06/25/2014

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. 

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WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN

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.”

AROUND THE DIAL

### 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.   

06/24/2014

Noon update: Former All-Pro calls Fins; Heat trade?; UM good news; LeBron fallout; Realistic FA possibilities; Other LeBron suitors

A quick noon update on four topics:

### Andre Gurode, a five-time Pro Bowl center (2006-2010) and two time All-Pro, reached out to the Dolphins through his agent this week, hoping Miami will sign him to fill in for Mike Pouncey, who is expected to miss two to six regular-season games after hip surgery Tuesday.

The Dolphins returned the call late yesterday but said they are going to hold off bringing him in but didn't close the door.

Gurode, 35, isn't the player he once was. Since leaving the Cowboys, where he played several years at a very high level, Gurode has a total of nine starts for Baltimore, Chicago and Oakland the past three years.

But the Dolphins have been making brief preliminary inquiries about the health/status of some available centers, though it remains to be seen if Miami will bring in any for visits.

Among the veteran free agents available: Dan Koppen, former Dolphin Samson Satele, Fernando Velasco, Brad Meester, Ryan Cook and David Baas. 

### Carol City speedster Trayone Gray told canesport.com that he received an ACT score that will qualify him for UM, though the Hurricanes are not yet in a position to confirm this.

UM wants Gray to begin his Hurricanes career as a receiver, but the staff says he also could play running back. "Trayone Gray is a stud," UM receivers coach Brennan Carroll said.

### ESPN's Chad Ford reports today that the Heat is trying to move up from 26th in the draft to select Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier, partly because LeBron James likes him. Napier, 6-1, averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists for UConn last season, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent on threes.

Napier won NCAA titles in 2011 and 2014 and was named the Final Four's "most outstanding player" after this year's NCAA Tournament.

When I asked Heat executive Chet Kammerer on Monday whether he though Napier would be available at No. 26, he said he did not know but did not want to talk about any players on Miami's radar. His stock has risen in recent weeks and some mock drafts have him going in the mid-to-late teens.

"No way you take another point guard in the lottery before Napier," LeBron tweeted during the NCAA Tournament.

### New Cleveland coach David Blatt told Israel's Sports5 that he doesn't expect LeBron to leave the Heat.

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WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Mostly Heat chatter today:

### Though his return is not certain by any means, the Heat remains the favorite to retain free agent LeBron James, but he wants issues with the roster addressed, according to an associate with knowledge of the situation.

When James speaks with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this week, he will gauge their willingness to opt out of existing contracts and agree to deals that give the Heat more spending money. Both of them appear receptive to opting out and taking pay cuts in exchange for longer deals, provided the cuts aren’t too steep.

The good news for the Heat: None of James’ other most attractive suitors have the cap space to give him a max contract, and creating that space will either be difficult or cost them assets that would make their rosters potentially no more appealing than Miami’s. (More on that in a minute.)

### Even though Bosh said he would be receptive to taking a pay cut and a Wade associate said Wade is open to the idea, it might not create enough space to add one of this summer’s priciest free agents if James doesn’t do the same.

A Wade associate said Wade would be receptive to considering a four-year, $60 million deal to replace the $42 million he’s owed over the next two seasons.

But let’s say Wade and Bosh each take cuts to $15 million next season.

And let’s say Udonis Haslem can be convinced to opt out of the $4.6 million he’s owed next season for a three-year deal starting at $2 million or $2.5 million. (Haslem has told me he's open to the idea of exchanging money for years if it would help add pieces to the roster.)

And let’s say the Heat dumps its other cap commitments except Norris Cole --- meaning Miami trades its first-round pick and cuts Justin Hamilton. (Cole is due $2.15 million, by the way.)

Under that scenario, with Wade and Bosh each earning $15 million and James making $20 million (which would be his max for next season), the Heat would have only $5.5 million to $6 million of space under the projected $63.6 million cap, factoring in required cap holds topping $500,000 each for roster spots unfilled up to 12.

The Heat also would have a $2.7 million “room” exception in this scenario and also could sign players to the minimum, topping out at $1.4 million.

But the $6 million or so in cap space in this scenario could not be combined with the room exception.

And what could $6 million buy in free agency?

It wouldn’t be enough to lure Carmelo Anthony.

Luol Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, said even though Deng believes the Heat is “fantastic,” there’s “not a chance” Deng --- who made $14.3 million last season --- would agree to that amount of money.

Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry likes the Heat but is looking for $10 million a year or more.

Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol, who earned $19 million last season, would like to play for a winner, but the Heat will have competition from some of the 15-plus teams with significant cap space, including Dallas, which has $30 million, a lot of which will be used on Dirk Nowitzki.

Washington Wizards free agents Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, who each earned $7.7 million last season, are both expecting raises, as is Cleveland center Spencer Hawes ($6.5 million). So is Phoenix forward Channing Frye, who opted out of a guaranteed $6.8 million next season.

But if James also took a cut of several million dollars, Miami could make a competitive offer for any of those except possibly Anthony, whom the Heat will call nonetheless. Though the idea of another James pay cut isn’t appealing to some of his associates, it’s possible he might do it for a few select players.

### If James doesn’t take a cut, but Wade and Bosh takes cuts of about $5 million apiece, the $6 million or so that would be created in space would make the Heat a contender for players such as point guards Darren Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Patty Mills or Steve Blake (each could warrant a share of that money if Miami splits it up), Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce (an associate said he wants to play for a winner and included Miami, the Clippers and the Nets among several possibilities), Charlotte power forward Josh McRoberts, Lakers power forward Jordan Hill (Miami has pursued him before) and Clippers forward Danny Granger.

The Heat then could use its $2.7 million room exception and minimum contracts on the likes of Ray Allen (ESPN says he's leaning toward playing), Chris Andersen (still has interest in possibly returning despite opting out), Marvin Williams, Jordan Hamilton, Chris Kaman, Andray Blatche, Kris Humphries, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler or Emeka Okafor.

The Heat also has a $2.2 million trade exception from the Joel Anthony deal.

If four or five quality rotation players can be added through these means, the roster would be much better even without signing one of the most expensive free agents. And the Heat would not be paying a luxury tax in this scenario.

### The Heat could create more space by asking Bosh and Wade to go down to $12 million next season and making it up on the back end of their deals, so that each gets $60 million over four years. In this scenario, even without James taking a pay cut, the Heat could have enough space (around $11 million) to land Lowry.

But the Heat would then be clogging its cap with a 36-year-old Wade making $18 million in 2017-18, with no assurances that James would still be around at that point. And you would be asking two-thirds of the Big Three not only to accept a huge cut from $20 million to $12 million next season but also take far, far less than LeBron would be making.

### James planned to opt out even if the Heat had won the Finals and likely will at least listen to suitors that interest him, according to the associate. 

But none of those attractive suitors have the cap space Miami did four years ago.

James likes Clippers coach Doc Rivers and is close with Chris Paul, but creating enough space to sign him would require the Clippers to find teams able to take DeAndre Jordan ($11.4 million), Jamal Crawford ($5.4 million), Jared Dudley ($4.2 million), Matt Barnes ($3.3 million) and Reggie Bullock ($1.2 million) without sending contracts back AND persuading James to agree to a salary as much as $8 million under the $20 million max next season. (Thanks to NBA salary cap guru Larry Coon for confirming my calculations on this.)

The idea of the Clippers being able to rid themselves of that much salary (especially Dudley, Barnes and Bullock) without taking any back appears unrealistic.

The Clippers' other alternative, if James wants to sign there, is to propose to the Heat a sign-and-trade with Blake Griffin. But Yahoo! reported the Heat has told people it’s adamant against sign-and-trades for James.

And for James, he would need to ask himself this: Would playing for a Griffin-less Clippers in a tougher conference offer any better chance of winning than Miami does? He would be opting for Paul and Jordan instead of Wade and Bosh and whatever supporting casts each team can assemble.

