February 02, 2015

The impact of Whiteside's emergence on Heat's cap, priorities moving forward; UM recruiting; Dolphins, Marlins

TUESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

If Hassan Whiteside continues to show he’s a quality starting center, it will significantly impact Heat personnel moves and Miami’s allocation of cap space over the next few years.

A few points to consider:

### Whiteside --– who is first in the NBA in blocks and second in rebounds (both per 48 minutes) and fifth in field-goal percentage --- is making $769,881 this season and $981,348 next season.

He will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, when the Heat could have anywhere from $47 million to $62 million in cap space, depending on how dramatically the cap jumps when the new TV contract takes effect that year.

According to different media reports, the cap is expected to rise from a projected $66 million next season to $80 million to $87 million the following year.

Whiteside will have Early Bird rights, meaning the Heat can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him to a two-or three- or four-year deal, but only if it’s with a starting salary of no more than 108 percent of the NBA’s average salary in 2015-16, with annual raises of 7.5 percent. But that would mean a new contract for Whiteside would start in the range of $6.5 million or so, which would not be enough to re-sign him using Early Bird rights if he continues to perform at this level.

So the Heat likely would need to use some of its ample cap space to sign him, rather than being able to exceed the cap to re-sign him. That would eat into Miami's cap space, though it's well worth it if Whiteside continues to play like this.

### If Whiteside keeps this up, the Heat figures to consider moving Josh McRoberts’ four-year, $23 million contract, which pays him $5.8 million in 2016-17 and $6.02 million in 2017-18 (player option). McRoberts already has been dangled in a rejected proposal for Nets center Brook Lopez, according to Yahoo!

There’s also the very unlikely option of dealing Chris Bosh if Pat Riley concludes this nucleus, with additions, isn’t good enough and decides to blow it all up eventually. (No, we don't expect that to happen. But can anything completely be ruled out with Riley?)

### If Whiteside keeps flourishing, the Heat’s focus in free agency this summer and 2016 will likely be perimeter players --- shooters and point guards.

Even if Luol Deng opts out of the $10.1 million due him next season in the second year of a two-year deal (which seems unlikely) and if the Heat moves on from Norris Cole (which seems likely), Miami still wouldn’t have big cap space this summer, unless it also trades McRoberts or Chris Andersen.

The likelihood is that the Heat's best chance to upgrade this summer is through trades and using its $6 million mid-level exception. (Miami should be well enough below the tax threshold to be able to use the full mid-level, not the smaller taxpayer's midlevel.)

If Miami uses its midlevel on a point guard, options would include 6-0 Aaron Brooks (averaging 11.4 points and shooting 45.7 percent on threes for Chicago); J.J. Barea or Jameer Nelson (size an issue for both 6-0 guards), 6-2 CJ Watson (10.3 points, 38.2 percent on threes); 6-1 Mo Williams (12.5 points, 6.4 assists for Minnesota) or the Lakers’ 6-3 Jeremy Lin (10.4 points, 4.7 assists).

The Heat also could use its mid-level to try to lure a combo guard who can provide scoring punch (Lou Williams, Jason Terry or Rodney Stuckey) or a wing player such as Corey Brewer (player option), Gerald Green, Wesley Johnson, Marco Belinelli, Mike Dunleavy or cheaper options Gary Neal, Wayne Ellington and Marcus Thornton.

Talented Thunder backup point guard Reggie Jackson, who wants to be a starter and now backs up Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, will be a restricted free agent this summer, and OKC presumably would match an offer at the midlevel.

But he could sign a one-year, $3.2 million qualifying offer with the Thunder this summer and then become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, when the Heat and others could try to lure him with a big contract. That same option also is available to two other impending restricted free agents: Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight (from Fort Lauderdale Pinecrest) and Houston’s Patrick Beverley.

Beyond those three, there are three starting point guards set for unrestricted free agency in 2016: Mike Conley, Brandon Jennings and George Hill, with Conley obviously the most appealing of that group if the Heat is still searching for a top point guard at that time. Damian Lillard will be restricted in 2016 and Portland presumably would match any offer.

Phoenix's Goran Dragic can be an unrestricted free agent this summer but he's out of the Heat's price range unless Miami drastically sheds salaries.

### If Whiteside keeps playing at this level, the other Heat priority (besides point guard) will be small forward, with Deng’s deal expiring after next season.

After Kevin Durant (whom the Heat and many others figure to target) and potentially LeBron James (who says he isn’t leaving Cleveland), there’s a big drop-off among potentially available small forwards in the 2016 free agent pool, to Chandler Parsons (player option), Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Nic Batum and restricted free agent Harrison Barnes.

Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton could end up available in 2016, depending on what they do as restricted free agents this summer.

So is the sample size big enough for the Heat to know what it has in Whiteside?

Not yet, ESPN’s Hubie Brown said off the air. “We can’t look into the future to see the work ethic, the maturity of dealing with pressure, the coachability,” Brown said.

“He’s in the early stages of catching a pass with his back to the basket. That has to be refined. [But] he’s blessed with great timing, [great] length of arms, great hands. His athletic quickness from side to side is incredible. I’ve been around since 1973 and what he did [against Chicago] was a happening. He’s a diamond in the rough with major upside.”

CHATTER

### Tough few days for UM, which not only lost former oral commitment Jordan Scarlett to UF, but also lost out in battles for Royal Palm Beach offensive tackle Fredrick Johnson (to UF) and four-star St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Devante Peete to Louisville. Peete didn't have UM as a finalist.

### UM’s priorities Wednesday: beating out Kentucky for four-star Washington D.C. based defensive back Marcus Lewis (FSU and Texas are now also in the mix, according to Rivals.com); landing a quality defensive tackle --- either Jacksonville’s Kendrick Norton (UM and Auburn neck-and-neck) or Los Angeles-based Kevin Scott (down to UM, Mississippi, Southern California)... snagging Louisiana-based receiver Terrell Chatman (UM, Arizona State, TCU) and/or luring Booker T. Washington four-receiver Antonio Callaway (will pick UM or UF at 9 a.m. Wednesday)... and luring one of two defensive ends: Delray Beach Atlantic’s Shelton Johnson (UM, FSU, Virginia Tech, Michigan) or New York-based Austrian Robinson (UM, Maryland, Mississippi even).

Also, Orlando four-star running back Dexter Williams will choose between Miami and Notre Dame.

Most, if not all of these players, are expected to announce on Wednesday.

Incidentally, Carol City three-star cornerback Rashad Fenton eliminated UM from consideration; he's down to UF. Louisville and South Carolina.

### Jim Larranaga, on his UM basketball team, which has plunged out of the top 25 after losing two in a row, said: "The difference between this team and a lot of teams I coached in the past is we don't have a low-post threat. [Seven-foot center] Tonye Jekiri is more comfortable shooting the face-up jump shot. It allows opponents to focus on defending strictly the perimeter. They don't have to worry about someone going inside. We don't create enough opportunities out of our defense to create layups."

He says it's hard to find low-post players "when you're being investigated by the NCAA."

UM plays host to Louisville on Tuesday night.

### The Dolphins haven’t told defensive end Dion Jordan if he will move to linebacker, and the front office has decided not to get involved and instruct the coaching staff what to do with him. But Jordan said he can play at 265 pounds regardless of position.

“I just want to be used,” he said. Teammate Jason Trusnik said Jordan “is athletic and smart enough” to be a 4-3 strongside linebacker but “you won’t know until he does it.”

### The Marlins have two players in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects: pitcher Tyler Kolek (27th) and catcher JT Realmuto (70th).

### Quick TV note: With 114.4 million viewers, Super Bowl 49 on NBC was the most-watched program in U.S. TV history, beating the 112.2 million for last year's Super Bowl. Among 56 major markets, Boston had the highest rating (a 61.0) and Miami-Fort Lauderdale the lowest (38.7). Seattle, curiously, was 18th of the 56, with a 52.1. New Orleans was second.... The 47.5 rating for the game (equaling 47.5 percent of U.S. homes with TV sets) was fourth-highest among 49 Super Bowls, according to NBC. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

February 01, 2015

Thoughts, highlights, lowlights from NBC's Super Bowl broadcast

This was a very good day for NBC, thanks largely to a terrific game and dramatic finish that should result in the largest U.S. TV audience ever, cogent commentary from Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels’ typically detailed call, and exemplary production work, including fabulous replays of Jermaine Kearse’s acrobatic late-game catch.

Oh, this wasn’t a flawless broadcast: There was too much awkward self-promotion of NBC events (did we really need a preview of an Olympics 18 months away?), not enough in-game update of player stats, a pre-game audio snafu and no explanation of a classless Seattle penalty.

But NBC did far more worthy of praise than derision.

Collinsworth generally makes fewer obvious comments than most game analysts, and he was sharp throughout Sunday. Early on, he explained why a five-yard running-into-the-kicker penalty should have been a 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalty. Just before halftime, he suggested Seattle throw to No. 4 receiver Chris Matthews, who’s 6-5, because of his size advantage. Russell Wilson did just that, for a touchdown.

Collinsworth was masterful dissecting the matchup of the Patriots’ passing game against Seattle’s defense. And he justifiably condemned Seattle for calling a pass from inside the Patriots' 1 yard line and less than 25 seconds left, which resulted in a Malcolm Butler interception.

“I can’t believe the call; you’ve got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield –-- a guy borderline unstoppable on this part of the field,” Collinsworth said. “I cannot believe that call.” (The Seahawks still had a timeout left.)

