May 02, 2016

9 a.m.: New information on Bosh/Heat conflict; Hurricane Club event with Richt ends in odd fashion; Richt addresses Walton, roster issues, UM's detailed recruiting plan; UM-UF news; Heat-Raptors

 9 a.m. Bosh update: Ethan and I first reported here recently that there is a disagreement between the Heat and Chris Bosh about the handling of his medical condition (blood clots in his calf that dissipated weeks ago) and that Bosh wants to play during this postseason and does not want to retire. As we reported here last month (by someone with direct knowledge), Bosh had found a doctor who was receptive to potentially clearing him to play, while several others were opposed.

ESPN's Dan Le Batard, closer to the Heat than anyone nationally, shed more light on this on his show yesterday, saying Bosh is considering going to the union to allow him to play. Here's what Le Batard said to say:

"It's a super unusual situation. I can't think of a lot of instances where a sports organization is acting in what appears to be the best interest of the player over their own interests and against the will of the player. From the people I'm talking to, Chris Bosh wants back on the court and now, and the Heat on medical advice are saying absolutely not.... They badly want to get to an Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron and they are telling him, 'No, you cannot work.'...

"The Miami Heat and Chris Bosh are at a crossroads. There is a conflict here that promises to get a little bit messier. Now I'm hearing the Boshs want so badly on the court that they're trying to get the union involved. They found a doctor who might be willing to clear him.... For some reason, he thinks he's good to go and I think it's because he's not showing the symptoms he showed the first time.

"He doesn't feel physically bad, even as doctors are telling him, 'Hey, a recurrence of blood clots can be catastrophic.' You could have a Hank Gathers situation, a die on the basketball court situation, that no waiver is protecting the league from or protecting the Miami Heat from....

“The [Heat] have consulted the foremost authorities in the world on this. And they are being told no. The risk is too large. No when you start talking about waivers and liabilities, those things don't protect you if the catastrophic happens.

"[Bosh] scoured the globe trying to find the doctor who will clear them and they’ve got someone that they feel comfortable about, but that does not pair against the number of other opinions on the other side. They’ve got someone that they feel comfortable with who’s willing to allow him to take the risk, but getting one guy… The people around this story I've spoken to is he's in a super precarious position.

“One of the things is, he’s not feeling symptoms now. He felt symptoms the first time. So he’s looking at this and saying, ‘Why am I not out there? I I feel fine. I’m good.’ They’ve got one (doctor) telling them the thing they want to hear… 

"This is complicated and confusing and fascinating. They were wearing the #BringBoshBack shirts at the game (Sunday). They are putting private pressure on the Heat. They are putting public pressure on the Heat.

“I don’t know exactly what to believe here, OK, but I do trust the organization and I trust the people in the organization who tell me things because I’ve never been lied to by them about much of anything. They’re telling me that they’re protecting him from him, but he doesn’t feel any symptoms."

Here is what Luol Deng had to say about Bosh over the weekend.

 

RICHT'S FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCE

Mark Richt’s first Hurricanes Club speaking appearance as UM's football coach ended in peculiar fashion on Monday night when a woman took issue with Richt’s interpretation of the words swagger or swag.

UM took questions from several fans in attendance at The Casino of Dania Beach, and Richt – when asked about swagger/swag earlier in the evening – told the audience: "Here's the deal with swag. I'll say this: If you want to dance, go to the club. I'm about moving somebody's butt on the other side of the ball. That's what swag is. Swag is not how you dress or how you dance or how you try to talk to somebody [on the other team], all that. That's a bunch of bull to me. Swag is doing your job, doing it well and whipping the guy across the ball.”

In the late stages of the event, the unidentified woman took the microphone intended for fans' questions and instead counseled Richt, gently admonishing him, about the history of swagger at UM, making clear she didn’t agree with his comment about dancing.

Richt, a cool customer, handled the situation well and the woman was not openly disrespectful.

[Quick aside: I agree with Richt on this. Show me how good you are; don't tell me. And the way the NCAA is trying to reel in showboating, there's little room for elaborate celebrations.]

Still, it was an awkward end to a good night, one in which several hundred fans sat and listened to Richt, athletic director Blake James and women’s basketball coach Katie Meier field questions. Men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga was ill and did not attend.

Richt, in his opening remarks, said “it’s an honor to be back at my alma mater… This is the last stop for me. No other place I’d rather be.”

Richt addressed several issues with five reporters afterward:

• Asked directly if suspended Mark Walton will miss any regular season games, Richt said: “I’ll tell you all that whenever I know what to do, decide what to do. We’ll let you know when there is something to report.”

Walton remains on indefinite suspension after a DUI arrest.

• Richt said previously that he would like to add immediately-eligible players at receiver, cornerback and fullback. But he said he has not eyeballed any specific players that UM is targeting.

“Not yet,” he said. “There’s time between now and when we can make that decision. We still have a little bit more time here. I don’t know for sure. Right now, we have at least one [transfer] and we may have more before it’s over with. I’d like to have a better idea of how much [roster room] I’ve got before making that decision.”

UM previously announced the addition of two transfers: receiver Dayall Harris and Texas safety Adrian Colbert. Both are eligible immediately.

• Richt said he has received no indication that any more players are unhappy with playing time and plan to transfer.

“I didn’t hear anything,” he said. “Usually, you hear some kind of rumor by now. If a guy is going, he probably would have been gone by now. I have not heard any of that.”

• UM already has 15 oral commitments for 2017 and “by the time we get there, I would be surprised if we didn’t get over 20,” he said, adding that he couldn’t predict the exact number of scholarships UM will have available because of unknown variables, such as players turning pro after next season.

• On stage and in his private session with reporters afterward, Richt gave some insight into how he’s handling recruiting.

His assistants are out recruiting Monday through Thursday this month, then reconvene on Fridays at UM to evaluate talent.

Players are rated on a scale, with a “1” assigned to blue-chip “no brainers,” “2” to a player worthy of an offer, “3” to a player close to being worthy of an offer, “4” to someone UM won’t take and another category --- “5, I guess,” Richt said --- to players who would be quality walk-ons.

Richt is already recruiting in Georgia, where he’s highly respected, and said there will be a “bunch” of other states that UM coaches will hit.

“All the way down the coast," he said. "There are kids we’ve seen video on that have interest. If we think the interest is sincere, we’ll go. I’m sure we’ll end up in California, all around the country. The Southeast region is where we’re going to be spending most of the time, and right down here in South Florida.”

On recruiting in South Florida and elsewhere, Richt said: “Everybody’s got to establish relationships in areas they’re assigned to. Recruiting is about relationships with the players, but it’s also about relationships with the high school coaches and the people in the communities.

"Everybody is going to be feeling their way around a little bit, creating new friendships, new relationships that will help us recruit their players. It works both ways. Those coaches get excited about their young men getting opportunities to play college ball. We obviously need those kids to help us have success. It’s a good relationship if you do it right. The big thing is we are up front and honest about everything and all the decisions we make. When you build trust, you have a chance to recruit down here."

"We got plenty of 1s, 2s and 3s on the board from all over the state, all over the country. There’s more than we can take, that’s for sure.

“Guys are being very thorough, doing a good job of bringing back the information, creating the relationship with the coaches. We want to be in our state right away. Our original plan was to go out of state to start this past week, but there were so many [South Florida spring football practice sessions] starting on the 24th that once practice started, we wanted to be there [in South Florida]. You’re actually allowed to be on campus twice. You gather information, cross-check with other position coaches and then decide on the second time around who’s going to go to a certain school on the second visit. A lot of them we'll save for the jamborees or the spring game.

“We like to come off the road one day a week to talk about players and make sure we’re going strategically to the right schools and not doing more than we should, by rule.”

Recruiting is more demanding than ever, with Richt telling the crowd that “the wisdom of the NCAA now is we can text them 24 hours a day, so that’s fun.”

Richt told us afterward that: “I’m already real busy with [texting]. It’s just part of it. We were doing the direct messaging on Twitter, but the difference was, the kids didn’t have to receive it. They don’t have to follow you. If they don’t follow you, they don’t have to worry about you. Now, they can’t block anybody from texting them because everybody knows their numbers or they get them pretty easily. It’s going to be tougher on them than on us.

"If I am in church, I will shut my phone off. There aren’t many times [I shut it off]. Like my wife’s graduation [from nursing school] the other night, my phone was off. But most of the time you’ve got to have it on, and quite frankly, if there’s a number I don’t recognize it, I’m usually answering it because it could be a recruit and I can’t call [the person] back, especially if they’re younger. If they’re 2017 class, you might be able to text them, [say] call me back. If they’re younger, if you don’t answer the phone, you can’t even text them to say, ‘Hey, I missed your call. Call me back.’ A lot of those younger kids, you pick up the phone.”

• As we reported last week, UM athletic director Blake James confirmed he is exploring a contingency plan should the stadium formerly known as Sun Life not be ready for the Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M. Marlins Park and FIU are the local stadiums available that weekend of Sept. 3.

"The Dolphins are fully committed to having the stadium done by the opening game," James said. "They have two preseason games before that. With that said, you recognize things happen with construction projects and there are things you can’t control. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to get a contingency plan in place. That’s something, if needed, we’ll have to roll out and put in place for our program and fans."

Is there a chance the stadium might not be ready? "You would have to ask them…. But my job is to take the necessary steps just in case it’s not ready. From [Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel's] perspective, the project is progressing the way it’s needed."

• James said UM and UF will each get 50 percent of the tickets for the 2019 football opener in Orlando.

• On raising money for an indoor football practice facility, James said: "We’re working on that. That’s something I’m confident we’ll make happen in the near future."

For our preview of the Heat-Raptors series, please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

Exploring the interesting subplots, matchups in Heat-Raptors series

The order, like most things in life, is a matter of a personal preference.

Kenny Smith calls Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic the NBA’s third-best backcourt. Charles Barkley has Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry third, behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollom.

Wherever you rank them, this much is clear: Wade/Dragic and DeRozan/Lowry warrant being part of any discussion of the league’s best half-dozen starting guard combos.

And whichever duo plays better over the next two weeks has a good chance to win this Heat-Raptors second-round playoff series that begins Tuesday night in Toronto.

All four guards enter this matchup off the emotional exhilaration of Game 7 wins. But DeRozan and Lowry aren’t playing at anything close to peak efficiency.

DeRozan averaged 17.9 points against Indiana in the first round but shot only 32 percent from the field, the lowest field-goal percentage in any round of the playoffs by a player averaging at least 15 points per game since Stephen Jackson in 2007, according to Elias. He scored 30 in Game 7 but shot 10 for 32; since 1957, no player who took at least 30 shots in a playoff game shot a worse percentage.

Lowry, meanwhile, shot under 40 percent from the field in all seven games against Indiana and finished the series at 32 percent, including 7-of-43 on threes, while averaging 13.9 points.

The Raptors thus became only the second team in NBA playoff history to win a series despite their top two scorers shooting below 33 percent.

Wade (19 points per game, 47 percent shooting) and Dragic (14.1, 42.4) had more efficient first-round series than their Toronto counterparts, with Wade carrying the Heat in the decisive minutes of Game 6, and Dragic shaking off a mid-series shooting slump to catapult the Heat to a win in Game 7.

“Goran Dragic is my hero,” Chris Bosh tweeted Monday.

The NBA is a relatively small circle, and Wade and Dragic are linked in different ways to their Toronto counterparts.

DeRozan told The Herald’s Ethan Skolnick at the All-Star Game that he “stole the pump fake” from Wade and still considers Wade his toughest cover.

“D-Wade is one of them guys I’ve had so much respect for,” DeRozan said. “Even when I was young, he always gave me a lot of advice, year after year of him seeing me grow as a player. That gave me a lot of confidence early on, to see someone you watched growing up give you insight on everything. … That’s my guy, him and Kobe [Bryant].”

DeRozan averaged more points against the Heat both this season (29.3, on 48.8 percent shooting, in four games) and during his career (21.0, in 24 games) than against any other Eastern Conference team.

Wade, meantime, played three games against Toronto, averaging 18.3 points and 44.9 percent shooting.

DeRozan “reminds me of me,” Wade said earlier this season.

And DeRozan isn’t the only Raptors perimeter player who grew up admiring Wade. Norman Powell, Toronto’s impressive rookie from UCLA, told Toronto media on Sunday night that Wade is “one of the guys that I looked up to, modeled my game after.”

Powell and the Heat’s Josh Richardson were perhaps the NBA’s most impressive second-round rookies this season.

There also is a link between Lowry and Dragic, who were teammates for more than a year in Houston. When Lowry missed 15 late-season games due to injury in March and April of 2012, Dragic seized on that, won Western Conference Player of the Week and parlayed that into a four-year, $30 million deal with Phoenix months later.

Both players shot poorly in the Heat-Raptors season series --- Lowry 33.9 percent while averaging 16.8 points in four games, Dragic 38.9 percent while averaging 11.0.

This series has plenty of other interesting matchups. Among them:

• The battle between 7-foot centers Hassan Whiteside and Jonas Valanciunas. Whiteside averaged 13.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.7 blocks in three games against Toronto. Valanciunas averaged 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in three games against Miami.

Whiteside defended Valanciunas pretty effectively --- one spectacular Whiteside block on a Valanciunas spin move made the rounds on social media. But Valanciunas snuck free for layups when Whiteside left him to defend DeRozan and Lowry on penetrations.

“One thing I think a lot of teams know is I’m good at getting to the basket,” DeRozan said after Toronto’s 112-104 win on March 12 in Air Canada Center, a game that Wade missed. “So, teams like Miami that have got shot blockers, they’re going to try to bring the shot blocker over. So, I just told our bigs: relocate. Try to find an open spot and I’m going to try to find you every time.”

• The Joe Johnson/DeMarre Carroll small forward matchup. Toronto gave Carroll a four-year, $60 million deal after his breakout season with Atlanta, but he was limited to 26 games, largely because of knee surgery, and hasn’t played especially well in the playoffs (8.6 points, 39.6 percent shooting).

Johnson has been somewhat better than Carroll so far this postseason (10.7 points, 45.9 percent shooting) but hasn’t had a breakout game. He scored 28 in that Heat overtime loss in Toronto.

• The battle of the stretch fours. Luol Deng and Patrick Patterson are ideally suited for the contemporary NBA game, which values power forwards with range.

Deng’s 20 three-pointers (on 51.3 percent shooting) easily leads all power forwards in the playoffs, and Patterson’s 10 (on 41.7 percent shooting) ranks third, narrowly behind Serge Ibaka.