Houston will make a run at James, but to offer James even $19 million, the Rockets would need to find a taker for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin --- who are each due $14.9 million balloon payments and have $8.4 million cap numbers --- and make other minor moves.

Chicago would need to amnesty Carlos Boozer and likely trade Taj Gibson to make James a representative offer.

Though the idea of returning to Cleveland down the road holds some appeal to him, James would want the Cavaliers to add another significant piece for him to even consider that this summer, the associate said. And doing that would require parting with Anderson Varejao and perhaps other pieces.

ESPN reported several teams, including Cleveland and Atlanta and the Lakers, are exploring ways to create enough cap space to add both Anthony and James at reduced salaries. The odds are against that, though the Heat hasn’t given up hope of Anthony joining the Big Three at reduced salaries.

James can explore that Anthony scenario immediately if he chooses, but the Heat cannot call Anthony until 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

### James can sign for as much as five years, $115 million with the Heat but no more than four year, $85.5 million with other teams.

### The Heat, awaiting word from Allen, hasn’t told several of its non-Big Three free agents --- including Rashard Lewis, Michael Beasley and James Jones --- whether it wants to keep them. Jones seems likely to be invited back, especially if James returns.

UM LANDS FOUR ORAL COMMITMENTS

We usually don't pay much attention to oral commitments for 17 months down the road, because kids can change their minds a hundred times before National Signing Day.

But UM snagged two significant 2016 oral commitments this week: Palmetto High's Jack Allison, considered one of the best quarterbacks in the 2016 class, and Oakleaf (Fla.) linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, who projects as a top-100 player in that year's class. 

Allison --- who threw for 1600 yards, 16 TDs and 6 picks last season --- had numerous other offers, including Alabama and Missouri. Richardson had offers from UF, Georgia and Michigan, among others.

Meanwhile, UM added two oral commitments for the 2015 class on Tuesday: 6-foot-6 Pompano Beach Ely receiver Therrell Gosier, a three-star prospect who appeared in just two games before the playoffs last season because of a concussion; and no-star Ocala Trinity offensive tackle Geron Christian, whose only other listed offers (according to rivals.com) were from Arkansas, FAU, East Carolina and Middle Tennessee State.

Gosier also is a standout basketball player at Ely.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

06/23/2014

3 p.m.: UM names Jim Morris' successor; LeBron opts for free agency; Dolphins injuries; Heat addresses NBA Draft issues; UM

### 3 p.m. update: UM announced what we reported previously, that Jim Morris has received a 3-year contract extension through 2018. And UM added this new piece of news: Gino DiMare, a longtime UM assistant and former UM player, will succeed Morris as coach at that point, beginning in the 2019 season.

UM made the College World Series in 11 of Morris' first 15 years as coach but hasn't made it the past six.

### 9 a.m. update: LeBron James' agent has informed the Heat that James will exercise his early termination clause and become a free agent next week. The move isn't surprising, because James likes to have flexibility.

The Heat has long been considered the favorite to retain him, but several teams --- including Houston, Cleveland and Chicago --- will court him. The Clippers also want him but would need to part with several pieces, including DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford, to be able to make him a max offer.

James would have earned $20.6 million next season and $22.1 million the next if he hadn't exercised his opt-out.       

Under terms of the labor agreement, James would be eligible to re-sign with the Heat for as many as five years and $115.1 million.

If James moves to another team, he would be eligible to sign a four-year contract for as much as $85 million.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also must inform the Heat by next Monday whether they will opt out of their contracts. Both appear open to it for the purpose of signing long-term deals and giving the Heat more flexibility to upgrade the roster.

### Dolphins center Mike Pouncey had hip surgery today and it's projected he will miss at least three months, according to two sources close to the situation. The story was first reported by ESPN.

Meanwhile, running back Knowshon Moreno needs arthroscopic knee surgery and is out four to five weeks. He could be back by the Dolphins' preseason opener Aug. 8, though the Dolphins could proceed cautiously and keep him out of initial exhibition games.

Under the most optimistic of timetables given to Pouncey, he could return potentially for the Dolphins' third or fourth game in late September, but that's far from certain and he might not return until October. The recover time from this injury --- a torn labrum in the hip --- sometimes can take closer to four months.

The Dolphins open Sept. 7 against New England, then play at Buffalo Sept. 14, against Kansas City Sept. 21 and vs. Oakland Sept. 28 in London. The Dolphins have a bye week after the Raiders game.

If the Dolphins believe he isn't ready to help before the bye, they could place him on the physically unable to perform list, which would sideline him for six weeks.

Pouncey was in good spirits after today's two-hour procedure and is already talking about how soon he can get back, according to a close associate.

Pouncey suffered the injury during the team's offseason program, but neither the Dolphins nor Pouncey initially believed it was too serious. He took a lot of snaps during the final two days of the team's three minicamp practices last week after sitting out the first day.

Sam Brenner took most of the first-team snaps at center during the mini-camp practice that Pouncey missed last week. Brenner started four games at guard last season and graded out poorly, according to Pro Football Focus.

Nate Garner also can play center, having filled in for Pouncey for two games that Pouncey missed last season.

Right guard Shelley Smith also has taken practice snaps at center.

Undrafted Utah State rookie Tyler Larsen is a natural center who's trying to make the team.

Veteran free agent centers still available include Samson Satele, David Baas, Mike Gibson, Andre Gurode, Dan Koppen, Brad Meester, Fernando Velasco and Kyle Cook.

### While declining to speak about any player being considered by the Heat, team vice president/player personnel Chet Kammerer addressed several NBA Draft issues today, with the Heat holding the 26th and 55th picks on Thursday:

 ### Though Miami is permitted to trade the pick after the selection --- but not before --- Kammerer said dealing the selection is not the thinking at the moment (though that always could change). “At this point, we would like to add someone on our roster,” he said.

The first-round pick comes with a 2014-15 cap hit close to $1 million. The Heat isn't allowed to trade its first-round pick before the draft because of a rule prohibiting teams from trading their first-round picks in consecutive years.

### Kammerer said: “We have 20 guys that we really like. Hopefully one of those 20 will be there. That doesn’t mean we might still not get a good player [otherwise]."

### At what position is a really good player likely to drop to 26? “Wing player has more depth than anything else," Kammerer said. "Power forwards and centers are pretty limited. Even ones, twos and threes --- there are depth at those positions."

### Kammerer said: “We’ll go with the best player on the board, who we think has the highest percentage [chance] of being an NBA player.”

### Does the Heat prefer a player who's undeveloped with great longterm potential or a player who's ready to contribute now in this win-now era of Heat basketball?

"We’re more about having a player contribute immediately," he said. "We eliminate people who we really think could be [really good] but might have to wait two or three years. We need a couple breaks [to get that type of player at 26]. That’s possible.”        

### Kammerer said there's "a misconception that we don’t look at European players. We have looked at a lot of international players. I’m not saying we are going to select one this year."

### The Heat has worked out 40 players. Of those, several are from Florida colleges, including UM guard Rion Brown, who is an NBA long shot at best.

### “I feel a little pressure this year because we do have a pick at No. 26. We feel like we’re thorough and professional and well prepared. We have covered this as thoroughly as we can. We might not make the right pick but it won’t be because we’re not prepared. We have done our homework. Hopefully, we’ll get a break or two.”

### Kammerer mentioned Tim Hardaway and Keith Askins as the two former Heat players who helped in the scouting and evaluation of draft prospects this year. He also said Tim Hardaway Jr., selected by the Knicks at No. 24, ended up being the second-best player taken in last year's draft.

### On 2013 second-round pick James Ennis, who will play for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando and Las Vegas:

“We’re very optimistic about James. He exceeded what we expected. He should have been MVP in the league [in Australia]. His numbers were very good. He [also] played in Puerto Rico, did a nice job there. We will be seeing him in a few days. We are very happy with what transpired.

