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6 p.m.: Heat signings; Reax to ESPN benching Le Batard; Hardaway leaves; UM, Dolphins, Heat notes

The Dan Le Batard news of the day, plus much more is below. First, a 6 p.m. Heat update:

The Heat agreed to a one-year deal at the minimum with veteran journeyman forward Reggie Williams, who has played in 180 NBA games, with 32 starts, over five seasons.

But Williams played just three NBA games last season (on a 10-day contract for Oklahoma City) and spent time playing in the NBA's Development League and most recently in the Philippines.

Williams, 6-6, has averaged 8.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in his career, shooting 46 percent from the field and 37.1 percent on three-pointers (191 for 515). He spent his first two seasons with Golden State and his next two with Charlotte before spending most of last season out of the NBA, aside from the brief stint with the Thunder.

He averaged 15.2 points in 24 games as a rookie for Golden State, but his playing time and scoring average have plunged since, and he averaged just 3.7 points over his past 43 NBA games, spanning two seasons.

At Virginia Military, he twice led the NCAA in scoring.

Also, the Heat reportedly has extended a training camp invitation to undrafted Middle Tennessee State rookie forward Shawn Jones, who played at Hialeah High. Jones averaged 14.1 points and 8.7 rebounds last season and was named Conference USA Player of the Year. He impressed scouts playing for the Clippers in the Las Vegas Summer League.

The addition of Williams and Jones gives the Heat 16 players. Miami can invite 20 to training camp.

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4 p.m. update (please scroll lower for a 5 p.m. update with 790 The Ticket's reaction to this):

ESPN has removed Dan Le Batard from the radio for the next two days because it is upset that his radio show purchased several billboards that will be displayed for a month in the Cleveland/Akron area coinciding with James' Friday homecoming celebrating his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Dan will be off the air for two days, returning Monday," ESPN said in a statement. "His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN's standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance."

The billboards show the two NBA championship rings James won with the Heat and read, "You're Welcome, LeBron, Love, Miami." That was a jab at the fact James did not thank Heat fans in his essay in Sports Illustrated or at any time subsequently.

The show initially considered buying full-page ads with the same message, but newspapers in Cleveland and Akron rejected the ads before they officially were submitted.

Mike Ryan, the show's producer, was scheduled to be in Akron on Friday to report from the homecoming and whimsically poke fun at it.

But Friday's show has been canceled, and ESPN will not give Le Batard, co-host Jon Weiner or Ryan an opportunity to playfully mock the homecoming.

Reacting to the suspension, Le Batard texted Herald colleague Greg Cote: "I guess ESPN didn't find it all quite as funny as I did."

Le Batard explained Wednesday that taking out the billboards is "all meant in fun --- which, of course, will turn into Cleveland people getting filled with rage, poison and irrational hostility and want to use those billboards as a guillotine. Sports are so great, the more irrational the better. This is a publicity stunt disguised as a movement... It's just fun anarchy."

ESPN clearly was stung by the fact that James gave Sports Illustrated, and not ESPN, the exclusive news about James leaving the Heat for Cleveland. Though the network would not comment beyond its statement, ESPN seems determined not to have a direct role in anything else that would embarrass or anger James.

Still, what amounts to a suspension is excessive.

Le Batard's TV show, Highly Questionable, and his radio show will both return Monday. Highly Questionable wasn't scheduled to air Thursday or Friday.

Le Batard has said previously that ESPN Radio has never tried to dictate content on his show since it began airing his 790 The Ticket program last October.

[5 p.m. update]: I asked Maureen Lesourd, general manager of 790 The Ticket, if she thought the ESPN suspension was unfair and unwarranted. She said because 790 is an ESPN affiliate, "I don't feel I should comment one way or the other. Am I happy I don't have Dan's show on today? Of course I'm not happy. I love Dan. He's a great contributor to the station."

But later in the day, she said: "The fans were offended, so for The Ticket it was a brilliant local promotion and meant for fun, but I have to respect stunts like this don't work for a national outlet like ESPN."

Did the station give any thought to having Le Batard, Weiner and Ryan do Friday's LeBron-ribbing/Akron show merely for the South Florida audience?

Lesourd said no, for two reasons: Le Batard is an ESPN employee, not a Ticket employee. And though Weiner and Ryan are Ticket employees, "I'm a network partner. So in some cases I have to support the network's request" and ESPN felt strongly that Friday's show not be aired anywhere.

What's more, The Ticket is in the final stages of renewing its deal to retain its ESPN Radio affiliation. The contract is due to expire at the end of September, and Lesourd said "we have a deal to renew."

If The Ticket did anything to anger ESPN, then WQAM would swoop in instantly to try to swoop Le Batard and ESPN Radio away from The Ticket. So though Lesourd might be tempted to question ESPN's decision, she is acting sensible as the station's financial custodian.

Lesourd has decided, however, to carry local programming (Chris Wittyngham and Josh Friedman) instead of ESPN's fill-in Le Batard programming today and from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday.

Le Batard, incidentally, is a contributor to The Miami Herald but not a full-time employee.

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Tim Hardaway, who combined with Alonzo Mourning to help lead the Heat to four consecutive Atlantic Division titles and was at the epicenter of the compelling Heat-Knicks rivalry during that era, said Thursday he is leaving his job as a Heat scout to become an assistant coach on Stan Van Gundy’s staff in Detroit.

“I’m ecstatic,” he told me this afternoon. “It’s something I wanted to do. It’s all about teaching. I’m good at teaching and understanding players.”

And he was comfortable with Van Gundy, who was an assistant coach during Hardaway’s time with the Heat. “Stan and I have great rapport. [Heat president] Pat Riley said it’s a great thing for me and he’s happy for me.”

Hardaway --- who will join Brendan Malone, Bob Beyer, Charles Klask and former Heat forward Malik Allen on Van Gundy’s staff --- said a coaching job on Erik Spoelstra’s staff wasn’t realistic because “there are guys before me here and I didn’t want to take anything from them.”

The Heat acquired Hardaway and Chris Gatling from Golden State, for Kevin Willis and Bimbo Coles, in a midseason trade in 1995-96, and Hardaway and Mourning --- over the next 5 ½ seasons --- led the Heat to its most success as a franchise up to that point, though kidney disease sidelined Mourning for most of Hardaway's final season with the team.

Hardaway, 47, was first-team All-NBA in 1996-97 and fourth in MVP balloting. The Heat won 61 games that season but lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat traded Hardaway to Dallas for a second-round pick in August 2001, and he later finished out his career with Denver and Indiana. But the Heat hired him in recent years and also helped him when he was in financial need, by reportedly purchasing his home in 2010 to help him clear debt.

He served as a scout and community and corporate liaison for the Heat for the past three years, and he was given more scouting duties than ever before this past season.

“It’s going to be hard, going to be sad [to leave the Heat],” he said. “I am always a Heat family guy. There will always be a big place in my heart for the Heat, Micky Arison, Pat Riley. We helped each other in many ways. Great people. I will miss them. It’s bittersweet.”

Hardaway --- whose son Tim Jr. plays for the Knicks --- also used the word “bittersweet” to describe Friday’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, which he will attend in Springfield, Mass.

Mourning and Mitch Richmond, Hardaway’s close friends and former teammates, will be inducted Friday, and Hardaway --- who was a finalist – hoped to be inducted as well. (Richmond and Hardaway played together in Golden State.)

“You have to wait your turn,” Hardaway said. “God has a plan for everybody. You’ve got to be optimistic [about being inducted eventually]. Zo and Mitch are my guys.”

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Some Thursday news and notes:

### The Heat so far has shown little interest in retaining Greg Oden. And Oden’s overall free agent prospects took a hit this morning when he was arrested and charged with battery after allegedly punching a woman that he says he dated for two years before a breakup two months ago. 

Police were summoned to the Lawrence, Ind., home of Oden’s mother at 3:30 a.m. Officers arrived to find the victim crying and lying across a bed holding her face.

“He punched her in the face,” a witness, described as the victim’s best friend, told police.

Police observed blood, swelling to the nose, lacerations to the forehead and nose area of the victim’s face, and also saw blood on the sofa, living room carpet and floor in a sitting area, as well as dirt from a flower pot that was knocked over.

Oden was calm and apologetic with police, telling them: “I was wrong and I know what has to happen.”

### The Heat likely will add another veteran center at the minimum to replace Oden, but it has to be someone who’s content with not playing much. (Barring injury or foul trouble, it’s hard to see many minutes available, with Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen sharing virtually all the time at center; and Josh McRoberts, Udonis Haslem, Birdman and occasionally Danny Granger at power forward.)

Among those still available: Elton Brand, Andray Blatche (Heat has avoided him before because of maturity, behavior issues), Charlie Villanueva, Ryan Hollins, Ekpe Udoh, Byron Mullins, Greg Stiesma and Andrew Bynum (who can’t stay healthy).

### Former Heat great Tim Hardaway, a scout and community and corporate liaison for the Heat, has discussed joining Stan Van Gundy's staff in Detroit, according to Yahoo.

### Why was Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, of all people, staying late Wednesday catching passes from a JUGS machine?

“I reached out to Derrick Brooks and I asked him how to get all the interceptions like he did,” Ellerbe said. “He told me to catch 20 balls after practice every day, so I’ve been catching 30.”

### Ryan Tannehill’s play has been uneven (some good, some bad) in training camp, but here are two encouraging signs:

He’s consistently running for significant gains on read option plays, though he still needs to work on his sliding. And he still shows a knack for making plays outside the pocket, sometimes when he’s flushed and sometimes by design. As Grantland’s Bill Barnwell noted in a piece this week, Tannehill was the NFL’s fifth-best passer outside the pocket his first two seasons.

### UM badly needs Michael Wyche to play a lot at nose tackle, but his integration early in camp is being sidetracked somewhat by conditioning issues. Wyche is still spending a lot of his time on getting in shape. He has lost 10 pounds to get to 340, but UM coaches want him at 335.

"He's got a long way to go there," Al Golden said Wednesday evening. "He knows it, but as long as he makes incremental progress with his weight and just remains positive - that's the biggest thing with a lot of these guys when you have to lose weight and get in condition, just staying positive and knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel if you can get there."

UM, which alternates between a 4-3 and 3-4, has been using Earl Moore, Calvin Heurtelou, Wyche and Courtel Jenkins at nose tackle. Defensive end Ufomba Kamalu also has been getting time at tackle.

Of the defensive line overall, "That's the deepest we've been - no question,” Golden said. “You've got [Anthony] Chickillo, Kamalu, [Jelani] Hamilton and Chad Thomas mixing it in at end. Then you've got Kamalu playing on the other side as well with Olsen Pierre, Anthony Moten and Corey King. Then inside we've got a lot of guys rotating in there at nose.”

Golden unintentionally omitted Trent Harris, the freshman from Winter Park who has been getting some first-team work --- opposite Chickillo --- at defensive end. Harris, who enrolled in January, picked UM over offers from Alabama, FSU and UF, among others.

### Though he might not be needed much as a receiver this year because of UM's depth and experience at the position, it’s encouraging to see freshman Braxton Berrios make a strong comeback from an ACL injury. Berrios has made several plays during the first two days of camp, including taking a screen for 15 yards and running 20 yards on an end-around.

### Denzel Perryman obviously is entrenched as one starting linebacker, but there’s competition at the other spots with Raphael Kirby trying to hold off much-improved Jermaine Grace, and Darrion Owens and Thurston Armbrister also competing.

The Kirby/Grace WILL linebacker battle is especially intriguing. Grace proved in the spring he can be more than just a third-down contributor. Grace notes he has the “speed” to be “able to cover fast guys” out of the backfield. But he also showed in the spring that he is improved against the run.

UM coaches like Kirby’s skill set, but his inconsistency has frustrated them in the past.

### Freshman QB Brad Kaaya, who’s very smart, has developed a good on-field chemistry with Clive Walford…. Safety Jamal Carter, paired with Dallas Crawford or Deon Bush, has made a couple of pass breakups early in camp and continues to emerge…

Cornerback Antonio Crawford, with an interception already in camp, is giving Tracy Howard and Artie Burns all they can handle in the battle for the starting job opposite senior Ladarius Gunter, who also must fight to retain his starting spot…. Freshman safeties Marques Gayot and Kiy Hester have impressed Golden. 

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