The Heat won the first game between the teams this season (96-76 on Nov. 8), but Toronto won the next three. Though Toronto won three of four in the season series, Wade missed one game and Joe Johnson was with the Heat for only one game.

“Every game we played Toronto, except one where we had some guys out, we were able to play them down to the wire,” Deng said.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

May 01, 2016

11 p.m. update: Updated Heat-Raptors schedule; Lots and lots of postscripts, reaction from Heat's Game 7 romp; Here's how Heat second round schedule looks

Lots of reaction and notes from the Heat's 106-73 romp over Charlotte in Game 7 today:

DWYANE WADE'S THOUGHTS

• Wade denied he was crying during the national anthem, though ABC insisted otherwise after showing video of him.

"I wasn't crying," he said. "I was focused in and sweating, I am sure."

Wade said: "I am not a Prophet or anything, but I knew we were winning this game. I think for me as a leader, I am really just proud of my guys. It is an amazing feeling when you are fighting versus a team who is just as equal as you are and are able to pull it out in a game seven. That shows a lot about you."

Wade, talking big picture: "It feels good. Not making the playoffs last season, I have been here for 13 years and I have been to the playoffs for 11 years. That is what we are used to and I am used to. It was weird to say the least last year. I think for this team, it helped us in a lot of ways and individually it helped me get some rest.

"Every time we had it look like the door is about to close, we somehow, some way open that door and push through it and continue to push forward. This is a great moment for this team.

"I think with Goran [Dragic], we love when he's aggressive. No one is harder on Goran than Goran. He wants to be so great all the time and I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself. I thought Goran did the right thing by coming out this game and putting some pressure on [Kemba] Walker and making it hard on him on the defensive end. Today it was Goran's moment and we loved it. We don't have a lot of selfish guys and it really is about enjoying each other's success and we have been able to do that."

GORAN DRAGIC'S THOUGHTS

• Dragic, after his terrific 25-point game today: "[The paint] was just open. I felt the paint was more open, so I could attack. It was a little easier that the games before....

"I will be honest. It was pressure before the game. We felt like we had the momentum, especially after the win in their place. I felt like they didn't have their legs and were not aggressive enough. We played amazing defensively and offensively. Our 58 rebounds [to Charlotte's 36] helped a lot.'

On guarding Kemba Walker: "It was a tough series. I need to give credit to Charlotte and Kemba. He is such an amazing player. It is tough to stay in front of him. Our team defense did an amazing job."

On his struggles earlier in this series: "Sometimes you're going to be in a tough situation, or in my situation, you are going to get a couple quick fouls. I didn't get a lot of rhythm in the first four games. You just need to stay positive and when that moment comes, you need to be ready to help your team."

ERIK SPOELSTRA'S THOUGHTS

• Spoelstra: "They made us better. Our basketball team needed to go through that [being down 3-2] and be pushed and find a different level which we showed in the past two games. That's when you truly grow when you face adversity together. We've been through a lot this year. But we're still standing. This series was so bizarre [at times]. We started to play a little more like Charlotte and they started to play a little more like us."

On Dragic: "What I love about Goran is he continues to focus on doing his job. Kemba Walker is one of the very best in this league. It's a travesty he's not an All-Star. In a 7-game series, so many things can happen. Sometimes, one guy will get the best of the competition and you have to be mentally stable enough... Goran was not discouraged. He wanted to produce for the guys. One of it was getting through foul trouble early in the series. Competing on the ball would wear on him. And then he found opportunities to really be aggressive. He had the most energy today. Goran had to be a big factor for us tonight."

On Hassan Whiteside: "Hassan got better and we got better from this as well. There aren't that many back-to-the-basket guys, a guy who has an array of moves and experience [like Al Jefferson]. You just don't face that every night, like you did 15 years ago. It was so important for him to be protecting the rim for us. They're going to be running 40, 50 pick and rolls. And then [having to defend Jefferson on top of that]. It was a big challenge for him. And he got better as the series went on. A lot of it was being beat and learning from it. I was proud of him." 

HASSAN WHITESIDE'S THOUGHTS

• Whiteside (10 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks): "We really played Miami Heat defense, got a lot of stops. I just tried to block everything. I woke up this morning and I told my cousin, 'Today, I'm going to try to block everything."

At times, Charlotte players didn't challenge him. "I got a couple early blocks, [was actually credited with one in the first half]," he said. "I think I kind of set the tone: Not today. They know I block a lot of shots. All I need is for them to think about me."

"Just trying to keep [Walker and Jeremy Lin] out of the paint as much as as possible. Al Jefferson, keeping him away from the right hand. I think we surprised him finally with the double-team on one possession."

Whiteside, on Dragic: "Goran was attacking Kemba, attacking their bigs. I told Goran to keep attacking. They were so focused on not stepping up, stopping the ball, so I wouldn't get the ball. He had a lot of wide open layups.

"When Goran was going downhill, I said, 'Hey man, I'm going to screen everybody for you and make sure you and D-Wade stay in the paint.'... With Kemba, we really made him play defense more. He made it a tough series for us. We attacked him so he had to play defense. They don't have any shot-blockers, so we were at the rim."

On what the Heat overcame with adversity in this series: "We needed it. This gave us a better focus. Don't get down on ourselves. After we lost Game 5, guys were down. And I said, 'We're going to steal one in Charlotte.'

On his growth in this series, facing a lot of swarming defenders: "It was good. They have a great coach in Cliff. They made it tough. They screened me all night. It was a little different with Al. He's one of the top post-up centers in the league. It was a real challenge."

Was it frustrating not to get a lot of shots in this series? "This team is probably one of the top two teams in taking away the center's role. This is a team that's going to make it very tough on the center's position to score, the way they pack the paint."

On tonight's Toronto-Indy Game 7: "I want homecourt, so go Indy."

TYLER JOHNSON, JOE JOHNSON AND GERALD GREEN WEIGH IN

• Tyler Johnson, who played for the first time since Jan. 26 and scored five points in six late minutes, said his surgically-repaired shoulder "felt normal.  As my wind starts to pick up again, I won't even think about it. I was able to settle in after the first shot."

He said Josh Richardson "earned" the chance to keep his rotation spot, even with Johnson back. "He became a big-time player and contributor for the team. I understand I'm not going to be able to jump right back in where I was before I got hurt. But as we move on and as we see what's needed, I'll be ready."

• Gerald Green, who had a trying season but scored 16 today: "I'm not going to lie. I never want to not play. It's tough. But I see the bigger picture. I see we're a great team with the addition of Joe Johnson and if I keep working, there might be a game like this where I can help push my team over the edge.... I have a different role with this team than I did my previous years. I had to accept that.

"My teammates trust me a lot. Sometimes they trust me so much, I don't even have trust in myself like that. I will always be ready. Whatever minutes coach gives me, I have to make sure I'm productive."

• Did this reinforce Joe Johnson's decision to sign here? "Definitely. Was planning to come to a team capable of winning it, and coming to a winning franchise. I am glad we are moving on to the second round, but we still have a lot of work left to do."

TRESPASSING INCIDENT

• The Heat said an unidentified boy was charged with trespassing and ejected from the game after running on the court during a stoppage in the fourth quarter. The youngster hugged Justise Winslow's leg.

"I was surprised," Winslow said. "He gave me a little hug, a little tap on the shoulder. It don't know where he went. It was cool."

STEVE CLIFFORD'S THOUGHTS

• Hornets coach Steve Clifford: "Goran changed the whole thing today. He got going early and we really bogged down on offense. Obviously a bad start because of the rebounding game. Playing from behind on the road. They went 10-2 to finish the half. I thought at halftime, with our team, I thought we were fine. And then things got away from us. We obviously didn't play anywhere near where we would have liked to. The 50/50 balls, which have been a problem all year, crushed us.

"We had a great year, for our team. The NBA is about winning in the playoffs. We can take this and learn from it. I am proud of our guys. I thought they played a good series [before] today. Any level, you're going to be viewed by how you do in the playoffs. That's more than fair. We had a terrific regular season. This would have been a huge win for our franchise. I'm still proud of our guys. This wasn't like 4-0."

On Walker, who went 3 for 16: "He got some good pullups particularly in the third. I don't think their coverages were a lot different." Miami sagged off Frank Kaminsky and sent a second defender at Walker at times, but Clifford said the Heat had been doing that in previous games.

On Whiteside: "He had 10 blocks [in a game against us earlier this year]. We limited him to five tonight. Only make him an all-time great. His instincts, his utilization, they are funneling everything to him, so he's close to the basket. He's big, strong, quick and can jump and can cover distance. There's not many guys that can do what he does in this league."

THIS AND THAT

• This was the fourth time in franchise history in which the Heat won a series after trailing 3-2.

• Today was the 122nd postseason Game 7 in NBA history and the home team has won 98 times (80.3 percent).

• It was just the 34th time in 187 chances that a team losing Game 5 of a tied series won the sixth and seventh times. That's 18.2 percent.

• The Heat held the Hornets to 32.1 percent shooting, the third game in which Miami held Charlotte under 40 percent.

• The Heat set a postseason record with a 22-rebound advantage today. Miami's 58 total rebounds were also a franchise playoff record. 

• The Heat's 50 blocks in this series were a franchise record. Whiteside had 24 of them, which broke Alonzo Mourning's Heat record for blocks in a playoff series (21, against Detroit in 2005 Eastern Finals).

• Wade moved past Wilt Chamberlain into 17th on the NBA's all-time postseason scoring list, with 3614. Elgin Baylor is 16th, nine points ahead of Wade. 

• Heat second-round tickets go on sale at 2 p.m. Monday at heat.com and ticketmaster.com. There's an eight-ticket limit per person.

• ESPN reported the Heat complained “to the highest levels of the league office” after Game 4 after what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating with Hornets guard Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin.

Clifford doesn’t buy the Heat’s argument. “I don’t think any of the officiating in any of the games has been a big factor,” Clifford said. “If you want to go through the reports where they categorize missed calls, the Heat don’t have anything to complain about, nor do we.”

On the day after games, the NBA releases a report on officiating calls and non-calls during the final two minutes and “in terms of who has gotten the benefit of more missed calls according to the NBA, then they’ve gotten more than we have,” Clifford said. “I don’t think the officials have been a factor but they [the Heat] don’t have anything to complain about.”

HEAT SCHEDULE

Game 1 – Tue  May 3   Miami at Toronto                   8:00PM     8:00PM      TNT

Game 2 – Thu  May 5   Miami at Toronto                   8:00PM     8:00PM      ESPN

Game 3 – Sat  May 7   Toronto at Miami                   5:00PM     5:00PM      ESPN

Game 4 – Mon  May 9   Toronto at Miami                   8:00PM     8:00PM      TNT

Game 5 * Wed  May 11  Miami at Toronto                   TBD        TBD        TNT

Game 6 * Fri  May 13  Toronto at Miami                   TBD        TBD        ESPN

Game 7 * Sun  May 15  Miami at Toronto                   TBD        TBD        TBD

 

April 30, 2016

Some familiar names among undrafted players reportedly set to sign with Dolphins; Tidbits and analyst reaction on every Dolphins pick today; Update on Josh Richardson's status and Heat nuggets; More feedback on Dolphins' picks

9 p.m. update: Here's a running list of undrafted players reportedly joining the Dolphins, some reported elsewhere by reporters in their college home towns:

1) UM WR Rashawn Scott (can confirm this). 52 catches, 695 yards, 5 TDs last season.

2) Boise State LB Tyler Gray. 51 tackles, 3 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, one blocked punt last season.

3) Iowa kicker Marshall Koehn. 47 for 53 on extra points last season (after going 38 for 38 the year before) and 16 for 20 on field goals last season.

4) Florida Tech tight end Gabe Hughes. 32 catches, 566 yards, 3 TDs last season.

5) FAMU LB Akil Blount. 75 tackles, two INTs (both returned for TDs) last season. Son of Hall of Famer Mel Blount.

6) Kentucky DE Farrington Huguenin. 52 tackles, 1.5 sacks last season.

7) Temple WR Brandon Shippen. 20 catches for 288 yards and 1 TD last season. He's 5-11.

8) San Jose State long snapper Ryan DiSalvo.

9) Louisville MLB and former Homestead High standout James Burgess, according to Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier Journal. Burgess had 90 tackles, 9 TFL, one INT, 4 passes defensed last season. Has 260 tackles in his career, plus four sacks, three fumble recoveries and seven picks. Had 43 career starts and was third team All-ACC last season.

Burgess, 6 feet and 236 pounds, told the Courier-Journal that he was shocked not to be invited to the Combine. His height likely contributed heavily to him being undrafted. But he has good mobility was highly productive in college. He will be reunited with former college teammate DeVante Parker.

10) Toledo center Ruben Carter.

11) Pittsburgh cornerback Lafayette Pitts. A four-year starter who had 30 tackles, 1 sack and one INT last season. He had four career picks and 25 passes defended. His agent told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that 16 teams called and he had four offers.

 

DOLPHINS DRAFT REPORT

The Dolphins dumped cornerback Jamar Taylor today, basically giving him away to Cleveland and exchanging seventh round picks as compensation, with Miami moving from 250 to 223 in the seventh round.

The Dolphins don't use their 30 permitted non-local player predraft visits as subterfuge. They ended up drafting 25 percent of the players that I reported on my recent 20 member pre-draft Dolphins visit list, in addition to Davie native Brandon Doughty, who worked out for them on their local day. 

Updating the Dolphins' picks today, with what analysts are saying:

• The Dolphins took UCLA tight end/receiver Thomas Duarte with their final pick in the seventh round. He's a player they brought to Davie. He didn't play as a traditional tight end last year, sometimes lining up in the slot or outside. He had 53 catches for 872 yards and 10 TDs in 2015.

A 6-3 receiver at UCLA, he has 17 career receiving TDs.

ESPN's Todd McShay: "You watch the one game against Su'a Cravens, who was drafted in the second round, and he won the battle. This is an intriuging player. A hybrid receiver/tight end who improved every year at UCLA. This past past, averaged almost 17 yards per catch. Missed two games with a hamstring earlier in his career but has been durable otherwise. His measurables are almost identical to Jordan Reed coming out of Florida in 2013. This guy has a chance to be a really good contributor. I'm surprised he's still on the board."

Mel Kiper: "Love his body control, how he adjusts to poorly thrown ball. Miami has made a concerted effort to help Ryan Tannehill. Five offensive players brought in."

CBS' Rob Rang: "Duarte elected to leave after a junior season in which he led the Bruins with 10 receiving touchdowns and earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors. His size and catch radius make him an imposing threat down the seam and one who could continue to be effective in the red zone at the NFL level.

He's a bit of a one-trick pony, winning on crossing routes and down the seam because of his size, and may need to impress in workouts to counter suspicious that his numbers were inflated by Rosen and former UCLA offensive coordinator (now at Texas A&M) Noel Mazzone's scheme.

"Imposing frame with broad shoulders, long arms and big hands. Presents obvious matchup problems due to his size and large catch radius. Alters his gait off the ball, showing some savvy as a route-runner with subtle fakes and shoulder-dips. Accelerates smoothly for a receiver of his size, showing enough speed to surprise as a vertical threat down the seam. Generally reliable hands, extending and pulling in passes outside of his frame consistently.

"[But] Heavy-footed and possesses only average straight-line speed for the receiver position. Isn't as tough to tackle in the open field as his frame would suggest with smaller defenders too often able to tackle him on their own.

Lacks the quickness and agility to make defenders miss and to consistently generate yards after the catch on his own. Will drop an occasional pass due to lapses in concentration, especially when he senses a big hit coming."

• Miami chose Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty with the 223rd pick, and he will compete with Matt Moore (the front-runner for the backup job), Logan Thomas and Zac Dysert for a backup job or two behind Ryan Tannehill. Adam Gase has been non-committal about whether he will keep two QBs or three.

A three-year starter in Western Kentucky's spread offense, Doughty left school with 111 touchdown passes (15th all-time in FBS) and was 10th all-time with a 68.6 completion percentage.

Doughty was the third quarterback in FBS history with 4,000 passing yards and 40 TD passes in consecutive seasons.

He threw 49 touchdowns and 10 picks in 2014 and 48 and 9 in 2015.

Kiper: "You look at the limitations. He doesn't have the big arm. First half against LSU, he struggled. I like the second half he played a lot better. Throws an accurate ball. Does he have enough arm strength to throw into tight windows? As a backup, third quarterback, maybe has a chance to stick with an NFL roster.

McShay: "Most attempts of any FBS attempts past two seasons. Played in pass happy offense. Ball comes out of hands smoothly. Throws a crisp ball. Interesting developmental prospect."

CBS' Dane Brugler, on Doughty: "A three-year starter in Western Kentucky's spread offense, Doughty was an ideal fit for the up-tempo scheme that relied on a quick release and smart decisions, making most of his reads pre-snap and identifying soft spots in coverage. He has improved functional pocket mobility and carries himself like a coach.

"Doughty has an adequate arm, but relies on touch and timing over velocity and struggled to speed up his process vs. better competition on his schedule. He got away with some bad habits at the college level that he won't be able to in the NFL and although he's very impressive when in rhythm, it's the opposite when that rhythm is taken away.

"Benefited from a wide open offense with a lot of throws within seven yards of the line of scrimmage and plays after the catch. Ball security has room for improvement (13 career fumbles). Older prospect and will be a 25-year-old NFL rookie. ... He projects as a mid-to-late round prospect with the NFL ceiling of a backup, drawing some on-field comparisons to A.J. McCarron."

• Miami took Penn State safety/cornerback Jordan Lucas at No. 204 and the Dolphins want him to play corner. He said he played corner for three years in college and safety for one.

He had three picks in 2013, none the past two seasons. But he had four career sacks and 11 tackles for loss and 23 passes defended, plus three forced fumbles, in 34 career games.

He played in only nine games last season because of a right shoulder injury that prematurely ended his college career and kept him out of the Senior Bowl.

With that in mind, it's notable his passes defended dropped each of the pass three years, from 13 to 9 to 3.

Todd McShay: "He is versatile, played all over, started his career at corner, switched to safety. At Pro Day, ran 4.45, 38 inch vertical. A lot of versatility here."

Mel Kiper: "He was a solid player. When you run under 4.5 like he did, vertical is 40 inches, that means you're not just a very good college player, but you can translate that to the NFL."

Here's what CBS' Dan Brugler said about him: "Understands field leverage in run support, taking proper angles. Explodes through his hips as a tackler, putting his hat on the ball. Eager blitzer and does a nice job in space to get his target on the ground. Can open his hips and turn to run with receivers in the slot.  Position versatility with starting experience at both cornerback and safety (34 career starts)."

From a weakness standpoint, "Average at-best athletically with rigid change of direction and transition skills. Adequate frame, but lack of length limits his defense radius. Eyes pay rent in the backfield and his pass coverage can't afford the bills. Impatient feet lead to false steps, misreading the route and losing spacing with his man. Too easily controlled once blocked, struggling to break free. Lacks the secondary quickness to work off blocks or make up once receivers gain a step. Marginal ball-skills and struggled to finish interceptions."

And overall, Brugler said: "Lucas is a competitive run defender with a nose for the ball, understanding football geometry to track and find the quickest route from A-to-B. Although his background at corner is appealing, Lucas lacks the twitchy athleticism and ball-hawking instincts to consistently hold up on an island vs. NFL receivers, which will limit his versatility as a pro. He has the mentality and appetite for football that will serve him well on special teams, but projects as bottom of the roster defensive back."

• Miami traded up in the sixth round today for Texas Tech receiver/return Jakeem Grant, who we mentioned a couple weeks ago was one of only a few receivers the Dolphins brought to team headquarters before the draft (Dolphins third-rounder Leonte Carroo was another).

Grant is just 5-7 but put up terrific numbers last season: 90 catches for 1268 yards and 10 TDs and for his career (254-3286, 27 TDs). But he also dropped nine passes among 124 targets.

He averaged 26.1 yards on 39 kickoff returns last season and 24.9 in his career. He says he can return punts but didn't do that at Texas Tech. 

Adam Gase said Jarvis Landry would handle return duties until Miami found someone capable of replacing him to lessen Landry's workload. The Dolphins now have two very good options in Kenyan Drake and Grant.

Miami traded the 196th and 227th picks to Minnesota to get the 186th pick (Grant).

Todd McShay's assessment: "A quick guy, a guy who I think if you put the ball in his hands, he can create. Over the course of his career, productive run after catch ability is really good. Short area, first couple steps after the catch, he's really good. In the return game is where he was outstanding. Undersized slot, like a lot of Texas Tech receivers. Quick off the line. Really good vision in the open field. Will never be your outside receiver or really good in the red zone. But there's a place for him in the league, especially if he can prove to be reliable as a returner. Has ability to make guys miss, and Miami needs more of those guys as a receiver in the return game." 

NFL.com's Gil Brandt (the former Cowboys executive): "He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 and 4.38 seconds. He had a 36 1/2-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot-9 broad jump. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.06 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.01 seconds. He also performed 15 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. With that speed and quickness, Grant could get a look as a return specialist in the NFL.

Grant will compete with Griff Whalen, Matt Hazel and anybody else added for the No. 5 receiver job.

Check back for more.

MORE DOLPHINS CHATTER 

The Dolphins’ first three draft picks conveniently addressed their biggest needs: Laremy Tunsil (the Dolphins told Branden Albert that Albert will play left tackle, Tunsil left guard), cornerback Xavien Howard and running back Kenyan Drake.

“You’ve got to like what the Dolphins are doing,” NFL Net’s Mike Mayock said.

Analysis of their Friday/Saturday picks:

• The good news on Howard: He allowed receptions on just 37.3 percent of his 75 targets, third-best among draft-eligible corners, and had nine combined interceptions in 2014 and ’15.

“When he gets it right, he looks like Richard Sherman,” Pro Football Focus said. 

The bad news: “He was beaten on multiple plays that weren’t completed for whatever reason, beaten a lot deep but not punished for it with completions,” PFF said. “Most of these plays are when he allows the receiver a free release off the line and then finds himself chasing the play. He lacks awareness at times, whether he is late to look for the football or just loses track of it entirely.”

Mike Mayock said: “His tape is highly conflicting. It's either really good or really bad. If you look at his bowl game against North Carolina, he can't find the football."

• Drake: Mel Kiper and Todd McShay agree that he is a situational back, which is good news for Jay Ajayi, who would like to start.

Drake averaged 6.3 yards per carry at Alabama in his career, 12.4 per catch and 26.6 per kickoff return. He lined up as a receiver on 25 percent of his snaps last season, PFF said.

McShay, on Drake: "He's the modern day crazy legs. You watch him on tape: His feet are always going. I thought he was the No. 1 guy in this entire draft at the running back position in agility and acceleration. He is explosive. He's a home run hitter. He struggled to stay healthy in his career. But if you can manufacture touches for him, he's going to provide you with some big plays as a running back and in the return game. Home run hitting ability as a receiver as well working in the slot. Had that 95 yard touchdown in the national championship game against Clemson. I like where he comes off the board, the perfect spot for him.... he's not going to be your full time guy."

Kiper on Drake: "What he is is a poor man's Reggie Bush. That's what he was considered to be. The return ability,the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, the home run play. If he can just stay healthy. Gives Ryan Tannehill a key weapon provided he can stay healthy."

PFF's assessment: "Drake is a finesse-style runner who has more straight-line speed than quick-cutting ability. Still, his 44 missed tackles forced on 142 offensive touches last year prove he can be elusive. He will be an asset as a returner and may make his mark more as a receiving threat out of the backfield than as a runner, as he won’t be an every-down back. He is a fast player who is capable of making big plays and should be given a few offensive touches per game. He’s certainly worth a Day-3 draft pick."

• Receiver Leonte Carroo. With a 19.5 career average and 29 touchdown receptions, he projects in Miami’s top four with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. He had only two drops on 56 targets last season and his 7.2 yards after catch average in 2014 and ’15 was very good.

“He's built almost like a running back,” McShay said. “Does a good job getting off the press. Good overall ball skills. Highly productive at Rutgers. Ran a 4.5 solid time, not a great time. I like him in traffic. Really thrives in traffic when the ball is in the air, contested catches. He can generate big plays after the catch. Really good in the open field.”

Said Mayock: “When he gets the ball in his hands, he's angry. He's got a little edge to him that I like.”  

HEAT CHATTER AND A MARLINS NOTE

• An MRI on Josh Richardson's injured left shoulder came back negative, according to a source, and he has told reporters he intends to play in Game 7, though he's listed as questionable. Richardson had a stress reaction in his left shoulder as a result of trying to fight through a Cody Zeller screen in Game 6.

Richardson told reporters after Game 6, including our Manny Navarro, that he intends to play Sunday and still felt that way today, according to a source. But a friend indicated he was still in a bit of discomfort today. It will be up to Richardson about whether he believes he can play through the discomfort. And he clearly wants to play.

Also, there's also a very small chance of tearing the labrum if he plays, but again, it's a small chance. The MRI showed no tear or dislocation. The Heat might put him through drills Sunday morning to see how the shoulder reacts, including his mobility.

"You have to be responsible to the athlete," Erik Spoelstra said before the MRI result was known. "If you leave it up to Josh, he said there's no question he's playing. And that may be the case. But the responsible thing to him and to us is to get it checked out, see what it is and take the next course of action."

If Richardson is limited or has difficulty playing, Spoelstra could use Dwyane Wade or Gerald Green as the ball-handler when Goran Dragic is resting. Is Spoelstra comfortable using Tyler Johnson, who hasn't played in three months?

"Yeah, if that's necessary," Spoelstra said. "Tyler has done a lot of work in the last three weeks. He's going to get another workout tonight. He keeps on kidding me since I mentioned he would be available in an emergency basis. Virtually every time I bump into him, he said he's seen a lot of emergencies out there. If that's what's necessary, we'll use him. If it means somebody else has to play 40 plus minutes, we'll go that way as well."

• How unusual were Dwyane Wade’s late-game threes? Not only was his 0 for 21 three-point drought the longest of his career, but he was 0 for 8 on clutch threes during the season (NBA defines clutch as the final five minutes with a margin of five points or less). Only Shabazz Muhammad (0 for 9) was worse.

But on all shots, Wade has made five of the Heat’s seven clutch baskets in this series, after shooting a strong 45.5 percent in the clutch this season (third among starting shooting guards, behind only Avery Bradley and Bradley Beal). Forward LeBron James shot 42.4 percent, by comparison.

Who else do you want shooting for the Heat if Game 7 is decided in the final moments?

Luol Deng, who was second in the league in clutch threes this season (11 for 18, 61.1 percent). And Hassan Whiteside shot an NBA-best 76 percent in the clutch (19-25, minimum 20 shots), though Miami is at risk if he’s fouled. (He was 13 for 22 on clutch free throws).

Joe Johnson warrants a late-game shot but he's 7 for 21 in the clutch since joining the Heat (without a playoff attempt), and Goran Dragic 2 for 10 in the clutch since the All-Star break, including 0 for 2 in this series.

• You know how many “clutch” minutes Udonis Haslem played all season before being on the court for the final 2:54 Friday? Four! Players he’s guarding have shot five for seven against him in this series, but he impacts the game by rebounding, setting hard screens and taking charges.

"It became pretty clear last night, the game became medieval," Spoelstra said. "Those are the moments I turn to UD and Dwyane. We've been in over a hundred of these playoff games and when games are like that and it becomes about the trenches, the effort plays, the toughness plays, the charges, the in-traffic rebounds, I have no more trust in anybody than UD."

Ask Johnson who he has gained the most appreciation for since joining the Heat and he quickly names Haslem.

“Just the positive energy he brings,” Johnson said. “He's always prepared, always talking and staying in peoples' ear and in our ear on what he sees on the court. That's leadership. Those are the things you take for granted.

“I had the luxury to play with Kevin Garnett. He's the same way. He was probably only going to play 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes.

"He may not score a basket, but his energy was always a constant. I put Udonis in that same frame as far as telling his teammates and helping us out in any situation possible.”

• Adam Conley is now an historical footnote: the first pitcher in history to be removed from a start with a lead after pitching at least 7 2/3 hitless innings.

“No, it was easy right there,” Don Mattingly said of the decision to pull Conley with the Marlins ahead, 5-0. “I knew he couldn’t finish. We weren’t going to let him finish. That was really easy, actually.

“If he had an easy inning there, an eight- or nine-pitch inning, we probably would think about it. But when he gets to that point, you know he’s not going to be able to finish the game. This kid has a chance to be really special so there’s no way, at this point in the season that we’re going to let him go to 130 [pitches].”

Conley's reaction: “There’s a big part of me that did [have a problem with the decision]. I don’t ever like coming out of a game, no matter what the circumstances are. But considering where I was at in the game, I knew what was going on. I knew coming into the eighth I was at about 100, so I was really, really happy he let me go out for the eighth.”
 
More importantly to the Marlins, he is their first high-strikeout lefty starter in a decade, since Scott Olsen (and to a lesser extent, Dontrelle Willis) in 2006. Conley’s 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings ranks 10th among all lefty starters this season.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 29, 2016

Lots of Heat reaction after Game 6; What analysts say about new Dolphins Howard, Drake, Carroo; Dolphins privately reveal offensive line plans; Dolphins' Day 2 draft options; Mark Walton update

Heat reaction from tonight's Heat season-saving 97-90 win in Charlotte, forcing a Game 7 at 1 p.m. Sunday in Miami, on ABC:

• Dwyane Wade, after his masterpiece tonight, including two late threes, another difficult jumper and a blocked shot: "I haven't looked at Twitter. My wife said anything on Twitter? You've got two teams who are very equal. It takes special performances, big shots.... Coming down the stretch, offensively I had it going in the first but in the second half, my offense just left me, my stroke left me. Last couple minutes of the game, I don't even think about that. Coach put the ball in my hands, ran certain sets. There came a point I had to make shots. Thank God I got something to go in.

"They gave me [the threes]. This is a good defensive team [Charlotte]. You are not going to always get what you want. They gave me the first one, think it was four seconds on the shot clock, so I was able to line up and get it to go. Once I saw one fall, anybody who's a scorer knows the basket gets a little bigger. Once that first three went in, my confidence rose. I had to make some tough shots. Courtney, Kemba were on me. Tonight in Game 6, I trust my teammates, I love them. [But] if we were going to lose, I was going to go out shooting tonight... I've been itching to get a couple [threes] up."

Wade said he stayed and shot threes (with Dorell Wright) after practice yesterday. "I had confidence to shoot them tonight. Everything happens for a reason, I guess." 

Wade said: "You have to love what Game 7 is. At this point in my career, I play for these moments.... The playoffs is what makes you feel alive, whether it's winning or losing, in between. It makes you feel alive. Game 7 is the best feeling to be a part of. It's going to be tough one. Either one of these games could have gone either way. I'm glad we got it on our home floor. I hope our crowd is ready to give us the extra boost and extra energy. But we have to go out there and players win the game. They're not going to give us anything."

Wade and buddy Udonis Haslem spoke today: "We've been a part of making this organization a championship organization. We've been to five Finals in 10 years. We know how hard it was to do that. We were trying to get the guys who haven't been here to understand how hard it is to be successful.... Just looking at UD, sitting talking about we don't have many more of these opportunities. We're not 22, 23 no more where we can just say we got next year. We have to seize these moments. I love that he got an opportunity to get in there tonight. He's going to fight, do the right things. Took a charge, got big rebounds, set great screens. That's what we've been doing for 13 years. We knew we had to verbally lead but with our play [also]."

• Erik Spoelstra: "These last three games have been like this. A very competitive series. We had our response tonight. They had their response the other night. Now the two best words in the English language: Game 7."

On Wade tonight: "It's the experience of competition, he understands. Seven game series are hard. Dwyane feels most alive when the competition is at its highest. He was brilliant at both ends. And obviously, that block at the end saved that possession."

On Wade's two key late threes: "I have seen Dwyane enough over the years that it just becomes winning plays, whatever those may be. It brights the best out of it. He works on it all the time. He just never shoots it. But when it's needed most."

"I thought both our points guards did a great job on Walker. He made big time plays. It was splitting our pick-and-roll defense. Against very good competition, you have to find ways to overcome. He was very good tonight."

On Udonis Haslem: "I thought his pick and roll defense was good. Kemba Walker may it look otherwise. He's played against everybody. He's an excellent team defender. He's also savvy and doesn't get sick at sea when you're trying to run offense."

And Spoelstra on Charlotte: "They have six months of incredible habits. They don't turn it over. Finishing possessions off."

• Luol Deng, to Sun Sports' Jason Jackson: "We play hard, we love each and we didn't want our season to end. We have one more game to take care of business. I've seen him do that for many years. He carried us at the end. I was locked in, didn't matter whether it was jump shots or hustling back. I didn't care. I didn't want my season to end."

• Udonis Haslem, who played late after Whiteside fouled out, to Jason Jackson: "I trust every decision he makes and every shot that he takes. I said [to teammates] if we lose, we're coming out on stretchers and wheelchairs."

• Hassan Whiteside, to Jackson: "When we get out there blocking shots, we're a different defensive team. I told the guys, 'They're making me play post defense every single play.' So I said, 'Let's [go at them]. I got two jump hooks down there and it kind of changed things. D-Wade has been doing that since I was in high school. Just glad I could witness it."

• Steve Clifford: "Dwyane Wade showed why he is one of the great competitors and winners in our league in a long time. Listen, hats off to them. They played better than we did. The rebounding game was a big problem. Listen, we've won 2 of the last 4 times we've gone there.

"They've got guys that go hard to the glass. We have to start hitting again. We've got to hit. Let's face it now, in the first half, we didn't play with nearly the purpose, defensive [intensity] we did for most of the year. They took full advantage."

Check back for more shortly.

DOLPHINS PICK CARROO

The Dolphins traded into the late stages of the third round (8th) to take Rutgers' Leonte Carroo, who we mentioned previously was one of a very select group of receivers who were brought to team headquarters recently. The Dolphins gave up a sixth-rounder this year and a third and fourth next year.

In just eight games last season, he posted insane numbers: 55 catches for 1086 yards and 10 touchdowns and a 19.7 average per reception.

He has 122 career catches, 29 TDs and an impressive 19.5 yards per catch average. "I catch the ball well, very physical. I am a much faster Anquan Bolden."

What analysts say about him:

CBS' Dane Brugler and Rob Rang: Strengths: "Solidly built with firm muscle definition for his frame. Displays terrific athleticism and body control to be a threat all over the field, changing gears well with vision to weave through defenses.

"Detailed route-runner who understands how to fool defensive backs in his routes, using timing to bait and get the hips of defenders turned in his breaks. He also proven an impact player on special teams coverage.

Weaknesses: "Only ordinary height and length. Arrested and charged Sept. 12 with simple assault under domestic violence and suspended two games by the program.

"Carroo isn't a workout warrior, but his film speaks volumes and is the reason he's a top-five senior wide receiver prospect for the 2016 class. At Senior Bowl practices, Carroo showed off an exciting blend of initial quickness, agility and acceleration to sneak behind the defense, as well as strong hands and the vision to track passes over his shoulder."

NFL Net's Mike Mayock: "He's got 4.5 speed. I think he's a really competitive kid too. And when he gets the ball in his hands, he's angry. He's got a little edge to him that I like. If you look at Miami, they will Tunsil in the first round, Howard, a long corner in the second, then they get two playmakers in the third: Kenyan Drake from Alabama and this kid right here. You've got to like what the Dolphins are doing."

 

DOLPHINS PICK DRAKE

10 p.m. update: The Dolphins took running back Keynan Drake, a player we've mentioned that Miami liked and brought to team headquarters recently. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry at Alabama in his career, 12.4 per catch and 26.6 per kickoff return.

"Intriguing," Mike Mayock said. "You look at him, and he's got value as a third-down, change of pace back. He's got value in the kick return game. Even has value in the coverage game as a gunner. So if I'm a GM, which I'm obviously not, and I'm not qualified, but I'm more intrigued with Drake than I am with Derrick Henry, because he can do more jobs."

Jamie Newberg's assessment on CBSSports.com: "This running back can bring a lot of versatility to an offense because of all the things he can do. First, Drake has good size and excellent speed. This is a quick athlete who can beat you up the middle, around the perimeter or in the passing game.

"Drake is one of the SEC's most explosive players. He has good vision and terrific feet. Runs with patience, allowing things to set up in front of him before he makes his move. He can see things evolve during the play and react quickly. Drake can accelerate to top speed quickly. He loves to find space and bounce things to the outside. Runs with good balance and decent power. What's impressive is that he consistently made explosive plays against some of the nation's best and fastest defenses.

"Drake has also shown the ability to really turn into a receiver out of the backfield. There are no linebackers that can stay with him and he's bigger than many safeties. He's a rare threat because he can get behind a secondary or take a short pass the distance.

"Drake has battled some injuries (broken leg and arm) during his time in Tuscaloosa. He has worked hard to get back on the field, but scouts will question whether he's injury prone and can take the pounding of the NFL.

"While Drake has good size, you would like to see him run with some more strength and power, especially in the tackle box. He has to show more durability and the ability to protect his quarterback with more consistency in pass pro and blitz pickup.

"Drake has a chance to be a very good pro, especially if he ends up with a franchise with a creative offensive coordinator. There are so many ways you can utilize his abilities in both the run and pass game. He may not be an every-down back in the NFL, but Drake is a guy who can target with 10-15 touches each Sunday.

"He's too explosive not to impact an offense and a guy that can break off big chunk plays. Look for Drake to test well and for his stock to rise leading up to the draft. He is a potential Day Two pick.

DOLPHINS PICK HOWARD

7:30 p.m. update: The Dolphins tonight moved up in the draft to select Baylor 6-1 cornerback Xavien Howard, a player we've been mentioning that they brought to team headquarters and really liked.  Howard had four picks last season and five the year before.

What's more, quarterbacks had just a 32.4 passer rating in his coverage area, according to Pro Football Focus.

He allowed receptions on just 37.3 percent of his 75 targets, which is third-best among draft-eligible corners, PFF said. And he ran a 4.41 in the 40. But he did allow two TDs on vertical routes last season.

"This is a prototype player for us," Dolphins GM Chris Grier said. "He checks all the boxes for us. We spent a lot of time with him. It's a premium need for us. This guy is ultra competitive. He's an alpha."

Miami gave Baltimore a fourth-round pick to move up from 42 to 38 in the draft to take Howard.

What analysts say about him:

• ESPN's Louis Riddick: "One of my favorite players in this draft, a big physical corner. A guy who is very good playing at the line of scrimmage, playing press coverage Really challenges receivers down the field. Good finishing skills. Can finish in all parts of the field, whether short, intermediate or deep. A guy who will support against the run. I like this. The Miami Dolphins needed a guy of this profile. They needed to get bigger, get more physical. They needed a guy who will challenge receivers all over the field. I like this pick for them.

"They're getting premium players. They got a franchise left tackle [in Laremy Tunsil, who will start his career at guard. Howard] going to need some refinement. I like these two picks.

• ESPN's Mel Kiper: "Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech game, he doesn't make plays on the ball you expect him to make. He's in position but he doesn't locate the ball and make the play. A little sloppy in terms of technique. Upside with him. Quick feet, smooth hips. Willing tackler. He's intriguing. He's got the size, he's got the physical component. He has shown the big play ability. He needs a quality defensive backs coach."

• ESPN's Todd McShay: "He's at his best in press, whether press zone or press man. I saw some drops but I saw some big plays, too. Vance Joseph is a 4-3 press man, press zone defensive coordinator. That's what they want to do with their cornerbacks. That's exactly what Howard excels with. I think it's a really good fit for this specific defense of the Miami Dolphins."

• CBS' Rob Rang says he's similar to Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell: "With his broad frame, Howard looks more like an NFL safety than a traditional cornerback, but he possesses the natural coverage skills and confidence to remain on the perimeter. After redshirting his first season and seeing limited action in 2013, he emerged as a standout in 2014 and hasn't looked back since, developing into one of the Big 12's best all-around corners. With patience, he should develop into a starter at the next level, as well, projecting best in a press-heavy scheme."

• NFL Net's Mike Mayock: "This is another polarizing conversation. He's a long corner. He's got starter's traits. You can see his size, his feet, his change of direction. His tape is highly conflicting. It's either really good or really bad. If you look at his bowl game against North Carolina, he can't find the football."

 

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5 p.m.: The Dolphins have called left tackle Branden Albert and informed him that he will remain at left tackle and that they project Laremy Tunsil as the left guard, according to a source with direct knowledge.

(So Armando, as usual, was on target in reporting last night that the Dolphins see Tunsil as a guard this season barring an injury to one of their starting tackles.)

Albert received a call from someone from the top of the organization so that he wouldn’t be concerned about the ramifications of last night’s pick.

The Dolphins feel very good about four starters: Albert and Tunsil on the left side, Mike Pouncey at center and Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.

They plan to let Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, Jermon Bushrod and perhaps Jamil Douglas compete for right guard. They’re hopeful one of those will emerge as a quality starter, with Turner perhaps the best option of the four.

But they also haven't ruled out drafting another guard in the next two days if they see one they like.

Those eight players, combined with new backup left tackle Sam Young, project as the Dolphins’ nine offensive linemen, though none of the backups is assured of a roster spot if they're beaten out in camp.

So who’s left for the Dolphins tonight as possibilities at picks 42 and 73 tonight and later picks on Saturday?

A look at some options, by position:

• Cornerback: The Dolphins need to pick at least one tonight, and if they stick to their preference for tall corners, that would mean a potential choice among Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller (Mel Kiper has been campaigning for Miami to take him), Baylor’s Xavien Howard (he visited team headquarters and Miami is very intrigued), Samford’s James Bradberry, LSU’s Jalen Mills, LSU’s Rashard Robinson and Southeast Louisiana’s Harlan Miller, Virginia’s Maurice Canady and Northern Iowa’s Diondre Hall.

All of those players are at least six feet. Some will be available in the middle rounds.

Fuller and Howard would be justifiable options at No. 42. If the Dolphins are OK with drafting a smaller corner, Clemson’s 5-10 Mackensie Alexander would be an option.

Among corners that visited the Dolphins: Fuller, North Carolina Central’s Ryan Smith, Bradberry, USC’s Kevon Seymour and LSU’s Robinson.

• Safety: The Dolphins like USC’s Su’a Cravens and see him having upside as a safety, though he also can play linebacker. As we noted, they also like Clemson’s TJ Green, among others. And Ohio State’s Vonn Bell, a safety who can play corner, also would be very worthy of consideration at 42.

"Remember that Bell is seen as a potential corner, even though he was a safety for Urban Meyer," Mel Kiper said.

And Todd McShay says Bell “has elite cover skills for a safety as he has the fluidity to shadow slot receivers, the speed to run with tight ends and the range to play center field. In fact, he covers so well that he could line up at corner. He also has the instincts and ball skills to be a playmaker in the NFL. Bell is not big enough to line up in the box and he's not a big hitter, but he is an adequate run-stopper who closes well in pursuit.”

• Linebacker: With Myles Jack’s doctor saying he doesn’t need microfracture knee surgery, he figures to come off the board fairly early tonight. Whether he lasts to 42 is highly debatable.

Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland said the Dolphins like him, but his stock reportedly has been hurt by reports of an enlarged aorta. “He’s already a steal as the No. 24 player on my Big Board,” Mel Kiper said.

Also keep an eye on Boise State outside linebacker Kamalei Correa; the Dolphins have shown some interest. And Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence, despite baggage, would be good value in Miami’s range. LSU's Deion Jones is worthy of discussion.

On Correa, McShay said: "A dynamic linebacker, Correa's greatest strength might be his ability to get after the quarterback as he has the burst, bend and closing speed to regularly threaten off the edge."

The Dolphins also like Clemson linebacker BJ Goodson, who visited.

• Defensive end: The Dolphins summoned Clemson’s Kevin Dodd to Davie a couple weeks ago, and he would be good value at 42 if there. Miami also has spent time with BYU’s Bronson Kaufusi, a potential second- or third-rounder. And Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah and Illinois’ Jihad Ward (a defensive tackle who also can play end) figure to go in Miami’s range.

• Running back: Derrick Henry is the only back that most pundits consider worthy of a second round pick. Some consider Utah’s Devontae Henry a potential second-rounder, and he visited Dolphins headquarters.

Miami could wait until the third round, or possibly the fourth, to select Arkansas’ Alex Collins or Alabama’s Kenyan Drake (who both visited team headquarters), UCLA’s Paul Perkins, UF’s Kelvin Taylor or Notre Dame’s CJ Prosise, among others.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Miami takes a tight end in the next 48 hours, though round two seems too high. South Carolina’s Jerrell Adams and Arkansas’ Hunter Henry are two projected as possible second-rounders. And Miami has taken a liking to UCLA’s Thomas Duarte, a potential mid-rounder.

• For analysts' reaction on the Tunsil pick and more draft nuggets, please click here.

• For a Tunsil video, click here.... For Chris Grier's comments on Tunsil, click here.

UM NOTE

Though a UM player tweeted that Mark Walton would be suspended three games after his DUI arrest, no decision has been made about whether his current suspension will continue into the season. UM won’t make that decision until it has all the facts on his situation.

Mark Richt and Walton talked this week, and UM people expect he will remain on the team, with his status at risk only if he is arrested for something else. WINZ’s Andy Slater says Walton could be arrested for something else: impersonating a police offer in a separate incident last week and/or battery on a woman during that separate incident.

Police have been investigating that matter, but no charges have been filed against Walton or anyone in that alleged incident and police have not named Walton as a suspect.

Richt threw kicker Jon Semerene off the team after a DUI arrest only because he had multiple offenses.

 

Please check back tonight for Heat postscripts and reaction after Game 6... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 28, 2016

Gordon suspension fallout; What analysts are saying about Dolphins' selection of Tunsil; Dolphins draft nuggets and Tunsil fallout; Heat chatter

1 a.m. update: A stunner in the middle of the night, with news that Dee Gordon has been suspended for 80 games without pay for testing positive for PEDs. It's obviously an enormous blow, with the Marlins losing one of MLB's best leadoff hitters coming off a batting title and stolen base title. He's hitting .266 through 20 games.

The best option to replace him appears to be Derek Dietrich, who's batting .333 with one homer and six RBI after hitting .256 with 10 homers and 24 RBI in 90 games last season.

He has 12 errors in 105 career appearances at second base, with four career outfield errors and five errors at third base. But he has played good defense so far this season, with no errors in nine appearances at third, second and third.

Other options: Moving Martin Prado back to second (where he thrived with the Braves) and playing Chris Johnson at third. Johnson has played third more than any position in the big leagues but is hitting just .227.

The Marlins also could give more time to Miguel Rojas at second base. Rojas, highly skilled defensively, is hitting only .222.

But Dietrich makes the most sense.

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BUZZ COLUMN

What analysts are saying on offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, who (as Armando reported on his blog) is projected to play guard this coming season:

• NFL Net’s Mike Mayock: “He’s got Pro Bowl feet. His pass protection gives him huge upside as a Pro Bowl talent. I have some questions about his ability in the run game.  It’s the perfect situation for a young tackle. He can start at right tackle [and eventually] kick to left tackle or move him right into left tackle.”

• ESPN’s Mel Kiper: “He has all the talent in the world. He was the No. 1 player on the board for a reason. Kid has rare ability. Didn’t miss a beat when he came back from suspension [for taking impermissible benefits]. He’s had a variety of injuries but when he’s out there he has been a dominant presence at left tackle 95 percent of the time. I thought he got a little bored with the opposition.

“When he’s on top of his game, he’s a consummate left tackle. Quickness, tremendous feet, the footwork he plays with. As a run blocker, he’s got to fire out a little more.

“The drop [in the draft] had nothing to do with football ability. It had to do with durability – can he a play 16 game schedule? And will he take care of business off the field during the offseason? At one point, I thought he could go No. 1 if Tennessee would have kept the pick.”

• ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “He has what you’re looking for. He’s light on his feet. He has a pass set; it just looks so easy for him for a big man. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 184 times. Let’s challenge Tunsil. Get it right off the field and prove to all of us you can be a great player for the Dolphins.”

• NFL Net’s Charley Casserly: “Tunsil becomes potentially the steal of the draft as well as the most scrutinized rookie this year.”

• ESPN’s Louis Riddick: “You start to assess the risk versus the reward. If you look at their roster, Branden Albert is going to be 32 in November. This isn’t necessarily a luxury pick. This will be something that pays off down the road.”

• ESPN’s Todd McShay: “Tunsil's ceiling is sky high. He has the natural ability to play at a Pro Bowl level for a long time.”

• Pro Football Focus’ draft guide notes Tunsil “faced the toughest slate of edge rushers of anyone in the country and yielded” no sacks and just five pressures in 185 pass blocking snaps. PFF says Tunsil is "the cleanest tackle to come out of college in some time. Tunsil simply looks different than your average tackle in the NFL.”

• CBS’ Dane Brugler: “On the field, Tunsil is a nimble big man with a rare athletic skill-set for the position, showing above average balance and flexibility to easily bend, handle speed and absorb power at the point of attack. He's not a perfect player, but his flaws are more nitpicking than true weaknesses and potential injuries are the only obstacles keeping Tunsil from being one of the better left tackles at the next level.”

MORE TUNSIL POSTSCRIPTS

Tunsil said tonight he doesn't have a drug problem. Asked at the draft if he took money from a coach in college, he said, "I'd have to say yeah." (Get ready for probation, Ole Miss!)

"Don't question my character," Tunsil said tonight. "I'm a good person. I'm a laid back guy."

• According to the Jackson-Clarion Ledger, Tunsil was sued this week by his stepfather Lindsey Miller, who claims Tunsil attacked Miller last June and that Tunsil defamed Miller’s character. The lawsuit alleges these two things were an “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”The two men filed domestic violence charges against each other last year.

Tunsil's attorney, Steve Farese, attacked the lawsuit in the Clarion-Ledger.

"The lawsuit filed against Mr. Tunsil appears to be yet another attempt by Mr. Miller to damage Mr. Tunsil, his family, and the University," Farese said in a statement. "This unsavory attempt to obtain money from a talented young man is a sad example of the times. The timing of this suit, on the eve of the NFL draft, speaks volumes as to Mr. Miller's motives."

• Dolphins GM Chris Grier said Miami will play the five best linemen. That could mean Mike Pouncey, Tunsil, Albert, Ja'Wuan James and Jermon Bushrod. Pouncey, Bushrod and Albert have been Pro Bowlers; Tunsil was rated a top-five talent; and James was a top 20 pick. No more offensive line excuses!  

As we wrote last week, the Dolphins discussed taking an offensive tackle at No. 13, if one of the top ones slipped, and moving him to guard (which is the plan with Tunsil). But they didn't expect Tunsil would be the one to slip.

"He was No. 2 on our board," Grier said. "We didn't expect him to be there."

• Now the Dolphins almost certainly need to pick a cornerback at 42 or 73. Baylor's Xavien Howard and LSU's Rashard Robinson and Samford's James Bradberry are among the remaining options who visited the Dolphins. Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller is another option. The Dolphins really liked Houston's William Jackson but Tunsil was too tempting. Miami also liked Ohio State's Eli Apple, who was taken by the Giants at No. 10.

CHATTER

• A USA TODAY study determined that the University of Florida had the highest percentage of first-round draft busts of any team from 2000 to 2014, and that UM had the fewest first-round busts. Of the Gators’ 15 first-rounders during that time span, eight were deemed busts (53.3 percent). That edged Penn State and Oklahoma State (half of their first-rounders were busts). FSU was fourth on the bust list, with 9 of 19 first-rounders falling well short of expectations.

Conversely, only four of UM’s 26 first-rounders from 2000 to 2014 were deemed busts, with that 15 percent edging No. 2 Texas (23 percent).

• Thoughts on UM’s draft class, from an NFC scout who watched UM a lot: “Artie Burns was productive, a smart kid, has the skill level Vernon Hargreaves has. But he was really undisciplined and reckless at Miami. He looks like he’s playing his own defense at times." Pittsburgh took him at No. 25 tonight.

The scout said: “I have [safety] Deon Bush as a third-rounder. Runs well; big, strong, tough. Interviewed well with us. But he has a difficult time communicating on the field and that’s vital for a safety… [Receivers] Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters will be taken late or UFAs. Scott has better hands, Waters good speed. We would take a look at Calvin Heurtelou and Ufomba Kamalu" as UFAs.

Another likely free agent: Miami’s only departing five-star player, cornerback Tracy Howard, who visited the Browns…. Former UM safety Dallas Crawford, hoping for an NFL contract after the draft, has moved back to running back.

• The Dolphins, like most teams, already are planting seed with players who have a good chance of going undrafted, indicating an interest in signing them after the draft. Among those Miami has called: Utah State defensive tackle David Moala.

• The Dolphins’ draft search has extended north of the border, with Miami showing interest in University of Manitoba defensive lineman David Onyemata, who had five sacks and 39 tackles in eight games. Miami wanted to fly him to Davie this month but he had a schedule conflict…

The Dolphins drafted one defensive back who had been a receiver (Tony Lippett) and they’ve shown interest in another, Clemson safety TJ Green, a speedy safety who moved over from receiver after 2013. Teams believe he can play safety or corner. Miami likes him as a safety.

MORE HEAT CHATTER

The Heat hasn’t been a good road team in weeks, and their offensive metrics were much better at home this regular season (103.2 points, 48.3 percent shooting) than on the road (96.9, 45.8).

Among all Heat players, Hassan Whiteside and Josh Richardson had the biggest offensive dropoffs on the road. Whiteside averaged 16 points and 64.5 percent shooting at home, 12.3 and 55.4 on the road. Richardson shot 51.6 percent at home, 39.9 on the road. The only Heat player who shot better on the road this season? Justise Winslow, narrowly.

• Whiteside is taking 7.6 shots per game, nearly four less than he took after the All-Star break, and said “of course I would” like more shots but “it’s not there” because multiple defenders are swarming around him.

He bristles at any suggestion that Al Jefferson is victimizing him: “I feel like I did a great job on Jefferson; Jefferson is not the problem.”

• Though Heat interest has remained strong since LeBron James left, courtside seats at first-round games are going for 50 to 60 percent less dollar-wise than what they did when James was here, Tickets of America tell us. Meanwhile, Heat fans were scolded on national radio this week by former NBA center Brendan Haywood.

“Miami is not a tough gym to play in,” Haywood said on Sirius XM. “They have the wine and cheese crowd. They have the late arriving crowd. They have the crowd that will leave early if their team is down. There’s a lot of eye candy… [But] as far as homecourt advantage, Miami, I’m sorry, the city doesn’t have it. It’s not in ‘em. They don’t have that same passion the fans in Portland have.”

As AP's Tim Reynolds smartly noted after I posted this, he was 7-14 in games he played as a visiting player in Miami.

• For a lot more Heat nuggets from today, please click here.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Thursday afternoon: Heat discusses its predicament and a look at what must be corrected; Thursday afternoon NFL draft nuggets

In one week, the Charlotte Hornets have gone from being one loss from equaling the NBA’s all-time longest postseason losing streak (13) to one win away from vanquishing the Heat and moving on to the second round.

Conversely, the Heat has gone from dominant to desperate, suddenly down 3-2 in this series and hoping it can win Friday to force a Game 7 in Miami, which would be 1 p.m. on ABC.

This turnaround has been both sudden and stunning, magnified by this nugget unearthed by Elias Sports Bureau on Thursday: Of the 26 previous teams in NBA history that took a 2-0 lead in a series, and then lost three in a row, none had won the first two games by a larger combined margin than Miami did (44 points).

And the Heat’s season could end Friday night in Game 6 in Charlotte if it doesn’t fix at least some of its problematic issues that have surfaced during this three-game skid: erratic shooting, poor execution down the stretch of games, too many turnovers, an inability to consistently keep Charlotte’s guards from penetrating, a penchant for allowing devastating runs on the road and a failure to corral critical late-game rebounds.

“To go on the road, with a team that hasn’t won much on the road and figure out a way to get a win, it gets no tougher than that in the playoffs,” Dwyane Wade said.

Joe Johnson, who was still with Brooklyn the only time this season that Miami lost four in a row (in January),  said he’s surprised it has come to this but “the first two games weren’t really reality on how this series would go.”

Erik Spoelstra on Thursday called this “our first real test. For us to be the team we want to become, you can't just talk about it. You have to go through it. The elimination games are great games. These are where playoff reputations are built.”

Among the issues the Heat must address:

• Offensive inefficiency: Hornets coach Steve Clifford has been transparent with his strategy: Dare some of the Heat’s perimeter shoots to beat them and instead pack the paint.

Hassan Whiteside said Thursday “that a lot of times I get the ball” he has four or five defenders around him.

“We’re saying you don’t have range shooters. Shoot,” Clifford admitted before Game 5. The Heat made those shots the first the two games but haven’t made enough since.

After averaging 119 points and making 57.8 percent of its shots the first two games, the Heat has averaged just 84 since shot just 34.2 percent, 39.5 percent and 42 percent the past three – a surprising plunge for a team that led the league in shooting percentage since the All-Star break at 48.7.

Luol Deng and Goran Dragic are both 14 for 38 the past three games (36.8 percent), while Justise Winslow was 5 for 21 and Josh Richardson 5 for 20.

On three-pointers, the Heat made 53 percent (18 for 34) the first two games, just 33 percent (23 for 69) since. Richardson, who led the league in three-point shooting after the All-Star break, is 3 for 12 over the past three.

Turnovers have been a major thorn, too. The Heat had just 14 combined the first two games, but 45 since.

“Just like they're having droughts, we're having droughts,” Wade said. “We are not going to go into a game and not have a drought. We're not that potent of an offensive team. Those first two games were an aberration. That doesn't happen in the playoffs. The one thing we have to do a better job of is our turnovers.”

• Defensive issues. There’s disagreement here, with the Heat believing it has done a better job than some national pundits suggest. “All the games, we played great defense,” Dragic said Thursday. And in Miami’s defense, Charlotte is averaging just 93.8 points and shooting 40.7 percent in the series.

“Our numbers have been great [defensively],” Wade said. “We have to be a little ahead of it and not back on our heels knowing they're running pick and rolls. No surprise. That kind of hurt a little bit, giving them shots off of the screens, hitting pullups.”

But TNT’s Charles Barkley counters with this: “They can’t stop their guards from penetrating. Jeremy Lin gets by them anything he wants to. Kemba Walker gets a good shot every single time.”

Lin has taken 32 free throws and Walker 27 in this series, more than any Heat player.  

“Kemba Walker is going to get where he wants to get a lot of times on the floor,” Wade said. “He's very crafty, very quick. I thought we did a good job of making it tough on him. I thought we made some adjustments, but they capitalized on those adjustments. When we put two on the ball to stop [Lin] from getting into the paint, he did a great job of making the extra pass to the big guy and we weren't prepared on the opposite side of the floor.”

Also hurtful: Courtney Lee “has made the biggest two plays of the last two games and they have both been offensive rebounds,” Clifford said.

And the Hornets, who were the NBA’s seventh-best three-point shooting team during the season, made 12 of 24 threes in Game 5 after hitting 16 for 67 in the first four games.

• Road issues. The Heat has lost seven of its past nine away from AmericanAirlines Arena, including three in a row. In those past three games, the Heat was at the losing end of runs of 20-0 (against Boston), 18-0 (Game 3 against Charlotte) and 17-3 (Game 4).

“We're kind of so jittery at some points that we have a tendency to try to go out and do it ourselves,” Johnson said of those runs. “We've got to keep trusting the system.”

Said Wade: “Once we get in that situation again, we've got to do a better job collecting ourselves. You get into a point sometimes when a team is making a run on the offensive end, you stop moving the ball the same way, you start putting too much pressure on each shot you take. And defensively, everything works as a chain on this group. If one person is not in position because he's frustrated or this or that, it affects it.”

Miami has gone 2-7 on the road against playoff teams since the All-Star break, with the only wins against Atlanta 2 ½ months ago and Detroit in the final week of the season.

Among all Heat players, Whiteside and Richardson had the biggest offensive differentials between home and road performance all season. Whiteside averaged 16 points and 64.5 percent shooting at home, 12.3 and 55.4 on the road. Richardson shot 51.6 percent at home, 39.9 on the road.

THIS AND THAT

Though nothing was called, Spoelstra said Wade was fouled in the game's final six seconds and Wade agreed. So did former NBA vice president Stu Jackson, who said a foul should have been called on Cody Zeller on that play. 

But the NBA disagreed today, saying the refs were correct not to call a foul on either Zeller or on Courtney Lee, who blocked Wade's shot.

Here's how the NBA described the play: "Zeller (CHA) comes towards Wade (MIA) from across the restricted area, planting his foot and jumping vertically to defend Wade’s shot. Zeller absorbs contact when it occurs and, while his arms are not completely vertical, multiple angles confirm they do not make contact with Wade. Therefore, Zeller maintains a legal guarding position as he attempts to defend the shot." 

The league said Luol Deng did foul Zeller in an attempt to stop the clock in the final seconds and the foul should have been called, which would have given Charlotte two shots and the ball.

• Whiteside said the Hornets are "big on taking away the paint at the center position. It’s pretty weird the way they play defense. When I roll, four or five guys are around me so it’s hard to get the ball.”

 

Whiteside said the refs aren't calling three-second defensive violations against Charlotte.

“On every possession I’m counting for the ref and I got up to six one time,” he said. “It’s like preschool — we’re counting together. The refs say he’s moving and I say, yeah, he’s moving in the paint.”

• In NBA history, the winner of Game 5 of a series that had been 2-2 has won 82.7 percent of those series.

• The Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Heat’s NBDL affiliate, won the league’s championship with a 91-63 Game 3 win against the Los Angeles team on Wednesday night. Former Heat forward Jarnell Stokes, who won the league’s regular-season MVP award, was named Finals MVP.

DRAFT TALK

If every team uses the maximum 10 minutes between picks, the Dolphins' pick at No. 13 could be as late as 10:10 tonight. We've already run through the first-round possibilities, Miami's draft visits and a lot more in the past three weeks.

Some other tidbits as we await the draft and the conclusion of Heat practice:

• Mike Mayock's final mock draft has the Dolphins passing on Myles Jack, William Jackson, Eli Apple and others to take Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson.

"Remember, Cameron Wake is 34 years old and Mario Williams is 31," Mayock said. "The thing I like about Lawson is he brings diversity. He can go up, down, inside or out."

The Dolphins have spent a lot of time on Clemson defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, with Dodd visiting and his stock rising.

Mayock's take: "Shaq Lawson to me is an explosive kid, and that's what I like most about him. He's one of those tightly wound kids.  He's physical against the run, and he can get up field against the pass. He can handle long left tackles. And that's kind of
the knock on him, is he long enough to be a high-level pass-rusher in the NFL. I think he's one of those guys kind of like a Brian Orakpo, for instance, potentially best case scenario, Tamba Hali. 

"Dodd is more of a traditional left defensive end that lines up in the same spot every snap and plays against the right offensive tackle. He's longer, not as explosive. One-year wonder, and I don't mean that negatively. He had one great year, but from my perspective if I had to bet on the kid, I would bet on the Lawson kid. The guy that is similar to Dodd that you can get later in the draft is Carl Nassib from Penn State, 6'7", 275, one-year wonder also. But I think he's got similar upside, and I think you can get him later."

Just remember: The Dolphins know they need corners, and badly. They fully see what everyone else sees, which is a deficiency at that position. If the best player on their board at No. 13 is clearly not a corner, they can address corner at 42 and again in the third, fourth or fifth rounds.

• Mayock is very intrigued, and conflicted, about UM's Artie Burns.

"Artie Burns is an interesting conversation for Miami because he's long and he's gifted," Mayock said. "His play is highly inconsistent. He's only a third-year junior. Most people have him in the middle of the second round, but his physical traits lend him toward a first round player."

• Among the two high-caliber Alabama running backs in this class, the Dolphins have shown more interest in Kenyan Drake than Derrick Henry, though Henry certainly can't be ruled out. And though Henry is rated higher by most, Mayock doesn't agree.

"Completely different philosophy on those two kids," he said. "Obviously, Derrick Henry I think will go somewhere in the second round, worst case, early third. At 247 pounds, he's a downhill guy. He needs a little bit of room to make his cuts, and you have to commit philosophically. If you're going to draft him in the second round, you've got to kind of commit that you're going to be a run team and get him 20 touches a game coming downhill, wear teams out, and win in the fourth quarter. I mean, that's who this kid is. They'll get better as the game goes on.

"If you're going to give them ten touches, it doesn't make any sense. Now the other kid I think is intriguing. You look at him, and he's got value as a third-down, change of pace back. He's got value in the kick return game. Even has value in the coverage game as a gunner. So if I'm a GM, which I'm obviously not, and I'm not qualified, but I'm more intrigued with Drake than I am with Henry, because he can do more jobs."

• Agent Drew Rosenhaus has 18 draft-eligible players and he mentioned these five, in particular, as potential Dolphins possibilities during his Sunday night segment with Steve Shapiro on WSVN-7: Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington, Arizona linebacker Scoobie Wright, UM safety Deon Bush, Western Michigan receiver and Miramar native Daniel Braverman and Western Kentucky quarterback and Davie native Brandon Doughty.

Mayock, on Wright, who plays a need area for Miami: "I love watching his tape. He flies around. They line him up all over. He lines up on the edge. He can sack the quarterbacks. Tackle to tackle, he's awesome."

• One scout told us he would strongly consider Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd at No. 13 if he were the Dolphins, and Mayock calls him "one of my most conflicted players. There's a big part of me that wants to say he's a top-10 talent, and there's another part of me that when I look back at my notes, and I've done at least six of his games, and all over the place I have the word "underpowered." Not just at the point of attack, but when he gets stuck in the pass game, also, rushing the quarterback. If he doesn't win with speed, he gets stuck. That worries me. For a 4-3 team, I think he's a linebacker on 1st down off the line of scrimmage, and when you go to your sub-package, which again is 60 to 70 percent of your snaps, he's going to be a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end."

• Roberto Aguayo, who had a remarkable career at FSU and an elite power leg, projects as a mid-round pick, Mayock said.

"Now, big picture, conceptually taking a specialist that high [third round], you'd better be really sure," Mayock said. "Jacksonville took a punter in the third round, Brian Anger, a few years ago, and they got roasted, and he didn't turn out to be good enough to take in the third round. This guy is different because he puts points on the board for you. But... you'd better make damned sure you buy into that because there are a lot of good kickers who have been free agents over the years, and if you're going to put a second- or third-round value on him, he'd better be really good for a lot of years. It's extra pressure on the GM."

• Houston's William Jackson, who the Dolphins like, is the best cover corner in the draft, says Louis Riddick, who will be on ESPN's set tonight with Chris Berman, Mel Kiper and Jon Gruden.

• Besides spending a lot of time with Myles Jack, the Dolphins also have done due diligence on the draft's other elite linebacker, Jaylon Smith, who is expected to miss 2016 because of a knee injury far more serious than Jack's. Adam Schefter said he expects Smith to be picked by the end of the third round.

"My heart goes out to Jaylon Smith," Mayock said. "From what I understand, and I don't know much about it, the knee is good. It's all about nerve regeneration. I'm not a doctor. I don't know much about it. But it's going to significantly impact him, I believe, and I don't think anybody knows where he's going to go.

"He's such a great kid that somebody is going to draft him. If Jaylon went with a third- or fourth-round compensatory pick, it wouldn't surprise me at all. The medical has -- this is a kid who could have been the first pick in the whole draft, so the medical on this kid is really important.

"Myles Jack is another one. If you're going to take a player in the top 10, you want him as clean as possible, both character and medical, and I think there's going to be some concern about Myles Jack medically. I know he's running around and looks great, but I think there is -- I think there's some teams that are concerned about the longevity of his career. I hope he ends up in the top five or six or seven picks where he should."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please check back in a few hours for Heat chatter and then tonight for Dolphins' draft reaction.

April 27, 2016

Heat Game 5 reaction, with Miami now one loss from elimination; Wednesday evening Heat news, including player return; Fins notes: On the Tannehill/Gase relationship; Gase's new offense; DeVante Parker; Jay Ajayi; Gase's unique approach and more

Reaction after this 90-88 Heat loss that leaves Miami down 3-2 in this series:

• Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, on Miami's offensive shortcomings late (a desperation 27-foot miss from Josh Richardson, a Goran Dragic three that was blocked and a Dwyane Wade layup that was blocked, after a Wade offensive rebound): "Dwyane looks like he got fouled on the offensive rebound. He got fouled. It looked like it was open and Dwyane got blocked... On [the other failed offensive possession late], that's on me. I should have called a timeout once it became a broken play. I didn't call a timeout to get us organized. That one's on me....

"They made big shots going down the stretch. Big threes, pullup threes. And Courtney Lee, two straight games,  had the biggest offensive rebounds.

"It hurts, losing at home. But welcome to the playoffs. The playoffs just started. When a team beats somebody on the road, the playoffs start. As raw as this feels, we have 48 hours to regroup and get ready for a heck of a battle in Game 6."

"I like the minutes Josh [McRoberts] gave us. We had a little more speed defending the pick and roll."

• Wade: On the late play, where he appeared to be fouled: "I haven't looked at it. It's pointless now. No reason for me to look at it. It's not going to change anything. I thought it was [a foul], but it wasn't called."

His wife, Gabrielle Union, tweeted the play and it clearly was a foul.

• Wade, on passing late for two others for shots (Richardson, Dragic): "I tried to trust my teammates in that instance. Instead of [playing] hero ball, I threw it back to the guys who were open. We didn't get great shots out of it. I felt instead of forcing the shot, I felt my teammates had better opportunities. We probably should have got to the drive instead of just shooting the ball. We've been in that situation a lot of times. We've succeeded a lot of times. Just didn't happen for us."

• Wade, on the Heat's predicament: "It's very challenging to go on the road with a team that hasn't won too much on the road and figure out a way to win. Gets no tougher than that. I don't know where this team is at. This is the first time this team has gone through this situation together. We'll have to figure it out as a unit....

"Tonight, you're going to be frustrated. Everyone in the locker-room should be pissed off. But tomorrow we learn from our mistakes and get ready for Game 6. My wife has got to deal with me tonight. I will be pissed off all night until I go to sleep. But when I wake up, as a leader, I will come in with a different mindset, watch the game, see where I can help my team. We were down 3-2 going into Boston. LeBron James had an amazing game to propel us to that win. It will be tougher for this team because we've never been in [this situation] together. We'll see what we're made of individually to go and fight for this win."

• Wade, who scored 25: "My mindset was to be aggressive all night and put pressure on them.They are a good defensive team. You are not going to be able to get anything you want just in a halfcourt set.... I thought we got the shots we wanted, especially after the first quarter."

• Hassan Whiteside had a bandage and ice on his hand -- the result of contact with Charlotte players --- but said X-rays were negative. "Guys were disappointed we lost," he said. "But it's not over."

On the Heat's final two ill-fated possessions, Whiteside said: "I was told to stand under the basket, try to get the offensive rebound."

• Goran Dragic: "Every loss hurts, especially at home, if the game is so close. We were up, but we made some mistakes down the stretch. They made their shots."

Any adjustments needed? "No adjustment. Just try to come up with those plays. We had a good game plan tonight. The game was close. In those pick and rolls, we need to be more focused, especially at the end of the game."

• Richardson, on his late missed three with 43 seconds left: "I saw a shot. It was there. and I took it. There is nothing else really to it. I was setting a screen for D-Wade to get to the basket and they kind of doubled up, so he was giving it back to me. The first look was for Dwyane to get a look at it."

• Hornets coach Steve Clifford: "Their defense was terrific. We made more threes (12 for 24). We were plus eight in the fourth quarter on a playoff game on the road. We did a good job at the end... Having Nic [Batum] back helps us with size on the perimeter."

Clifford, on Courtney Lee getting a huge offensive rebound in the final minute for the second game in a row: "Look, he's made the two biggest plays of the last two games and they've both been offensive rebounds."

Clifford, on a controversial late foul call against Miami: "I don't know if Cody [Zeller] got fouled, but it works for me."

Clifford, on Marvin Williams, who shot 1 for 17 in the first two games but had 17 points (7 for 10) and 8 boards tonight: "His defense and rebounding have been out of sight. We always play better when he's out on the floor. He helps his teammates play better at both ends of the floor."

 

BOSH UPDATE

A few Heat nuggets before tip-off:

• Tyler Johnson is active tonight for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in January. But Erik Spoelstra said he would play only in an emergency.

"He's been pretty active doing all of the contact, a little bit of shooting, and for the last month we have been closely monitoring his pain," Spoelstra said. "Basically, it's been over a week and he hasn't had any pain and he's been able to do virtually everything. He's tested it as much as he can possibly test it. We feel he is ready.

"I would still like to see him in another full-contact work, but I've been watching him."

Briante Weber and Chris Bosh will be the Heat's inactives tonight.

• Speaking of Bosh, his wife Adrienne's use of "#BringBackBosh" in a tweet yesterday gained national traction today, with ESPN talking-head shows debating the meaning and whether Bosh should be allowed to play.

As Ethan and I noted Sunday in this piece, there has been disagreement between the Heat and the Bosh camp about how his medical situation has been handled.

Bosh initially sought opinions from multiple doctors about whether it was safe to come off blood thinners and resume playing this season. He wanted to play again this season.

One person with direct knowledge insists Bosh found one doctor who appeared willing to give clearance for him to play. That person said the Heat (and other doctors) disagreed with that assessment, and so he did not resume playing.

The Heat has been exceedingly cautious with Bosh, and understandably so, valuing his health far more than his ability to return and play this season.

Bosh is still intending to play next season, barring a dramatic change of heart.

• Hornets coach Steve Clifford said Nic Batum will play tonight, after sitting out with an ankle injury the past two games, but likely will come off the bench. Batum requested that so as not to disrupt the Hornets' chemistry.

• Clifford noted the Heat has been the NBA's best team offensively since the All-Star break and "when you're better than Golden State, that's saying something."

• Clifford said the two teams have basically taken each other's identity in this series, because the Heat was determined to take away Charlotte's three-point game and the Hornets wanted to take away the Heat's ability to score in the paint.

"Their game is in the paint [and] we've been better in the paint" in this series, he said. "We're saying you don't have range shooters. Shoot. And they're making them."

• Clifford marveled at the job Spoelstra has done, about how Spoelstra changed how the Heat plays on the fly and "this is without two of the three Big Three."

DOLPHINS NUGGETS 

When Ryan Tannehill drops back to throw in practice, Dolphins defensive players haven’t been the only ones chasing him this week.

His head coach, Adam Gase, sometimes joins the fray.

“It’s cool; when I’m throwing, he’s rushing me, making a move around in the pocket, just creating those habits,” Tannehill said Wednesday after the second full practice under Gase. “He’s a hands on coach. When guys see the head guy running around breaking a sweat and doing things to make us better, it creates even more of a level of respect.”

Over the past three months, Gase and Tannehill have cultivated a very good relationship, forged on the golf course and on the field and in meeting rooms and over meals, and Tannehill said he believes he can reach new heights under Gase,  who extracted more from Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler than others could.

“I think so,” Tannehill said. “I believe in myself and my preparation….. He’s easy to communicate with and relate to. We’re off to a great start.”

So what appeals to Tannehill about Gase’s offense?  

“Just the mindset of coach Gase and the way he wants to attack the field,” he said. “The multitude of things we can do whether it’s on the ball, in the huddle, moving guys around, creating matchups. He focuses a lot on that and that’s what this game is – it’s a game of matchups. I’m excited for that. To be able to get on the ball, working with him, get us in a good play and create those matchups where we have an advantage.”

Still, as he enters his fifth NFL season, he admits learning his third new offense is “tough. There’s a learning curve. It’s a real thing to have a learning curve. That’s why we’re here now. We want to speed it up. They are really challenging us with what they’re throwing at us and making us learn. Guys are retaining the information.”

Tannehill also tried to help speed up the process by throwing twice a week to his receivers and tight ends the past few weeks. "Got a lot of work in and I think it’s showing now,” he said.

As early impressions go, it has been positive from the perspectives of both the new coach and the quarterback.

“I didn’t realize how live his arm is,” Gase said. “The more I watch him throw, it’s effortless. That ball travels down the field pretty good. He’s hit some big plays, just underneath having some touch, it’s been good to see things live.”

And from Tannehill’s standpoint, “I’m impressed all around with him, the way he goes about things, the way he thinks of the game, the way he’s progressive in the offense, the way he challenges us. He’s really intuned with his players and the way we need to be challenged every day.”

• Tannehill, incidentally, said wife Lauren is due to deliver their first child in July, before the start of training camp.  “I’ll be around, see the birth, have some time with the baby.”

THIS AND THAT

Keep hearing this week that the Dolphins like Houston 6-1 cornerback William Jackson and Ohio State's 6-1 Eli Apple. Both loom as a real possibility at No. 13. So, naturally, would Ezekiel Elliott or Myles Jack if either surprisingly falls. And a half dozen other names will be in the discussion.

A potential trade-up for Elliott has been widely reported, but whether Miami can afford to do that is highly debatable.

• Tannehill said he isn’t upset about Ndamukong Suh not showing up for voluntary practice this week.

“I’m sure he’s working to get better doing his own thing,” he said. “No hard feelings. He’s done things a certain way his whole career, a process he goes through both mentally and physically. Sometimes you have to go through your own process to feel fully prepared in your own way.”

Everyone other than Suh has been in attendance except Koa Misi (working off the field because he’s sick), Mike Pouncey (missed Wednesday with an illness), Mario Williams (attending to a pre-approved personal matter) and Reshad Jones (unhappy about his contract).

• Though the Dolphins are expected to select a running back at some point in the draft, Jay Ajayi said he’s not concerned and Gase keeps praising him.

“He looks out there right now and he knows he’s the starter,” Gase said. “He’s showing me a lot of great things. I like his skill set. He’s impressed me more both days, from the first day to the second day.”

• Daniel Thomas, back for a third tour with the Dolphins, was with the Bears in training camp last season, playing in Gase’s offense. That knowledge of Gase’s approach is helping him, Gase said.

“He knows the terminology; he knows what we expect and he’s playing fast,” Gase said. “He’s a step ahead of everybody [in meetings]. He knows how I like calling a preseason game and I feel like I know his strengths. When he gets his opportunities in the preseason, we’ll use that to his advantage.”

• Gase on DeVante Parker: “He seems to be a quick study. I know he was well coached in college. We did a lot of homework on him in Chicago. He’s pretty sharp, picking up what we’re doing really quickly. He’s very attentive in meetings.”

• Gase explained his penchant for “talking smack” in practice and and re-routing players during drills and being generally ubiquitous:  

“I kind of got a little bored standing by the defense,” he said. “I went over and bugged the quarterbacks a little bit, just my way of jumping in there, for myself to get involved in their routes.”

And as for his penchant for being talkative with players in practice,  “I think it started more in Denver, when I was the wideout coach there and I had a group there between Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Stokley. Those guys, they never stopped. They rubbed off on me. Once we got Aqib Talib and Chris Harris and those guys going, it was a non stop battle. But it was fun.

“It made practice feel like it was so short because everyone was talking but everyone was working hard.”

"The guy I learned under a lot was Coach [Mike] Martz. He talked about as much trash as I’ve ever seen as far as a coach does to defensive players. Being around him, that kind of fueled my fire to know a coach can talk a little junk."

Does being young help him relate to players?

"I don't know," he said. "I've never been old yet."

For a lot more Dolphins, Heat and UM news (including UM seeking a stadium contingency plan), please click here. And check back tonight for Heat reaction after Game 5.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 26, 2016

Tuesday night: UM explores stadium options; Heat; Panthers; Bayless departs; Nuggets from Adam Gase's first practice: Alonso, Maxwell, CB, OG, two new players and more

A six-pack of Tuesday night notes to supplement our Dolphins post from earlier:

• With upgrades to the stadium formerly known as Sun Life running a few weeks behind schedule (according to Steve Ross associates) and tens of millions of dollars over budget, UM athletic director Blake James said this week that UM is putting contingency plans in place in case the stadium is not playable in time for the Sept. 3 opener against Florida A&M. UM also plays at home the next Saturday, Sept. 10, against FAU.

The Dolphins said they fully expect the stadium will be ready by their Aug. 25 preseason home opener against Atlanta on NBC but nevertheless have their own top-secret contingency plan. Other than Marlins Park (which is hosting its baseball team on Aug. 25 but not Sept. 3), FAU’s stadium would be the next closest option with 30,000 seats. The Dolphins also could look to a city upstate.

From a UM standpoint, FIU Stadium would be available Sept. 3. So that's one of several options. But FAU's stadium is not available Sept. 3.

It's difficult to see the Dolphins not doing everything humanly possible for the stadium to be ready, but they admit a weather disaster, such as a hurricane, could cause a delay. 

• Seemingly unable to stop Al Jefferson, Hassan Whiteside is allowing the player he’s defending to shoot 57 percent this postseason (10 percent more than what those players shoot against other defenders), among the worst for NBA centers this postseason and far worse than the 45.7 percent against him during the season (which ranked 14th best among centers).

"We need Hassan to have a big impact for us defensively," Erik Spoelstra said today. "He needs to play big minutes and be impactful."

Luol Deng predicted today: "I think [Hassan] is going to be great the next game. He always responds well."

As far as his offense is concerned, Whiteside said today: "They're a pack-the-paint team, trying to make it as tough as possible on me. ... We're going to be a different team. We've got the Heat Nation backing us now. We're back in South Beach.... Coach wants me to be the anchor.... At the end of the series, they've got to win in South Beach."

Deng, incidentally, is holding the player he’s guarding to the lowest percentage among Heat players in this series: 27.6 percent, on 8 for 29 shooting.

• Dwyane Wade was asked by Sun Sports' Jason Jackson today whether the NBA has changed so much that you can't be so physical and keep guys deterred in their forays to the rim. "My real feelings cannot come out or I'll be getting a fine," Wade responded.

• Joe Johnson is taking just nine shot attempts per game this postseason (well below his 15.0 career average). This comes after he launched just 10.5 shots per game in 24 regular season games for the Heat, his fewest in 13 years.

Johnson has wanted to blend in, but admits that both teammates and Spoelstra have encouraged him to shoot more. “Coach whispers in my ear a little bit,” he said, adding that his level of aggressiveness on offense “is dependent on the situation, what’s needed.”

Johnson shot 51.8 percent with the Heat during the regular season, third-highest among all NBA forwards since late February, behind only LeBron James and Michael Beasley. 

• Panthers GM Dale Tallon, at the team's end-of-season media briefing today, said he expects free agent Jaromir Jagr to return. He summed up his feelings thusly after the first-round exit: "It's frustrating. This hurts a lot right now but you can't lose sight of the fact we had a great year. Lot of great things happened to our franchise this year. I'm more frustrated for the players because they played well. It's not like we were outmatched. We had chances to win every game. We all have this pit in our stomach today. I'm very confident we'll be back in this situation.

"You can't lose sight of where we're headed and what we have in our system. That's the positive; we are headed in the right direction, have a lot of great assets."

Jagr, who did not have a goal in the series, said: "I thought we played a lot better than the results showed. Sometimes you have to suffer to move forward in the future. I'm very upset about the playoffs. If that happens again, I'm going to be ready."

• Skip Bayless, one of ESPN's most polarizing personalities for the past 12 years and Stephen A. Smith's sparring partner on the popular debate show First Take, is leaving the network when his contract expires in August. He is expected to become a host at Fox Sports 1, which is poised to pay him reportedly in the range of $5 million to $6 million annually, more than ESPN was willing to offer.

SI's Richard Deitsch listed Max Kellerman and Will Cain among candidates to replace Bayless on First Take.

 

DOLPHINS TALK

Dolphins chatter after their first practice under Adam Gase (Armando and Adam cover the contract-driven absence of Reshad Jones in their pieces):

• The Dolphins got their first on-field look at the two veterans for whom they traded out of the top 10 in the draft: cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso. To get fair value for moving down from 8 to 13 in the draft, they desperately need both to return to the form they showed not with Philadelphia last year, but their previous teams: Seattle, in Maxwell’s case, and Buffalo, in Alonso’s case.

 “I’m definitely a No. 1 cornerback,” Maxwell declared after practice. Why?

“Cause I feel that way,” he said.

Maxwell struggled early last season and Pro Football Focus ranked him 75th among all corners. But metrics show he played pretty well the final two months of the season.

The Dolphins expect him to thrive because they will allow him to play the way he did in Seattle earlier in his career. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is “allowing me to press, to get up in a receiver’s face and be aggressive,” he said.

“That’s one of the things I do best. I look forward to doing that…. He wants us to press and play man coverage and be aggressive with the receivers on the line and get them off their routes…. I love it down here.”

Gase said “as long as [Maxwell] is, and as physical as he is at the line of scrimmage, I’m just glad he’s on our side. He enjoys the defense he’s playing in under Vance [Joseph]. He’s a guy we’re really expecting to excel in our scheme.”

Alonso, who’s lining up at middle linebacker, said he has regained everything he had physically before tearing his ACL in the summer of 2014 and spraining it again early last season.

“Didn’t have a great year [in 2015]; I’ve got to get better,” said Alonso, who was rated 92nd among all linebackers by PFF for last season. “I like to think I can do it all. To be a great linebacker now, in this day and age, you’ve got to do it all – stop the run, play in coverage, play man to man.”

Do the Dolphins believe he can regain his 2013 form, when he was Defensive Rookie of the Year?

“I would say it’s tough for me to predict anything,” Gase said. “I mean, it’s been one day. We’ve had eight meetings. Time will tell. We have a long ways to go and we’ll see how it goes for the rest of the offseason.”

• The cornerback room will assuredly add players in the draft this weekend. For now, 6-3 Tony Lippett said he is lining up with the starters, opposite Maxwell, and said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph – who helped develop several defensive backs with the Bengals – is being hands-on with Miami’s young corners.

“He’s always with us,” Lippett said. “He’s always coaching us up on all the little things. He said he likes big corners. [This system] is more defensive back friendly.”

Lippett was beaten on the most notable play from practice – a Ryan Tannehill bomb to DeVante Parker for a touchdown….

• Joseph also believes he can extract more from Jamar Taylor, who really likes Joseph and said “I’m blessed to be here and still be a part of this organization.”… Multiple players, including defensive end Andre Branch and linebacker Jelani Jenkins, said they like Joseph’s attacking defense.

• The Dolphins aren’t sure what they have in 5-9 corner Iko Ekpre-Olomu, who was an All-American and considered a potential high-round pick out of Oregon in 2014 before a devastating knee injury that dropped him to the seventh round and required two major surgeries. Claimed off waivers from Cleveland last month, Ekpre-Olomu worked only on the side Tuesday, and Gase said: “We’re seeing how far we can bring him around, as far as where his injury was. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on with him. Iko was a high guy on a lot of peoples’ draft boards. Unfortunately, he got injured. We’ll see how that progresses.”

• Incidentally, we’re told the Dolphins showed no interest when Josh Norman’s camp was allowed to seek a trade before his release, then was willing to offer less (in years and money) than Washington when he became a free agent.

• With Jermon Bushrod recovering from shoulder surgery, the Dolphins on Tuesday cycled through incumbent guards Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas, plus veteran addition Kraig Urbik.

• Besides Maxwell, Gase was most effusive about Jay Ajayi.

“When I watched him coming out of college and then now I see him in person, I guess I never realized how shifty he was, and today was a great example,” he said. “Just seeing him stick his foot in the ground and change direction, you didn’t see him do that a lot in college. Just being able to see him move around, it was very impressive for me to see him in person. The way he cut in some of the run game schemes … I mean I’m really excited to see what we can do going forward.”

• Gase was happy to add former Patriots starting defensive tackle Chris Jones off waivers. He’s behind Ndamukong Suh (not present today or a lot recently), Earl Mitchell and Jordan Phillips. “Our scouts and personnel guys were really excited we had a chance to get him,” Gase said.

• Gase is far more demonstrative than Joe Philbin. Maxwell described him as “in your face.” Gase, who will call the plays, said “I went over and talked a little smack to the defense and let them know how many times we were going to throw over their heads.”

• Alonso has been in touch with suspended former Oregon teammate Dion Jordan but declined to say how he’s doing or whether he has applied for reinstatement.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back tonight for a lot more.

April 25, 2016

Heat Game 4 postscripts, reaction: Major TV news; Tirico leaves ESPN for NBC; What analysts say the Dolphins should do in first round; Is this football or basketball town? More data

Reaction and a few notes from the Heat's 89-85 Game 4 loss in Charlotte:

• Once again, the Hornets' guards outplayed the Heat's. While Kemba Walker scored 34 and Jeremy Lin 21 and often penetrated without deterrence, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic were combining for just 24 points (12 apiece) and nine turnovers (five by Dragic).

Dragic struggled defensively and sat most of the fourth after picking up his fifth foul early in the quarter. Wade had 10 assists and seven rebounds but shot 4 for 11. Josh Richardson stayed in the game late, instead of Dragic, but against struggled with his shot (1 for 7) and couldn't stop Walker, despite his usual maximum defensive effort. 

Once again, there were too many Heat turnovers (17) and just 39.5 percent shooting.

Hassan Whiteside had one of his least impactful games in recent weeks, with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks (with four fouls) in just 25 minutes.

"The most activity he showed were the last three, four minutes of the game," Erik Spoelstra said of Whiteside, who dealt with a bruised thigh.

Spoelstra played Udonis Haslem ahead of Whiteside for a large chunk of the fourth, partly because Whiteside had four fouls but more so because the unit with Haslem played well for a time. 

Luol Deng (15 points) shot just 4 for 14.

The Hornets' starting frontcourt shot just 5 for 22, but it didn't matter because their guards were so good and the Heat was again mistake-prone and shot errantly. And the Heat allowed two very costly Hornets offensive rebounds in the final minute.

Charlotte had just nine turnovers and 12 combined over the two games.

• Spoelstra, afterward: "It felt more throwback, old school Eastern Conference basketball. Both teams shooting under 40 percent. Physical. It was who could endure and make the last plays.... This is ultimately what you can expect. Two teams with the same records. Nobody said this was going to be easy... Scored 85 points, but sometimes that's the way it goes in the playoffs. We put ourselves in a position to make it a [one] possession game down the stretch.

"They made more plays down the stretch. You had two committed defensive teams that are going to make it tough on each other. Very equally matched teams. You have to find a way to overcome great players and great plays. Even as great a night as [Walker] had, we still had an opportunity at the end. They're being aggressive, really making our pick and roll defense have to contain them and be able to do it without fouling. We probably fouled more in these four games than we have in the last four weeks. But you have to credit them. They're aggressive."

• Wade, afterward: We had two bad moments in the third quarter, a really bad one in Game 3, a really bad one here but were able to go on a 17-1 run. [That Charlotte run] was just awful. It's tough to overcome that on the road.

"Coming out Miami, we were going to have to play different on the road to win the game. We weren't going to score 119 points on the road. We have to figure out other ways to win. We cut it to within one three times, where you believe you had put yourself in position to win but didn't make the final plays to do that..... Kemba, we were fortunate the first few games Kemba didn't shoot as well. He's a handful on the pick and rolls.

"There's only so much you can do with that little guy. He's crafty. Our guards are fighting. We're trying to tire him out. He got it going. We still defensively held them to 40 percent. At the end, he hit a couple of big jump shots. Maybe we'll make a few adjustments. We have got to do a little better job on pick and rolls with him and Lin. But they're good players. We did enough. We just didn't do enough to win the ball game....

"You always are trying to find a spark within a series. Coach gave [Udonis Haslem and Gerald Green and Dorell Wright] a few minutes. It was good to see those guys get in there. Hopefully as the series goes on, they'll get more opportunities. I like what those guys can bring to a team."

• Hornets coach Steve Clifford, afterward: "We have to find a way to carry this defense on the road. They have us on our heels offensively because the way they're playing is so different for our team.... Still, we are doing what we need to do, playing aggressively in driving the ball. But they're making us play differently than we've had to play most of the year.

"They get in passing lanes, which is uncommon for NBA teams. It had an impact on us. You have to be able to drive the ball there.... These guys thought we were better than people think we are."

• Former Wolves coach Sam Mitchell, on NBA TV, said the Hornets are outmaneuvering the Heat because "they kept putting Miami Heat bigs in pick and roll. They know they can get downhill on Miami centers." He called for Spoelstra to make an adjustment.

• Hassan Whiteside, via our Ethan Skolnick (who's in Charlotte): "It's the flop-offs, man. I thought the playoffs were physical. This ain't physical.... We gotta watch out for [Lin], because he likes to throw his arms into people."

And Whiteside (via the Charlotte Observer's Jason Jones) said of Cody Zeller: "Just don't get too physical with him or he'll fall over. I gotta do a better job against Cody floppin."

MAJOR TV NEWS

Mike Tirico is leaving his position as one of the signature voices of ESPN, including the marquee play-by-play job on Monday Night Football, to join NBC Sports, industry sources confirmed to me today.

The story was first reported by Sports Business Journal's John Ourand.

Longtime network announcer Sean McDonough, who has called college football for ESPN and ABC the past 16 years, is expected to replace Tirico alongside Jon Gruden on ESPN's Monday Night Football package, according to industry sources.

McDonough, 53, has previous NFL experience at CBS.

Tirico had been with ESPN since 1991 and the network's Monday Night Football voice since 2006, in addition to serving as the No. 2 NBA play-by-play announcer behind Mike Breen and handling other appealing assignments.

So why would Tirico, 49, leave one of the best jobs in sports television?

Money, quality of assignments and the potential to become one of the faces of NBC Sports very likely factored in.

At NBC, Tirico will work the nine Thursday night games that the network will produce in the wake of the NFL's decision to split the Thursday package between CBS and NBC. Five of those will air on NBC and NFL Network; the other four will air only on NFL Net.

At the NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton last month, NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus told me that Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who call the network's Sunday night games, "were both concerned about the added workload. It's a full time job to do one game a week. It's not just adding a three-hour broadcast. It's a substantial amount of work. Nobody raised their hand and said I really want to do double the workload. They  were all team players and understand the importance to the company."

Lazarus said one of the two announcers had more concerns than the other --- he declined to say which one --- but it apparently was Michaels, who's 71. Collinsworth will do the entire Thursday and Sunday packages.

Tirico is also positioned to succeed Michaels when Michaels eventually retires, should NBC retain NFL rights longterm. 

It would not be surprising if Tirico assumes a major role on the network's golf and Olympic coverage. And he's also positioned to someday possibly succeed Bob Costas, 64, as the network's prime-time Olympic host whenever Costas retires or tires of the gig.

Tirico will remain with ESPN through the conclusion of the NBA playoffs and could call a Heat game on Sunday if the Hornets series goes to a seventh game or if a Heat second-round series begins that day.

NBC and ESPN declined comment. An announcement is pending.

DOLPHINS DRAFT TALK

With just three shopping days left before Thursday's NFL draft, here's what some draft analysts say Miami should do at No. 13:

• ESPN's Mel Kiper: Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee.  “[Colleague Todd] McShay will give me grief for taking Lee this high, but I like his upside and think he fits in early on as an outside linebacker who can get into gaps as a blitzer, cover in space and be a disruptive force on the defensive side of the ball. There are going to be growing pains, but I'm betting on Lee.

“[There’s] a clear need at cornerback and [Baylor's Xavien Howard] is a fit in the second round [at No. 42]. He's not coming in to fix the cornerback situation overnight, but that doesn't happen even with the top corners in the draft, and the physical tools are there to develop.”

• ESPN's Todd McShay: Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson. “Mario Williams and Cameron Wake are both getting up there in age, so the Dolphins need to find a way to infuse some youth along their D-line in this draft. The more I watch Lawson, the more I love his game. It wasn't a fluke that he led the nation with 25.5 tackles for loss; he plays with a combination of quickness, power, technique and relentlessness that is hard to stifle.”

• NBC and SI's Peter King: Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple. "The guy Miami would love is Ezekiel Elliott [as I have reported here], but moving up for him would be extremely hard if he’s coveted by Dallas. Still, Apple’s an opportunistic pick, a pro-ready cornerback on a defense desperate for one, after starting for two years on an Ohio State defense that prepares its players so well for the NFL. Remember one thing, though, about the Dolphins: Mike Tannenbaum always is ready to move on draft day, so I don’t think it’s impossible that he could find a way to move up for Elliott, if Dallas passes on him."

• NFL.com's Charley Casserly: Lawson. "They continue to build their defensive line in an effort to beat New England."

• GM Junior’s Russ Lande: “Probably [Clemson corner] Mackensie Alexander would be my first choice. Sure, you would like to see more picks [he had none in college], but I’ll trade the picks for pass breakups.”

• NFL Net’s Charles Davis: Elliott, if there. If not, “and Hargreaves is still there, Hargreaves would be my highest-rated corner. It’s Hargreaves, Eli Apple, William Jackson, Alexander in that order. Hargreaves has everything.”

• CBS’ Rob Rang: Ohio State LB Lee, an undersized former quarterback and former safety “with outstanding athleticism, including closing speed and explosiveness as a hitter. Miami’s linebackers struggled to make big plays a year ago. Lee remains a bit raw after leaving Ohio State as just a redshirt sophomore but his talent is obvious.”

• NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein: Clemson defensive end Kevin Dodd. “Cameron Wake will be a 35-year-old  free agent next season, and Mario Williams appears to be a band-aid addition to the defensive front. In other words, defensive end could definitely be in play here despite the Dolphins' need at cornerback.”

For Mike Mayock's and Cris Collinsworth's advice to the Dolphins, please click here.

And for more draft nuggets on players the Dolphins have shown interest in, please click a different link here

FOOTBALL OR BASKETBALL TOWN

We don't want to re-ignite the debate among a few of my media colleagues in town (you know who you are), but there are two entirely different ways of looking at the question of whether this is a football town or basketball town. And each side has compelling ammunition based on what information it chooses to use in closing arguments, so to speak.

Sports Business Daily reported today that the Heat's average rating on its regional rights-holder this season (Fox Sports Sun) was fifth-best among NBA markets, at a 4.5.

That trailed only Golden State (9.76), Cleveland (9.31), San Antonio (8.71), Oklahoma City (6.7). That means, on average, 4.5 percent of Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market homes with TV sets watched each Heat game, on average, on Sun Sports this season.

One ratings point in our market equals 16,600 homes.

Whereas Heat local ratings have consistently ranked in the top five over the past several years, Dolphins ratings in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale TV market have consistently ranked among the NFL's worst.

This past season, 15.8 percent of local homes watched a Dolphins game, on average. That was the worst among single-market NFL teams (thus excluding New York and the Bay Area, where loyalties are divided) and much worse than the majority of NFL markets.

Those who say this is a basketball town can say our NBA ratings for our home team are higher than most NBA markets, while our Dolphins ratings are worse.

Those who say this is a football town can say:

1) Dolphins games draw more than three times as many local viewers as Heat games. (The "basketball town" proponents will immediately note that the NFL has much less inventory, meaning regular-season games are more important, and that all the Dolphins games were on free TV, unlike Heat games. Both are fair points.)

2) Even Heat first-round playoff games get nowhere near the audience size of regular-season Dolphins games.

The Heat ratings for the first three playoff games against Charlotte (combining the TNT and Sun audiences for Games 1 and 3) were a 10.4, 8.6 and 8.3.  That means more than 89,640 more homes (and even more people) watched Dolphins games, on average, than the highest-rated Heat playoff game to date this season. That's obviously a big number.

All food for thought and why this "basketball town/football town" argument is completely dependent on which evidence you choose to use.

And for those wondering about the Panthers: After averaging just a 0.25 rating on Fox Sports Florida in the regular season, they averaged a 1.9 rating for playoff games (32,000 homes, on average).

Incidentally, kudos to Fox Sports Sun and Fox Sports Florida for outstanding coverage throughout the Panthers playoff series. Play-by-play man Steve Goldstein is excellent, not only in conveying excitement but also in his diligence in quickly identifying players, penalties and other pertinent information.

Twitter: @flasportbuzz... Please check back later for Heat post game fodder. And please click here if you missed our weekend post filled with UM football nuggets and other snacks.