“James did a good job across the board. We wanted him to expand his range. He shot the ball well from three. He was fourth rebounder in the league [in Australia]. Averaged over seven rebounds a game for a wing, which was very good. We want to see him create a little more off the dribble. A lot we’ll see this summer and in the fall.”

### Among players linked to the Heat at No. 26 in mock drafts done by national outlets: Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier (could end up going higher; Kammerer declined to say if he thinks he will be there at 26); Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie; and Michigan center Mitch McGary (coming off a back injury).

QUICK FOOTBALL NOTES

### UM lost an ascending oral commitment this past weekend when New Jersey-based three-star offensive tackle Kevin Feder flipped to Ohio State.

This marks the second time in two years that Urban Meyer has tried to snag a UM offensive line oral commitment.

Last year, his efforts failed with new UM offensive lineman KC McDermott, much to Meyer’s shock.

The expression on Meyer’s face was “like the state of shock where the guy has literally never been told no in his life,” McDermott said. “It literally looked like a kid the first time you tell him 'no, you can't do something.' It looked like he was a baby about to cry. It was so funny.”

### Offensive lineman Billy Turner, the Dolphins’ third-round pick from North Dakota State, is one of only five players in the entire NFL draft that remains unsigned. (The others remaining were drafted in the first or second round.) But the unresolved issues with Turner are not insurmountable and this figures to get done in mid-July.

### There are still a handful of veteran free agents who might be able to help --- guard Daryn Colledge, linebacker Pat Angerer, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, tight ends Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller, among others.  But the Dolphins so far have passed on all of them, despite initial inquiries about Colledge and Finley, who has been cleared medically by his own personal physician after a neck injury.

### Please see the last post for a lot more Dolphins. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

           

06/22/2014

Concerns still linger for Dolphins as summer begins; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins chatter

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Dolphins chatter, following Thursday's conclusion of the offseason program, and a month before training camp opens July 25:

### We’re trying to be optimistic. Really.

But it’s difficult to gloss over serious concerns about this roster and this team’s deficiencies --- from run defense (24th in the league in 2013) to chemistry between the quarterback and star receiver (Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace connected on 6 of 36 throws of 20-plus yards last season) to the offensive line (toasted for eight sacks in Thursday’s scrimmage, albeit without pads).

The defense has replaced perhaps its most stout run stopper (Paul Soliai) with Earl Mitchell, who ranked 57th of 69 tackles against the run last season, according to play-by-play analysis by ProFootballFocus.com. (Soliai was 16th.)

The only other major front seven personnel change: Koa Misi moving to middle linebacker, flip-flopping with Dannell Ellerbe.

“We’ve got to find a way to get Koa on the field more,” Cameron Wake said. “He runs around like his hair’s on fire. He’s strong at the point of attack and fearless.”

But is that enough to substantially improve a unit that allowed 1998 rushing yards (their most in six years), including 140 by a then-winless Tampa team? We’re skeptical.

As for the offensive line, left tackle Branden Albert assuredly will be an upgrade, but his two sacks allowed to Olivier Vernon Thursday were reminiscent of the swinging door we saw at the position last season.

Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who also allowed a sack Thursday, hasn’t embarrassed himself in the offseason program but remains something of an unknown.

A former NFL general manager said he spoke to several current GMs and all believed the Dolphins reached for James at No. 19 and that he wasn’t worthy of being selected that high. We’ll see.

“We had James as a late-first rounder,” one NFC scout said. “He has first-round talent but you want more of a finisher, more production for a player with his size and skill level. He’s a quiet country kid. I’m not sure he wants to lead a unit.”

Shelley Smith? He’s an ascending player, but remember, he started just eight games in three seasons for the Rams.

And though Dallas Thomas’ improvement and weight loss are commendable, he couldn’t crack the lineup despite Miami’s dismal offensive line play in 2013. And he’s now being projected as a potential starter. 

The chemistry between Tannehill and Wallace also remains a question, with Wallace catching only one of four passes thrown to him by Tannehill on Thursday.

Last season, Wallace caught 53.3 percent of passes thrown to him --- 23rd-worst of 111 NFL receivers. Many were Tannehill’s fault, but Wallace’s 11 drops tied for fifth in the league.

Wallace said they have connected on “three or four” of six deep balls in offseason practices, but why have they attempted so few?

### Positives? Several. Among them: Jamar Taylor looks much improved. This group of defensive ends should be among the best in the AFC, from a pass rushing standpoint.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s pre-snap motion and willingness to allow Wallace to vary where he lines up will confuse teams, or as Tannehill said, “We’re going to put people in positions they don’t want to be on defense, get the ball to our playmakers all over the field.”

And the Dolphins have probably eight or so NFL-caliber players at receiver, including second-round pick Jarvis Landry, who Tannehill says has the strongest hands he has ever seen.

“Landry is awesome,” quarterback Matt Moore said. “He came in with a veteran mindset. His catching skills are off the charts. He’s going to help us a lot.” One NFC scout predicted “Landry’s going to be a great No. 2 receiver” eventually. 

### Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, trying to rebound from two disappointing seasons, looked good this offseason before sitting out last week to rest his knees.

One NFC front office executive said Finnegan has a good chance to rejuvenate his career here partly because he wasn't properly used by former Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton, the ex-UM coordinator who was fired by the Rams after last season.

When I asked Finnegan about that last week, he said Walton’s defensive system was “atrocious. From the game plan to technique to fundamentals, they weren’t in line with a defensive coordinator who knew what he was doing. He was a great defensive backs coach, but when you're in over your head, it's kind of tough... Here coaches know to play guys to their strengths. I wish I had been here a long time ago. [Coordinator Kevin] Coyle is so good at dissecting offenses.”  

After two disappointing seasons, does Finnegan, at 30, still have the same skill set he showed as a Pro Bowler for Tennessee six years ago? “It’s still there,” he said. “But until I prove it, we’ll never know.”

### Lazor is being very demanding with his quarterbacks, but his tight ends are getting no slack, either.

"We have the second hardest job next to the quarterback," Dion Sims, who's holding down the No. 2 tight end job, said last week. "It's our job to know every position [H-back, etc]. It's tough on us."

Michael Egnew was scolded by Lazor after forgetting one play, but Egnew has been a generally reliable pass catching target in the 10-to-20 yard range throughout the offseason program.

### We're still concerned about the linebackers in pass coverage. Philip Wheeler has been poor in that area the past two years (2012 in Oakland, 2013 here) but made some decent plays in coverage during OTAs and mini-camp practices open to the media.

Ellerbe, in pass coverage, was beaten several times by running backs and tight ends in the off-season program during the open media sessions. Perhaps Jelani Jenkins, who has impressed the coaches, will fill this void. 

### With their stadium deal approved, the Dolphins won’t ever again need to worry about Norman Braman, with whom they met previously to try to persuade him to stop speaking out against Stephen Ross’ 2013 bid for public funding. And no, Braman doesn’t approve of this agreement, either; Ross will finance renovations but will be paid by the county for luring big events.

“Why are we spending so much time coming up with ideas to help a guy worth $6 billion?” Braman asked. “I’d like as much ingenious thought given to improving the quality of life in our community, coming up with ways to keep libraries open. It’s still welfare for billionaires.”

CHATTER

### Former NBA All-Star Gary Payton said he will work with Norris Cole this summer because “I like him a lot. I like his game. He needs to develop a floater in the middle.”

Cole said last week: “I believe I’m starter-caliber.” But certainly not yet.

### Besides its one salary cap exception (either $2.7 million or $3.1 million or $5.5 million depending on multiple variables), Pat Riley noted the Heat has another vehicle to improve: a $2.2 million trade exception from the Joel Anthony deal.

That cannot be combined with the less helpful $900,000 trade exception that Miami possesses from the Toney Douglas deal.

### Among the 307 players who have shot at least 1000 three-pointers, Dwyane Wade has the second-worst career percentage (28.9), ahead of only Charles Barkley. Indiana coach Tom Crean, Wade’s friend and coach at Marquette, said it’s important for Wade to improve his three-point game as he gets older.

“The mechanism of how you shoot the ball has to change,” Riley said. “Will he be a high percentage James Jones, Mike Miller type of three-point shooter? He will make one when it counts. He is not going to be spotted up standing in the corner. He’s going to be slashing to the basket, posting guys up, getting out on the break. That’s been his game for 11 years.”

### Magic Johnson, tweeting on Riley's passionate sermon/speech/news conference Thursday: "He had me so fired up and motivated, I wish I could play for him again!"

### So Rafael Furcal (earning $3 million) is hurt again --- no surprise there.

But the good news is that  defensively erratic Derek Dietrich had been hitting well at Triple A New Orleans --- .368 over his last 10 games, and six homers in his first 13 games there since being demoted. He had one error over that period, and defense remains a concern.

Furcal, who now has a calf and hamstring injury, was hitting .171 in 11 games.

### Jarrod Saltalamacchia returned from a concussion Thursday with pressure to validate the Marlins' three-year, $21 million investment.

He has handled the pitching staff well but he returned to the lineup ranked second-worst among starting catchers in errors (eight) and percentage of base-stealers thrown out (16.7 --- 7 of 42). And his .245 (.177 since May 1, before his return a couple days ago) ranks in the bottom third.

"I should be at or better than what I hit in Boston last year [.273]," he said last week.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

06/20/2014

5 p.m. update: LeBron report shot down; Knee bothering Moreno and ten notes, postscripts, thoughts from Dolphins minicamp

Quick 5 p.m. update:

### Heat people and a source close to LeBron James vehemently denied a report from David Pingalore, an Orlando TV reporter, that James met for lunch with owner Micky Arison and "stormed off when asked about a pay cut."

The Heat and the associate of LeBron said none of that happened.

Pingalore went on Andy Slater's WINZ-940 show today to defend his story, insisting that James had a "few choice words" for Arison, a visual that seems ludicrous.

Again, the Heat and the LeBron associate said none of that happened.

### James, incidentally, was photographed in the Bahamas, where LeBron and his family are vacationing with Ray Allen and James Jones and their families.

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report today reported that Houston will vigorously pursue James in free agency. So, presumably, will the Clippers, who would need to dump DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford and a few other pieces to clear out enough cap space to make him a max offer.

The Heat has long been considered the front-runner to retain James, who has remained publicly non-committal about his intentions.

James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have June 30 deadlines to exercise opt-out clauses.

"I can't think of a reason why LeBron would not just stay the course in Miami and put his trust in Micky Arison and Pat Riley," Jeff Van Gundy told Dan Le Batard's ESPN Radio show.

###############################################################################################

Ten tidbits following the conclusion of the Dolphins’ offseason program (and we’ll have a lot, lot more in the next week):

### Knees were an issue for two of the Dolphins’ top free agent pickups this week.

As Pro Football Talk and NFL Network reported today, Knowshon Moreno sat out practice with a knee injury this week and might need arthroscopic surgery, based on what a doctor tells him next week. If he needs the surgery, he likely would be available for preseason games, barring a setback.

Cornerback Cortland Finnegan sat out team drills last week because of a knee issue. But the fact he participated in less grueling work during practice bodes well. Still, it’s an issue worth monitoring, considering the Dolphins’ lack of veteran depth at the position.

Oddly enough, the one free agent who came to the Dolphins with a history of knee issues (Louis Delmas) hasn’t had any problems through the offseason program. Delmas didn’t practice for the Lions last season because of his knees but played in every game after missing eight in 2012 and five in 2011.

### Considering Rishard Matthews had been in Joe Philbin’s doghouse, I found it interesting that when Philbin was asked what stood out to him in the offseason program, the first name he mentioned was Matthews. "Rishard had a really good camp," Philbin said.

Philbin then mentioned four other names: Dallas Thomas, Jelani Jenkins, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.

Matthews said he and Philbin ironed out their issues during an offseason discussion. Matthews admitted being late to a couple of meetings, among other things.

### Philbin said something about Reshad Jones that I could not recall him saying about any player in his time here. “It’s very noticeable that he’s practicing harder” than a year ago, Philbin said, also noting that Jones is “pursuing the football more consistently.”

The Jones/Louis Delmas tandem has playmaking potential, but Jones must regain his 2012 form.

What “we liked about him and the reason we brought him here (is) we liked his play speed,” Philbin said of Delmas. “He played the game physical and aggressively and confidently. He’s had great energy. He seems to really have fit in well here, seems to enjoy his teammates and coaching staff so far. It’s been a good mesh so far.”

### A trio of undrafted defensive tackles --- LSU’s Anthony Johnson, Georgia’s Garrison Smith and Temple’s Kamal Johnson ---- all made notable plays in the three-day mini-camp this week, and it wouldn’t be surprising if one of them makes the active roster and one makes the practice squad.

### Journeyman cornerback Jalil Brown, whose 37 NFL games include two starts for Kansas City in 2012, was impressive in the offseason program and is making a strong push for a roster spot. Brown clearly has been one of the team’s top five corners; rookie Walt Aikens has been beaten several times.

### Defensive end Olivier Vernon said Bill Lazor’s offense is doing “a lot of things I’ve never seen before. They confuse the heck out of me sometimes, but they’re moving fast. Ryan Tannehill’s taking control. He’s shown his leadership ability and a lot of the guys are very impressive, especially Jarvis Landry, Brandon Gibson, coming off his injury. You couldn’t even tell he got hurt.”

By the way, Cam Wake says there’s an upshot for Miami’s defense in having to defend an offense with a lot of pre-snap motion.

“We’re realizing that it’s helping us,” Wake said. “There are teams that are going to do the same things to us. You [now] have a little bit of awareness that, hey, ‘Maybe this guy is going to move or maybe they want to shift and what’s going to happen after that?’ So it keeps you on your toes. It makes you a little more prepared.”

### Dion Jordan said he wants to develop a pass rush move that Jason Taylor had (“a long arm stick right in the chest of the offensive tackle”) but “I haven’t been able to do that much because we’re not in pads.”

He said Taylor’s biggest value to him during the offseason program has been “teaching me a lot about fundamentals.”

### Jordan isn’t the only defensive end who has put on weight. Philbin said Derrick Shelby added five or six pounds, and Wake said he has done the same. Perhaps that makes all of them a bit more stout against the run. We'll see.

### You can’t question Mike Wallace’s work ethic. He was on the field far longer than any player on Wednesday, catching balls from a machine.

“You’ve seen him after practice; nobody is holding a bat to his head,” Philbin said. “This guy is out there working and doing the little things that can make the difference when the season comes around.”

As for Wallace’s mental state, “I’m happy,” he said. “I don’t have any complaints. I think this offense fits me really well. We shake it up all of the time, not do the same things as wide receivers usually do. Being able to come from the backfield, getting all of the way to the inside in the slot, moving around, motion a lot. Just throwing the defense off. It’s always going to be fun when it’s easier to get open.”

### Some have wondered why Miami hasn’t re-signed Dustin Keller, off a serious knee surgery, but keep in mind that the Patriots passed on him after bringing him in for a visit last month.

And while the Dolphins’ backup tight ends aren’t nearly as accomplished as Keller as a receiver (heck, they aren’t even in the same area code), all made plays in the passing game during the offseason program, from starter Charles Clay (no surprise there) to Michael Egnew (got open a lot), to Arthur Lynch (several impressive catches) to Dion Sims. The concern with this group is whether they’re good enough blockers --- an area that isn’t a strength for Keller.

