January 18, 2016

Thoughts, notable numbers with Heat at halfway point

As the Heat reaches the regular-season midpoint at 23-18, there’s a sense, at least from my perspective and assuredly others, that the whole is less than the sum of the individual parts, that this would be a better fantasy team than real team. Perhaps that changes over the next 2 ½ months.

This is a pretty good team, but to this point, nothing more than that. The Heat has given no indication that it is good enough to give Cleveland a competitive series, or necessarily even to advance to an Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami remains in the mix for a high seed partly because nobody else in the East beyond Cleveland has distanced itself, with second-seeded Toronto 2.5 games ahead of No. 5 Miami.

This mix of personnel, and the Heat’s slow pace, have prevented Miami from fully maximizing Goran Dragic’s skills. There’s too much reliance on Gerald Green for perimeter shooting, not nearly enough offense from the small forward position and too many careless turnovers for a team reliant on precision.

Execution has been deplorable at times in a few inexcusable home losses, and while the Heat leads the league in big comeback wins, it also has squandered too many sizable leads. As Chris Bosh said, there are alarming lapses in concentration at times.

A few numbers to mull at the midway point:

### Miami gets only 95.9 possessions per game, ahead of only Utah. So much for the talk that the Heat would play at a faster pace. Miami averaged 94.3 last season, so the increase is marginal. Golden State leads at 103.6 per game this season.

### Partly because of pace, and partly because of subpar three-point shooting, the Heat is 26th in scoring at 96.2 per game. Three of the four teams scoring less (Lakers, Philadelphia, Brooklyn) are doormats. Memphis, quite formidable, is the other.

This would be the first time since 2007-08, when the Heat went 15-67, that Miami won’t have a player in the top 12 in the league in scoring.

Chris Bosh stands 27th at 18.8, Dwyane Wade 29th at 18.5, with Denver’s Danilo Gallinari in between.

But Luol Deng is at a career low 9.7 points per game, 26th among small forwards. Dragic, at 12.5, is just 25th in scoring among point guards.

Hassan Whiteside is 13th among centers at 12.3, Bosh third among power forwards and Wade seventh among shooting guards.

### The Heat has played championship-level defense for much of the season. Miami ranks third in points allowed, at 95.5. It leads the league in blocked shots, thanks to Whiteside.

### The Heat is a better rebounding team than a year ago, ranking 11th in differential at 0.9 and 18th overall in rebounding.

### While the Heat is sixth in field goal percentage at 46.1, it’s just 25th in three-point percentage at 33.1. That remains the roster’s biggest shortcoming.

### Whiteside leads the league in blocks at 3.97, well ahead of No. 2 Anthony Davis (2.44).

He’s fourth in rebounding at 11.3, and his 60.5 shooting percentage is third, trailing only DeAndre Jordan (71.5) and Dwight Howard (61).

### According to ESPN’s efficiency ratings --- which use a complicated formula developed by then-ESPN contributor and now Memphis Grizzlies executive John Hollinger ---  Whiteside is the NBA’s 14th most efficient player, Bosh is 21st and Wade is 28th.

Notably, Mario Chalmers is rated 84th --- well above Goran Dragic (172). Tyler Johnson (110) is also ranked much higher than Dragic.

Gerald Green (219) and Luol Deng (221) are in the bottom third of all players.

And this is curious, and mildly disconcerting: Justise Winslow is rated 325th in efficiency among 334 players. His shooting struggles assuredly contribute to that.

### Heat rotation players who hold players they’re guarding to the lowest shooting percentages? Dragic at 39.7, followed by Winslow at 40.9 and Green at 41.4.

Josh McRoberts, who hopes to return soon, was holding players to 37.5.

Whiteside allows opponents to shoot 44.5 (he’s obviously defending a lot of easier shots than guards do), but that 44.5 is less than the 47.8 those players shoot overall.

PANTHERS LOSE AGAIN

So how do the Panthers follow a 12-game winning streak? With a four-game losing streak.

Tonight’s 4-2 loss to Edmonton troubled coach Gerard Gallant because “the work ethic is lacking for sure, whether we’re tired or [whatever else]. I’m not happy with how we played.”

In the Atlantic, Detroit has closed to within three points of the Panthers (26-15-5, 57 points). And the Red Wings have played one fewer game.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 17, 2016

Analysts assess UM's recruiting class; Dolphins, Marlins, Heat

BUZZ COLUMN

With less than three weeks before National Signing Day, UM has assembled a recruiting class that’s strong at quarterback, receiver and linebacker but bereft at offensive line (where Miami loaded up last year) and defensive tackle.

And with the new staff working to add several more high-end recruits, views differ considerably about how good this class is. Rivals has dropped UM’s class to 32nd.

But ESPN rates it 16th and ranks six UM commits between 67th and 106th among all 2016 prospects. 247sports.com has the class 18th, and Scout.com ranks it 29th.

Feedback on UM’s 17 oral commitments, five of whom are already enrolled:

### Quarterback: Jack Allison (rated 79th among all players by ESPN, Rivals’ No. 9 quarterback) enrolled last week and is expected to be the only QB in this class.

“He reminds me a lot of Brad Kaaya on how he drives the ball, how he throws the deep outs and comebacks,” former UM offensive coordinator James Coley said. “He's got a swagger about him, a lot of personality. EJ Manuel was that type, very confident, walked into the room, spoke to everybody. That's Jack. Very talented, very tall [6-5], really good athlete for his size. Doesn't run [a lot] but he can” if needed.

Said ESPN’s Jamie Newberg: “He's absolutely phenomenal. He's an old school, classic drop back passer, loves to stand in the pocket and fire away. Can make all the throws and he has the ‘it’ factor.”

### Receiver: Three are committed: two four-star prospects in Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas’ Sam Bruce (ESPN’s No. 67 prospect) and Gulliver Prep’s Dionte Mullins (ESPN’s No. 106 prospect); and speedy two-star Latrell Williams, who committed Sunday after visiting the campus.

UM hopes to add one or two more; the Canes are in hot pursuit of Wellington’s four-star Ahmmon Richards, a former UM oral commitment who’s considering Miami, Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee. 

Though Bruce has expressed positive feelings about Mark Richt, he has stopped short of saying he’s definitely coming to UM and said he won’t announce until Signing Day Feb. 3. He’s visiting South Carolina this weekend and then UF and expressed a fondness for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. So there's definitely reason for UM to feel anxiety.

Locally-based recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein calls Bruce “the best receiver I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this, over 10 years. He’s so explosive, very good in and out of breaks. Runs great routes, good hands. When the ball is in air, he will snatch it. Mullins can play corner or receiver.”

Mullins has said he’s a solid commitment.

“Mullins has some of the best ball skills you will ever see in a receiver,” Newberg said. “He makes the spectacular catch look easy. Phenomenal talent. And Sam Bruce can be the best player in the state. If there's a better inside receiver in the country, I want to see him. His game is perfectly suited to today's game, and he’s a great return man.”

Williams was a USF commit before UM offered him a scholarship. Williams, who had 11 scholarship offers (including Tennessee and Virginia Tech), finished with 1096 receiving yards last season and 10 receiving touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and three kickoff return touchdowns (all in excess of 90 yards).

He has a big fan in receivers coach Ron Dugans, who recruited him for USF before Dugans left to join Richt's UM staff.

