SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
This could end up being a summer as simple as resigning Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade, adding a veteran with the $2.9 million room exception, re-signing Tyler Johnson and Udonis Haslem and filling out the roster with veteran minimums. For now, though, there are lots of Heat questions, with under-contract Chris Bosh and nine free agents.
What we’re hearing on each, with July 1 free agency about a month away:
• Whiteside. My understanding, reiterated in recent days, is if all things are equal financially, Whiteside wants to re-sign with Miami. He likes living here and likes the organization.
But we’ve repeatedly heard the Heat’s preference is persuading him to sign under the max (projected to be $21.6 million next season) by selling him on the lack of state income tax, his comfort level here, the roster flexibility created by him taking a bit less; and that Miami can offer 7.5 percent annual raises off the first year salary (compared with 4.5 percent elsewhere). That means a four-year deal starting at $20.7 million with Miami would equal a four-year deal starting at $21.6 million elsewhere.
But if Miami offers, say, $2 million less per year than max offers elsewhere, what would Whiteside do? That decision hasn’t been made and it won’t be an easy one.
But keep in mind that the next-best center option, Al Horford, has a higher max salary than Whiteside, so it would be easy for the Heat to justify going to the max with Whiteside if that’s required to keep him. And as Pat Riley said, Whiteside is the Heat's summer priority.
Money is obviously very important, but Whiteside has also said this spring that “you want to win more than anything. I don’t really want to be the face of a losing franchise.”
• Wade. One Heat person expects a deal ultimately will be reached paying him at least $15 million, perhaps much closer to, or at, $20 million. The Heat’s preference is for one year, to give it 2017 flexibility.
• Joe Johnson. Miami would like to re-sign him, because he’s one of a limited number of options on the roster who – when playing well – can get you a relief basket. Figure on the Heat dangling its $2.9 million room exception.
But an associate said unlike when he signed here, he isn’t sure Johnson would necessarily be inclined to take less money to stay.
• Luol Deng. The Heat would love to try to find a way to keep him, but even if it finds a taker for Josh McRoberts’ salary, it will be very difficult to create double figures in cap space, if Whiteside re-signs here.
And an Eastern Conference official said he expects Deng to get at least $12 million annually in a two-year deal.
“Not only did I enjoy playing here, but it's an amazing city,” Deng said. “I would love to be here. I can't say one bad thing about being here.”
But the odds remain against a Deng return if Whiteside comes back.
• Haslem. He's expected to stay on a deal at the minimum.
“He can still play,” Riley said. “He played in the Charlotte series and gave us great minutes. That's what we want - a player who wants to play but preaches to the players, 'This is the way you have to be and if I'm going to sacrifice... by not playing, I don't want to hear it from you... You better be working.' He's like Dwyane, like [Alonzo Mourning]. He's a forever guy."
• Amar’e Stoudemire. The Heat is open to bringing him back at the minimum, but it doesn’t sound likely. His lack of consistent minutes bothered him.
"It would have to be a defined role [to return],” his agent, Travis King, said last week. “He loves [Miami] and the team but he loves playing. He’s looking somewhere he can play. He wants to contribute 10 to 20 minutes a night.”
• Gerald Green. He was a good teammate (according to a Heat person) and became a better defender, but his shooting percentage declined significantly and an official who spoke to the Heat said the indication he got was that the Heat will move on if it can find a better option. If it can’t, Green back at the minimum isn’t out of the question.
• Dorell Wright. The Heat is expected to move on because he’s very limited in other parts of his game besides shooting.
• Tyler Johnson. The Heat’s only restricted free agent, Johnson said “barring something crazy,” he cannot envision leaving. The Heat is expected to extend a qualifying offer by the June 30 deadline, giving it the right to match any offer, with no other team allowed to offer him a starting salary topping $5.6 million.
Regardless of his salary, his cap hit will be $1.2 million. The Heat prefers him as a shooting guard but knows it might need to use him some at point guard.
• Bosh. The sides remain hopeful he will return next season, barring a setback. So why did Bosh believe he could come back for the playoffs and the Heat resisted?
The Heat was adamantly opposed to allowing him to play while taking blood-thinners because it would be very dangerous for someone on thinners who sustained a cut, or fell hard and started bleeding internally, during a game.
According to a team source, the Bosh camp spent considerable time exploring the idea of Bosh continuing to take those blood thinners, but at a time of day (such as early morning) that the medication would be out of his bloodstream by game time.
Someone with knowledge of the situation said blood tests indicated the medication was out of Bosh’s system after 8 to 12 hours, which would significantly lessen the risk for Bosh playing. But the Heat and team doctors rejected that idea.
None of the doctors involved in Bosh’s case is commenting, but Robert Myerburg --- an expert on treatment of athletes and a cardiologist at U-Health – said even though some of the newer blood thinners can be out of a patient’s system within 12 hours, “I would not use that strategy [that the Bosh camp explored]. There’s too much at risk.
“The drug being out of the system is not what worries me as much as the unprotected time” during games and other times when the blood thinner is out of his system, even more so if he’s subjected to trauma in an area where there was past clotting (in his leg and calf). He said patients with atrial fibrillation can sometimes be taken off thinners when they go on a skiing trip, but this is different.
• Only six active NFL players have a higher career yards-per-catch average than Kenny Stills (16.5), and Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he “definitely” wants to get him involved more after he was targeted just 63 times last season (compared with 165 for Jarvis Landry).
Stills says that excites him and “the numbers don’t lie” about Gase’s offenses.
But the chemistry must improve with Ryan Tannehill. Though a bunch of Stills’ targets were difficult deep routes (and that must be taken into account with this stat), he caught only 42.8 percent of passes thrown to him, compared to 70.4 for Rishard Matthews (now with Tennessee), 66.7 for Landry, 50.9 for DeVante Parker and 50 for Jordan Cameron.
Stills had only two drops last season, so many of the incomplete passes were errant throws by Tannehill. Gase has been impressed with Stills so far this offseason.
• Jordan Phillips has been getting a look at first-team defensive tackle, opposite Ndamukong Suh, and says he has been "losing a lot of body fat,...trying to get in better shape to play longer.” He said he wasn't happy with his rookie season.
"We’re looking for him to make a big step this year," Gase said. "I think for a man his size, he’s pretty quick. He’s powerful. Our biggest thing with him is being able to keep him on the field and get him going and be productive on a consistent basis. Every time – week in and week out – he becomes a guy that whoever’s in there with him, that group is disruptive.”
• The latest example of Canes helping Canes: David Njoku said former UM star tight end Jeremy Shockey, in the past couple of weeks, gave on-field tutoring to UM tight ends Njoku, Chris Herndon and Standish Dobard, “showing us the right way to learn a route. We’re trying to soak in all his knowledge.”
Njoku said learning run-routing from a player as great as Shockey is exciting for the Canes tight ends. Njoku also has cultivated a relationship with former UM tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.
• Who has Don Mattingly most gained an extra appreciation for since taking over as Marlins manager? Adeiny Hechavarria offensively, he said. “He has a really good swing; didn’t realize how good a hitter he is.”
• This really is absurd, how the Marlins are now 0-5 against the Braves, who are 9-34 against everybody else. Atlanta has outscored Miami, 29-16, in those games. Against every other team, the Braves have been outscored by a combined 83 runs so far this season. What's more, the Braves were 2-20 at Turner Field this season before beating the Marlins on Friday and Saturday.