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4 a.m.: Heat making calls; Dolphins sign Colledge; Heat/LeBron notes; UM tries unique new strategy; Canes notes

The Heat was active at the start of free agency tonight, expressing strong interest in Kyle Lowry and Luol Deng, as expected, even though other teams are in position to make far bigger offers.

Lowry reportedly could get a deal for more than $12 million per season, with incumbent Toronto and Houston and Dallas among those also in pursuit. The Heat and Lowry will speak further in the morning, Yahoo! reports.

Deng has several suitors with cap space, including Dallas and Atlanta.

Other names linked to Miami in the first hour of free agency included Marvin Williams, Vince Carter, Washington forward Trevor Booker, Caron Butler, Steve Blake and Sacramento restricted free agent guard Isaiah Thomas, among others.

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According to sources, the Dolphins on Monday were very close to a deal with veteran offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, whose addition will provide depth and versatility on a unit trying to compensate for the indefinite loss of Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey.

[8:20 p.m. update: The Dolphins have signed Colledge to a one-year deal.]

Colledge was one of four offensive linemen who auditioned for the Dolphins on Monday. The others: former Dolphins center Samson Satele, former Broncos center Steve Vallos and former Houston tackle Ryan Harris.

Colledge, 32, has played some center and tackle but has been primarily a guard during his eight-year NFL career, and the Dolphins indicated they intend to use him at guard.

With Pouncey expected to miss between two and six regular season games after hip surgery, the Dolphins’ current options at center include backup Sam Brenner, Nate Garner or potentially first-team right guard Shelley Smith.

Smith has taken snaps at center throughout the offseason program but has never played the position in an NFL game and as of Monday, had been given no indication if he will be moved to center during Pouncey's absence.

Colledge could settle in as a backup but there are two scenarios in which he could emerge as a starter to begin the season:

1) If he beats out Dallas Thomas, who has taken most of the first-team snaps at left guard during the offseason program, and rookie Billy Turner; or

2) If Smith moves to center until Pouncey's return, which would open a starting guard spot. Colledge, Thomas or Turner would compete for two starting guard jobs in that scenario.

Brenner took the first-team snaps at center during the one minicamp practice that Pouncey missed. The Dolphins do not intend to sign Satele at this point but had a favorable impression of his workout and it's possible that idea could be re-visited down the road.

The Dolphins liked Harris and could consider adding him for tackle depth in the coming weeks.

Colledge, 32, started 124 of his 128 NFL games over his eight years, including every game the past six seasons.

He played his first five seasons with Green Bay and his past three with Arizona. Last year, Colledge played left guard, and Pro Football Focus rated him 45th of 81 qualifying guards --- 32nd in pass protection and 53rd as a run blocker.

Colledge, who allowed two sacks last season according to PFF, knows Dolphins coach Joe Philbin well from their time together in Green Bay.

Colledge grew up in North Pole, Alaska, and was the Packers’ second-round pick out of Boise State in 2006.

### Harris has started 39 games in six NFL seasons --- his first four with Denver and two for Houston. He made three starts for the Texans last season.

The Dolphins have three tackles they feel good about: Starters Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James and backup Jason Fox. Harris would give them a fourth if they choose to sign him. (Garner can play tackle, of course, but has struggled when used at left tackle.)

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A close associate of LeBron James said he is not of the mindset to take a significant paycut at this time and is looking for a maximum contract or something close to that. Such a deal could pay him $20.7 million next season (according to cap expert Larry Coon) and run five seasons if he re-signs with the Heat, which is considered very likely.

That means for the Heat to have cap space to satisfy the lofty salary wishes of high-end free agents such as Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Marcin Gortat, here's what would have to happen: 

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would need to take very significant pay cuts. (Contracts cannot be backloaded to extremes because of cap rules limiting the maximum amount of annual raises.)

Trading Norris Cole also would help but would not be essential. All that comes with the caveat that none of those top-tier free agents is willing to take substantially less to sign here, which absolutely cannot be ruled out. But Deng's agent already has said his client will not sign here for money in the range of $5.3 million.

According to the L.A. Times, Gasol has meetings planned with OKC, Chicago and Golden State but not Miami.

If the Heat is just short of being in position to sign one of those players, the notion of James taking a cut could be re-visited and it cannot be ruled out. But Pat Riley has said he will not ask James to take a pay cut, that it would have to be his idea. (Same with Wade and Bosh, who are on board with the idea.) 

If the Heat cannot lure any of the top players to take less to sign here, Miami might be better served (as explained in our last post) by using exceptions to augment the roster instead of cap space.

In that scenario, the Heat could add players with a $5.3 million exception, a $2.2 million trade exception and a $2 million bi-annual exception. (But those exceptions cannot be combined and the Heat cannot use those exceptions AND cap space. It would need to be an either/or choice.)

The Heat also could add players to the minimum (such as James Jones) and use Bird Rights to re-sign Ray Allen and Chris Andersen at reasonable amounts.

### Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra declined to take questions concerning free agency on Monday, with Riley leaving the room after introducing first-round pick Shabazz Napier at today's news conference.

"We felt he was the best fit at many different levels," Spoelstra said of Napier. "The thing that jumped out the most was his competitive will --- being on winning teams, knowing what it takes to have big moments, knowing what it takes to sacrifice at a high level. There is a shiftiness, cleverness to the way he attacks the paint.