### Running back: West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy’s Travis Homer, rated 15th among all running backs by Rivals and 226th overall by ESPN, is a firm commitment, and Richt is hoping to sway three-star Coral Gables prospect Amir Rasul, an FSU commit.

Homer is only 5-9 but has game-breaking speed and has good hands as a receiver out of the backfield.

“Homer is the best running back in a bad year, but he’s not in same group as Joe Yearby or Dalvin Cook,” Fishbein said.

### Tight end: Three-star Michael Irvin Jr., rated the 91st best receiver, played both receiver and tight end at St. Thomas Aquinas.

“He catches the ball well and runs routes well,” Fishbein said. “But he’s not fast enough as a receiver. He’s an H-back, tight end.”

### Linebacker: All three enrolled last week: Four-star Orange Park Oaf Leaf’s Shaquille Quarterman (ESPN’s No. 102 player overall), Jacksonville-based Mike Pinckney (Rivals’ No. 20 inside linebacker), and Lantana Santacules’ three-star Zach McCloud (Rivals’ No. 54 outside linebacker).

“Quarterman can be a really good inside guy between the tackles,” Newberg said.

Fishbein said Quarterman is what UM “has been missing at that position – a big, physical kid who can run. Pinckney played real well in the state title game. He’s not as athletic as Quarterman. He’s an inside guy. Quarterman can play inside or outside. McCloud is the most athletic of the three. He can play right away.”

### Defensive line: No tackles in the group yet; Richt is pursuing several, including four-star Louisiana-based Briston Guidry, who visited this weekend.

But there’s a potential impact four-star end in Gulliver Prep’s Joseph Jackson, rated the No. 7 weakside defensive end by Rivals, and Vero Beach three-star defensive end Patrick Bethel, who enrolled last week.

Bethel, who is rated the 88th best 2016 player by Rivals, “is very good at putting pressure on the quarterback,” Fishbein said. “Bethel is the better player, but Jackson has more upside. Jackson physically is one of the best kids in their class.”

### Defensive back: UM has one marquee corner in this class: Naples’ Tyler Byrd, perhaps UM’s best 2016 prospect and rated 67th among all players by ESPN.

With Artie Burns turning pro and Tracy Howard graduating, there’s a real opportunity for Byrd. “But he has to get more physical,” Fishbein said.

Five other commitments: Coconut Creek three-star corner Malek Young (flipped from Georgia on Friday); South Dade three-star corner James Wiggins, Gulliver three-star safety Cedrick Wright, Orlando-based safety Jeff James and ex-Hallandale cornerback Deion Jackson (this staff hasn’t called him).

“Young is a very good player; a little undersized but tough and challenges receivers,” Fishbein said. "He can play corner or the nickel. 

"Wright is not the biggest or fastest, but he’s productive. He can be a better version of [former Canes cornerback] Antonio Crawford. Wiggins is a very underrated kid."

James, a nephew of former UM and NFL star Edgerrin James, had nine interceptions last season, his first year of high school football.

This staff has given no indication that it wants Jackson, a cornerback who left Hallandale High mid-season, moved to Jacksonville, now plans to enroll at South Broward High, according to Canesport.

CHATTER

### For the past seven seasons, Dwyane Wade led two-guards in shooting percentage four times, was second twice and was third one. So it’s disconcerting to see Wade seventh, at a career-low 45.4.

Two reasons: His mid-range shooting percentage (10 to 16 feet), excellent for so long, has plunged from 47 percent two seasons ago to 42.9 to a stunning 30.8 this season. And his fourth quarter shooting has plummeted from 53.4 percent to 45.1 to 39.9.

### Besides Ryan Tannehill needing to work with new coach Adam Gase on technical issues, the feedback inside the building is that Tannehill must become a better leader, something that frustrated at least one member of the former staff.

Tannehill is likable, but a Dolphins person described him as an introvert, and it’s telling that teammates voted center Mike Pouncey, not the quarterback, as the winner of their leadership award.

### Considering Pro Football Focus ranked Earl Mitchell by far the worst against the run of 104 defensive tackles --- one scout said he was surprised how often he was blown off the ball --- the Dolphins would have hoped Jordan Phillips would be ready to be a starter next season. The departing staff believe he’s not remotely ready for that and the front office also expects more.

Beyond issues with consistency, the Dolphins want Phillips in better shape; he has been told to lose 10 pounds (to 315) and reduce his body fat.

And “I need to get a little more physical,” he said.

### Before signing Wei Yin Chen, the Marlins made specific proposals to two teams that coveted center fielder Marcell Ozuna (Cincinnati and Texas) and decided internally that they would trade him only if those teams met their exact asking price, including starting pitching.

That didn’t happen and Ozuna appears likely to remain a Marlin, though the team would revisit this if the Reds and Rangers agree to Miami’s demands because they believe a team can never have enough pitching.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 16, 2016

Udrih rises up key NBA PG category; how Udrih and Chalmers stack up; UM transfer

DENVER --- When his night was done, when Hassan Whiteside had swatted away the last of his 11 blocks (to go along with 19 points and 17 rebounds) in the Heat’s stirring comeback win here at Pepsi Center, he surprisingly implored fans to be supportive, to understand that he’s not slacking when his numbers aren’t jaw-dropping.

When Beno Udrih’s night was done, when he finished dishing out his 11th assist (with no turnovers), he would have had every right to ask Heat fans to appreciate the steadiness in his game, to stop bemoaning the Mario Chalmers trade. But of course, Udrih did not. That would have been highly uncharacteristic of the mild-mannered and well-traveled 33-year-old point guard.

Udrih's big night moved him up to 20th among 93 point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.75 to 1). Chalmers, who was dealt to Memphis in the Nov. 10 trade, is 62nd at 1.86 to 1.

Udrih scored 11 against Denver on Friday, playing 37 minutes in Goran Dragic’s absence, and Spoelstra said “he was absolutely in tuned with the bench and the game plan, where we wanted the ball to go. Very intuitive. Defensively, he's clever. He knows how to funnel guys into the shot-blocker. He keeps himself in great shape.”

Udrih generally doesn’t give the Heat nearly the type of point production Miami could expect with Chalmers. Udrih has averaged 8.8 points per 36 minutes for the Heat, while Chalmers is averaging 17.9 per 36 for Memphis.

Chalmers also is better defensively and averages 2.3 steals per 36 for Memphis, compared with 0.5 for Udrih. Players guarded by Udrih are shooting 45.2 percent this season, compared with 44.2 for Chalmers.

But during their time with their respective new teams, Udrih averages more assists (per 36), fewer turnovers, and is shooting slightly better from the field (43 to 42.2).

Udrih said he was happy for Chalmers for hitting a game-winning shot on Thursday but generally pays no attention to what Chalmers is doing.

Udrih’s approach?  

“I try to think of the little things that can help a team win,” he said. “I want to be efficient and make sure the ball gets where I want it to go and try to get my teammates open.

“I'm not trying to do anything crazy to put our team in a bad situation. If I do get a turnover, I make sure it's not a bad turnover where they don't get an open layup on the other side.”

Having played for seven teams in 11 seasons, does Udrih ever feel overlooked or underappreciated?

“Maybe sometimes, but the contracts I have had have been easy to trade,” he said. “Sometimes I was thrown into a trade; sometimes I was traded because the other team wanted me.”

On the day of the trade --- which was done to create playing time for Tyler Johnson and lessen the Heat's luxury tax burden by $6 million --- an ESPN report said Miami was trying to deal Udrih to another team. But the Heat assured Udrih’s agent, Marc Cornstein, that the report was inaccurate.

