeful of being ready for UM's opener Labor Day night at Louisville.

But a return that soon from April 9 surgery would be awfully ambitious, and UM is not counting on that by any means (or even counting on him definitely returning later in the month).

Williams is encouraged that former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger returned 13 weeks after an ACL injury, but that was for his Pro Day --- not a game or even a practice. 




It’s presumed that much of America reaped satisfaction in the Heat losing the NBA Finals and probably would be pleased if LeBron James surprisingly leaves this summer.

But is that also the case with several network TV pundits?

Many Heat supporters have long suspected that, and it seems to irritate some of them more than it should, with the public citing Charles Barkley, Skip Bayless and Bill Simmons as the most egregious Heat-haters.

Proof? Heat fans cite a hyperventilating Bayless openly rooting for the Spurs during the Finals, or Simmons wondering if James was distracted against the Pacers because the Cavaliers won the draft lottery, or Barkley claiming the Big Three behaved like clowns during the arena celebration after signing here and asserting all year that James has to carry “so much dead weight.”

But do any of these pundits genuinely dislike the Heat and root for their demise, as many fans believe? We suspect Bayless does, and he curiously declined to answer that question when I asked him through a publicist. But the others insist otherwise, with two saying Heat fans simply have a persecution complex.

“Some fan bases are more naïve than others about what it is people care about,” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said. “On some levels, I find this one particularly naïve and people not understanding we don’t care. If anything, I like coming to South Florida. If people stopped to think about this, and they don’t, they would see how stupid it is. They don’t stop to think because they’re fans.”

Simmons has never concealed his rooting interest for the Celtics, “and through 2012 [when they were a serious playoff contender], I wanted deep down for the Celtics to do better.”

On ESPN.com 14 months ago, he wrote: “I hate five teams and only five: the Lakers, Yankees, Heat, Canadiens and New York Giants. My children will never be allowed to root for those five teams. It’s just non-negotiable.”

But Simmons said during the Finals that “sports hate” should be differentiated from genuine hatred, that the Heat has won him over and that he doesn’t root against Miami now.

“I don’t blame the Heat fans, because when those guys signed here, we saw the amount of hate they got from just being this little innocent franchise in Miami,” Simmons said. “All of a sudden, they’re America’s villains, and people actively rooted for them to lose. So I totally get it.

“I think the media roots for things like, ‘What gets me home faster? What city has Marriott points?’ I don’t think they care who wins.”

Bayless declined to touch this topic, but his anti-James sentiment remains toxic and transparent. He displayed a remarkable ignorance about human anatomy during the Finals, when he equated James’ cramping to “melodramatic mental weakness” and suggested it “was a classic lack of intangibles on LeBron’s part.”

Wilbon said during the playoffs that “the hyperventilation, the excitement” about the Heat losing results not from anything personal against LeBron & Co., but this instead: “The champion lost and the story’s bigger” as a result. “Whether it’s Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Tom Brady, it’s always a better story when the champ is on the ropes.”

Off the air, Barkley has long denied that he roots against the Heat and was highly defensive about that perception in an ESPN Radio pre-Finals conversation with Dan Le Batard.

“What do I say bad about the Heat?” Barkley defiantly asked Le Batard. “I said Dwyane Wade is in decline, and he’s been in decline. That’s called a fact. That’s not a criticism.”

What about his comment about James having to carry so much “dead weight?”

Barkley responded: “He does have to carry all that weight. That’s a complement to LeBron.”

OK, Charles. But what about you saying James should go back to the Cavaliers?

“It would be great if he went back to Cleveland,” Barkley responded, while denying that he’s rooting for that to happen. Hmmmm.

“The Heat has nothing to dislike about them,” Barkley added. “They’ve got a great team, a great organization.”

Wilbon said Barkley, a close friend of his, “likes getting under peoples’ skin” --- one reason Barkley says Heat supporters are “fake” and “phony” and “aren’t real fans.”

The relationship between Barkley and Heat fans deteriorated when several pelted him with insults and projectiles during a TNT postgame show outside AmericanAirlines Arena a couple of years ago.

“He likes needling, and that’s what makes Charles different,” Wilbon said. “The dirty little secret is we don’t care about fans. They think we do. They’re not relevant to our jobs. We’re not paid to support the Heat or Miami. If we feel like criticizing people because they left early after Game 6 last year, that’s what’s going to happen.

“And if they don’t like it, that’s too bad. We’re not going to not observe it because we need them to like us. We get paid to talk and they’re going to watch.”


### The stark difference in how the last two Heat seasons ended extended beyond the results. Game 7 of the 2013 Finals was viewed in 44.2 percent of Dade/Broward homes --- among the highest ratings in this market since the turn of the century. Conversely, Game 5 of 2014 Spurs-Heat was viewed in 27.6 percent, disappointing for a Finals game.

### Through Monday, 9.6 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes were watching each World Cup game, on average --- an impressive number considering many of the games have been on weekday afternoons and don't including viewership at restaurants and sports bars.

Univision’s games are averaging a 6.3 rating in Dade/Broward (best in the country) and the ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 cablecasts are averaging a 3.3 locally (tied for seventh).

### Summer reading: Colts coach and former UM assistant Chuck Pagano details his battle with cancer during the 2012 season in "Sidelined: Overcome Odds through Unity, Passion and Perseverance."

Sports agent Bruce Tollner, who co-authored the book, said proceeds will go to cancer research. It's available at BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.

### Tim Brando, who parted ways with CBS after last season, on Wednesday joined Fox and Fox Sports 1 as a play-by-play announcer for college football and basketball. He had originally planned to join the new SEC Network but that won’t happen now.