"This was a fit for our style of basketball. To be able to play on the ball, off the ball. He has the range already. He has to get on a specific program to make sure he has NBA three-point range... and set the tone for our defense."

### Napier said he has had no personal interaction with James since the draft but that Ray Allen congratulated him. "Me and Ray developed a close bond" because both went to Connecticut.

### Napier said he intends to play for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando and Las Vegas.

### Spoelstra, asked about Riley calling for Spolestra to "reinvent himself," said: "We're not going to reinvent our entire operation. There has been some great success with it."

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Canes football chatter:

### The words atop a recent University of Miami football ad --- “Go to Fewer Games!” ---  assuredly elicited double-takes.

But it wasn’t a misprint.

It’s all part of a unique and creative new strategy in which the Hurricanes are placing nearly all of their football marketing efforts behind trying to sell out two games: against North Carolina on Nov. 1 and Florida State on Nov. 15.

“It’s an effort to sell more tickets --- not have people go to fewer games,” athletic director Blake James said. “The goal of this strategy is to get us to two sellouts” --- which would be more than past years ---- “as well as sell as many season tickets as possible.”

Over the years, UM has struggled to sell tickets against non-marquee opponents and determined it didn’t make sense to put a lot of time and money into promoting its other five home games: Florida A&M on Sept. 6, Arkansas State on Sept. 13, Duke on Sept. 27, Cincinnati on Oct. 11 and Pittsburgh on Nov. 29.

UM believes that if it can sell out the FSU game (that has a good chance of happening) and the UNC game (which will be a tougher sell), then fans will be more inclined to buy season tickets in 2015.

The belief is based on the theory that fans have a more enjoyable experience when the stadium is full.

“If you have two fantastic experiences, you get people closer to moving to a bigger commitment for the right reasons,” said Chris Freet, UM’s senior associate athletic director.

So how is the strategy working? It’s too early to tell, but UM is encouraged that it has sold 3600 more season tickets than it had at this point last year, when the Hurricanes sold 29,917 season tickets, a 24 percent spike over 2012.

UM also has sold more than 2000 tickets to its two-game FSU/UNC package, which is priced at $108. All of those seats are in the upper bowl and club seat areas, because lower bowl seats --- at this point --- are reserved for full season-ticket holders.

UM isn’t sure if it will place any single-game FSU tickets on sale and will not make that decision until October. That decision will depend partly on how many tickets it sells to the two-game FSU/UNC package, and how many tickets FSU claims from its maximum allotment of 10,000.

If FSU tickets are sold as individual game tickets, they will be priced at $89. UNC single game tickets will be sold for $29. So fans paying the $108 for the two-game package will essentially be paying $10 below face value for the two games.

The “go to fewer games” slogan was the brainchild of longtime sports executive Jon Spoelstra, father of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Jon Spoelstra, who has been consulting with UM, used that marketing strategy, with successful results, when he worked for the Portland Trail Blazers and with minor-league baseball teams in Dayton, Ohio, and Staten Island, N.Y.

But Freet conceded “one of the scary things” is that no other college football program, to his knowledge, has tried this marketing approach because most leverage season tickets the entire offseason “rather than offering smaller packages that might work best for busy families and fans in their market place.”

What has been the reaction nationally to the “Go to Fewer Games” ad?

Freet said some UM fans and donors initially questioned the strategy but many of them understood when UM explained it.

“People read it and say it makes sense,” Freet said. “It’s a strategic plan for growth. We don’t have the manpower and funding to effectively target seven games. So the thinking was, let’s just crush FSU and UNC and the momentum of that will help.”

Capacity for the FSU and UNC games will be 75,000. For the other five home games, tarps will cover a portion of the upper bowl, limiting capacity to 67,000.

UM expects more than 60,000 will attend the Pittsburgh game because all of the university’s 10,000-plus employees can buy as many as four tickets for $3.

UM will carry this marketing strategy over to the 2015 season, when it will target the Clemson, Nebraska and Virginia Tech games for potential sellouts.

### Single game tickets to the other five home games will go on sale in August. The lowest-priced seats will be $19 for Florida A&M and Arkansas State and $29 for Duke, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

### Parking for UM games will be priced at $15 to $25 in advance or $20 to $30 on game days. UM and Sun Life Stadium negotiate that rate and share the revenue.

### This week’s pledge by two-star outside linebacker/defensive end Claude George gives UM 16 oral commitments heading into a 21-day dead period.

Of those 16, UM has no five-star recruits but four are four-star recruits, according to rivals.com: running backs Jordan Cronkite and Dexter Williams (who is still looking at other schools) and defensive end Scott Patchan (who already has made clear his distaste for players who drop their Canes commitments to commit elsewhere).

### Former UM safety Kacy Rodgers, who signed with Kansas City, said UM fans have been asking him about his offseason tweet -- “It’s crazy what you can accomplish once you leave a negative environment” --- but insisted he wasn’t taking a shot at UM. (His explanation that he was talking about his own frame of mind wasn’t especially convincing.)

Though some perceived his comment to be a shot at defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio (who can be hard on players), he said it was not: “Coach D’Onofrio does a great job.”

### After committing to UM and then de-committing on Twitter and then committing again, Michael Wyche is finally on campus, so UM fans can feel some sense of relief.

Wyche, from East Los Angeles Community College, needs to start, or at the very least be an impact player, on a defensive line that needs all the help it can get at tackle. UM has tried to convince everyone that Earl Moore and some of the other disappointing tackles improved in the spring, but we need to see it in a game.     

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