06/07/2014

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.)

06/04/2014

Wednesday night report: LeBron opens up on assorted topics; 20 Heat-Spurs notes/nuggets; UM tidbits

A bundle of news and notes from here in San Antonio:

### No team except the Bulls held LeBron James to a lower scoring average (18.5) and field goal percentage (42.4) than the Spurs did this season.

And though he eventually broke through to average 25.3 points and win series MVP in last year’s Finals, the Spurs held him to 44.7 percent shooting, his second-lowest ever in a playoff series as a member of the Heat. James shot 38.9 percent in the first three games, 47.9 in the final four, when he started making the jump shots that the Spurs were daring him to take.

The Heat will not be surprised if the Spurs try a similar approach in these Finals. But, as coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday, “He has a great way of figuring it out. It it’s making open shots, there are a lot worse problems you can have.”

Though James ultimately prevailed in last year’s Finals, two Spurs defenders made it difficult on him: Kawhi Leonard, who was voted second-team All Defense this year, and Boris Diaw, against whom James shot 3 for 21 in last year’s Finals, according to ESPN.

"Kawhi has done a great job last year in The Finals and this year in the games using his length and staying front of [James],” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “Physically, LeBron’s just a monster. We’ve got to make his life as difficult as possible, keep him out of the open court, keep him away from the rim, make him work for everything he gets.”

Leonard said Wednesday that even with “knowing his tendencies, it’s still going to be hard to stop him.”

ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy said off the air Wednesday that the James/Leonard matchup is “the best part of this series…. We don’t know where Leonard is going to reach. You look at his demeanor, improving skill set. He has a chance to be very, very good.”

Diaw on Wednesday took no credit for his defensive work on James in last year’s Finals, noting “he missed shots on his own.”

As for James, he addressed several topics during an introspective session with reporters on Wednesday:

### He said he is putting “no pressure” on himself in these Finals.

“I don’t really care what people say about me or how people categorize my so-called legacy or the way they think I should be,” he said.

“…I play for my teammates, our team, the city of Miami, my friends and family, and I gave it all for that. At the end of the day, win, lose or draw, I’m satisfied with that. I don’t get involved in what people say about me and my legacy. I think it’s actually kind of stupid.”

### He was flattered by Pacers coach Frank Vogel calling him the Michael Jordan of this era. “Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever play our game. So to be in the same breath as Michael Jordan is very humbling.”

### He said after the Heat lost the 2011 Finals, he spoke with Jerry West and Isiah Thomas “and asked them questions about what it took to get over the hump. They gave me some great pointers that I like to keep in my Rolodex until I decide to write a book when I’m done. Those guys were very helpful.”

### On how much he has changed since those 2011 Finals: “More than a player, I grew as a man. I have a beautiful family. I’m a father to two. I grew more as a man and I think that’s what helped my game.”

### He said he has “changed my game since I got to Miami in that I was probably 75 to 85 percent pick-and-rolls in Cleveland, and after that, it was isolation. Now I would say I’m 40 percent post-ups, 40 percent pick-and-rolls and not even as much isos.”

### He said he expects to tinker with his game further as he ages. “Me high flying and doing the things that I’m able to do now at 29, at 36 maybe I wouldn’t be able to do it. I will change my game again, if I want to continue to be helpful to a team.”

Please see the last post for why LeBron said today he feels slighted.

MORE HEAT, SPURS NUGGETS

Forward Rashard Lewis, who played just 12 minutes in last year’s Finals, has gone from midseason afterthought to a rotation piece and potential starter in Game 1 of the Finals, if coach Erik Spoelstra sticks with the lineup he used to close out the Indiana series.

Lewis played just 28 minutes between Feb. 1 and late March, but the Heat recently has thrived with Lewis on the court.

The Heat has outscored opponents by 92 points in Lewis’ 204 postseason minutes and was a plus-58 during his time on the court in the final four games of the Eastern Conference Finals, the last three of which Lewis started.

After shooting 0 for 7 in the first two of those four games, Lewis ended the Indiana series by hitting 11 of his last 21 shots, including 9 for 16 on threes.

“It’s satisfying,” Lewis said. “Coach has the option of playing me, Shane Battier or Udonis Haslem depending on who’s on the court. It’s good to have those many options.”

With Mike Miller, among others, ahead of him in the rotation last June, Lewis appeared in only three games of the 2013 Finals, shooting 2 for 6.

Besides having Lewis, Battier and Haslem, Spoelstra also can use Chris Bosh or Chris Andersen at power forward when those two play at the same time.

The Heat is a plus 13 in Battier’s 169 minutes in the playoffs, and he’s shooting 9 for 18 on three-pointers.

Haslem started the Heat’s Game 2 and Game 3 wins against Indiana, but Miami has been outscored by 56 points in his 146 minutes this postseason.

Spoelstra’s ability to use Lewis, Battier or Haslem at power forward “gives us three chances of finding a guy who has a game going,” Battier said, laughing. “That’s the biggest advantage. Hopefully one of us will play well in a given game.”

### LeBron was named first team All-NBA, and the only surprise was that it wasn’t unanimous. James was selected to the first team on all 125 ballots except the one submitted by Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com.

No other Heat player was named to the first, second or third teams. Dwyane Wade, who missed 28 games this season, finished 29th and failed to make any All-NBA team for the first time since 2008. Bosh was 37th in voting.

### Bosh averaged just 11.9 points in last year’s Finals and shot 0 for 6 on three-pointers.

“The three is not something I’m going to lean on,” he said Wednesday. “I’m going to try to get into the paint as much as possible. That’s the part of my game I need to work on. The three will always be there…. The last few games I made an effort to look for my shot.”

### Bosh, on playing so many games the past four years: “It’s what we signed up for; it’s what people remember you for. When they see me limping later on, when I’m closer to 40 and they see my bad knees, you’ll be able to look at the tape and understand why. I don’t even know what re-invigorated feels like anymore.”

### Unlike Bosh, Wade said he draws no motivation from Tim Duncan saying last weekend that the Spurs will win this series.

“When you are in the Finals, you are supposed to think you’re going to win,” Wade said. “I think we get microphones in our face too much.”

### In his career, James has opened seven playoff series on the road, and he has lost all seven, by an average of 12.3 points.

## Ray Allen said that once or twice a week, he still sees video of his series-saving Game 6 three-pointer in last year’s Finals. “It’s hard for me not to see it, because [of] social media.”

### Tony Parker, bothered by an ankle injury that sidelined him for the second half of the Spurs’ closeout win in the Western Conference Finals, expects to play in the opener of the NBA Finals on Thursday and coach Gregg Popovich said “he’s going to be fine.”

But Parker admitted Wednesday he feels “a little bit” concerned about how he will feel over the course of the series. “I’ve been playing for four years nonstop, since 2010, no vacation,” he said. “I did everything I can treatment wise and hope I can be 100 percent.”

Parker sprained the ankle in Game 4 of the Spurs’ first-round series against Dallas, then re-injured it in Game 4 of the conference finals.

He played in the first half of Game 6 against the Thunder on Saturday, but his mobility was limited with cuts, and Popovich would not allow him to play in the second half.

If Parker is re-injured, Popovich could turn to Patty Mills, Corey Joseph or shooting guard Manu Ginobili, who ran the offense for the final 13 minutes of Saturday’s game.

### No Spur was more disappointed in his 2013 Finals performance than Ginobili, who committed eight turnovers in the Game 6 loss at Miami and four more in the Game 7 defeat.

“It was a bad experience,” Ginobili said Wednesday. “It stays in your head for a while.”

### Tim Duncan couldn't believe that the Heat made an issue of his comment that the Spurs intend to win the Finals this year.

"I don't know what I said that was so bad," he said. "Everybody keeps talking about it. I said I wanted to win the Finals. We're back here now and I wanted to win. If they need to find fuel in that, so be it."

 Duncan also was mystified by LeBron James’ remark that the Spurs don’t like the Heat.

"I don't know what he was talking about,” Duncan said. “But if he needs to find fuel in that, so be it. I don't have a problem with them individually or as a team. I respect what they've done. Unfortunately for them, we're here trying to win."

### Duncan, 38, shrugged off Charles Barkley’s comment suggesting he might retire if the Spurs win the championship.

“I don’t know when I’m going to retire; I don’t know what the factors are going to be,” he said.

Popovich cracked that Duncan probably will end his career in “the third quarter of some game on the road some year, and he’ll feel like he’s not as significant and he’ll walk into the locker-room.”

### Spurs guard Danny Green said at the start of training camp, Popovich showed the team clips of their Game 6 and 7 losses in The Finals.

“He wanted to make a point about mistakes we made,” Green said. “We’ve seen it a couple times throughout the season.”

### Ginobili, on the Spurs’ ability to keep winning as their roster ages: “Since 2007, I’ve been hearing: ‘This might be the best chance and the window is closing.’ We’re still here.”

### The Spurs have won each of their five Finals openers, by 10.4 points on average.

### There have been 12 Finals in NBA history that featured a rematch of the previous year’s championship series. The team that lost the first has won the second in five of the past six rematches.

But overall, the team defending its title has won six of the 12, including the most recent rematch in 1997, when the Bulls beat Utah for a second consecutive year.

UM NOTES

Three quick UM items:

### Hurricanes football, this week, got its 12th oral commitment for 2015 when three-star Venice High offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier orally committed. Of UM's dozen oral commitments, nine are rated three-star recruits by rivals.com. Four are rated four-star prospects.

### UM basketball remains very much in the mix for two transfers, but unfortunately, both would be required to sit out this season.

One of them, 6-8 forward Kamari Murphy, told ESPN he will visit UM after visiting USF. He averaged 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds for Oklahoma State last season.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Jeff Goodman reports former Alabama 6-8 power forward Nick Jacobs will choose between UM and Georgia Tech. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 rebounds and shot 52 percent last season while averaging 20 minutes a game.

### Former UM safety AJ Highsmith, Alonzo's son, announced on Instagram that he will no longer play football. He auditioned for the San Francisco 49ers last month after going undrafted.

06/03/2014

4 p.m. Wed. Finals update; Barkley, analysts weigh in on NBA Finals; Ex-Bulls standout puts down Heat; Spurs dumbfounded; Dolphins, Marlins

Some 4 p.m. Wednesday quick hits from NBA Finals media day:

### Tony Parker expects to play in Game 1, despite an ankle injury, but said he is a "little bit" concerned about how it will feel during the duration of this series. "I did everything I can treatment wise and I hope I can be 100 percent," he said.

### Tim Duncan couldn't believe that the Heat made an issue of his comment that he intends to win the Finals this year. Nor could he believe that LeBron James concluded that the Spurs don't like the Heat.

"I don't know what I said that was so bad," he said. "Everybody keeps talking about it. I said I wanted to win the Finals. We're back here now and I wanted to win. If they need to find fuel in that, so be it."

And of LeBron's comments, Duncan said: "I don't know what he was talking about. But if he needs to find fuel in that, so be it. I don't have a problem with them individually or as a team. I respect what they've done. Unfortunately for them, we're here trying to win."

### James says he feels slighted when people say the Spurs gave away the Finals last year instead of the Heat winning it.

"Absolutely," James said. "We feel slighted in the fact it went seven. It went seven! It wasn't like it was 3-0, and you know, they had us in game 4 and we took it and won four straight. If you look at the numbers [from the series], it's almost even. We just happened to make one or two more plays to win it."

### James said even though the Spurs "are motivated" from last year, "their motivation can only go so far. How much motivation can carry you to a championship, I'm not sure."

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

BUZZ COLUMN

Sampling analysts' views on the NBA Finals:

### TNT’s Charles Barkley picks the Heat (which is uncharacteristic for him), partly because he’s “concerned about Tony Parker” (Parker said Tuesday his ankle is improved and he expects to play Thursday) and partly because of his admiration for LeBron James.

But during a conference call today to promote the American Century Championship, Barkley also endorsed the sentiments of former Bulls forward Horace Grant, who said on a Chicago radio station Tuesday that "the Heat wouldn’t have had a chance” against Michael Jordan's 1990s Bulls teams.

“Especially with the rules today, Michael would have had a field day,” Grant added.

Barkley concurs with Grant: “I agree with him. You really think they could beat Magic Johnson's Lakers, Larry Bird's Celtics, the [Jordan-led] Bulls? Not even a chance. They made David West and Roy Hibbert looks like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain every game. They’ve got a little team. You can punish them down low. I would love to see some of those little guys try to guard me down low. I would get to the game at 2 in the afternoon.”

Despite picking the Heat, Barkley said: “They won’t have matchup advantages against the Spurs. Chris Bosh won’t be shooting wide-open threes against the Spurs. Danny Green is going to have Dwyane Wade chasing him around those picks. Miami can’t handle big guys down low. Tim Duncan will play well. …. Dwyane has played well [but] Chris has been inconsistent – five or six bad games, then a couple good games.”

But Barkley picks the Heat nevertheless, because James "is amazing to watch" and because he has serious doubts about Parker's ankle. He said the series could be shorter than six or seven games if Parker is limited.

### ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy told ESPN Radio's Dan Le Batard last week that the Heat isn’t “as good talent wise” as the Spurs or Thunder and “it would be a big upset if the Heat wins again this year. The Heat has a lot of guys on the back nine of their careers. I don’t think they are as deep as in the past…. San Antonio plays beautiful basketball. They’re just so good.”

Van Gundy said on ESPN that he’s not sure Miami would have made it out of the first round if the Heat played in the Western Conference.

### ABC’s Doug Collins, by phone, said he leans toward the Heat.

“San Antonio is better this year than last year and Miami is not quite as good as last year” and the Spurs “have an incredibly potent bench. But you will have to cut both of LeBron’s hands off to get the trophy out of his hands. LeBron is the best player and I will not go against him. And Miami has gotten better and better as the playoffs have gone on. They’ve got another gear.”

Collins expects “you will see a lot of small ball,” noting that Spurs center Tiago Splitter “became a non-factor” in last year’s Finals, and he believes Erik Spoelstra should stick with Rashard Lewis as a starter.

Miami “has got to have a guy that knocks down shots, whether it be Ray Allen or Shane Battier,” Collins said. “You will see the Spurs trying to build a wall and not let LeBron get in the paint. You will see Kawhi Leonard on LeBron and Boris Diaw a lot on LeBron. Diaw is a real key. And Miami is going to try to keep Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili out of the paint. The key is driving and kicking for threes.”

### ESPN’s P.J. Carlesimo said by phone that he leans slightly toward San Antonio because of home court advantage and also because “the Spurs might be slightly better than last year because of Ginobili’s health and their bench. And Miami is probably a hair below what they were last year.”

He said the Spurs have the better bench and are superior to Miami “inside and in defensive rebounding and they can overwhelm you with their size. They have more good bigs than Indiana.”

The Heat’s defense and three-point shooting “were not as good during the regular season as past years [but] they’ve been better in the playoffs,” Carlesimo said. He believes Diaw could give the Heat problems because “he opens the floor and he’s a post-up guy.”

CHATTER

### The Spurs are dumbfounded that the Heat is drawing motivation from Tim Duncan saying “We’ll do it this time” about winning a championship.

“It’s a comment you do when you are excited after a Game 6,” Ginobili told San Antonio media today. “It’s not a big deal.”

Parker said: "Knowing Timmy, that's not trash talking. I don't think he meant it like that."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had no use for the topic: “Come on, this is silly.”…

### On James’ remark the Spurs “don’t like us,” Ginobili remarked: “I dislike everyone we play in the playoffs.”

Asked about James’ comment by San Antonio media, Popovich said: “Do you have a better question?” then said: “I like everybody.”

### Barkley said the back-and-forth between Duncan and James “was funny. LeBron is such a nice guy. That was him being as mad as he could possibly get.”

### Heat point guards must play better than last year’s Finals, when Mario Chalmers had more turnovers (18) than assists (15), and Norris Cole shot 6 for 22. “If [Chalmers] plays well, we’re going to win,” Bosh said. In Chalmers' defense, he had 20 points in Game 6 and 14 in Game 7.

### The Dolphins haven’t been happy with Rishard Matthews for tardiness, lack of attention to detail and other issues --- one reason why they used a second-round pick on Jarvis Landry instead of being content with Matthews as their fourth receiver. Matthews admits it surprised him that Miami drafted two receivers (Landry and Matt Hazel).

But Matthews tells us he hopes a recent meeting with Joe Philbin cleared things up. “I had some [missteps] my first couple years being young,” he said. “They want me to be more professional off the field, as well as on the field. That’s part of maturing. Little stuff, maybe being late to a couple of meetings. Coach Philbin sat down with me and gave me the ropes. We’re definitely on the same page.”

Even though Matthews has been productive, those ancillary issues have left him battling Armon Binns (who has looked very good), Damian Williams and former running back Marcus Thigpen for the fifth receiver job, barring injuries. Matthews has one less ally here with Jeff Ireland’s departure.

### Something that should deeply concern the Marlins about bullpen pickups Bryan Morris and Kevin Gregg: They both allow a lot of base-runners: Morris 37 in 23 innings this season and 85 in 65 last season for the Pirates, and Gregg 85 in 62 for the Cubs in 2013.

The Pirates were down on Morris, who has relinquished 12 homers in 88 innings since the start of last season (one every 7 1/3) and a .294 batting average against this season. But the Marlins were desperate for experienced relievers.        

06/02/2014

A dozen notes, quotes, tidbits, musings from Monday Heat and Dolphins practices

Lots of stuff on a busy Monday, with the Heat beginning preparations for The Finals and the Dolphins holding OTA day No. 4 (the second of a few open to the media):

### There’s genuine respect between the Heat and Spurs, but some mild verbal jousting has begun, thanks to Tim Duncan saying on Saturday that the Spurs will win the title this year, that "we'll do it this time."

“They don’t like us. They don’t,” LeBron James said today. “I can sense it from Timmy’s statements the last couple days. They wanted this. They wanted us. And we’ll be ready for the challenge. They said it, that we left a sour taste in their mouth because of what happened” in last year's Finals.

Do Duncan’s comments bother LeBron?

“No. Why would it bother me? We're not shying away from them. We want THEM too. They want us, they got us...No one is entitled. This is no one's championship. It isn't ours, it isn't theirs. It's two teams fighting for it."

James said there might be more hostility if they played each other four times a year: “It would be a lot different.”

### James said he expects the Spurs again will try to force him to take jump shots.  “They didn’t guard me” last year. “I didn’t make shots. They had a great game plan, I guess. It wasn’t much of a game plan. They didn’t guard me.

“Went under the pick-and-roll. Dared me to shoot. Started to make shots [later in the series]. They would rather me shoot jumpers than [get] in the paint. I think every team in the league would want that. They do a good job of trying to funnel everything into their bigs.”

### Monday musings from Chris Bosh: On Duncan’s comments, Bosh said: “It’s a little different. But we love it for extra motivation. We’re glad to get extra motivation. Any time we’re not focusing, we can think back to that quote and it will lock us back in.”…

Bosh, on public sentiment: “People still want to see us lose. I don’t think that’s ever going to change.... Bosh had a good line when asked why people root against the Heat": “I’m a fan of the Miami Heat, so I don’t know.”

### Impressive day for Ryan Tannehill, who threw two touchdowns to Mike Wallace, a dart in the middle of the end zone to Brian Hartline for a touchdown and another great throw that should have been a touchdown to Charles Clay (who dropped it). He threw one interception (to Jimmy Wilson) but also wisely threw the ball away when nothing was there.

### Wallace, as we wrote a couple times last week, is in clearly better spirits. One reason is that he loves Bill Lazor’s offense and the flexibility it gives him to change where he lines up.

Mike Sherman wouldn’t permit him to do that last year, and Wallace said today that as a result, opposing defenses knew exactly where he was going to be.

### Of the move of Koa Misi to middle linebacker, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said: “I can’t commit today to saying it’s a done deal but I like what I’m seeing. So far, so good. Koa has such a physical presence. When Koa hits you, you stay hit for a while. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used Koa an an example of how you compete each and every snap on defense. Last year, I felt I didn’t keep him in the game as often as I could have. We’ve got to get him more involved. He’s a big man, strong, explosive. He takes a tremendous amount of pride in doing little things the right way.”

 ### Coyle raved about the two new starters in the secondary: safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Cortland Finnegan: “Two great additions, lot of enthusiasm, smart, instinctive guys. They’ve been a pleasure to coach. They will bring an energy, toughness, fierce competitiveness. They are both vocal guys. Louis goes 100 miles an hour with everything he’s doing. Sees formations quickly. Sometimes you’ve got to reign him back in a little bit. He’s never slowing down.” 

### Will Davis was beaten for a touchdown by Armon Binns today, but Coyle said he made an interception Friday “that was out of this world. SportsCenter [worthy]. Every day we’re seeing significant improvement from Will and Jamar [Taylor]. You see confidence growing every day.”

### Knowshon Moreno continues to work at least partly with the second team, with Lamar Miller taking a lot of first team snaps. Moreno dropped a pass today and Joe Philbin conceded that his conditioning could be better. 

### Jelani Jenkins got a significant number of first team reps, ahead of Dannell Ellerbe, but Philbin suggested not to read anything into it.

It would be VERY surprising if Ellerbe isn’t the starter.

### The Dolphins are giving a lot of reps to 6-5 receiver Stephen Williams; they like his size, but he dropped a short, easy catch and it would be shocking if he makes the team.

### Random stuff: As we wrote a couple weeks ago, Marcus Thigpen has been moved to receiver, at least for now… Brent Grimes was beaten several times, including by Wallace, but obviously no need for concern with a player of his caliber…. Pat Devlin made a great pass to Matt Hazel…

Dallas Thomas got first-team reps at left guard… Practice began with a double reverse, with Hartline tossing it to Wallace. Good stuff… Don Jones dropped an interception…

There were several rollouts by Tannehill to avoid pressure…. Randy Starks and Cam Wake got heat on the quarterback several times…. Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal from 42 yards but made another from that distance. 

05/31/2014

Battier's long journey nears end; UM makes stadium decision, considers marquee football games; Fins, Marlins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Shane Battier, most assuredly, is the only NBA player who draws a charge one minute, cooks portobello mushrooms the next and later references “the Joycean” style of his writings.

As he navigates his final three weeks as an NBA player, the Heat forward is cherishing every moment, the experience heightened now that he has resumed playing after sitting idly in the first round.

Battier, 35, hasn't yet become emotional or nostalgic. But "I've been known to cry on a few occasions. I'm not afraid to shed a tear or two. My wife will say I'm a SAP."

He is chronicling his final season in a journal that he updates regularly. “A Joycian stream of consciousness,” he cracks, a reference to James Joyce, one of the esteemed fiction writers of the early 20th century. He might use it as the basis for a book.

Battier received marriage proposals from fans over the years, to the amusement of his wife, Heidi. This season, some reached out (on social media and through letters) to tell him he shouldn’t retire; others told him they’re all for it.

"More love letters than hate mail," he said, smiling.

So why will this season be his last?

"I'm just ready. Every person knows. Just ready for new adventures. If it were just about games, I'd play forever. The will to prepare to play is what most people don't see: the hours, the ice bags, the treatment, the stitches, not being able to get out of bed in the morning, missing your kid's birthday parties and missing your anniversaries.

"You have to sacrifice in order to prepare at a high level for this job, which I have for a long, long time..... I have no regrets on my run. I've given myself a chance to help my teams win every step of the way. I've done some really cool things."

He said “when I started, I had two goals: Play 10 years and walk away before the game kicked me out. It wasn't to win a championship. It wasn't to earn a certain amount of money."

His final regular season disappointed him personally. "The shooting percentage was down, but I just don't feel I played to my standards. I had a subpar year."

But he has helped in these playoffs, shooting 50 percent both from the field overall and from three-point range.

Last year, The Sporting News named him one of the 10 most intelligent people in sports. After all, who else weaves in the word 'monolithic' during a post-practice interview?

The sixth overall pick of the 2001 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies, Battier speaks two languages (English and German), had a 3.5 GPA at Duke while majoring in religion, lists finances and sabermetrics among his interests, and once said the nerdiest thing about him is that he has a subscription to Laptop magazine. He taught himself to cook a few years ago and can whip up paella and assorted other dishes.

Unlike many players, the first number he wants to know after the game is not his points, but his plus/minus (the score differential when he was on the court). He’s the first Heat player in the past two decades to ask coaches for a detailed printout on the opponent he’s facing.

NBA players voted him the league’s best teammate this season, and he has left an imprint off the court here, especially with Norris Cole, who sits next to him in the locker-room and now also asks coaches for that same ‘Battier’ printout, while seeking life lessons on “how to save money” and more.

Udonis Haslem calls Battier the "smartest guy" he has played with. "I want to stay in contact with him 10 years from now; he's got some great networking," Toney Douglas said. "People wonder why Shane Battier plays in the league 13 years. He defends, he isn't going to make mistakes, he hits threes and he's a great guy in the locker-room. A great professional."

What Battier has most treasured this season is the quiet moments when he walks on arena floors on the road, long after the game ends, and soaks everything in. He did it in Detroit, New York and Houston.

Battier future’s will involve "a variety of things," including TV analyst work. His vision of leaving the floor for the final time this month doesn't involve hitting a game-winning shot in the Finals because "that's a little too storybook for me."

Instead, it's simply "feeling good about my run. Knowing I gave my team a shot to win every night. I'd be very content with that."

### Please see the last post for a lot more Heat notes from Saturday, including what the Heat is doing better this postseason than any other during the Big Three Era and Erik Spoelstra following the lead of Al Golden on his villian approach....

### The Heat-Spurs Finals rematch begins Thursday night in San Antonio. "We've got four more to win. We'll do it this time," Tim Duncan told TNT.... Charles Barkley picks the Heat to win the Finals, hoping this prediction is more accurate than previous ones.

CHATTER

### After studying the idea for months, David Beckham’s group and UM have mutually decided not to pursue the possibility of having the UM football team play in Beckham’s proposed soccer stadium presuming it’s at the boat slip site next to AmericanAirlines Arena, according to several people with direct knowledge. Voters will need to approve that site as a soccer site in a referendum likely to be held in November.

The idea of a joint football/soccer facility became too complicated, with too many logistical issues such as parking. Plus, UM has 18 years left on its Sun Life lease, and Stephen Ross strongly opposed letting the Hurricanes out of that, though UM never reached the point of asking.

Beckham plans to build a 20,000-seat stadium, pending voter approval. UM told Beckham's group that the stadium would need to be at least 40,000 seats for the Hurricanes to consider playing there. Ultimately, though, feasibility issues beyond capacity caused the sides to decide not to pursue it further.

### UM has been approached about opening the football season against Alabama in 2017 in Atlanta or LSU in 2018 in Arlington, Tx. UM will consider playing in one but not both.

### What a horrible time for UM's first shutout loss of the season: 3-0 to Texas Tech in the NCAA Regional in Coral Gables tonight. That means UM must win three games in the next two days: Bethune Cookman and Texas Tech twice to host a super-regional next weekend.

### Representation for former UM and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma reached out to the Dolphins, but Miami showed no interest after also passing on two other Canes linebackers in March: Jon Beason (Giants) and Darryl Sharpton (Redskins). 

### Though Jason Taylor is working with Dolphins defensive linemen, associates say he’s not looking to become a coach, preferring instead to explore TV work while spending time with his family and on his charitable foundation.

“He will help young guys with the pass rush [but] I told him there’s no way you are going to help someone on the run game,” cracked Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks, Taylor's former Dolphins teammate.

### ESPN’s Keith Law has the Marlins taking North Carolina State left-hander pitcher Carlos Rodon (6-7, 2.01 ERA) with the second overall pick in Thursday’s draft, adding: “I've heard this comes from the owner: If the Cuban-American lefty [Rodon] is there at No. 2, take him, and we'll have a pair of Cuban aces at the top of our rotation.”

But Jeffrey Loria hasn’t been meddling in recent months, and Baseball America says Loria won’t insist on Rodon.

If the Astros take Rodon No. 1, Miami might opt for one of two elite San Diego high-school players (lefty pitcher Brady Aiken or catcher Alex Jackson) or LSU right-hander Aaron Nola.

ESPN analyst and former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden advocates Aiken, if there at No. 2, adding: “A future rotation of Aiken, Jose Fernandez and Andrew Heaney could be special. Aiken could be the next Cliff Lee.”

Saturday noon update: Heat feats, Oden; More Lance; What Heat and Pacers are saying

Please scroll down for our late Friday night post with assorted sound bites after Game 6. First, some Saturday noon quick hits:

### After shooting better than 50 percent during the regular season --- one of only three teams to achieve that in the past 17 years --- the Heat’s golden touch has extended into the playoffs, with Miami shooting far more accurately than it did in its previous three postseasons.

Through three rounds, the Heat is shooting 49.7 percent from the field. At the same juncture in the past three postseasons, the Heat was at 44.3, 45.8 and 47.7 percent.

And consider this: The Pacers allowed a team to shoot 50 percent just seven times in 82 regular season games. The Heat topped 50 percent four times in six games in this series.

LeBron James is shooting a remarkable 56.2 percent after closing at 46.6, 50 and 49.1 in his previous three playoff runs with the Heat. James is leading small forwards in shooting percentage --- something he hasn’t done in any of his three previous Heat playoff runs, when he was bested by Shawn Marion (2011), Stephen Jackson and Kevin Durant (2012) and Kawhi Leonard (2013).

At 51.9 percent from the field, Dwyane Wade is well above his percentages for the Heat’s past three playoff runs: 48.5, 46.2, 45.7.  

Keep in mind that since 2000, only two starting shooting guards whose teams advanced past the second round have shot better than 50 percent over an entire postseason: Phoenix’s Jason Richardson in 2010 (50.2 percent) and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili in 2005 (50.7 percent). San Antonio’s Danny Green entered Saturday night’s Western Conference Finals game at 50 percent for the postseason.

A year after passing the Eastern Conference championship trophy to Chris Andersen, Heat owner Micky Arison handed it to Greg Oden.

“It’s tradition; the new guy gets the trophy,” Oden said. “I’m happy,… to play and have family and friends see me on TV and to hold the trophy. It’s been a long road for me.”

His 4:33 to end Game 6 marked his first action of the postseason. Oden said it was “amazing” to finish the game and “I’m not complaining” about not playing more.

### Erik Spoelstra said Stephenson, ultimately, “had nothing to do with our series, our success in this series, how LeBron showed up tonight. We’re playing for something much bigger than that guy. To make a comment about [his antics], then you're just highlighting that guy.”

Spoelstra refused to use Stephenson's name, which reminded me of what Al Golden did with Nevin Shapiro. Golden would never refer to Shapiro by name because of his disdain for him. (Not to equate Stephenson with Shapiro, of course, but you get the drift.)

### The Pacers’ size advantage ultimately did them no good, as David West pointed out. “Speed neutralizes size,” Battier said. “Speed and pace and space. If you don’t play hard, size can swallow you up.”

### Chris Andersen, who had nine points and 10 rebounds in 12 minutes of Game 6, indicated he felt some discomfort in his bruised thigh. He wanted to stay in the game in the fourth quarter but said Spoelstra “had to put Zilla back out of the game and sit him back down because of my leg.”

### James, 29, became the 22nd player in history to win 100 playoff games and only the second to win that many before age 30, joining Magic Johnson.

### James averaged 22.8 points in the Eastern Finals --- the 27th time in his 28 playoff series that he averaged at least 20 points; he fell short of that (17.8) in the 2011 Finals against Dallas. Only Michael Jordan had a better percentage, averaging 20-plus in all 37 of his series.

### James will join Heat assistant Bob McAdoo and deceased Dennis Johnson as the only players in NBA history to play in the Finals in each of their first four seasons with a new team.

### The Heat has won 11 straight home playoff games and is 38-7 at home in the playoffs since James’ arrival.

### The Finals start in San Antonio or Oklahoma City at 9 p.m. Thursday, with Game 2 on Sunday.

### Charles Barkley, after the Pacers acquired Evan Turner on Feb. 20: "This wraps up the East for me. They're going to win the Eastern Conference."

Turner didn't play in Game 6.

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Sound bites in the wake of the Heat’s fourth straight Eastern Conference title:

### LeBron James, on Lance Stephenson putting his hand on his mouth in the first quarter: “I have no idea how I restrained [myself]. It was uncalled for, for sure. I understand what the bigger picture is. But I was able to move on. I let him know how I felt."

On Frank Vogel saying the Heat are the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls of their era: “D-Wade and me grew up watching the great Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Just two kids from the inner cities. We never thought we would get to this point. To be able to play the game we love at a high level for one another, for our teammates, is the ultimate. To hear the comparisons, you’re humbled by it….

“I told the guys this is going to be our path. It’s going to be different. We had that mindset that if we had to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals, we had to win on the road. Going through the week and week grind and months of a regular season took a toll on all of us. I felt we could [do this again] if we had the health…

“[Winning the East again] hasn’t hit us that much yet…. [The spark tonight] started with Bird coming in the game. That’s what picked us up. Rashard was a key for everything, his ability to shoot the ball, stretch the floor…. Me being in positions I’ve been in the past where I’ve failed, but never defeated. Being able to come back from failure and continuing to stay strong defines who you are as a man.”

### Dwyane Wade: “We don’t take this granted and hopefully our fans in Miami don’t take this for granted either. We’ve worked as a unit, sacrificed as individuals to be in this position. It’s crazy, too…. Whoever we meet in the next round will be a big challenge.

“We’re going to enjoy this moment. It’s something for a lifetime that’s going to fulfill us as athletes.”

### Chris Bosh: “I would rather it hit me in two weeks. We have a lot more work to do. This is fine and all, but this is not where we want. It’s only another stepping stone to our ultimate goal."

### Shane Battier, on Stephenson: “It didn’t motivate us. It’s an annoyance. It’s nice we don’t have to deal with it. The two teams playing in the West are about basketball. It’s not about chicanery.”

### Battier said when “we were on our 30th starting lineup” this season, he wondered: “Are you ever going to figure it out? Are we ever going to be healthy enough to figure it out? That’s the challenge this team needed…

“Our margin of errors was slimmer this year. There’s not an article about us that doesn’t mention our aging role players.”

### Ray Allen: “We’re not going to understand the magnitude of this until we’re old and gray and home with our kids. [Going to] two Finals, you feel so privileged. Thinking about four is unprecedented.”

### David West: “They’re built for those moments. They are able to get to a level that for some reason we can’t. We can’t beat them. They were able to neutralize our size. They are more seasoned for this moment. We fell short to a great team in the midst of an unbelievable run led by the best player on the planet.”

### This was a deplorable and embarrassing exit for Indiana, the Eastern Conference’s top seed eviscerated Friday by a Game 6 Heat avalanche and undone by first-half no-shows by Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and their entire bench.

“I thought we were going to win,” Stephenson said. “We worked so hard to get to this point. Everybody is hurting.”

But Stephenson simultaneously served up another silly sideshow, elbowing LeBron James at the start of a timeout, putting his hands over James’ mouth, swiping Norris Cole across the face and unnecessarily egging on a crowd showering him with boos.

After two weeks of folishness, the Heat has had just about enough of Stephenson.

After he cupped James’ face during a first quarter stoppage, James blurted: “Don’t [expletive] touch me.”

Stephenson irritated the Heat further when he jumped in the air and slapped Cole in the face while both were going for a loose ball.

“It was a loose ball – I was going for a loose ball,” Stephenson said. “I know it looks bad. I didn’t do it on purpose.”

(Erik Spoelstra said the foul "was unnecessary, excessive.")

Stephenson was charged with a flagrant foul on the play with 8:47 left in the second quarter. He didn’t score again, missing both his shots in the second half.

Soon after that play, Udonis Haslem --- from the Heat bench --- was seen telling Stephenson: “I’m going to [expletive] you up.”

It never came to that. In fact, Stephenson hugged Dwyane Wade and James after the game, with James patting Stephenson on the stomach.

Stephenson said James told him: “Keep working hard. You have the talent.”

Stephenson closed with 13 points (4 for 9 shooting) but was helpless to stop James’ forays to the basket.

He said afterward that he has “no regrets” about anything in this series. “I am very passionate about basketball,” he said. “Sometimes I tend to do things out of control. It’s my heart and competitiveness to win the game. Nobody is perfect.”

### Roy Hibbert: “It feels horrible. It will hurt for a while. They were just hitting everything.”

### Vogel: “I think it’s about us not being able to reach their level, yet. They have a way to raise it to the point that it’s too difficult to overcome.”

### Of Stephenson’s behavior, Vogel said: “I don’t think it’s ever good to tug on Superman’s cape.”

05/30/2014

Friday night update: Birdman, Beasley, Bird's order to Stephenson, Barkley speaks out; Vogel's memory issue

Some pre-game Heat notes:

### Birdman is back. Chris Andersen is active for Game 6 tonight after missing two games with a bruised thigh. Michael Beasley and Justin Hamilton are inactive for the Heat.

Rashard Lewis will start for the third straight game.

###  On the day of their biggest game of the season, the Pacers on Friday morning were again riddled with questions about some of their unusual gamesmanship tactics in this series, Lance Stephenson’s primarily.

Stephenson said Pacers president Larry Bird told him he should not blow in a player’s face, as Stephenson did with LeBron James in Game 5.

“Whenever he says something to me, I take that to heart,” Stephenson said. “He definitely kept me on the right path my whole career. He said don’t do it again, so I’m not going to do it again.”

Stephenson has said his peculiar behavior – including the blowing incident and poking his head in a huddle with Erik Spoelstra and Norris Cole --- are done to enhance the Pacers’ chances of winning.

Asked Friday how blowing in the ear contributes to winning, Stephenson wasn’t permitted to answer. A Pacers media relations official ended the session and told Stephenson to “Go shoot.”

For all his efforts to distract James in this series, Stephenson conceded Friday morning: “I don’t think I can get into his head. He’s the best player in the league. He knows how to break through that stuff. I don’t think it bothered him at all.”

Meanwhile, Pacers coach Frank Vogel sidestepped a question about shouting at Shane Battier and Norris Cole as they shot three-pointers earlier in the series.

“I don’t know if I’ve done that or not, to be honest,” Vogel said. “I don’t remember if I’ve done that in the past. In the spirit of the game, I’m talking constantly.

"If the ball is over on the sideline, I’m getting in our guys’ ears to pick up their pressure. Anything we can do to enhance our defensive disposition, we try to do. We’re just coaching the game.”

BARKLEY’S TAKE

TNT’s Charles Barkley, on Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show, said he doesn’t “have a problem” with Stephenson blowing in James’ ear but “it’s silly and childish. It’s not like he upset LeBron. It’s just stupid. Come on, you’re a grown man.  He’s a very good player but stuff like that takes away from him as a player. He’s not distracting anyone.”

And Barkley cracked: “Somebody blows in your ear, you’re supposed to kiss them next.”

Barkley also said Stephenson has “cost himself money” in free agency this summer. “You have to ask yourself: If you give him a lot of money when he’s acting like that, we won’t be able to control him at all.”

Barkley, on other topics:

### He blamed “that old idiot Skip Bayless” --- the ESPN commentator --- for making an issue of James passing to Chris Bosh late in Game 5 instead of taking the last shot: “Your star doesn’t have to take the shot all the time!”

### He reiterated that “those Miami fans are fake and phony…. Those fans aren’t going to do anything to me. I’ll beat them… if they jump in my face.”

### TNT’s Reggie Miller, on Stephenson’s Game 5 antics: “I never would have done that to Michael Jordan, who was the best player in the game. You never want to tug on Superman’s cape… I respect what he was trying to do by trying to get under the skin of LeBron. Will it work? Probably not.”