Heat adds John Lucas; Thursday Dolphins nuggets: Several young defenders getting chance to play meaningful snaps; Dolphins notes
The Heat added point guard John Lucas III to a non-guaranteed training camp deal on Thursday, giving them 19 players under contract, according to multiple sources.
Lucas, who lost out to Carlos Arroyo in a training camp bid for a Heat roster spot in 2009, has played in 237 NBA games for five teams over seven seasons, averaging 4.8 points and 1.5 assists, while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 34.5 percent on three-pointers.
Lucas, 32, averaged 4.7 points and 2.9 assists in 21 games for Detroit last season. He was cut by the Washington Wizards after spending four days with them last October, then played in China through January (averaging 26 points and 7.0 assists) before joining the Pistons in early February and finishing the season with Detroit.
His agent, Bernie Lee, said: "I have absolutely no comment on anything regarding John. I understand there is a report about him working out somewhere but would tell you he works out a lot. Hopefully whoever saw him thought he looked good."
According to a team source, the 5-11 Lucas has been working out for the Heat for the past couple of days,
He's the fifth point guard on the roster --- joining starter Goran Dragic, backup Mario Chalmers, Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson. Dwyane Wade and Justise Winslow also can play point guard.
The Heat previously planned to sign undrafted VCU point guard Briante Weber, but that fell through because the Heat determined he was not yet fully recovered from major knee surgery in February. Weber's agent said he hopes Weber joins the Heat's D-League affiliate in South Dakota by December.
Lucas, the son of former NBA player and coach John Lucas, is a long shot to make the team, unless the Heat trades Chalmers, who was shopped earlier this summer. Chalmers had some cryptic tweets earlier this week, but they were not believed to be about his Heat future. As of this afternoon, he has not been traded.
NBA teams can carry 20 players in training camp but no more than 15 once the regular season starts.
Of the Heat's 19 players under contract, five have non-guaranteed deals: Lucas, incumbent forward James Ennis, forwards Greg Whittington and Keith Benson and shooting guard Corey Hawkins. Guard Tyler Johnson's contract is partially guaranteed.
Growing up in Utah, Zach Vigil remembers hearing the name of another Zach --- former Dolphins star Zach Thomas --- and thinking, “That guy is pretty cool.” Now, years later, Vigil hopes to follow in Thomas’ footsteps – as an unheralded middle linebacker who was sold short by NFL teams in the draft.
Vigil is the most improbable of a handful of young Dolphins defensive players who are receiving meaningful opportunities early in the season.
There’s second-round pick Jordan Phillips, who had Miami’s only sack Sunday. There’s second-year defensive end Terrence Fede, who filled in for injured Olivier Vernon against the Redskins and produced the most tackles of any Miami defensive lineman (six) in 38 snaps.
And there’s Walt Aikens, who has competently handled a starting safety job since a torn ACL ended Louis Delmas’ season in mid-August.
But Vigil’s rise is the most surprising, because he wasn’t drafted out of Utah State. He didn’t even bother watching the last day of the draft, instead spending the time with the family’s 14 horses that are used to help the Vigils hunt elk and deer.
He said several teams inquired about him after the draft, but he preferred Miami because defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and linebackers coach Mark Duffner “took the initiative to reach out to me before the draft.”
Coyle, who split middle linebacker snaps evenly between Kelvin Sheppard and Vigil in the opener, said Vigil first caught his eye “back in the spring. He led the nation in tackles in college. Sometimes you may not think he looks the part, but yet he finds the ball.”
Vigil was delighted recently to meet Thomas, who was a fifth-round pick in 1996 and was a first-team All-Pro five times.
When Thomas addressed the team last month, “I was pretty attentive,” Vigil said. “He's somebody you can model after because he came in every day and did the work. That's something I've always done my whole life. He’s someone you can aspire to.”
Vigil is accustomed to being overlooked. He didn’t have a single scholarship offer when he walked on at Utah State.
“The NFL, at the time, seemed improbable,” he said. “I just wanted to earn a scholarship so my parents wouldn’t have to pay.”
He finally got one after two years and received valuable mentoring from another Utah State alum, Bobby Wagner, who was a first-team All Pro linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks last season.
“The big thing about Zach is his confidence,” linebacker Jelani Jenkins said. “Everybody can feel his confidence as a mike linebacker. He finds the ball. He gets off blocks. That's why we like him.”
Vigil is surrounded by other NFL neophytes who are trying to make a mark on this Dolphins defense.
Phillips, who said he “could have played better” in 11 snaps in the opener, was tired of hearing that he didn’t play hard every down at Oklahoma and has displayed a more consistent motor since coming to the Dolphins.
“There were too many people saying I was lazy, so I said I’ve got to fix it,” he said. “I don’t think my effort is in question anymore.”
Veteran defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, who has been paired with Phillips on the second team, said: “The young man can play football, no doubt. He has all the tools. He still has to learn the game. It's something that's going to take time. I'm trying to help him out as much as I can. Right now, it's basic stuff he can get better at, as we all can.”
Phillips said Ndamukong Suh and Derrick Shelby also are mentoring him.
As for Aikens, the former fourth-round pick out of Liberty has improved dramatically in his second season, especially in maturity and attention to detail.
“He’s night and day from last year to this year,” Dolphins safety Michael Thomas said. “He’s taking his job seriously. He’s being a pro this year. I’m proud of him. He has all the skills you can ask for. He’s a big, athletic skill player, fast, physical --- the type of presence you need in the backfield.”
Aikens said he quizzes himself on defensive calls --– and has others quiz him --– “just to stay on top of the defense. My football IQ has [improved]. When you understand the game more, you can play faster and use your athleticism.”
Coyle said Aikens’ first NFL start was “solid. Did some good things. He has a few things that we need to clean up, but overall he showed some good range in the back end and I thought played with some poise and confidence that we’re hoping now we can build on.”
### Reshad Jones' status for Sunday remains very much in question because of a hamstring injury, but keep in mind that cornerback Zack Bowman can play safety. A Dolphins official said recently that Bowman's versatility, and ability to play safety, was one reason he earned a roster spot, in addition to his experience and special teams acumen.
If Jones can't play, Michael Thomas likely would start at safety alongside Aikens.
### Tight end Dion Sims said today he's starting to feel better after Sunday's concussion, but a Dolphins official stopped the interview before he could say when he expected to return.
Jack Stoneburner, who figures to be Jordan Cameron's backup, said there were some key plays that Miami couldn't use this past Sunday without a second healthy tight end.
### Sims and Derrick Shelby (eye) didn't practice today.
Jones, Cam Wake (hamstring) and Vernon (ankle) were limited.
### CBS is sending Sunday's Dolphins-Jaguars game to every Florida affiliate; plus Atlanta, Savannah and Albany, Ga; Dothan, Alabama; and New York City.
Why is New York City getting the game? CBS must show a 4 p.m. game there because the Giants are playing at 1 p.m. on Fox. Those living in a portion of the Florida panhandle won't get the game if they're served by the CBS affiliate in Mobile, which is showing Houston-Carolina instead... Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker and Steve Beuerlein --- CBS' No. 6 team --- work the Dolphins game.