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Tuesday night: UM explores stadium options; Heat; Panthers; Bayless departs; Nuggets from Adam Gase's first practice: Alonso, Maxwell, CB, OG, two new players and more

A six-pack of Tuesday night notes to supplement our Dolphins post from earlier:

• With upgrades to the stadium formerly known as Sun Life running a few weeks behind schedule (according to Steve Ross associates) and tens of millions of dollars over budget, UM athletic director Blake James said this week that UM is putting contingency plans in place in case the stadium is not playable in time for the Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M. UM also plays at home the next Saturday, Sept. 10, against FAU.

The Dolphins said they fully expect the stadium will be ready by their Aug. 25 preseason home opener against Atlanta on NBC but nevertheless have their own top-secret contingency plan. Other than Marlins Park (which is hosting its baseball team on Aug. 25 but not Sept. 3), FAU’s stadium would be the next closest option with 30,000 seats. The Dolphins also could look to a city upstate.

From a UM standpoint, FIU Stadium would be available Sept. 3. So that's one of several options. But FAU's stadium is not available Sept. 3.

It's difficult to see the Dolphins not doing everything humanly possible for the stadium to be ready, but they admit a weather disaster, such as a hurricane, could cause a delay. 

• Seemingly unable to stop Al Jefferson, Hassan Whiteside is allowing the player he’s defending to shoot 57 percent this postseason (10 percent more than what those players shoot against other defenders), among the worst for NBA centers this postseason and far worse than the 45.7 percent against him during the season (which ranked 14th best among centers).

"We need Hassan to have a big impact for us defensively," Erik Spoelstra said today. "He needs to play big minutes and be impactful."

Luol Deng predicted today: "I think [Hassan] is going to be great the next game. He always responds well."

As far as his offense is concerned, Whiteside said today: "They're a pack-the-paint team, trying to make it as tough as possible on me. ... We're going to be a different team. We've got the Heat Nation backing us now. We're back in South Beach.... Coach wants me to be the anchor.... At the end of the series, they've got to win in South Beach."

Deng, incidentally, is holding the player he’s guarding to the lowest percentage among Heat players in this series: 27.6 percent, on 8 for 29 shooting.

• Dwyane Wade was asked by Sun Sports' Jason Jackson today whether the NBA has changed so much that you can't be so physical and keep guys deterred in their forays to the rim. "My real feelings cannot come out or I'll be getting a fine," Wade responded.

• Joe Johnson is taking just nine shot attempts per game this postseason (well below his 15.0 career average). This comes after he launched just 10.5 shots per game in 24 regular season games for the Heat, his fewest in 13 years.

Johnson has wanted to blend in, but admits that both teammates and Spoelstra have encouraged him to shoot more. “Coach whispers in my ear a little bit,” he said, adding that his level of aggressiveness on offense “is dependent on the situation, what’s needed.”

Johnson shot 51.8 percent with the Heat during the regular season, third-highest among all NBA forwards since late February, behind only LeBron James and Michael Beasley. 

• Panthers GM Dale Tallon, at the team's end-of-season media briefing today, said he expects free agent Jaromir Jagr to return. He summed up his feelings thusly after the first-round exit: "It's frustrating. This hurts a lot right now but you can't lose sight of the fact we had a great year. Lot of great things happened to our franchise this year. I'm more frustrated for the players because they played well. It's not like we were outmatched. We had chances to win every game. We all have this pit in our stomach today. I'm very confident we'll be back in this situation.

"You can't lose sight of where we're headed and what we have in our system. That's the positive; we are headed in the right direction, have a lot of great assets."

Jagr, who did not have a goal in the series, said: "I thought we played a lot better than the results showed. Sometimes you have to suffer to move forward in the future. I'm very upset about the playoffs. If that happens again, I'm going to be ready."

• Skip Bayless, one of ESPN's most polarizing personalities for the past 12 years and Stephen A. Smith's sparring partner on the popular debate show First Take, is leaving the network when his contract expires in August. He is expected to become a host at Fox Sports 1, which is poised to pay him reportedly in the range of $5 million to $6 million annually, more than ESPN was willing to offer.

SI's Richard Deitsch listed Max Kellerman and Will Cain among candidates to replace Bayless on First Take.

 

DOLPHINS TALK

Dolphins chatter after their first practice under Adam Gase (Armando and Adam cover the contract-driven absence of Reshad Jones in their pieces):

• The Dolphins got their first on-field look at the two veterans for whom they traded out of the top 10 in the draft: cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso. To get fair value for moving down from 8 to 13 in the draft, they desperately need both to return to the form they showed not with Philadelphia last year, but their previous teams: Seattle, in Maxwell’s case, and Buffalo, in Alonso’s case.

 “I’m definitely a No. 1 cornerback,” Maxwell declared after practice. Why?

“Cause I feel that way,” he said.

Maxwell struggled early last season and Pro Football Focus ranked him 75th among all corners. But metrics show he played pretty well the final two months of the season.

The Dolphins expect him to thrive because they will allow him to play the way he did in Seattle earlier in his career. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is “allowing me to press, to get up in a receiver’s face and be aggressive,” he said.

“That’s one of the things I do best. I look forward to doing that…. He wants us to press and play man coverage and be aggressive with the receivers on the line and get them off their routes…. I love it down here.”

Gase said “as long as [Maxwell] is, and as physical as he is at the line of scrimmage, I’m just glad he’s on our side. He enjoys the defense he’s playing in under Vance [Joseph]. He’s a guy we’re really expecting to excel in our scheme.”

Alonso, who’s lining up at middle linebacker, said he has regained everything he had physically before tearing his ACL in the summer of 2014 and spraining it again early last season.

“Didn’t have a great year [in 2015]; I’ve got to get better,” said Alonso, who was rated 92nd among all linebackers by PFF for last season. “I like to think I can do it all. To be a great linebacker now, in this day and age, you’ve got to do it all – stop the run, play in coverage, play man to man.”

Do the Dolphins believe he can regain his 2013 form, when he was Defensive Rookie of the Year?

“I would say it’s tough for me to predict anything,” Gase said. “I mean, it’s been one day. We’ve had eight meetings. Time will tell. We have a long ways to go and we’ll see how it goes for the rest of the offseason.”

• The cornerback room will assuredly add players in the draft this weekend. For now, 6-3 Tony Lippett said he is lining up with the starters, opposite Maxwell, and said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph – who helped develop several defensive backs with the Bengals – is being hands-on with Miami’s young corners.

“He’s always with us,” Lippett said. “He’s always coaching us up on all the little things. He said he likes big corners. [This system] is more defensive back friendly.”

Lippett was beaten on the most notable play from practice – a Ryan Tannehill bomb to DeVante Parker for a touchdown….

• Joseph also believes he can extract more from Jamar Taylor, who really likes Joseph and said “I’m blessed to be here and still be a part of this organization.”… Multiple players, including defensive end Andre Branch and linebacker Jelani Jenkins, said they like Joseph’s attacking defense.

• The Dolphins aren’t sure what they have in 5-9 corner Iko Ekpre-Olomu, who was an All-American and considered a potential high-round pick out of Oregon in 2014 before a devastating knee injury that dropped him to the seventh round and required two major surgeries. Claimed off waivers from Cleveland last month, Ekpre-Olomu worked only on the side Tuesday, and Gase said: “We’re seeing how far we can bring him around, as far as where his injury was. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on with him. Iko was a high guy on a lot of peoples’ draft boards. Unfortunately, he got injured. We’ll see how that progresses.”

• Incidentally, we’re told the Dolphins showed no interest when Josh Norman’s camp was allowed to seek a trade before his release, then was willing to offer less (in years and money) than Washington when he became a free agent.

• With Jermon Bushrod recovering from shoulder surgery, the Dolphins on Tuesday cycled through incumbent guards Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas, plus veteran addition Kraig Urbik.

• Besides Maxwell, Gase was most effusive about Jay Ajayi.

“When I watched him coming out of college and then now I see him in person, I guess I never realized how shifty he was, and today was a great example,” he said. “Just seeing him stick his foot in the ground and change direction, you didn’t see him do that a lot in college. Just being able to see him move around, it was very impressive for me to see him in person. The way he cut in some of the run game schemes … I mean I’m really excited to see what we can do going forward.”

• Gase was happy to add former Patriots starting defensive tackle Chris Jones off waivers. He’s behind Ndamukong Suh (not present today or a lot recently), Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips. “Our scouts and personnel guys were really excited we had a chance to get him,” Gase said.

• Gase is far more demonstrative than Joe Philbin. Maxwell described him as “in your face.” Gase, who will call the plays, said “I went over and talked a little smack to the defense and let them know how many times we were going to throw over their heads.”

• Alonso has been in touch with suspended former Oregon teammate Dion Jordan but declined to say how he’s doing or whether he has applied for reinstatement.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back tonight for a lot more.

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