April 19, 2016

Why do Heat players keep sacrificing money? Exploring the issue; Plus Heat nuggets; Dolphins summon more prospects; UM, Panthers, Trump

BUZZ COLUMN

There's a lot to appreciate about this Heat organization and this roster, and here's one that shouldn't be overlooked: Six players (more than one-third of the roster) took less money to play here than they could have made elsewhere, either this year or past years.

Joe Johnson said he turned down several substantially higher offers to sign with the Heat. Goran Dragic left several million on the table to re-sign here last summer. Amar’e Stoudemire said he bypassed more than three times as much money elsewhere to join the Heat.

Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh gave up between $10 million and $15 million apiece during the Big Three era. Other Heat alums, including LeBron James and Ray Allen, did likewise.

Heck, even ex-Heat guard Beno Udrih agreed to give up $90,000 so Miami wouldn’t surpass the tax threshold, allowing the Heat to sign Johnson.

It’s no coincidence this sort of thing has happened most frequently in the NBA’s two most successful markets over the past decade: San Antonio and Miami.

So why does this keep happening here? Of the six players who took less money from the Heat than they could have made elsewhere, either this season or at some point in the past, three factors are typically cited: a desire to win, the quality of the organization, and the players’ inclination to give the Heat flexibility to sign other players around them.

But Haslem said all this sacrificing has produced a domino effect that keeps reaping rewards.

“It’s a first-class organization, winning organization, and you see how Pat [Riley] and Micky [Arison] work together, how the players are treated, how we love being here,” he said. “And [players] see other people make sacrifices and they start to wonder, ‘Why is everybody sacrificing to be there? Why is everybody sacrificing to stay there?’ When they get a chance to be a part of it, then they buy in.”

One constant we found about the mechanics of how these sacrifices evolve: None of the players said they discussed taking less money directly with Riley. So this has not been a case of Riley or the Heat circumventing agents and imploring the players to take one for the team.

So much exactly have Heat players given up over the years that they could have made elsewhere? It’s impossible to calculate in Wade’s case, because there are a lot of ways to do the math. But it’s well above $15 million if he had insisted on max contracts along the way, (before his $20 million salary this year) or even in the most conservative estimate, at least $6.5 million.

With Dragic, the sacrifice was at least several million, though he said he doesn’t know the precise amount.

“When the time came and we negotiated, [agent Rade Filopovich] said we can get more somewhere else,” Dragic said. “But the most important thing for me was to be in the right place to try to win a championship. I didn’t even want to question that. Because it’s a winining culture here. Everybody wants to win, at least the players that are here. You want to put yourself in a good situation that you can develop your game, that you can get better and get the highest prize.

“I’m happy here. I went through some struggles but I’m really happy I’m part of this team. Everything looks good now.”

Dragic took five years and $85 million. He could have made more per year by signing hypothetically with the Knicks, who could have offered that $85 million over four years. He also could have pressured the Heat to top $90 million, knowing Riley gave up two draft picks for him.

But Dragic knew Wade was a free agent, and as a result, he didn’t push for more.

“If we didn’t sign D-Wade, that would not be good for us, because he is such a tremendous player and our leader,” Dragic said. “When you sign somewhere, you want to be around good players and good leaders.”

In taking a prorated amount of $1.4 million from the Heat, Johnson eschewed a $2.4 million offer from Oklahoma City and $2.8 million from Atlanta, in addition to a minimum offer from Cleveland, because “for me, it wasn’t about the money. It was more about being happy. I’ve been in a tough situation the past few years. I just felt for me and my family it was best to be here. At this stage of my career, it’s about what a guy is playing for.”

Johnson, who has made more than $190 million in his career, said the fact players keep taking less to play here “says a lot about the organization and how they handle things. It’s been great since I’ve been here. A lot of stories you hear about the Heat, it’s always positive. And it’s not a bad place to live, either.”

In Stoudemire’s case, he took the $1.4 million from Miami despite having “much higher offers. I had offers a little above the midlevel. I wanted to take that sacrifice in order to win.”

Though the Heat still had exception money available, Stoudemire said he never asked Riley for more money when they met last July.

The best sacrifice story in Heat history? It will be hard to top what Wade did for Haslem in 2010, and what Haslem did in return.

After James and Bosh agreed to join the Heat, “I said [to them], ‘Listen, who do we want on this team?’” Wade said. “It was consistent that we wanted UD on this team.  I wanted UD here for selfish reasons. I didn’t want him to have to go somewhere else. It’s his organization as much as mine.

“They wanted him here because they know what he brought to us – that toughness, that veteran leadership we needed. Everyone made a conscious decision on the phone and said, ‘Hey, how much we need to give back?’ I was willing to give more back because of our relationship. I would give more because UD means that much to me.”

Haslem, who had five-year, $34 million offers from Denver and Dallas, then agreed to take $20 million over five years from Miami. “Even though it was below what I was offered [elsewhere], it was worth it,” said Haslem, who was genuinely touched by the Big Three’s willingness to do this.

So why do Heat players keep taking less money to stay?

“It’s guys wanting to be a part of the players in the locker-room and just feeling you can be a part of something special,” Wade said. “I think that speaks volumes. It’s a beautiful city to play in. There are not many cities like this. A lot has to do with the organization and the individual players that have been here.

“When people hear millions of dollars [sacrificed], they go crazy. Nothing compares to winning. You can make all the money in the world, but if you want to win and you’ve never won, it’s going to mean something to you more than the actual dollar.”

That has been the case here, and in San Antonio, where the Spurs stars also keep sacrificing.

• For a lot of Heat nuggets from Monday, including why Dragic got a "mental day," click here.

CHATTER

• The Dolphins have used a sizable amount of their 30 predraft visits on cornerbacks and running backs, including Ohio State tailback Ezekiel Elliott, who is visiting Monday and Tuesday.

Among others summoned to Davie: Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd (potential second-rounder with 12.5 sacks last season), Texas A&M second-round offensive Germain Ifedi (Miami sees him as a guard, as our Armando Salguero noted), Rutgers receiver Leonte Carroo (20.7, 10 touchdowns in eight games last season) and Texas Tech receiver Jakeem Grant, who visited Monday, with a source confirming The National Football Post's report about Grant's visit.

Grant is an interesting prospect; he's only 5-6 but very explosive. Grant, who wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, ran a 4.38 in the 40 at his pro day and had a 36 1/2 inch vertical leap.

"With that speed and quickness, Grant could get a look as a return specialist in the NFL," NFL.com analyst and former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt said.

Grant returned four kickoffs for touchdowns in his carer at Texas Tech, including two last season. His overall college return average of 26.1 ranked just 54th nationally.

He also caught 90 passes for 1268 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Of Dodd, CBS’ Rob Rang and Dane Brugler said “based on traits, Dodd checks several boxes with the size, length, athleticism and strength potential to be effective in the NFL. He also improved his ball awareness and discipline as his reps increased last season, showing encouraging growth that indicates he isn't near his football ceiling. His quick, strong hands allow him to rip his way through would-be blocks and he uses his long arms to lasso ball carriers.”

Miami also has studied his defensive end teammate, Shaq Lawson, who’s an option at No. 13.

• The 2019 UM-UF football game in Orlando, which is nearly finalized, will be the season opener, UF athletic director Jeremy Foley e-mailed. That means UM will have tough consecutive openers: Miami plays LSU in Arlington, Tx. to open the 2018 season…

We hear UM four-star defensive end Scott Patchan sustained a torn ACL in the same knee for the second time. A UM official said last week that October is an optimistic timetable for his return, but Patchan isn't buying that. Patchan tweeted a few days ago that he doesn't plan to miss any games.      

• Privately, some involved are attributing Donald Trump’s polarizing views/persona for the PGA Tour’s difficulty so far finding a new title sponsor (to replace Cadillac) for the Doral tournament at Trump National Doral (which has left the tournament at risk) and for a drop in group ticket sales at last month’s event. Cadillac dropped its sponsorship for reasons unrelated to Trump.

The tournament is declining comment at the PGA’s request.

• Amazing: Per ESPN, Giancarlo Stanton’s number 450-foot home runs since 2009 (29) far exceed who’s No. 2 since then, Justin Upton (17). And Stanton didn't debut until 2010! 

And Stanton, according to Elias, has hit 10 home runs in the 31 games that he and Jose Fernandez have both started together. The Marlins are 9-0 in those games.

• Panthers coach Gerrard Gallant, with his team down 2-1 against the Islanders, said Monday: "I was happy with the game we played last night. Tough one to lose in overtime. We had a bad seven minutes.... I thought we played really good in three games. This series could be [2-1] the other way. Our young players have been outstanding for us."

Game 4 is Wednesday in Brooklyn.... Vincent Trocheck skated today, according to Gallant, and hopes to play in this series.... Roberto Luongo will start Wednesday night. "Luo's our guy," Gallant said.

• Panthers home attendance rose from 66.1 percent capacity to 80 this season (11,265 to 15,384) and TV ratings rose 43 percent, though games still drew audiences much, much smaller than Heat games (.025 percent of Miami-Dade/Broward homes compared with 4.5 for Heat).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 18, 2016

Analysts suggest draft picks for Dolphins

Here’s how draft analysts weigh in on what the Dolphins’ should do at No. 13:

• NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “If Elliott got to 13, they would have to be excited. He could go early as 4, 10 to the Giants, 11 to Chicago. William Jackson and Eli Apple are both a little raw for different reasons. I think I know what they want down there. They want long press corners for Vance Joseph. Both of them [Apple, Jackson] can do that.

“William Jackson has got better ball skills than Eli Apple. Eli Apple tackles a little better. Is it too early to take either of them? Not
really because there's going to be a run of corners. If they believe either can step in day one and compete, either would be really solid picks.”

• ESPN’s Mel Kiper: Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee: “[Colleague Todd] McShay will give me grief for taking Lee this high, but I like his upside and think he fits in early on as an outside linebacker who can get into gaps as a blitzer, cover in space and be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball. There are going to be growing pains, but I'm betting on Lee.”