Udrih, 33, and teammate Goran Dragic, 29, both grew up in Slovenia and they have known each other since Udrih was in his late teens.  

“I had heard of him and always followed him, but I left Slovenia when I was 20 and went to Israel,” Udrih said. “I never really got to play against him because he was too young to play against me. It's always good to have a countryman on the team so we can communicate in our own language and get a little Slovenian flavor back in our life. We spend a lot of time on the road and in the locker-room.”

Three times in the past four seasons, Udrih has switched jerseys during a season, landing in Orlando by trade in 2012-13, in Memphis after the Knicks waived him the following season, and now, with Miami.

“It's tough,” he said. “If you get traded or moved during the summer, you have plenty of time to move and settle in a new apartment. During the season, it's a little harder. It's still a great livelihood, doing what we love doing. I'm blessed to be here.”

The environment with the Heat most reminds him of San Antonio, the team that drafted him 28th in 2004, after playing seven years in Slovenia, Russia, Israel and Italy.

How so? “Very family oriented, where everybody knows it's about winning.”

### For perspective, consider that in the last 18 years, only one other player (Joakim Noah in February 2013) has produced as many points, rebounds and blocks in the same game as Whiteside delivered Friday. 

### The Heat listed Wade as questionable for Sunday's game at OKC. With the Heat given the day off Saturday, Wade was non-committal late Friday night about whether he would play.

He said Bosh "told me to take it off (Friday against Denver) and make sure I get my shoulders back. That made my decision a lot easier. It kind of came down to that pretty much. I have no MRIs or nothing. Just going off how I feel. We'll see after this road trip."

### Goran Dragic, Chris Andersen and Josh McRoberts were ruled out for Sunday.

### According to Elias, the Heat has won a league-high six games in which it trailed by at least 15 points in the second half.

“This is a fighting ball club,” Wade said. “We’ve proven we can fight when we get behind. We’ve also had a few where we’ve lost 15-point leads.”

### The Heat recalled forward Jarnell Stokes from its D-League team in South Dakota, where he averaged 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and shot 67.6 percent from the field. Stokes and ex-Heat forward James Ennis were the "prospects" included in the Udrih/Chalmers trade.

UM notes

Offensive lineman Joe Brown is transferring to be closer to his home in Paramount, Cal.

He appeared in seven games last season, with three starts.

UM still has considerable depth on the line, with every starter returning and a handful of good prospects from last year's recruiting class, led by Tyree St. Louis and Bar Milo.

### The Canes dropped to 13-3 and 2-2 in the ACC with today's 76-65 loss at Clemson, UM's second straight defeat.

Angel Rodriguez shot 1 for 7 on a three-point day, and Ja'Quan Newton --- who had been playing well -- shot 2 for 8, closing with 8 points and three of UM's 13 turnovers.

Davon Reed led UM with 17 points and Sheldon McClellan scored 14. 

UM assuredly will drop from its No. 8 position in the rankings.

### Please check back Sunday for the Sunday buzz column with lots of football and other stuff.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Details, tidbits and lots of Heat reaction from Miami's exhilarating comeback win in Denver

         

DENVER --- A night when the Heat initially looked listless, lost and a step slow turned dramatically and delightfully for Miami on Friday, with Hassan Whiteside’s block party fueling a furious Heat rally and spearheading one of its most exhilarating and galvanizing wins of the season.

With Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic sidelined, and the Heat having just 10 players available, Miami rallied from 18 down to beat Denver, 98-95, giving the Heat its second win on a six-game road trip that ends Sunday in Oklahoma City.

Whiteside was at the epicenter, closing with his third career triple double (19 points, 17 rebounds, 11 blocks in 38 minutes) and swatting away shot after shot as the Heat climbed out of a 62-46 halftime deficit.

“He was sensational,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s very clear to see when Hassan is absolutely locked in, not only from a focus standpoint but a  multiple effort standpoint, it absolutely changes the complexion of our defense.”

Whiteside had nine points, six rebounds and five blocks in the third quarter, which ended with the Heat down two, then blocked two more shots in the fourth.

“I see a lot of NBA players getting triple doubles with assists. Ain’t nobody doing it with blocks,” Whiteside said. “I hope the fans enjoyed it. A lot of people, I don’t put numbers up they like, they say, ‘Hassan is lazy.’ But I want somebody to support me through my ups and downs.  I was going through a lot with tendinitis.”

Whiteside said he told Spoelstra before the game that his sore knee was OK and not to limit his minutes: “My exact words were: 'I’m back to the athletic Hassan.'”

Several Heat players had a hand in this comeback, which marked the league-leading sixth time this season that Miami has rallied from 15 down in the second half to win.

Chris Bosh scored 10 points in the third quarter and 16 of his 24 in the second half, including a 15-foot turnaround jumper that put the Heat ahead for good with 56 seconds left.

Justise Winslow’s layup tied the game early in the fourth, and he put Miami ahead 85-82 with a three shortly after that.

And don’t forget Tyler Johnson and Beno Udrih. After the Nuggets rallied to tie the game, Johnson (15 points) put the Heat ahead with a jumper with 5:32 left, then pushed the margin to four with a layup off a nifty pass from Udrih, who was very good (11 points, 11 assists, no turnovers).

The Nuggets tied the game at 95 on Darrell Arthur’s jumper at the 1:46 mark, but Bosh’s turnaround put the Heat back ahead with just under a minute left, and Denver’s Will Barton followed by missing a jump shot.

Bosh then missed a 19-foot jump shot with 18 seconds left, but Danilo Gallinari was off on a three-pointer with eight seconds remaining.

With the Heat up two, Bosh was fouled and missed the first free throw but made the second, leaving Miami ahead, 98-95. Jameer Nelson then missed a 23-footer at the buzzer, and the Heat escaped.

“I think getting it under 10 in the first three or four minutes [of the second half], that was very important; it was a goal of ours,” Bosh said. “We wanted to make sure we stayed solid, kept fighting and got ourselves back into the game.”

Miami’s defense stiffened considerably after being shredded early on. 

The Nuggets opened 15 for 21 from the field and 5 for 5 on three-pointers. By that point, Denver led 44-29.

But after that point, Denver shot just 17 for 57 overall and 1 for 13 on threes, closing at 41 percent from the field.

"Miami is long and athletic; they can switch,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I credit Miami’s defense and attribute it to our lack of handling those runs. Whiteside was an animal tonight.”

With Wade sidelined by injuries to both shoulders and Goran Dragic back home in Miami with a calf injury, Spoelstra started Udrih and Gerald Green in the backcourt.

Udrih played splendidly, but Green curiously took only five shots, making one of them and scoring just two points. 

The Nuggets scored 62 points in the first half and caught the Heat flat-footed several times, forcing Miami to foul. Denver made 17 of 18 first-half free throws and 25 for 26 for the game.

After making several mindless turnovers in Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers, the Heat appropriately ended the first half Friday with a five-second violation on an inbounds pass, after a timeout, no less.

A bit earlier, Spoelstra picked up his second technical foul of the season --- and his second in two games --- for complaining about a call.

But everything changed in the second half.

Bosh began taking, and making, jumpers.

Udrih made Heat fans stop bemoaning the Mario Chalmers trade, at least for a night.

Winslow, who entered 15 for 68 on three-pointers, hit his biggest one of the season.