NBC's studio analysts agreed with Collinsworth, including Tony Dungy. "You have to run the ball, no excuses," Rodney Harrison said. But it was unfortunate that NBC didn't see ESPN's stat indicating that Lynch had scored only one touchdown this season on five rushing attempts from the opponent's 1-yard line. But the Patriots allowed opponents to score 81 percent of the time on runs from their 1 or 2 yard line --- which was worst, from a defensive standpoint, in the NFL this season.

Pete Carroll told NBC's Carolyn Manno that the play-call was his fault and that he thought he would have been able to run the ball on third or fourth down.

### Michaels, always prepared, knew that Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell nicknamed the previously-obscure Matthews “Hardball” which is the name of the MSNBC show hosted by the other Chris Matthews.

But NBC cut away when Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin reportedly celebrated a touchdown by simulating the act of pulling down his pants and performing a bodily function. Michaels or Collinsworth should have explained and criticized Baldwin’s shenanigans, which drew a penalty.

### NBC only incrementally advanced the ball deflation scandal, noting the NFL still hasn’t interviewed Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and that contrary to rumors, the Ravens didn’t tip off the league about the Patriots possibly deflating footballs, according to Baltimore coach/NBC guest analyst John Harbaugh.

But Bob Costas’ interview of Brady --- and Collinsworth’s subsequent comments --- were the most compelling element of the pre-game show.

Costas asked Brady if it was fair to say that a ball boy hypothetically wouldn’t deflate a ball without knowing Brady wanted it that way. Brady said that was fair.

But Brady tap-danced when Costas said he wanted to make sure Brady was saying that “no matter what may or may not have happened, you had no prior knowledge of it.” Brady responded that he “talked about that in the past” and he doesn’t “want that to become” a story again but that “how ever the report comes out” will be “news to me.”

Collinsworth and Michaels then appeared on set with Costas, and Collinsworth shook his head.

“There was too much wiggle room in that for me,” Collinsworth said. “That’s an easy answer. If you have nothing to do with those footballs, you go, ‘Bob, I’m sick of this! I’m telling you right now, Bob, I had nothing to do with those footballs being deflated.’”

Collinsworth said that in a meeting with Brady, he asked Brady to “look me in the eye” and say that he didn’t say anything to a ball boy or assistant coach to make anyone believe he wanted the balls deflated. “He said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Collinsworth said.

But Michaels noted it’s one thing for Brady to say that in a room with a few people, another thing to say it in a nationally-televised interview…. Dungy, earlier on NBC’s pre-game, said if anyone with the Patriots knew about the balls being deflated, “it severely damages their reputation and legacy.”

Other highlights from NBC’s nearly 10 hours:

### Best personnel move: NBC hiring personable, insightful Harbaugh for its studio Sunday. Harbaugh said his issue with the Patriots’ unusual formations in their playoff game was the fact that “officials were showing the same signal for an eligible receiver and ineligible receiver” and that they’re supposed to be different. “The officials are trying to catch up with these tactics.”

### Best commercials: 1) The all-electric BMW ad with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, using 1994 Today Show footage in which Couric asked someone “can you explain what the Internet is?” 2) Carnival Corp. playing audio of President Kennedy’s speech at the 1962 America’s Cup over images of the sea. 3) Budweiser, because it’s almost impossible to go wrong with puppies and Clydesdales.

### Weak: Commissioner Roger Goodell declining NBC’s interview request. Maybe he was afraid of Costas’ questions.

### Best pregame factoid: Courtesy of Peter King: Of the 63 Seahawks who traveled to the game, only two shared a room (Russell Wilson and Robert Turbin), who have been doing that since 2012. Wilson turned his room into a film room.

### Visually stunning: 1) NBC’s majestic Grand Canyon shots. 2) Katy Perry’s well-received halftime show, featuring dancing sharks, a carnival of colors and the always popular mechanical tiger.

### Oddest visual: A cook slicing vegetables in the background as Savannah Guthrie interviewed President Obama.

### Oops: Obama indicating he’s the first president since George Washington to brew beer in the White House. But Washington never lived in the White House.

### Best idea: Costas suggesting the NFL change its playoff overtime rules to a full 10-minute quarter to ensure that both teams get the ball.

### Most bizarre comment: NBC figure skating analyst Johnny Weir, wearing something that resembled a black and blue padded armor and a glittery football hat, said Super Bowl media day was “burly, testosterone-filled and smelled of man.” That, among Weir’s other comments, left Costas admitting he’s “nearly as speechless as Marshawn Lynch.”

### Worst pregame feature: Weir and Tara Lipinski asking players how to spruce up their uniforms.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... If you missed it, please check out the last post for the Sunday buzz column, plus a Sunday morning UM recruiting update with a disconcerting trend.        

January 31, 2015

Scarlett decommits from UM; Loria excited about Marlins offseason and his team; Notable comments from J.T. (Fins); Sapp (UM); Whiteside chatter

Quick Sunday morning update, and a bad one for UM:

During his visit to FSU, four-star St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett announced on Twitter that he's decommitting from Miami, a blow for Miami three days before National Signing Day. 

"I am no longer committed to the University of Miami," he tweeted. "I thank all the coaches there for their time. I will announce Feb. 2 on Fox Sports. #UM #FSU #UF."

UM has only one running back now committed (four-star Mark Walton) but also has offered four-star Dexter Williams, a previous UM oral commitment who says he's considering UM and Notre Dame and will announce Wednesday morning.

Scarlett kept saying for the past month that his UM commitment is solid. But he was apparently impressed by visits to UF and FSU over the past nine days.

Scarlett is rated the nation's 20th-best running back by Rivals.com.

Of the 16 Dade/Broward prospects in ESPN's top 300, UM has only two oral commitments: Walton and Killian safety Jaquan Johnson, who's enrolled.

UM is still pursuing a couple of those 16: receiver Antonio Callaway and quarterback Torrance Gibson. And UM didn't offer all of the 16 (many but not all).

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Marlins’ key decision-makers --- owner Jeffrey Loria, president David Samson and top baseball executives Michael Hill and Dan Jennings --- have made smart, sensible and savvy moves this winter, achieving more than most considered realistic in one offseason.

Beyond the historic Giancarlo Stanton contract, they’ve clearly upgraded at first, second and third base, added a top-half-of-the-rotation starter (Mat Latos is one of only five pitchers with at least 15 starts and an ERA below 3.50 each of the past five seasons), acquired the best-available fourth outfielder (Ichiro) and augmented the rotation and bullpen.

“They are going to be beyond interesting,” Loria said of a team that now fields starters who have had big-league success at every position. “We’ve put together an incredible combination of players. We believe we have probably the best outfield in baseball.”

And he loves his revamped infield, which has just one incumbent starter: Adeiny Hechavarria. He looks at it this way: “Are we going to trade [Martin] Prado for many third basemen? I don’t think so. Are there shortstops you would trade for Hechavarria? Maybe a couple you could think of, but I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. [Second baseman] Dee Gordon we’ve liked for several years and the fact we could make this trade was terrific.”

Loria addressed a few issues in a phone conversation:

### He said he’s more optimistic about this team than the high-priced roster the Marlins assembled in 2012, their first year at Marlins Park. Why?

“Because I can see the experience and energy of these guys,” he said. “We didn’t have this outfield then. Giancarlo is one of the best players in baseball, gets better every year. It’s nice to have this core of young players. [And] we have the best chemistry we’ve ever had. What you see now is the continuity, stability and cohesiveness that I have dreamed about. It’s felt from upstairs to the clubhouse. It’s a feeling that we can do anything.”

### He said the Reds weren’t shopping Latos “but we decided we would inquire. We went right at it because Jose [Fernandez] is not going to be back until sometime after June 1. We wanted to bridge the gap. Mat Latos --- I wouldn’t stand in that batter’s box with a shield [against him]. He’s that tough.”

### He isn’t sure what will happen with Dan Haren: “I don’t know: one moment he says he wants to play, the next minute he says might retire, the next minute he wants to pitch on the West Coast.” (He plans to report to spring training.)

### On replacing Casey McGehee (now with the Giants) with Prado at third base: “We all loved Casey. There were questions about what happened in the second half last season. Maybe he got tired. We don’t know. He didn’t drive in a lot of runs [in the second half]. This opportunity came along and it was something we had to follow. Prado is a consummate pro who has had a consistently great career, a [.291] career hitter, one of those wonderful players who would fit well into our clubhouse.”

### On Gordon: “Anybody who can run like the wind and plays like he does has to be part of our team. He’s an exciting player. We had that speed in [Christian] Yelich but thought we may have been sacrificing him as a leadoff hitter.” (Manager Mike Redmond has spoken of hitting Yelich second or third.)

### On new first baseman Michael Morse: “I called to congratulate him on joining the team and welcomed him; the conversation was close to an hour and a half because he’s very engaging and very wise. He gets it. He has the experience of being on a winning team. Whenever I saw him come to bat, I kind of turned my head away because I didn’t want to see what he would do to the baseball.”

### On catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia, who hit .220 in his first season for the Marlins after batting .273 for Boston in 2013: “He had a rough first year. We know what he’s capable of. We look for a really good turnaround.”