06/19/2014

An entertaining 55 minutes: Everything notable Pat Riley had to say in Thursday news conference

A quick posting of what Pat Riley had to say during his season-ending 55-minute news conference (please excuse any typos for the moment):

### On whether he expects to keep the Big Three: “I’m an Irish guy that believes in big dreams. I’m optimistic. Until it’s proven different, I have a level of optimism there isn’t a better place for players to be than Miami. They have invested heavily [in this].”       

### Riley began his news conference with a sermon: “We need to have perspective about things. Everybody needs to get a grip, media, Heat players, organization, all of our players. All of our fans have to get a grip on greatness and on teams. I’ve been here for 45 years in the NBA. I’ve witnessed dynasties and great teams. The 80s Lakers five championships in 12 years. Seven times they didn’t win. You’ve got to deal with it.

“Celtics – 12 years together in the 1980s, 3 wins, 9 losses. The Chicago Bulls 11 times – in 11 years, 6 titles. That’s five times Michael Jordan, Horace and Scottie lost. Kobe’s Lakers won five, lost 12 times. Spurs in 17 years won five titles. Lost 12 times.

### Then Riley delivered this message, which he said he will share with his players: “This stuff is hard. You’ve got to stay together if you’ve got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it. This is four years into this era. Four Finals. It’s only been done three other years before and two championships, from day one to the end it was like a Broadway show that sort of run out of steam. We need to retool. We don’t need to rebuild. And that’s what we’re going to do. I’ve been a leader and decision maker and that’s been my level of expertise. I will do what I can to retool the team. Everyone get a grip. It’s been a great run.

“That cements a forever bond is going through what we went through this year and staying the course. I’ve been through that experience. 1982, when we beat Philadelphia, they came back the next year and got us.

“We’re going to find out what we’re made of here. It’s not about options or free agency. It’s about what we have built over four years here. Losing is just as much a part of it as winning is. If you’re a team you deal with it.

“There is no hugging, no high fiving. It’s looking around the room and seeing who’s going to stand up. What are you going to do to come back and make the team better? We have a long-term opportunity for long-term success.

“That’s my message to players. They’re hearing it right now. Take accountability to your own actions and not lat it off on somebody else.

“I had 15 exit meetings the other day and you learn a lot in exit meetings with players after you win. I had kisses all over my face when we won. Yesterday was just a good handshake."

### On LeBron not committing yet: “It’s a present day mentality of all players in the league. They have the inalienable right when they have options in the contract, they have the right to pursue those options. I don’t take anything away from what LeBron has to say. He has the right to do whatever he wants to do --- He said, ‘Give me a week before I can be coherent with my thoughts.' I’m confident we have an organization that’s been strong.’

“We have great coaching, great leadership. I didn’t come down here 19 years ago for a quick trip to South Beach to get a suntan and I don’t think they did either. All those guys who have come here got exactly what they wanted --- the best competition on the biggest stage. We won two of the last three.”

### On Wade: "I would be very surprised if he was anywhere else but a Heat uniform next season. Dwyane is a champion, a Miami Heat for life. He is examined more than anyone else. It really is time for everyone to take heed of the message sent to us by the Spurs. They went home and looked at themselves. We’re judged a lot more harsher [than the Spurs]. You can criticize him on his performance. But he isn’t a what have you done for me lately guy or a Johnny do nothing! That’s an insult for a guy since 2003 who has made magic for us.

"Does he have to reinvent himself? Absolutely. Does Erik have to reinvent himself a little bit? Yes he does. It’s going to take execution and coming back with a great resolve.”

### “We have a lot of room for flexibility depending on what happens…I don’t feel any pressure at all. I don’t think we need to recruit Chris and LeBron and Dwyane again. Four trips to the Finals, two world championships. I’m not dropping championship rings on the table for those guys. They can drop their own. We will have good conversations with them on what we need to do to improve.”

### Would owner Micky Arison pay the mid-level exception and thus increase his luxury tax bill? “He will do anything to get those guys to come back. There has been a perception he doesn’t want to pay the tax. That’s BS. He's never asking anyone to take a cut to avoid paying the tax."

"That’s a voluntary thing from the player. We are not asking them to do that. Micky will do whatever he has to do to keep this team together."

Riley said it's not their responsibility to take pay cuts: "Their responsibility is for them to take the best deal they can take from a monetary standpoint.”

### Riley said: “We have two young players we like in James Ennis and Justin Hamilton. The team has to be layered with some young guys. We have high hopes [on Ennis].”

### On why Mike Miller was amnestied: “We had extreme duplication at Mike Miller’s position. The prime motivation was to be in a better position this year. We wanted flexibility. We all love Mike.”

### If his Big three all leave: “Worst case, we could have most room in the history of the NBA. I’m not planning on that.”

### On Chris Andersen: “Chris had one of the best seasons he ever had until he suffered an incredibly painful injury vs. Indiana. That might have had an impact. He also started to get game planned. Teams started to put bodies on him, wouldn’t let him roll to the rim and catch and finish. They looked at Chris like he was a star and somebody we have to neutralize.”

### Riley said Ray Allen did not give him an idea if he wants to retire but will “be in touch…. We probably asked a little bit too much of him.”

### “The four years we had with LeBron we hope turns into another 8 or 10. All three of them have opt outs. They created the flexibility. They will think about. We’re not walking around on eggshells anymore and not talking about it. We need to talk about it now.

“I love LeBron. He knows how we feel about him. You need to give him time to get away. I sent an email to everybody after the game. This storm will pass. There are a lot of broken pieces on the ground and we will leave them there.”

### What would he prefer the Big Three do as far as opt outs? “Whatever they want to do. However we can keep those guys together, Bird McHale Parish together, Worthy, Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Duncan, Ginobili, Parker together. All those guys stayed together and in their worst moments, they allowed management to re-tool."

### Can the Heat add a fourth star? "That’s a pipe dream but everybody thought 2010 was a pipe dream, too. I don’t harbor that thought. That’s not where we are headed. That’s not what we’re thinking about."

Would Riley ask players to take a pay cut? Riley said: “I’m not going to get down on my knees. I wouldn’t do that to a player.”

### On Wade: “What does he have to do mentally and spiritually to get him to another level at that age of 32. He does have pain but he doesn't have the debilitating injury that could end his career. Is there something that would allow him to become physically better? He’s too smart, too good, too talented to not play a major role for years to come.”

Wade coming off the bench “has not been discussed. We would probably have to get in a room with boxing gloves to have that discussion, which I would not want to do."

### RIley said "One of the things that was a common thread that came out of most of the meetings" with players was this: "Mentally exhausted, mentally fatigued. I understand that. I don’t accept it. If you go to the Finals four years in a row, maybe they didn’t know how to prepare themselves for 4 years in a row in the Finals.

"If that’s something of an excuse or you use that as a crutch, then that’s what it takes --- a real special team and it takes a special mentality to be able to do that and also win a championship. If players are saying this was a tough year and grind every day and every night, well welcome to the NBA and the world of world championship basketball. They should have a discussion with Bill Russell about winning eight straight championships. I saw that in the team. I saw the mental fatigue. I thought we were hitting stride when we beat Indiana in Game 6. When we had two games in San Antonio. I said we’re in a good place. And then we ran into a buzzsaw.

### On Greg Oden: “We talked about it and we know him physically better than anybody else would. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Greg. Next year we would raise protocol on him. You don’t want to walk away from that kind of a talent.” He said the plan was for Oden to play eight minutes a game until he suffered a "severe" back injury in March.

### On Spoelstra: “Take stock in what happened this year, take stock in the last four years. Take stock in your offense. Take stock in your defense. We were a top five defensive team. He comes from a defensive background. We were down in the middle of the pack most of the season. History shows you anybody down that low very rarely wins a championship. You've got to have a dynamic defense first that rebounds the basketball and you've got to have a dynamic offense in today's game. Erik is a student. He will go to work on this and study it. He’s got somebody he can talk to that knows something about coaching. He will reinvent himself in some way, shape or form to help this team become better.”

### On free agent Mario Chalmers: "We all have our days. Mario, God bless him, we don’t beat OKC [without him]. We have great respect for Mario. He had a tough, rough Finals. A lot of players have had tough, rough Finals. It’s reason for him to get motivated and better. He’s six years in the program. He’s a starting point guard on four consecutive Finals teams. He’s going to have to take stock in what happened and why it happened and study it and come back better."

### He said his message (expressed at the top of this post) "will get back" to players. "You leave them alone for 10 days. You give them time to get those thoughts of their minds of why they were inept? Why they didn’t get it done? They’ll get the message over the course of the summer."

### What does this team need? “All of a sudden, people say we need to improve at every position. We need to get our core back. We need to organically grow from within. The Spurs made one move --- they got Marco Bellinelli. It was Patty Mills from within their organization. It was Boris Diaw from within their organization. It was Manu Ginobili being better. It was Kawhi Leonard -- the bloom is off the rose."

### He said a player signed to the mid-level "better be able to play and prove he can play and is a starter. The players we decided on were in their prime and slipped out of their prime. Ray was off the charts. I still prefer the in-his-prime veteran who simply wants to move, come here and win a championship and have a great impact on the team. We would love to have players that are young and would grow into major roles.”

### He said every member of the Big Three doesn’t need to be at the same salary.

### On his relationship with LeBron: “I’m an arms distance guy. It’s a texting relationship, a short meeting in the hallway or at practice. I don’t bring him in for long dissertations. He would probably yawn on me in five minutes or 10. He knows I love him. He knows I respect him. [As a team president], you don’t pander and you don’t punish. There’s a fine line in between. Players today are different in how they think and how they think. I’ve always felt I have a great relationship with LeBron. He was restless [in our meeting]. He wanted to get out of town with his family and decompress.” 

### He said LeBron's wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. LeBron and his wife have two sons.


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06/18/2014

Wednesday night report: News, notes, observations from Day 2 of Dolphins minicamp

Snippets from Day 2 of the Dolphins’ three-day minicamp:

### The offense was much better today than Tuesday, including (we kid not) a few deep balls that were actually completed!: a 30-yarder on the sideline, from Ryan Tannehill to Armon Binns, who made a leaping catch despite solid coverage from Jamar Taylor; and another long throw from Matt Moore to Brian Hartline.

Tannehill threw a pick (off a deflection) to Cam Wake and another to Reshad Jones after a referee whistle but also tossed two darts for touchdowns –-- one to Mike Wallace in the corner of the end zone and a 12-yarder to Michael Egnew. Tannehill also threw a beautiful strike to Charles Clay between Jalil Brown and Don Jones.

“Lot better today,” Tannehill told the team-controlled Finsiders radio show. “Still not perfect. We had a lot less mental errors. It’s exciting to see the progression from yesterday.”

### Tannehill, on new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor: “He’s very precise. He wants everything exactly like he talked about. That gives me comfort.... That accountability is raised.”

### Tannehill likes the amount of pre-snap motion in the offense: “It’s been great. Just the difference from last year, moving guys around, is huge. Just being comfortable with moving, shifting tight ends and backs. It’s challenging. But it’s going to create a lot of mismatches on offense. We’re going to put people in positions they don’t want to be on defense, get the ball to our playmakers all over the field.”

### Encouraging: Eight months after a major injury, Brandon Gibson said his knee is fine, and Tannehill noted Gibson “is moving well, but still not 100 percent.”

### The Dolphins are making considerable use of running backs in the passing game, and Daniel Thomas was particularly impressive in that regard today.

“Our backs are going to line out and catch balls,” Tannehill said. “When you have [backs] who have good hands and can make people miss, it adds a whole other dimension to your offense."

### For those hoping Dion Jordan will take playing time away from Derrick Shelby, be advised of these comments from Philbin, who really likes Shelby:

“The thing about Shelby is you watch him on film and the cut ups at the end of the season and then you probably gain a better appreciation for him than you do during the year,” Philbin said. “He’s very, very disciplined. He really carries out his assignments and his technique well. He’s smart. He’s in the right spot. So he’s made a nice contribution over these couple of years. I’m excited about what he can do for us this year as well.”

### With Koa Misi given a break from team drills today, Jelani Jenkins got extensive work with the starters. “He picks things up quickly,” Philbin said. “I noticed him today.”

### Dannell Ellerbe, who played middle linebacker with Misi out of team drills, continues to have problems in pass coverage.

### Philbin pointed to Jamar Taylor and Dallas Thomas as young players that have emerged.

### Knowshon Moreno again sat out most of team drills for reasons Philbin has declined to explain. But Philbin has praised Moreno both days, so he’s not in the doghouse per se.

### Philbin, on newcomers Shelley Smith (the starting right guard) and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell: “Shelley, he’s kind of a guy that doesn’t make a lot of noise, real hard worker, very strong guy and he’s done well. Earl --- I love the way he works. He shows up on pursuit on plays away from him. He’s hustling to the ball. He would probably be one of those guys that you might classify as a quiet leader. Really pleased with him.”

### Caleb Sturgis, plagued by inconsistency last year, has been less erratic this year. He nailed a field goal from just over 50 yards today.

### Rookie receiver Matt Hazel continues to do a good job getting open. Meanwhile, ex-Titans receiver Damian Williams dropped a pass and hasn’t distinguished himself.

### Walt Aikens finally made a play today (breaking up a pass to Binns) and Jimmy Wilson batted down a Tannehill pass. Wilson is clearly the first-team nickel corner. Aikens, by the way, again got some work at both safety and cornerback.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

06/17/2014

Why UM's desperate move at quarterback could make some sense; Lots of Heat chatter; Dolphins

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The university once known as Quarterback U hasn’t had one drafted before the seventh round in 22 years. And now, less than three months from the opener at Louisville, UM is welcoming a quarterback, Jake Heaps, who lost his starting job for a 3-9 Kansas team and finished 126th of 127 major college football qualifiers in completion percentage last season.

What in the name of Brock Berlin is going on here?

UM’s decision to bring aboard Heaps --- who is eligible immediately --- and allow him to compete with Kevin Olsen and incoming long shots Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier for the starting job --- might seem desperate, but there is reasoning behind it.

Though Olsen could still win the job, there were serious concerns internally about automatically handing the position to him in the wake of Ryan Williams’ knee injury.

One UM official, after Williams’ injury during spring ball, admitted he was very worried. Heaps, while erratic throughout his career, is by far the most experienced option for the difficult season opener.

There’s no question about Olsen’s arm and raw talent. But several concerns have been voiced privately. Among them: Olsen needs to be more receptive to coaching, polish his mechanics (which contributed to his dismal 7 for 21 showing in the spring game), stop throwing into double coverage and not force the home-run ball when it’s not there. In other words, don’t be afraid to take what the defense gives him.

He must be studious about film work (he has improved somewhat in that area) and gain a complete grasp of the offense. Olsen was stumped when asked several questions by the offensive coaching staff during a meeting late in spring practice. One UM source said the impression is that he works harder when his brother Greg, the Carolina Panthers tight end, is in town.

UM has been trying to figure out what buttons to push, so that Olsen is motivated to work maniacally, instead of feeling entitled to the job with Williams out. Bringing in Heaps, who has one year of eligibility, solves that issue.

Here’s the good news on Heaps: He was rated Rivals.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in 2010, set freshman passing records at BYU, has a strong arm, is intelligent and has 28 games of starting experience, combined, at BYU and Kansas. He has 32 TDs and 27 INTs in his career.

The bad news: ESPN’s quarterback rating system ranked him 122nd in 2013, sixth-worst among all FBS starters. His 49 percent completion rating was abysmal, though mitigated somewhat by 48 drops by Kansas receivers (not all thrown by Heaps). He twice left schools after being beaten out, at BYU after 2011 and Kansas this year.

Williams’ mother said Williams hopes to return for the fourth game, Sept. 20 at Nebraska, but UM has no idea if that will happen. So Heaps is an insurance policy, as one UM official termed it.

Heaps said he visited UM a month-and-a-half ago and has been studying the UM playbook for a while.

“This has been definitely been in the works for a while now,” Heaps, who's married and a devout Mormon, told our Manny Navarro. “If they didn't think I could bring anything to the program, this wouldn't have happened. All I wanted was a strong opportunity to compete.”

Adding Heaps also could allow UM to potentially redshirt Kaaya and Rosier, which could be of benefit down the road. 

CHATTER

### Please see the last post for details about what LeBron James and Chris Bosh said today.

Here are two other notable comments from LeBron:

1) "I've been fortunate enough to play in five Finals. On the other end, I've lost three of them. That doesn't sit well with me at all, to be in this position, being able to get to this point, and be under .500 and not be able to be successful in those games."

2) "We need to get better. We have some holes that need to be filled." Heat fans can be encouraged by his use of "we."

### Perhaps Steve Kerr was right last summer when he said the Heat would ultimately be doomed by exhaustion.

“We’re playing until the [beginning] of the summer – to have to do that every year, it takes a toll,” Chris Bosh said Tuesday. “The whole thing felt forced [this season]. If we won, it would just be a relief. Pure joy – you didn’t see much of that. Toughest year I ever had.”

Bosh said “we’re going to have to find a way” next season to solve that conundrum. “I don’t know think there is an answer to it.”

As retiring Shane Battier put it Tuesday: “With the success we’ve had, you become numb to success and being able to improve from losing. Wins were relief and losses just nagged at you. When it gets to a point like that, it’s dangerous. I don’t know how you correct it.”

### Ray Allen said he hasn’t decided whether to retire but “if I came back, there’s no other place I’d rather be" than Miami.

### Bosh said communication among the three is better now than in 2010, when they came together.

"I think it's easier to get on the same page now," Bosh said. "Because we know each other. I didn't really know those guys. I didn't know LeBron and D back then, like that. We hung around each other, but not really. So we didn't really know each other. I think communication is so much easier, because we can get the kids together, we can go out together with the wives. We can do something, and we know how to talk to each other. And those things allow us to connect and feel each other out. Before, it was awkward." 

### The Heat hasn’t told Michael Beasley if it wants him back, and Erik Spoelstra, even in praising his “courage” to come to Miami, said: “We’ll see what happens with his career; we’ll see where he goes next season.”

### As for Greg Oden, Spoelstra also declined to answer when asked if the Heat wants him back. Oden is the Heat's only free agent who has declined to say whether he wants to play in Miami. 

"He'll have a very committed summer again, and then we'll see," Spoelstra said. "I loved having Greg around."

### ESPN reported "mutual" interest between the Heat and Toronto free agent point guard Kyle Lowry, but Lowry reportedly wants $11 million per season, and the Heat couldn't afford that unless the Big Three all take substantial pay cuts.... Mario Chalmers said he's "excited" about free agency while reiterating his desire to return.

### UM, which could use more size in its frontcourt, will host three-star, 6-foot-10, Class of 14 prospect Isaiah Manderson at some point soon and hope to convince him to enroll ASAP. Manderson committed to Oregon State but received his release after coach Craig Robinson (President Obama's brother-in-law) was fired.

Manderson --- who received offers from FSU, UCLA, Maryland and others during his initial recruitment --- is a good rebounder with a developing offensive game. He reportedly has no other visits scheduled besides Miami.

### Please see the last post for Dolphins tidbits and notes from Tuesday.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz                 

6 p.m. update: LeBron, Bosh address future; Tidbits, observations from Dolphins OTA practice; UM quarterback talk

Dwyane Wade declined to comment to reporters today; LeBron James was non-committal about his future; and Chris Bosh said he wants to stay with the Heat and believes LeBron and Wade also want to stick around.

A quick synopsis:

### James said he hasn’t decided whether to exercise his early termination clause  but “being able to have flexibility is what we all would like.”

LeBron passed on an opportunity to say whether he intends to stay with the Heat or whether he wants to look elsewhere.       

"I haven’t even begun to wrap my mind about it. I need to get away with my family before I start to think about what will happen next."

Among factors that will influence his decision, James cited family and a desire to win. "For me, I just want to win," he said, "and that's all that matters to me."

He said the Heat doesn't need to tell him anything, per se, to influence him to stay.

"I understand what this team, this franchise, brings to the table."

He said he plans to talk to Wade and Bosh before making a decision.  "I think there will be a conversation between the three of us," he said. "I'm not sure what Dwyane is thinking right now."  

Asked if he would talk to outside free agents about possibly signing here before making a decision, LeBron said he didn't even know the list of free agents and did not necessarily feel it's his place to do that before Pat Riley determines which players he wants to pursue.

Asked three times in some variation if the Big Three might be interested in taking less money like the Spurs' Big Three, LeBron essentially deferred, showing no interest in addressing the matter.

### Bosh said he hasn’t decided whether to opt out but: “I want to be here. My family is here. I love working here. It's a great place.

"We will talk with Riles, hear his plan, talk with our families and try to figure this out. I’m sure Riley has finite plan moving forward. It starts with listening to him. Eventually we will come together and figure this thing out. We feel that if we stay together, we can continue to compete. Everything is a possibility. That's why they negotiate. But I want to be here."

He also is optimistic about the Big Three staying together: “We like it here. We have a pretty good thing going.”

################################################################################################

Quick notes on the first of the Dolphins' three OTA practices this week:

### The Dolphins, who have only two cornerbacks who have started more than two NFL games (Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan) have passed on a slew of veterans this offseason, assuming Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are ready to handle the No. 3 and No. 4 jobs.

Early signs are very encouraging for Taylor, who intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass Tuesday. Davis either seems to break up passes or allow too much space to receivers; there isn’t a lot of middle ground.  

"Like where they're at," Joe Philbin said of Taylor and Davis. "They're progressing well. You feel Jamar a little more [than last year, when he was slowed by a groin issue]. Davis made a couple nice plays today."

### Lamar Miller, being used more as a receiver out of the backfield, remains clearly ahead of Knowshon Moreno for the starting running back job. He had a long run for a touchdown Tuesday.

### Rookie receiver Jarvis Landry continues to make an impression; he has had a few one-handed receptions in camp.

“He’s sneaky quick, sneaky fast,” Philbin said. "He understands the soft spots in a zone. There isn't a lot of hesitation to his game."

### Most impressive of the undrafted rookies? LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who’s running with the second team. “Quick and explosive,” Philbin said.

### Rookie cornerback Walt Aikens lined up at safety for a few plays. He appears to be the sixth best cornerback, at best, in camp.

### Philbin seems concerned about the backup tight ends behind Charles Clay. "We've still got some things to sort out," Philbin said of the position.

Dion Sims is No. 2 on the depth chart, but Philbin said he wants to see him successfully block defensive ends during games. "He has a lot of great traits [but] he has some work to do," Philbin said.

Rookie Arthur Lynch made a couple of tough catches in practice Tuesday. Philbin said Michael Egnew has had a solid camp.

### Rookie seventh-rounder Terence Fede showed impressive athleticism in intercepting a Matt Moore pass.

###  Quarterback play was spotty Tuesday, with Tannehill throwing the pick to Taylor and having another pass nearly intercepted by Louis Delmas. Jalil Brown intercepted Moore.

Meanwhile, Pat Devlin overthrow Rontavious Wooten and Marcus Thigpen on deep balls and hardly shows the type of improvement you would have hoped for by now. And undrafted rookie Brock Jensen isn’t as good as Devlin.

### Rookie receiver Matt Hazel had a couple of nifty catches but fumbled one of them…. Earl Mitchell and Dion Jordan each had sacks.

### Good to see Brandon Gibson back in 11 on 11 drills ---eight months after a major knee injury.

### Dallas Thomas remained the starting left guard and remains ahead of Billy Turner at that position.

### The No. 2 defense: Jordan, Derrick Shelby, Johnson and A.J. Francis on the defensive line; Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik (middle) and Jonathan Freeney at linebacker; Brown and Davis at cornerback (Taylor was filling in for Cortland Finnegan on the first team); and Jimmy Wilson and Don Jones at safety.

Keep in mind that Jared Odrick remains out of 11 on 11 drills.

### Like Finnegan and Moreno, Mike Pouncey also was given time off from full 11 on 11 drills. Sam Brenner filled in at center.... Moreno appears to have lost some weight, and Philbin insisted he's pleased with him.

### The Miami-Dade County commission approved Sun Life stadium renovations. Please see the home page of The Herald for a full report.

### Adam Beasley will have a story posted shortly on Tannehill, who is getting on his receivers more than the past two years. He chewed out Rishard Matthews Tuesday and also yelled at Wooten. Philbin said he is showing more leadership and is completing more "vertical" passes than during OTAs last year.

### In adding Jake Heaps, UM now has Rivals.com’s No. 1 pro-style quarterback in 2010 (Heaps), the 12th in 2013 (Kevin Olsen) and the 8th in 2014 (Brad Kaaya).

The good news on Heaps, who will challenge Kevin Olsen for the starting job: He has a strong arm, is very bright, set several freshman passing records at BYU and has experience starting 28 games combined for two schools (BYU and Kansas).

The bad news: ESPN’s quarterback rating system ranked him 126th of 127 qualifiers last season. His completion percentage (49) ranked 123rd of 127, though he was hurt by a ton of drops. He twice has left schools after being beaten out, at BYU in 2011 and Kansas after last season.

But UM knows it cannot assume Ryan Williams will be back by mid-to-late September (his goal) and has serious concerns about whether Olsen is ready. 

06/16/2014

Monday night report: Examining Heat's options in free agency and other looming issues

Here's a summation of looming issues and options for the Heat, with free agency beginning July 1: (Note: The free agent segment of this post is a more in-depth version of my story elsewhere on the Herald's sports home page.)

### The Big Three: As part of their six-year contracts, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have early termination clauses that can be exercised either this summer or next summer.

If they stick to those contracts and eschew free agency, James and Bosh would each make $20.6 million in 2014-15 and $22.1 million in 2015-16. If Wade does not exercise his early termination clause, he would be paid $20.2 million in 2014-15 and $21.7 million in 2015-16.

If all three decide to become free agents this summer and re-sign with the Heat, James and Bosh would be required to take very slight pay cuts next season (to $20 million) --- under terms of the labor agreement --- but would each be eligible to re-sign with the Heat for as many as five years and $115.1 million.

Wade would be eligible to re-sign with the Heat for four years and a maximum of $87.2 million, but he realistically likely wouldn’t command anywhere close to that if he opts out.

If James and Bosh exercise their early termination clauses and join other teams, they would be eligible to sign four-year contracts for as much as $85.5 million.

Wade and Bosh have both said they want to remain with the Heat but have not said whether they will exercise their early termination clauses. Bosh, in fact, has said the Big Three wants to stay together here.

James declined to discuss his future when asked Sunday night.

### Birdman situation: Chris Andersen plans to opt out of his $1.4 million contract for next season and become a free agent, Yahoo! reported today.

### If the Big Three become free agents, here's who’s left under contract: Udonis Haslem has a player option for $4.6 million that he said he plans to exercise, unless the Heat convinces him to take a pay cut in exchange for a multiyear commitment. Norris Cole, at $2.15 million, is the only Heat player who has a guaranteed contract next season without a player option. Justin Hamilton has a non-guaranteed deal for $816,482.

### Heat free agents: Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, Toney Douglas and Shane Battier all have expiring contracts. Battier is retiring.

### Salary cap situation: If the Big Three do not exercise opt-out clauses, then the Heat will be operating above the projected $63.2 million cap and will be limited to signing outside players only to the minimum (topping out at $1.4 million) or with its $3.27 million taxpayer midlevel exception.

The Heat might not even necessarily use the taxpayer midlevel exception in this scenario because it faces an onerous “repeater” luxury tax because it has surpassed the luxury tax threshold at least three of the past four seasons.

But if at least one of the Heat’s Big Three decides to become a free agent this summer, then the Heat would have cap space. That space would immediately evaporate if the player who opts out re-signs with the Heat for a 2014-15 salary in the range of $15 million or more.

The only way the Heat could achieve meaningful cap space to add a high-impact, costly free agent would be if one or more of the Big Three leave or if James, Wade and Bosh all accept large paycuts. In this scenario, the Heat could not exceed the $63.2 million cap except to sign players to the minimum. Miami also would have a $2.7 million “room” salary cap exception in this scenario. 

Pat Riley can never be discounted, but the odds are against the Heat having the space, and the ability within the constraints of the salary cap, to add a fourth high-salary player.

If the Big Three return next season, the likely scenario is that the Heat can augment its roster only through trades, minimum contracts and the $3.2 million exception.

### Available outside unrestricted free agents that would probably be too costly unless one of the Big Three leaves or all three take pay cuts: That list includes Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Marcin Gortat, Boris Diaw, Channing Frye, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza and possibly Paul Pierce, Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Jordan Hill.

Nevertheless, Riley always thinks big and the Heat likely will make calls to several of them.

### Available outside unrestricted free agents that would be more affordable:

At point guard, the Heat likely will explore point guard options from a group including Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich, Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, Devin Harris and Shaun Livington, among others.

At small forward/shooting guard, veteran options who might command no more than the minimum include Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Jodie Meeks (162 threes on 40 percent three-point shooting), Caron Butler (Miami tried to sign him before he opted for Oklahoma City), Rodney Stuckey, Vince Carter, Anthony Tolliver and Al Harrington.

Because of amnesty rules, the Heat this summer cannot sign free agent Mike Miller, who had two years left on his contract when Miami parted ways with him last summer.

But the Heat also knows it needs to add youth. Younger wing options who potentially could be plucked at the minimum include Jimmer Fredette (hasn’t lived up to expectations but did make 48 percent of his three-pointers in 49 games, mostly for Sacramento), Jordan Hamilton (has a developing three-point game), swingman Wesley Johnson (made 100 threes on 37 percent shooting for the Lakers), Xavier Henry (10 points per game for the Lakers), Al Faruoq Aminu (7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds for New Orleans but just a 27 percent three-point shooter) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (limited offensively).

At center/power forward, the Heat could try to implore Chris Kaman, who Pat Riley has always liked, to accept the minimum after making $3.1 million this season. He averaged 10.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 39 games for the Lakers.

Veteran 6-10 center Omeka Okafor, 31, also would be an interesting option at the minimum if deemed healthy. He didn’t play this season because of a herniated disc in his neck but averaged 9.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as a starter for Washington in 2012-13.

Other potential options at the minimum: Kris Humphries, Elton Brand, Nazr Mohammed, DeJuan Blair, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Smith, Cole Aldrich, Aaron Gray, Matt Bonner and Drew Gooden.

### The draft: The Heat has the 26th and 55th selections in the June 26 draft. Because Miami traded its first-round pick last year, it is not permitted to trade its 2014 first-round pick before it selects a player. But the Heat is permitted to draft a player on behalf of another team and trade that player after the draft. The first-round pick will cost $958,100 against the salary cap.

The Heat’s two draft picks and other prospects will play for Miami's summer league team that will compete in Orlando and Las Vegas in July. Among other prospects expected to be on those teams: small forward James Ennis, the Heat’s 2013 second-round pick who played in Australia this past season.