06/11/2014

Bosh denies ESPN/Carmelo report; D. Jordan quandary; Examining how the Heat could fit Carmelo under the cap

A quick 3 p.m. update:

### As ESPN reported, the Heat is expected to at least explore the pie-in-the-sky scenario of acquiring Carmelo Anthony to partner with the Heat’s Big Three if Anthony opts for free agency by his June 23 deadline. The New York Daily News reported this afternoon that Anthony plans to opt out, barring a dramatic change of heart.

But Chris Bosh on Thursday denied an ESPN report that the team’s top players have already started to explore ways to create enough salary cap space to pull this off. In fact, Bosh said he, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have never once discussed the scenario of adding Anthony to the mix or how it can be accomplished. (It would require monumental pay cuts by all four.)

“I think that’s very, very unlikely,” Bosh said of such a Big Four scenario, with Anthony as the fourth.

Of Anthony possibly joining Miami, James said tonight: "Obviously, Melo has his own decision to make. That's not even crossed by mind at this point of the season."

The Heat views the Anthony scenario as a long shot but not out of the question.

ESPN's report said "the team's leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitous run at Carmelo."

But Udonis Haslem doesn’t believe adding Carmelo is that far-fetched.

“It doesn’t seem unrealistic,” he said today. “There was a time nobody would have thought you could put this team together, with those guys taking pay cuts, and even myself taking a paycut. You can never say never.”

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN ON THIS POST FOR A DETAILED EXPLANATION ABOUT HOW THE HEAT COULD FIT CARMELO UNDER THE CAP

### Joe Philbin likes the idea of having Dion Jordan play special teams because “he’s a big guy that can run and is hard to block.” But Jason Taylor, a guest coach during the offseason program, told the Dolphins-owned radio show that there is “not a whole lot of time” to work with Jordan on pass rush moves because a lot of his practice time is being spent on special teams. That’s not ideal, obviously.

“Dion is bigger than me, more athletic than I am,” Taylor said. “He's going to be stronger. He's so willing to learn. Anything I tell him or suggest, he's like a sponge.”

### UM football is up to 14 oral commitments after landing two this week from Texas-based Drew Galitz (a punter who’s also rated the nation’s No. 2 kicker) and Venice, Fla., offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier. Eleven of those 14 recruits are rated three-star prospects by rivals.com; the others are four-star.

### Jacob Turner, 23, has allowed a .330 opposing batting average, combined with an awful 6.38 ERA, but the Marlins are in a quandary because he’s out of minor league options, and he likely would be claimed by another team if they expose him to waivers. But Andrew Heaney (3-0, 2.74 at Triple A) and perhaps Justin Nicolino (5-2, 3.29 ERA in Double A)  would seem like better rotation options.

### Dan Bylsma appears the best choice for the Panthers’ head coaching job; he made the playoffs each of his six seasons in Pittsburgh, won a Stanley Cup in 2008 and went 252-117-32 before being fired recently. But Panthers ownership was also very impressed by Detroit assistant Tom Renney in their meeting Thursday, even though Renney made the playoffs only three times in nine years as a head coach, with the Rangers, Vancouver and Edmonton.

 

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If you have, well, Internet access, you might have seen two stories tonight linking Carmelo Anthony to the Heat:

### A Stephen A. Smith story that Anthony and LeBron James have expressed a desire to play together before their careers end, and that they will look into teaming up if both end up on the open market in July 2015.

### Another ESPN.com story (by Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein) reporting that “Heat officials and the team’s leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at” Anthony this summer.

If Anthony does not opt out of his Knicks contract in the coming days, he would earn $23.3 million next season. He must inform the Knicks by June 23 whether he’s opting out.

If the Heat’s Big Three doesn’t exercise early termination clauses this summer, James and Bosh would earn $20.59 million each next season and Wade $20.04 million. They must let the Heat know by late June.

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that all would need to take huge pay cuts to make room for Anthony in Miami next season, presuming all of them expect comparable salaries. It’s tough to imagine that happening, but it would be foolish to completely rule it out, either, because crazy things sometimes happen.

Bosh told me and others months ago he plans to stay with the Heat and he told ESPN Radio’s Dan Le Batard two weeks ago that he might be willing to take less money to stick around.

Wade strongly suggested to ESPN.com’s Mike Wallace last week that he does not feel obligated to opt out and take less money to keep the Big Three together.

Wade has told me previously he’s not sure he will opt out, won’t decide until after the Finals end, and that either scenario --- sticking to the last two years and $41 million of his contract --- or opting out for a longer deal --- would be appealing.

James declined to address his future when queried by an out of town reporter today, but an associate has said the Heat is the heavy favorite to keep him.

Also important to keep in mind: The salary cap is expected to rise from $58.6 million to $63.2 million.

So what would be the mechanics needed to fit Carmelo under the salary cap, along with the Big Three? Here’s how it would work:

### James, Wade and Bosh all would need to opt out of their contracts this summer. The Heat, if it tries to sign Anthony, would become a team operating under the cap rather than one over the cap. It would thus not be able to exceed the cap except to sign players to minimum-salary deals.

The Heat, in this scenario, would also have a room exception of $2.732 million, NBA salary cap expert Larry Coon tells us.

### The Heat would need to renounce all of its free agents (who haven’t already agreed to new deals) to clear their cap holds but could then immediately re-sign them to agreed-upon amounts, presuming they fit under the cap (or to minimum deals which can exceed the cap). When players are renounced, they lose their Larry Bird rights.

### The Heat has one player under a guaranteed contract for next season who has no early termination clause or player option: Norris Cole, at $2.15 million. Justin Hamilton has a non-guaranteed deal at $816,482.

Udonis Haslem has a player option for $4.6 million, which he assuredly will exercise unless the Heat talks him out of it by offering a multiyear deal at lower money. Chris Andersen has an option for $1.44 million.

### Let’s say Cole, Haslem and Andersen all return. Their salaries would add up to $8.14 million. Let’s say the Heat uses the 26th pick in the draft, which would come with a cap hold of just over $1 million. So that’s about $9.2 million.

### During the offseason, the league assesses an “incomplete roster charge” for any unfilled roster spots up to 12. So let’s say the Heat got the Big Three, Anthony, Cole, Haslem, Andersen and a first-round pick under contract.

That’s eight, meaning it would need to assess four “incomplete roster charge” cap holds of $507,336 --- the league’s minimum salary for rookies next season. That would add up to $11.2 million in cap commitments for Cole, Haslem, Andersen, the first-round draft pick and four roster holds. It would be about $300,000 more if the Heat keeps around Hamilton.

If you subtract $11.2 million from the projected cap of $62.3 million, that would leave $51 million to be split up among the Big Three and Anthony. If each agreed to take the same amount, that would be $12.75 million per player --- which would represent more than a $10 million paycut for Anthony, $7.3 million for Wade and $7.8 million for Bosh and James.

It would be slightly less money for the Big Three and Anthony if Hamilton stays on the cap.

To keep this going for three years or more, each of the Big Three and Anthony would lose tens of millions of dollars compared with what they would make if they signed max deals.

### A bit more wiggle room could be created if the Heat deals its first-round pick and if Haslem agreed to opt out of his $4.6 million deal and accept, say, $2 million annually instead over several years.

But even then, it’s difficult to come up with a scenario where each of the Big Three and Anthony could make more than $13.7 million apiece, presuming they all wanted an equal share of the pot. And it likely would be less than that.

### The Heat is not permitted to trade its first-round pick before the draft but can make a selection on behalf of another team and trade the pick after the draft for some commodity (a future second-rounder, perhaps) that wouldn't clog its cap this summer.

### Teams at or above the cap can sign veterans to the minimum, so the open roster spots temporarily being held by “incomplete roster charges” could be filled by Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis or James Jones and others at the minimum. (And a point guard to replace Mario Chalmers.)

In this scenario, the Heat could use its $2.7 million room exception to add a quality free agent who wants more than the minimum, perhaps a point guard (Chalmers, Ramon Sessions, Kirk Hinrich, etc.)

### A final thought: The Big Three each sacrificed about $15 million over the length of their contracts to play together.

To ask them and Carmelo to sacrifice considerably more than that, if they choose to commit to this “Big Four” concept for several years, would be a lot to expect, even though all make a lot of money in endorsements and off-court ventures (LeBron the most, obviously).

Oh yes, there's an NBA Finals going on. Please see the last post for a ton of Heat NBA Finals notes from today.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Wednesday night Heat report: What players had to say a day later; Finals news, notes

Less than 15 hours after they were torched like no team ever has been in a first half of an NBA Finals game, Heat players returned to the scene of the Game 3 debacle on Wednesday and watched the disaster on the tape, analyzing and agonizing over every defensive miscue, every late rotation, every lazy close-out.

It was both excruciating and enlightening.

“Pretty brutal,” is how Shane Battier described Wednesday’s one-hour film session that exposed everything Miami did wrong in the Spurs’ 71-point first-half blitz, in which they shot an NBA Finals-record 75.8 percent.

“It sucks,” Ray Allen said of the film session. “But it’s probably the best time because there are so many small things that you see.”

Several players said coach Erik Spoelstra did all the talking.

“We don’t talk back to the coach,” LeBron James said. “Let him make his point, whether he’s right or wrong. He gets up under us and we have to own our mistakes.”

Identifying their shortcomings isn’t the problem. Whether they can solve them will help determine whether they can win Game 4 on Thursday and tie this series.

"Probably the worst game we’ve played together,” Chris Bosh said Wednesday of the 111-92 drubbing.

“It’s disappointing to see the lack of effort. We just weren’t doing our jobs. It seemed like they were playing a home game. We’re supposed to have the momentum. We were at home! When we deviate from what we normally do, we get our [butt] kicked.”

Through three games, the Spurs are shooting 53.3 percent; the NBA Finals record is 52.7 by the 1991 Bulls. Also, the Spurs are shooting 47.9 percent on three-pointers, a smidge below the Lakers’ all-time Finals record (48 percent in 2001).

During the season, the Heat ranked an uncharacteristically low 15th in field-goal percentage defense, at 45.7 percent. The Spurs shot 48.6 percent, second-highest behind Miami.

For some perspective, consider this: Kawhi Leonard, off a career-high 29 point blowup in Game 3, is shooting 59.3 percent in this series, and yet that’s only the fourth-highest shooting percentage by a Spurs player in these Finals.

Tiago Splitter (8 for 12, .667), Tim Duncan (20 for 31, 64.5) and Danny Green (14 for 22, .636) are all higher. Tony Parker is at 50 percent.

Dwyane Wade said the Heat cannot dismiss what happened Tuesday as an anomaly.

“No, no, no, no,” Wade said. “You don’t chalk it up to, ‘Oh, they just shot well. It was their night. It wasn’t our night.’ No, you have to do something about it. They shot well for a reason.

“Each person individually has to look at themselves in the mirror to see what you can do better…. They shot the ball well because of mistakes we made.”

Rashard Lewis said the Heat’s biggest defensive failing was “being beaten off the dribble. They got into the paint all night. Seems like we were a step slow on everything.”

There were other issues, too, many resulting from the Spurs’ exquisite ball movement.

“I thought we didn’t help as much,” Wade said. “When you get to a point in the game where you’re tired or just thinking it’s not going to be hard, that’s when you make a mistake.

“You have to help your teammates on the drive. You have to cover the shooter. You have to cover the cutter. They make you think. It’s hard.”

James said some of the Heat’s problems stemmed from “mental breakdowns. Against the Spurs, any little minor mistake you make, they’ll make you pay.”

Spoelstra would never discuss rotation changes, but Bosh --- while not publicly advocating it --- conceded,  when asked, that Shane Battier (who was out of the rotation the past two games) and Udonis Haslem (who has played two minutes in the series) could offer something defensively.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan said Wednesday that Haslem has “always” played him effectively.

“Coach will have to make some decisions,” Bosh said. “Any time you have a game not putting out on defense, you do have to question who you are going to play.”

The Heat can take some solace in this: The Spurs also won Game 3 last year in a blowout, by 36 points, putting them ahead 2-1 in a series they would ultimately lose. And Miami has won 13 playoff games in a row after losses.

The Heat can also take solace in knowing Leonard is unlikely to repeat Tuesday’s eruption, considering he hadn’t before scored 29 points in a game since high school.

Leonard became the first player in 62 years (since Slater Martin) to score more points than anybody else in an NBA Finals game after not doing it in any previous game in the playoffs or that regular season.

But Wednesday was not about seeking solace. It was about accountability and a realization that a loss Thursday would leave their three-peat bid in grave peril.

“We have to fix some things for sure, but I’m not too concerned… because we played some good basketball in the postseason,” James said.

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said what the Spurs achieved, from a shooting standpoint, in the first half of Game 3 “is almost unrepeatable. They’re not going to turn the ball over 20 times [again]. That’s for sure…. They’re going to be upset. It’s a tough, tough challenge.” 

THE BOSH ISSUE

It’s difficult for a 6-10 All-Star to become lost during an NBA Finals game.

But that seemingly happened to Chris Bosh on offense in Game 3 of the Finals, for reasons partly beyond his control.

The Heat’s versatile center, perhaps the NBA’s best mid-range and long-distance shooter for a player of his size, touched the ball only 12 times, compared with 39 in Game 1 and 40 in Game 2.

"We hate when that happens because he’s too big for our team for him to ever get lost,” LeBron James said Wednesday. “We can’t allow that to happen for us to be successful.”

What’s more, Bosh attempted only four shots, making all of them. He had attempted that few shots in a game only once before this season: in a November game against Charlotte.

Point guard Norris Cole said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made clear during a film session on Wednesday that Bosh must get the ball more.

“He definitely has to have more touches,” Cole said. “It’s our job to get it to him.”

Rashard Lewis said Bosh was “wide open” several times when he didn’t get the ball. And Bosh said he held his palms open on several occasions during Game 3 to signal to teammates that he was open.

He attributed his lack of involvement to lack of “side-to-side ball movement.  Everybody knows I don’t get any play calls. That’s how it has been since I’ve been here. I’m very reliant on side-to-side ball movement. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to shoot it every time.

“But [not getting the ball] doesn’t give me the chance to read and react to the defense to get in certain spots to make them second guess what they’re doing. Hopefully, we’ll do a better job of moving the basketball so everyone can be involved to really be effective.”

Whereas the Spurs had 25 possessions with at least six passes, Spoelstra said the Heat had 37 with two or fewer passes.

TURNOVER PROBLEMS

The Heat has more turnovers (54) than assists (47) through three games, with James committing 15 and Dwyane Wade 12. Those two combined for 12 in Game 3 “and we can’t have that if we want to win,” Wade said.

With the Heat’s point guards struggling, Spoelstra indicated he would feel comfortable playing without a point guard at times but declined to say whether he’s less comfortable doing so with Mike Miller no longer on the team.

### Wade, asked to assess his defense, which has been spotty in this series: “I’ve had good moments. I’ve had bad moments. I have great moments of helping. I’ve had bad moments of helping. I’ve had good on-ball moments, bad on-ball moments.”

### James Jones bemoaned picking up three fouls in two minutes of Game 3. “I was in a bad situation making bad plays,” he said.

### James, who has an early termination clause in his contract this summer, declined to discuss his future intentions….. Though Ray Allen reiterated he hasn’t made a decision about whether to play next season, he also said: “I love how my body feels and I love the position I’ve been in the past few years.”

BY THE NUMBERS

### The Game 3 winner of an NBA Finals tied at one has won 30 of 36 series (83 percent). Among the key exceptions: Last year’s Finals, when Miami lost Game 3 and won the series.

### The home team that lost Game 3 of a 1-1 Finals series, as Miami did Tuesday, has gone on to lose 20 of 22 series.

### The Heat bench, which outscored its Spurs counterparts by 25 points in last year’s Finals, has been outscored by 45 by Spurs reserves in this year’s Finals.

### According to Elias, Mario Chalmers is the only starter in an NBA Finals over the past 30 years to play 50-plus minutes, score 10 or fewer points and shoot 25 percent or worse from the field. Greg Cote will have a column posted later on Chalmers' disastrous Finals. And check out our post from Tuesday about options to replace Chalmers this summer, should the Heat decide to part ways with him.

 

Postscripts, thoughts, what Heat had to say after dismal Game 3 loss; UM's Morris gets extension

Postscripts from the Heat’s jarring 111-92 loss in Game 3 of the NBA Finals:

### The Heat has played more than 2250 games in its 26-year history.

Never has a Heat opponent shot as high a percentage in the first quarter or first half of a game as the Spurs did on Tuesday.

Let that marinate for a minute.

So how could this happen, this remarkable offensive display by a team that the Heat had limited to 18 points and 6 of 17 shooting in the fourth quarter just two nights earlier?

How could the Spurs shoot an unfathomable 13 for 15 (86.7 percent) in the first quarter and a sterling 75.8 percent (25 for 33) in the first half?

“We did nothing right; we weren’t focused at all,” Chris Bosh said. “One on one defense was really bad. Help was bad. Containments were bad. Everything was bad. Our rotations were late. They got everything they wanted. We can’t do this. It’s the Finals! We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re going to win a championship playing like that…. Any questions about defense, you can ball it up and throw it in the trash. It was all bad.”

Yes, some of this was otherworldly shooting, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green sinking long jumpers as if they were layups, as if the basket had been expanded to the size of Biscayne Bay.

But there was far more to it than that. This was sloppy, deplorable defense, as the Spurs scored on 19 of their first 23 possessions.

Dwyane Wade was beaten off the dribble by Leonard and Tony Parker, among others, and left in the dust in transition. Yes, even LeBron James was beaten off the dribble, by Tim Duncan and Green.

Of the Spurs’ 10 first half three-point attempts (seven makes), Spurs shooters were given too much airspace on at least half of them, with Bosh not even in the same zip code as Boris Diaw on one of them. One issue was the Heat wasn’t quick enough in its rotations, leaving too many uncontested threes.

Heat point guards couldn’t keep Parker from penetrating, or even Patty Mills, for that matter.

Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen and Bosh were flummoxed by crafty moves by Duncan and Diaw under the basket.

This was most telling about the Spurs’ 19 for 21 start: Eleven of those shots were in the restricted area directly under the basket. Thirteen were in the paint, with the Spurs making 12 of them.

Of the other eight shots in that 19 for 21 start, six were threes (one in the corner) and two were jumpers from the top of the key.

“There were a lot of breakdowns early,” Ray Allen said. “Wasn’t any urgency. We yelled at each other, encouraged each other, a range of emotion, trying to find anything to spark us. Kawhi Leonard attacked us. They got the ball inside on us early. We weren’t ready for it.”

### LeBron, afterward: “We hate the performance we put on, but it’s 2 to 1. It’s not 4 to 1. They jumped on us. They were the aggressor tonight. They had us on their heels from the beginning. This was something at this point of the season shouldn’t happen. This is the last team in the NBA you can dig yourself a hole against. I don’t think we had a lack of urgency. They were very aggressive and we didn’t match that. They came in with a desperation that we didn’t match.

“I turned the ball over way too much [seven times]. Some were over-dribbling at times.”

### Wade, afterward: “They jumped on us early, and now you’re fighting to get back. You’re forcing things. A little frustration. That’s the nature of the playoffs. It’s not always good. We’ve got to learn from it, come out and make the adjustments. We dig ourselves a pretty big hole. We’re a resilient team. We’re going to keep fighting."

Want some historical perspective? Consider:

### The Spurs’ 41 points were the most by any team in the first quarter of a Finals game since Game 6 of the 1967 Finals.

### Their field-goal percentage both in the first quarter and first half were NBA Finals records.

### The 71 points allowed were the most the Heat has ever relinquished in the first half of a playoff game, smashing the old record by seven. It was also the most Heat points allowed in any half of any playoff game. Previous record: 68 by Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1992.

If you’re wondering, the most points the Heat has ever allowed in a first half were 80 against Philadelphia in a regular season game in 1992.

### The highest shooting percentage in a half that the Heat ever yielded before Tuesday was 72.1 percent by Seattle in 1990 (regular season) and 68.9 percent by the Spurs in the second half of Game 1.

Other observations from Game 3:

### Clever move by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to start Diaw, who has a diverse offensive game and the versatility to play any position. The Spurs were a team-high plus 20 with Diaw on the floor, and he made several key plays, including a drawn charge from James. “He allows us to have more variety in our offense,” Popovich said afterward.

### If Mario Chalmers cannot snap out of this miserable funk (0 for 5 shooting, three turnovers on Tuesday), Spoelstra needs to consider playing more without a natural point guard, especially because Norris Cole is just 10 for 39 in 10 Finals games against the Spurs, including 3 for 9 on Tuesday.

Spoelstra played without a point guard for five minutes in the second quarter and two in the fourth, but the Heat was outscored during each of those stretches.

The problem with playing without a point guard for long stretches is that it usually requires James to defend Parker, which expends a lot of energy.

Spoelstra said afterward he would stick with the Heat’s point guards.

“We’re going to continue to give Mario confidence,” Wade said. “He’s a big piece of what we do and we’re missing that piece for whatever reason. Defensively, Mario is somebody we depend on to cause havoc, and we need him to do that.”

Please see the last post for more on Chalmers’ future.

### Spoelstra again bypassed Shane Battier for James Jones. Again, it didn’t go well, with Jones picking up three fouls and not even taking a shot in two first half minutes. Battier and Udonis Haslem didn’t play until the final 1:36 of garbage time.

### Though the Heat closed to within seven in the third quarter, Bosh said: “We’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re coming back from 25 down.”

### James and Wade each scored  22, with James closing with those seven turnovers and Wade five. Those were 12 of the Heat’s 20 turnovers, leading to 23 Spurs points. Conversely, the Spurs had only 13 turnovers, which the Heat converted into just six points.

### The Spurs’ 25 point-lead tied for the largest deficit ever for a Heat home game during the Big Three era… Leonard’s 29 points were the most he has scored since high school… Highest price ticket sold Tuesday: $25,000 for a courtside seat.

UM NEWS

### Look for UM to announce shortly that baseball coach Jim Morris has been given a three-year contract extension, through 2018. Morris guided the Canes to 11 College World Series appearances in his first 15 seasons but none in the past six.

But the UM administration has high confidence in him and knows there are factors beyond his control. Among them: UM’s high tuition hurts baseball recruiting, where only partial scholarships are usually awarded.

By the way, the extension was agreed to before UM was eliminated by Texas Tech in the regionals. 

### Please see the last post for a look at the Heat’s future at point guard and Dolphins chatter.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

06/10/2014

Tuesday report: Heat's Future PG decisions loom over Finals; Dolphins chatter

Among the Big Three’s supporting cast, no player has more on the line financially during these Finals than impending free agent Mario Chalmers, who’s trying to make a case for the Heat to give him a sizable salary next season, luxury tax penalty be damned. It’s highly questionable if the Heat will oblige.

But Chalmers’ uneven postseason doesn’t necessarily doom his chances of returning because it might damage his bargaining position such that he becomes more affordable to Miami.

Because the Heat will pay an especially onerous repeater tax next season (for teams in the tax three of the past four seasons), paying Chalmers even $4 million again next season could --- on top of his salary --- result in a luxury tax bill of at least $10 million, perhaps a few million more for 2014-15, depending on to what extent the Heat surpasses the tax threshold.

Chalmers insists his looming free agency hasn’t clouded his mind or affected his play. But he knows his performance late in postseason will impact his value.

“It’s always the last impression you make,” he said. “It’s something I’m aware of, but I’m not thinking about.”

Though Chalmers prefers to return, the belief in the Heat locker-room is that he also wants to cash in, and a team that has cap space but doesn’t have the ability to lure marquee free agents could make him a decent offer.

With Norris Cole under contract next season at $2.15 million, the Heat could pair Cole with a veteran point guard willing to accept modest money.

If Miami cannot strike a deal with Chalmers, it could try to convince Kirk Hinrich (who said he wants to stay in Chicago) or Steve Blake (he and Hinrich each earned $4 million this season) or Ramon Sessions (earned $5 million) or Devin Harris (shot just 30 percent on threes) or reincarnated Shaun Livingston (shot just 1 for 6 on threes) to take the minimum, which tops out at $1.4 million, or part of Miami’s $3.27 million taxpayer midlevel exception.

Blake previously has been open to returning to South Florida, where he grew up, but his interest always has exceeded Miami’s, and Knicks executive Phil Jackson is expected to pursue him next month. Free agents Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry will be out of Miami’s price range.

Other impending free agent point guards: improved Patty Mills, the Heat’s Toney Douglas, Luke Ridnour, Jerryd Bayless, Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, Jordan Farmar, Beno Udrich, Earl Watson and MarShon Brooks.

Cole said he “definitely” wants to be a starter eventually, though that should not be interpreted as Cole trying to push his friend Chalmers out the door.

ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy has said he believes Cole could be a capable starter on a playoff team, and ABC’s Jalen Rose said Cole “has become a starting point guard in this league.”

But Cole’s play since the All-Star break (including sub-36 percent shooting) has been neither convincing nor starter-worthy.

To ever start here, Cole must overcome the perception he’s better coming off the bench.

“Norris is great for our team; he’s a change of pace from… Rio,” LeBron James said. “That’s what you need with guys off the bench. You need energy guys. He makes his mark defensively. Offensively, whatever what he gives us is extra.”

Cole insists his skills are well suited to starting. “We have two different skills sets and our team needs both of them at certain times,” he said of himself and Chalmers. “His pace is different from my pace. I’m more of a quicker, lateral guy, more of a quick attacker. Things are working.”

Chris Bosh believes Chalmers “tries to do too much” when he’s struggling, but Chalmers says some other point guards could not handle playing with this team, playing off the ball as much as much he does.

The positive of that, Chalmers said, is that "playing here has taught me more about moving without the ball, choosing my spots better.”

CHATTER

### The Heat could draft a point guard 26th --- ESPN’s Chad Ford has Miami taking Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier --- but it’s difficult to envision entering next season with merely Cole and a rookie.

### Why did Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com leave LeBron off his All-NBA first team ballot – the only one of 125 voters to do that?

Sheridan, who listed MVP Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin as his first-team forwards, explained to me that he put Griffin ahead of James because Griffin helped lead the Clippers to a better record than the Heat “in a better conference” --- though Chris Paul and others had a lot to do with that, too.

A Heat executive told Sheridan that in retrospect, he could have put James on his first team as a guard if he felt strongly about including Griffin on the first team.

### Joe Philbin says Dion Jordan is “playing faster” because he’s “doing less thinking,” something Jordan also said Monday. Philbin wants to keep using him on special teams because “he’s a big guy that can run and is hard to block.”…

Lamar Miller remains with the starters and Philbin said he is having a “very good” camp…. Jason Fox shifted to left tackle this week, behind Branden Albert, after Nate Garner struggled in the role earlier in OTAs. That suggests the Dolphins, for now, have a comfort level with Ja'Wuan James holding down the right tackle job.

### One characteristic of Bill Lazor’s offense is a lot of pre-snap motion, but Philbin explained this week there are positives and minuses to that approach: “If you’re stationary and you’re sitting at the line of scrimmage and your ducks are in a row as we like to say, it’s a little bit easier from an offensive perspective, but you’re not challenging the defense probably as much. 

"There is give and take. I think, as a coaching staff, we have to examine whether all of this motion and shifting a detriment or is it a benefit? And what’s the right blend and what’s the right balance.”

### Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has been showing his players tape of Seattle’s defense partly to demonstrate how much emotion and enthusiasm with which they play, according to a player. What’s ironic about that: Another veteran Dolphins player says the Dolphins, during the past two years, have taken on Philbin's unemotional, at times detached personality.

06/08/2014

Postscripts, notes, quotes from Heat's Game 2 win of NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO --- Postscripts from the Heat's 98-96 win over the Spurs in Game 2 of the Finals at AT&T Center:

### LeBron? His second half should be framed: 22 points (including 14 in the third), 8 for 11 shooting, three rebounds, one assist and no turnovers. He played exceptional defense on Tony Parker, including one critical late-game possession.

And he passed to Chris Bosh for the go-ahead three pointer with 1:18 left --- the same type of pass he has made to Bosh in several late-game situations in the past.

"It was a huge play to help us win," James said. "I caught Tim Duncan peeking at me a little bit. And I was able to find C.B. in the corner in one of his favorite spots on the floor and he knocked it down."

He closed with 35 points and 10 boards, completing a day that he said began with an 8 a.m. yoga class "with three other people and a little kid. That was the only thing I did differently today."

The air conditioning was working, the cramps were gone, and "mentally I didn't want to think about it too much."

LeBron opened 0 for 3 "but all my misses were in the paint. I was confident where I was getting on the floor. In the first half, I got into the paint, made some shots, put pressure on their defense. In the second half, they backed up off me and I shot it. Don't overthink. If they give me space, I shoot it. If they crowd me, I try to drive and make plays for me and my teammates."

### If there was something not quite right during the drudgery of the Heat’s regular season, it was pretty clear: The defensive intensity and precision and detail too often weren’t up to the standards Pat Riley and his successors demand in this no-excuses Heat culture. Chris Bosh complained in March that the Heat “couldn’t stop a nosebleed.”

The Heat’s field-goal percentage against, in the top six each of the previous three seasons of the Big Three era, slid to 15th. The Heat relinquished 2 ½ more points per game both this season, and this postseason, than a year ago.

The Heat’s defense again malfunctioned to start Game 2, with the Spurs opening 13 for 21 from the field, repeatedly penetrating into the paint and scoring an easy basket off an inbounds pass that left Dwyane Wade throwing up his hands in disgust.

But then something simple and critical happened: “We got in ‘em more,” as James put it.

The Heat’s defense was exemplary for most of the fourth quarter, and that was one of the three biggest reasons for this win, along with James’ monster eruption, and Bosh's late three. The Heat's fourth quarter defense, Ray Allen said, "was the difference."  

Spurs shots in the fourth were fiercely challenged, with just a few exceptions. Close-outs on three-point shooters were quick and decisive. More often than not, Heat defenders kept Spurs players from driving past them, as Ray Allen did against Manu Ginobili on two late possessions that ended with a turnover and missed jumper. “I got lucky,” Allen said.  

After shooting 14 for 16 in the fourth quarter of Game 1, the Spurs were 6 of 17 in Game 2. San Antonio closed at 43.9 percent from the field after shooting 58.8 percent in Game 1.

“We forced them to make shots over the top,” Allen said. “Better attention to detail.”

Wade said “we switched a little but gave them different looks. Guards were fighting over screens.”

The Heat fouled too much early in the fourth, putting the Spurs in the bonus for the final 6:42, but San Antonio missed four of six fourth-quarter free throws.

Part of this was maniacal effort. But there were other nuances. The Heat changed up its pick-and-roll defense at times to “throw them off,” as Rashard Lewis said.

And this was huge: Erik Spoelstra had a player with size defend Tony Parker for much of the second half --- James primarily and Wade at times.

And Chris Andersen (for large doses), Bosh and Lewis kept Tim Duncan in check the final third quarters. Duncan shot 5 for 6 in the first quarter, just 2 for 8 after that.

### You had to love Bosh’s attacking mentality. He scored 18 on 6 for 11 shooting and didn’t even attempt a three-pointer until the fourth quarter. His three with 1:18 left put the Heat ahead for good.

 “One of the most stable, mentally tough guys I’ve ever been around,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why it raises the hair on the back of my neck when people question him.”

Bosh said if James is the most targeted player in the NBA, “I’m probably No. 2.” But more is needed on the glass than his three rebounds in 36 minutes.

### Spoelstra went slightly deeper into his bench, bypassing Shane Battier and opting instead for cameos for James Jones and Udonis Haslem.

Twice during these playoffs, James publicly expressed a desire for Jones to play more. Twice, Jones has played in the next game.

Jones logged nearly seven minutes, one fewer than he had played since the start of the Eastern Conference Finals. Jones missed both of his shots, but he helps spread the floor when James is on the court.

"Spo was great with his adjustments today, guys in and out," LeBron said.

### Biggest revelation of these Heat playoffs? Rashard Lewis, who played just 22 minutes between Feb. 1 and March 25. Lewis not only hit three three-pointers on a 14-point night but made a couple of nifty moves around the basket.

### Dwayne Wade, who closed with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and five turnovers: "We did a better job of finishing the game. We made mistakes. It wasn't a perfect game by no stretch of the imagination. It wasn't a perfect ending, but one, we had LeBron at the end, that was one of the differences. Two, we got fouled rebounding the ball. And we made them take tough shots."

### Gregg Popovich's take: "We made bad decisions. The ball stuck. We didn't do it as a group. We tried to do it individually and we're not good enough to do that."

### Quick stuff: The Heat is now plus 11 with James on the court in this series and minus 24 with him off… The Heat has won at least one road playoff game in 16 consecutive series, extending its NBA-record streak. That’s remarkable. So is Miami winning 13 playoff games in a row after losses…. With Duncan hauling in 15 rebounds and Boris Diaw 10, James’ 10 rebounds and Andersen’s nine were huge. And Wade had seven.

### NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who succeeded David Stern on Feb. 1, said Sunday night that the breakdown of the air conditioning during Game 1 “is certainly not one of my prouder moments of my short tenure” and “wasn’t handled perfectly.”

Silver said that a few minutes before Game 1, the league was told that one of the main circuits that controls the water pump had broken. At&TCenter officials told the league they tried to reset it several times and determined late in the second quarter that they could not fix the circuit breaker. But the Heat was not informed of the problem until during the second quarter.

“There always are going to be human and mechanical errors and it’s unfortunate,” Silver said.

Silver said he wasn’t concerned about the possibility this series might be remembered for the malfunction. “I’m glad this isn’t single elimination,” he said.

### Asked if the breakup of the Heat or Thunder would be considered a success for the league under a labor deal designed to create competitive balance, Silver said: “I don’t know if I would necessarily call it a success. Our goal was not to break up teams. But ultimately, any type of cap system in essence is a form of player sharing.

“So to the extent that James Harden leaves Oklahoma City and the Houston Rockets then become a competitive team, that’s a positive thing for the league. Part of the purpose of a cap system is so you don’t see too much talent aggregated in one market.”

### Silver called the Heat “one of the best organizations in sports” and said “for all we know, LeBron James is just getting started.” 

PLEASE SEE THE LAST POST FOR A UM ORAL COMMITMENT FROM SUNDAY AND DOLPHINS AND MARLINS.

06/07/2014

3 p.m. Sunday UM commit; Pancakes, bald eagles and parking spaces: Inside Ray Allen's unique way of life; Fins, UM, Marlins chatter

Quick 3 p.m. Sunday news item: UM received an oral commitment just now from Texas-based Drew Galitz, rated by rivals.com as the No. 2 kicker in the 2015 class. Galitz, who announced his commitment on Twitter, also can punt. Galitz has a 65-yard field goal and 80-yard punt posted on Youtube.

Junior Matt Guodis will be UM's kicker this season; he made 13 of 17 field goals in 2013, missing three between 40 and 49 yards and also missing a 23-yarder. Guodis and Ricky Carroll are listed as an either/or at punter on UM's depth chart.

Galitz handled punts and kickoffs last season but not field goals, because he was playing behind a kicker who is headed to Ole Miss. He will handle field goals this season.

This is an important pickup, UM's 13th oral commitment in this class.

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

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN     

The detailed routine can be so tiresome, so tedious, that Ray Allen admits he feels “like a prisoner to it.”

But there is never any internal questioning of it, no respites from a way of life that includes thousands of pregame shots every season, carefully watching calories, visualizing bald eagles and avoiding the midcourt line (more on this later).      

In his estimation, the commitment to the relentlessly repetitive regimen is a big reason why he’s still thriving at 38, why he still has signature moments like those in Game 1, when he produced 16 points, five steals, three rebounds, three assists and an electric out-of-nowhere dunk.

“He’s never deviated from the routine, and that’s what I find most astounding,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I sat him out a game last year against Charlotte right before the playoffs. His ankle was sore so I wasn’t going to play him that game. He still took a cab over to the arena. He couldn’t do his whole shooting routine but he still did his whole free-throw routine, still there four hours before the game. That’s why we call him Everyday Ray.”

Here’s what Everyday Ray looks like on game day:

Pancakes in the morning, followed by a team shoot-around, a banana and peanut butter or a turkey sandwich (if he burns calories at shoot-around), then a 90-minute nap, followed by a 2:30 p.m. meal featuring chicken or fish, a vegetable and a carb (preferably white rice).

He arrives at the arena 3 ½ hours before tip-off (long before most players), has his head shaved before every game; stretches and launches anywhere from 120 to 200-plus shots during a grueling session that he has done every game since 1997, his second season in the league. (He will take more shots if he’s missing many of them.)

“Before the [expletive] workers even get here, he’s at the gym getting shots up,” marvels Rashard Lewis, who values Allen’s mentoring dating to their years in Seattle together. “I don’t know how he does it. I’m taking a nap and he’s probably at the gym getting ready for the game. I don’t know that I could be as disciplined as he is. It’s unbelievable.”

Each session begins with a post-up, and “I have to make a basket touching every part of the floor.”

He believes the Cavaliers cheerleaders once tried to sabotage him during his pre-game shooting: “They littered the floor and started dancing. It was intentional. These are the distractions I deal with all the time. They turned the lights out in Sacramento but I kept shooting.”

Allen used to take a cab to the arena for road games, but the Heat last season began paying for a bus to drive Allen to the arena early, often with James Jones and then-Heat swingman Mike Miller, and occasionally others. Most of the players come to the arena on a later bus.

For Allen, there is also a psychological element to everything he does. During the National Anthem before games, he visualizes big baskets in his career, big games that he’s played in, even memorable moments in other sports. Essentially, “things that have inspired me to be better.”

One of those visuals that come to mind during the Anthem “is watching bald eagles fly. Eagles watch everyone from above.”

Allen believes he has a few behavioral tendencies associated with obsessive compulsive disorder but said he doesn't use that term “out of respect” to people diagnosed with the condition.

“I can’t touch certain lines on the floor,” he said. “If there’s a timeout, I won’t walk on the line across the middle of the floor. I will walk around it.”

He tries to clean up scuff marks on the court. If his children walk around a pole, Allen must walk the same way they did. They don't believe in splitting poles, so to speak. He weighs himself twice a day and adjusts his diet even if he gains half a pound.

The Boston Globe relayed a story several years ago about Allen walking on the airplane one night and telling Paul Pierce: “You’re in the wrong seat.”

Pierce responded: “Man, there’s a hundreds seats open. Leave me alone.” Pierce, good-naturedly, has called Allen crazy.

This season, Michael Beasley parked in the spot that Allen likes to use at AmericanAirlines Arena. “He had a fender bender and I said, ‘That’s what you get for parking in my spot,’” Allen said.

When he was child, Allen forced himself to make five right-handed layups and then five left-handed layups before he could leave the gym. If he ran out of time or was forced off the court by others, “I cried,” he told The Globe. “It messed up my day.”

In Boston, Allen would scold Eddie House for shooting half-court shots at the other team’s basket during halftime, saying it was bad luck.

Ask him if he has any friends in pro sports outside of the NBA, and he mentions one: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They text occasionally during their seasons and golf together during their offseasons.  

Allen knows he’s still plenty good enough but will decide in late June whether he has the desire not only to play next season, but to do everything in his routine that allows him to function with a clear mind. It would be surprising if he retires.

“It’s hard to do the same thing over and over and over before you get bored with it, tired of it, and he constantly has done it so many years,” Dwyane Wade said. “That’s impressive.”

### For a lot more Heat chatter from Saturday, please see the last post from a few hours ago.

CHATTER

### Contrary to a published report, the Dolphins' Koa Misi said he never complained about being asked to move to middle linebacker and is excited about it. “I’ve always told the coaches I’m open to trying new things and new positions,” he said.

Misi said he’s studying two to four hours every night and arrives at team headquarters around 5 a.m., before many other players.

What’s more, “I had my wife buy me some cones so I can line up the cones in my house and adjust to different formations. At first, I had a bunch of hats laid out on the ground. It’s a lot to learn. I have a lot more calls to make, a lot more reads. I’m already feeling a lot more comfortable.”

### Though rookie third-round pick Billy Turner shared first-team left guard snaps with Dallas Thomas on the first day of offseason practices, Thomas said he has received most of the reps since, and coaches are encouraged by how he has looked playing alongside Branden Albert.

He played just three offensive snaps last season --- despite the Dolphins’ offensive line deficiencies --- and says he struggled mentally learning multiple positions and also physically with his surgically-repaired shoulder, which “held me back. Last year, I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I got rusty not playing, and you develop some bad habits. I played my senior year at guard [at Tennessee]. I’m very comfortable there. Starting is my goal.”

### Smart move by the Marlins to twice show patience with Marcell Ozuna by neither demoting him after a horrific spring nor demoting him after a major slump in early May.

Not only did he enter the weekend tied for first in RBI and second in homers among all MLB center fielders, but he’s tied for seventh overall in RBI in the National League and “quietly, he’s one of the best center fielders in the game” defensively, manager Mike Redmond said.

### Among those endorsing Marlins' first-round draft choice Tyler Kolek is legendary former pitcher Nolan Ryan, who now works for the Astros.

“The thing I like about him is when you watch him pitch he’s around the plate,” Ryan told MLB.com. “He’s not bouncing balls, throwing stuff up on the backstop and things of that nature. I predict he’s going to come quicker than people think.”

Kolek's fastball velocity has been timed as high as 102 mph. The Texas high-school right-hander was selected second overall in Thursday's draft.

### Last year’s Marlins first-round pick, third baseman Colin Moran, is hitting .272 with three homers, 17 RBI and four errors in 44 games at Single A Jupiter. He had one homer in his first 42 games before homering in each of his past two.

### Though Canesport.com reported Seffner Armwood defensive end Byron Cowart --- the nation's No. 1 Class of 2015 prospect --- will visit UM, Cowart indicated to other publications that UF and Oregon are his front-runners.

"With Oregon, you have the Nike backing," he said. "With Florida, you have the famility atmosphere. That's where I feel comfortable." 

### A rather jarring UM stat mentioned recently by ESPN: Over the past five seasons, UM is 25-24 against schools from the power five conferences, including its own. FSU, conversely, is 39-15.

### Please see the last post for lots of Heat and Spurs news and tidbits from Saturday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Saturday evening Heat report: LeBron update, Amusing conspiracy talk, Popovich musings; and a media column

### LeBron James, sidelined by cramps during much of the fourth quarter in Game 1, said before practice today: "I'm doing well, doing a lot better. The soreness is starting to get out. I'm feeling better than I did yesterday and with another day, I should feel much better."

Still, James cautioned "there is no way to test my body for what I went through. The conditions are nowhere near extreme as they were. Unless I decide to run from here to the hotel, that's the only way I would be able to test my body out."

LeBron said he has had "a lot of treatment, icing and stretching."

### Erik Spoelstra said he has been assured that the air conditioning won't be an issue Sunday. "We anticipate we will play in a very cool gym," Spoelstra said. "We will have to deal with that now."

 

### In light of Mario Chalmers’ uneven play and occasional foul trouble this postseason, the Heat could use a lift from the other half of its point guard duo. But whereas Norris Cole consistently provides energy off the bench, he usually struggles with his shot against the Spurs.

Cole had good looks on three three-pointers in Game 1 but missed all of them on a 1-for-4 night and is now 7 for 26 from the field (27 percent) in eight career Finals games against the Spurs. In his regular-season career against San Antonio, he’s shooting 35.7 percent from the field (15 for 42), including 4 for 13 this season.

“You want to give them a little bit of credit, but [I’ve] missed shots,” he said. “When I get open looks, I’m going to continue to let it fly.”

Cole shook out of a two-month post All-Star break funk by making 16 of 30 shots in his first six playoff games. But he’s just 11 for 33 since then.

### One day after Dwyane Wade said the Heat should have gone deeper into its bench in Game 1 --- when Erik Spoelstra used nine players --- LeBron James expressed similar sentiments.

“Obviously, we could have used that in Game 1,” James said. “I thought at times maybe Toney [Douglas], JJ [James Jones], UD [Udonis Haslem] could have gotten some minutes. Take the load off some of us…. Spo is going to coach the game the way he sees the game going.”

James, who called for more minutes for Jones earlier in the playoffs, said during an NBA-organized Facebook chat on Saturday that Jones is “the most underrated player on our team. He doesn’t get a lot of playing time. I wish he did get a lot more playing time. He’s such a leader. Unbelievable shooter.”

Jones has played just seven minutes since the start of the Eastern Conference Finals.

### Also on that Facebook chat, James said of Game 2: “We have to make adjustments. That’s what good teams do. You will see a different team on Sunday.”… James said on that Facebook chat that his rooting interests in football extend to the Dallas Cowboys, Ohio State Buckeyes, FloridaState and Cleveland Browns rookie Johnny Manziel.

### Asked why he told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon that he’s the easiest target in sports, James said: “Because I’ve been in front of the camera… since I was 15 years old. You guys have seen everything from me, from being an adolescent kid just playing the game because he loves it… to playing as a professional, to succeeding, to falling off the mountain,… to going up to the top again.”

###  Asked why the Heat has been able to win its last 12 playoff games after losses, James said that stems from taking accountability and “not just bypassing the mistakes we had in the previous game.”

Chris Bosh added: “Being in this situation so many times before, it brings out the best…. We’ve run out of excuses.”

### Wade said if the Heat loses Sunday, “I’m sure the series would be over from the [view of the] outside.”

### Though Michael Beasley has played sparingly in postseason and wasn’t active for Game 1, Spoelstra said Saturday: “I’ve seen him grow immensely, maturity-wise, on and off the court. It’s been cool to see.”

### One of the takeaways watching the Spurs is how crisply they move the ball in a free-flowing, aesthetically-pleasing offense.

That offense has changed significantly during Tim Duncan’s career, from a low-post oriented attack built around Duncan to one that emphasizes quick passes and finding the open man.

“You watch tape of how we played before – we are very different,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Saturday. “Now we’re more mobile, move the ball much better, more passes. Everyone is feeling important. It’s more fun, more unpredictable.”

Coach Gregg Popovich said over the past couple of years, “we’ve changed our pace and the way we approach things at the other end of the floor to make up for what we’re going to lose defensively.”

Despite relying a lot on the three-point shot, Popovich said: “I hate it. To me, it’s not basketball, but you’ve got to use it. If you don’t use it, you’re in big trouble. But you sort of feel like it’s cheating.”

### Asked about Popovich’s dislike of the three-point shot, Heat guard Dwyane Wade said: “I’m sure [Erik Spoelstra] has things he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like it when me and LeBron [James] go one-on-one. He wants team basketball, but sometimes one-on-one is successful when you have players capable of doing that.”

### Guard Danny Green used the word “remarkable” to describe the Spurs’ ongoing streak of eight consecutive home playoff wins by margins of at least 15 points – two more than the previous record, set by the 1985 Lakers. “At home, we’re more comfortable,” he said. “It helps us make shots and shoot more confidently.”

### Popovich insisted Saturday that Duncan has inquired in the past about playing point guard, and Duncan asked a reporter to help convince Popovich to allow him to play there at times. “I’ve been arguing that point for years now,” Duncan said.

### Popovich’s Game 2 prediction: “I don’t think either one of us will turn it over as much as we did” in Game 1, when the Spurs had 23 turnovers and the Heat 18.

### Popovich monitors the minutes of his veterans during the regular season, and he admitted Saturday: “I’ve often felt guilty because their lifetime stats are going to be worse than everybody else’s, because of the way I’ve sat them over the years. But it does develop the bench.”

### Sacramento guard Jason Terry suggested on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Dallas that AT&TCenter’s malfunctioning air conditioning  during Game 1 was orchestrated by the Spurs, something the team has denied.

“Pop has done that so many times. I don’t know if it’s a conspiracy, but I’m telling you, going into San Antonio is a tough place to play,” Terry said. “And I can remember very well one time where it was cold showers, there were about a thousand flies in the locker room. This year, there was a snake in the locker room.

“So, they’re going to pull out all the stops to get into your head. When you go to San Antonio, expect something like that. And Miami fell victim to it. For an event of that magnitude, to say that the AT&T Center’s air-conditioning is not working — there’s definitely something wrong with that.”

### Duncan is trying to join John Salley as the second NBA player in history to win a Finals in three different decades.  

Please see the last post for the weekly media column, including data analyzing whether the Dolphins or Heat is more popular locallyAnd please check back later for a lot more Heat --- plus Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricanes in the Sunday buzz column.                 

06/06/2014

Friday Heat report and media column: Who's more popular here: Heat or Dolphins? Here's some data; Media notes

Please see the last post for a full Friday report about on-court Heat matters and LeBron's health. Meanwhile, here's the...

WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN

The Heat commands most of the South Florida sports fan’s interest this time of year, as the Dolphins do during football season. But has the Heat, in winning two consecutive championships and bidding for a third, surpassed the Dolphins in overall local popularity?

There’s no magical formula to answer that, and it’s impossible to make a completely fair comparison because of the difference in venue capacity and number of games and the lack of any recent Dolphins playoff games to use as a measuring stick.

Here’s what we do know:

### Dolphins ratings keep falling and Heat ratings keep rising.

Even though the Dolphins were in playoff contention all season, their 17.1 average local rating last season was down from a 17.7 in 2012 and ranked lowest of any market with only one NFL team and the fourth-lowest overall behind Oakland, the Jets and Giants.

That means 17.1 percent of TV households in Miami-Dade and Broward counties tuned in a Dolphins game, on average, equal to 283,000 per game.

By comparison, the dreadful Jaguars averaged an 18.3 rating in Jacksonville and the Buccaneers a 19.0 in Tampa.

Conversely, Heat regular-season cable ratings were the third-highest in the country, behind only San Antonio and Oklahoma City, and averaged a 6.9 on Sun Sports – up 22 percent from 2012-13.

Keep in mind that nearly 10 percent of Dade/Broward TV homes do not have cable or satellite service, whereas all Dolphins games air on free TV.

Dolphins games almost always outdraw Heat regular season games by a substantial margin, which isn’t surprising considering there are 16 Dolphins games and 82 Heat games. There were a few exceptions the past two seasons.

But Heat playoffs versus Dolphins regular season is a different story, once the second round of the NBA postseason begins.

The average local Heat rating during the first round against Charlotte was a 15.5, less than the Dolphins’ 17.1 average local rating in 2013.

But the Heat-Nets second-round series averaged an 18.9 rating in Dade/Broward homes. On the night of the first round of the NFL Draft, 16.7 percent of local homes tuned to Game 2 of Heat-Nets, compared with 6.3 for the draft.

Locally, the Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals averaged a 23.4, easily surpassing Dolphins regular-season ratings. NBA Finals ratings assuredly will do the same, with Game 1 Thursday generating a 30.5 local rating.

### The Dolphins played to 85.5 percent capacity last season in terms of tickets sold, which was third-worst in the league (64,319 per game). The Heat, conversely, has sold out every game since LeBron James arrived.

### If you’re making the case that the Dolphins still command greater interest locally, this helps your argument:

Last year, there were 35.3 million page views for Dolphins/NFL content on The Herald’s site worldwide (10.8 percent from South Florida readers), compared with 13.1 million for Heat/NBA content (12.3 percent from South Florida readers).

And during the first four months of this year, the Herald’s web site had 201,132 unique local visitors for Heat/NBA stories, compared with 274,411 for Dolphins/NFL stories. Data is not available to distinguish Heat from non-Heat NBA stories.

And consider this: Last month, the Herald’s Dolphins blog drew 45 times as many worldwide hits as the Heat blog, though local numbers weren’t available and there were more Dolphins than Heat posts, which skews the numbers. (And in fairness, Heat content on this blog drew sizable readership.)

AROUND THE DIAL

### ABC’s 9.0 national rating Thursday tied for the second-highest for a Game 1 of an NBA Finals since 2004 and topped the 8.8 for the first game of last year’s Heat-Spurs series.

The 30.5 local rating ranked second among metered markets, with San Antonio first at 40.4. The rest of the top five: Austin (17.9), West Palm Beach (17.2) and Las Vegas (13.7).

### A year after preempting ABC’s NBA Finals pregame to carry its own program, WPLG-Channel 10 made the right decision by not repeating that mistake during these Finals. Station general manager Bert Medina, hired last October, is taking the viewer-friendly approach: airing a local show 60 minutes before tipoff and ABC’s national show 30 minutes before the game.

### Credit Doug Collins for elevating the quality of the ABC/ESPN studio show; the former coach doesn’t waste words and virtually every point he makes has merit.

For instance: When Sage Steele suggested the Thunder blowing a big lead in Game 4 against the Clippers was a case of complacency, Collins corrected her.

“It’s not complacency,” he said. “It’s bad habits,” going on to explain how OKC has this proclivity, at times, to stand around while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook try to win the game on their own.

### Shane Battier decided to accept a college basketball analyst job at ESPN instead of waiting to see if he would land a network NBA job. ESPN hasn’t decided which college conference to assign him.

### Personnel moves: Marv Albert is leaving CBS’ NFL coverage to reduce his workload. He will continue to announce the NBA for TNT and college basketball for CBS and Turner… Fox, which dropped Brian Billick as an NFL game analyst, hired former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl to replace him…. Adam Zucker will replace Tim Brando in CBS’ college football studio. Brando, who left CBS in January, this week took a college basketball play-by-play job with the new SEC Network. 

### Please see the last post for on-court Heat news from Friday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Friday Heat report: LeBron update; Chalmers "trying to figure out where I fit in"; Wade calls for change

A Friday Heat update:

### Colleagues Joe Goodman and Greg Cote will have pieces on LeBron and CrampGate posted later, but here's a Cliff Notes version of where things stand:

The Spurs announced the air conditioning at AT & T Center has been fixed. LeBron said he "should be 100 percent" on Sunday, though he said was "pretty sore" on Friday "from muscles spasming up."

He said he has done all he can to prevent cramping, but the issue has happened several times, in high school, in the 2012 NBA Finals and several other incidents.

"The body just decides to shut down. I've hydrated as much as I could, to the point where your stomach feels like you can't take it anymore.... I could have gotten myself in more trouble if I had tried to play through a cramp and I pulled something and it got worse."

LeBron conceded it was "bad timing on my part. It's not an excuse but there were some extreme conditions."

Erik Spoelstra said James took seven cramping pills Thursday and James said he had 2 1/2 bags of IV last night. He said he had to get up six or seven times between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. and couldn't sleep at all.

James said he has been tested for cramps throughout his career and has been cleared medically.

"Very angry, very disappointed in myself," he said. "Body failed me. Wasn't there to help my teammates when they needed me."

CHALMERS STRUGGLING

Mario Chalmers doesn’t necessarily need to deliver one of those classic Mario moments, such as a key late-game basket or a 20-point outburst. But the Heat needs a more efficient, productive Chalmers than the one who was turnover-prone and foul-prone in the Heat’s Game 1 loss.

“Everybody knew I was frustrated with the foul trouble I got into early,” he said. “When I got back in the game, I was trying to press too much, trying to get back the minutes I wasn’t playing. I’ve got to be more patient in my pick and rolls and try to find more gaps.”

Limited to 17 minutes by foul trouble, Chalmers committed five turnovers compared with one assist and scored three points, missing two of three shots. Tony Parker, who was outscored by Chalmers in the final two games of last year’s Finals, thoroughly outplayed him Thursday, with 19 points and twice as many assists (eight) as turnovers.

“I’ve got to be careful with my touch fouls,” Chalmers said. “I get a lot of touch fouls, got to figure out a way to adjust to the referees.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said Chalmers “needs to be more attentive to technique and [quicker] in his thought process.”

Chalmers’ 2.3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio in postseason is actually slightly better than his regular season ratio, but his scoring average is down from 9.8 to 6.8. In fact, the 6.8 would be the fewest points per game he has averaged in a postseason, down from 11.3 and 9.4 during the Heat’s past two championship runs.

That’s largely a result of taking fewer shots. Chalmers averaged 9.0 field-goal attempts per game in the Heat’s 2011-12 title run, and 8.0 last postseason.

This postseason, that number has plunged to 5.8. Chalmers is shooting well on threes (40.5 percent) but has taken only 37, compared with 92 and 68 over the previous two postseasons.

“The shot is always open, so you’re supposed to shoot those shots,” he said. But “I’ve got to keep my teammates involved.”

Chalmers said there is “nothing injury-wise, nothing personal” that’s affecting him, but he indicated he’s still adjusting to a subtle change that Erik Spoelstra made.

“I don’t think I’m handling as much as I was in the previous playoffs,” he said. “But it’s something coach made an adjustment to. I’ve got to figure out another way to be effective.”

So even in his fourth Finals, Chalmers conceded Friday that he is “just trying to figure out where I fit in in the playoffs right now.”

Shane Battier reiterated Thursday that when Chalmers “plays well, we play well. When he takes care of the ball, we’re a markedly better team. Turnovers were an issue [for him in Game 1]. There wasn’t the crispness we needed. Against Parker, when you are not dialed in, it makes for a long night.”

WADE SPEAKS OUT

Spoelstra played nine players in Game 1, opting not to use Udonis Haslem, among others, and Dwyane Wade said that must change.

“We’ve got to go a little deeper into our bench,” he said. “I look forward to us using more guys next game, keep guys fresher. I feel part of our downfall in that game was mental and physical fatigue down the stretch.”

### The Heat is 12-0 after its past 12 postseason losses. Also, the Heat lost the first game in each of the past two Finals --- against Oklahoma City and San Antonio --- but went on to win both series.

### Bosh and Shane Battier laughed uproariously when informed that Jonathan Martin, who quit the Dolphins midway through last season, tweeted during the game about James: “C’mon bruh. Drink a Gatorade and get out there.”

Said Battier: "Everyone's got an opinion."

Postscripts, reaction from Heat's Game 1 loss in NBA Finals; What LeBron said afterward; Jon Martin's foolish tweet

Postscripts from the Heat’s 110-95 Game 1 NBA Finals to San Antonio in a miserably uncomfortable AT & T Center:

### This was a rare snapshot: A pained, frustrated LeBron James sitting helplessly on the bench, unable to play the game’s most meaningful moments because of cramping after toiling in oppressive heat caused by malfunctioning air conditioning.

James managed just five fourth-quarter minutes, and his teammates couldn’t muster enough without him, buried under a tsunami of Spurs’ three-pointers.

LeBron, who spoke to a pool reporter instead of the general media, said the cramps were "a 10 out of 10."

Bottom line: The Heat was outscored, 33-12, in the second half during the time when LeBron wasn’t on the floor.

### Here's what LeBron said afterward to a pool reporter (he did not speak to the general media): "I'm feeling better than I did when I came off the floor.... I was going to give it a go [late in the fourth] and Spo said no. It sucks at this point in time in the season. After I made that layup [with 4:33 left], we were down two, as well as they played, we still had a chance. After I came out of the game, they kind of took off. And it was frustrating sitting out and not be able to help our team."

James said he felt "frustration and anger, but at the same time, it's something you try to prevent, you try to control. I got all the fluids I need to get. I do my normal routine I've done and it was inevitable for me tonight, throughout the conditions on the floor. I lost all the fluids that I was putting in the last couple of days out there on the floor. It sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point of the season."

How much pain was he in when his legs buckled? "The best option for me to do was not to move. I tried and any little step or nudge, it would get worse. It would lock up worse and my muscles spasmed 10 out of 10. Best thing for me to do was just not to move."

Was it just the left leg or more to it? "No, it was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side. I was losing a lot throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building. Everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot."

Asked what he tried to do at halftime, LeBron said: "Drank a lot at halftime, even changed my uniform, just tried to get the sweat up off of you. Our training staff tried to do the best they could by giving us ice bags and cold towels on timeouts, keep us dry. I never played in a building like that. It's been a while, like high school game. But... it's no discredit to what they did. They played extremely well. They had 30 assists (to the Heat's 16)." 

How thankful is he to have a few days before Game 2 on Sunday? "I need it. I need it. We're going to start tonight, continue to get the fluids in me and get me ready for Sunday. Look forward to Game 2."

### Outscored 36-17 in the fourth, the Heat ultimately was undone not only by James’ absence but deficient pick-and-roll defense and an inability to defend the three in the fourth quarter, when the Spurs shot six for six from beyond the arc, with Danny Green making three and Kawhi Leonard two.

The Spurs shot an absurd 58.8 percent for the game and an unreal 14 for 16 in the fourth.

"Maybe one of those six threes was well defended,” Chris Bosh said.

The Heat had to figure that Green, who plays exceptionally at home, would eventually come alive after shooting 0 for 5 through three quarters. Green, who hit 27 three-pointers in last year’s Finals, scored 11 in the fourth.

### Until fatigue set in and cramping began, this was encouraging: James attacked the basket far more forcefully and frequently than he did in last year’s Finals. So did Dwyane Wade, for that matter.         

James took 9 of his first 12 shots within 10 feet of the hoop, Wade 8 of his first 10, with many in the basket area.

That was a dramatic change from last year’s Finals, when James took only 46 percent of his shots with 10 feet and Wade 43 percent. And it was more like their regular season metrics, when James took 61 percent of his shots within that range and Wade 69.

But both started settling for jumpers as the second half progressed, likely a function of exhaustion from playing in 90-degree temperatures.

James (25 points, 9 for 17 shooting) missed three jumpers in a row before leaving with what appeared to be cramping with 7:36 left in the fourth. The Heat led by two when he exited.

He returned with 4:33 left and drove for a layup that pulled the Heat to within 94-92 but immediately left again with more cramping, this time for good.

“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping back to the bench,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Instead of giving James a sizable cushion, as they did last year, the Spurs played more tightly against him, and James seized on that strategy for the game’s first 30 minutes before cramping short-circuited his night.

Wade (19 points, 8 for 18) missed his first two shots on 14- and 18-foot jumpers, then changed his approach. His next eight shots were within 10 feet of the basket, most of them layups or floaters or nifty spin moves, and he made six. But he hit just 3 of 10 shots in the second half, operating more from the perimeter than the paint.

### More reaction on the heat (not the Heat): Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, on the electrical problems that caused the air conditioning malfunction: “Hopefully, we can pay our bills.”… Bosh, on James’ departure: “It’s tough without him. But there is no time for emotions. But the heat has nothing to do with taking care of the ball.” (Miami committed 18 turnovers leading to 27 Spurs points).. .

Ray Allen: "We just have to find a way to keep getting Gatorade into him while he's on the bench, making sure he stays hydrated.... [The heat] did fatigue us a lot faster than we would have been otherwise."...

Shane Battier: “I like a hot gym but this is a little ridiculous.”… Duncan: “I don’t think I’ve ever played in anything like this since I left the islands. It was pretty bad out there. I thought we played through it well. I think it affected both teams. Pop continued to switch guys in and out, keep us as fresh as possible and we finally got to a point where we took care of the ball and we got a chance to make a run and made them pay.”... Has Wade ever played in conditions like this? "Yeah, not in the NBA, not in the Finals."

### NBA president/basketball operations Rod Thorn said: “Had the referees felt at any time or had I felt at any time --- I was in sitting in the second row midcourt --- that the game shouldn’t be continued, then they would have come over and said something to me. Never did. I never said anything to them regarding the fact the game should be canceled. In live sporting events, sometimes things transpire that you don’t expect. Obviously, the conditions were the same for both teams. There wasn’t anything that could be done about it. We ascertained that very early.”

### Yes, that was 38-year old Ray Allen dunking ferociously in transition – even more notable considering Allen had only nine dunks in two years with the Heat.

### The Spurs’ Boris Diaw remains capable of affecting the game even without scoring much. He shot only one for five in Game 1 but had 10 rebounds and six assists, and the Spurs outscored the Heat by 30 points with Diaw in the game.

### Bosh had a good night (18 points, nine rebounds, 7 for 11 shooting), but Duncan was better (21 points, 10 rebounds, 9 for 10 shooting).

### Yes, Wade is feeling better physically than he did in last year's series, but so is Manu Ginobili, who was huge (16 points, 11 assists).

### Mario Chalmers --- who had 18 turnovers and 15 assists in last year’s Finals – needs to give the Heat more than this. Limited to 17 minutes by foul trouble, he had more turnovers (five) than points (three) and assists (one).

### Most amusing moment from Game 1: James telling Duncan: “I just gave the media something to talk about because they didn’t have nothing else to talk about.” That was in reference to Duncan saying the Spurs would win the series this year, and James then saying that the Spurs dislike the Heat.

### Second-most amusing moment from Game 1: Touched minimally by James, Tiago Splitter falling to the floor as if he had been shot by a sniper. But at least the referees changed it from a flagrant to a common foul.

Splitter, who had a total of 34 points in last year's series, was surprisingly a factor Thursday, with 14 points and four rebounds.

### Most mindless moment of Game 1: The Heat committing a second-quarter five-second violation, when nobody bothered staying in the backcourt to take the inbounds pass.

### Most ironic and absurd tweet of the night: Jonathan Martin, who quit the Dolphins last year, tweeted: "C'mon bruh. Drink a Gatorade and get out there." Martin, of all people, calling for LeBron to suck it up and play? Hard to find anything more jaw-dropping that that. (Martin eventually deleted the tweet.)