He suggests Miami take Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard at 42:  “[There’s] a clear need at cornerback and Howard is a fit in the
second round. He's not coming in to fix the cornerback situation overnight, but that doesn't happen even with the top corners in the
draft, and the physical tools are there to develop.”

• McShay: Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson. “Mario Williams and Cameron Wake are both getting up there in age, so the Dolphins need to find a way to infuse some youth along their D-line in this draft. The more I watch Lawson, the more I love his game. It wasn't a fluke that he led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss; he plays with a combination of quickness, power, technique and relentlessness that is hard to stifle."

• GM Junior’s Russ Lande: “Probably [Clemson corner] Mackensie Alexander would be my first choice. Sure, you would like to see more picks [he had none in college], but I’ll trade the picks for pass breakups.”

• NFL Net’s Charles Davis: Elliott, if there. If not, “and Hargreaves is still there, Hargreaves would be my highest rated
corner. It’s Hargreaves, Eli Apple, William Jackson, Alexander in that order. Hargreaves has everything.”

• CBS’ Rob Rang: Lee, an undersized former quarterback and safety “with outstanding athleticism, including closing speed and
explosiveness as a hitter. Miami’s linebackers struggled to make big plays a year ago. Lee remains a bit raw after leaving Ohio State as just a redshirt sophomore but his talent is obvious.”

• NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd. “Cameron Wake will be a 35-year-old free agent next season, and Mario Williams appears to be a band-aid addition to the defensive front. In other words, defensive end could definitely be in play here despite the Dolphins' need at cornerback.”

Monday Heat notes (an eye-grabbing trend from Charlotte; Dragic; Wright and more); Dolphins add former Patriots starter

In an under-the-radar pickup, the Dolphins have claimed former Patriots starting defensive tackle Chris Jones off waivers.

Houston cut Jones in training camp in 2013 after drafting him in the sixth round out of Bowling Green that April. Tampa then picked him up and released him after a short stint, but the Patriots then signed him and made him into a productive starter.

Jones, who is 6-1 and 295 pounds, had 11 starts, six sacks and 54 tackles in 2013.

Then he had 12 starts, three sacks and 25 tackles in 2014.

He spent last season on the physically unable to perform list with a calf injury, and the Patriots cut him on Friday.

The Dolphins were looking for more depth at defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips. Earlier this offseason, they conveyed interest in re-signing CJ Mosley, who was cut by the Dolphins after an injury last season, but nothing has materialized yet on that front.

Jones, 25, is due $1.7 million, non-guaranteed, in 2016.

HEAT TALK

Please check out Manny's and Ethan's Heat blog for a look at Hassan Whiteside's interesting reaction to finishing third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. And please click here to see who voted for Whiteside and some famous people who left him off their ballots altogether.

Some other Heat nuggets from Monday:

• Determined to make sure his team is not overconfident after a 32-point win in Game 1 on Sunday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra came armed with ammunition on Monday, pointing out Charlotte’s success this season in games following blowouts.

“Every time they’ve had a double-digit loss this year, they’ve come back to win,” Spoelstra said. "That’s for a reason. They’re well coached. They have gritty, tough players.”

Well, actually, the Hornets haven’t done it every time, but more often that not. Charlotte was 11-6 this season in games immediately following double-digit losses. Four of those wins came against Toronto, Memphis, Indiana and Boston.

What’s more, since Jan. 30, Charlotte has won five in a row --- by an average of 15 points per game --- after double-digit losses. (The wins came against the Lakers, Indiana, Phoenix, Orlando and Boston.)

“The biggest adjustment they're going to make,” Heat forward Luol Deng said, “is they're going to play a lot harder than they did.” 

And Goran Dragic said: "We expect a totally different game. They're going to come out with a lot of energy.”

• Dragic said the combination of running an offense, trying to play at an up-tempo pace when the opportunity arises and being pinballed on screens while trying to defend explosive Kemba Walker can be exhausting.

Spoelstra said he gave Dragic “a mental day” break from practice Monday, allowing him to get “ice baths" and observe.

“They're going to screen. They're going to hit you, try to get their guys open,” Spoelstra said. "The more they create that separation that leads to extra defenders on the ball, which in turn leads to three-point opportunities for them…. [Dragic] is a conscientious, determined defender. He’s embraced how we do things.”

Walker scored 19 points, two below his regular-season average, but had just one assist and two turnovers. Dragic scored only nine but played a great floor game (10 assists, 1 turnover).

Though Dragic said he was fueled by energy and adrenaline, he admits this series is challenging “especially when you're defending such a quick guy and terrific guy [in Walker]. You try to save energy on offense. It's tough. Most of the time I play pick and roll, they're blitzing me. I've got to get off the ball and pass to the open guy. It's different.”

• The Heat was whistled for 24 fouls in Game 1, easily topping its 18.3 average this season (fourth-fewest in the league).

Only two Heat opponents shot more free throws against the Heat than Charlotte’s 37 on Sunday.

“I think we came out with so much aggression,” Spoelstra said. “It’s unlike us. For the most part this season, we’ve had habits of not fouling.”

• With Deng making 11 of 13 shots in Game 1 and Whiteside hitting 9 for 11, they became just the second pair of teammates in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) to shoot better than 80% while attempting at least 10 field goals in a playoff game, according to Elias.

The first also did that for the Heat: Shaquille O'Neal (12-for-14) and Jason Williams (10-for-12) in Game 6 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit.   

Also, Deng’s 84.6 percent shooting was the second-highest in Heat playoff history, behind O’Neal aforementioned game.

• Dorell Wright, who scored eight points in four minutes to end Game 1 in his first Heat appearance since April 2010, is already “very immersed in the Heat’s system,” Spoelstra said.

 “He’s spending a lot of time in pre-practice and working to fast-track. The most important thing is he’s a Heat guy. So his work ethic, he’s the first one here. That speaks volumes to everybody else. I think what you saw even in those minutes when the game was out of reach, that he has veteran experience and a definable skill that you can throw out there. That won’t ever change. He can shoot the ball."

Wright, referencing the old sitcom Married with Children, cracked after Game 1: “I have a new nickname for myself. It’s Al Bundy. I’m straight off the couch.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz.... Please check back late tonight, or in the morning, for lots more Heat, plus Dolphins, UM, Panthers and Marlins. 

April 17, 2016

9 a.m. update: Whiteside finishes 3rd in Def. Player of Year voting and unmasking voting; Whiteside's dominance; the neat Winslow/Wade moment and a lot of nuggets/reaction from Heat's playoff opener

9 a.m. update: Hassan Whiteside very much wanted to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Despite finishing with the NBA's highest blocks per game average since 2000-01 (Theo Ratliff), he'll have to settle for a third place finish.

The NBA announced today that the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard won the media vote, with 547 votes (as part of a weighted vote factoring in first, second and third place votes). Golden State's Draymond Green was second with 421 and Whiteside third with 83. The rest of the top five: the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan (50) and Atlanta's Paul Millsap (21).

Leonard got 84 first-place votes, Green 44 and Whiteside two. Of the 130 voters, the two who voted were Whiteside: Heat announcer Eric Reid and Hornets announcer and former NBA guard David Wesley.

Voters submitted three names (first, second and third place) and a bunch of them didn't even list Whiteside.

Seven prominent ones who fall into that category: HBO's Bill Simmons (had Leonard, Green, Millsap as his top three), ESPN's Brian Windhorst (Green, Leonard, Tony Allen), ESPN's Hubie Brown (Green, Leonard, Jordan), TNT's Marv Albert (Leonard, Jordan, Green) and TNT's Ernie Johnson (Green, Leonard, Avery Bradley); ESPN's Michael Wilbon (Leonard, Green, Jordan); ABC's Mike Breen (Leonard, Green, Jordan).

Of the 17 national announcers who work national jobs for rights-holders ESPN or TNT, only four put Whiteside on their ballots: Chris Broussard, Jon Barry, Mike Tirico, Mark Stein. All had him third.

Seventeen players got votes. Whiteside was the only Heat player who received votes. LeBron James got two third place votes.

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The Heat's playoff opener was a breeze, a 123-91 stomping of Charlotte, with Miami setting a record for points in a postseason game (eclipsing the 121 against Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals). Luol Deng was magnificent, with 31, and Ethan will have a column about him posted later.

Beyond Deng, a bunch of other stuff from Game 1:

•  So now we know: Postseason Hassan Whiteside is very much like regular-season Hassan Whiteside: highly productive, efficient, disruptive defensively and prone to dunking on people and then celebrating with a bicep flex.

Not that anyone should have been surprised, considering Heat president Pat Riley said last month of Whiteside’s evolution: “In my 50 years [in the NBA], I have never seen that kind of phenomenon.”

In his NBA playoff debut, Whiteside was a force, filling the box score with 21 points (on 9 of 11 shooting), 11 rebounds and three blocks in 26 minutes.

“I tried to do everything perfect,” Whiteside said. “It’s a blessing for me to play in the playoffs against my hometown team.”

He set the tone early, scoring 10 points to help the Heat build a 28-15 lead in the first nine minutes. Then he added nine points, five rebounds and two blocks in the third, helping the Heat stretch a 17-point halftime lead to 23 after three.

“He was laser focused and locked in,” Dwyane Wade said. “I love when he’s communicating on the defense end. He dominated the game like he should.”

Despite Whiteside’s early dominance, Hornets coach Steve Clifford said he would continue to start Cody Zeller and bring Al Jefferson, one of his most accomplished players, off the bench.

“I wouldn’t see the point in changing our lineup right now,” Clifford said. “We have to be able to score with Al Jefferson in the post because Hassan Whiteside does struggle to guard him in the post.”

Whiteside, who was three for five on free throws, scored 12 of his 21 points with Zeller in the game, nine with Jefferson on the floor. Five of his nine baskets were dunks, and three others were within two feet.

"We made it easy for him," Jefferson said. "He's too talented and the guys around him play with him too well. He got easy shots and offensive rebounds and dunk after dunk. You got to make it tough for him. You've got to make it physical for him, and we didn't do that."

The Heat outscored Charlotte by 19 during Whiteside's 26 minutes.

“I didn’t try to put any pressure on myself,” Whiteside said. “I just tried to play as hard as I could and hope for the best.”

In Game 1, Zeller had nine points, seven rebounds and was a minus 20 in 20 minutes. Jefferson had 13 points and five rebounds and was a minus 11 in 23 minutes.

In one third-quarter sequence, Whiteside forced a Jefferson miss in the post, grabbed the rebound and dunked on a lob from Goran Dragic on the other end.

“I feel like I handled [the Jefferson matchup] well,” Whiteside said. “He’s a really good post player.”

Clifford said there are two ways “to try to keep Whiteside’s shot-blocking at a minimum, which we haven’t been good at.
One is obviously if you can post the ball and go directly at him. The other way is to move him around.”

Neither especially worked in Game 1.

What pleased Erik Spoelstra was Whiteside’s “approach to the details,” including on “screening, pick and roll coverage, protecting the rim… It was very good.”

Whiteside’s playoff christening wasn’t perfect, as his friend, Shaquille O’Neal, pointed out in TNT’s studio at halftime.

“I saw good Hassan; I saw bad Hassan,” O’Neal said. “He’s got to understand this is the time of year you make a name for yourself.”

O’Neal criticized Whiteside for slapping at the ball in one sequence, allowing Jefferson to drive around him.

“This was stupid Whiteside,” said O’Neal, who dined with Whiteside on Lincoln Road during the All-Star break. “He’s got to stop doing silly stuff.”

For the most part, though, this was a splendid initial playoff sojourn for Whiteside, who’s poised to get a max contract this summer.

Wade said "the growth for him is going to be how he's going to make the adjustment once they make the adjustment to him."

Whiteside, still motivated against one of many teams that passed on him, said he felt energized tonight.

“I really felt at home,” Whiteside said. “My last name being Whiteside; I really love seeing a lot of white” with the Heat again using a White Hot postseason theme.

 ROOKIE TALK         

Udonis Haslem spent the past few days counseling rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson about the type of intensity to expect in the playoffs.

 Both seemed thoroughly prepared, and hardly overwhelmed, by the moment, in Game 1 on Sunday.

 “We need them to not play like rookies and the special ones don’t,” Dwyane Wade said. “These guys have been locked into what they have to do and they’ve been doing it.”

Winslow played efficiently (eight points, four rebounds, one assists, one steal, a drawn charge and a plus 18 in 27 minutes) and outperformed Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky, the player who was selected ninth, one spot ahead of him in last June’s draft. Kaminsky was scoreless in 18 minutes.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford told me earlier this season that Charlotte’s decision to take Kaminsky over Winslow “was difficult, because Justise is a good player. But so much of it is need. Justise’s position, that versatile three/four, is what we have in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist [who missed most of the season with injury]. But we were really high on Frank anyway.”

Winslow and Kaminsky posted similar numbers this season. Kaminsky averaged more points (7.5 to 6.4), Winslow more rebounds (5.2 to 4.1) and Winslow shot narrowly better (42.2 to 41.0). Winslow played 2232 minutes, Kaminsky 1708, with both players appearing in at least 78 games.

During one neat moment, Winslow made a Eurostep move, which Wade has perfected, and Winslow pointed to acknowledge Wade.

“The moment was perfect to give him a salute,” Winslow said. “I did the move facing our bench. It was cool to pay tribute, to pay respect for the mentorship we had the past six months."

Wade said Winslow “is a student of the game. That’s my guy. I love that guy. He's one of the best rooks I think that I've had here. He just turned 20 years old. He's a fast learner.”

As for Richardson, he shot just 3 for 11 but hit two threes, scored eight points, had five rebounds and three assists and was a plus 22 in 34 minutes.

Richardson led the league in three-point shooting since the All-Star break at 53.3 percent (48 for 90).

• In his 100th playoff game, Erik Spoelstra won for the 64th time. That’s the fifth most wins by a coach in his first 100 playoff games. Pat Riley and Phil Jackson own the record with 71. Chuck Daly had 66, Billy Cunningham 65.

• The Heat has gone on to win 16 of the 20 playoff series in which it won the first game, including 14 of the past 15, dating back to Wade’s first postseason.

• The Heat has won 12 consecutive first-round playoff games at home, dating to a 2010 loss to Boston… Miami has scored 100 points or more in 16 consecutive home games.

• Besides setting a franchise-record scoring mark, the Heat’s 41 first-quarter points tied for its most in any quarter of a playoff game in franchise history. The Heat also scored 41 in 2006 against the Nets.

• The 32-point margin of victory is tied for the fourth highest in franchise postseason history. The largest: a 37-point win against Chicago in the 2013.

• Dwyane Wade scored 16 points and moved past Kobe Bryant for second-most postseason points since 2004 (with 3497). Only LeBron James (5044) has scored more in postseason since then.

• The Hornets have lost 11 postseason games in a row, third longest in NBA history and just two behind the Knicks’ record (13 playoff losses in a row from 2001 through 2012).

• Udonis Haslem, who played one minute, is playing through the pain of a torn plantar fascia on his left foot.

“I’ve seen the man play through, literally, a broken foot for two months in the playoffs,” Spoelstra said.

• The Heat’s increase from 96 points per game before the All-Star break to 107.4 after was the biggest such jump in NBA history, according to Turner Sports.

• Dorell Wright, appearing in a game for the Heat for the first time since April 2010, entered late and scored eight points in the game’s final four minutes, including two three-pointers.

"I have a new nickname for myself," Wright said. "It's Al Bundy, I'm straight off the couch. I've been working through."

• Goran Dragic had just nine points (2 for 8 shooting) but played a great floor game, with 10 assists and 1 turnover.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 16, 2016

Lots of thoughts, postscripts, reaction, stats from UM's spring scrimmage; Dolphins bring in veteran

Fifteen nuggets and thoughts from UM’s spring football game this afternoon at Lockhart Stadium:

• Brad Kaaya completed an impressive spring with a strong day, finishing 29 for 47 for 345 yards and three touchdowns: two to Chris Herndon and another to Braxton Berrios. He had at least five passes dropped, including two by David Njoku.

He threw one interception, on a great play by Corn Elder, but was generally sharp. He hadn't thrown a pick in two previous scrimmages this spring.

“I handled it pretty well,” he said of learning Mark Richt’s offense. “I mastered it pretty well.”

 He said this summer is about “improving footwork” and mastering the offense to the level Aaron Murray did under Richt at Georgia. “I watch a lot of Aaron Murray; he was like a machine; every single [time] he did the right thing.”

• There was no clarity with the backup quarterback job, and Richt withheld judgment.

None of the four stood out above the others. Malik Rosier was 2 for 6 for 27 yards; Evan Shirreffs 1 for 5 for 11 yards and an interception to Jaquan Johnson at the end of the first half (Richt blamed himself for calling the play); and Vincent Testaverde was 1 for 6 for 4 yards.

UM didn’t give statistics for Jack Allison, but he had a couple of incompletions and threw at least one potential pick.

• Berrios was terrific, contorting his body to make a couple of his eight catches for 127 yards. He showed good speed on his 43-yard touchdown reception from Kaaya.

When a reporter said he looked fast, he joked that the reporter sounded surprised. He said his speed is a function of finally feeling healthy. “Braxton got a lot better,” Kaaya said.

Among the other receivers, Cager caught five passes for 58 yards but dropped an easy one when he was all alone. Malcolm Lewis caught two for 28 and Darrell Langham 2 for 27.

Richt repeatedly indicated he didn’t think the second team receivers (who were Darrell Langham and walk-ons) were able to create much separation.

Richt cited a “lack of guys able to make plays [on the second unit]. Defensive backs swallowed up the second unit of receivers. It was tough sledding with the second team on offense.”

When I asked Richt if he expects freshmen receivers Sam Bruce, Ahmmon Richards and Dionte Mullins and JC pickup Dayall Harris will play right away this fall, he said: “They’ll have to play. These guys will get a boatload of opportunities. If they’re not afraid to play major college football, they will play in the games.”

• Among the tight ends, Herndon had a big day, with six catches for 76 yards, including the touchdowns of 13 and 22 yards. Njoku had four for 17 but also dropped two passes. Standish Dobard caught one pass for four yards before an undisclosed injury.

• Mark Walton outperformed Joe Yearby, Walton finishing with 56 yards on 10 carries, with Yearby limited to seven yards on seven carries. Gus Edwards was effective with the second team offense, rushing 16 times for 57 yards.

And Richt made a point to note how Trayone Gray “has really elevated himself” this spring, though his stat line Saturday was mediocre (8 carries for 20 yards).

• Defensively, the first group was Chad Thomas and Al Quadin Muhammad at defensive end; RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton at defensive tackle; Shaquille Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Jermaine Grace at linebacker; Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter at safety; and Corn Elder and Sheldrick Redwine at corner.

The second team defense included Trent Harris and Demetrius Jackson at defensive end, Gerald Willis and Courtel Jenkins at tackle; Juwon Young, Zach McCloud and Mike Smith at linebacker; Robert Knowles and Johnson at safety; and Ryan Mayes and Michael Jackson at cornerback.

• Among the defensive linemen, Demetrius Jackson, Willis, AQM and Thomas – in particular --- got pressure on the quarterback. Willis was credited with two sacks. AQM and Jackson were each credited with a sack.

UM credited its other sacks to linebackers Grace and Quarterman (one apiece). Quarterman had seven tackles Saturday and was usually around the ball. The kid is the real deal.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz spoke afterward about how impressive it is for Quarterman, Pinckney and McCloud to make such an impact as early enrollees.

“What all three did is not easy to do and they deserve a lot of credit,” Diaz said. “They certainly made a mark.”

Young, playing with the second group, led UM with eight tackles, according to stats provided by the school.

• Elder was beaten on several plays but also made two terrific ones: the interception on Kaaya and an exceptional play on a pass to Berrios in the end zone. He also had a third pass breakup on Cager. “Elder had a great day,” Diaz said.

Redwine was beaten at times at the other cornerback spot, but he wasn’t awful by any means. A No. 3 corner still needs to emerge. Michael Jackson dropped a potential interception on a poor throw by Allison. Terrence Henley had a deflection.

• Diaz has been irritated by poor tackling in his defensive backfield. He said it improved Saturday with one glaring exception: Jamal Carter whiffed on a tackle on one of Herndon’s touchdowns.

• Diaz seems puzzled by the lack of enthusiasm by his players after a good play. “They make a good play and walk like they’re going to detention,” he said. “We do something good and don’t get excited about it.”

Elder said that might be a function of defensive players still learning the defense and “guys trying to perfect everything. But [Diaz] says he wants to see us excited when we make plays.”

• Michael Badgley made a 27-yard field goal but was wide right from 44. Overall, he had a good spring.

• Several Hurricanes didn’t play: Stacy Coley (hamstring), center Nick Linder (shoulder), linebacker Darrion Owens (knee), center Alex Gall (knee), right tackle Sunny Odogwu (knee), defensive end Scott Patchan (knee) and fullback Gage Batten.

Gall was on crutches but Richt said he won’t require surgery and will be back for the fall. Linder should elevate this offensive line when he returns.

• With Linder and Gall out, Tyler Gauthier got reps at center. Richt said the offensive line play overall was “not bad. The [defense] was blitzing and twisting and we ran the ball well at times.”

• After the scrimmage, Richt told his players he was “thankful for how much hard work you put in” but “we’ve got to learn to finish better” and the “only way to get there is staying conditioned.”

He also said this “time of year, all kinds of stupid stuff happens all around the country,” making clear he wants his players to avoid trouble.

Richt told us that lack of depth is one concern of his with this roster.

• Richt said more than 300 alums came to a function on Friday night and “we enjoyed each other’s company, shot the breeze, told war stories.”

Former players and coaches were allowed to stand on the sidelines at Saturday's game -- a group that included Edgerrin James and for a time, Howard Schnellenberger.

For my Saturday morning post on the Dolphins bringing in a veteran player for a look (plus lots of Heat and media notes from Friday night), please click here. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 15, 2016

Saturday AM update: DE Jason Jones visits Dolphins a 2nd time; Lots of Friday Heat notes: Bosh, Whiteside, Dragic, injuries and more; NFL and NBA/Heat and Panthers media notes

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said last month that the team is so deep at defensive end that a good player is probably going to be cut.

The Dolphins now are again exploring another good player at that position.

According to a source, the team brought in Lions free agent defensive end Jason Jones for a visit on Friday --- his second in a month.

The visit was first reported a short time ago by Pro Football Talk. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the visit will lead to a contract.

Jones, Chris Clemons and Andre Branch all visited last month in that order, and Miami opted for Branch.

Jones, 29, started 15 games for Detroit last season and had 31 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus rated him the league’s 43rd best edge defender last season.

He had five sacks for Detroit as a starter in 2014.

Jones has played eight NFL seasons: four in Tennessee, one in Seattle and three in Detroit. He has 28 career sacks, 24 passes defended and 10 forced fumbles.

A second-round pick out of Eastern Michigan in 2008, Jones also visited the Dallas Cowboys last month.

The Dolphins have been planning to go into the season with Mario Williams starting at one defensive end spot and Cameron Wake and Andre Branch likely sharing time at the other, with Branch playing a lot on run-heavy downs to conserve Wake’s energy.

Wake is coming off an Achilles’ injury and the Dolphins had said his recovery has gone well.

Jones’ signing, if it were to happen, could change the dynamics and create competition with Branch for the defensive end role, opposite Williams, in base defense.

The Dolphins also have Damontre Moore, Chris McCain, Terrence Fede and CFL import Cleyon Laing at defensive end.

And Dion Jordan is eligible for reinstatement after a one-year suspension.

“I keep looking at it and saying, man, ‘A good player is probably going to get cut somewhere,’" Gase said at the NFL owners meetings last month. "We have some good depth. I’m excited to see how this thing plays out. If we are healthy coming out of camp, that front is going to be tough.”

Also, the team is considering several defensive ends in the draft, including Clemson’s Kevin Dodd, who was summoned to team headquarters last week.

If Jones signs, it’s difficult to envision more than one defensive end (at the absolute most, two) making the team among Moore, McCain, Fede, Jordan, Laing and whoever else is added, barring an injury or a trade. But Jones did leave the Dolphins' facility for a second time without a contract, and it remains to be seen whether one will be forthcoming.

Mike Tannenbaum said last month that the number of compensatory picks that the Dolphins receive could be affected with free agents signed before mid-May.

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

 

Heat and media notes on a Friday:

• All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who hoped to be leading the Heat into postseason, instead has settled into a role as an inspirational speaker and mentor, as he remains sidelined because of treatment for a blood clot in his calf that dissipated several weeks ago.

Bosh, who has been sidelined since the All-Star break, addressed the team at its first practice before its first-round series against the Charlotte Hornets and spoke about how painful it is not playing. Goran Dragic said thinking about Bosh's remarks gave him goosebumps.

Though neither the Heat nor Bosh has publicly addressed his status recently, there is no expectation that he will play anytime soon. Because of medical risks, athletes being treated with blood thinners are strongly discouraged from playing contact sports.

Wade said Bosh conveyed this message: "Don’t take this for granted. You guys have an opportunity to be out in the playoffs. What I wouldn't do to be out there."

Wade added: "The biggest message is someone who lived for this moment, someone who envisioned these moments especially after last year, he doesn't have the ability to be in it…. It was great for him, especially guys who haven't been in the playoffs in a while or haven't been, to understand what it really means to someone who doesn't have it, one of your teammates. It was a good message.”

Goran Dragic said Bosh was asked to speak after Erik Spoelstra told each player what his role was be.

"It's really tough for him," Dragic said. "He wants to be part of this on the court and it's really hard to watch and not to do [anything]. It's a tough situation for him but we need him — even if he's not going to play, his ability to talk to the players, show what you're doing wrong, how you're supposed to do it on the floor; it's big time."

Guard Josh Richardson said: "What I took from it was just be grateful for this opportunity and don't take it lightly. You could tell when he was standing up that it hurt him that he can't be out there with us on the court battling but he's still going to be on the sideline the whole series."

Richardson and Justise Winslow said Bosh has been very involved in their development during his absence, including watching tape with Richardson and offering tips.

Bosh, who has three seasons left on his contract after this one, averaged 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds in 53 games this season.

• By playing a faster tempo and improving its shooting percentage, especially from three-point range, the Heat went from 29th in the league in scoring in the first half of the season (at 96 points per game) to fifth since the All-Star break at 107.4 per game, behind only the Warriors, Thunder, Trail Blazers and Rockets.

 But will the Heat be able to keep up that pace in the playoffs, which are typically more grind-it-out, halfcourt games?

 "Certain moments,” Wade said. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to put up 107 a night. You’ve got to be able to play that game at certain moments. You’ve also got to be able to execute. The other night versus Boston, in the [five-point] third quarter, we didn’t do a good job of executing when the game slowed down for us, when we couldn’t get out in transition. You have to have both games if you want to be good.”

• Hassan Whiteside this week resumed starting for the first time since before the All-Star break, and Wade said it’s an adjustment that the rest of the starters are still working through.

 “He brings a different element than [previous starter] Ama’re [Stoudemire],” Wade said. "Coach wanted us to get to that the last week of the season. Just different ways that big guys screen and roll. Their bodies are totally different. The way the defense plays them [are different]. When Amar’e was starting, the corner guy didn’t come over as much. When Hassan is starting, the corner guy is always in the paint because they don’t want him to get that lob. The flow is a little different.”

This week, with Whiteside starting, “we had some moments it looked good and some other moments it looked stagnant [on] offense," Wade said.

• Tyler Johnson remains out after Feb. 4 shoulder surgery, though he continues efforts to return at some point in postseason.

“He didn’t go through the full contact practice today; he went through part of it,” said Spoelstra, ruling him out only for Game 1.

• Assistant coach Keith Smart, who has been receiving treatment a rare form of skin cancer that surfaced on the left side of his jaw, was back working at a Heat practice in Miami for the first time since January. But it was undetermined whether he will be on the bench on Sunday.

• The NBA announced draft order today (aside from the lottery) and Miami's pick at No. 24 will go to Philadelphia (as previously announced) to complete the 2010 LeBron James trade with Cleveland. Miami's pick at No. 51 will go to Boston to complete a trade involving a salary dump of Joel Anthony.

• Dragic said he had no comment on Evan Turner saying that Dragic was “a girl trying to be man” during their minor altercation at the end of the third quarter in the game in Boston on Wednesday night.

• Dragic, on his first Heat playoff appearance: “I feel like a kid when he gets a new toy.”

• Udonis Haslem intends to play through discomfort from a torn plantar fascia on his left foot. “This is a pain tolerance thing,” he said. “I can control that part of it.”

• Haslem has counseled rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson about what to expect in postseason. “We’ve got some beyond- their-years rookies,” he said. “These guys aren’t intimidated by anything.”

Winslow said he expects the intensity to be higher than the Final Four, which he played in last year. How does he know? 

"I can sense it from the Boston game," he said. "We came out and stepped on them early. They got momentum and it was kind of a rout from there."

"I've been ready for this moment since June 25 last year," Winslow added.

• If you missed it, please click here for last night’s post on Hassan Whiteside wanting to make a final strong impression on the Heat and on how he has surrounded himself with greatness, plus a Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers item. Whiteside said he's so "excited" to play the Hornets because "I grew up 20 minutes from the arena."

MEDIA NOTES

The NBA allows team rights-holders to air any first-round games that aren’t on ABC. That means at least the first six games of the Heat-Hornets series will be on Fox Sports Sun.

TNT also will carry Games 1 and 3, with Ian Eagle and Brent Barry on the call. Turner-owned NBA TV will have Game 2, with Spero Dedes and Mike Fratello. (There's a lot of crossover between CBS NFL announcers and TNT NBA announcers, though Eagle and Dedes and Kevin Harlan obviously all have considerable NBA experience.)

Locally, Sun Sports’ Heat cablecasts usually outdraw ESPN or TNT Heat telecasts.

Kenny Smith calls the Heat sleeper team in the East:  “I think the versatility that they have can surprise you, and they can play a little bit up-tempo, play small ball. Then they have a rim protector. So, you know, you try to get to the rim with Hassan Whiteside, a guy who can block shots, he can have a monster game. All of a sudden, Dwyane Wade has two flashback games, and you’re knocked out of the playoffs if you play the Miami Heat, so they’re my surprise team.”

Turner colleague Steve Smith (the former Heat guard) added: “Give them a lot of credit.  It starts at the top with [Owner] Micky Arison and [President] Pat Riley, continuing to put competitive teams on the floor.  If you start to look at this team and envision the Heat with Bosh added to this lineup, you could possibly see them in the Eastern Conference Finals and I don’t think it would surprise people if they beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series with a healthy Bosh.  This team has done fantastic with the rookies [Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson] and Dwyane Wade and the way Erik Spoelstra has managed minutes and you take your hat off to them.”

   

 

 

 

SOME NOTABLE NON-DOLPHINS TIDBITS FROM THE NFL SCHEDULE:

• The NFL is playing most of their Christmas weekend games on Christmas Eve (a Saturday) --- including Dolphins at Bills.

But the NFL will challenge the NBA’s domain on Christmas by scheduling two games on that day: Baltimore-Pittsburgh at 4:30 p.m. and Denver-Kansas City at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.

• Denver and Carolina open the season on Sept. 8 in Colorado, marking the first time the NFL has scheduled a Super Bowl rematch as the Thursday night opener.

• The NBC Sunday Night Football opener on Sept. 11 is New England-Arizona.

• ESPN’s opening Monday Night Football double-header: Pittsburgh-Washington and Los Angeles-San Francisco.

• The Thanksgiving lineup: Minnesota-Detroit at 12:30, Washington-Dallas at 4:30 and Pittsburgh-Indianapolis at 8:30.

• The NFL will nationally televise the four games outside the U.S.:

Jacksonville-Indianapolis at 9:30 a.m. EST on Oct. 2 on CBS; Rams-Giants at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 23 from London on NFL Network; Cincinnati-Washington at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 30 on Fox; and Oakland-Houston on Monday night, Nov. 21 from Mexico City on ESPN.

• For the first time, NBC will share the Thursday night package with CBS and NFL Network.

               Here’s the breakdown:

               The Thursday Night Football schedule on CBS, simulcast on NFL Network and streamed on Twitter includes:

 

Sept. 15 (Week 2):      Jets at Bills                  Oct. 13 (Week 6):       Broncos at Chargers

Sept. 22 (Week 3):      Texans at Patriots       Oct. 20 (Week 7):       Bears at Packers

Oct. 6   (Week 5):      Cardinals at 49ers      

 

The Thursday Night Football schedule on NBC, simulcast on NFL Network and streamed on Twitter includes:

 

Nov. 17 (Week 11):     Saints at Panthers       Dec. 15 (Week 15):     Rams at Seahawks

Dec. 1 (Week 13):       Cowboys at Vikings     Dec. 22 (Week 16):     Giants at Eagles

Dec. 8   (Week 14):    Raiders at Chiefs       

 

The Thursday Night Football schedule on NFL Network includes:

 

Sept. 29 (Week 4):      Dolphins at Bengals       

Nov. 10 (Week 10):  Browns at Ravens

Oct. 23 (Week 7):       Giants at Rams (Sun.)   

Oct. 27 (Week 8):       Jaguars at Titans          

Nov. 3 (Week 9):         Falcons at Buccaneers  

Dec. 17 (Week 15):   Dolphins at Jets (Sat.)

Dec. 24 (Week 16): Bengals at Texans (Sat.)

 Dec. 25 (Week 16): Ravens at Steelers (Sun.)

• Our George Richards reports that Panthers executives Dale Tallon and Peter Luukko stormed into MSG's broadcast booth during Game 1 of the Panthers series because they were upset that the Islanders announcers said there were 12,000 fans in attendance.  Attendance was announced at 17,422.

Tallon was fuming about it. George says New York-based MSG's broadcast was heard in Canada. The Panthers were angry that any viewers (Canada or elsewhere) heard that.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 14, 2016

Whiteside believes he needs to make final impression on Heat, surrounds himself with helpful circle; Dolphins summon 2 interesting prospects; UM, Panthers, Marlins

 

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

As Hassan Whiteside prepares for his first-ever NBA playoff game, he’s likely in line for a max contract from some team this summer regardless of how he plays this postseason, according to an NBA executive. But what these playoffs can help determine is the Heat’s comfort level in extending him a max offer or something very close to it.

If Miami pushes deep into postseason, with Whiteside flourishing, Pat Riley can easily justify committing well over $30 million of his potential $40 million in cap space on Whiteside and Dwyane Wade, with Whiteside in line for a first-year salary in the $22 million range.

But if the Heat flops and Whiteside doesn’t play like an elite center, then everything stands to be re-evaluated, though Wade’s return is considered very likely.

Whiteside, in a private moment this week, said he believes he needs to leave a strong lasting impression on the Heat in the coming weeks.

“It's very meaningful,” he said of the postseason’s impact on how the Heat views him. “Every day is a day I can try to leave an impression on the Heat. They really emphasize winning here. I want to make a good impression.”

So is Whiteside worth a max deal?

“He's going to command that type of money based on the way he's playing and his size,” said ESPN’s Jalen Rose, who picks the Heat to make the Eastern Conference Finals. “I would not be surprised if he's able to garner a max deal…

“You can lead the league in blocks, can get double figures in rebounds and I've seen him shoot a left-handed hook, I've seen him shoot a right-handed hook. They've got to keep his emotions in check and control his temper when he gets upset or a call goes against him or he gets tangled up with an opponent, even if he grows out of that.”

Say this for Whiteside: He has done everything asked of him. He finished first in blocks at 3.68 (highest since Theo Ratliff averaged 3.74 in 2000-01).... He was tied for third in the NBA in rebounding at 11.85, topping Rony Seikaly’s Heat single-season record of 11.82 in 1991-92… He was third in field-goal percentage at 60.8, behind only DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard.

He was eighth in the NBA’s efficiency ratings and joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the second player ever to block at least 250 shots and shoot over 60 percent in a season.... He raised his free throw percentage from 55.2 percent before the All-Star break to 75 percent after.

He matured in the second half, accepting coming off the bench without protest, setting better screens, becoming more communicative with teammates and accepting coaching graciously. “He really limited his immature moments,” Dwyane Wade said this week.

And Whiteside has smartly surrounded himself with greatness, cultivating relationships with several pre-eminent retired big men: Shaquille O’Neal, Heat executive Alonzo Mourning and Hakeem Olajuwon. He also tells me he is planning a meal with Bill Russell, who set the standard for defensively disruptive centers.

Whiteside and O’Neal had met a couple of times before, but Heat director of team services Kenny McCraney put them in contact a few months ago. Whiteside and O’Neal dined on Lincoln Road during the All-Star break and Whiteside said they regularly talk and text and communicate via FaceTime.

Shaq recently disclosed their friendship publicly, saying on TNT that “I tell him the silliness has to come to a halt. I tell him he can be one of the best centers in the league if he does what he has to do.”

O’Neal told Whiteside at the All-Star break that “you need to average 19 and 10 the rest of the season.”

Since the break, Whiteside came close to achieving O'Neal's vision on points (17.5) and surpassed O'Neal expectation for rebounds (13.3).

“Me and him are like family,” Whiteside said. “My hope is to make Shaq proud.

“I've got to ask Shaq about a nickname [for me]. I know he's got 35 nicknames. One of my favorite is Shaq-A-Polka.”

Though they haven’t spoken in a year, a few things still resonate with Whiteside from his summer tutorial with Olajuwon several years ago: “Hakeem said my hook shot should be my bread and butter” and that has fueled his motivation to polish it.

“He said I should be a big cat, that if a lion walked in a room, the lion doesn’t have to say anything. Just dominate offensively and defensively.”

There’s one aspect of O’Neal’s and Olajuwon’s game that Whiteside has been trying to implement in his own.

“I notice with Shaq, when he gets off balance, he pump fakes to stay on balance,” he said. “Shaq and Hakeem were never off balance shooting a fade-away or a jump hook. So when I’m in the paint, the pump fake can help me with staying on balance and gathering myself.”

Whiteside said he and Mourning don’t work out together, but Zo’s off-court mentoring has helped, and he has been driven by Zo’s challenge to win Defensive Player of the Year.

The dialogue is “on and off with Alonzo,” Whiteside said. “I hear more from Alonzo when we're home. He tells me to keep playing how I'm playing, keep dominating, keep blocking shots. He said he's proud of me. So I'm doing something right.”

Meanwhile, Whiteside said the gentleman who handles Russell’s autographs plans to arrange a dinner for them, and Whiteside is psyched about meeting Russell, cracking “we can talk about shot-blocking tips” over entrees.

Of all the former All-Star power rotation players who have interacted with Whiteside, nobody deserves more credit than Heat assistant Juwan Howard, who has worked tirelessly with him on defensive positioning, his shot and other areas.

Besides having Riley and Erik Spoelstra, Whiteside doesn’t remotely take for granted the value of having resources such as Howard, Mourning, O’Neal and Olajuwon just a phone call away.  

“They all did something great and any knowledge I can get, I use,” he said. “It's always helpful to be the best basketball player I can be.”

Now Whiteside, beginning Sunday, can give the Heat another compelling reason why it should do whatever necessary to keep him.

CHATTER

• The Dolphins have used two of their 30 permitted Davie draft visits on two former Pac-12 receivers who project as stretch-the-field tight ends: UCLA’s Thomas Duarte (53 catches, 877 yards, 10 touchdowns last season) and California’s Stephen Anderson (41-474-2 TDs).

Duarte, 6-2, a potential fourth- or fifth-round pick who turned pro after his junior year, lined up at receiver at UCLA but projects as a flex tight end who could create matchup problems in Adam Gase’s offense.

“His size and catch radius make him an imposing threat down the seam and one who could continue to be effective in the red zone at the NFL level,” CBS’ Rob Rang said. “He's a bit of a one-trick pony, winning on crossing routes and down the seam because of his size.”

Anderson, who could go undrafted, played two years of tight end and one at receiver and averaged 14.4 and 11.6 yards per catch the past two seasons.

• Please click here for a bunch of UM football notes from Thursday's final practice before the spring game.

• The Panthers and the agent for impending free agent defenseman Brian Campbell have had preliminary contract talks, and the Panthers want to keep him. One measure of his impact: He was third in the NHL in plus/minus (plus 31), narrowly behind only two Los Angeles Kings.

• The Marlins have been monitoring relievers who could be available via trade, though one team official said several teams want bullpen help and the price is high. Kyle Barraclough has been throwing very well in Triple A and should help eventually.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Thursday 12:45 p.m.: Lots of UM football nuggets from final practice before spring game; Heat, Dolphins, Marlins, Panthers from Wednesday night

Nuggets from UM’s final spring practice session under Mark Richt, with the spring game set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Lockhart Stadium:

• Richt said he won’t hesitate to burn freshman quarterback Jack Allison’s redshirt if he’s the second-best quarterback on the team. Allison is part of a four-way battle with incumbent Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs and Vincent Testaverde for the backup QB job. Rosier hasn’t been very sharp this spring. Shireffs has come on, and Allison has had his moments.

“We are going to play whoever we think is the next best,” Richt said. “Whoever we think is the next best quarterback will be second-team. Whether or not Jack is that guy or not, whether he redshirts or not, I don’t know. I’ve coached it so long. I had a string at Florida State where everybody I ever coached redshirted. There was somebody always ready with two or three years experience.

“If he’s the No. 2 quarterback, he won’t redshirt. If he’s No. 3, we will probably try not to play him unless we have to.

“I have a little idea [about who the backup quarterback will be] but I’m not going to say it. It’s more somebody in the lead than winning the job. The summer is big. I’ve seen guys go through the summer and learn to execute everything better."

• At tight end, Richt said "the top two have been Chris Herndon and David Njoku. They’re in the game so much at the same time. Sometimes one is a tight end, one’s a receiver, a fullback. We move them around a lot.”

Richt said Standish Dobard, who started when healthy last season, has “done all right.”

Njoku, he said, is a “very athletic guy. As a tight end who is attached to the line of scrimmage or right next to the tackle and he’s blocking the two block running game, the sweep, the power, the sprint draw. He has really proved he will stick his face on somebody and really get after it. He’s a pretty versatile guy.”

• UM would love for Lawrence Cager to win the starting receiving job opposite Stacy Coley (with Braxton Berrios in the slot). And Cager is coming on.

"Cager and Darrell Langham are playing a little closer to 6-3 now, 6-2 ½," Richt said. "Remember when I said they played like 6-footers and they’re 6-4? They’re growing. They’re up to about 6-2 ½, 6-3. They have improved. We’re trying to see can they play the X, can they play the split end, or is a young guy going to come take it or am I going to have to take someone on the Z side and move him to the X side?"

• Trayone Gray is the No. 4 running back “and right now I see him as strictly a tailback," Richt said. "I never thought to put him anywhere else, quite frankly.”

• Richt said he hasn’t given a lot of thought to who will handle returns but mentioned  Corn Elder, Stacy Coley, Mark Walton, Braxton Berrios and three incoming freshmen receivers, plus junior college transfer Dayall Harris, another receiver.

## Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said the top five tackles have been very close in terms of quality: RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton (who were both with the starters this week), Courtel Jenkins, Anthony Moten and Gerald Willis.

Richt, on Willis: "I like what he’s doing. I like the kid. I think he cares. I think he wants to be great. There’s no doubt if he stays healthy and does what he’s supposed to do in the summer, he’ll play a bunch of snaps for us."

• Offensive line coach Stacy Searels said “the most consistent lineman this spring has been Danny Isidora. I really like the way the whole group has grown as a unit. Danny has sort of taken the leadership role. He has graded the most consistent in the scrimmages, the most consistent in practices.”

Who has graded second best? “I don’t know,” Searels said. “Different guys have had different [good] days."

Asked repeatedly who is pushing the starters, Searels kept saying he “really likes the first unit.” He didn’t want to discuss Bar Milo or any of the backups.

The first unit, from left to right, has been Trevor Darling, Kc McDermott, Alex Gall, Isidora and Tyree St. Louis. Gall has been filling in for injured center Nick Linder, who will presumably be the starter when he returns. St. Louis is filling in for injured Sunny Odogwu.

Has St. Louis done enough to push Odogwu for a starting job? “It will have a lot to do with how Sonny comes back, his health, how he moves," Searels said. "But Sunny has given me a lot of confidence the way he’s performed this spring. He’s got to get better, but he’ll help us win this year.”

As for left tackle Darling, “I like Trevor,” Searels said. “Trevor has really worked hard, had a good spring, been consistent. He’ll do good for us.”

• For a look at what Gators coach Jim McElwain had to say about Richt last night, click here.

• For Heat nuggets, plus the full first round NBA playoff schedule, and Dolphins,  Panthers and Marlins notes from last night, click here.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 13, 2016

Entire NBA playoff schedule; Heat postscripts, reaction late tonight; Dolphins summon running back; More Dolphins draft; McElwain/Richt; Panthers

Here is the entire NBA playoff schedule, released shortly after 1 a.m. tonight:

Miami vs. Charlotte

Game 1 – Sun  April 17  Charlotte at Miami                 5:30PM      TNT, Sun Sports

Game 2 – Wed  April 20  Charlotte at Miami                7:00PM      NBA TV, Sun Sports

Game 3 – Sat  April 23  Miami at Charlotte                 5:30PM      TNT, Sun Sports

Game 4 – Mon  April 25  Miami at Charlotte                 TBD        TBD, Sun Sports

Game 5 * Wed  April 27  Charlotte at Miami                 TBD        TBD, Sun Sports

Game 6 * Fri  April 29  Miami at Charlotte                   TBD        TBD, Sun Sports

Game 7 * Sun  May 1     Charlotte at Miami                   TBD        TBD      

Atlanta vs. Boston

Game 1 – Sat  April 16  Boston at Atlanta                  7:00PM      ESPN

Game 2 – Tue  April 19  Boston at Atlanta                 7:00PM      TNT

Game 3 – Fri  April 22  Atlanta at Boston                  8:00PM      ESPN2

Game 4 – Sun  April 24  Atlanta at Boston                 6:00PM      TNT

Game 5 * Tue  April 26  Boston at Atlanta                   TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Thu  April 28  Atlanta at Boston                   TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sat  April 30  Boston at Atlanta                    TBD        TNT

Cleveland vs. Detroit

Game 1 – Sun  April 17  Detroit at Cleveland              3:00PM      ABC/R

Game 2 – Wed  April 20  Detroit at Cleveland              8:00PM      TNT

Game 3 – Fri  April 22  Cleveland at Detroit               7:00PM      ESPN

Game 4 – Sun  April 24  Cleveland at Detroit              8:30PM      TNT

Game 5 * Tue  April 26  Detroit at Cleveland                 TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Thu  April 28  Cleveland at Detroit                 TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sat  April 30  Detroit at Cleveland                  TBD        TNT

Toronto vs. Indiana

Game 1 – Sat  April 16  Indiana at Toronto                12:30PM     ESPN

Game 2 – Mon  April 18  Indiana at Toronto               7:00PM      NBA TV

Game 3 – Thu  April 21  Toronto at Indiana               7:30PM      NBA TV

Game 4 – Sat  April 23  Toronto at Indiana                3:00PM      TNT

Game 5 * Tue  April 26  Indiana at Toronto                  TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Fri  April 29  Toronto at Indiana                    TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sun  May 1     Indiana at Toronto                   TBD        TBD

Golden State vs. Houston

Game 1 – Sat  April 16  Houston at Golden State            3:30PM      ABC/R

Game 2 – Mon  April 18  Houston at Golden State          10:30PM     TNT

Game 3 – Thu  April 21  Golden State at Houston            9:30PM      TNT

Game 4 – Sun  April 24  Golden State at Houston            3:30PM      ABC/R

Game 5 * Wed  April 27  Houston at Golden State               TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Fri  April 29  Golden State at Houston                 TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sun  May 1     Houston at Golden State                TBD        TBD

San Antonio vs. Memphis

Game 1 – Sun  April 17  Memphis at San Antonio              8:00PM      TNT

Game 2 – Tue  April 19  Memphis at San Antonio              9:30PM      TNT

Game 3 – Fri  April 22  San Antonio at Memphis              9:30PM      ESPN

Game 4 – Sun  April 24  San Antonio at Memphis            1:00PM      ABC

Game 5 * Tue  April 26  Memphis at San Antonio               TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Thu  April 28  San Antonio at Memphis              TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sat  April 30  Memphis at San Antonio               TBD        TNT

Oklahoma City vs. Dallas

Game 1 – Sat  April 16  Dallas at Oklahoma City             9:30PM      ESPN

Game 2 – Mon  April 18  Dallas at Oklahoma City           8:00PM      TNT

Game 3 – Thu  April 21  Oklahoma City at Dallas           7:00PM      TNT

Game 4 – Sat  April 23  Oklahoma City at Dallas            8:00PM      ESPN/R

Game 5 * Mon  April 25  Dallas at Oklahoma City               TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Thu  April 28  Oklahoma City at Dallas               TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sat  April 30  Dallas at Oklahoma City               TBD        TNT    

L.A. Clippers vs. Portland

Game 1 – Sun  April 17  Portland at L.A. Clippers          10:30PM     TNT

Game 2 – Wed  April 20  Portland at L.A. Clippers        10:30PM     TNT

Game 3 – Sat  April 23  L.A. Clippers at Portland          10:30PM     ESPN

Game 4 – Mon  April 25  L.A. Clippers at Portland        10:30PM     TNT

Game 5 * Wed  April 27  Portland at L.A. Clippers            TBD        TBD

Game 6 * Fri  April 29  L.A. Clippers at Portland             TBD        TBD

Game 7 * Sun  May 1     Portland at L.A. Clippers            TBD        TBD

 

HEAT POSTSCRIPTS, REACTION

      

On a night the Heat frittered away a huge lead and set an ignominious franchise record for fewest points in a quarter (five, in the third), Miami nevertheless escaped with the prize it coveted: the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Heat will host the No. 6 seed Charlotte Hornets beginning this weekend, with Games 1, 2 and if necessary, 5 and 7, at AmericanAirlines Arena. Dates and times were expected to be announced late Wednesday night.

Despite squandering a 24-point halftime lead in a 98-88 loss to Boston on Wednesday, the Heat secured the No. 3 seed because of Atlanta’s loss at Washington.

The Heat, Hawks, Celtics and Hornets all finished 48-34, but Miami is the No. 3 seed – despite being swept 3-0 in the season series by Boston --- because it’s the only division winner of the four teams, having edged division rivals Atlanta and Charlotte in tiebreakers.

The winner of the Heat-Hornets series will play the winner of the series between No. 2 Toronto and No. 7 Indiana.

The Heat and Hornets split their four games this season, with Miami winning one at home (104-94 in the season opener) and one on the road (98-95 on Feb. 5) and losing one road game (99-81 on Dec. 9) and one at home, 109-106, on March 17.

The Heat was outscored 60-26 in the second half, a brutal end to an otherwise good season.

Some reaction afterward, courtesy of Sun Sports:

• Erik Spoelstra: "We just talked about it as a team. You have to compartmentalize right now. It's fitting the four teams finished with the same record. All of us had demoralizing tough losses going down the stretch. By default, we ended up getting this one. But the reality is you don't get it by default. You earn it by winning the games you need to... It has been a wild regular season. We've grown quite a bit. Our group is very connected, even though second half it went haywire. Hey, we'll take that third seed and the homecourt. We feel good about that....

"You have to step back and realize there have been a lot of good things. I commend those guys for coming together, not making excuses. It looked pretty bleak after the All-Star break. Every one of the teams had a bad loss this week. We feel good about our regular season.

"You have to give a great deal of credit to Boston. Our offense got flattened out. We were playing in mud. What we were doing against the pressure wasn't sharp, moving the ball. Even our open looks, there weren't many, we didn't knock those down....

"Teams that are trapping us, trying to pressure you, speed you up, pick you up --- we feel we've gotten better. That second half was not an indication."

On playing Charlotte: "This series will be very similar to what our records are. You have two very evenly matched teams. This is going to be a challenge to both teams. [Kemba Walker] is the engine that gets them going, but they have a lot of offensive weapons and the system Steve [Clifford] has put together really fits their personnel. They have great three-point shooting."

• Dwyane Wade: "Use everything as a learning experience and move on. We played 82 games to get in the playoffs. Everything works in mysterious ways. We ended up with third seed. That guarantees us nothing.... [Boston] beat us three times this year. That's not our opponent the next time we step on the court. It doesn't matter.... I hate being up 20 something early on the road because all it does it gives the home team the chance to fight back and grind."

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Some Wednesday night notes:

• Many analysts believe there’s a good chance Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott will be gone by the time the Dolphins select 13th in the first round.

So who else can the Dolphins select to fill their running back hole?

There are more than two dozen other possibilities, and the Dolphins summoned one of them --- Utah’s Devontae Booker --- to team headquarters today, according to sources.

Booker’s season came to an end in the 10th game with a torn meniscus in his knee, but he was still named second-team All-Pac 12 with 1261 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 per carry.

A transfer from Washington State, the 5-11 Booker had 2773 yards rushing for Utah over the past two seasons, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Here’s considered a potential second- or third-round pick.

• Here’s how ESPN’s Todd McShay would use Miami’s first three draft picks, from his mock draft on ESPN.com:

Round 1 (13): Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
Round 2 (42): Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Round 3 (73): Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech

McShay's analysis: Mario Williams and Cameron Wake are both getting up there in age, so the Dolphins need to find a way to infuse some youth along their D-line in this draft. The more I watch Lawson, the more I love his game. It wasn't a fluke that he led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss; he plays with a combination of quickness, power, technique and relentlessness that is hard to stifle. Fuller and Dixon would fill two of the Dolphins' bigger needs entering the draft.

• And here's a look at the cornerbacks the Dolphins have summoned to team headquarters.

• Spoke to Gators coach Jim McElwain in Fort Lauderdale tonight (more on that in the coming weeks), and he made a point to express his respect for UM coach Mark Richt, saying he does things the right way.

“What he’s done and the record he’s put on paper, he’ll do an outstanding job,” McElwain said. “I was kind of wishing he would get a job somewhere else. He will do an outstanding job here, put a good product on the map.”

• Though the Marlins lost 2-1 to the Mets today, Adam Conley was terrific, allowing four hits, no runs in six innings, with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Conley, who improved his velocity this past offseason, drew the attention of former Marlins pitcher and MLB Network analyst Dontrelle Willis.

After the game, a fan tweeted at Willis: “Adam Conley’s delivery (excluding leg kick and World Championship) reminds me of Dontrelle Willis and his arm action.”

Willis responded: “I couldn’t agree more when I saw him today. Liked his stuff a lot.”

• ESPN.com’s Ben Arledge ran a piece examining the “fatal flaw” for every NHL playoff team.

Here’s what he said on the Panthers:

“It's safe to say not a lot of people had Florida winning the Atlantic division when the season kicked off, but here we are. Besides being potentially a little too green to run through the playoffs, the Panthers are a strong team, from goaltender Roberto Luongo to defenseman Aaron Ekblad to their quintet of 20-goal scorers. “However, the Cats rank in the bottom third of the league in both the power play (16.9 percent) and penalty kill (79.5) -- and are in the bottom three among playoff teams in both categories, as well.
“Since the All-Star break, Florida's penalty kill has been the league's worst, escaping just 74.6 percent of the time. Factor in that the past 10 Stanley Cup champions have averaged a penalty-kill percentage of 84.2, and it simply doesn't add up; killing penalties is a vital component of postseason play.

“As for the power play, the talent is there; the top unit includes Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Jaromir Jagr and Brian Campbell. Still, they have not been able to capitalize on the man advantage, and facing the Islanders' fourth-ranked, 84.5 percent penalty kill in the opening round won't do them any favors.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back later tonight for the full NBA playoff schedule. And by the way, the Dolphins' schedule will be released at 8 p.m. Thursday.

April 12, 2016

Wednesday 9 a.m.: Big UM tribute tonight; NBA amends Heat playoff scenarios; Dolphins summon bunch of CBs to team headquarters, determined to add quality at position; Heat, UM, Panthers notes

Quick 9 a.m. update: If you have Sirius XM Radio, tune in from 7 to 9 tonight for what sounds like a great special on the history of quarterbacks at UM. "Quarterback U" will air tonight, with replays at 10 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday on Channel 84. It's also available on Sirius XM On Demand. Gino Torretta, who hosts a show for Sirius, interviewed a bunch of UM people for the show.

Thanks to Sirius for emailing some comments/anecdotes on the show earlier this week. Among them:

• Kelly grew up in Pennsylvania and was recruited to play at Penn State.  The problem was, Paterno wanted him to play linebacker and Jim wanted to be a quarterback, so he ultimately made the decision to go south.  As fate would have it, Kelly was named starter midway through his freshman season right before the Canes lined up to play against Penn State!

Kelly:  “I went from having my number retired in high school to being the fifth string quarterback at the University of Miami, ready to transfer, and then a guy by the name of Howard Schnellenberger came in with a quarterback coach by the name of Earl Morrall and that pretty much changed my life.  I worked my tail off, I got to be the backup finally.  Three-quarters of the way through the season [we] travelled to Penn State.  Right before the game [during] the pre-game meal Coach tells me I’m going to be the starter that game.  And pretty much the first thing I did was I went to the bathroom and I threw up because here was a team that recruited me to play linebacker, and I really wanted to play quarterback for them.  We wind up beating them and my first four starts as a freshman were against Penn State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Florida, so it was pretty much a welcome to big time NCAA football.”

• Torretta asked Kelly:  “There’s a rumor down here that you got sick before every game.  Was it just that game or did you get sick before every game?

Kelly:  “No, I got sick before pretty much every game, even when I was in high school. … I got so yoked up before the games that I would throw up and it would make me feel good.  It wasn’t that I was nervous but I got so excited that it would make me do that.  So that’s something that’s not a myth, it really did happen.”

• A Steve Walsh memory: “It was a drill (in the quarterback meetings).  You had [QB coach] Gary [Stevens] there firing off questions when [Vinny] Testaverde was the starter and I was sitting in the chair just listening.  He didn’t ask me one question but he’s rattling off questions to Vinny and Vinny’s rattling answers back to him. … All these football questions that are digging deep into what we call our football I.Q. and really expanding that.  And if you didn’t know he was explaining it.  And I’m sitting there as a freshman, really for two years, I’m just absorbing it.  And then finally it is my turn and now he’s asking me the questions and I had been able to train for two years and paid attention and absorbed all that.  And then you had Craig [Erickson] watching and then you (Gino) show up the next year and you’re listening and Craig’s listening and then that transfers all to you. And that’s the beauty of the thing that we had is that there was a natural progression.”

• Jimmy Johnson: “The most important guy on your football team is your quarterback.  And the second most important person on your football team is your backup quarterback.  It’s kind of like the Navy SEALS, if you’ve got one you’ve got none.  So you’ve got to have a couple of them at least.  I was always looking for great quarterbacks.”

 

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

Quick Heat update, from 11:30 p.m.: With the Heat winning, 99-93, in Detroit tonight (behind Joe Johnson's epic 15-point fourth quarter), here are the scenarios for the final night of the season. The NBA --- which said before the game that the Heat could finish sixth only with two losses and a Charlotte win --- amended that at 11:15 tonight:

• Miami (48-33) will be the third seed if it beats Boston OR if the Heat loses to Boston AND Atlanta loses at Washington. So Miami needs only a win OR an Atlanta loss to be the third seed.

• Miami will be the fifth seed if it loses to Boston and Atlanta wins and Charlotte loses. (The Hawks would be the No. 3 seed and the Celtics the No. 4 seed in that scenario).

• Miami will be the sixth seed if the Hawks and Hornets win and the Heat loses. In that scenario, a three-team Miami/Charlotte/Boston tiebreaker would have Boston 4th, Charlotte 5th and Heat 6th because the Celtics would have the best record in head-to-head matchups among those teams, the Hornets the second-best record and the Heat the third-best record.

Boston is 2-0 against the Heat and 2-1 against Charlotte. Miami and Charlotte are 2-2 against each other.

The funny thing is that if the Heat/Hornets/Celtics tied and the Southeast Division title was at stake, Miami would win the tiebreaker among those three. 

Both Sun Sports and ESPN (Mark Jones, Jon Barry) will carry Wednesday's Heat-Celtics game.

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Dolphins know they absolutely must acquire at least one quality cornerback in the draft and they are using a higher percentage of confirmed pre-draft visits on corners than any other position.

Per league sources, the Dolphins have asked at least nine corners to visit their headquarters to meet with coaches and team executives: Ohio State’s Eli Apple and Houston’s William Jackson III (both options with the 13th pick or a trade down), UM’s Artie Burns (a possibility at No. 42 if there), Baylor’s Xavien Howard (second- or third-round option), potential mid-round picks James Bradberry (Samford), Rashard Robinson (LSU) and Cre’von LeBlanc (FAU) and potential late-rounders Ryan Smith (North Carolina Central) and Kevon Seymour (Southern Cal).

All except Burns and LeBlanc count among the maximum 30 players that the Dolphins are allowed to invite to their offices. And all except Smith and LeBlanc are at least six feet, which is no coincidence.

It's important to note that the Dolphins have at least some level of interest in every player they bring to Davie. With some, they're merely trying to clarify issues (injuries, off field, etc.). But the Dolphins say they're not going to waste visits on players who don't interest them at all.

The Dolphins also have done private workouts with cornerbacks Taveze Calhoun (Mississippi State), Eric Murray (Minnesota) and Tavon Young (Temple), among others, and spent time with UM’s Tracy Howard after the Dolphins’ local workout last Friday.

Some chatter on the cornerbacks:

• With FSU’s Jalen Ramsey very likely long gone by No. 13, analysts are mixed about whether the other corners are worthy of the 13th pick. Though many believe UF’s Vernon Hargreaves is, ESPN’s Todd McShay downgraded him to 20th in his mock draft Tuesday because of “less than ideal measurables – 5-10 and 30 5/8 inch arms.”

As of last weekend, the Dolphins hadn’t invited Hargreaves or Clemson’s 5-10 Mackensie Alexander (rated 44th by McShay) to visit, though they do draft some players who don’t visit.

They have researched both intensively and Hargreaves is certainly a worthy option at 13 if available. But it’s notable that the Dolphins didn't heavily fret about losing out on Hargreaves in moving from 8th to 13th in the draft.

Half of the 48 passes thrown against Hargreaves were caught last season (for 380 yards) but quarterbacks had only a 49 rating in his coverage area.

“Hargreaves isn't a true speedster (4.50 40-yard dash at the combine),” McShay said, “but he wins in coverage thanks to his exceptional quickness, fluidity and ball skills. Even though he's just 5-foot-10, Hargreaves' leaping ability (39-inch vertical jump) helped him snag 10 interceptions in college.”

Alexander allowed only a 48 passer rating, with just 19 of 57 targets caught. But he had no interceptions in 27 college starts and that’s a “red flag,” McShay said. Still, he has “one of the higher ceilings in this year's cornerback class due to his movement skills and ability to play press-man coverage.”

• The Dolphins like big corners and Apple and Jackson – both 6-1 – fit the bill. But McShay has Jackson 25th and Apple 33rd, and some other analysts also see them going later than Miami’s pick. Miami might be able to trade down to land one of them.

As for Apple, passers had a 67.9 rating in his coverage area last season and his “tape is good but not elite,” McShay said. “While his 4.40 40 speed is a positive, he needs to improve his technique in press coverage. He's a willing participant against the run.”

Mel Kiper’s view: He “has major upside as a physical cornerback with length.”

Jackson, who held quarterbacks to a 55.6 rating in his coverage area, has “elite speed (4.37 40)… and thrives off the challenge of facing the opposing team's No. 1 receiver,” McShay said. “He showed some playmaking ability with two interceptions returns for touchdowns this season, but he struggles at times when the ball is in the air.”

But he is “rising on boards everywhere,” Kiper said. NFL Net’s Charles Davis said some teams who talked about Jackson as a third-rounder now have him going in the first.

• Burns, 6-0, who limited opposing quarterbacks to a 39.8 rating in his coverage area, had six interceptions last season after one combined the previous two. He dined with Dolphins officials last Thursday night. NFL people like his long arms (33¼ inches) and ability to play press coverage. McShay has him 36th in his newest mock.

The Dolphins also are intrigued by the 6-0 Howard, who had five interceptions and just a 32.4 passer rating in his coverage area.

CBS’ Rob Rang compares Howard, 6-0, to Dolphins cornerback Bryon Maxwell: “With his broad frame, Howard looks more like an NFL safety than a traditional cornerback, but he possesses the natural coverage skills and confidence to remain on the perimeter. With patience, he should develop into a starter at the next level, as well, projecting best in a press-heavy scheme.”

• Some view Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller (not booked for a Dolphins visit at the moment) as a late first-rounder --- McShay has him 23rd --- while others rate him a second- or third-rounder.

Among other potential second- or third-rounders: Alabama’s Cyrus Jones, LSU’s Jalen Mills, Southern Mississippi’s Kalen Reed, Texas A&M’s DeVante Harris, Mississippi State’s Will Redmond, Southeast Louisiana’s Harlan Miller, LeBlanc, Oklahoma State’s Kevin Peterson, Northwestern’s Nick Van Hoose and Oklahoma’s Zach Sanchez.

One combo safety/corner that Miami likes: Clemson’s TJ Green.

• Among mid-to-late-rounders who were summoned to Dolphins offices, Robinson (6-2) is especially interesting. He has great length and wingspan and started as a freshman on a talented LSU team but hasn’t played football since being suspended indefinitely by LSU in 2014 following multiple rules violations. He didn’t enroll in classes last year and has appeared in just 18 college games. The Dolphins want to talk to him about his past and if he’s changed.

“His length, agility and tenacity will be especially valued by teams looking for outside press corners,” CBS’ Rang said. “Accelerates smoothly and possesses very good straight-line speed overall, especially for a cornerback with his height.”...

As for Bradberry, he transferred from Arkansas State to Samford so he could play corner (instead of safety). CBS’ Dane Brugler says “Bradberry is well-versed with press technique and isn't shy using his long arms and physical hands to disrupt the rhythm of receivers, but his high center of gravity and stiffness force him to get turned around, lacking the burst to recover.”…

What about North Carolina Central's 5-11 Smith? He's generating a lot of attention on the predraft circuit and “possesses the start/stop quickness and natural cover traits to contribute in a NFL secondary,” Brugler said.... USC's Seymour, another of Miami’s 30 maximum Davie visits, has great physical gifts that exceed his production (three career picks).

Incidentally, thanks to Pro Football Focus for providing the passer ratings in the coverage areas of the top college cornerback prospects.

CHATTER

• Heat president Pat Riley cautions not to overstate the importance postseason play will have in how the Heat spends its ample cap space this summer. Though Riley didn’t say this, the Heat always intended to court the elite free agents (beginning with Kevin Durant) and that likely won’t change based on playoff results, though Miami wants to re-sign Hassan Whiteside.

There is likely not enough cap room for both Durant and Whiteside (only one) and Durant remains a long shot, though Miami wants to get in a room with him.

“You are always thinking a little ahead of how you're going to build your team based on what's going on now,” Riley said at Eric Reid’s and Tony Fiorentino’s charity event benefitting Lauren’s Kids on Saturday. “What we do this summer will be based on our thought process over the last two years.

The only thing I'm thinking about this week is this week, our health and let's make a run in the playoffs. We haven't even hit the calculator yet. We know there's something in the cash register [potentially $40 million in room]…. I feel good today about the team” heading into postseason.

• The Panthers have become media darlings heading into the playoffs. All 10 ESPN NHL “experts” pick Florida to eliminate the Islanders, with Barry Melrose having the Panthers winning in seven. NBC’s Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick agree.

"The Islanders still have some injuries that could leave them vulnerable,” Milbury told me today on a conference call. “Florida has at least one significant injury [Vincent Trocheck] but have enough depth to handle that injury. Their goaltender has been solid, experienced, been in big games before. This is a team that's ready to make to make a statement. I would give the edge to the Panthers. It's their time and with the Islanders not being 100 percent, the [Panthers] need to take advantage. I don't think it will be easy for the [Panthers].”

Roenick told me: “Their talent in Florida is immense. Their goal scoring ability is great. Their defense is so strong. Roberto Luongo has played extremely well. The one thing I question with Florida is their youth and lack of playoff experience with their young guys. We all know come playoff time, the intensity amps up, the physicality amps up, the speed amps up, how these guys are going to manager that early and how early they can adjust to that. Especially when you're playing the Islanders, who have a keen way of playing fast, in-your-face hockey. The Islanders need to get some secondary scoring.... Having the Panthers in the playoffs really helps the NHL with its exposure."

Trocheck, who had 25 goals and 28 assists in 76 games, remains out with an ankle injury (he was still in a walking boot today) but the Panthers remain hopeful he will play at some point in the first round. Rocco Grimaldi, recalled after Trocheck's injury, has played well in his absence.

• Please click here for UM football notes from earlier today.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz