The blog will return later this month.
10 p.m. LeBron news; Heat free-agent chatter on players Miami has called about, Heat's own free agents; Beckham/MLS news
An evening Heat free agency update, including tonight's developments, can be found below. First, a quick David Beckham/MLS note:
Though Beckham's group has made clear that Beckham wants his proposed MLS team to play in downtown Miami, Broward County commissioner Stacy Ritter told me today that the team has now expressed willingness to speak to Broward County about a soccer-specific stadium.
Ritter said Brian Ballard, one of the team's lobbyists, conveyed that Beckham's group is now willing to listen to what Broward officials have to say. Those talks are expected soon, she said.
It's too soon to tell the level of the Beckham group's interest in this idea, but at least they told Ritter that Beckham & Co. are open to considering it.
Ritter said county-owned land near the Panthers' arena (BB&T Center) would be a "great fit" for the stadium.
"Beckham's group was very unhappy with the parcel that Miami-Dade wanted to provide," Ritter said. "We're easier to deal with than the county to the south."
Beckham's top two choices for a stadium --- the Port of Miami site and the boat slip site next to AmericanAirlines Arena --- were both rejected by local government officials, and Beckham's group has said it's not enthusiastic about a site near Marlins Park because the land is "spiritually tainted" in the wake of the Marlins' controversial ballpark deal.
Beckham's group has said it's assessing its options regarding Miami.
Heat free agent chatter:
### Amid news that LeBron James’ agent has been listening to pitches from several teams, the pressure has escalated on Heat president Pat Riley, who --- along with coach Erik Spoelstra --- is meeting with center Pau Gasol and others in Los Angeles, hoping to convince a high-end free agent to take considerably less money to sign with Miami.
Problem is, James to this point hasn't made a commitment to return to the Heat, and his agent, Rich Paul, this week met with at least four teams (Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and Cleveland), according to ESPN, which also reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is flying to Cleveland to meet with Paul. Yahoo! said Houston was not granted a meeting, spoke to Paul by phone and has moved on.
Yahoo! reported that Paul suggested to Cleveland, Dallas and Phoenix that they might be brought back to Cleveland to meet with James next week if Riley doesn't quickly improve the Heat's roster. James was on vacation this week and did not meet with any teams.
The Heat fully expects James will re-sign.
One associate of James told me that he still makes the Heat the clear favorite to keep James but also that the four-time MVP is "weighing all his options" and "wants to see how things play out" with the Heat's roster, which he wants upgraded. As has been reported, James wants the maximum money allowed, and the Heat is fine with that.
But that associate also said it's very difficult to envision him signing with Phoenix or Houston. (Dallas did not come up in the conversation with the associate.)
The associate reiterated that the idea of playing again in Cleveland again at some point appeals to James and said the Cavaliers cannot be ruled out this summer.
The Cavaliers don't look ready to win big now, and that's critically important to James, but that would change quickly if James commits and if Cleveland trades Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, who reportedly would be receptive to signing with the Cavaliers longterm if James is there.
If Riley cannot lure a high-end free agent such as Gasol or Trevor Ariza or Luol Deng, the Heat instead will focus on adding several reasonably-priced players.
The Heat’s cap space is projected to be substantially less than the $12 million cited in one national report.
If Chris Bosh accepts a first-year salary of $15 million and Dwyane Wade $13 million, the Heat would have in the range of $6 million to $7 million in space, presuming James signs at the maximum $20.7 million. (About $2 million more could be added by dumping Norris Cole.) The Heat also would have a $2.7 million "room" salary cap exception in this scenario.
Yahoo! reported tonight that Bosh and Wade have not agreed to salaries and are reluctant to taking severe pay cuts, though they will take reductions. Still, Bosh has told associates he plans to return to the Heat, and Wade also plans to return, of course.
Unless the Heat can convince one of the pricey free agents to take considerably less than market value, the Heat might be better served by operating as a capped-out team.
Under that scenario, the Heat could not use cap space but could use a $5.3 million midlevel exception, a $2.2 million trade exception and a $2 million bi-annual exception and also preserve Bird Rights to re-sign its own free agents, which would allow Miami to give raises to Ray Allen (who made $3.2 million last season) and Chris Andersen ($1.4 million).
### The Heat has strong interest in adding one or two veteran wing players. Among free agents that Miami has reached out to, according to people with direct knowledge: New Orleans’ Anthony Morrow (8.4 points, 45.1 percent three-point shooting last season); Oklahoma City’s Caron Butler (10.5, 39.4) and Utah’s Marvin Williams (9.1 points, 35.9 percent).
Other affordable wing players potentially in play include Alan Anderson, Shawn Marion, Jordan Hamilton and restricted free agent PJ Tucker. The Heat and Nick Young’s agent also had a preliminary conversation. Chandler Parsons would help, but he's restricted (giving Houston a chance to match) and will get better offers elsewhere, perhaps $10 million a year or more.
The Heat so far has not pursued Dallas free agent Vince Carter beyond an initial inquiry.
### Among point guards, the Heat has been in communication with representation for a few veterans, including Jameer Nelson and Kirk Hinrich. Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas, a restricted free agent, is also on Miami's radar. (Teams have three days to match an offer in restricted free agency.)
An initial inquiry was made on Ramon Sessions, but the Heat has taken it no further, and nothing had materialized with Steve Blake as of Thursday. Miami didn’t pursue Darren Collison before he agreed to terms with Sacramento on Thursday.
### Among power rotation players, the Heat called to express interest in Charlotte power forward Josh McRoberts, among others, but he might be too costly if the Heat uses its primary exception money on a wing player. Chris Kaman, who has attracted Heat interest in the past, agreed to terms with Portland tonight, according to reports. The Heat likes Lakers power forward Jordan Hill --- who could command mid-level type money ---- but is focusing on bigger names for now (Gasol, Deng, etc.).
### Besides Gasol, Riley is trying to meet with others in California, Yahoo reported! The Heat also might meet with Ariza, but Gasol and Ariza are seeking considerably more than what Miami can offer.
Oklahoma City, San Antonio and New York also are trying to obtain Gasol at a bargain-basement price. Yahoo! reports Gasol wants $10 million but hasn't ruled out taking the $5.3 million exception.
Ariza has instructed his agent to try to work out a deal with the Wizards before engaging other teams, The Washington Post reported.
The Heat is interested in Deng, and Deng likes the Heat, but agent Herb Rudoy said “we don’t know yet” if the Heat will be a serious contender for him or whether Deng will even meet with the Heat.
“We haven’t talked money [with Miami],” Rudoy said. “We’re waiting for the Big Three to sort out.” Deng also has interest from the Clippers, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas, among others.
### Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer would have interest in the Heat if Chicago uses the amnesty provision on him, according to an associate. The Bulls have until July 18 to decide whether to wipe Boozer’s $16.8 million salary off their cap.
But if the Heat uses all its cap space before the amnesty period, or if it uses its cap exceptions instead of cap space, then the Heat would not have the money to make a bid for Boozer in the amnesty process (at more than the minimum, obviously) unless it somehow got back under the cap, according to cap expert Larry Coon. The team with the highest bid would claim him, and he would become a free agent only if there were no bids.
### Ray Allen has been leaning toward playing (he likes playing with LeBron) but hasn’t informed the Heat definitively. He and Andersen will be invited back.
James Jones also is expected to be asked back, though that has not been conveyed.
The Heat called about Rashard Lewis, Greg Oden and Michael Beasley early in free agency and indicated interest in speaking further next week or beyond.
“They didn’t commit to bringing Greg back but they were happy with his progress,” said Oden’s agent, Mike Conley Sr.
All three players have interest in returning.
### As for Mario Chalmers, the Heat called him and made clear the door has not been closed to a possible return. But Chalmers is unsure of Miami’s level of interest, according to a very close associate. Several teams have inquired about Chalmers.
### Though the Heat inquired about Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat --- who resigned with Toronto and Washington --- Miami never made an offer to either, according to someone with direct knowledge.
Please see the story on the sports home page for details on Dion Jordan's suspension.... Also, Fort Lauderdale Gibbons three star Class of 2015 DE Richard McIntosh orally committed to UM, opting for Miami instead of UF, Wisconsin and others.
4 a.m.: Heat making calls; Dolphins sign Colledge; Heat/LeBron notes; UM tries unique new strategy; Canes notes
The Heat was active at the start of free agency tonight, expressing strong interest in Kyle Lowry and Luol Deng, as expected, even though other teams are in position to make far bigger offers.
Lowry reportedly could get a deal for more than $12 million per season, with incumbent Toronto and Houston and Dallas among those also in pursuit. The Heat and Lowry will speak further in the morning, Yahoo! reports.
Deng has several suitors with cap space, including Dallas and Atlanta.
Other names linked to Miami in the first hour of free agency included Marvin Williams, Vince Carter, Washington forward Trevor Booker, Caron Butler, Steve Blake and Sacramento restricted free agent guard Isaiah Thomas, among others.
According to sources, the Dolphins on Monday were very close to a deal with veteran offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, whose addition will provide depth and versatility on a unit trying to compensate for the indefinite loss of Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey.
[8:20 p.m. update: The Dolphins have signed Colledge to a one-year deal.]
Colledge was one of four offensive linemen who auditioned for the Dolphins on Monday. The others: former Dolphins center Samson Satele, former Broncos center Steve Vallos and former Houston tackle Ryan Harris.
Colledge, 32, has played some center and tackle but has been primarily a guard during his eight-year NFL career, and the Dolphins indicated they intend to use him at guard.
With Pouncey expected to miss between two and six regular season games after hip surgery, the Dolphins’ current options at center include backup Sam Brenner, Nate Garner or potentially first-team right guard Shelley Smith.
Smith has taken snaps at center throughout the offseason program but has never played the position in an NFL game and as of Monday, had been given no indication if he will be moved to center during Pouncey's absence.
Colledge could settle in as a backup but there are two scenarios in which he could emerge as a starter to begin the season:
1) If he beats out Dallas Thomas, who has taken most of the first-team snaps at left guard during the offseason program, and rookie Billy Turner; or
2) If Smith moves to center until Pouncey's return, which would open a starting guard spot. Colledge, Thomas or Turner would compete for two starting guard jobs in that scenario.
Brenner took the first-team snaps at center during the one minicamp practice that Pouncey missed. The Dolphins do not intend to sign Satele at this point but had a favorable impression of his workout and it's possible that idea could be re-visited down the road.
The Dolphins liked Harris and could consider adding him for tackle depth in the coming weeks.
Colledge, 32, started 124 of his 128 NFL games over his eight years, including every game the past six seasons.
He played his first five seasons with Green Bay and his past three with Arizona. Last year, Colledge played left guard, and Pro Football Focus rated him 45th of 81 qualifying guards --- 32nd in pass protection and 53rd as a run blocker.
Colledge, who allowed two sacks last season according to PFF, knows Dolphins coach Joe Philbin well from their time together in Green Bay.
Colledge grew up in North Pole, Alaska, and was the Packers’ second-round pick out of Boise State in 2006.
### Harris has started 39 games in six NFL seasons --- his first four with Denver and two for Houston. He made three starts for the Texans last season.
The Dolphins have three tackles they feel good about: Starters Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James and backup Jason Fox. Harris would give them a fourth if they choose to sign him. (Garner can play tackle, of course, but has struggled when used at left tackle.)
A close associate of LeBron James said he is not of the mindset to take a significant paycut at this time and is looking for a maximum contract or something close to that. Such a deal could pay him $20.7 million next season (according to cap expert Larry Coon) and run five seasons if he re-signs with the Heat, which is considered very likely.
That means for the Heat to have cap space to satisfy the lofty salary wishes of high-end free agents such as Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Marcin Gortat, here's what would have to happen:
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would need to take very significant pay cuts. (Contracts cannot be backloaded to extremes because of cap rules limiting the maximum amount of annual raises.)
Trading Norris Cole also would help but would not be essential. All that comes with the caveat that none of those top-tier free agents is willing to take substantially less to sign here, which absolutely cannot be ruled out. But Deng's agent already has said his client will not sign here for money in the range of $5.3 million.
According to the L.A. Times, Gasol has meetings planned with OKC, Chicago and Golden State but not Miami.
If the Heat is just short of being in position to sign one of those players, the notion of James taking a cut could be re-visited and it cannot be ruled out. But Pat Riley has said he will not ask James to take a pay cut, that it would have to be his idea. (Same with Wade and Bosh, who are on board with the idea.)
If the Heat cannot lure any of the top players to take less to sign here, Miami might be better served (as explained in our last post) by using exceptions to augment the roster instead of cap space.
In that scenario, the Heat could add players with a $5.3 million exception, a $2.2 million trade exception and a $2 million bi-annual exception. (But those exceptions cannot be combined and the Heat cannot use those exceptions AND cap space. It would need to be an either/or choice.)
The Heat also could add players to the minimum (such as James Jones) and use Bird Rights to re-sign Ray Allen and Chris Andersen at reasonable amounts.
### Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra declined to take questions concerning free agency on Monday, with Riley leaving the room after introducing first-round pick Shabazz Napier at today's news conference.
"We felt he was the best fit at many different levels," Spoelstra said of Napier. "The thing that jumped out the most was his competitive will --- being on winning teams, knowing what it takes to have big moments, knowing what it takes to sacrifice at a high level. There is a shiftiness, cleverness to the way he attacks the paint.
"This was a fit for our style of basketball. To be able to play on the ball, off the ball. He has the range already. He has to get on a specific program to make sure he has NBA three-point range... and set the tone for our defense."
### Napier said he has had no personal interaction with James since the draft but that Ray Allen congratulated him. "Me and Ray developed a close bond" because both went to Connecticut.
### Napier said he intends to play for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando and Las Vegas.
### Spoelstra, asked about Riley calling for Spolestra to "reinvent himself," said: "We're not going to reinvent our entire operation. There has been some great success with it."
Canes football chatter:
### The words atop a recent University of Miami football ad --- “Go to Fewer Games!” --- assuredly elicited double-takes.
But it wasn’t a misprint.
It’s all part of a unique and creative new strategy in which the Hurricanes are placing nearly all of their football marketing efforts behind trying to sell out two games: against North Carolina on Nov. 1 and Florida State on Nov. 15.
“It’s an effort to sell more tickets --- not have people go to fewer games,” athletic director Blake James said. “The goal of this strategy is to get us to two sellouts” --- which would be more than past years ---- “as well as sell as many season tickets as possible.”
Over the years, UM has struggled to sell tickets against non-marquee opponents and determined it didn’t make sense to put a lot of time and money into promoting its other five home games: Florida A&M on Sept. 6, Arkansas State on Sept. 13, Duke on Sept. 27, Cincinnati on Oct. 11 and Pittsburgh on Nov. 29.
UM believes that if it can sell out the FSU game (that has a good chance of happening) and the UNC game (which will be a tougher sell), then fans will be more inclined to buy season tickets in 2015.
The belief is based on the theory that fans have a more enjoyable experience when the stadium is full.
“If you have two fantastic experiences, you get people closer to moving to a bigger commitment for the right reasons,” said Chris Freet, UM’s senior associate athletic director.
So how is the strategy working? It’s too early to tell, but UM is encouraged that it has sold 3600 more season tickets than it had at this point last year, when the Hurricanes sold 29,917 season tickets, a 24 percent spike over 2012.
UM also has sold more than 2000 tickets to its two-game FSU/UNC package, which is priced at $108. All of those seats are in the upper bowl and club seat areas, because lower bowl seats --- at this point --- are reserved for full season-ticket holders.
UM isn’t sure if it will place any single-game FSU tickets on sale and will not make that decision until October. That decision will depend partly on how many tickets it sells to the two-game FSU/UNC package, and how many tickets FSU claims from its maximum allotment of 10,000.
If FSU tickets are sold as individual game tickets, they will be priced at $89. UNC single game tickets will be sold for $29. So fans paying the $108 for the two-game package will essentially be paying $10 below face value for the two games.
The “go to fewer games” slogan was the brainchild of longtime sports executive Jon Spoelstra, father of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Jon Spoelstra, who has been consulting with UM, used that marketing strategy, with successful results, when he worked for the Portland Trail Blazers and with minor-league baseball teams in Dayton, Ohio, and Staten Island, N.Y.
But Freet conceded “one of the scary things” is that no other college football program, to his knowledge, has tried this marketing approach because most leverage season tickets the entire offseason “rather than offering smaller packages that might work best for busy families and fans in their market place.”
What has been the reaction nationally to the “Go to Fewer Games” ad?
Freet said some UM fans and donors initially questioned the strategy but many of them understood when UM explained it.
“People read it and say it makes sense,” Freet said. “It’s a strategic plan for growth. We don’t have the manpower and funding to effectively target seven games. So the thinking was, let’s just crush FSU and UNC and the momentum of that will help.”
Capacity for the FSU and UNC games will be 75,000. For the other five home games, tarps will cover a portion of the upper bowl, limiting capacity to 67,000.
UM expects more than 60,000 will attend the Pittsburgh game because all of the university’s 10,000-plus employees can buy as many as four tickets for $3.
UM will carry this marketing strategy over to the 2015 season, when it will target the Clemson, Nebraska and Virginia Tech games for potential sellouts.
### Single game tickets to the other five home games will go on sale in August. The lowest-priced seats will be $19 for Florida A&M and Arkansas State and $29 for Duke, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
### Parking for UM games will be priced at $15 to $25 in advance or $20 to $30 on game days. UM and Sun Life Stadium negotiate that rate and share the revenue.
### This week’s pledge by two-star outside linebacker/defensive end Claude George gives UM 16 oral commitments heading into a 21-day dead period.
Of those 16, UM has no five-star recruits but four are four-star recruits, according to rivals.com: running backs Jordan Cronkite and Dexter Williams (who is still looking at other schools) and defensive end Scott Patchan (who already has made clear his distaste for players who drop their Canes commitments to commit elsewhere).
### Former UM safety Kacy Rodgers, who signed with Kansas City, said UM fans have been asking him about his offseason tweet -- “It’s crazy what you can accomplish once you leave a negative environment” --- but insisted he wasn’t taking a shot at UM. (His explanation that he was talking about his own frame of mind wasn’t especially convincing.)
Though some perceived his comment to be a shot at defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio (who can be hard on players), he said it was not: “Coach D’Onofrio does a great job.”
### After committing to UM and then de-committing on Twitter and then committing again, Michael Wyche is finally on campus, so UM fans can feel some sense of relief.
Wyche, from East Los Angeles Community College, needs to start, or at the very least be an impact player, on a defensive line that needs all the help it can get at tackle. UM has tried to convince everyone that Earl Moore and some of the other disappointing tackles improved in the spring, but we need to see it in a game.
2 p.m. update: Bosh opts out and exploring the two approaches Heat can now take; Dolphins book visits with Satele, Vallos
As expected, Chris Bosh is opting out of the last two years and $42.6 million of his contract, agent Henry Thomas told The Herald earlier today.
That means the Heat has $55 million in cap space entering the start of free agency on Tuesday. As we noted last week, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have discussed how much each of them would take but reached no definitive agreement regarding specific numbers over salads on Wednesday.
But they do want to stay together in Miami and are working toward that end. Discussions are ongoing. Udonis Haslem also plans to stay, with a multiyear contract including a first year salary expected to fall between $2 million and $3 million.
If they sacrifice a lot of money --- with James earning the most of the three next season --- they could clear the $8 million to $10 million needed to make a competitive offer for one of the high-end free agents, including Kyle Lowry, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortart and Luol Deng.
Under that scenario, the Heat also would have a $2.7 million room salary cap exception.
If they take only small cuts, the Heat instead could use its $5.3 million non taxpayers mid-level exception and a $2.2 million trade exception and a $2 million bi-annual exception OR limited cap space but would not be able to use cap space AND the three aforementioned exceptions.
Those mid-level, bi-annual and trade exceptions cannot be combined.
And if the Heat uses its mid-level exception, Miami could not use the room salary cap exception in that scenario and would have not nearly as good a chance of luring a high-level free agent.
For example, Deng's agent has said there is no chance Deng would consider coming to Miami for that $5.3 million mid-level amount, though he likes the Heat.
A player such as Darren Collison or Paul Pierce or Kirk Hinrich could come using some of the $5.3 million in that scenario, unless Gasol is willing to take the $5.3 million. But Gasol assuredly will get higher offers than that.
Under either scenario, the Heat could sign as many players as it wants to the league minimum. And if its uses the mid-level exception scenario, instead of using cap room, it could use its Bird Rights to re-sign Ray Allen and Chris Andersen to contracts above the minimum.
The Heat is positioned not to have to pay a luxury tax under either scenario.
Of Bosh's expected opt out, Pat Riley said: "Chris is one of the most versatile and dynamic big men in this league, and he has been an instrumental key to our championship success over the last four seasons. We looked forward to meeting with Chris and his agent in the coming days to discuss keeping him in Miami for many years to come."
### According to a league source, add veteran center Steve Vallos to the list of players who have been summoned to Dolphins headquarters for a Monday audition.
Vallos joins Samson Satele and Daryn Colledge (see below) as players scheduled to work out for the team on Monday.
Miami is searching for a veteran who can help compensate for the loss of center Mike Pouncey, who is expected to miss between two and six regular season games after hip surgery.
Vallos, 30, has played in 59 games over seven seasons, with nine starts. He played two years in Seattle, two in Cleveland, and for Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Denver the past three seasons.
He appeared in 15 regular season games for Denver last season, according to NFL.com, but logged only nine offensive snaps, according to ProFootballFocus.com. But he was forced into action during the Super Bowl because of an injury to Denver's center.
The Dolphins' search for a roster replacement for injured Mike Pouncey will extend beyond guard Daryn Colledge.
A source said tonight that the Dolphins also have booked center Samson Satele for a workout on Monday.
Colledge and Satele are expected to be joined by two other linemen at Monday's workout. The identity of the other two was not immediately known. [UPDATE: Vallos is one of the other two.]
Satele, drafted 60th overall by Miami in 2007, started his first two NFL seasons for the Dolphins before being traded to Oakland in March 2009 for a sixth-rounder and an exchange of fourth-round picks.
The Dolphins parted ways with Satele after signing free agent center Jake Grove, a regrettable move in retrospect.
Satele, 29, then started three seasons for the Raiders, before moving on to Indianapolis, where he started 11 games in 2012 and 13 in 2013.
Pro Football Focus rated Satele 31st among 35 qualifying centers last season ---- 18th as a pass blocker but last as a run blocker. He allowed one sack.
Colledge --- who has played guard, tackle and even center on a limited basis during his career --- has started 124 of his 128 NFL games over his eight years, including every game the past six seasons.
Colledge, 32, played his first five seasons with Green Bay and his past three with Arizona. Last year, he played left guard, and Pro Football Focus rated him 45th of 81 qualifying guards --- 32nd in pass protection and 53rd as a run blocker.
Colledge, who allowed two sacks last season, knows Dolphins coach Joe Philbin well from their time together in Green Bay.
The Dolphins say Sam Brenner is their backup center, but Nate Garner is among several other options to fill in for Pouncey. So is first-team right guard Shelley Smith, who has taken snaps at center during the offseason program.
And so, obviously, is Satele, who might be the best option among all the available free agent centers.
Other remaining free agent centers include Kyle Cook, Fernando Velasco, Jim Cordle, Brad Meester and David Baas.
Pouncey is expected to miss between two and six games of the regular season, depending on whether the Dolphins place him on the physically unable to perform list.
If you haven't checked it out already, please see the last post for a lot more Dolphins, Heat and UM notes..... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz
2 p.m. Saturday: Heat stars opt out; Dolphins bringing in veteran starting OL; Dolphins chatter; UM advances talks with Cowboys Stadium
2 p.m. update:
### As expected, Dwyane Wade has opted out of the last two years and $42 million of his contract and Chris Bosh intends to do the same, according to ESPN.
Both are expected to work with the Heat on longer deals that would give Miami additional spending money under the salary cap to upgrade the roster this summer.
Agent Henry Thomas confirmed, via text message, that Wade and Udonis Haslem have informed the Heat that they have opted out but said Bosh "has not yet decided." But Bosh is expected to follow Wade, Haslem and LeBron James in opting out, with ESPN reporting he already has made that decision.
As we reported last week, a friend said Wade would be receptive to opting out and signing a deal in the four-year, $60 million range. Whether the Heat is willing to go as high as $60 million will become clear in the coming days.
Bosh also is willing to take a pay cut to the $15 million to $16 million range next season, according to ESPN.
Backloading new contracts for Wade and Bosh would give the Heat additional cap space this summer, but less so in the fourth year of their deals.
Wade, 32, is permitted to sign a contract as long as four years. Bosh can re-sign with the Heat for as many as five years.
Haslem, meanwhile, opted out of the last year and $4.6 million of his contract and will sign a longer deal with a lower first-year salary.
With James also opting out, the Heat is expected to have $55 million in cap space when free agency starts Tuesday.
A lot of that money will go toward re-signing James, Wade and Bosh, and to a much lesser extent, Haslem. But the Heat also wants to leave enough money to sign an impact free agent or two.
An associate of James reiterated that the Heat is the very strong front-runner to retain him. The Big Three would like to continue their association in Miami and are working toward that goal.
In addition to whatever cap room is left after re-signing the Big Three and Haslem, the Heat also will have a $2.7 million room salary cap exception to spend on another free agent, as well as a $2.2 million trade exception. And Miami can exceed the cap by signing players to the veteran's minimum.
The Heat will begin free agency by pursuing the top players available, a list that includes Carmelo Anthony (who is not scheduled to visit Miami at this point), Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza.
If Wade and Bosh take $15 million next season, James $18 million and Haslem close to $3 million, that would leave the Heat with about $5.5 million --- likely not enough for a Lowry or Gortat. So more might need to be created, perhaps by backloading contracts of Wade and Bosh.
James could make $20 million next season, and Yahoo! said he wants a max deal or something close to it. An associate of LeBron also said he would be surprised if James took a significant pay cut.
So to create room for high-level free agents, most of the financial sacrificing will need to be done by Wade, Bosh and Haslem.
The Heat also could create additional space by trading Norris Cole (due $2.1 million) without taking money back or releasing Justin Hamilton ($816,000 salary is non-guaranteed).
Keep in mind that any unfilled roster spots (up to 12) each count as a cap hold of just over $500,000. The salary cap is expected to be $63.6 million next season.
### Pat Riley's statement, on the opt-outs by Wade and Haslem: “Today we were notified of Dwyane’s intention to opt-out of his contract and Udonis’ intention to not opt into his contract, making both players free agents. Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade, and we hope he remains a part of the Heat family for life. Udonis has been the heartbeat of this team for 11 years. He has sacrificed countless times to make this organization successful, and he is the epitome of what this organization stands for. We look forward to meeting with Dwyane and Udonis and their agent in the coming days to discuss our future together."
According to a league source, the Dolphins have scheduled a Monday visit with veteran starting guard Daryn Colledge, who would provide depth and versatility on a unit still stinging from the loss of center Mike Pouncey.
Under new general manager Dennis Hickey, the Dolphins have attempted to sign every veteran free agent who has visited.
Colledge --- who has played guard, tackle and even center on a limited basis during his career --- has started 124 of his 128 NFL games over his eight years, including every game the past six seasons.
Colledge, 32, played his first five seasons with Green Bay and his past three with Arizona. Last year, he played left guard, and Pro Football Focus rated him 45th of 81 qualifying guards --- 32nd in pass protection and 53rd as a run blocker. Colledge, who allowed two sacks last season, knows Dolphins coach Joe Philbin well from their time together in Green Bay.
Pouncey, who had hip surgery last week, is expected to miss between two and six regular season games. The Dolphins say Sam Brenner is their backup center, but Nate Garner is among several other options to fill in for Pouncey. So is first-team right guard Shelley Smith, who has taken snaps at center during the offseason program.
If the Dolphins decide to move Smith to center, Colledge could play guard. It's possible Colledge also could take snaps at center.
Dallas Thomas has taken most of the first-team snaps at left guard during the offseason program, with rookie Billy Turner backing him up.
Colledge's versatility makes him a sensible fit regardless of what permutation the Dolphins choose to replace Pouncey until his return.
A potpourri of Friday night items:
### Some people inside the Dolphins wouldn’t mind conserving a roster spot by having Jarvis Landry replace Marcus Thigpen as the punt returner. Thigpen was 18th in kickoff returns, 19th in punt returns last season.
But offensive coordinator Bill Lazor likes Thigpen and the Dolphins will need to find a spot for him if he proves to be their best returner. Though Landry says he can return kicks and Lamar Miller can, too, none of the other players who fielded kickoffs last week besides Thigpen (Damian Williams, Matt Hazel and Rantavious Wooten) might even make the team.
### The Dolphins have been making preliminary inquiries about some available centers, though it remains to be seen whether Miami will bring in any for a visit or sign any of them.
Here’s how the remaining unsigned starting centers finished in the Pro Football Focus rankings last season, among 35 qualifying centers:
Cincinnati’s Kyle Cook was 24th, Pittsburgh’s Fernando Velasco 25th, Jacksonville’s Brad Meester 30th, and the Colts’ Samson Satele 31st.
Mike Pouncey, who is expected to miss two to six regular-season games, was 13th.
The Dolphins also have shown interest in free agent guard Daryn Colledge. He has started 124 NFL games and played for Joe Philbin when Philbin was an assistant in Green Bay.
### Among the subplots we’ll be watching in training camp (first practice is July 25) are battles for backup positions on defense, several of which have become very competitive.
At cornerback, Jalil Brown has made a strong case so far to make this team and perhaps even play ahead of Will Davis. But do you keep six corners, which seems excessive considering safety Jimmy Wilson plays in the nickel: Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor (who are clearly your top three), Davis, Brown and rookie Walt Aikens?
Impressive LSU rookie Anthony Johnson has a legitimate chance to beat out A.J. Francis and Isaako Aaitui for the No. 4 defensive tackle spot. And undrafted rookies Garrison Smith (Georgia) and Kamal Johnson (Temple) also have earned consideration.
At safety, three things are set: Reshad Jones and Louis Delmas as starters and Wilson as the nickel back. The fourth safety job is very close among Jordan Kovacs (the new front office likes him), Don Jones (upside on special teams) and Michael Thomas (the end-of-game star against New England).
### Early reviews of defensive tackle Earl Mitchell have been encouraging.
“They got a real good player,” Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, his former Texans teammate, told me. “He’s not a real big dude [by behemoth defensive tackle standards] but he plays like a big dude.”
### Jason Taylor, who has been serving as a volunteer assistant at times during the Dolphins' offseason program, addressed a couple of issues on 790 The Ticket's morning show, with Jonathan Zaslow and
Taylor's sister Joy:
1) On his Dolphins role from here: "I did a little bit in OTAs and mini camp and I will probably do some in training camp. I hope they have me back. It's good to be around the guys again and do football and share some of the knowledge you were able to gain. We'll see if I can do a little bit more in training camp and take it from there."
2) On whether it makes sense for Dion Jordan to play special teams: "The thing about Dion is he is so athletic he gives you an advantage on [special teams]. The problem is taking a little bit of gas out of the tank [on defense]. I played on the punt and punt return team my first three years."
Though nothing is finalized, UM’s talks with Cowboys Stadium have progressed and all parties are working toward having the Hurricanes open the 2018 season against LSU in Arlington, Tx.
The game would be on a Saturday night and televised nationally.
UM has decided to focus on finalizing that game and has decided against playing Alabama in Atlanta to open the 2017 season.
### UM tonight added 6-7 former Niagara power forward Joe Thomas, who averaged 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds last season. He’s eligible immediately. The Canes were desperate to add another power rotation player.
"Joe joins us at the perfect time," UM coach Jim Larranaga said. "We needed a frontcourt player with experience and a fifth-year senior was exactly what my staff and I hoped for. He provides us with some size and strength and rebounding toughness."
Thomas, who attended Krop High in Miami, has one season of eligibility left.
Yes, the Heat likes Toronto free agent point guard Kyle Lowry, though Miami likely could afford him only if Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and perhaps LeBron James take pay cuts. But no, they are not on the verge of a sign-and-trade for him.
Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher posted a story tonight saying the Heat and Raptors would imminently complete a trade that would send Lowry to Miami for Norris Cole and draft picks.
Bucher retracted the story shortly after that.
“My deepest and sincere apologies,” Bucher tweeted earlier this evening. “My report on Lowry and a [sign-and-trade] between the Heat and Raptors is wrong. I should’ve known better. I could not be more embarrassed. I can’t explain why someone would go to the lengths my source did to set me up….”
### Saturday morning update: Haslem has opted out of a contract that would have paid him $4.6 million next season. He is instead expected to get a multiyear deal with a lower year one salary. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are expected to opt out before Monday's deadline.
1 a.m. update: Pat Riley discusses Shabazz Napier acquisition; Napier's Heat news conference; More on Napier
Pat Riley, speaking moments ago on the acquisition of Shabazz Napier:
### "It just came together. You just sort of zero in on somebody. It's very difficult when everybody knows you're zeroing in on someone. We're very fortunate to have drafted Shabazz. We feel very excited about him and what he can be.
"He's a two time champion, high motor guy, very quick, can shoot the ball. Has a lot of qualities that fit what Erik [Spoelstra] wants to do, what we want to do. He's been a guy that's been on the map the last three years. There's a part of his game, how we play, as a pick and roll team, as a team looking for space [floor space, not cap space, in this case]. He can go endline to endline with anybody."
"He's a winner. He's talented and he's skilled and you just have to watch him play the game and there's a competitive level we all like."
### On LeBron's comments praising Napier: "Why not? I don't tweet. If LeBron and I have the same taste in talent, so be it. He didn't call me on the phone. He never has since I've been here the last four years."
### Napier was "pretty high" on the Heat's board. "For whatever reason, things happens. We were trying to move up throughout the process."
### He said, while laughing, that attempts to move up were "extortion."
### He said: "If he had gotten picked early, we would not have been greatly disappointed, because there were other players we greatly liked."
### "I like veteran, mature players. I'm not saying all young players don't make it, but we all want to win now. The more maturity you can get and experience you get, the better off you are."
### "I fell more in love with him the closer you got to the pick."
### Riley said he saw Napier during the season but not in the NCAA Tournament. "I saw a lot of him on film and in games."
### "We had a great personal conversation. He's a very bright kid. I was very impressed with the fact that when you ask these guys certain questions, a lot of them get sort of caught off guard with the question. He pretty much had a pretty coherent answer for every question I asked him. He's competitive without a huge ego."
### Can he project Napier for a major role next season? "He's going to compete, just like Norris [Cole]. They're both cut out of the same cloth, competitive players, highly conditioned. They're cut out of the same cloth. Mario [Chalmers] is a free agent, so we've got to deal with that. So we'll have some depth at the position."
### To move up to draft Napier at No. 24, the Heat traded picks 26 and 55 to Charlotte, plus cash and a 2019 second-round pick.
(Incidentally, the Heat indicated Riley would not be answering questions Thursday about free agency. In case you wondered why none were asked.)
Highlights from Napier's 1 a.m. conference call with Miami media:
### "When I found out I was going to the Miami Heat, I was happy. I was ecstatic I'm playing for the Heat."
### "I was told I was not going to go that far back [to 24th]. The look on my mother's face had me not thinking about what was going on. I was able to celebrate something special."
### "Me and Pat Riley were talking for a little bit after I worked out for them. He was giving me a lot of advice about the NBA and adjustments. When you come into this league, you have to want to be the best. That's what I want to be. He never sugercoated anything. I cherish and appreciate [his advice]."
### Napier, on LeBron's tweets about him: "For one of the best players in the world to be intrigued by my talent is something so special to me. One of the best players, if not the best players, is recognizing my [talent]. I appreciate it."
### "I'm super comfortable [playing off the ball when needed]. I'm comfortable moving without the ball. LeBron, Dwyane... I know for a fact they will put me in great situations and I will put them in great situations. I'm able to stretch the court."
### He said learning as a freshman behind Kemba Walker and playing for Kevin Ollie helped prepare him for the NBA transition.
10 p.m. report:
For the first time during the LeBron James era, the Heat generated a groundswell of excitement with a draft pick.
And the Heat did it by procuring a player, Shabazz Napier, that James on Thursday called "my favorite player in the draft."
By trading up two spots with Charlotte, the Heat landed the prospect it targeted: the Connecticut point guard who developed into an outstanding leader and passer and long-range shooter while winning two national titles.
In return, the Heat dealt its two draft picks – 26th and 55th --- as well as a future second-round selection.
“It’s a blessing,” Napier told ESPN about landing with the Heat.“"The first thing that jumps off is the winning attitude. On the first day you arrive to that organization, you want to work, …. I’m very excited. I’m going to compete my tail off and always have a chip on my shoulder. I’m very excited. I’m going to compete my tail off and always have a chip on my shoulder.”
Napier, 6-1, averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists for Connecticut last season, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent on threes.
He helped lead Connecticut to the national championship and was named the Final Four's "most outstanding player" after this year's NCAA Tournament.
It was the second national championship for Napier, who also won one in 2011.
The Heat tried to trade with several teams to land Napier and ultimately found a partner in Charlotte.
James was a strong advocate of Napier, and his selection could only help the Heat’s already solid chances of retaining James.
“No way you take another point guard in the lottery before Napier,” James tweeted during the NCAA Tournament.
"I don't know if I'm bringing him back [to Miami]," Napier said. "I would love it. Me and LeBron's relationship, he's a great guy. I've been to his camps. Me and him chatted a few times at his camps. It's just something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates your talent. That's something that I'm so humble for."
Napier’s scoring average and shooting percentage – both overall and on threes -- increased every season at Connecticut.
He’s considered a skilled passer and ball-handler and excels in pick-and-rolls.
His selection likely portends the departure of point guard Mario Chalmers, who’s an unrestricted free agent. If the Heat decides to keep Norris Cole, who’s due $2.15 million next season, then selecting Napier eliminates the need to spend anything significant on a veteran point guard.
If the Heat trades Cole and signs a point guard to the minimum, it would save $1.6 million against the cap.
Former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, who coached Napier his first two seasons, in April called Napier one of the “greatest players in college basketball in the last 10-12 years” and told The New York Times that “his swagger, his positive arrogance about how good we are translates to every single guy. He’s just a very special player. He led this team.”
Napier, who was born in Roxbury, Mass., was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a first team All-American as a senior. He was All Big East first team as a junior.
### A couple questions from a Q & A with Napier conducted by other reporters at the draft:
Question: You had said you felt you were the best point guard in the draft, and after all you proved at UConn, but it ended up being a handful of guys went ahead of you anyway. Does that put the chip back on your shoulder going into this?
Napier: "No, the chip never leaves my shoulder. It will never leave my shoulder. That's what makes me who I am. And I was saying that not to belittle any other point guards. There's a reason why they're here. But I was just saying that because that's who I am.
"I wouldn't be Shabazz Napier if I wouldn't have said that. I believe it, and I'm going to prove it. What I always learned was that whatever you put in is what you're going to get out. If I don't put in the work, it's not going to show.
"So there's always a chip on my shoulder to prove to myself that I'm the best, and to do that, I've got to work hard."...
Q. We know LeBron has said some very good things about you. He likes your game. Are you now ready to be a recruiter, per se, for Miami to help him stay?
Napier: "I would hope so. I would hope so. He's one of the best players in the world. So if me going there helps him come back, it just betters our chances of being a complete team. But at the end of the day, my job is to get to improve and work on my game so when it comes to the stage where it's my first game, I'm ready to compete, and I'm prepared."
### A Heat executive will discuss the Napier acquisition later tonight. Please check back later in this post for those comments.
### Forward Chris Andersen, who is opting out of a Heat contract that would have paid him $1.4 million next season, said Thursday he would love to stay with the Heat but will not decide until James, Bosh and Wade determine their futures. “Big money goes first,” he told colleague Joe Goodman.
The Heat ideally would like him to accept the $1.4 million minimum that he opted out of, while potentially adding a second year to the deal. “I got a tan, so it’s growing on me pretty good now,” Andersen said of Miami.
### With Philadelphia selecting one player who is injured (Joel Embiid) and acquiring another who will play overseas next season (Dario Saric), the 76ers will not be expected to make the playoffs next season, which would reduce second-guessing of the Heat’s decision in January to trade the 76ers’ lottery-protected first-round pick to Boston for the purpose of dumping Joel Anthony’s contract. If the 76ers miss the playoffs next season, that first-rounder turns into two second-rounders. The Heat’s 2015 first-rounder belongs to Cleveland.
### Please see the last post for Big Three news from Thursday.
4 p.m. Heat/UM update; Media column: Do national pundits hate Heat? Simmons, Wilbon, Barkley weigh in; Bayless dodges
Quick 4 p.m. update:
### Yes, forging on together in Miami holds appeal to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh --- something Wade and Bosh have stated publicly. And yes, the odds of that happening are better than odds of any of them leaving.
That said, there are a lot of moving pieces and a lot that needs to be resolved for the Big Three's future to be solidified in Miami.
Their meeting over salads Wednesday did not result in anything definitive as far as the precise amount of money any or all of them definitely would be willing to sacrifice to give the Heat more cap space, according to a Big Three associate who was briefed on the situation.
With regard to Wade and Bosh, all of that will need to be sorted out during ongoing discussions between the Heat and Henry Thomas, who represents Wade and Bosh and also Udonis Haslem, whose willingness to opt out of the one-year and $4.6 million remaining on his contract, in exchange for a longer deal with a lower annual salary, would also give the Heat added flexibility under the cap.
As of mid-afternoon today, Wade and Bosh had not opted out of their contracts, which has been widely expected to happen before the June 30 deadline. It's a necessary step for the Heat to operate with any cap space this offseason and could happen at any time.
Before that happens, both Wade and Bosh need to have a clear understanding of --- and be comfortable with --- how much money they would be asked to sacrifice and toward what players that money could go.
A Wade associate has said he would have interest in considering a four-year contract in the range of $60 million to replace the two-year, $42 million deal he would be opting out of.
The Carmelo Anthony scenario isn't happening, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, who said the topic of Anthony joining the Heat has not even been discussed. Anthony will visit the Rockets, Mavericks and Bulls next week.
For Bosh and Wade --- or even James, for that matter -- sacrificing a significant amount of money in the short term would have to be done for the Heat to make a competitive offer for the likes of Kyle Lowry (the Heat likes him), Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat or Trevor Ariza.
As for LeBron, barring something unforeseen, associates expect him to listen to the pitches of select suitors next week, perhaps by phone, perhaps in person.
Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, both Los Angeles teams and both New York teams and others are all expected to reach out when free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, according to various reports.
The Heat remains the front-runner, but James wants issues with the roster addressed.
### As for Wade, he was in a cheerful mood on social media today, sending out a picture, on Instagram, of a new food program, one that he has spoken with Ray Allen about.
Wade's picture of vegetables and healthy foods was tagged with the words "Day 1 of the new challenge" and mentioned James and Allen.
### As we reported a month ago, UM and UF formally agreed to a home-and-home men's basketball series -- early this coming season in Gainesville and during the 2015-16 season in Miami.
### UM quarterback Ryan Williams, off a serious knee injury, told several reporters today (including our Manny Navarro) that he remains hopeful of being ready for UM's opener Labor Day night at Louisville.
But a return that soon from April 9 surgery would be awfully ambitious, and UM is not counting on that by any means (or even counting on him definitely returning later in the month).
Williams is encouraged that former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger returned 13 weeks after an ACL injury, but that was for his Pro Day --- not a game or even a practice.
WEEKLY MEDIA COLUMN
It’s presumed that much of America reaped satisfaction in the Heat losing the NBA Finals and probably would be pleased if LeBron James surprisingly leaves this summer.
But is that also the case with several network TV pundits?
Many Heat supporters have long suspected that, and it seems to irritate some of them more than it should, with the public citing Charles Barkley, Skip Bayless and Bill Simmons as the most egregious Heat-haters.
Proof? Heat fans cite a hyperventilating Bayless openly rooting for the Spurs during the Finals, or Simmons wondering if James was distracted against the Pacers because the Cavaliers won the draft lottery, or Barkley claiming the Big Three behaved like clowns during the arena celebration after signing here and asserting all year that James has to carry “so much dead weight.”
But do any of these pundits genuinely dislike the Heat and root for their demise, as many fans believe? We suspect Bayless does, and he curiously declined to answer that question when I asked him through a publicist. But the others insist otherwise, with two saying Heat fans simply have a persecution complex.
“Some fan bases are more naïve than others about what it is people care about,” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said. “On some levels, I find this one particularly naïve and people not understanding we don’t care. If anything, I like coming to South Florida. If people stopped to think about this, and they don’t, they would see how stupid it is. They don’t stop to think because they’re fans.”
Simmons has never concealed his rooting interest for the Celtics, “and through 2012 [when they were a serious playoff contender], I wanted deep down for the Celtics to do better.”
On ESPN.com 14 months ago, he wrote: “I hate five teams and only five: the Lakers, Yankees, Heat, Canadiens and New York Giants. My children will never be allowed to root for those five teams. It’s just non-negotiable.”
But Simmons said during the Finals that “sports hate” should be differentiated from genuine hatred, that the Heat has won him over and that he doesn’t root against Miami now.
“I don’t blame the Heat fans, because when those guys signed here, we saw the amount of hate they got from just being this little innocent franchise in Miami,” Simmons said. “All of a sudden, they’re America’s villains, and people actively rooted for them to lose. So I totally get it.
“I think the media roots for things like, ‘What gets me home faster? What city has Marriott points?’ I don’t think they care who wins.”
Bayless declined to touch this topic, but his anti-James sentiment remains toxic and transparent. He displayed a remarkable ignorance about human anatomy during the Finals, when he equated James’ cramping to “melodramatic mental weakness” and suggested it “was a classic lack of intangibles on LeBron’s part.”
Wilbon said during the playoffs that “the hyperventilation, the excitement” about the Heat losing results not from anything personal against LeBron & Co., but this instead: “The champion lost and the story’s bigger” as a result. “Whether it’s Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Tom Brady, it’s always a better story when the champ is on the ropes.”
Off the air, Barkley has long denied that he roots against the Heat and was highly defensive about that perception in an ESPN Radio pre-Finals conversation with Dan Le Batard.
“What do I say bad about the Heat?” Barkley defiantly asked Le Batard. “I said Dwyane Wade is in decline, and he’s been in decline. That’s called a fact. That’s not a criticism.”
What about his comment about James having to carry so much “dead weight?”
Barkley responded: “He does have to carry all that weight. That’s a complement to LeBron.”
OK, Charles. But what about you saying James should go back to the Cavaliers?
“It would be great if he went back to Cleveland,” Barkley responded, while denying that he’s rooting for that to happen. Hmmmm.
“The Heat has nothing to dislike about them,” Barkley added. “They’ve got a great team, a great organization.”
Wilbon said Barkley, a close friend of his, “likes getting under peoples’ skin” --- one reason Barkley says Heat supporters are “fake” and “phony” and “aren’t real fans.”
The relationship between Barkley and Heat fans deteriorated when several pelted him with insults and projectiles during a TNT postgame show outside AmericanAirlines Arena a couple of years ago.
“He likes needling, and that’s what makes Charles different,” Wilbon said. “The dirty little secret is we don’t care about fans. They think we do. They’re not relevant to our jobs. We’re not paid to support the Heat or Miami. If we feel like criticizing people because they left early after Game 6 last year, that’s what’s going to happen.
“And if they don’t like it, that’s too bad. We’re not going to not observe it because we need them to like us. We get paid to talk and they’re going to watch.”
AROUND THE DIAL
### The stark difference in how the last two Heat seasons ended extended beyond the results. Game 7 of the 2013 Finals was viewed in 44.2 percent of Dade/Broward homes --- among the highest ratings in this market since the turn of the century. Conversely, Game 5 of 2014 Spurs-Heat was viewed in 27.6 percent, disappointing for a Finals game.
### Through Monday, 9.6 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes were watching each World Cup game, on average --- an impressive number considering many of the games have been on weekday afternoons and don't including viewership at restaurants and sports bars.
Univision’s games are averaging a 6.3 rating in Dade/Broward (best in the country) and the ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 cablecasts are averaging a 3.3 locally (tied for seventh).
### Summer reading: Colts coach and former UM assistant Chuck Pagano details his battle with cancer during the 2012 season in "Sidelined: Overcome Odds through Unity, Passion and Perseverance."
Sports agent Bruce Tollner, who co-authored the book, said proceeds will go to cancer research. It's available at BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com.
### Tim Brando, who parted ways with CBS after last season, on Wednesday joined Fox and Fox Sports 1 as a play-by-play announcer for college football and basketball. He had originally planned to join the new SEC Network but that won’t happen now.
Noon update: Former All-Pro calls Fins; Heat trade?; UM good news; LeBron fallout; Realistic FA possibilities; Other LeBron suitors
A quick noon update on four topics:
### Andre Gurode, a five-time Pro Bowl center (2006-2010) and two time All-Pro, reached out to the Dolphins through his agent this week, hoping Miami will sign him to fill in for Mike Pouncey, who is expected to miss two to six regular-season games after hip surgery Tuesday.
The Dolphins returned the call late yesterday but said they are going to hold off bringing him in but didn't close the door.
Gurode, 35, isn't the player he once was. Since leaving the Cowboys, where he played several years at a very high level, Gurode has a total of nine starts for Baltimore, Chicago and Oakland the past three years.
But the Dolphins have been making brief preliminary inquiries about the health/status of some available centers, though it remains to be seen if Miami will bring in any for visits.
Among the veteran free agents available: Dan Koppen, former Dolphin Samson Satele, Fernando Velasco, Brad Meester, Ryan Cook and David Baas.
### Carol City speedster Trayone Gray told canesport.com that he received an ACT score that will qualify him for UM, though the Hurricanes are not yet in a position to confirm this.
UM wants Gray to begin his Hurricanes career as a receiver, but the staff says he also could play running back. "Trayone Gray is a stud," UM receivers coach Brennan Carroll said.
### ESPN's Chad Ford reports today that the Heat is trying to move up from 26th in the draft to select Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier, partly because LeBron James likes him. Napier, 6-1, averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists for UConn last season, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent on threes.
Napier won NCAA titles in 2011 and 2014 and was named the Final Four's "most outstanding player" after this year's NCAA Tournament.
When I asked Heat executive Chet Kammerer on Monday whether he though Napier would be available at No. 26, he said he did not know but did not want to talk about any players on Miami's radar. His stock has risen in recent weeks and some mock drafts have him going in the mid-to-late teens.
"No way you take another point guard in the lottery before Napier," LeBron tweeted during the NCAA Tournament.
### New Cleveland coach David Blatt told Israel's Sports5 that he doesn't expect LeBron to leave the Heat.
WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Mostly Heat chatter today:
### Though his return is not certain by any means, the Heat remains the favorite to retain free agent LeBron James, but he wants issues with the roster addressed, according to an associate with knowledge of the situation.
When James speaks with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this week, he will gauge their willingness to opt out of existing contracts and agree to deals that give the Heat more spending money. Both of them appear receptive to opting out and taking pay cuts in exchange for longer deals, provided the cuts aren’t too steep.
The good news for the Heat: None of James’ other most attractive suitors have the cap space to give him a max contract, and creating that space will either be difficult or cost them assets that would make their rosters potentially no more appealing than Miami’s. (More on that in a minute.)
### Even though Bosh said he would be receptive to taking a pay cut and a Wade associate said Wade is open to the idea, it might not create enough space to add one of this summer’s priciest free agents if James doesn’t do the same.
A Wade associate said Wade would be receptive to considering a four-year, $60 million deal to replace the $42 million he’s owed over the next two seasons.
But let’s say Wade and Bosh each take cuts to $15 million next season.
And let’s say Udonis Haslem can be convinced to opt out of the $4.6 million he’s owed next season for a three-year deal starting at $2 million or $2.5 million. (Haslem has told me he's open to the idea of exchanging money for years if it would help add pieces to the roster.)
And let’s say the Heat dumps its other cap commitments except Norris Cole --- meaning Miami trades its first-round pick and cuts Justin Hamilton. (Cole is due $2.15 million, by the way.)
Under that scenario, with Wade and Bosh each earning $15 million and James making $20 million (which would be his max for next season), the Heat would have only $5.5 million to $6 million of space under the projected $63.6 million cap, factoring in required cap holds topping $500,000 each for roster spots unfilled up to 12.
The Heat also would have a $2.7 million “room” exception in this scenario and also could sign players to the minimum, topping out at $1.4 million.
But the $6 million or so in cap space in this scenario could not be combined with the room exception.
And what could $6 million buy in free agency?
It wouldn’t be enough to lure Carmelo Anthony.
Luol Deng’s agent, Herb Rudoy, said even though Deng believes the Heat is “fantastic,” there’s “not a chance” Deng --- who made $14.3 million last season --- would agree to that amount of money.
Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry likes the Heat but is looking for $10 million a year or more.
Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol, who earned $19 million last season, would like to play for a winner, but the Heat will have competition from some of the 15-plus teams with significant cap space, including Dallas, which has $30 million, a lot of which will be used on Dirk Nowitzki.
Washington Wizards free agents Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, who each earned $7.7 million last season, are both expecting raises, as is Cleveland center Spencer Hawes ($6.5 million). So is Phoenix forward Channing Frye, who opted out of a guaranteed $6.8 million next season.
But if James also took a cut of several million dollars, Miami could make a competitive offer for any of those except possibly Anthony, whom the Heat will call nonetheless. Though the idea of another James pay cut isn’t appealing to some of his associates, it’s possible he might do it for a few select players.
### If James doesn’t take a cut, but Wade and Bosh takes cuts of about $5 million apiece, the $6 million or so that would be created in space would make the Heat a contender for players such as point guards Darren Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Patty Mills or Steve Blake (each could warrant a share of that money if Miami splits it up), Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce (an associate said he wants to play for a winner and included Miami, the Clippers and the Nets among several possibilities), Charlotte power forward Josh McRoberts, Lakers power forward Jordan Hill (Miami has pursued him before) and Clippers forward Danny Granger.
The Heat then could use its $2.7 million room exception and minimum contracts on the likes of Ray Allen (ESPN says he's leaning toward playing), Chris Andersen (still has interest in possibly returning despite opting out), Marvin Williams, Jordan Hamilton, Chris Kaman, Andray Blatche, Kris Humphries, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler or Emeka Okafor.
The Heat also has a $2.2 million trade exception from the Joel Anthony deal.
If four or five quality rotation players can be added through these means, the roster would be much better even without signing one of the most expensive free agents. And the Heat would not be paying a luxury tax in this scenario.
### The Heat could create more space by asking Bosh and Wade to go down to $12 million next season and making it up on the back end of their deals, so that each gets $60 million over four years. In this scenario, even without James taking a pay cut, the Heat could have enough space (around $11 million) to land Lowry.
But the Heat would then be clogging its cap with a 36-year-old Wade making $18 million in 2017-18, with no assurances that James would still be around at that point. And you would be asking two-thirds of the Big Three not only to accept a huge cut from $20 million to $12 million next season but also take far, far less than LeBron would be making.
### James planned to opt out even if the Heat had won the Finals and likely will at least listen to suitors that interest him, according to the associate.
But none of those attractive suitors have the cap space Miami did four years ago.
James likes Clippers coach Doc Rivers and is close with Chris Paul, but creating enough space to sign him would require the Clippers to find teams able to take DeAndre Jordan ($11.4 million), Jamal Crawford ($5.4 million), Jared Dudley ($4.2 million), Matt Barnes ($3.3 million) and Reggie Bullock ($1.2 million) without sending contracts back AND persuading James to agree to a salary as much as $8 million under the $20 million max next season. (Thanks to NBA salary cap guru Larry Coon for confirming my calculations on this.)
The idea of the Clippers being able to rid themselves of that much salary (especially Dudley, Barnes and Bullock) without taking any back appears unrealistic.
The Clippers' other alternative, if James wants to sign there, is to propose to the Heat a sign-and-trade with Blake Griffin. But Yahoo! reported the Heat has told people it’s adamant against sign-and-trades for James.
And for James, he would need to ask himself this: Would playing for a Griffin-less Clippers in a tougher conference offer any better chance of winning than Miami does? He would be opting for Paul and Jordan instead of Wade and Bosh and whatever supporting casts each team can assemble.
Houston will make a run at James, but to offer James even $19 million, the Rockets would need to find a taker for Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin --- who are each due $14.9 million balloon payments and have $8.4 million cap numbers --- and make other minor moves.
Chicago would need to amnesty Carlos Boozer and likely trade Taj Gibson to make James a representative offer.
Though the idea of returning to Cleveland down the road holds some appeal to him, James would want the Cavaliers to add another significant piece for him to even consider that this summer, the associate said. And doing that would require parting with Anderson Varejao and perhaps other pieces.
ESPN reported several teams, including Cleveland and Atlanta and the Lakers, are exploring ways to create enough cap space to add both Anthony and James at reduced salaries. The odds are against that, though the Heat hasn’t given up hope of Anthony joining the Big Three at reduced salaries.
James can explore that Anthony scenario immediately if he chooses, but the Heat cannot call Anthony until 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
### James can sign for as much as five years, $115 million with the Heat but no more than four year, $85.5 million with other teams.
### The Heat, awaiting word from Allen, hasn’t told several of its non-Big Three free agents --- including Rashard Lewis, Michael Beasley and James Jones --- whether it wants to keep them. Jones seems likely to be invited back, especially if James returns.
UM LANDS FOUR ORAL COMMITMENTS
We usually don't pay much attention to oral commitments for 17 months down the road, because kids can change their minds a hundred times before National Signing Day.
But UM snagged two significant 2016 oral commitments this week: Palmetto High's Jack Allison, considered one of the best quarterbacks in the 2016 class, and Oakleaf (Fla.) linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, who projects as a top-100 player in that year's class.
Allison --- who threw for 1600 yards, 16 TDs and 6 picks last season --- had numerous other offers, including Alabama and Missouri. Richardson had offers from UF, Georgia and Michigan, among others.
Meanwhile, UM added two oral commitments for the 2015 class on Tuesday: 6-foot-6 Pompano Beach Ely receiver Therrell Gosier, a three-star prospect who appeared in just two games before the playoffs last season because of a concussion; and no-star Ocala Trinity offensive tackle Geron Christian, whose only other listed offers (according to rivals.com) were from Arkansas, FAU, East Carolina and Middle Tennessee State.
Gosier also is a standout basketball player at Ely.
3 p.m.: UM names Jim Morris' successor; LeBron opts for free agency; Dolphins injuries; Heat addresses NBA Draft issues; UM
### 3 p.m. update: UM announced what we reported previously, that Jim Morris has received a 3-year contract extension through 2018. And UM added this new piece of news: Gino DiMare, a longtime UM assistant and former UM player, will succeed Morris as coach at that point, beginning in the 2019 season.
UM made the College World Series in 11 of Morris' first 15 years as coach but hasn't made it the past six.
### 9 a.m. update: LeBron James' agent has informed the Heat that James will exercise his early termination clause and become a free agent next week. The move isn't surprising, because James likes to have flexibility.
The Heat has long been considered the favorite to retain him, but several teams --- including Houston, Cleveland and Chicago --- will court him. The Clippers also want him but would need to part with several pieces, including DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford, to be able to make him a max offer.
James would have earned $20.6 million next season and $22.1 million the next if he hadn't exercised his opt-out.
Under terms of the labor agreement, James would be eligible to re-sign with the Heat for as many as five years and $115.1 million.
If James moves to another team, he would be eligible to sign a four-year contract for as much as $85 million.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also must inform the Heat by next Monday whether they will opt out of their contracts. Both appear open to it for the purpose of signing long-term deals and giving the Heat more flexibility to upgrade the roster.
### Dolphins center Mike Pouncey had hip surgery today and it's projected he will miss at least three months, according to two sources close to the situation. The story was first reported by ESPN.
Meanwhile, running back Knowshon Moreno needs arthroscopic knee surgery and is out four to five weeks. He could be back by the Dolphins' preseason opener Aug. 8, though the Dolphins could proceed cautiously and keep him out of initial exhibition games.
Under the most optimistic of timetables given to Pouncey, he could return potentially for the Dolphins' third or fourth game in late September, but that's far from certain and he might not return until October. The recover time from this injury --- a torn labrum in the hip --- sometimes can take closer to four months.
The Dolphins open Sept. 7 against New England, then play at Buffalo Sept. 14, against Kansas City Sept. 21 and vs. Oakland Sept. 28 in London. The Dolphins have a bye week after the Raiders game.
If the Dolphins believe he isn't ready to help before the bye, they could place him on the physically unable to perform list, which would sideline him for six weeks.
Pouncey was in good spirits after today's two-hour procedure and is already talking about how soon he can get back, according to a close associate.
Pouncey suffered the injury during the team's offseason program, but neither the Dolphins nor Pouncey initially believed it was too serious. He took a lot of snaps during the final two days of the team's three minicamp practices last week after sitting out the first day.
Sam Brenner took most of the first-team snaps at center during the mini-camp practice that Pouncey missed last week. Brenner started four games at guard last season and graded out poorly, according to Pro Football Focus.
Nate Garner also can play center, having filled in for Pouncey for two games that Pouncey missed last season.
Right guard Shelley Smith also has taken practice snaps at center.
Undrafted Utah State rookie Tyler Larsen is a natural center who's trying to make the team.
Veteran free agent centers still available include Samson Satele, David Baas, Mike Gibson, Andre Gurode, Dan Koppen, Brad Meester, Fernando Velasco and Kyle Cook.
### While declining to speak about any player being considered by the Heat, team vice president/player personnel Chet Kammerer addressed several NBA Draft issues today, with the Heat holding the 26th and 55th picks on Thursday:
### Though Miami is permitted to trade the pick after the selection --- but not before --- Kammerer said dealing the selection is not the thinking at the moment (though that always could change). “At this point, we would like to add someone on our roster,” he said.
The first-round pick comes with a 2014-15 cap hit close to $1 million. The Heat isn't allowed to trade its first-round pick before the draft because of a rule prohibiting teams from trading their first-round picks in consecutive years.
### Kammerer said: “We have 20 guys that we really like. Hopefully one of those 20 will be there. That doesn’t mean we might still not get a good player [otherwise]."
### At what position is a really good player likely to drop to 26? “Wing player has more depth than anything else," Kammerer said. "Power forwards and centers are pretty limited. Even ones, twos and threes --- there are depth at those positions."
### Kammerer said: “We’ll go with the best player on the board, who we think has the highest percentage [chance] of being an NBA player.”
### Does the Heat prefer a player who's undeveloped with great longterm potential or a player who's ready to contribute now in this win-now era of Heat basketball?
"We’re more about having a player contribute immediately," he said. "We eliminate people who we really think could be [really good] but might have to wait two or three years. We need a couple breaks [to get that type of player at 26]. That’s possible.”
### Kammerer said there's "a misconception that we don’t look at European players. We have looked at a lot of international players. I’m not saying we are going to select one this year."
### The Heat has worked out 40 players. Of those, several are from Florida colleges, including UM guard Rion Brown, who is an NBA long shot at best.
### “I feel a little pressure this year because we do have a pick at No. 26. We feel like we’re thorough and professional and well prepared. We have covered this as thoroughly as we can. We might not make the right pick but it won’t be because we’re not prepared. We have done our homework. Hopefully, we’ll get a break or two.”
### Kammerer mentioned Tim Hardaway and Keith Askins as the two former Heat players who helped in the scouting and evaluation of draft prospects this year. He also said Tim Hardaway Jr., selected by the Knicks at No. 24, ended up being the second-best player taken in last year's draft.
### On 2013 second-round pick James Ennis, who will play for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando and Las Vegas:
“We’re very optimistic about James. He exceeded what we expected. He should have been MVP in the league [in Australia]. His numbers were very good. He [also] played in Puerto Rico, did a nice job there. We will be seeing him in a few days. We are very happy with what transpired.
“James did a good job across the board. We wanted him to expand his range. He shot the ball well from three. He was fourth rebounder in the league [in Australia]. Averaged over seven rebounds a game for a wing, which was very good. We want to see him create a little more off the dribble. A lot we’ll see this summer and in the fall.”
### Among players linked to the Heat at No. 26 in mock drafts done by national outlets: Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier (could end up going higher; Kammerer declined to say if he thinks he will be there at 26); Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie; and Michigan center Mitch McGary (coming off a back injury).
QUICK FOOTBALL NOTES
### UM lost an ascending oral commitment this past weekend when New Jersey-based three-star offensive tackle Kevin Feder flipped to Ohio State.
This marks the second time in two years that Urban Meyer has tried to snag a UM offensive line oral commitment.
Last year, his efforts failed with new UM offensive lineman KC McDermott, much to Meyer’s shock.
The expression on Meyer’s face was “like the state of shock where the guy has literally never been told no in his life,” McDermott said. “It literally looked like a kid the first time you tell him 'no, you can't do something.' It looked like he was a baby about to cry. It was so funny.”
### Offensive lineman Billy Turner, the Dolphins’ third-round pick from North Dakota State, is one of only five players in the entire NFL draft that remains unsigned. (The others remaining were drafted in the first or second round.) But the unresolved issues with Turner are not insurmountable and this figures to get done in mid-July.
### There are still a handful of veteran free agents who might be able to help --- guard Daryn Colledge, linebacker Pat Angerer, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, tight ends Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller, among others. But the Dolphins so far have passed on all of them, despite initial inquiries about Colledge and Finley, who has been cleared medically by his own personal physician after a neck injury.
### Please see the last post for a lot more Dolphins. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Dolphins chatter, following Thursday's conclusion of the offseason program, and a month before training camp opens July 25:
### We’re trying to be optimistic. Really.
But it’s difficult to gloss over serious concerns about this roster and this team’s deficiencies --- from run defense (24th in the league in 2013) to chemistry between the quarterback and star receiver (Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace connected on 6 of 36 throws of 20-plus yards last season) to the offensive line (toasted for eight sacks in Thursday’s scrimmage, albeit without pads).
The defense has replaced perhaps its most stout run stopper (Paul Soliai) with Earl Mitchell, who ranked 57th of 69 tackles against the run last season, according to play-by-play analysis by ProFootballFocus.com. (Soliai was 16th.)
The only other major front seven personnel change: Koa Misi moving to middle linebacker, flip-flopping with Dannell Ellerbe.
“We’ve got to find a way to get Koa on the field more,” Cameron Wake said. “He runs around like his hair’s on fire. He’s strong at the point of attack and fearless.”
But is that enough to substantially improve a unit that allowed 1998 rushing yards (their most in six years), including 140 by a then-winless Tampa team? We’re skeptical.
As for the offensive line, left tackle Branden Albert assuredly will be an upgrade, but his two sacks allowed to Olivier Vernon Thursday were reminiscent of the swinging door we saw at the position last season.
Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who also allowed a sack Thursday, hasn’t embarrassed himself in the offseason program but remains something of an unknown.
A former NFL general manager said he spoke to several current GMs and all believed the Dolphins reached for James at No. 19 and that he wasn’t worthy of being selected that high. We’ll see.
“We had James as a late-first rounder,” one NFC scout said. “He has first-round talent but you want more of a finisher, more production for a player with his size and skill level. He’s a quiet country kid. I’m not sure he wants to lead a unit.”
Shelley Smith? He’s an ascending player, but remember, he started just eight games in three seasons for the Rams.
And though Dallas Thomas’ improvement and weight loss are commendable, he couldn’t crack the lineup despite Miami’s dismal offensive line play in 2013. And he’s now being projected as a potential starter.
The chemistry between Tannehill and Wallace also remains a question, with Wallace catching only one of four passes thrown to him by Tannehill on Thursday.
Last season, Wallace caught 53.3 percent of passes thrown to him --- 23rd-worst of 111 NFL receivers. Many were Tannehill’s fault, but Wallace’s 11 drops tied for fifth in the league.
Wallace said they have connected on “three or four” of six deep balls in offseason practices, but why have they attempted so few?
### Positives? Several. Among them: Jamar Taylor looks much improved. This group of defensive ends should be among the best in the AFC, from a pass rushing standpoint.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s pre-snap motion and willingness to allow Wallace to vary where he lines up will confuse teams, or as Tannehill said, “We’re going to put people in positions they don’t want to be on defense, get the ball to our playmakers all over the field.”
And the Dolphins have probably eight or so NFL-caliber players at receiver, including second-round pick Jarvis Landry, who Tannehill says has the strongest hands he has ever seen.
“Landry is awesome,” quarterback Matt Moore said. “He came in with a veteran mindset. His catching skills are off the charts. He’s going to help us a lot.” One NFC scout predicted “Landry’s going to be a great No. 2 receiver” eventually.
### Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, trying to rebound from two disappointing seasons, looked good this offseason before sitting out last week to rest his knees.
One NFC front office executive said Finnegan has a good chance to rejuvenate his career here partly because he wasn't properly used by former Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton, the ex-UM coordinator who was fired by the Rams after last season.
When I asked Finnegan about that last week, he said Walton’s defensive system was “atrocious. From the game plan to technique to fundamentals, they weren’t in line with a defensive coordinator who knew what he was doing. He was a great defensive backs coach, but when you're in over your head, it's kind of tough... Here coaches know to play guys to their strengths. I wish I had been here a long time ago. [Coordinator Kevin] Coyle is so good at dissecting offenses.”
After two disappointing seasons, does Finnegan, at 30, still have the same skill set he showed as a Pro Bowler for Tennessee six years ago? “It’s still there,” he said. “But until I prove it, we’ll never know.”
### Lazor is being very demanding with his quarterbacks, but his tight ends are getting no slack, either.
"We have the second hardest job next to the quarterback," Dion Sims, who's holding down the No. 2 tight end job, said last week. "It's our job to know every position [H-back, etc]. It's tough on us."
Michael Egnew was scolded by Lazor after forgetting one play, but Egnew has been a generally reliable pass catching target in the 10-to-20 yard range throughout the offseason program.
### We're still concerned about the linebackers in pass coverage. Philip Wheeler has been poor in that area the past two years (2012 in Oakland, 2013 here) but made some decent plays in coverage during OTAs and mini-camp practices open to the media.
Ellerbe, in pass coverage, was beaten several times by running backs and tight ends in the off-season program during the open media sessions. Perhaps Jelani Jenkins, who has impressed the coaches, will fill this void.
### With their stadium deal approved, the Dolphins won’t ever again need to worry about Norman Braman, with whom they met previously to try to persuade him to stop speaking out against Stephen Ross’ 2013 bid for public funding. And no, Braman doesn’t approve of this agreement, either; Ross will finance renovations but will be paid by the county for luring big events.
“Why are we spending so much time coming up with ideas to help a guy worth $6 billion?” Braman asked. “I’d like as much ingenious thought given to improving the quality of life in our community, coming up with ways to keep libraries open. It’s still welfare for billionaires.”
### Former NBA All-Star Gary Payton said he will work with Norris Cole this summer because “I like him a lot. I like his game. He needs to develop a floater in the middle.”
Cole said last week: “I believe I’m starter-caliber.” But certainly not yet.
### Besides its one salary cap exception (either $2.7 million or $3.1 million or $5.5 million depending on multiple variables), Pat Riley noted the Heat has another vehicle to improve: a $2.2 million trade exception from the Joel Anthony deal.
That cannot be combined with the less helpful $900,000 trade exception that Miami possesses from the Toney Douglas deal.
### Among the 307 players who have shot at least 1000 three-pointers, Dwyane Wade has the second-worst career percentage (28.9), ahead of only Charles Barkley. Indiana coach Tom Crean, Wade’s friend and coach at Marquette, said it’s important for Wade to improve his three-point game as he gets older.
“The mechanism of how you shoot the ball has to change,” Riley said. “Will he be a high percentage James Jones, Mike Miller type of three-point shooter? He will make one when it counts. He is not going to be spotted up standing in the corner. He’s going to be slashing to the basket, posting guys up, getting out on the break. That’s been his game for 11 years.”
### Magic Johnson, tweeting on Riley's passionate sermon/speech/news conference Thursday: "He had me so fired up and motivated, I wish I could play for him again!"
### So Rafael Furcal (earning $3 million) is hurt again --- no surprise there.
But the good news is that defensively erratic Derek Dietrich had been hitting well at Triple A New Orleans --- .368 over his last 10 games, and six homers in his first 13 games there since being demoted. He had one error over that period, and defense remains a concern.
Furcal, who now has a calf and hamstring injury, was hitting .171 in 11 games.
### Jarrod Saltalamacchia returned from a concussion Thursday with pressure to validate the Marlins' three-year, $21 million investment.
He has handled the pitching staff well but he returned to the lineup ranked second-worst among starting catchers in errors (eight) and percentage of base-stealers thrown out (16.7 --- 7 of 42). And his .245 (.177 since May 1, before his return a couple days ago) ranks in the bottom third.
"I should be at or better than what I hit in Boston last year [.273]," he said last week.