### He likes the under-the-radar pitching acquisitions. “David Phelps [acquired from the Yankees] and Aaron Crow [from Kansas City] are very intriguing. Phelps is a tough kid. He can pitch inside, doesn’t back down, comes right at you. He’s a little bit like A.J. Ramos. And I wouldn’t overlook [former White Sox starter/reliever] Andre Rienzo. He was tough in the World Baseball Classic.”

### Loria wisely makes no playoff predictions because he knows the competition is formidable. “Washington certainly has a great team; they’re the favorites [in the National League East]. But every team is capable of being at the top. The Mets have great pitching. Philadelphia knew for a long time how to win. The Nationals have won two years in a row; they are the favorites. But I like my guys.”

CHATTER

### Jason Taylor raised several valid points this past week in an appearance on the Dolphins-owned radio show. Taylor, who was a guest assistant coach during OTAs last summer, asks this about the Dolphins: During halftime, “what adjustments are being made? That’s one of the great things the Patriots do. Sometimes, that’s lacking [here].”

He said linebacker “needs to be shored up," that Miami’s defense plays “a little flat,” and doesn’t act like Seattle’s (“they’re nasty, they intimidate, want to inflict pain”). When prompted by Sam Madison, he said this Dolphins defense simply doesn't play with the same mentality that his defense did.

He suggested “mileage” on players is one factor in the Dolphins’ defensive decline but also cited offensive play-calling: “Some of these games you get a little conservative and keep putting things on the defense and [they] wear down.”

Of the Dolphins' new power structure, he said: “I hope there’s less confusion in the building than outside.”  

### Whereas Michael Irvin told NBC-6's Adam Kuperstein that Miami fans need to “calm their asses down” about Al Golden, Warren Sapp said of UM’s defense (to WQAM's Marc Hochman and Zach Krantz): “You can’t win with this. We’re farther back in the end zone than the running back was from the goal-line. I was blown away It looks like we’re playing in Canada....

"We play Florida State. Jameis was in the pocket lighting us up. You kidding me?

"You've got to touch the quarterback. I would like a defense that me and you recognize or Jim Burt recognizes or anybody that played at Miami in the last 50 years recognizes. We are looking at something that's unfamiliar to us. I can't watch it. The most decorated Cane in school history can't watch this university? That's tough."

And he said of Irvin: "If he didn't have a microphone in front of him, it's a different conversation you're having about the University of Miami program."

### For all the good work UM point guard Angel Rodriguez has done, his shooting percentage has plunged to a team-worst 33.6. Coach Jim Larranaga said Rodriguez, whose basketball role model is Portland’s Damian Lillard, “maybe needs to be a little bit more patient” and teammates need to “free him for better shots.”

Comparisons were drawn earlier this season between Shane Larkin's great season (2012-13) and Rodriguez's. But while their scoring averages were similar (14.5 for Larkin then, 13.7 for Rodriguez now), Larkin shot much better during his breakout season (48 percent). UM plays at FSU on Sunday.

HASSAN WHITESIDE CHATTER

### Start with this: Through 20 games this season, Whiteside is first in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes, second in rebounds per 48 minutes (behind Andre Drummond) and third in efficiency rating (behind Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant).

And even beyond the defense and rebounding and dunks, we saw a silky jumper on Friday. Whiteside shot 67 percent in January (63 for 94), which according to Elias, was the second-highest in a month in franchise history (minimum 40 field goal attempts), behind Shaquille O'Neal's 68 percent (66-for-97) in April 2006.

### As he told Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner, Whiteside says his game most resembles David Robinson’s and Alonzo Mourning's. Here's how that comparison stacks up so far numerically:

Whiteside’s stats per 36 minutes: 17.2 points, 14.2 blocks, 5.1 blocks. (Nobody has ever matched or exceeded those numbers collectively in a season.) Robinson’s career numbers per 36 minutes: 21.8, 11.0, 3.1.…  Mourning's career per 36: 19.8, 9,9, 3.3.

### Chris Bosh last week called Whiteside a “bigger, younger Tyson Chandler." Even Chandler saw similarities Friday.

### Fans are stopping Whitside everywhere now –-- restaurants, gas stations, on the street for pictures and autographs.

Not everyone recognizes him, though, and there was this amusing exchange at Dadeland Mall: When Whiteside told a teenager (Lamar) that his name is Hassan, “he told me he has someone named Hassan, Hassan Whiteside, on his fantasy team. He didn’t know it was me.”

### Besides Mourning and Juwan Howard, Pat Riley is often in Whiteside’s ear, “telling me to keep doing the right things.”...

### Erik Spoelstra told a few of us on Thursday that when he met with Whiteside in November, Spoelstra said to him, "You'll understand the type of player I like" if Whiteside looks up what center started most of the first season of the Big Three. Spoelstra was talking about the defensively-skilled Joel Anthony. (Actually, Anthony started mostly in the second year of the Big Three era, but Spoelstra's point was clear.)

### After a basket last week, Whiteside flexed his biceps like Mourning does and “Zo liked it. When I came in to practice the next day, everyone was flexing their muscles at me.”...

Whiteside admits that “sometimes” he blocks shots out of bounds “just ‘cause the crowd likes it.”…  

### Best Whiteside line of the week: What did he learn playing in Lebanon? “Hummus is really good. Ya’ll need to try it.”…

### On a serious note, what’s unfortunate is that the Heat’s new prefered starting lineup (Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng) has played just 28 minutes together because of injury (and has outscored teams by 12 points during those limited minutes).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz      

January 30, 2015

Postscripts, reaction on Heat-Mavs; Priorities for UM before signing day; Tannehill, Marino share thoughts

It took less than eight minutes on Friday for Hassan Whiteside to snatch the most rebounds by a Heat player ever in a quarter (14 of them in the first).

But as numbers go, this was even more remarkable: Dallas unleashed a staggering 37-2 second-half avalanche, somehow winning a game by 21 points that it trailed by 16 in the third quarter.

And so a night that started with such promise for Miami ended with a thud, the shorthanded Heat outscored 33-12 in the fourth quarter and 60-27 in the second half of a demoralizing 93-72 loss at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“We went back to what we’re known for, which is forgetting everything when the game gets a little tight,” Chris Bosh said of the Heat, which has had the league’s worst second-half point differential for much of the season. “Our execution went out the window.”

At one point, the Mavericks had outscored the Heat 28-2 in the fourth quarter, before Miami scored 10 points in the final 2:39.

“At some point, you say this is enough,” Erik Spoelstra said. “We don't know how we get in these situations. It will change.”

Playing without Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, the Heat shot 29.7 percent in the second half (11 for 37) and 29.4 percent in the fourth quarter (5 for 17) and went scoreless over an eight-minute stretch to end the third and start the fourth.

The Mavericks’ run began when Whiteside --- who closed with 16 points, 24 rebounds and a blocked shot in 28 minutes -- went to the bench with Heat ahead 60-51 and 3:12 left in the third quarter. By the time Whiteside returned with 7:55 left in the fourth, the Mavericks led 72-60.

The Mavericks pushed the margin to 74-60 before a Tyler Johnson basket ended the 23-0 run.

Spoelstra said he should have gone back to Whiteside sooner.

“I had to take him out for fatigue,” Spoelstra said. “It happened quickly. [Dallas] really spread the court. So we put [Mario Chalmers] and [Bosh] back in. That should have been enough but it wasn’t.”

Asked if he felt he could have returned sooner, Whiteside said: “That’s a question for coach. … I watched like y'all... Everybody wants to play.”

Spoelstra said Whiteside is not under a minutes limit.

The Mavericks made 10 of 20 three-pointers in the second half, with Charlie Villanueva hitting four of them in a 14-point second half and Devin Harris nailing three of them. All this from a team that started the game missed 17 of its first 20 shots.

Conversely, the Heat’s offense was inept after intermission, with Miami finishing with more second-half turnover (12) than field goals (11). Bosh (12 points) shot just 5 for 18, Norris Cole 1 for 10, Chalmers 3 for 11 and Danny Granger 0 for 6 in 16 scoreless minutes.

“There were a lot of open looks; they’re due,” Spoelstra said. “They stepped up their defense. You have to credit them for that.”

Bosh said he commanded more attention with Wade out. “I haven’t seen anything like that; they were flying at me pretty fast,” he said.

Whiteside entered Friday third in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes (behind Detroit’s Andre Drummond and the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan), and his rebounding exploits were even more impressive considering Dallas starts a big frontline featuring 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler and 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki.

“He did a fantastic job,” Bosh said. For perspective on Whiteside, consider:

### His 14 rebounds broke Ike Austin’s Heat record for rebounds in a quarter (13) and tied Al-Farouq Aminu for most rebounds in the first quarter of a game in the past 15 years. If he hadn't gone to the bench with his second foul, he might have threatened Nate Thurmond's NBA record for rebounds in a quarter (18, in a game in 1955).

### He reached 13 rebounds faster than any player in the last decade, needing just 6:05 to do it.

### He tied Kevin Willis’ franchise record for most rebounds in a first half (16) and his 24 for the game tied for second-most in franchise history, falling short of Rony Seikaly’s 34 in a 1993 game against Washington. It was the Heat's most rebounds in a game since Willis had 24 in December 1994.

"He's so long out there, it's incredible," Dirk Nowitzki said. "That's a nice find."

The Heat (20-26) got an unexpected first-half lift from rookies Ennis (15 points for the game) and Tyler Johnson. Both were on the floor for the entire fourth quarter. “They both competed their tails off,” Spoelstra said.

Spoelstra started Shabazz Napier alongside Chalmers, while Granger started in place of injured Luol Deng (calf injury) at small forward. It all worked for a half, with Miami ahead 45-33 at intermission. Then everything fell apart.

### Wade, out indefinitely, will not accompany the Heat at least at the start of a four-game road trip that begins Sunday in Boston… Spoelstra said Deng will travel to Boston... Bosh on being named to his 10th All-Star Game: “Ten times is a lot. I’ve exceeded my expectations when I was a kid.”…. According to published reports, Cole is on the radar of Detroit and Charlotte, which both lost their starting point guards to injury.

UM NEWS 

### UM’s top six priorities in the final days of recruiting? Here’s my list:

1) Making sure they don’t lose two top oral commitments: running back Jordan Scarlett (to FSU) and offensive tackle Tyree St. Louis (to UF or Tennessee). Both have said their commitments are solid, but UM must hope FSU doesn’t do anything to change Scarlett’s mind.

2) Adding two defensive linemen from among three-star tackles Kevin Scott (Los Angeles) and Kendrick Norton (Jacksonville) and three-star Delray Beach Atlantic end Shelton Johnson (FSU is the front-runner). .... 247sports.com reported this afternoon that five-star defensive end Rasheem Green eliminated UM from consideration; his five-star linebacker teammate, John Houston, eliminated UM previously.

3) Emerging with two receivers from among Booker T. Washington’s Antonio Callaway (UF now a major challenger; he grew up a Gators fan); Daylon Charlot (Alabama and LSU in play) and soft UM commitment Terrell Chatman (Arizona State, TCU in mix).

If UM can’t land any of the three, then four-star Lawrence Cager would be UM’s only receiver commitment, unless the Canes can find another one late.  

4) Beating out Kentucky for four-star defensive back Marcus Lewis, who can play safety or cornerback. (Three of four Rivals.com analysts predict he will pick Kentucky.)

5) Pursuading Plantation American Heritage four-star quarterback Torrance Gibson to switch his commitment from Ohio State. Gibson is visiting this weekend. Gibson told me last year that Ohio State is appealing because of Urban Meyer's success with left-handed quarterbacks.

UM also has made a late push for Boynton Beach quarterback Lamar Jackson, a Louisville commitment. If UM can’t lure either, it could turn to Georgia-based Evan Sheriffs, who visited last weekend but left without an offer.

6) Adding three-star Royal Palm Beach tackle Fred Johnson, who is also being pursued by UF and Tennessee.

### Two days after asking UM fans (through Canesport) to follow him on Twitter, three-star Georgia-based linebacker Mohamed Barry committed to Nebraska instead of Miami or Kansas State. UM has only two linebackers in this class.

DOLPHINS TALK

### Though there wasn’t much on-air interaction between the two, it was interesting to hear Ryan Tannehill and Dan Marino make a joint appearance today on Boomer Esiason’s and Craig Carton’s New York radio show, originating from Radio Row at the Super Bowl in Arizona.

“It's been great to have his knowledge in the building,” Tannehill said. “Having him in the room, watching tape, bouncing ideas off him, has been great.”

Said Marino: “It's been a lot of fun for me, too. Old quarterbacks being able to be around young guys. That football atmosphere, going to practice. It's been a lot of fun. I have really enjoyed being around you guys.”

Tannehill said about five games a year are going to come down to the fourth quarter and “we're winning two out of five. We have to find a way to win 4 or 5 or 5 of 5.”

### Tannehill agreed to appear on air this week with WQAM’s Orlando Alzugaray, who has nicknamed him “Tannekill.”

Alzugaray told him: “I've been critical of you on the air” (He didn’t tell Tannehill about the nickname) but added “I pull for you.”

Tannehill told Alzugaray: “I made some strides this year” but he must be more consistent and that he and teammates and coaches must  “find a way to get more explosive plays. That's something we will focus on this offseason…. Getting the ball downfield depends on a lot of things. For a lot of the year, we were rolling the dice and getting bad numbers. It was frustrating for us…. You guys don't think we're aware. We're aware. We spend countless hours... What do you think we're doing all day? We're trying to find ways to get the ball downfield and score touchdowns.”

### The Heat delivered good news this week for fans who have another season left on their multiyear season-ticket commitments: The team has changed its mind and decided not to increase ticket prices next season. And those fans who agree to commit for 2016-17 will get their tickets “at a substantially discounted rate” as part of a “Heat Life Loyalty Plan.” 

The Heat says it’s not ready to say whether ticket prices will change for new season ticket holders or for season-ticket holders who don’t have contracts for next seasons. Nor is the Heat prepared to say if individual ticket prices will remain the same next season.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 29, 2015

Media column: Details on NBC's Super Bowl plan and uncomfortable position for NBC announcers; ESPN's unique Heat decision; Local changes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Super Bowl TV chatter:

### One of NBC’s challenges Sunday is determining how much time to allocate to the Patriots’ ball deflation scandal if there’s no fresh information.

“We are prepared to address it with all the facts that are known at that time,” NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus said. But “we prefer everyone talk about football.”

The story will be covered during the five-hour pre-game show, but likely only very briefly during the game telecast.

During the Ravens-Patriots playoff game, after Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth briefly addressed the Mueller report on the league’s handling of the Ray Rice matter, they were criticized by some for the perception that they were too sympathetic toward commissioner Roger Goodell.

It’s easy for ESPN analyst Mark Brunell, from a studio, to call Tom Brady a liar for denying knowledge of how the balls became deflated.

It would be a lot more uncomfortable for Michaels and Collinsworth to accuse the Patriots of shenanigans, considering they must interact with Brady and Bill Belichick in the days before the game and years to come.

Collinsworth agreed and told me: “It’s uncomfortable in the studio, too. I couldn’t have been any more knee-deep in the Spygate thing than what I was. We had [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft on the satellite and after that I gave my opinion, which was hard on the Patriots and hard on Roger Goodell. Sitting outside in the green room was Roger Goodell. I had to face him as well.

“Nobody likes to challenge, to take on, people --- especially when it comes to something so personal as this. You are talking about accusing someone of lying [or] cheating. I want to see the facts and the full due process, the whole thing, before I’m ever going anywhere close to that. We are going to ask the questions when we’re in there with Belichick and Brady like we always do….

“I don’t know if any of us had even considered that you could cheat with the football. Could the Super Bowl be brought to its knees by a couple of pounds of square inch in the football? We are going to deal with this like anybody else. I don’t think [the investigation will play out] before this Super Bowl, so we’re going to be playing a guessing game like everybody else. Could there be suspensions, fines, salary cap hits? I never considered the possibility there could be a controversy over the football itself.”

Said Michaels: “If there is something brand new, we’ll get to it and we’ll express how we feel about it and what the facts are. But we’re not here to rehash everything that has taken place over the last two weeks.”

That’s a sensible approach once the game starts; discussion of this should be limited largely to the pre-game show.

### NBC said it requested an interview with Goodell but was told --- as of Thursday --- that it was unlikely to be granted, barring a change of heart by the commissioner. Though the commissioner’s busy schedule was cited as an explanation, this makes Goodell look like he’s afraid of being grilled by Bob Costas.

PRE-GAME CHATTER

NBC will deliver the usual and predictable mix of football and entertainment elements on its live five-hour pregame show at 1 p.m. Sunday.

### The football stuff: Personable Ravens coach John Harbaugh joins Dan Patrick, Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison on one of NBC’s sets. NBC said even before the season, it knew it wanted Harbaugh for this game if the Ravens didn’t make the Super Bowl…

Costas interviews Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Patrick interviews Seattle’s Russell Wilson.... Also scheduled: Tony Dungy’s chat with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas; Rodney Harrison’s on-field session with Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis and sit-downs with New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Vince Wilfork. Josh Elliott interviews Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, presumably because four hours is a lot of time to fill….

Jimmy Roberts profiles three fans who have attended every Super Bowl… NBC visits the hometown of six players (including Brady and Wilson) and interviews people who made an impact in their lives. Those packages will air in one-minute vignettes…. More time fillers: Doug Flutie and Dungy will do an on-field demonstration of offensive plays and how they’re properly executed, and NBC will have a segment on memorable Super Bowl moments.

### The entertainment stuff: Elliott and NBC figure skating analysts Johnny Wier and Tara Lipinski will handle the often insipid celebrity interviews…. Elliott also interviews Katy Perry, who will perform at halftime… Weir and Lipinski spend a day with the wives of Seahawks and Patriots players…. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon will have a couple of skits, including using a panel of puppies to predict the outcome. Sigh.

### The other stuff: Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie gets the traditional live pre-game interview with the President, airing in the 4 p.m. hour… NBC airs a feature on the legacy of former Arizona Cardinals player Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004…

NBC will force-feed us two segments that involve other sports properties that the network owns rights to: NASCAR and the Olympics. That explains why NBC scheduled a Costas interview with IOC president Thomas Bach and why the network is airing a ridiculous “event” in which NASCAR drivers and former NFL players race around Charlotte Motor Speedway. You won’t see an interview with new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, which would have more news value than the NASCAR and Olympic segments, because NBC doesn’t own baseball rights.

### Other tidbits on coverage: There’s no extended Belichick interview because NBC got him alone before the deflate-the-football controversy erupted and felt it wouldn’t be timely to run that interview in its entirety. But snippets will be used… NBC will have 40 cameras available, 15 more than it uses on Sunday night games. “You don’t want the technology to overwhelm the game,” Michaels said.… Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, will appear on air to explain controversial calls.

AROUND THE DIAL

### Most predictable comment of the night, from Charles Barkley, after injured Dwyane Wade made the All-Star team: "Dwyane Wade didn't deserve to make the All-Star team."

### The NFL is strongly considering adding two playoff teams --- reportedly more likely in 2016 than 2015 --which would add two additional games on wild card weekend.

One of those games could be played on Monday night, which often would create a conflict with the College Football Playoff championship game --- a scenario that very much concerns CFP officials. It’s difficult to envision the NFL allowing this to happen, especially when three games could be accommodated on both Saturday and Sunday.

### ESPN is taking a unique approach with Friday’s Mavericks-Heat telecast by assigning former Heat player (and current ESPN college analyst) Shane Battier to work alongside Mike Breen and Hubie Brown. It’s rare for Brown to work with a co-analyst.

### Kim Bokamper makes his final appearance this week after 15 years as CBS-4's No. 2 sportscaster. He's leaving to enjoy life and focus on his five restaurants.

He said he likely will return to CBS-4 for game-day Dolphins coverage, on a freelance basis, and also will make occasional appearances on WINZ's Finsiders. WFOR hasn't named a replacement.

### Joe Rose’s arrangement with CBS-4 entails appearances on the station’s morning show (at the same time he’s doing his WQAM talk show) but nothing at night, according to a WFOR spokesperson.

 Twitter: @flasportsbuzz      

January 28, 2015

Marlins executives discuss Ichiro signing; Wade update; Details on UM's new ticket plan; UM recruiting notes

Several Marlins executives traveled to Tokyo this week for a press conference to announce the signing of 10-time All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

Some highlights from a conference call with them before tonight's 10 p.m. press conference:

### Marlins president baseball operations Michael Hill, on the appeal of signing Ichiro: "We wanted to create the deepest 25-man roster we possibly could. When you can add one of the best All-time Japanese players to ever play the game, it made so much sense for us. Unless there's an injury, we'll use him various ways to try to keep him sharp and get him as many at-bats as possible. He's in incredible shape. He doesn't look like a 41-year-old. He looks like he has a number of years left in him."

### Marlins general manager Dan Jennings: "He'll be valued as a left-handed bat off the bench, a fourth outfielder."

### Marlins president David Samson: "The No. 1 thing he brings is the quality of player he is. It's a bonus he's a Hall of Famer and a Japanese player. We're here to play in October and he gives us the best chance to do that."

### Will it help market the Marlins in the Far East?

"We were one of the last two teams to not have a Japanese player along with Cincinnati," Samson said. "[For] the 10th commissioner, Rob Manfred, it's such an important initiative, international baseball. Baseball is so important to Japan. To not come here and not make it the proper import it deserves wouldn't have been smart for the Marlins or Major League Baseball."

WADE UPDATE

### Dwyane Wade is expected to miss multiple games with a strained right hamstring sustained on Tuesday night against Milwaukee.

He missed seven games with a strained left hamstring earlier in the season, then two games with a less serious left hamstring injury earlier this month.

If Wade misses seven games --- and an exact timetable is impossible to determine at this point --- he would be out until the All-Star break. The Heat, which will be cautious with Wade, has seven games before the All-Star Game.

UM TICKET PLAN, RECRUITING

The Dolphins and UM have lots of work in the coming weeks as they unveil new ticket plans in a modernized, renovated Sun Life Stadium.

The Dolphins will announce their plan in February.

UM disclosed its plan this week, and here are some highlights:

### UM had 32,000 season-ticket holders last year, and there will be a clean slate in how those incumbent season-ticket holders select their seats for 2015.

Those season-ticket holders who made donations to the school in 2014 will have first choice of seats, with those making the largest donations selecting first, and so forth.

Incumbent season-ticket holders who haven’t donated will follow donors in the selection process, with priority given based on years as season-ticket holders.

But UM is allowing donors to raise their level of their 2014 donations by a Feb. 13 deadline before determining order of seat selection.

After that date, “everybody’s priority is locked in and we will assign selection times based on giving level,” UM associate athletic director Jesse Marks said.

“We will start that process on March 9. The highest donors will choose March 9 and that process will take two weeks. We will send out all that shortly after Feb. 13. People can go on-line to do it. Everyone will be given a personal URL [shortly after] the 13th.”

Pricing for tickets also will be announced at that time.

Marks said pricing will be "comparable" to last season and notes “it’s a completely different stadium.” Season tickets for potential new season-ticket holders will go on sale as soon as UM is finished with the re-seating process.

The quality of some seats will obviously improve. For example, some seats between the 35-yard lines will be moved 24 feet closer to the field. On the south side, those seats will go to Golden Canes (who all contribute at least $15,000 annually to the program).

On the north side, those best seats closer to the field will be available to anyone, with priority given to those who made the largest donations in the last calendar year. 

UM has 10 levels of donations. Those in the Champions level must contribute at least $55,000 annually. The minimum annual donation to join the Hurricane Club is $50; as of Tuesday, there were 8004 members.

The deadline to renew Hurricane Club membership is late-May. Though UM says some fans have said they won’t renew because of unhappiness with the football program, it’s too early to tell how many won’t renew.

Athletic director Blake James, Marks and others have done good work raising money amid fan disenchantment with the football program. The latest good news was Calais Campbell’s $1.6 million donation, the largest given by a former Hurricanes player.

Why the rise in big donations in the past year?  

Marks cites “messaging” and “continuity in the staff. The whole development staff has been here 2 ½ years. My long history with the university. Blake’s long history with the university…. [There’s] continuity with the athletic director which we haven’t had since Paul Dee.” 

### UM encourages fans to check out theusports.com/sunlife for stadium diagrams and additional information. Fans with questions also can call the UM ticket office at 305-284-2263.

### UM will not sell upper end zone seats as season tickets and will limit capacity to 55,000. Capacity can be increased to just south of 66,000 (the Dolphins capacity) for individual games, if UM chooses, but Marks said there have not been discussions yet about whether to do that for any of UM’s most attractive home games next season: Nebraska in mid-September or Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech.

As we noted a couple months ago, UM will open with Bethune Cookman, at FAU, Nebraska and at Cincinnati. There will be a bye after the Nebraska game. UM's ACC game dates and times will be announced at 10 a.m. Thursday.

### Couple recruiting notes: Georgia-based three-star linebacker Mohamed Barry said he will choose Thursday from among UM, Kansas State and Nebraska. Barry has given mixed messages.

A "soft" K-State commitment, he tweeted that he got "good vibes" from his visit with K-State coaches today. But he also raved about his interaction with Nebraska caoches. And in the past day, he posted a picture of Ray Lewis in a Canes uniform on his Twitter account (@BarrySwavey), which he has asked Canes fans to follow....

New York-based three star defensive end Austrian Robinson told rivals.com that Mississippi and Maryland are his leaders but that UM is still in the mix.... Five-star California-based defensive end Rasheem Green told Canesport that USC, UM and Arizona State are his finalists, but USC is "kind of" the favorite and "it would be a leap of faith for me to go" to Miami... Three-star Jacksonville-based defensive tackle Kendrick Norton told Canesport that there's a 60-percent chance he signs with UM.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 27, 2015

Updating, analyzing UM's offensive recruiting class a week before Signing Day; Irvin's message to Canes fans; Heat, Whiteside Dolphins nuggets

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With National Signing Day a week away, UM has assembled a solid 11-man offensive recruiting class, especially at running back and on the offensive line. But there are unresolved issues at receiver.

A look at UM's class on offense:

### Running back: This is the strength of the class, with the Hurricanes holding oral commitments from two four-star prospects: Booker T. Washington’s Mark Walton (rivals.com’s No. 9 running back) and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas’ Jordan Scarlett (No. 20).

Both have said their UM commitments are solid, though Walton is scheduled to visit Louisville this weekend and Scarlett will visit FSU “to see if I like it up there.”

Scarlett told Canesport.com: “I love the U and it’s going to take a lot to change me.”

Recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said Walton, who ran for 966 yards (6.8 per carry) and 15 touchdowns, is every bit as good as Duke Johnson.

“I think he starts ahead of Joe Yearby next season,” Blustein said. “He’s more of a complete package. He’s powerful, big, quick. And he can catch the ball, which is what makes him so lethal. With Walton, Yearby and Gus Edwards, it will be tough to find a team with three better backs.”

Scarlett, who averaged 7.9 yards per carry and scored 19 touchdowns, is “very good in a lot of areas but not elite in one particular,” according to ESPN’s analysis. He’s a “tough runner that won’t shy away from contact but doesn’t possess elite long speed.”

Orlando-based Dexter Williams, rated the nation’s No. 12 running back, de-committed from Miami earlier but said he’s still interested in UM if the Hurricanes can create space for him in this class. But UM hasn’t given Williams an answer, and he’s also considering Notre Dame.

### Receiver: UM has two commitments: four-star Towson, Md.-based prospect Lawrence Cager and Baton Rouge-based three-star Terrell Chatman, and Miami hopes to add a third.

But Chatman told rivals.com that he’s also still considering Arizona State (“I can definitely see myself [there]” and TCU. He visits UM on Friday after a midweek visit to Georgia.

Chatman, 6-3, is rated the 86th-best receiver prospect by Rivals and “absolutely catches everything thrown within his area code and makes the acrobatic catch look routine,” according to ESPN’s analysis.

Cager, 6-5, rated by Rivals as the nation's 25th-best receiver, said this week that he’s definitely coming to UM. He caught 50 passes for 580 yards and seven touchdowns last season. 

ESPN’s analysis of Cager: “Possesses a very nice blend of height and size. Shows good speed. Uses big body to shield defenders from the football. Could potentially be a threat in the red zone. [But] lacks quickness. Does not change directions laterally very well due to his length.”

The Hurricanes, Alabama and West Virginia are finalists for four-star Booker T. Washington receiver Antonio Callaway, who told our Manny Navarro last week that he’s “totally undecided.” He's ranked 36th among all receivers.

Uncommitted four-star Louisiana-based receiver Daylon Charlot is visiting UM this week, though UM appears to be in an uphill battle against Alabama and LSU. Charlot, a skilled deep threat, is rated the No. 9 receiver in this class by Rivals and the 78th-best player overall.

UM also covets four-star St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Devante Peete, but Louisville is believed to be his favorite. (He has an excellent relationship with Cardinals receiver coach and former UM standout Lamar Thomas.)

### Offensive line: UM has oral commitments from three of rivals.com’s top 60 offensive tackles: Bradenton-based Tyree St. Louis (No. 15); Bar Milo (No. 35; Brad Kaaya’s former high school teammate at Chaminade High in California), and Tallahassee-based Brendan Loftus (No. 59, wasn’t offered by hometown FSU). Penn State has been pushing for Loftus.

Milo said UM plans to use him initially at guard. UM also has oral commitments from three-star Venice, Fla.-based tackle Tyler Gauthier and Pennsylvania-based tackle Hayden Mahoney, whose other offers were limited (Akron, Boston College, Elon, Old Dominion).

“St. Louis is the best of that group,” Blustein said. “Big, strong kid. Does a lot of things well. Watched him for three days of practice at Under Armour and he’s a beast. Miami struck gold with him.”

UM already signed Brooklyn-based junior college three-star guard Jahair Jones, beating out Ohio State and Virginia Tech. And Royal Palm Beach three-star offensive tackle Fred Johnson has said UM is his front-runner, though UF is making a push.

### Tight end: Jerome Washington, a four-star player from Mercer Community College in New Jersey, is already enrolled and he’s an interesting story.

He had no offers out of high school but received a lot of interest two months ago (from UM, Alabama, Washington, Nebraska, Rutgers) within days after the coach for his club team sent an email blast with his highlights.

UM likes Washington’s size (6-5, 255) and route-running. He had 24 catches for 410 yards and eight touchdowns for his club team, Gattica.

"Jerome is a big old joker. He’s full grown. Got good hands, good feel for the game and tough,” UM recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll said.

### Quarterback: UM lost Tampa four-star prospect Dwayne Lawson to Virginia Tech, leaving just Gray Crow and transfer Vincent Testaverde (who appeared in one game for Texas Tech last season) behind starter Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier, who’s juggling football and baseball.

But UM will get a visit this weekend from four-star Plantation American Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson, an Ohio State commitment who is considering other options (including Auburn and LSU). He’s rated the 15th-best duel threat quarterback by Rivals.

Cager tweeted Gibson on Tuesday with this message: "Why don't you stay home and be a hometown hero? And you can throw to me like you always wanted to do."

UM has given consideration, but hasn't made an offer, to Evan Shirreffs – a 6-6 quarterback from Jefferson, Ga., who threw 23 touchdowns and four picks in 2014. Shirreffs visited last weekend.

If you missed it, we analyzed UM's defensive class in this space earlier this month.

### Michael Irvin told NBC-6/WQAM sportscaster Adam Kuperstein today that Al Golden "has earned the right to see this through" and UM fans "need to calm their assess down and let the process see itself through."

He said it would be foolish to make Brad Kaaya learn a new system. "Building a championship takes time and we're in the midst of a very good process."

CHATTER

### Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 16 boards but no blocks in tonight's Heat 109-102 loss to Milwaukee, leaving the Heat three games behind the Bucks for No. 6 in the East and 0-3 against Milwaukee in the season series.

But for perspective on what Whiteside has been accomplishing historically, consider that since shot-blocking began being tracked by the NBA in 1973, Whiteside entered tonight having so far blocked a higher percentage of two-points shots than anybody ever has in a season.

It has been 23 years since a player (Manute Bol) has averaged as many blocks per 48 minutes as Whiteside’s 7.69 this season entering Tuesday's game. Alonzo Mourning’s career average: 4.4 per 48.

### What’s more, when Whiteside is in the game, Heat opponents shoot just 48.5 percent on shots within five feet, best in the league for any player. How does that compare to other defensively skilled centers? Roy Hibbert is at 55.6, Joakim Noah at 56 and DeAndre Jordan at 58.9.

### Whiteside has spent more time working with Juwan Howard than any other Heat assistant, and Howard’s coaching reputation is very much on the rise.

“He gains trust in people so quickly,” Erik Spoelstra said of Howard. “He can connect with different kinds of people.”

As for Whiteside, he "struggled in the first half" Tuesday but "gathered himself in the second half," Spoelstra said.

### Offensively, 38 of Whiteside’s 60 baskets (entering Tuesday) were dunks or layups, and five have been tip-ins. But he has shown a nifty hook (10 for 18) and his short jumper has potential (7 for 15). His 67.4 field-goal percentage entering tonight was third-best in the league, minimum 10 games.

Though Whiteside says he has range up to 17 feet on his jumper, “I would rather him shoot a hook, the old sky hook, and go from there,” Chris Bosh said. “We know he can dunk. Let’s work on not dunking right now. You don’t have to do it all the time.”

Tonight, Whiteside was 6 for 12, with all of his baskets on dunks or layups. He missed four hook shots.

### Wade left early in the third quarter, and the Heat's deficiency at backup shooting guard was evident the rest of the way, with Spoelstra using some combination of Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier or James Ennis (a combined 5 for 13), opposite Mario Chalmers (21 points), who topped 20 points for the first time since doing it five times in the first 14 games.

### Spoelstra on Wade's injury, which is not the same hamstring he injured twice earlier this season: "Don't know how bad it is at this point. We'll know more [Wednesday]." 

### Count Branden Albert among Dolphins players who won’t be happy if Mike Wallace is jettisoned. “Mike Wallace better stay in Miami – that’s my guy,” Albert tweeted.

But some players have been left with the impression that Wallace wants to move on from Miami. Wallace said in December he wants to return, but that was before he was benched in the second half of the Jets game.

### There are three players, in particular, whose 2015 cap hits would be much less if they're cut after June 1 or with post-June 1 designations: Wallace ($6.9 million savings), Dannell Ellerbe ($8.45 million) and Philip Wheeler ($3 million).

Teams can cut two players before June 1 with post-June 1 designations and additional players after June 1. The flipside, though, is that means a cap hit for each player in 2016, too.

### The Dolphins so far have declined to give any answers to several players eager to know if they’ll be released or asked to take a pay cut.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

January 26, 2015

Monday 6 p.m.: Cole trade?; Whiteside fallout, historical perspective; ESPN tries to move OB date; UM recruiting and hoops

ESPN wants next season’s Orange Bowl to be shifted from New Year’s Eve to Saturday, Jan. 2, but the College Football Playoff is resisting, industry sources confirmed Monday. 

The Orange and Cotton bowls will be the playoff’s national semifinal games next season, with one starting at 5 p.m. and the other at 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. The time for each game will not be set until after the matchups are determined. 

ESPN is concerned that scheduling the games on New Year’s Eve will diminish ratings and has asked that the games be moved to Jan. 2, Sports Business Journal first reported Monday.

ESPN still hopes to convince the College Football Playoff to make the change but isn’t optimistic, according to a source.

In 2016, Jan. 2 is generally open on the sports calendar because it’s the day before the final Sunday of the NFL’s regular season, and the NFL is not expected to schedule games that day. So the move could easily be accommodated and seems like a sensible one.

But unfortunately, the officials who run the College Football Playoff have resisted, saying the plan for the next 11 years is to hold all the semifinal games on Dec. 31 or Jan 1.

"We understand and appreciate their interest in this," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. "The fact is that we have started a new tradition of back-to-back tripleheaders on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. We're not interested in changing for one year, then returning for the next 10. This event has been very well received and we are excited about the future and about enhancing the concept of a 'holiday within a holiday' on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day."

The OB doesn’t feel strongly about the matter and ultimately must defer to whatever the CFP decides, according to a source.

The OB and Cotton bowls will host national semifinals four times in the next 11 years and are scheduled to be played on New Year’s Eve each of those four years.

“We completely support the New Year’s scheduling connections for the College Football Playoff throughout our 12-year agreement,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. 

“For the one year in 2016 when the calendar falls a certain way, the idea was to consider moving the games from Thursday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Jan. 2 to allow for a more accessible, fan-and participant-friendly experience for all. It’s strictly a one-year concept.”

During the first-ever College Football playoff earlier this month, the two semifinal games --- the Rose and Sugar bowls --- were played on Jan. 1, when games typically draw larger TV audiences than on New Year’s Eve. Both games drew strong ratings, with each topping 28 million viewers.

The Fiesta, Rose and Sugar Bowls will be held on Jan. 1 next season. The Peach Bowl will be held early afternoon on Dec. 31. Those four bowls, plus the Orange and Cotton, alternate hosting the semifinal games.

Asked recently if he’s concerned how TV ratings or attendance will be affected by playing on New Year’s Eve, Orange Bowl CEO Eric Poms said: “We’re fine with it. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

The contract for the playoff runs 12 years. During the seven remaining years when the Orange Bowl is not hosting a national semifinal, its day and time will vary. Two of the OB games will be on Dec. 30 at 8:30 p.m., two on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., two at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 and one on Dec. 31 at 8 or 8:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal reported that the NFL is considering adding two playoff teams and scheduling a playoff game on a Monday night in early to mid January, and those games might conflict with the CFP title game, which has been scheduled for Monday night each of the 12 years. That very much concerns the CFP.

WHITESIDE CHATTER

Courtesy of Elias, some historical perspective on what Hassan Whiteside achieved in closing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks in 25 minutes against Chicago on Sunday:

### Before Sunday, only Manute Bol had blocked at least 12 shots in a game while playing no more than 24 minutes. He had 12 in 23 minutes in a game in 1987.

### Sunday marked the 15th time since 1973-74, when blocks were first tracked as an official stat, in which a player had a “triple dozen” in points, rebounds and blocks. And only three did it coming off the bench: Whiteside, Mark Eaton (1983) and Shawn Bradley (1998).

### Only two other players in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) recorded a triple double playing no more than 24 minutes: Fat Lever (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists in 1987) and Russell Westbrook (13, 10, 13 on March 4, 2014).

### The most blocks Whiteside had in a game at Marshall were 13, according to Whiteside.

### Whiteside, speaking on Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show today, said his performance “was pretty good. Normally you get teams that stay away from you once you start blocking a lot of shots. The Bulls were determined to go inside.”

He was amused when Jon Weiner told him fans are calling him Hassan Wiltside. “It’s funny the fans can play around with my last name.”

He told Le Batard that he enjoyed blocking Bulls guard Aaron Brooks’ shots because “Aaron Brooks was who I was cut [to make room for] in Sacramento.”

The centers he believes he can be like eventually? He mentioned two to Le Batard and Weiner: David Robinson and Alonzo Mourning.

“Sometimes you get in a situation where you feel needed,” he said. “I needed the Heat as much as they needed me. I felt I belonged. It was a great opportunity for me.”

### Yahoo! reports Heat point guard Norris Cole is on Charlotte's radar as a possible replacement for injured Kemba Walker. Cole didn't play Sunday and has fallen behind Mario Chalmers and Shabazz Napier in the Heat's point guard rotation.

The Heat needs to make Cole a $3 million qualifying offer by July 1 to make him a restricted free agent this summer, instead of an unrestricted free agent. His disappointing season makes it's highly questionable if Miami would extend him that offer. So dealing him, even for a modest asset, would make some sense.

A trade involving Charlotte backup shooting guard Gary Neal for Cole would be interesting, but the Heat would have to hope it's getting the Neal who shot 39.7 percent on threes in three years for the Spurs, not the one shooting 27.6 percent (32-116) on threes this season and 35.6 percent overall.

### UM basketball, which reentered the AP top 25 poll at No. 23, knows it's a big-game team, as wins against UF, Duke and Syracuse suggest.

The question is whether Miami can consistently perform in games it’s expected to win – like at 9 p.m. Wednesday against a Georgia Tech team that is 0-7 in the ACC and lost 57-28 at Virginia last week.

That hasn’t always been the case this season and that’s “definitely a concern of mine,” Jim Larranaga said today.

### In the past two games, Larranaga started Sheldon McClellan in the backcourt with Angel Rodriguez for the first time this season. Previously, McClellan started at small forward. Davon Reed is now starting at small forward.

McClellan’s defense has improved from his time at Texas, when teammates “would joke” that he didn’t play defense and “even my mom said people told her I have to pick up defensive effort. It was kind of annoying.”

He said defense was not where “my heart” was at Texas, but now he’s fully committed to it.

### Though UM had a strong recruiting weekend, picking up four 2016 recruits, it lost out on New Jersey-based Class of 2015 three-star linebacker Saleem Brightwell, who committed to Pittsburgh.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 24, 2015

Analysts, scouts assess Heat at midseason; Dolphins, Marlins personnel nuggets; Golden; UM recruiting, hoops

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

With the Heat reaching the season’s midway point this past week, we solicited views from two Eastern Conference scouts and three ABC/ESPN analysts. Some of the feedback:

### John Hollinger’s computer-driven formula gives the Heat a surprisingly low 42.1 percent chance of making the playoffs. But if Miami makes it, is there any first-round matchup it could win?

Doug Collins said “it would be interesting to see them” against Chicago and Toronto because both teams start “two bigs.” Conversely, “teams that play stretch fours are tough covers for Miami. Atlanta is a very tough matchup for them because they put shooters on the floor and your defense gets strung out. Miami really struggles with that [because] they’re not a real athletic team. Luol Deng has slowed down a bit; [Dwyane] Wade will pick his spots.”

Mark Jackson: “I would say the way they’re playing, no. Early on in the season, I thought they could be a good team that would be dangerous in the playoffs. Right now, they are not playing up to par. But this is a team that’s well coached, a world-class organization. They have quality players, so they have plenty of time to get it right where they can be dangerous.”

Jalen Rose: “I agree with Mark. One asterisk I would add is we know it’s about matchups. If I had to pick a team that they could possibly face in the first round and would really give them an issue, it would be the Toronto Raptors. Chris Bosh played for that team and Wade obviously has the championship pedigree. Going against that team in the first-round could be interesting, but not the way they’re playing right now.”

The two scouts very much doubted Miami could make it out of the first round. Said one of them: “They don’t have the talent Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, Toronto and Chicago have. Those other teams are younger, more motivated, deeper, just better.”

### So is the Heat underachieving by not being anywhere close to a top-four seed?

Collins: “For Wade and Bosh to miss [a combined] 18 games and be where they are, I don’t think they’ve underachieved. They had some huge question marks coming in. And they don’t have the three-point shooting they had in the past.”

First scout: “Considering the injuries, they’ve underachieved but not significantly so. Losing Josh McRoberts was big; he was a big piece for them. Washington, Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago are much, much better and they all have outstanding point guard play. The Heat’s point guard play is awful."

With Hassan Whiteside now starting, "you look at Miami’s lack of punch off the bench --– you have mostly guys fading or reclamation projects. Not a lot of young, live legs besides James Ennis, who’s a borderline rotation player. And they’re not guarding people like they used to.”

### So why can Portland, which has two All-Stars (LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard) be so much better than the Heat, which also has two All-Stars?

Nic Batum, [injured] Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews are much better than what the Heat has around Wade and Bosh, and Portland has shored up its bench,” one of the scouts said.

### On Hassan Whiteside: Collins: Besides the “rim protecting, his activity impresses me. He’s got a big upside.” If he keeps developing, “it would be huge for them. But he can’t get drunk on his own success. Now your name will be going on the board and people will talk about you in the other locker-room. Now you have to be even better.”

First scout: “We didn’t consider him because the book on him was he was very immature and unprofessional. Not a lot of teams would have given him a chance. But they’ve gotten the best out of him. You’ve got to give them credit.

“At the very least, he looks like a good backup. And he’s got starter’s talent. He can block shots, can rebound. Is [Toronto starting power forward] Amir Johnson more talented? No. He’s smaller, not the shot-blocker and rebounder this guy is. But let’s see where [Whiteside] is in five weeks.”

### On Luol Deng: Collins: “Luol can sometimes get lost because he’s so unselfish. He’s always moving without the ball. His efficiency is up and he's such a hard worker on defense.”

First scout: “Chicago would get him stuff with movement; they would post him up. They need to post him up more.” (Heat players were very effective in getting him the ball on the move on Friday.)

### On the point guards: Collins: “I don’t view [Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole] as a front-line point guard. Wade has actually become their point guard.”

What about Shabazz Napier? “I love winners; winning always translates,” Collins said. “That’s why I love Kemba Walker, and Shabazz was a lot like that. Napier is a little smaller. He will have to learn to play off screens, not get knocked off screens, and get them into offense. So teams don’t go under picks against him, he has to make midrange jump shots.”

First scout: “Cole has really hurt himself in a contract year. His warts are coming out. He’s not a good playmaker, a below average shooter. Chalmers is basically an undersized two who can occasionally make shots.”

Second scout: Cole and Chalmers “are backups, nothing more. LeBron masked their deficiencies to an extent. Napier was a big disappointment to me. He struggles with quickness and size, and when you don’t have exceptional quickness at his size, it’s a problem. He allows too many blow-bys. Bigger point guards will post him up. He’s not long. Similar to [Knicks and former UM guard] Shane Larkin.”   

### On Danny Granger: First scout: “He can’t beat anybody off the dribble, so he better make jump shots.”

### On Chris Andersen: Second scout: “The Birdman of old impacted the game more. He benefited a lot from LeBron because he penetrated and passed for all those dunks Birdman would get. With two lousy point guards he’s going to have fewer eye-catching dunks.”

CHATTER

### Though the Dolphins have been non-committal with several players, they privately indicated they want to re-sign free agent tight end Charles Clay. An offer is expected in the coming weeks. Tight end is one position the Dolphins feel good about, with Clay and Dion Sims. In his final media availability, Bill Lazor was very complimentary about Sims' development.

### The Dolphins met last week with Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, who very much intrigues them and would be in play if he’s still available with Miami’s 14th overall pick.

###  An NFL official said there was a lot of buzz at the Senior Bowl last week about a couple of teams being interested in luring two of the Dolphins’ respected talented evaluators: director of college scouting Chris Grier and top national scout Adam Engroff, potentially as a package deal. Engroff has had a role in Miami's selection of several players in the West (Paul Soliai, Sean Smith, Rishard Matthews, former Hawaii standout Davone Bess, among others.)

The official said there's still uncertainty about who Mike Tannenbaum will keep, with several front-office contracts expiring in the coming months. (Dennis Hickey is obviously staying for at least the next year.) And Grier and Engroff are valued. 

### Talks have stalled between the Marlins and left fielder Christian Yelich on a long-term deal --- a significant gap remains --– and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria also has declined the Marlins’ initial multiyear offer. Yelich isn’t a free agent until after 2019, Hechavarria after 2018. Both were interested in multiyear contracts but not at the money offered.

### Though Ichiro Suzuki's one-year contract with the Marlins calls for a base salary of $2 million, he can earn as much as $5 million total if he reaches certain thresholds with plate appearances, which
will be difficult to achieve barring injuries to a starting outfielder. If Ichiro somehow collected the entire $5 million, the Marlins' payroll would swell to $70 million.

### UM athletic director Blake James disputes any notion that Al Golden kept his job because of a large buyout (which is a substantial portion of the $10 million-plus left on his contract).

“Al is here because we believe in him as a coach,” said James, who remains in pursuit of a neutral site football game with UF (possibly in Orlando).

A UM trustee involved in athletics said the buyout is substantially lower after next season.

### At least three uncommitted players were scheduled to visit UM this weekend: three-star Los Angeles based defensive tackle Kevin Scott, Delray Beach Atlantic three-star defensive end Shelton Johnson (who reportedly leans toward FSU) and two-star Georgia-based quarterback Evan Shirreffs, who came to his visit without a UM offer but was hoping for one.

### Can't say enough about the improvement of UM center Tonye Jekiri, whose 13 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks helped UM win 66-62 at Syracuse today. He's now averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, which leads the ACC and ranks 14th in the country. UM is now 14-5 overall, 4-2 in the ACC.

### Sports business items: The Dolphins have a good chance to land the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowls (finalists are announced in May) and the Marlins have an excellent chance to get the 2017 All-Star Game….

David Beckham’s group has zeroed in on three to five sites in the greater downtown Miami area for an MLS stadium, with a site near Marlins Park still in the running. (UM hasn’t been contacted about a joint stadium in recent months.)

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez said he hasn’t spoken to Beckham’s group in four or five months. “Downtown property is very expensive; we had a quarter of an acre sell for $125 million on the water [and Beckham] has to assemble 9 or 10,” Gimenez said.

“Not saying they’re all $125 million, [but] it's hard to assemble those pieces. They want it to be urban. They wanted [fans to be able to] march to the match. There are a few places that could happen. A site near Marlins Park would be adequate.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

January 23, 2015

Saturday 11 a.m.: Some jarring Heat trends; Heat chatter; Wade All-Star reaction; UM recruiting; former UM QB gets NFL interview

11 a.m. Saturday:

The Heat plays its second and final ABC-televised game of the regular season on Sunday and Miami arrives in Chicago with the ignominious distinction of being the league’s worst second half team, based on point differential.

On Friday, the Heat squandered nearly all of a 21-point lead but escaped against Indiana, marking only the second time in the past 15 seasons that the Heat was outscored by at least 15 points after halftime in a home game and still managed to win. (The other, according to Elias, was against Detroit in 2007).

What’s puzzling to the players is the jarring contrast between the Heat’s first- and second-half play this season. Consider:

The Heat has outscored teams by 57 points in the first half (which is the NBA’s 12th-best differential). But Miami has been outscored by 212 points after halftime, with that -4.9 differential ranking last in the league.

The Heat averages 49.8 points in the first half, good for 14th in the league, but just 43.0 in the second half, which ranks last. The Heat’s points differential has been worse in the third quarter than the fourth, but no team averages fewer points in the fourth quarter than Miami’s 22.2.

So what’s going on here?

“Our execution in the first and second half is different,” Chris Bosh said. “As the game tightens up, we get tight a little bit for some reason. We stop running plays that work. As an IQ level as a team, we’re not really reading and reacting correctly to the defense. Sometimes guys are going to sit on our plays and you have to be ahead of the curve and throw wrinkles in there to throw them off a little bit. It’s reading and reacting during the game. We’re still working on that.”

Bosh said Erik Spoelstra has been calling more plays late in games than he would otherwise. “He can call all the plays he wants; that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to score,” Bosh said. “It’s on the players. It’s on us to make sure we’re setting screens, posting up when it’s time to post up. If a guy has a shot, he has to knock it down. That’s what it comes down to.”        

Several Heat regulars have seen their shooting percentage plummet in the fourth quarter. Mario Chalmers is shooting 42.6 percent in the first three quarters, 33.9 in the fourth. Luol Deng has gone from 51.4 to 41.9, Norris Cole from 39.8 to 32.5, Shawne Williams from 47.4 to 32.1.

Bosh is shooting 48.4 percent in the first three quarters, 42.2 in the fourth. Dwyane Wade fourth-quarter shooting has been fine (48 percent) but he’s shooting 43.5 in the third.

“We have to come out with more energy, more motor to our offense, especially in the second half,” Spoelstra said. “We’re getting caught at the end of the clock quite a bit in those situations.”

Wade said the Heat’s offense was “a little stagnant” early in the fourth quarter against Indiana, but generally “we ran the offense we needed to run.”

Wade, meantime, remains in a rare extended shooting slump. Wade, who shot a remarkable 54.5 percent last season, ranks fourth in the league among shooting guards at 48.4 percent but has made less than 50 percent of his shots in his last nine games and is shooting 58 for 144 (40.3 percent) over that stretch.

Wade, who had headaches and dehydration earlier Friday, said: “I was trying to get my legs under me [against Indiana]. They haven’t come with me yet. Hopefully, they come back soon.”

### Unless the Heat somehow gets a playoff game on ABC, this will be Miami's final ABC appearance this season, with Dave Pasch and Hubie Brown working Heat-Bulls at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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

A six pack of notes on a Friday night:

### For the first time since 2005, Dwyane Wade won’t be starting in an All-Star Game, but he’s not sweating it.

Wade indicated he’s not bothered by the fact Kyle Lowry surpassed him in fan voting, thanks in part to a social media campaign orchestrated by the Toronto Raptors, one that enabled Lowry to earn the Eastern Conference starting backcourt spot alongside John Wall.

“My wife told me [about Lowry getting the starting nod],” Wade said. “I was just like, ‘OK.’ I wasn’t vote watching. [The Raptors] did a good job. They had an unbelievable campaign. Kudos to them. It’s more important for him than it would have been to me.”

Lowry trailed Wade by 115,803 votes two weeks ago but ended up 15,541 votes ahead of Wade.

The Heat also had a social media push for Wade, but the Raptors’ campaign ultimately prevailed, thanks partly to Canadian politicians tweeting votes for Lowry. Every reweet of those pro-Lowry tweets, with the #NBAballot hashtag, counted as a vote for Lowry.

Wade made a point to praise Lowry for his outstanding play this season, noting he has "had an unbelievable season."

Asked if he expects to a named an Eastern Conference reserve, he said: “I don’t care about that stuff. It’s not really a concern for me.”

Wade said he still has to go to New York for business obligations during All-Star weekend regardless of whether he plays in the game, which is scheduled for Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden.

Chris Bosh also indicated Friday that it won’t be a big deal to him if he’s not voted an All-Star reserve. "I mean, you get a week vacation" if you don't make the All-Star team, he said.

It's difficult to envision the sub .500-Heat getting two players in the All-Star game. Eastern Conference coaches vote for the reserves, with the announcement scheduled for Thursday evening.

The Heat has more than a week between its last game before the All-Star break (Feb. 11 at Cleveland) and first game after (Feb. 20 at New York).

### You have to admire Luol Deng for pushing through chills, a sore throat and a headache to score 23 points in the Heat’s 89-87 win against Indiana tonight.

On Sunday, Deng will play in Chicago for the first time since the Bulls traded him to Cleveland last January.

“I was there a long time [9 ½ seasons]; there definitely will be emotions,” he said. “I never thought I would be anywhere else.”

He said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau “would have liked me back” this season but “I felt it wasn’t time.”

### The Heat was outscored 50-35 in the second half tonight, squandering all but one point of a 20-point third quarter lead. We’ve seen this too often this season.

The Heat entered averaging 43.2 points in the second half, worst in the league, and with a league worst -4.7 point differential in the second half.

### With 10 days left before National Signing Day, UM --- oddly enough --- is waiting for decisions from more uncommitted California-based prospects than South Florida-based prospects.

At least four Southern California defensive players are considering UM: five-star defensive end Rasheem Green, five-star linebacker John Houston, three-star defensive end Simi Moala and three-star defensive tackle Kevin Scott, who is visiting this weekend.

### According to Fox’s Alex Marvez, former UM quarterback Steve Walsh – head coach at Cardinal Newman in West Palm Beach – will interview for the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback coaching job. Another former UM quarterback, Ken Dorsey, is quarterback coach of the Carolina Panthers.

### Though some national reports continue to link the Marlins to free agent James Shields, the feeling internally is that he would be way too costly (unless Jeffrey Loria has a surprising change of heart).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz