03/28/2014

Media column: Hochman ready to go head-to-head with buddy Le Batard; More radio, NFL TV changes

WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN

For eight years, Marc Hochman was the creative architect behind his buddy Dan Le Batard’s radio show, combining with Le Batard and Jon Weiner to present the highest-rated and most compelling sports-talk radio program in South Florida.

Friends since they were classmates at the University of Miami, Hochman and Le Batard have traveled together, to Las Vegas and the Bahamas, and Le Batard appeared in Hochman’s wedding 16 years ago. Le Batard hired him as his executive producer when 790 The Ticket launched.

So when Hochman officially joins rival WQAM-560 next week and starts competing directly with Le Batard on Tuesday, “it will feel a little strange because I still take great pride in that show,” Hochman said.

Nevertheless, Hochman insists going head-to-head with Le Batard from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays won’t be daunting or intimidating or any other frightening adjective. That’s partly because Le Batard’s show on 790 AM and 104.3 FM airs nationally on ESPN Radio from 4 to 7 p.m.

“My show is hopefully going to be this place where anyone who lives in South Florida can hang out for a couple hours, talk about things interesting to people in South Florida,” he said. “Dan's show has grown into a national show. It's got a different feel to it.

“I can’t compete with him on guests. He's going to get an A list of sports guests. But he is doing something I'm not trying to do. I want to work in South Florida the rest of my life.”

Competing with Le Batard “is not daunting because I know he's rooting for me. He was one of the first people I called when I decided to take the job. He was thrilled for me, wished me the best. He's such a unique individual.

“I'm not competition to him. He's a network radio host. He's got bigger fish to fry than worrying about what is happening about the show against him on the local station.”

Hochman, 44, hasn’t worked professionally with Le Batard since becoming The Ticket’s morning show co-host in the spring of 2012.

Though the Ticket wanted to keep him, Hochman left that job in December, partly because he felt his future would be more secure at WQAM. Hochman couldn’t start at WQAM immediately because of a three-month non-compete clause, and WQAM management said it’s still not permitted to comment publicly about him.

“The real motivating factor was picturing myself 10 years from now doing a talk show in Miami and who I think would afford me that opportunity,” he said. “I have seen that happen at WQAM, with Hank Goldberg, Neil Rogers, Jim Mandich. The Beasley family [which owns WQAM] is committed to radio in this market. Lincoln Financial [which owns The Ticket] is a multi-million dollar insurance company. I am making a calculated decision.”

He said WQAM also appealed to him because they share a similar vision of doing “an entertaining radio show” rather than a hard-core, sports-only program. “Sports will be the backbone and I love sports, but I love pop culture and current events. Each show will be the vibe of that particular day.”

He will use some segments he created on The Ticket, including “Mount Rushmore” and “Honked off like a goose.”

Hochman hired Zack Krantz, Joe Rose’s former radio producer, as his co-host because “I love a guy who's always smiling and laughing and enjoying sports and life the way I try to. If Joe Rose didn't give his blessing, I wouldn't have pursued it.”

Producer Victor Bermudez and Sha Tabb, a former model and Dolphins cheerleader, also will have on-air roles. And Hochman made an eye-opening hire by convincing legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger to become the “voice” of the show, narrating introductions and more.

Perhaps Hochman will give WQAM the long-term stability it has lacked in afternoon drive since the retirement of Mandich, who died in 2012 after a battle with cancer. Sid Rosenberg (now doing mornings on WMEN-640) lost his WQAM afternoon gig because of a DUI arrest, and Jorge Sedano – who was a strong hire – left in September for ESPN Radio.

But it will be very difficult for Hochman to post ratings comparable to Le Batard, who has become a radio juggernaut.

This much is clear: Hochman, a native of Highland Park, Ill., has come a long way from the guy who was making $165 a week as a disk jockey in Belle Glade after graduating from UM 23 years ago.

AROUND THE DIAL

### The Dolphins on Thursday hired WQAM's Greg Likens --- one of the more thoughtful, polished young hosts on local radio --- to replace Jesse Agler as host of WINZ's Finsiders. Agler left for a job with the San Diego Padres.

### Jeff Fox and Ed Freeman, who have handled WQAM’s 3 to 7 p.m. shift the past three months, will go back to being fill-in hosts on the station.

### The Ticket, which has a marketing partnership with The Miami Herald, hired a new program director: Len Weiner, who was an executive for radio stations in Tampa, Orlando and Melbourne.

### Fox dropped NFL analyst Brian Billick… NBC lead analyst Cris Collinsworth is giving up his gig on Showtime’s Inside the NFL and may do some cable work for NBC Sports Network before or after the Sunday games that he calls with Al Michaels on NBC. The move will reduce Collinsworth’s travel load. Collinsworth, who lives in Cincinnati, needed to travel to Mount Laurel, N.J. every week to do the show. 

The chemistry between Collinsworth and Phil Simms made the show especially lively and will be missed. CBS said it hasn't decided how Collinsworth will be replaced.

### Heat-Pacers on Wednesday night generated a strong 12.7 rating in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market: a 7.4 on Sun Sports and a 5.3 on ESPN.

### Fort Myers sports anchor Clayton Ferraro is the new No. 2 sportscaster at WPLG-10, replacing Victor Oquendo, who was promoted to a news anchor position. 

03/26/2014

What Fins are getting with Moreno; Heat-Pacers postscripts; UM impact of major court ruling

The Dolphins have upgraded at running back by agreeing with Knowshon Moreno on a one-year deal. Some tidbits about him, some of which we posted last week:

### Here is what Pro Football Focus said about him entering free agency: "The No. 1 running back [in free agency], almost by default, comes from this year’s Super Bowl runner up. Knowshon Moreno is the only back on this list without injury, workload, or age concerns. This last season Moreno proved that he can produce effectively in an every-down role over the course of the season. In terms of pure ability, there are probably six or seven free agents I’d prefer, but none are proven commodities at this point in time. At just 27years old, and with just 992 career touches to his name, Moreno is sure to have at least a few more productive seasons in his legs before the dreaded running back decline sets in.

"2013 was by far Moreno’s most accomplished as a pro," PFF went on to say. "He set career highs in snaps (724), rushing yards (1,038), receiving yards (548), touchdowns (13), and PFF grade (+9.9). His 241 carries were more the most Moreno’s had in a season since his rookie year and his 60 receptions were a career high by a wide margin. With his rushing (+4.2 grade), pass catching (+7.0 grade), and adequate pass blocking (0.0 grade) ability, Moreno provides the ability to plug and play 600+ snaps immediately."

### But ESPN's Bill Polian said: "Solid contributor but not a No. 1 back. Most of his success from 2013 was a function of the system."

### Moreno is a productive back coming off his best season (1038 yards rushing, 4.3 per carry, 10 rushing touchdowns, 3 receiving touchdowns and 548 receiving yards playing behind a good offensive line and with a Hall of Fame quarterback).

But the metrics suggest he’s not clearly better than Miami’s other backs in breaking tackles.

Last season, Moreno averaged 2.0 yards after contact, which was tied for 39th among 55 backs, according to Pro Football Focus.  Who was he tied with? Daniel Thomas, whom Moreno presumably would replace. Lamar Miller was 31st at 2.1.

### Moreno broke or avoided 21 tackles --- the same number as Thomas and one more than Miller, despite having considerably more carries than both. Those 21 were 29th most among running backs. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, conversely, had 75 broken or avoided tackles.

### Moreno doesn’t break a lot of long runs, either. He had five carries of 20 yards or more, which tied for 17th, but needed 241 carries to do it. Miller and Thomas each had four such runs in substantially fewer carries --- 177 for Miller, 109 for Thomas.

### Moreno’s 4.3 per carry averaged tied for 21st among 55 backs. By comparison, Miller averaged 4.0, Thomas 3.7.

### PFF ranked Moreno eighth among all running backs as a pass blocker. For perspective, Miller was 33rd, Thomas 34th.

### Moreno had only one fumble in 241 rushing attempts last season. He’s young (26) and coming off his best season, albeit in an offense loaded with talent.

My conclusion? Good move to sign him. He’s a more proven, accomplished back than Thomas, has a better per carry average and is a superior pass protector. A Miller/Moreno tandem is an upgrade over a Miller/Thomas combo.

 

 

HEAT-PACERS NOTES

Hard fouls. An ejection. Playoff-type intensity. Lineup changes. Dramatic swings. This was as riveting as it gets in the regular season for two teams that will be judged solely on the playoffs.

And if these teams go seven games in the Eastern Finals, it looks increasingly likely (though not certain) that Game 7 would be in Indiana, with the Pacers now up two games in the loss column with 12 games left for Miami and 10 for Indiana, and the Heat likely to rest its starters late in the season.

Miami can tie the season series by beating Indiana on April 11, but the Pacers have the better conference record, which would be the tiebreaker if the teams split their four-game season series.

### Erik Spoelstra second-guessed himself for calling the last play for Chris Bosh, who took a pass from LeBron James and airballed a jumper to end this 84-83 loss. Spoelstra said he probably should have put the ball in the hands of James, who had 38 points, on 11 for 19 shooting, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

Bosh, the Heat’s best shooter in the clutch this season, was open on the play but had to rush the shot.

"You can't make two passes and set for the shot at the end," Bosh said. "There's not much you can do in two seconds. It was a 20-second timeout. We didn't have much time for discussions."

“Unfortunately that was what I diagrammed and it might not have been the best [call],” Spoelstra said. "It was probably a little too gunslinger."

Dwyane Wade wasn't in the game on the final possession of a cramp in his hamstring.

Asked about the last play, James said only: “It was the play drew up. And we got a look.” Asked again about the play, he said: “I just ran the play.”

James said he “was surprised” that two hard fouls against him weren’t called flagrants, and yet James was called for a flagrant against Roy Hibbert, which James questioned afterward, noting Roy Hibbert's face "happened to hit my elbow."

“Me and Blake Griffin take some hard hits, and they call it how they want to call it," James said. "It’s very frustrating, very frustrating. As a player, you play the game the right way, and it just doesn’t fall your way.”

Bosh was upset about the the fact Indiana didn't have a flagrant foul called against them: "We were getting punched in the face and clothes-lined out there. We are going to have to revisit what flagrant foul means. They had one (flagrant foul called against Miami) and we had none, even though LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined."

### Bosh, in foul trouble, didn’t return in the fourth quarter until there were less than two minutes left. It was a forgettable night for Bosh --- 8 points on 3 for 11 shooting and four rebounds. With Bosh’s increasing reliance on his three-point game, Jeff Van Gundy noted that Bosh “has to figure out how to get closer to the basket. He’s more versatile than he’s showing.”

### Wade left with 1:59 left, finishing with 15 points. "I felt cramping," he said. "Had to get off of it. Once you get cramps, it's not going to stop right away."

### The Heat ultimately was undone by fourth quarter turnovers (seven of them), and 19 in the game, leading to 26 Pacer points. James and Wade had six turnovers apiece....

Miami tied a season low with four fourth-quarter field goals (on 13 shots) and was outscored 21-15 in the fourth. The Heat’s 83 points were a season low, and the Heat is now 0-6 when it scores fewer than 90 points. "We didn't get our guys in the right spots," Bosh said. "We had so many empty possessions where we didn't get any movement."

### The defense, at least after the first quarter, was plenty good enough. “That part was encouraging,” Spoelstra said. But “we weren’t able to get over the hump. It’s a tough one. We didn’t get the type of looks we wanted going down the stretch.”

### Who would have thought that the Heat would play key moments down the stretch with Udonis Haslem and Rashard Lewis? “They need to be in the rotation,” James said.

Erik Spoelstra opted for Lewis, who scored his first basket since Feb. 21, instead of Shane Battier, which Spoelstra attributed largely to Ray Allen’s absence because of the flu. Battier has struggled against David West in the past.

“I like Rashard’s minutes,” Spoelstra said. “He always keeps himself ready. He gives us something that works for us offensively. He’s a very smart player and he competes defensively.”

Like Battier, Michael Beasley was a DNP-coach’s decision.

### Haslem, stuck to the bench for weeks, has been a revelation the past two weeks, and his defense against Roy Hibbert was exceptional.

As Gundy noted, Haslem forced Hibbert into tough shots by getting good leverage --- unlike Greg Oden, who couldn’t do anything to stop Hibbert in Hibbert’s 11-point first quarter. Haslem (four rebounds in 21 minutes) replaced Oden to start the second half, and Hibbert scored just eight points after the first quarter.

“His minutes were good,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not an indictment of Greg. I’m not down on him. This isn’t making any decisions. He’ll start the next game. He’s getting there. The bottom line is still winning, and that’s my job to make those decisions, whether they’re right or wrong. Greg is getting better.”

### A second half three-pointer by Wade was disallowed because he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds. (Replays showed he didn’t.)

But Wade showed restraint by not responding to Lance Stephenson’s jawing. Stephenson, in a classic knucklehead moment, picked up his second technical foul (and automatic ejection) after yakking at Wade with 4:59 left. "I don't play the games Lance plays," Wade said. "The refs took care of it."

### Dreadful night for Mario Chalmers, who shot 2 for 10, with two assists and two turnovers and was beaten off the dribble several times.

### David West was only 3 for 12 on three-pointers last season before his key late-game three.

### Two encouraging signs: The Heat held Indiana to 37 percent shooting and played the Pacers to a 37-37 draw on the boards.

### Van Gundy said he’s “not as convinced both teams are going to get the Eastern Finals” as he was previously. He said Indiana would be more vulnerable than Miami and that Brooklyn is “very dangerous.”

UM CHATTER

### Al Golden said after practice today that Kevin Olsen is “starting to close ground” with Ryan Williams, but that “Ryan is ahead of Kevin, and Kevin is ahead of Gray Crow. Obviously Ryan has been the leader and is doing a really good job.”

### Golden can’t stop raving about Stacy Coley. “He’s raised the level of his play, and everyone is trying to catch his intensity and preparation.”

### Tight end Standish Dobard “is getting better,” Golden said. “He prepares really hard, wants to do well. Stan gives us a real physical presence on the line of scrimmage yet can get down the field and make plays because he's so long. Really excited about Stan right now."

### Freshman Darrion Owens had a sack Wednesday and UM really likes his pass rush potential.

### Please see the last post for a look at the landmark NCAA/Northwestern/union decision today and how it could affect UM.

Synopsis of landmark Northwestern/ union/ NCAA ruling and how it could affect UM

In a decision that could dramatically change the landscape of college sports, especially at private schools including the University of Miami, the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that NorthwesternUniversity football players will be recognized as employees.

Unless the ruling is overturned on appeal, it sets a precedent for students at private universities, including UM, to petition to form a union, which would enable them to engage in collective bargaining with their universities.

In his ruling, Chicago NLRB Director Peter Ohr said that he "found that all grant-in-aid scholarship players for [Northwestern’s] football team who have not exhausted their playing eligibility are ‘employees.’"

As employees, players can bargain for limited contact in practice, guaranteed scholarships and post-career medical benefits, which are some of the union’s CAPA’s stated goals.

Compensation, or "pay-for-play," is not one of the goals for the union.

UM officials declined to comment, but a UM source said the decision was viewed as a bad thing for Miami, should it result in players being able to negotiate for benefits.

But Miami attorney Darren Heitner, a partner at Wolfe Law Miami, said it was too soon to tell whether the decision, if upheld, would impact UM positively or negatively.

“If anything it may be a positive more than a negative at first because potential college players may see this as an opportunity to bargain for benefits that they couldn't at a public university,” Heitner said. “That scenario of paying players is too far off to be concerned about at the current stage.

“If at some point we see this turn into a true pay-for-play debate, and private universities start ponying up the cash, it could put private universities on a pedestal, for those that can pay players above and beyond. UM might not be in the best position among private schools to do that. But it might give them a competitive advantage over FSU and UF.”

Heitner said players might seek more control over equipment, a limit to the number of hours they are required to be involved in football activities and a potential increase in scholarship money. He also said players might request that independent physicians be available to examine players’ head injuries during games.

In a scenario of ultimate chaos, Heitner said “there would be potential for lockouts and strikes. We could potentially see universities locking the players out if they come to an impasse. Perhaps there are replacement players that [could be] used.”

The Northwestern case began to take shape on Jan. 28, when former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter announced current players signed union cards and petitioned to form a union in front of the NLRB.

In late February, a five-day hearing between the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) — the name for the union — and Northwestern was held to debate the issue of an employee-employer relationship between football players on scholarship and the school.

"This was a complete victory," CAPA lawyer John Adam said after the decision was announced.

Colter, a senior last season, who led the union effort for the players, emphasized that players at Northwestern were not mistreated. Instead, they wanted a voice in the process.

"It is important that players have a seat at the table when it comes to issues that affect their well-being," Colter said in a statement. "Football and basketball players generate billions of dollars per year. Players will gain a number of important protections once this union is in place."

In a statement from spokesman Al Cubbage, Northwestern expressed disappointment in the ruling, and said it will appeal the decision to the national office in Washington, D.C. The appeal is expected to be heard shortly.

 The NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, also said he was "disappointed" in the regional board’s ruling, adding that athletes play "for the love of the sport, not to be paid."

“Over the last three years,’’ Remy’s statement said, “our member colleges and universities have worked to re-evaluate the current rules. While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college.”

The marathon hearing sessions drew considerable attention in Chicago, as Colter testified against his former university. Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald also testified, as did former players and university administrators.

Northwestern argued that education always comes first for its athletes and placed blame on the NCAA system.

CAPA lawyers argued during the hearing scholarships effectively act as compensation for athletes, who are treated as employees due to because of strict rules and special circumstances that which do not apply to normal students. Ohr agreed with these assertions.

UM spokeswoman Margot Winick said the university was "declining comment on this," and it’s unknown if any UM players are planning to form a union.

Desmond Perryman, father of UM football player Denzel Perryman, said he’s skeptical about whether UM players would even form a union, at least initially. He said he has never heard Perryman or other UM players express a desire to be paid, beyond scholarships, or receive other benefits.

“For what all these kids are given, I don't know if it will happen here,” Perryman said. “I know they get compensated by the NCAA paying for their education, but sometimes you feel like this should be a little more because of revenue brought into the school. It can cause a lot of chaos.”

University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley declined to comment because he said he didn’t have enough information to form an opinion.  “It's not a 'no comment,'” he said.  “I've simply seen the headline and that's it. I haven't read the story."

Ramogi Huma, president of CAPA and former football player at UCLA, said “this decision clears the way for other FBS football and Division 1 basketball players at private schools within the NCAA to organize.”

Huma worked closely with Colter and the United Steelworkers Union to kick-start the players’ unionization effort.

Heitner said though it’s not mandatory that athletes at private schools form a union, “it is likely that many of them will choose to do so because they can bargain for greater rights.”

Heitner said he doesn’t know if the decision will stand, but if it does, “It would make things very convoluted and potentially blow up the system. [And] pay-for-play might be something these athletes negotiate for, which would run counter with NCAA rules.”

My thanks to former Herald intern Rohan Nadkarni for assisting greatly on this story while I was on assignment at the NFL owners meetings earlier. Please check back later for Heat-Pacers postscripts and Dolphins chatter

03/25/2014

Tuesday night update: More nuggets and evaluation from Philbin; Heat, Marlins items

Some Tuesday night notes:

### During his hour-long meeting with reporters at the NFL owners meetings earlier today, here’s what Joe Philbin had to say about some of his new players:

On Branden Albert: “We’ve been studying him for a couple years. We feel like he’s a good fit schematically, will be good in the locker-room. All the research we did is he’s a good person. There are good clips of him on the back side and front side on outside zone plays that you want an outside tackle to do.” (And the Dolphins will remain a zone blocking team in their running game, incidentally.)

On guard Shelley Smith, who started just two of the 14 games he appeared in last season: “Really liked his ability to pull and run and move. He’s schematically a good fit for what we do.”

On cornerback Cortland Finnegan: “We studied the tape extensively. We liked what we saw on film. He will have to earn play time just like anybody else. The one thing he does give us is some position flexibility. He played some inside (slot); he can play outside.”

On safety Louis Delmas: “He’s very aggressive and he doesn’t hesitate. That play speed, that tempo he brings to the defense are things we feel he can add.”

On defensive tackle Earl Mitchell: “He runs to the football every single snap and plays hard. He’s only missed one game in four years. He’s been durable and available.”

Philbin said he and Dennis Hickey watched tape of all the free agents the Dolphins signed “so we both would have a comfort level. It’s not good if only one person has a comfort level.”

### The Dolphins will add a right tackle in the draft and possibly a guard, as well. They also will monitor the free agent market at guard.

“We still have some unsettled pieces we’re not certain of,” Philbin said. “We expect to have a competitive, competent offensive line when we open the season. There’s work to be done but there’s time to do it. We have a plan to address it and we will.”

Philbin said there are starting guard possibilities on the roster, including potentially Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner and Sam Brenner (“he made a lot of strides,” Philbin said).

### On balls thrown 20 yards or more, Ryan Tannehill completed only 6 of 36 such passes to Mike Wallace last season and Philbin said that's “going to be a focal point for us moving forward. We’ve got to connect more on the vertical throws down the field.

“Some of it’s timing between the guys. Some is ball location. Some is the receiver being in the exact right spot. We’ve got to increase our explosive plays. We’ve got to score more points. We just have to. [Deep balls are] a part of it. It’s not the only part. We’ve sliced up those routes and studied why and how. We definitely addressed that.”

### Philbin also wants Tannehill to improve his accuracy (his 60.4 percent completion percentage was 22nd-best) and throw fewer picks (he had 17, compared with 24 touchdowns).

### Philbin said “one of the things that was attractive to me” about new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor “is he’s been around some excellent coaches: Joe Gibbs, Dan Reeves, Chip Kelly, Mike Holmgren. He played quarterback [at Cornell], worked with a lot of quarterbacks.”

### How is Lazor’s offense going to be different than Sherman’s?

Here’s how Philbin responded: “The things I’m interested in seeing is, and Bill and I have discussed, is… we have to protect the quarterback better. The starting point of any deep ball or three-step drop, the focus has been on protection. The reason we haven’t scored the points you need to score to consistently win is we haven’t protected the quarterback well enough.

“We’re going to have a variety of formations. I don’t know that it’s going to be all that different. We will have multiple formations like we have in the past. What I am most interested in is the execution and protection of the quarterback, more explosive plays and protection of the football. We’ve turned the ball over too much. We had 26 last year. It’s too many.”

He said “it was not very easy at all” to part ways with Sherman.

### Philbin and Dennis Hickey wouldn’t rule out moving Ellerbe from middle to outside linebacker. Philbin, asked how the linebackers played last season, conceded: “There were some inconsistency there. There was a lot of productivity there but we’re looking for more consistency from the linebacker position, without a doubt.”

### Reshad Jones appeared to play worse in 2013 than in 2012. Asked about that, Philbin said he doesn’t necessarily agree. “We thought he played well, but there are still some things we can see him doing better --- playing a little faster, a little more decisively at times. We’re counting on him to do that this year.”

### Philbin said Jimmy Wilson will remain at safety instead of moving to cornerback.

### Philbin wouldn’t rule out re-signing Dustin Keller. Hickey said he has spoken to Keller’s agent (Eugene Parker) but wouldn’t say if he wants Keller back.

“He’s one of those guys we’re evaluating and considering like a lot of other free agents out there,” Philbin said. “We’ll see.”

### The Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns, who missed last season after a training camp knee injury. “He’s been in [the facility] every day diligently working to improve,” Philbin said. “He’s a big body type. We don’t have a lot of those 6-3 guys. He’s a little different. We like that about him. He’s a guy worth working with.”

### The Dolphins are happy with their three quarterbacks: Tannehill, Matt Moore (“We’re very confident in Matt as a backup. We like him a lot, Philbin said”) and Pat Devlin. “There is a chance we’ll add somebody,” Philbin added.

### Please see the last post for a lot more from Philbin from earlier in the day, including his plans for Dion Jordan and his thoughts on the rest of the under-utilized 2013 draft class.

### It will be interesting to see Heat center Greg Oden match up against Roy Hibbert and the Pacers Wednesday in an expected Eastern Conference Finals preview.

Memphis point guard Mike Conley, Oden's workout buddy and former Ohio State teammate, said: "He's not going to be back to where he was [previously]."

He said you will know Oden is all the way back when he is "not being as passive offensively, when he takes the pick-and-roll pop shots. He can make a jumper from the free throw line."

### The Heat (48-21) will pull even with Indiana (51-20) in the loss column if it wins Wednesday night’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

### Dwyane Wade (strained Achilles) practiced Tuesday and expects to play Wednesday. The Heat said he will be a game-time decision.

### With the Marlins’ roster moves today, the bullpen could end up being Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Carlos Marmol, AJ Ramos, Brad Hand, Henry Rodriguez and Kevin Slowey. But don't rule out lefty Dan Jennings making it. The Marlins had hoped Carter Capps, acquired from Seattle Logan Morrison, would make the team, but he needs more work at Triple A. Two scouts said they expected he would throw better this spring.

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

Philbin expects expanded role for Jordan, discusses entire 2013 class; Moreno mulls options; Fins notes

ORLANDO --- No team received fewer offensive and defensive snaps from its rookie class than the Dolphins last season. But Joe Philbin made clear this morning that he expects the 2013 class to assume more prominent roles this season, starting with Dion Jordan and the rookie cornerbacks.

“We have a lot of hope for that draft class,” Philbin said from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. “You usually see a significant jump from year one to year two.”

Philbin said he sees Jordan as a defensive end primarily, not a linebacker. That creates challenges in creating playing time behind starters Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, especially because Philbin said reserve end Derrick Shelby deserves playing time also. (Shelby played 446 snaps last season, Jordan 339).

Nevertheless, Jordan "will make a big jump this year,” Philbin predicted today. “We expect his role to expand. He played [339] snaps. We definitely want to see that increase. The most natural place is on third down. He’s going to have to have more snaps on first and second down. I think he will have a very good season. We know he has a lot of talent. He plays fast. When he did get snaps, they were quality. We see his role increasing somewhat.”

Philbin denied a published report that the coaching staff was dissatisfied with Jordan and his work ethic. “Not sure where that came from,” Philbin said. “He’s definitely a hard worker. He loves the game.”

He said Jordan’s progress was limited somewhat last season because of his offseason shoulder surgery ---the shoulder injury was aggravated during training camp --- and because his Oregon class schedule didn’t permit him to report until June.

“He missed a good number of practices at training camp,” Philbin said. “We don’t have a ton of individual time [during the season]. He missed a lot because of the academic calendar and injuries in the spring."

But he suggested he’s not going to bench the undrafted Shelby to play Jordan a ton more. “Shelby was one of the highest graders we had on the defensive line,” Philbin said. “Derrick Shelby earned every snap. We expect Dion will as well.”

Here’s what Philbin said to say about the other members of the 2013 draft class:

### At the moment, Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are in the top four cornerback rotation and both will have a chance to beat out Cortland Finnegan for a starting job.

“We expect to see progress there,” Philbin said of Taylor and Davis. “Whoever performs best should be the starting cornerback. Those are guys we thought highly of. They had injury issues. Will was having a really good training camp; he was getting his hands on the ball a lot. That's what jumped out at us. Jamar's play speed attracted us to him in the film evaluation a year ago.” Davis played just 65 defensive snaps last season, Taylor 45.

### Philbin said the Dolphins staff needs “to find a home” for Dallas Thomas, who played just two snaps last season. He said he’s not sure whether he’s better at guard or tackle but could play either.

Philbin said Thomas has been one of the “hardest-working guys” in the team’s offseason program but the staff needs “to give him a place to anchor down. It’s a matter of consistency, gaining trust and confidence of himself and the guy next to him.

“One of the things that intrigued us when we watched him is when he played left tackle. We don't anticipate that's where he's going to be. He's going to give us roster flexibility --- either right tackle or one of the guards. He can play at either guard position. Once the dust settles, we'll figure out where the best spot is for Dallas Thomas to reach his potential. That's on us to figure it out. You want a guy to get comfortable and acclimated. A [starting job] is certainly a possibility. There's a lot of opportunity in the offensive line. We're an equal opportunity [employer] there.”

### Philbin said tight end Dion Sims, who played 280 offensive snaps, “has a chance to be a very good blocker in this league. I like what I see in that area. And he has soft hands.” But he said “his play speed has to become more consistent” and that on tape, “there were pictures of him being indecisive” at times. “But there’s a lot to work with.”

### Philbin said he does “not have a great feel yet” for Mike Gillislee as a running back but liked his work on special teams. He played only nine offensive snaps last season. He also likes the special teams work of seventh-round pick Don Jones.

### Linebacker Jelani Jenkins got more work late in the season and could earn playing on third down.

“He's very bright guy and picked up the system well," Philbin said. "He's athletic and has good zone awareness and has the skill set to run with receivers and play man-to-man. We hope he pushes for play time.”

### On Caleb Sturgis, who was a somewhat disappointing 26 for 34 on field goals, Philbin said: “He has all the qualities you look for. You see the leg strength and accuracy; there was a little spell there with a little inconsistency. We have to work through that and we will. I expect him to improve.”

QUICK HITS

### Regarding running back Knowshon Moreno --- who visited the Dolphins on Friday --- Denver coach John Fox said Moreno can return to the Broncos if he wishes, and we hear rumblings another team (besides Miami) also has him on their radar. The Dolphins remain interested but only at a price with which they’re comfortable. They remain in contact with his agent.

Moreno, who liked his visit to Miami, wasn't done considering his options as of late Monday night. One person with knowledge of the situation said it’s a toss-up whether he signs here and it could go either way at this point.

Maurice Jones-Drew remains an option, but the Dolphins haven’t yet been motivated to bring him in for a visit. Philbin declined to discuss Jones-Drew but left the door open on Moreno.

### Philbin said his linebackers need to be more consistent and that Lamar Miller must “break more tackles.”… He said he expects Dannell Ellerbe to improve playing middle linebacker but left open the possibility of moving Ellerbe outside…. He said Branden Albert and Shelley Smith are good scheme fits for the Dolphins’ offensive line and that Miami will remain a zone blocking team… He said the deep ball chemistry between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace must improve, and that will be a focus. But he said there’s no bigger priority on offense for him than pass protection.

### Philbin indicated the Dolphins tendered receiver Armon Binns. But offensive linemen Danny Watkins and Will Yeatman were not tendered, according to their agents.

### Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said the seventh-rounder that the Ravens acquired from the Dolphins for Bryant McKinnie will be in 2015, not 2014 as had been widely reported.

### Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson raved about Erik Spoelstra’s speech to the Seattle team last summer, but Philbin indicated no plans to bring in the Heat coach to address his players. “I have great respect for him, for what he does as a coach,” Philbin said. Philbin added that he and Spoelstra have texted several times but not spoken. 

### Check out Armando's Dolphins blog for more from Philbin, and check back here later for more updates from the NFL meetings in Orlando.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

03/24/2014

Dolphins/Knowshon Moreno update; NFL owners meeting; Wade doubtful; Spoelstra reacts; UM/MLS

A few Monday afternoon quick hits:

### Three days after hosting him on a visit, the Dolphins remain interested in signing free agent running back Knowshon Moreno, according to a league source. The Dolphins and his agent have continued discussions since his visit on Friday.

Moreno has interest in Miami. The Dolphins believe he would be an upgrade over Daniel Thomas. But whether they can agree to terms financially remains to be seen.

Even beyond running back, the Dolphins aren’t necessarily done in free agency. They will continue to monitor the market for guards and other positions. Don’t rule out adding a linebacker; it was confirmed that Miami did make a good offer to D’Qwell Jackson before he signed with Indianapolis.

The Dolphins have signed every free agent who has visited except Jackson and, as of yet, Moreno (though that obviously might change).

### A few quick items from the NFL owners meetings in Orlando: Arizona coach Bruce Arians told me the subject of locker-room conduct was discussed in the coach’s session today. Also, commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized “respect” at the end of his introductory speech…. Though the Dolphins spoke to Darrell Revis’ agent before he signed with New England, Miami was never a contender because Revis wanted to play with a championship contender. (Miami was reluctant to pay him as much as he was seeking anyway, for cap reasons primarily.) Patriots owner Bob Kraft said today that Revis could have made more money elsewhere but came to the Pats “because he wants to win.”…

Kraft expects the NFL will pass the Patriots’ initiative to increase the length of the goalposts (upward) so there’s no confusion about whether field goals are good or not…. The playoffs could expand to 14 teams by 2015, but that is not expected to be voted on this week…. If Sun Life Stadium renovations happen, the first Super Bowl that the Dolphins could realistically land is 2019.

### Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Dwyane Wade is expected to miss his 19th game of the season tonight because of an ankle injury sustained in the Celtics’ game last week. Miami is 11-7 without Wade.

### Spoelstra indicated he had no problem with Chris Bosh and LeBron James criticizing the team after Saturday’s loss in New Orleans. Bosh, you’ll recall, said: “We suck.”

Said Spoelstra: “Yes, that will stir up emotions. Those emotions now have to motivate us to play better. I don't mind any of that. Everybody probably makes a way bigger deal of it than it is. I'm sure it's good for storylines. That's what this game does to you, it brings you to the brink. As long as these guys come at it with purity, that they care, that's what you need. We all probably need a lapse of sanity right now."

### Greg Oden will start for the Heat tonight against his former team, Portland.

### The person handling the stadium deal for David Beckham and MLS today confirmed my February report that MLS and Beckham are seriously exploring having a joint stadium for MLS and UM football. In fact, he said MLS and UM are in "active discussions." Please see The Herald's story on the MLS stadium on our web site at this hour.

As I have written, MLS says it's still about 60 days from knowing whether a joint UM/MLS stadium is feasible. Even if MLS determines it's do-able, UM would need to somehow escape the final 18 years of its Sun Life Stadium lease for it to happen. UM has told MLS that it must have no fewer than 40,000 seats for UM to be interested in playing there. If the stadium is only for soccer, it likely would have a capacity of 20,000 to 25,000.

03/23/2014

Loria rejects overtures from S. Florida's most successful owner; More angry Heat reaction; Dolphins, UM

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

For many Marlins fans, the idea of the market’s most successful sports owner buying their baseball team would be the best news since the opening of the new ballpark.

It might happen someday. But not yet.

Going back to last year, Heat owner Micky Arison has expressed interest in buying the Marlins from Jeffrey Loria, according to a Major League Baseball official close to the situation.

But Loria isn’t interested in selling to Arison, Jeb Bush or anyone else who has inquired.

Arison has informed the Marlins of his interest on more than one occasion but did not make a formal offer because he was specifically told that Loria would not consider it.

Loria isn’t speaking to reporters, but associates said he loves owning a team and has no intention of selling unless health issues or some other unexpected circumstances arise.

Arison, who declined to comment about interest in the Marlins, is the model owner locally. He hires the right people, spends money freely (having paid a luxury tax every season of the Big Three era) and has fostered an environment that has earned praise from players. He lives year-round in South Florida (unlike Loria and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross) and doesn’t meddle on personnel.

Loria’s slashing of payroll in the second year of the new stadium has been well-documented and is difficult to forgive.

But in Loria’s defense, he’s the only owner in this market who has won a championship besides Arison, and he wisely stopped meddling in baseball decisions this past offseason, allowing executives Michael Hill and Dan Jennings to execute their plan with his full support. He has been at spring training less than past years.

At 73, Loria is nine years older than Arison. So Loria could sell at some point, but not now. If he does, let's hope it's to Arison.

CHATTER

### I was in New Orleans for the Heat's seventh loss in its past 11 games last night and to hear the angry reaction that followed. Please see my last post for a comprehensive look at what was said in an emotional postgame locker-room.

### From Feb. 3 through Friday, Norris Cole was shooting 32 percent, with 37 assists and 26 turnovers, and it's clear Miami cannot go into next season projecting him as the starter if it loses Mario Chalmers in free agency. Some teammates believe Chalmers will be seeking a big raise from his $4 million annual salary, which is unlikely to happen here.

But in some ways, Chalmers has more value to the Heat than to other teams, and Chalmers says he would love to stay. If the Heat makes a competitive offer, Miami has a good chance to keep him. But the Heat is uncertain how it will play out. Toronto's Kyle Lowry will be the top free agent point guard this summer.

### Before being taken out of mothballs last week, Udonis Haslem had the worst plus/minus in the league of any prominent player on a team with a winning record. (Miami was being outscored by 10 per 36 minutes with him on the court.) That all changed last week, as Haslem got meaningful minutes in all four games (including two starts) and generally played well.

"The best word I can use for [this season]? Humbling,” Haslem said. “I'm not going to sit here and say it's been easy. It's not easy at all. I still have a lot of basketball left in me. I have been patiently waiting."

### The law firm representing ousted former Dolphins trainer Kevin O'Neill said O’Neill is unlikely to pursue legal action against the team, and that O'Neill hired the firm to speak for him, because of alleged inaccuracies in the Ted Wells report. Though O'Neill (who will be paid two more years by the Dolphins) has a good reputation, a couple of Dolphins players privately voiced displeasure about how he handled their injuries last season.

Incidentally, Don Shula said he has been given no indication if Ross’ five-person committee, armed with formulating a Dolphins locker-room code of conduct, will ever meet by phone or in person. “It got so blown out of proportion,” Shula, one of those committee members, said about BullyGate.

### Travelle Wharton, 32, who allowed no sacks last season and was rated Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best guard, has interest in Miami, and the Dolphins told his agent that he possibly will be considered only after Miami considers younger options…. That Miami gave cornerback Cortland Finnegan, coming off two poor years, $11 million over two seasons shocked some agents. One asserted Miami could have gotten him for millions less by waiting a week.

### Agent Marvin Demoff said Dan Marino, 52, who has refused to speak publicly after being dropped by CBS, is still "formulating" what he wants to do with his life. A Dolphins job remains a possibility, though not a powerful one. Simply being Dan Marino is still profitable; he commands more than $100 per autograph, according to his firm.

### The UM basketball program is compiling a list of every redshirt junior on a team that has had a coaching change, hoping to lure another Donnavan Kirk-type senior transfer.

Coach Jim Larranaga loves his incoming class: "[Guard] Ja’Quan Newton just became the leading scorer in the history of the Catholic School League in Philadelphia. [Guard] James Palmer played in the best league in the country, in Washington, D.C., is a very good shooter, an outstanding passer….

Omar Sherman [6-9] has a beautiful left-handed touch from three-point range, like Kenny Kadji….Ivan Uceda is 6-10, a junior college player, can hit a spot-up three, excellent passer. He's not a gifted athlete. We'd like to have somebody his size with a little more physical ability."

UM covets 7-1, 261-pound Miami Beach High freshman phenom Zachariah Brown, who averaged 18.1 points, 17 rebounds and 8.0 blocks and is drawing interest from Louisville, UCLA and traditional powerhouses, according to his AAU team director, Michael Lipman, who became Brown's legal guardian after the state took him away from his home.

"NBA scouts tell me he's a one-and-done in college," Lipman said. "He's so dominant.”…

UM also is strongly pursuing Norland sophomore 6-11 power forward Dewan Huell. His coach, Lawton Williams, calls him the "best power player in Dade in a while." Williams said Huell is considering UM. But many believe FSU has the inside track. Even if UM gets either player, it won't be for several years.

### Another example of how much UM coach Al Golden cares about his players: We hear that when Hunter Knighton collapsed and lost consciousness earlier this month, Golden spent two nights in the hospital with him.

### Golden, on new defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou: “Oh my God! Calvin’s really strong!” But Herald freelancer David Furones, who was at Saturday’s practice, said coaches were getting on Heurtelou hard and that he wasn’t coming off the snap hard enough.

“You’ve been here for seven practices!” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was overheard saying, per Furones. “This is what we brought you in for.”

UM needs Heurtelou to play better than the tackles who haven’t done much here (Earl Moore, Jelani Hamilton, Corey King), unless any of those three significantly improve.

“It’s time for me to wake up and help this team,” said Hamilton, a former four-star recruit. Golden has said as much about Hamilton, without the “wake up” part. UM people expect Olsen Pierre and summer arrival Michael Wyche to be the team's top two d-tackles.

### Again, please see my 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning post for explosive comments from the Heat's locker-room last night.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

More angry, emotional reaction from the Heat locker-room Saturday night

If you've read my Heat game story from New Orleans tonight, you've seen some of the eye-opening reaction from Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Check out that story for game details. What follows is a more expansive chronicling of quotes from the locker-room:

The shortcomings on the defensive end are as glaring as they are troubling during this Heat swoon that has now extended to a third week, with seven losses in Miami’s last 11 games. Never before during the Big Three era has the Heat played such deficient defense for such a prolonged stretch.

What’s less obvious, but also problematic, is an issue Chris Bosh broached in an emotional, dejected Heat locker-room in the aftermath of Saturday’s 105-95 loss to the lottery-bound New Orleans Pelicans.

Bosh cited a lack of passion, perhaps not surprising during the drudgery of a season that will be judged solely on whether Miami wins a third consecutive championship. But he also pointed a lack of communication, or more specifically, the players' reluctance to stand up and say what needs to be said.

Perhaps Saturday night marked a turning point in that regard, with Bosh and LeBron James speaking more bluntly than any Heat player has all season. Whether it leads to better defensive play remains to be seen.

“We don’t talk about it,” a frustrated Bosh said about Miami’s on-court problems. “We're not expressing ourselves in the locker-room or on the court. So I figure I'll be the first one to say we suck and we need to turn it around and if we don't turn it around, we'll be watching the championship at home.

“We continue to show up and do whatever. Loss, nobody is upset. Win, nobody is happy. There's no passion. There's nothing. I just want there to be something. If you are mad, say you're mad. If you are frustrated, say you are frustrated. We just need some dialogue. It's uncomfortable keeping things in. We've been keeping things in for a whole season now. You have to let it out.”

But Bosh acknowledged it will take more than words to snap this team out of a funk that has raised serious concerns internally.

“[Words] can definitely light a fire. [But] that isn't going to make the next game easier,” he said. “We need that competitive drive back. We don't have it. No offense to the Pelicans but we've been losing to sub .500 teams for a month now. It's unacceptable. We're going to have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.

“It starts and ends with us. Right now, we’re looking for other people or some miraculous situation to come down and help us and nobody is going to help us. The only person that’s going to help us out of this is the person standing back in the mirror. Until we recognize that and acknowledge it and fight past it, we’re going to keep getting the same result.”

Said James: “Too many excuses. Something goes wrong? An excuse. Lineup change? An excuse. Turn the ball over? An excuse. We've got to own what we're doing right now, and what we're doing right now isn't good enough. It's very frustrating. We're all frustrated.”

Most disconcerting is the Heat’s dramatic defensive drop-off. In field goal percentage against, the Heat ranked second, fifth and sixth the past three seasons, finishing between 43.4 and 44 percent every year. This season? Miami is 18th at 45.7, with lottery-bound Orlando, Cleveland and Boston all stingier. Only twice in the past 14 seasons has Miami finished out of the top 10 in that category.

“On defense, we can’t stop a nose bleed,” Bosh said. “It has nothing to do with talent level. This team [New Orleans] got everything they wanted. They’re not even an outside jump shooting team. They lit us up on the three-point line. Penetration. No good man [defense] or blitzes. No good pick and roll coverage. Everything is bad.”

James was asked to explain why the Heat has allowed seven of its past 11 opponents to shoot between 49.3 and 52 percent.

“There’s a disconnect,” he said. “We have to get reconnected.”

Is it because of all the lineup changes? “That’s an excuse, too,” he said. “We’ve always had lineup changes. First of all, you have to guard your man and help second. When you break down, you have to rely on help. We're not getting both.

“Guys are not playing their man. When guys get beat, which will happen in this league because it's great players, then the help comes. We're not doing it.”

The last Heat team to allow more points per game than this one was the 2007-08 group, which finished 15-67 and permitted 100 points per game. This Heat team is relinquishing nearly 99, much worse than Indiana (92.2) and worse than the first three seasons of the Big Three era (94.6, 92.5, 95.0).

“We've got to play harder,” Udonis Haslem said. “We can't take plays off. We can't expect anyone to give us nothing. We're not entitled. Everything we've gotten, we've earned.

“Sometimes we get stops and we don't get the rebounds. Sometimes we don't get stops. We got to get stops and rebounds. We can't get the stop and they get an offensive rebound and get another 24 [seconds]. We've got to guard the ball, and when the ball gets in the paint, we've got to contest. It's not about offense right now. It's about defense.”

### Though James rolled his right ankle late in the third quarter, he played through it and said he wouldn’t miss any games. “I don’t have time to take off,” he said. “We don’t have time to take off.” James said he injured the ankle when he stepped on Anthony Davis' foot, but replays indicated it appeared to be Chris Andersen's foot, not Davis'.

Please check back Sunday morning for more Heat, Dolphins, Marlins and Canes in the Sunday buzz column

03/22/2014

Saturday 6 p.m. report: Heat starters adjusting to Oden; Olsen gets first-team reps; Heat, UM chatter

7 p.m. update: As expected, Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden will sit out tonight at New Orleans, the second game of a back to back to set. The Heat listed rest as the reason for each and is being cautious with their knees, which is sensible.

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Saturday 3 p.m. report:

The upshot of Erik Spoelstra’s decision to move Greg Oden into the starting lineup recently, on nights that he’s available, is that it gives the Heat’s other starters a chance to adjust to playing with the hulking 7-foot center.

And that adjustment remains very much a work in progress, especially offensively.

Oden has started three games since March 16 and has 11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks but also eight fouls in 39 combined minutes in those games.

Oden was expected to sit out tonight’s game in New Orleans, with the Heat continuing its pattern of resting his knees on one of the nights of back-to-back sets.

“It’s a challenge because we haven’t played together,” Dwyane Wade said late Friday night. “For three years, [Udonis Haslem] was in the starting lineup and that’s what we were comfortable with. It’s been a challenge this year. Shane [Battier] was in it. We tried to put Michael Beasley in it and are trying to work Greg Oden in it.

“It’s a little different. We’re trying to get used to it and adjust to it on the fly, especially in March, [with] no practice time and a game every other day. We want him to continue to get comfortable and better in our system. We have to figure it out.”

Miami outscored Houston by one point in Oden’s 13 minutes in his first start and outscored Cleveland by eight in Oden’s 14 minutes in his second start, a contest that Wade missed.

But Memphis outscored Miami by 12 in Oden’s 12 minutes on Friday, though Oden wasn’t directly to blame for that. (He had five points, two rebounds and two blocks during his time on the court.)

Of Oden’s 24 field goals (in 42 shot attempts) this season, 17 are dunks.

Wade said the Heat isn’t trying to force-feed him the ball.

“He lets us know when he wants the ball, the way he ducks in,” Wade said. “I think he’s still trying to figure out when he can be aggressive, as in duck in, and sometimes getting out of the way. It’s not there yet. Even though he’s started a few games, he hasn’t played that many minutes with us.

“That’s something we’re just going to have to learn on the fly, learn each other. He doesn’t talk much, so it’s hard to go to him and see kind of what he likes. So we kind of got to figure it out on the court.”

ALLEN’S REVIVAL

Even during the midst of an extended shooting slump earlier this season, Ray Allen insisted he wasn’t worried because there was nothing off with his mechanics.

Still, it’s reassuring to see what the NBA’s all-time three-point king has done the past two weeks. Allen has led the Heat in scoring in three of the past five games, including an 18-point night Friday against Memphis.

Just as significantly, he’s shooting 50 percent, including 43.3 percent from three-point range, in 12 games in March, while averaging 12.4 points.

Allen had shot 32.6 percent and averaged 7.0 points in January, and 42.4 percent and 7.9 points in February.

“He’s playing well, playing with a lot of confidence,” Wade said. “He’s back to being Ray. We’re doing a better job of finding him, running more sets to him. But he’s being aggressive.

“Even when he doesn’t have his shot, Ray can still put the ball on the floor at times and finish, which he has been doing a very good of. He changed his mindset a little bit and understanding we’ve been struggling and we need that extra jolt. He’s given us that.”

### According to Elias, Friday’s game marked the first time that LeBron James (15 points), Wade (14 points) and Chris Bosh (11 points) all scored 15 or fewer points in the same game in any of the 227 regular-season contests they have appeared in together since becoming teammates in 2010.

### The Heat had a meeting scheduled with center Andrew Bynum on Feb. 1, the day he decided to sign with Indiana instead. But Bynum has played in only two games since, and the Pacers announced Friday he’s out indefinitely with soreness and swelling in his right knee.

### Wade, on the Heat losing six of its past nine before Friday: “It probably surprised us a little bit. Before our struggles, we won eight in a row. You understand throughout a season you’re going to go through bumps. We’re not above that. I don’t care how many Finals we’ve been to. It’s a different year. For us to win a championship, we understand we have to win it different.

“Hopefully, the struggles we’re going through are lessons for our team and hopefully that will prepare us for those moments later in the postseason.”

CANES CHATTER

Ryan Williams said after Thursday’s practice that he had received all the first-team reps through five days of spring ball. That changed Saturday, with Kevin Olsen working with the starters on one possession early in the day. He led the offense in a two-minute drive, culminating in a TD pass to Herb Waters. He then resumed working with the backups for the rest of practice.

“We're going to mix him in a little bit,” Al Golden said. “We gave him the two-minute today and didn't tell him. We wanted him to just keep his poise and try to assess the situation. He had no timeouts, needed a touchdown. I thought he did a good job. We were up against it there on fourth-and-eight and he came through and made a play, which was good."

Golden mentioned that Olsen's approach is "drastically different" from last season. How so? "His maturity, his energy, getting ready to play," Golden said.

Golden said Thursday that Ryan Williams remains ahead in the quarterback competition. Coaches and players have praised his maturity, improved arm strength, accuracy (which has been off at times this spring), knowledge of the offense and ability to make pre-snap adjustments. Williams threw a 35-yard TD pass to D’Mauri Jones on Saturday.

### Among those eliciting praise from Golden on Saturday: freshman cornerback Ryan Mayes (“he’s done a great job; as smart as can be; long”); safety Jamal Carter “light years” ahead of last year in regard to “maturity, preparation” and is a “physical, explosive player”); linebacker Thurston Armbrister (“playing well and fast”); linebacker Raphael Kirby; ends/outside linebackers Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad (“growing up right now”); and Dallas Crawford (adjusting to safety and “done a lot in a very short period of time.”)

### McCord and Muhammad have been competing at one end spot on first and second down, but both are being used together on third down. "We're not afraid to put Chick (Anthony Chickillo) inside and get him in a one-on-one matchup against a guard, (Ufomba) Kamalu is doing well in that instance as well," Golden said. "We're going to find the best grouping."

### Injured Olsen Pierre is expected to resume practicing next week. 

### Check back late tonight for more Canes, Heat, plus Dolphins and Marlins in the Sunday buzz column.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

03/21/2014

Friday afternoon update: Alarming trend continues for Heat; Fins candidate takes other job

Erik Spoelstra said late this afternoon that LeBron James is feeling better after experiencing back spasms earlier in the week and will play tonight. Greg Oden also is available. Dwyane Wade is, too.

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

Concerns about the Heat’s March Malaise – now six losses in its past nine games entering Friday night – shouldn’t be overstated. But as ESPN’s Doug Collins noted, if there’s one troubling sign, it’s the dramatic drop in the Heat’s defensive numbers.

Miami has never been this poor statistically in the Big Three era. Six of its past nine opponents have shot between 49.3 and 51.4 percent, which is disturbing.

The Heat can overcome ranking last in the league in rebounding, as it was last season and again this season, when it’s disruptive and stout defensively. But it can’t consistently overcome that under these circumstances. Consider:

### The last Heat team to allow more points per game than this one was the 2007-08 group, which finished 15-67 and permitted 100 points per game. This Heat team is relinquishing 98.7, good for seventh in the league but much worse than Indiana (92.2) and worse than the first three seasons of the Big Three era (94.6, 92.5, 95.0).

### More telling is field-goal percentage against. The Heat was second, fifth and sixth the past three seasons, finishing between 43.4 and 44 percent every year. This season? Miami is 18th at 45.7, with lottery-bound Orlando, Cleveland and Boston all stingier. Only twice in the past 14 seasons has Miami finished out of the top 10 in that category.

### The Heat gives up the highest shooting percentage both in the paint and on corner threes, according to NBA.com.

### SynergySports.com, which analyzes every play, said two Heat players have been “excellent” defensively in terms of points allowed on possessions that end against them: Chris Andersen and Norris Cole. The Big Three and a few others are ranked good or very good.

Ray Allen, Michael Beasley and Rashard Lewis grade out “average” defensively, and Udonis Haslem and Toney Douglas are given “poor” marks. Shane Battier is rated “good,” but Synergy notes that players he’s guarding are shooting 41.4 percent against him, up from 37.5 last season.

TNT’s Steve Kerr said off air, earlier this season, that the Heat’s defense at times “has been jarring to watch because this is Pat Riley’s creation. Defense is in their DNA. Defense is so much about effort. It’s not schemes. You watch and say, ‘Jesus, how does he get that open?’

“Too many open shots. That’s effort. One thing that’s important in how they play defense is blitzing pick and rolls, causing havoc. To play that style, three or four years in a row, and exert that kind of energy is almost impossible. It’s not like Indiana, where they are bludgeoning you.” Kerr said Allen “is weak defensively” and James “turns it on and off defensively.”

Off the air, NBA TV’s Isiah Thomas said at times this season, the Heat has been “a step slow. I see late reactions. There is a fatigue factor that can’t be ignored. It’s a mental fatigue.” But he expects the defensive sharpness “to come back.”

The Heat is assuming/hoping that once the playoffs arrive, its defense will return to the level of last postseason, when it held opponents to 90.7 points and 43.6 shooting.

Couple other quick notes:

### Former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik took a studio job with ESPN on Thursday instead of accepting an offer to join friend and former colleague Dennis Hickey in the Dolphins’ front office. This was a lifestyle decision, not a slight against the Dolphins.

### The Marlins better hope that what we’re seeing this spring from three of their four new starting infielders isn’t a harbinger: first baseman Garrett Jones (.146), second baseman Rafael Furcal (3 for 18, injured hamstring) and third baseman Casey McGehee (.209)… The Marlins, who lowered every ticket price, have sold more than 20,000 tickets to their March 31 opener against Colorado. Season ticket sales are approaching 5000. They sold 12,000 season tickets in year one in the new ballpark, 5000 last season.