Luol Deng scored three baskets in the fourth quarter, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone said afterward, unprompted, that Deng “is a heck of a defender.”

Most significantly, Whiteside was a dominant presence on defense, and a key contributor on offense, finishing 8 for 13 from the field.

“Not that many guys can do that,” Wade said of Whiteside’s night.

“The difficult part of seeing stuff like that,” Bosh said, “is that you set the bar high, you expect that from him because we know what he is capable of. When he is locked in like he was tonight, they couldn’t get a shot off anywhere. They kept coming in to challenge him; I don’t know why. He was there every time.”

Beyond the numbers, Spoelstra said Whiteside did good work “covering Arthur when needed and guarding out on the perimeter and also in the paint. Not just on post ups, but giving us a presence offensively with his screening, his duck-ins, his rolling to the basket. His rebounding was big as well against this type of team that is such a great offensive rebounding team.”

Spoelstra played nine of his 10 players available, bypassing only Udonis Haslem.

The Heat’s second half embodies “the identity we have to fully embrace,” Spoelstra said. “There’s not as much pressure on your offense when you’re getting multiple stops in a row and you don’t feel like you have to score. We are a defensive, physical, gritty team, but when we don’t play that way, we don’t really find ways to win.”

The win helps salvage a road trip that was on the verge of unraveling. Miami (23-17) improved to 2-3 on this Western swing and moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

After the Oklahoma City game, Miami returns home for less than 48 hours, making a pit stop to play host to Milwaukee before returning to the road for five games against Eastern Conference opponents. Forty games into the season, Miami still has played six more home games than road games.

There was a psuedo Heat championship reunion in the locker-room afterward, with Nuggets and ex-Heat forward Mike Miller visiting Wade and Haslem and sharing some laughs.

### Wade said Bosh advised him not to play and he was non-committal about his availability for Sunday against the Thunder. Wade will receive treatment on his shoulders on Saturday....

Please see the last post for a lot more on Wade's injury, other Heat notes, a big UM oral commitment and some sad news on a respected ESPN reporter.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 15, 2016

Wade out tonight; Wade, Bosh offer more insight on Heat's predicament today in Denver; UM snags recruit; Mortensen battling cancer

DENVER --- 

Dwyane Wade nearly made it halfway through the season without missing a game due to injury. That streak ends tonight, with the Heat announcing he will miss the Denver game with injuries to both shoulders.

Wade missed one game earlier this season because his son was hospitalized. But otherwise, he had perfect attendance, after missing 17, 13, 28 and 20 games the past four seasons.


“Dwyane’s shoulders were really limiting him,” Erik Spoelstra said. “He fought through it. He will get some extra treatment today and tomorrow. We will continue to re-evaluate him every day.

“One is a slight sprain. The other is a little bit of an impingement issue that he’s had. All things considered, these are things we can treat.

“It has been limiting him for much of this road trip. He’s been powering through it. The worst he felt was in the Clipper game. He mentioned yesterday that he wasn’t making progress and might have been taking a step back. This morning, he was going to see how he felt with treatment here. It didn’t really respond. We will re-evaluate him Saturday.”

Is this a short-term thing?

“I trust Dwyane’s healing ability and our training staff,” Spoelstra said. “The best thing for these type of things are doing as much as you can of both of those. He had a good today, good day yesterday.”

Spoelstra said he isn’t certain who will start in Wade’s absence.

Gerald Green is starting in Wade's absence, alongside Beno Udrih (filling in for injured Goran Dragic), Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.

Meanwhile, the Heat sent Chris Andersen back to Miami for an MRI on his injured left knee. Andersen has played just 36 minutes all season.

 

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

 

As Ethan noted on the Heat blog today, one of the luxuries for the Big Three era Heat teams was a supporting cast comprised largely of seasoned, savvy veterans who knew what to do and when to do it.

This Heat incarnation clearly has fewer of those types of players, a reality reinforced in recent days.

That has required an “adjustment” for the Heat’s leaders, Dwyane Wade acknowledged today, hours before Miami plays the Nuggets here in Denver.

“For me and Chris [Bosh] and [Udonis Haslem], this is going to be one of our greatest challenges from that standpoint,” said Wade, adding he hopes to play tonight as he deals with bruises on both shoulders.

“We’ve had some teams here, especially coming off of four years of a veteran team that everyone policed themselves. It wasn’t always great [then], either. We had moments similar to this. But it’s different from a standpoint of having guys that have been there before and guys that haven’t. So that’s the challenge. It’s an adjustment. You’re in the process of a rebuilding stage; you’ve got to go through it.”

The Heat certainly still wants accomplished, high-IQ veteran role players such as those that were key cogs during the LeBron James years, a group that included Shane Battier, Ray Allen, James Jones, Mike Miller and others.

But the best of those types of players typically want to join teams that are considered genuine title contenders, and the Heat --- limited by cap restraints --- also felt a need to infuse youth and athleticism.

So the key supporting pieces around Wade, Bosh, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng are players who are young (Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson) or NBA nomads (Gerald Green, Beno Udrih).

Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Andersen and Haslem bring veteran savvy but play limited minutes.

The other challenge with quickly correcting problems with these players, Wade said, is the introverted demeanor of several of them.

“We’ve got a lot of internal quiet guys and sometimes when things go wrong, when there’s frustration, where you get quiet and get into your own inner dilemma, whatever you have going on,” Wade said. “When you play team sports, you have to get out of it. It happens to everybody. It’s not just young players; it’s veteran players as well. We all just have to do a better job of it.”

On past Heat teams, most of the public on-court scoldings were directed at Mario Chalmers. But the Heat had two such incidents during Wednesday’s loss at the Clippers, with Whiteside and Green the source of Wade’s ire.

After squandered 2-on-1 fastbreak, Wade yelled at Green for not being in the right spot. Earlier in the game, he grabbed the back of Hassan Whiteside’s jersey and admonished him for not being the right place on the offensive end.

Wade downplayed those incidents on Friday, saying verbal policing is part of his job.

“That’s basketball,” he said. “We all stay on top of each other at certain times. When you play team sports, you can’t take nothing personal. Guys are doing things to try to help you be better, to try to help the team be better.

“I don’t look at anything as a confrontation. I look at it as a discussion on the basketball floor. You try to figure it out and move on. When you sit and talk to each other, we let everybody know that nothing that is said on the court, I’m not going to take it personally. In that moment, we can yell at each other. That’s my job as a leader on this team to get on guys. And vice versa.

“If someone sees me doing something they don’t like, I expect them to get on me. I expect coach to tell me the other night about my [seven] turnovers. I expect leaders to tell me certain things. That’s team sports. If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be playing a team sport. You should be playing an individual sport.”

Bosh also said the public scoldings were “OK” with him and  “I hope everybody sees it because they know we care. If you’re just being quiet and kind of passive, that’s not good for anybody.”

The visceral, exasperated reaction that dominated the dialogue after the Clippers game was largely gone Friday morning, with Bosh noting that Wednesday’s drubbing against the Clippers was addressed during a constructive film session Thursday.

"It happened. Big deal,” Bosh said. “The part I liked about it is we nipped it in the bud as soon as it happened. As long as it doesn’t happen again. It’s going to happen to teams.”

But asked if everything was at peace and straightened out, Bosh said: “Yeah, because we’re not playing basketball. Once chaos comes back, it’s just another chance to get better. We can talk about what we’re supposed to do. Until that altitude gets to you and they score two buckets in a row and you’re down five, something like that, [you don’t know]….

“We just have to have better trust in the system. We have to have patience. We just have to work the game.

“You have so many guys, myself included, that try to will it when things get tough and we don’t want to be in that situation. But
against good teams on the road, things like that are going to happen. Nobody is immune to blowing leads.”

Wade, when asked whether Thursday’s meeting resolved on-court issues, said:  It’s going to be a few games [to know]. It’s not like, you meet and everything is fine the next game. It just doesn’t work that way. Biggest thing is to try to continue to keep communicating when times are tough is when you have to do it even more.”

Spoelstra said the message at Thursday’s team meeting was simple: “Get better. That’s what we do. Nothing dramatic. We went through the film of the Clipper game. It was not a game that was acceptable for us.”

Bosh was troubled by the lack of concentration from some players during Wednesday’s game. That “hasn’t been a problem [all season]; it’s just been a challenge,” he said. “When we’re concentrating and we give that focused effort, we’re a very good
team. That’s one of the hardest things to do in 82. That’s why this gig is so tough. We did a really good job of owning up to it.”

The Heat entered Friday in sixth in the East at 22-17, 2.5 games behind No. 2 Toronto but just two games ahead of No. 9 Boston.

So have the Heat’s recent struggles left Wade discouraged about this team’s chances of legitimately challenging Cleveland in the East?

“No,” he said. “I have been very consistent with my message with this team all season long. We’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work to get there. Cleveland is so far ahead of us as a team that went to the Finals last year. You have to go through this kind of stuff to get to where they’re at. It’s a tough month for us. We’ll see how we come out of it, not even record wise, see how we come out of it as a team,
together.  

“Everybody in the league, especially the Eastern Conference, has lost three in a row, four in a row. I’m not worried about that, more so about how we’re approaching things. All this that’s going on in January is all a part of this team’s story. Nobody knows how it’s going to shake out yet.”

Bosh said there’s no need for emotional team meetings: “We’ve had enough heart to hearts. We’re men. Only so many heart to hearts you can have. You’ve got to save that for when things get really tough.”

### Spoelstra said Whiteside likely will return to the starting lineup tonight after playing off the bench against the Clippers, but that his minutes would continue be monitored because of knee soreness.

“He made great strides in the last few days,” Spoelstra said. “The 27 minutes were probably more than I wanted to play him but he responded great.”

### Spoelstra said it’s too early to tell whether Goran Dragic will be able to return in a week from a calf injury, but “from a first assessment on it, we feel much more encouraged about it.”

UM GETS KEY COMMITMENT

Coconut Creek three-star safety Malek Young, a US Army All-American, today became the first Georgia commitment to flip to UM since Mark Richt was hired.

Young, 5-9, is rated the nation’s 31st-best cornerback by rivals.com. Clemson, FSU, Michigan and Texas were among his numerous other offers.

"I have an official visit to Miami next week and that's my only other visit, it's done for me,” he told Canesport.com.

He had four punt returns and three kickoff returns as a junior, but teams kicked away from him last season.

Young and Tyler Byrd give the Hurricanes two US Army All American cornerbacks in this class, as well as South Dade’s James Wiggins.

MORTENSEN BATTLES CANCER

Sad news from ESPN today; the network announced that NFL reporter Chris Mortensen is stepping away while he battles throat cancer.

Mortensen’s statement: "More than a week ago, I was diagnosed with a Stage IV throat cancer. My focus shifted significantly to gathering information about the specifics of this cancer. The initial diagnosis was confirmed Friday and there is another test remaining that will determine the best possible treatment plan that will commence in the very immediate future.

“Consequently, with the support and encouragement from ESPN president John Skipper and many others at ESPN, I am temporarily stepping away from my normal NFL coverage duties to better engage this opportunity to fight the good fight that is projected to affect almost 1.7 million Americans with new cases in 2016.

“I have many inspirational examples of men, women and children who have faced this very fight. We all know somebody, right? I also have the love and prayers of my wife Micki, my family, my friends, colleagues and, most of all, my faith that serve as sources of tremendous strength. I have a peace about this and look forward to the battle.”

ESPN president John Skipper said: “Our thoughts are with Chris and his family as he faces this challenge. He is an extremely respected colleague, who has the complete support of his entire ESPN family. We wish him strength and hope in the battle ahead and look forward to his return whenever he chooses.”

Twitter: @flasportbuzz

January 14, 2016

Kiper explains why Clemson DE Lawson makes sense for Dolphins at No. 8

A lot can change in the four months before the draft, but the likely options for the Dolphins’ pick at No. 8 probably can be limited to a half dozen players at the moment.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, who released his first mock draft today, told me on a conference call a few minutes ago that he considered two players strongly for the Dolphins: Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson and UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

Kiper knows Miami needs cornerbacks, linebackers and a defensive end. And Kiper’s first mock draft has a cornerback (Hargreaves) and linebackers (UCLA’s Myles Jack and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland) going in spots 9 through 11, directly after Miami.

So why pick Lawson at No. 8?

Simple: Kiper said he’s simply the best player of those four that he slots between 8 and 11.

“I thought about Hargreaves to Miami,” Kiper said this afternoon.

But ultimately he thought Lawson was too good to pass up. Lawson led college football in tackles for loss with 25.5.

“Shaq Lawson against Alabama showed his guts and determination,” Kiper said. “A lot of people didn’t think he would play.  Miami should add another edge-rusher because Olivier Vernon is about to become extremely expensive if he can even be kept around as an unrestricted free agent.

“Lawson is just extremely consistent in his ability to beat tackles and make plays. If they can improve that pass rush and get a corner, they have a chance to be a much better football team next year.”

Here’s how Kiper assesses the three players he has going after Lawson:

### On Hargreaves: “This is just a truly gifted cover man, with the ability to press or play off and really just mirror a pass-catcher all over the place. He's been doing it since he arrived in Gainesville. The Bucs do have a need at cornerback, but there isn't a team in the NFL that wouldn't want this kind of talent on the roster.”

### On Jack: “Jack isn't your classic downhill run-stuffer -- the guy can flat-out cover, and he epitomizes what teams need at least one of in 2016. He's a special talent.”

### On Ragland: Kiper believes he can be an immediate starter at middle linebacker.

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who was once considered in Miami’s range, slipped to 20th in Kiper’s initial mock draft because he’s coming off a major knee injury.

“There's at least the possibility he won't play football in 2016,” Kiper said. “That said, I'm not exaggerating on the kid's behalf when I say he was arguably the best player in this entire draft.…. Smith is an absolute monster if he's back -- a Pro Bowl-caliber talent even if he loses half a step.”

Which of those four aforementioned players would be best for Miami will be dictated at least partly by which needs are filled first in free agency. If the Dolphins keep Cam Wake and Vernon, defensive end obviously becomes less of a need.

The Dolphins naturally would love to have the option of picking a handful of players slotted ahead of No. 8 in Kiper’s first mock.

Kiper’s top 7, in order: Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Cal QB Jared Goff (Miami isn’t looking for a quarterback in the first round); Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (can also play guard);  Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner; FSU cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey (Kiper has him fifth to Jacksonville); Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley;  and Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell (Miami isn’t looking for a receiver).

Ramsey would be appealing to Miami, but Kiper says he expects him to go third, fifth or sixth.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 13, 2016

Marlins strike deal with Gordon; Dolphins notes (Gase, Philbin); Ex-UM star lands job; "Lowlife" apology and broadcast notes

A six-pack of notes, plus some media news, as South Florida awaits late night viewing of Heat-Clippers and Panthers-Flames:

### The Marlins will have their two best offensive players under longterm contracts after agreeing in principle to a deal with Dee Gordon tonight.

As Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reported and The Herald confirmed, it’s a five-year deal for $50 million, with a sixth year vesting option at $14 million.

The deal buys out three years of arbitration eligibility for Gordon and at least two free agent years.

Last year, Gordon became only the second NL player ever to win the batting and stolen base titles.

Gordon's contract comes 14 months after Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, $325 million deal with an opt out after six.

### After employing a comatose former coach in Joe Philbin, the question will inevitably be asked of Adam Gase, and NBC’s Peter King asked it well in his brief interview with Gase on his Monday Morning Quarterback web site.

King said: “You’re a fairly mild manner guy, and I’ve heard that affected some teams’ opinions of you. Can you command a room?”

Gase’s response: “That would be a good question for the people who interviewed me. Josh gave me an opportunity [in 2009] to present in front of our offense … I was the third-down guy. I did that more and more since then. In 2013 and 2014, as coordinator in Denver, I had a pretty high-profile group to be in charge of. Sometimes what you see publicly is different than what’s happening behind closed doors. I feel I bring a passion, an attitude you can’t fake. What goes on in most of what I do in this job, you haven’t had a chance to see.”

### Pro Football Focus said one reason that Gase is a good fit for Ryan Tannehill is “there are a number of similarities between the offense Gase ran in Chicago and some elements of Tannehill’s offense under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Both use the read-option in the run game to hold the backside defender. Gase is likely to keep those features, suggesting an overhaul isn’t required in Miami.”

### If the Chargers join the Rams in Los Angeles in 2016, the Dolphins will be the only team that will play exactly two games there next season. Miami also plays at Seattle.

The NFL is under no obligation to schedule two of those three games on consecutive weeks, but it would assuredly be helpful.

### ESPN’s Keith Law, on the Marlins’ signing of lefty Wei Yin Chen: “Chen is worth a couple of wins more than whomever he replaces, but they're still looking at a couple of below-average starters behind him in the rotation.

“Chen is a solid mid-rotation option who kills left-handed hitters thanks to a plus slider and has had the control to survive some real trouble against right-handed hitters, but the lack of an average changeup or splitter means that righties will continue to give him fits; they have a .457 career slugging percentage against Chen in his four seasons.

“He'll have to face a few NL East lineups that can be righty-heavy when needed, especially the Mets and Nats, which doesn't help his cause any.

[But two years, $28 million or five years, $80 million] is about the going rate for a starter of Chen's overall caliber -- average to slightly better, good for 31-32 starts in most years -- even though he's very unlikely to be worth that to the Marlins, who would have a hard time filling their stadium if the Pope was throwing out the first pitch.”

### Former UM and NFL star Ed Reed joined the Buffalo Bills’ as assistant defensive backs coach.

MEDIA NOTES

Fox Sports Panthers analyst Denis Potvin today apologized for calling Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin a “low life” after Monday’s game.

Potvin made the comment because he was angry that Sedin was “goading” the Panthers bench, which was one element of a postgame fracas between the teams. (The Vancouver press later reported that Sedin was merely responding to disparaging trash-talking by the Panthers.)

"My choice of words at the conclusion of the Vancouver game on Monday should have been more appropriate,” Potvin said in a statement. “In the passion of the moment and under the circumstances of how the game ended, they came out wrong. For that I'm going to extend my sincere apologies to Daniel Sedin, Trevor Linden and the Canucks organization."…

This year’s national championship game ended up drawing substantially fewer viewers than last year’s (26.2 million to 34.1 million). That includes viewers who tuned in the non-traditional cablecasts on ESPN platforms. Miami/Fort Lauderdale’s rating was 49th of 56 metered markets.

 By the way, the Duke-Wisconsin NCAA basketball title game drew about two million more viewers than Alabama-Clemson on Monday. But that game was on free TV, the football game on cable…

ESPN today unveiled a new Sunday night MLB announcing team: Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Olympic gold medalist and retired softball star Jessica Mendoza. Curt Schilling shifts to Monday nights and John Kruk was re-assigned to the studio…

ESPN today mourned the passing of Jim Simpson, one of its prominent voices during its first year on the air (1979), and beyond. He was the first person to ever call a college football game on ESPN. In the 1960s, he was NBC’s No. 2 voice behind Curt Gowdy. He also called the first Super Bowl on radio and many Orange Bowls on TV. Simpson was 88.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 12, 2016

Details on Marlins' acquisition of starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and IF Chris Johnson; Dolphins, Heat, UM

The Marlins have had a quiet offseason, but that changed in a big way on Tuesday when the team agreed to contracts with left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, who's a potential No. 2 starter, and infielder Chris Johnson, a career .280 hitter.

Neither deal has been announced, but both were confirmed by a source with direct knowledge. Chen must still pass a physical.

The Marlins landed Chen with a five-year, $80 million deal that could become a six-year, $96 million contract if Chen pitches 180 innings in year five of the contract, according to a source.

But there’s a catch: Chen, 30, can opt out after two seasons. The Marlins will pay him $6 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017. He also is receiving an $8 million signing bonus. 

So if Chen leaves after two seasons, he will have made $28 million over two years. If he stays beyond that, he will make another $52 million over those next three years, or $68 million over the next four years if he meets innings pitched stipulations.

Chen was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA for Baltimore last season, his earned-run average ranking seventh in the American League.

He is 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in his four-year career, all with the Orioles. His best season was 2014, when he went 16-6. He’s 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in three postseason starts.

Chen doesn’t walk a lot of hitters; he walked 1.7 per nine innings in 2014 (ranking fifth in the American League) and 1.9 per nine in 2015 (ranking seventh).

But he is prone to allowing home runs. He relinquished 28 last season, sixth-most in the AL, after relinquishing 29 and 23 the previous two seasons.

Born in Taiwan, Chen pitched for the Chunichi Dragons from 2004 through 2011, going 36-30 with a 2.59 ERA, with his career briefly interrupted by 2006 Tommy John surgery.

He also pitched for Chinese Taipei in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Chen figures to slot in as the Marlins’ No. 2 starter, behind ace Jose Fernandez. Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler also are expected to be a part of the rotation.

The fifth spot could go to Edwin Jackson, David Phelps, Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley, Jose Urena or Kendrys Flores.

Chen's fastball has averaged between 91 and 92 MHP the past four seasons, according to fangraphs.com. He also throws a changeup, slider and curveball

The Marlins negotiated the Chen deal with agent Scott Boras, who was upset with the Marlins for leaving outfielder Marcell Ozuna in the minors for 5 ½ weeks last summer, thus delaying his arbitration eligibility by a year. But Boras and the Marlins appear to have repaired their relationship.

Boras also represents Fernandez and Cosart, giving him three of the Marlins' top four starting pitchers.

Meanwhile, Johnson, 31, fills the need for a right-handed bat off the bench. Johnson has played for Houston, Arizona, Atlanta and Cleveland in a seven-year career and has 58 career homers and 315 RBI.

He batted 255 with three homers and 18 RBI for Atlanta and Cleveland last season and .263 with 10 homers and 58 RBI for Atlanta in 2014. He finished second in the National League in batting average (.321) for Atlanta in 2013.

Johnson will back up left-handed hitting Justin Bour at first base and figures to get playing time against left-handers.

Johnson appears to be ideal complement for Bour. Johnson hit .326 vs left-handers last season, while Bour hit just .221 against lefties, albeit in just 68 at-bats.

Bour, conversely, hit .271 vs. right handers, while Johnson hit .212 vs. right-handers.

Johnson is a .314 career hitter against left-handers, .268 against right-handers.

Bour figures to get the majority of the playing time; he's coming off a season in which he hit .262 with 23 homers and 73 RBI.

In his career, Johnson has played 627 games at third base, 49 at first base, 75 as a designated hitter and two as an outfielder.

Johnson, you may recall, expressed displeasure after Fernandez flung his bat, watched the ball clear the fences and took a slow trot around the bases after his first career home run, hit against the Braves in September 2013.

Johnson, who was playing third base for Atlanta that day, exchanged words with Fernandez. As Fernandez approached third on his home run trot, TV replays showed Johnson spitting toward the ground, and Fernandez then spit toward the base.

"The kid is a good pitcher," Johnson said afterward. "He's got some other stuff going on, too, that upsets people sometimes. There were some guys in the dugout who weren't too happy with the smiling after getting people out and all of that kind of stuff. But it's fine."

Meanwhile, the Marlins also remain in negotiations with second baseman Dee Gordon on a long-term contract.

Gordon is arbitration eligible and the deadline for teams and players to exchange figures is Friday. The Marlins historically have stopped negotiations after the player and team exchange figures.

Please see the last post for Heat, Dolphins and UM notes from overnight... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Heat thoughts, notes after Warriors loss; Dolphins reportedly close to adding familiar name to staff; UM, Panthers, Marlins

Notes on a Tuesday morning (or very late Monday night):

### This 111-103 Heat loss in Oakland --- Miami was down by just three after three -- certainly was a respectable effort against the league’s best team. Ultimately, Miami became the 36th opponent to succumb to the Warriors in 38 games.

Credit Gerald Green (15 points), Tyler Johnson (13 points on 6 for 7) and Luol Deng (14 points, 10 boards) for doing their part on a night that Chris Bosh shot 6 for 15 and Dwyane Wade 6 for 20.

Bosh did have 12 boards (to go along with 15 points) and Wade contributed a season-high 11 assists (with 20 points). 

“Our guys are competitive; we didn’t feel good about this,” Erik Spoelstra said of staying close to a team that has now won 36 consecutive regular season home games. "Every time you have a chance, if you make a mistake, they capitalize on it."

With Hassan Whiteside sidelined by a knee injury, we also got a peek of how the Heat would look opening a game with a small lineup. That group --- with Justise Winslow starting --- played better to start the first quarter than it did to start the third.

And for his many admirable qualities (excellent defender, commendable poise, high basketball IQ), Winslow’s shooting simply must improve if he’s going to eventually become a quality starter on a good team.

The Warriors often left him unguarded and with a 3-of-8 effort from the field, Winslow now has made at least half of his shots only twice in his past 17 games. He’s shooting 27 for 75 over the span, dropping his season percentage to 39.2.

Overall, he’s 15 for 66 on threes (22.7 percent).

### Wade, incidentally, is now 9 for 37 over his past two games. He said he's playing through a shoulder injury sustained in the third quarter of Saturday's game at Utah.

The NBA’s highest-percentage shooting guard over the past decade, Wade stands at an uncharacteristic 45.2 percent from the field, which would be a career worst.

Wade ranks second in the league among guards (minimum 100 attempts) in shooting percentage at the rim (68.4 percent). That trails only Ben McLemore. But he hasn’t been nearly as consistent with his mid-range game.

### Amare Stoudemire had six points and two boards, but Spoelstra played him only five minutes, instead opting to use Udonis Haslem slightly more (seven minutes) in Whiteside's absence. Stoudemire's playing time, assuredly much less than he expected when he signed here, has grown in Josh McRoberts' absence, but Spoelstra very seldom goes to him in the second half.

Mostly, though, the Heat went small tonight.

### MVP favorite Stephen Curry had 31 points but the Warriors were outscored by three points with him in the game --- which, according to Warriors writers --- is remarkably the first time he has been a minus in plus/minus in any game this season.

### The Panthers’ win streak is over at 12, ended by a 3-2 loss to Vancouver in overtime, but at least Florida picked up a point, leaving them six ahead of Detroit in the Atlantic. What’s more, Florida is 18-3-1 over its past 22.

With 57 points, Florida is 11 points up on the 9th seed (Tampa), so a playoff berth – which would be Florida’s third this century – looks highly likely barring an unexpected collapse….

Coach Gerard Gallant will miss Wednesday’s game at Calgary to attend his mother’s funeral.

For more on the fight that followed the game, check out George Richards' Twitter account from overnight.

### The Dolphins on Monday interviewed Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson for the same job and are expected to hire him, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan and Paul Kuharsky (via Kuharsky’s Twitter account).

Jefferson caught 470 passes in a 13-year career but has drawn mixed reviews as a receiver coach.

Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, two high draft picks, haven’t fulfilled their potential under Jefferson’s watch, with Wright regressing after a exceptional 2013. (Though in Jefferson's defense, a strong case could be made that both players were overdrafted.)

Before joining the Titans in 2013, Jefferson was the Lions’ receivers coach.

### Jarvis Landry, appearing on Sirius XM Radio, said he’s excited about the coaching change and pointed to two necessities for this offense: “putting guys in space” to make plays (he called for more screens) and protecting the quarterback (obviously).

### With UM rising to No. 8 in the AP poll, this marks only the third season that the Hurricanes have cracked the top 10 since the program was reinstated in 1985. The others: 2012-13 and 1998-99.

UM (13-1) plays at No. 11 Virginia at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPNU.

### The Marlins are on the lookout for a right-handed hitter. They haven’t reached out all offseason to the representation for Casey McGehee, who hit .182 in 110 at-bats after being claimed off waivers from the Giants.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman mentioned Jeff Francouer as a possibility. He hit .258 with 13 homers and 45 RBI for the Phillies last season. He can play every outfield position but has never played first base, a position where the Marlins could use a right-handed backup behind lefty Justin Bour.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 10, 2016

Dolphins planning to address offensive line; Updates on other Dolphins' offensive positions; Heat, Marlins, Canes, Panthers nuggets

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Though much of the Dolphins’ heavy personnel lifting will come on defense, they intend to make a few changes to an offense that finished 26th in yards, 27th in points and 30th in third down efficiency. And those changes start with the offensive line.

Keep in mind that Mike Tannenbaum (with GM Chris Grier) remain in charge of offseason roster procurement. New coach Adam Gase will be consulted, then will have final say on who's on the team in September (though the front office assuredly will have considerable input).

What we’ve been told from inside the building:

### Guard: The Dolphins, who have been somewhat reluctant to spend much at guard in the past, now realize they will need to do what it takes to upgrade at one, if not both, guard spots. 

They believe they need better guard play to compete with the formidable defensive tackles in the AFC East, and a bunch of other teams. 

The Dolphins believe Dallas Thomas played a bit better than Billy Turner but thought both were inconsistent.

Pro Football Focus rated Turner 65th of 79 qualifying guards this season and Thomas 78th.

Thomas allowed 10 sacks, 10 hits and 34 hurries in 16 games; Turner relinquished eight sacks in 12 ½ games.

The Dolphins like Baltimore’s Kelechi Osemele --- the best of the impending free agent guards --- but whether they can land him depends on how high bidding goes. Osemele, one of the league’s better guards when healthy, is positioned to land a big contract after a late-season stint at left tackle.

Five other impending free agents who would be upgrades over Thomas or Turner: Denver’s Evan Mathis (rated fourth among guards by Pro Football Focus; Dolphins made him an offer in August); San Francisco’s Alex Boone (rated 39th among guards), Houston’s Brandon Brooks (35th among guards) and two veteran guards who played center this season: Houston’s Ben Jones and St. Louis’ Tim Barnes.

Though Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil, a projected top 10 draft pick, could play guard, it’s highly unusual to take a guard with a pick as high as Miami’s (eighth).

### Tackle: The team feels good about Branden Albert (rated 32nd among tackles by PFF) and Ja’Wuan James (rated 35th before his toe injury sidelined him nine games) but intends to find a new No. 3 tackle to replace Jason Fox (who was rated 76th).

### Running back: The Dolphins want to keep Lamar Miller, who finished tied with Adrian Peterson and DeAngelo Williams for 10th in the league in per carry average (4.5), but whether they re-sign him “depends on the economics,” according to a club official.

Translation: This comes down to his asking price and Miami won't overpay.

If Miller wants more than the Dolphins are comfortable paying, they’re prepared to move on and let Jay Ajayi compete for the starting job. They believe Ajayi (who had a 3.8 per carry average) has starter’s talent. The Dolphins don’t expect serious talks with Miller for several weeks.

If the Dolphins cannot strike a deal with Miller, free-agent options to pair with Ajayi include Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Chris Ivory, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Ronnie Hillman, James Starks and LeGarrette Blount. But Miami doesn’t want to spend big here.

### Tight end: The front office still likes Jordan Cameron and will consider keeping him but with a lowering of his $7.5 million salary and $9.5 million cap hit, possibly through an extension.

But that decision won’t be made for a while, and Gase will have input on that and other offensive decisions after he reviews game tape (though Tannenbaum, with Grier's assistance, has final say).

Miami would save $7.5 million against the cap by cutting Cameron.

As one Dolphins official said: “There’s a lot to like about him, but we wish there was more production.”

Dion Sims remains an appealing backup because he’s cheap ($675,000 salary) and can block.

If the Dolphins move on from Cameron, several other tight ends with pass catching skills are prepared to hit the free-agent market: Antonio Gates, Zach Miller (played for Gase in Chicago), Coby Fleener, Ladarius Green, Jermaine Gresham, Vernon Davis and Marcedes Lewis.

### Receiver: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills will be back, and free agent Rishard Matthews is expected to look for a prominent role elsewhere instead of settling for a potential No. 4 job here. It would be surprising if he returns.

Though he likes Miami and won't rule out a return, he said there's "a greater than lesser" chance that he will be elsewhere next season.

"I would have to be offered something I can't refuse" to stay, Matthews said.

Parker’s final six games (22-445-three touchdowns) “made me feel pretty good. Running routes is an area I want to work on. I want to get back to how it was during minicamp before my foot surgery.”

His yardage over the final six games would project to 1186 over a full season, which would have been in the top 12 in the NFL this season.

### Quarterback: Miami remains committed to Ryan Tannehill for 2016, but he cannot flop next season and expect to stick around for the big money that comes due in 2017.

Tannehill finished eighth in completions, ninth in yards and 15th in touchdown passes among all quarterbacks, but was 21st in passer rating (88.7), 24th in fourth quarter passer rating (85.1) and 23rd in third down passer rating (75.7). His 12 interceptions, while not an awful number, was 22nd among starters.

Meanwhile, Logan Thomas said Mike Tannenbaum told him he will have a legitimate chance to compete for the No. 2 job next season, which seems to leave free agent Matt Moore in doubt.

Thomas spent most of the year on the practice squad before being promoted in December when Cincinnati tried to poach him. Moore said he has no idea if Miami wants to re-sign him.

CHATTER

### Receiver Stacy Coley announced on Instagram today that he's returning for his senior season, bypassing the NFL draft. Coley, Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager and Malcolm Lewis give UM a solid top-four receiver group.

### UM people expect a lot of blitzing under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Consider: Over the last four seasons as a coordinator (two with Texas before his September 2013 firing, 2014 with Louisiana Tech and 2015 with Mississippi State), Diaz’s defenses had 133 sacks. Miami’s defense, during those four years, had 93.

### Lake City two-star receiver Latrell Williams told Canesport's Matt Shodell that Miami offered him a scholarship on Friday night and UM has the "upper hand" against Virginia Tech in the battle for his services.

Ron Dugans, UM's new receivers coach, had been recruiting him when Dugans was at USF, where Williams was previously committed. Williams, 5-11, has excellent speed.

### Dwyane Wade, who said he was limited late in the Utah game with a shoulder injury sustained in the third quarter, is listed by the Heat as probable for Monday's game at Golden State.

### Among several new things Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has tried: Wade said this is the first time Spoelstra ever has held multiple meetings featuring only the starters and Spoelstra.

“It’s very interesting that coach decided to do that,” Wade said. “It helped us a lot.  I thought it was cool. It gave us all a chance to have a voice and listen to each other talk about what our roles are and what we feel other guys' roles are, and coach did a great job of that.”

Chris Bosh said “guys were able to get things off their chest” and adjustments were specifically made for Goran Dragic (more pick and rolls) and Whiteside (“we made some adjustments with me standing back a little more and using my shot blocking abilities more).”

Whiteside said of the meetings: “It was just saying what we expect from each other.”

The starters were a plus-nine together entering the road trip but are now at minus 4 for the season. That starting group still isn't playing consistently enough together.... Please see the last post for details and reaction from the Heat's loss in Utah on Saturday night.

### The Heat's most daunting challenge of the season comes Monday, when Miami plays a Golden State team that's 35-2 and has won 35 in a row at home (nine short of the 1995-96 Bulls' record).

Eventually, history will judge how these Warriors --- coming off their first Finals appearance --- will compare to the Big Three Heat team that made four Finals and won two.

“With us, it was so different,” Chris Bosh said late Saturday night. “They were built different. We came together different. The story is still so much story to be told. They’re just now getting started, really.

“They’ve got a nemesis out there in San Antonio. That’s how it always happens. I’m sure there’s another team out there that’s going to give them a run, like L.A. or Dallas or something like that. It’s quite compelling.”

### Zac Taylor, who finished the season as the Dolphins' offensive play-caller, will become the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati, according to footballscoop.com.

### The Marlins called to express interest in pitcher Yasiel Sierra, a 24-year-old Cuban defector with a fastball that reaches 96, according to an involved party.

The team's pursuit of pitching is still ongoing, with Fox noting continued interest in Baltimore free agent Wei-Yin Chen, who was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA last season and is a No. 2 caliber starter.

### To increase offense on balls hit to “the Bermuda Triangle,” the Marlins say they are bringing in the center field wall from 418 feet to 407 and lowering the center field wall from 13.5 feet to 8.5.

### Though Panthers home attendance has increased from a league-worst 11,265 average last season to 14,033 (27th, 82.4 percent capacity), Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu said: “If we can expand to 17,000, that’s what we’re looking for. We have a hardcore 10,000 to 11,000 fans.

"We don’t need to be in the top five in attendance. It’s not a religion here. I get it. [But] we need to be somewhere in the middle of the pack.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz