July 07, 2015

Dolphins passed on possible Hall of Famer this offseason; Heat's search for a shooter; Canes football, Marlins, Panthers arena update

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Asking and answering:

### What seven-time Pro Bowler had interest in joining the Dolphins this offseason but never received a phone call from them?

Andre Johnson, the former All-Pro receiver who attended Miami High and UM.

Playing for the Dolphins “was something I thought about,” Johnson told me at the recent UM Hall of Fame fishing tournament in Islamorada. “I always had a dream of playing at home. I was a huge Dolphins fan. But they never called.”

Even though playing here appealed to him, Johnson said he's not angry with the Dolphins because “I understand the business side. I have a good situation” in Indianapolis, which signed him for three years and $21 million.

Johnson, 33, caught 85 passes for 936 yards for Houston last season after catching 109 for 1407 the previous year --- despite not having a great quarterback. His six receptions per game is best in NFL history and his 85 receiving yards per game is second-highest ever.

If Miami had signed him instead of Greg Jennings, it would have had one of the NFL’s best receiver groups: Johnson, DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills.

But on the flip side, Miami also would have $5 million less in cap space. Johnson’s cap hit is $7.5 million, Jennings’ $2.5 million. Miami has $11 million in space, says the NFLPA web site, though that seems a bit high.

### What’s going on with the Heat’s search for a shooter?

Miami really likes free agent guard Marcus Thornton, 28, who appears to be the most realistic and logical option because he has starting experience (126 games), is a proven scorer (12.7 per game career average) and three-point shooter (37.8 percent last season), has good size (6-4) and isn't too old (28) and also because the Heat is reluctant to use its $3.4 million midlevel exception because it doesn't want to add to its potentially large tax bill. Signing players to the league minimum results in a far lower tax hit.

The Heat spoke with the agent for Wesley Johnson, but he agreed to a minimum deal with the Clippers today. Alan Anderson, who took one year at $4 million from Washington today, wanted more than Miami has available. Gerald Green remains an option but money would be an issue if he holds out for a full mid-level from somebody.

Former Heat forward Dorell Wright, 29, is on Miami’s radar. A career 36.5 percent three-point shooter, he told WQAM-560 there’s a “great chance of me returning to Miami” and “if that opportunity came up again, it would be good for myself and my family." If Miami decides to sign him, it would be for nothing more than the minimum.

Despite expressing interest, Miami ultimately couldn’t afford Lou Williams (three years, $21 million with the Lakers) and Marco Bellinelli (three years, $19 million with the Kings). The Heat also has inquired about a trade for Jamal Crawford, but the Clippers reportedly aren't shopping him.

### What’s the word from the first three games of Heat summer league in Orlando?

Justise Winslow needs to work on his jumper and mid-range game (he’s 12 for 33 from the field), but his versatility has impressed: He can get to the basket off the dribble, finish at the rim (at least without NBA-quality rim deterrents), get to the free throw line, defend with verve, handle the ball deftly and has good instincts. It’s no coincidence the Heat has outscored three opponents by 37 with Winslow on the floor…

The 6-6 rookie Josh Richardson is long and an excellent defender and can play either guard spot, and though he’s shooting 7 for 22, he has a very good chance to unseat Henry Walker if they’re competing for one roster spot, which seems likely.… Journeyman center Willie Reed (12.3 points, 8 rebounds) has a modest chance to stick, but only if the Heat trades a veteran big man to trim salary. And even then, Miami could opt for a veteran at the league minimum unless Reed wows them…

With Mario Chalmers remaining on the trade block, backup point guard is a concern; Tyler Johnson’s ball-handling remains uneven (five assists, five turnovers) and Shabazz Napier hasn’t been healthy.... Miami was off Tuesday but plays the Clippers at 5 p.m. Wednesday on NBA TV.

### What returning under-the-radar UM players are coaches high on?

Start with linebacker Darrion Owens. According to his position coach, he was great this spring and leads Tyriq McCord in the battle for a starting job, alongside Raphael Kirby and Jermaine Grace.

“He’s a beast; can do it all, goes 100 miles per hour,” linebackers coach Hurlie Brown said recently. “He has no regard for safety.”

Among other under-the-radar players (non prominent ones) drawing praise internally: defensive end Trent Harris (has been leading in the race for the starting rush end job, though Al-Quadin Muhammad might overtake him), guards Alex Gall (likely starter) and Joe Brown, tight end Chris Herndon, and redshirt freshman David Njoku.

UM coaches believe Njoku will become a matchup nightmare at some point in his career (remains to be seen how soon) because of his combination of size (6-4) and speed and ability to play tight end, receiver and H-back.    

### Though the Panthers have never threatened to leave, they also have said their lease agreement at BB&T Center is financially unsustainable and have asked for significant relief from Broward County. So what’s going on?

The Panthers’ bailout request, which met significant opposition from the Broward Commission, was supposed to be addressed by now. But it won’t be for several months, vice mayor Martin Kiar said. “I never would have voted for that,” Kiar added. (Other commissioners expressed similar sentiment to me last year.)

Rob Hernandez, deputy Broward County administrator, said a study is being done to determine if the arena is viable should the commission reject the bailout but instead allow the Panthers out of a lease that runs through 2028, something the team hasn’t asked for.

“Does that mean we want to keep them or let them leave [if they ask]? We’ll know shortly,” Hernandez said. “There’s still a lot of life and debt left in the building and we have to make sure it doesn’t become [obsolete] like the Silverdome [in Pontiac, Mich.].”

Last season, the Panthers had the league’s lowest TV ratings and worst home attendance (11,265). The Panthers said Tuesday that “nothing has changed at this time” regarding their arena wishes.

### Marlins reliever Carter Capps entered Tuesday with 44 strikeouts in 23 innings, or 17.2 per nine innings. How good is that in recent history?

It would be second-best in the past decade. Topping the list, according to our friends at Elias, is the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, who averaged 17.67 per nine in 2014. Next up: then Braves, and now Padres, closer Craig Kimbrel at 16.6 in 2012.

Capps leads all pitchers in strikeouts-per-nine innings this season, with Chapman No. 2.

But after Steve Cishek loaded the bases, Capps allowed a three-run single (you read that right) that delivered the winning runs in a 4-3 Boston win tonight.

COUPLE NOTES


### The Dolphins were represented among 26 team present today for a workout by Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle, considered the best prospect in Thursday's NFL supplemental draft.

A team might use a mid-to-late round pick on him.

The Dolphins appear content with Jason Fox as their No. 3 tackle but will do their due diligence before every player procurement process.

Dennis Hickey has said he expects Branden Albert to be ready for the season opener, but nobody is certain.

### Goran Dragic's camp had been clear that it anticipated a Heat deal for at least $90 million, and the Heat was ready to pay that to Dragic if it needed to do that to keep him.

So it's admirable that Dragic went to the Heat and offered to give them flexibility and ultimately sacrificed money in accepting a five-year deal for just over $85 million.

An associate of Dragic said Dragic sacrificed because he wants to win, wants to play with Dwyane Wade and also knows that he will make more here than he would have for the Knicks and Lakers because of the lack of a state income tax in Florida.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 06, 2015

UM lands another Irvin; Wade on his place in Heat history and more; Rob Konrad, six months after his miraculous swim to safety; Marlins issues; UM; Local standout sues NFLPA

3 p.m.: Following in the footsteps of his legendary father, receiver Michael Irvin Jr. orally committed to the University of Miami on Monday, joining a highly-regarded 2016 recruiting class.

Irvin Jr. recently moved from Texas to South Florida, where he enrolled at St. Thomas Aquinas. Rivals.com ranks him a three-star prospect and the nation's 81st-best receiver prospect.

Irvin, 6-2, caught 223 passes for 2741 yards and 34 touchdowns in three seasons at Prestonwood High in Plano. He told a Dallas radio station that UM wants to use him everywhere --- at receiver, tight end and in the backfield.

Irvin told Canesport.com that his father, who starred for the Canes and the Dallas Cowboys, "was obviously very excited that I chose to go to his alma mater... He has talked to me a million times about going to Miami."

Irvin said UM coach Al Golden "sounded like he was jumping out of his seat" when he called Golden to commit.

Irvin, who also had been considering Syracuse and Georgia, joins a strong group of receivers orally committed to Miami for 2016 --- a group headlined by Aquinas' Sam Bruce.

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

A bunch of items on a Monday:

### Tuesday marks the sixth-month anniversary of Rob Konrad falling off his boat while fishing in the Atlantic and making a death-defying 16-hour, 27-mile swim to safety. And the humble, grounded former Dolphins fullback has turned down all chances to make a buck off it.

Konrad tells me he rejected a couple of book deals and a movie offer.

“There were some big name folks involved,” he said. “But I made the decision I wasn’t going to go that route.

"It’s nothing I want to capitalize on. I don’t have the time and desire. I’m running three [financial] companies in Florida and one in Chicago.”

But Konrad is writing a lengthy “memo” detailing his ordeal at sea because he wants his children and eventually, grandchildren, to have a record of what happened. “It’s much longer than I anticipated. When it’s done, down the road, they can read it.” He doesn’t rule out turning it into a book someday but said that’s not his mindset now.

Konrad’s near-death experience hasn’t made him reluctant to return to the water. He said last week that he’s bringing his boat to Cape Cod for the holiday weekend. 

“I’ve been on a boat a bunch since then,” he said. “My wife has made me upgrade the technology and promise to always bring someone with me.”

Konrad, who was alone when he fell into the water Jan. 7, said he doesn’t think much about the accident. “I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I’ve been blessed.”

### Some of the more notable questions and answers from Dwyane Wade's entertaining Twitter session with fans this morning (answers are listed above the questions):

  1. DWade retweeted crimson callahan

    When I can no longer play..averaging 20 plus a game at 33 yrs old.. I think I'll stay around for alil while..

    DWade added,

    crimson callahan @acrimsontide2
    @DwyaneWade how much longer do you plan to be in the league?
    128 retweets127 favorites
    1. DWade retweeted Al

      I'm going into my 13th year..my knees get a bad rap but they're tough. You don't make it this long without them

      DWade added,

      Al @From90until_
      @DwyaneWade how's the knees holding up?
      0 retweets1 favorite
    2. DWade retweeted mirgani osman

      Perfectly fine He's a winner!!!

      DWade added,

      mirgani osman @KingGani
      @DwyaneWade how do you think justice Winslow will fit with the team?

      DWade retweeted VP3

      Let me get on that right now... @mchalmers15 whaaaaaat in the world are you doing!!!!!!

      DWade added,

      VP3 @VSalomon22
      @DwyaneWade have you yelled at Mario lately?
      1. DWade retweeted Kobe

        YES

        DWade added,

        Kobe @sam_island7
        @DwyaneWade in the end you think you deserve to go down as the greatest Miami Heat ever?
        193 retweets210 favorites
        1. DWade retweeted Mead

          I haven't been carried since my mother gave birth to me..

          DWade added,

          Mead @TommeyM
          @DwyaneWade Do you miss LeBron carrying you
          1,093 retweets725 favorites
          1.  

            DWade retweeted Nikolai Hernandez

            I like the sound of that lineup. Now we have to make it work

            DWade added,

            Nikolai Hernandez @Nikolaiii_
            @DwyaneWade You, Dragic, Deng, Bosh, Whitside...how excited are you?

### When Giancarlo Stanton went down with his wrist injury, it was clear Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Ichiro Suzuki needed to deliver their best work of the year. Only Yelich is doing that.

Ozuna, in the midst of a 1 for 36 slump, was banished to Triple A on Sunday. His average has dropped from .280 to .249 in the past three weeks.

What's more, Ichiro is in the midst of an 0 for 25 slump, dropping his average from .292 to .250. It's the longest hitless streak of his career. Previous long: 0 for 23 in 2012. Ichiro hasn't had a hit since June 18.

### An update on a few UM baseball departures: Four underclassmen ended up leaving to turn pro: Andrew Suarez got $1 million from San Francisco; Ricky Eusebio signed with Seattle for $100,000; George Iskenderian signed with Milwaukee; and David Thompson signed with the Mets.

But UM snagged South Carolina outfielder Kep Brown, who was considered a top 35 draft prospect by ESPN but fell to the 10th round. Brown has announced plans to attend UM. 

### Something unusual: A player filing a lawsuit against the NFL player's union. The player is ex-Chargers receiver Richard Goodman, a former St.Thomas Aquinas High and Florida State standout.

According to the complaint that I obtained last week, Goodman accuses the NFLPA of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty because the NFLPA did not suspend agent Richard Burnoski or revoke his certification for failing to pay agent dues or maintain liability insurance.

The suit said Burnoski borrowed $25,000 in Goodman's name in 2010, forged his signature and didn't pay the money back. Goodman said Burnoski told him that he had taken care of the problem but actually hadn't done anything. Goodman was sued and his wages were collected in a default judgment against him for more than $47,000.

Goodman hired Burnoski after seeing his name in an online database of agents provided by the NFLPA, which not only represents players but also regulates player agents. The union should not have listed his name because he had failed to pay dues, Goodman alleges.

Goodman is represented by prominent local attorney Darren Heitner.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 04, 2015

UM football with low national expectations and some lingering concerns; Heat chatter; Boras on Jose Fernandez contract; Dolphins

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

UM football opens fall practice in a month, and while people internally cite several reasons for optimism (Brad Kaaya’s development, a talented group of skill-position players and pass rushers), expectations are the lowest in years --- Bovada.com lists UM’s over/under for wins at six --- and there are several causes for uneasiness. Among them:

### An offensive line loaded with questions and just 22 career starts from returning players.

Gone, of course, are the line's best players: Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano and Shane McDermott.

“It’s very unsettled, as far as who the starters are,” Al Golden said earlier this offseason.

After spring practice, I asked offensive coordinator James Coley what he can feel confident about with his o-line. He mentioned two things: Nick Linder at center and Alex Gall at left guard.

“I like the way they’re playing,” Coley said.

Danny Isidora looks like the starter at right guard; offensive line coach Art Kehoe says he’s very happy with him.

But Coley said after spring ball he’s “absolutely” worried about tackle, where nobody had emerged as a definitive starter among Kc McDermott, Trevor Darling, Jahair Jones and Sunny Odogwu. Summer arrival Tyree St. Louis also has injected himself into the mix.

St. Louis "is trying to figure out the system, but once he gets that, he's going to be a great player," Gall said.

With Taylor Gadbois dismissed from the team, McDermott and Darling figure to have the best chance to win starting jobs.

McDermott said he wants to be the left tackle, replacing Flowers: “We've had great left tackles over the years. It's a job everyone wants.”

### A need for more consistency (or in Gus Edwards’ and Rashawn Scott's case, durability) from UM’s top offensive weapons.

New starting tight end Standish Dobard is an excellent blocker but has struggled with drops and fumbles – he couldn’t hold onto an easy touchdown in the spring game --- and “he hasn’t been as consistent as we wanted him to be,” Coley said after spring ball. “He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, like he’s got to be Clive Walford.

“He put a lot of pressure on himself, and we put a lot of pressure on him. But he’s got to play the game like he plays it. He’s got really good hands. It’s a ball. It’s coming your way. Catch it!”

Scott, the senior leader of the receiver group, had two deflections that led to interceptions in the spring game (coaches say that was not reflective of his offseason) and must prove he can stay healthy after playing in only four games the past two years. (He also has been suspended in the past, though coaches have seen personal growth in the past year.) 

Stacy Coley impressed the staff with his improved attention to detail and work ethic this offseason but has much to prove after a sophomore slump (23 catches, 184 yards, no touchdowns after producing 33-591-7 as a freshman).

Edwards, the first-team running back throughout spring, made major improvements but left the spring game with a shoulder injury after missing three key games last season. UM wants him to carry over his good practice work into games.

Running back Trayone Gray, who coaches hoped would emerge, instead struggled with fumbles and missed time because of academics. Joe Yearby was banned from the spring game after being tardy the day before but his skill set excites the staff, as does running back Mark Walton's arrival.

### Depth at linebacker and cornerback.

There are only three experienced cornerbacks on the roster (Artie Burns, Corn Elder and Tracy Howard) --- redshirt Ryan Mayes is the fourth at the moment --- because slot corner Antonio Crawford inexplicably bolted to West Virginia.

When Crawford told UM he wants to be a star, a UM coach asked why he can’t be one here. He didn’t have a good answer.

Only four linebackers have significant experience --- Tyriq McCord (who has shifted from a hybrid end/linebacker role), Raphael Kirby, Jermaine Grace and Darrion Owens. UM feels good about those four.

### Mistakes.

UM too often self-destructs (its 88 penalties ranked 107th of 125 schools last season), and penalties remained problematic in the spring. What’s more, UM committed four turnovers in the spring game.

“We were minus one in turnover ratio last season, weren’t smart in protecting the ball,” Golden said. And “you had 826 yards in penalties. I don’t know how you think you can be excellent team if you’re going backwards. We have to be a smarter, more disciplined team.”

### Special teams.

Golden decided to continue coaching them, but because punts and kickoffs weren’t a part of the spring game or spring practices, it’s difficult to gauge if anything has improved.

UM mustered a meager 145 yards on 22 punt returns last season (6.6 average, 87th in the country) and ranked 80th in kickoff return average, with Coley averaging a pedestrian 22.5 yards. Coley remains the first-team kickoff returner and Braxton Berrios (who had four returns for 20 yards in 2014) is now listed as the first-team punt returner.

The other serious concern is kickoff return defense; UM was 12th worst in the country, permitting 24.6 yards per return. Kicker Michael Badgley has a strong leg and was 14 of 18 on field goals but also inexplicably missed four of 38 extra points and was erratic on field goals this spring.

Defensive tackle can be put on this “uneasiness” list every year, because UM hasn’t had an elite one since Vince Wilfork 12 years ago.

Positives? There are certainly some of those, which we will explore in columns over the coming weeks.  

CHATTER

### Several encouraging signs from the Heat's 92-76 win against Indiana in the opener of the Orlando Summer League, starting with Justise Winslow.

The rookie showed his versatility, playing in the wing and the post, got to the line (going 6 for 8), had 15 points with three assists and no turnovers, played stout defense (including two steals) and made an impact that extended beyond the boxscore. The Heat outscored the Pacers by 28 (by far the most of any player) in his 27 minutes.

"I just thought it was a great all-around game for him," said Dan Craig, who's coaching the Heat's Summer League team. "Defensively, offensively, on both sides of the floor he was locked in."

Second-round rookie Josh Richardson (14 points) got to the line (shooting nine for nine on free throws), had two steals and two blocks and hit a three just before the third-quarter buzzer.... Tyler Johnson was uneven at point guard (one assist, three turnovers in 17 minutes)...

The Heat opened with a lineup of Winslow and James Ennis at forward, Johnson and Zoran Dragic in the backcourt and 2015 All-D-League first-teamer Willie Reed at center.... The Heat's next three Orlando Summer League games are all 5 p.m. starts Sunday (against Brooklyn on NBA TV), Monday and Wednesday.

### Classy move by Goran Dragic to take a bit less than what he could have demanded from the Heat; Dragic wanted the Heat to be able to keep Dwyane Wade and offered to help.

Meanwhile, Zoran who played just 62 minutes and shot 11 for 30 after the February trade from Phoenix –-- admitted Friday that not playing much last year was “a little bit” frustrating: “I just need a chance. I need to be patient and wait for my opportunity.” 

The 6-5 Dragic, who scored 12 points on 5 for 11 shooting in 17 minutes in Orlando today, can play shooting guard or small forward and Erik Spoelstra likes his toughness and high motor.

Zoran points to driving to the basket as a strength and “I am shooting a lot of spot-up shots to be more than [just] a streaky shooter.”

He's due to make $1.7 million next season in the final year of his contract.

### Trading Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen and replacing them with players at the minimum (Carlos Boozer, perhaps) or slightly above the minimum (perhaps Marcus Thornton) could shave $20 million off a luxury tax bill that would top $30 million without any further moves. That’s why the Heat wants to trim payroll, though some internally prefer to keep Josh McRoberts.

### The Marlins believe Jose Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna didn’t consider multiyear contract overtures last winter because agent Scott Boras is philosophically opposed. But Boras insisted last week that the players make that decision.

“In Jose’s career, it’s a bit premature because he’s still young and has only been doing it for a couple years,” Boras said. “I’ve had many players go to free agency and re-sign with their existing teams. I’ve had other players that have pursued other avenues. I don’t make the decisions whether they do or don’t.”

Fernandez is under team control through 2018 and Miami “is a great place for Jose and his family,” Boras said. “It’s really a nice union.”

### But can the Marlins ultimately afford both Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton? Boras doesn’t see why not: “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything --- every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million. There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”

### Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart, who allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in tonight's 7-2 loss to the Cubs, was optioned to Triple A New Orleans after the game. He'll be replaced on the roster by first baseman Michael Morse, who's being reinstated from the disabled list.

### Update on a couple of young Dolphins: One reason the Dolphins felt they didn't need to sign a veteran defensive end after Dion Jordan's suspension was not only faith in linebacker Chris McCain (who is working in Jordan's role as well as at strongside linebacker), but also in Terrence Fede, who defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is bullish about. Fede's defensive snap count (82 last season) figures to increase, and he said he's determined "to be more of a playmaker."

Meanwhile, it's good to see cornerback Will Davis so far make a mostly smooth return from ACL surgery.

"It's a terrible process... at the beginning," Davis said of his recovery. He told Finsiders.com that "there is some nervousness" returning from the injury. "There is definitely some hesitation. Still not 100 percent yet. Having this break will help."

### There are nine players available in Thursday's NFL supplemental draft but only one (Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle)  is a likely draft pick, according to CBS' Rob Rang.

Rang said the 6-foot-7, 290 pound left tackle is a "raw but obvious talent" and could warrant a middle round pick. But NFLdraftscout.com reported he failed multiple drug tests and the Dolphins should shy away from those players after their experience with Jordan.

The others available: West Georgia edge rusher Darrius Caldwell, Houston defensive end Eric Eiland, Connecticut tight end Sean McQuillan, Kansas defensive back Kevin Short, West Georgia defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey and North Carolina Central wideout and returner Adrian Wilkins.

Teams that draft a player Thursday must relinquish their selection in that same round of next April's draft.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 03, 2015

Heat Summer League chatter: Winslow, Spoelstra's position plans, free agent talk; TV notes (Shapiro milestone; Marlins; Turner announcer reinstated after arrest)

Heat and TV notes on a July 4th-eve:

### The Heat begins Orlando Summer League play against Indiana on Saturday (9 a.m., NBA TV) and Erik Spoelstra and the roster’s prominent players today offered insight into how those players will be used during games this month in both central Florida and Las Vegas.

Rookie Justise Winslow said he will play both small forward and shooting guard.  “I think I’ll have the ball in my hands a lot, even if I’m not at point guard making a lot of plays…. There’s a lot I have to learn. I feel I can pick it up pretty quickly.”

James Ennis said he will play primarily small forward but also some power forward (an option in short bursts next season when Miami goes small) and shooting guard.

Spoelstra said rookie second-rounder Josh Richardson will play both shooting guard and point guard: “He’ll handle quite a bit. We’ll develop that.”

Spoelstra said he sees Zoran Dragic as both a shooting guard and small forward.

Most notably, Spoelstra said combo guard Tyler Johnson will get considerable time at point guard. Shabazz Napier is doubtful for Saturday’s opener because of sports hernia surgery three months ago, and the Heat isn’t certain when he will be available.

If Johnson plays well, he could enter camp as the front-runner at backup point guard, unless the team adds a veteran.

“He’ll play more point for us this year than he did last year in summer league,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the next stage of development for him, truly being that combo guard, where you can play either position, where you can play off the ball and attack and do what he does best but also run a team.”

### Winslow’s rookie contract --- which was finalized today --- is guaranteed for the first two seasons, at salaries of $2.48 million and $2.6 million. Miami has a team option on the third ($2.7 million) and fourth ($3.4 million), then a right to match offers for him for his fifth season.

He said his biggest adjustment to the NBA game will be “getting acclimated to the speed of the game, the pace of the game and make decisions really quickly.”

Said Spoelstra: “He’s got a lot of work ahead of him. I like his fortitude. But it’s tough in this league. It’s tough being a rookie. It’s tough being 19 years old in this league.”

 ### With the Heat limited to a $3.4 million taxypayer’s midlevel exception (which it isn’t sure if it will use because of tax concerns) as well as minimum contracts, Miami is being patient in its search for another shooter.

Marco Bellinelli, in whom the Heat had expressed interest, today committed to Sacramento for three years and $19 million – far more than the Heat could offer.

Gary Neal signed with Washington for $2.1 million. And according to David Aldridge, JJ Barea --- who Aldridge had initially linked to the Heat --- will stay with Dallas. Miami never had interest in a multiyear deal with Barea.

### Joe Goodman will have a story on Hassan Whiteside posted later on the home page. Whiteside (who is practicing with the Heat's Summer League team but won't play in games) and the other veterans expressed relief today that the Heat’s nucleus is remaining intact.

"If you think about the emergence of Hassan, what C.B. and D-Wade bring, and then Lu, who is like a lockdown defender, can space the floor, there's no reason why we couldn't be in the top one, two, three in the East, with that lineup, and everybody being healthy," Johnson said. "There's a lot of freak accidents last year. With everybody healthy, there's no reason why we couldn't be the top in the East."

### Former NBA point guard Greg Anthony returns to the broadcast booth for Heat-Pacers on Saturday, his first TV appearance since he was suspended by CBS and TNT last January after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute at a Washington D.C. area hotel, the night before he was supposed to call a Maryland basketball game for CBS. The "prostitute" was actually an undercover officer.

A Turner spokesman said Friday that it’s bringing Anthony back to call Orlando Summer League games on NBA TV. But the network has not yet committed to him for NBA games next season.

And CBS and Turner haven’t decided whether Anthony will work the NCAA Tournament next season. Anthony was expected to be CBS’ lead college basketball analyst last season, alongside Jim Nantz. After his arrest, CBS and Turner created a new No. 1 team of Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill.

As part of a plea deal, Anthony was required to serve 32 hours of community service. The case was reportedly dismissed in June.

### WSVN-Fox 7’s Steve Shapiro reaches a milestone this weekend: 25 consecutive years as a sportscaster in the market. That ranks second all-time here behind Tony Segreto, who anchored weeknight sportscasts at WTVJ for 29 years (the last two of which he juggled news and sports).

“I have great respect for Steve and hope the powers that be recognize his efforts,” Segreto said.

Say this about Shapiro: 1) His sportscasts are consistently comprehensive and thorough. 2) The man is never dull.

“This is an industry that eats its veterans,” Shapiro said. “I'm proud of the 25 continuous years in Miami and I’m proud of sustaining myself 35 years ago in the industry. Channel 7 is my ninth TV station.”

He came to Miami in 1990 to work at Channel 6 (then WCIX), then moved to WSVN-7 in 1997.

"I don't take myself too seriously but I take the responsibility very seriously,” he said. “First and foremost, we're disseminating information…. [But] it doesn’t deserve the same reverence as news. There is definitely room for personality in sports. There's room for opinion. Those are strong suits for me.”

What’s he proudest of? “You mean, beyond surviving?” he cracked. “I’m proud of the core group of Channel 7 has been together for a long time. Mike DiPasquale for 18, Donovan Campbell for seven. [Executive sports producer] Jim Goodman for 20 something years.  My greatest pride is to support myself and three children for 30 years.”

How long more does he want to work?  “I just turned 61; I'm Roger Maris,” he joked. “Social security retirement age is 66. Probably another five if they'll have me.”

That would make him the longest-tenured sports anchor in South Florida history.

### The Marlins make their second and final scheduled appearance on Fox Network this season when they play the Cubs at 7 p.m. Saturday. (Mets-Dodgers will go to much of the country instead.)

The Marlins pushed their winning streak to four with a 2-1 win against the Cubs today, highlighted by good work from Tom Koehler and another blast by Justin Bour, who tied a club record by homering in his fourth consecutive game.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 02, 2015

Heat calls several shooters, but finances an issue; Marlins consider trades; Marlins at halfway point; Dolphins chatter

FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN

As the Heat tonight pursues a long shot bid for free agent star forward LaMarcus Aldridge (which would very likely require a sign-and-trade), the Heat has reached out to a few skilled veteran three-point shooters, including Marco Bellinelli and Marcus Thornton, according to a Heat source.

But there are two complications, both involving money:

Because Dwyane Wade's one-year, $20 million deal puts the Heat well above the luxury tax threshold, the Heat will be limited to a $3.4 million taxpayer’s midlevel exception and isn’t sure if it will spend all, part or any of it. That’s still being discussed internally and owner Micky Arison will make that decision.

And to keep alive Aldridge and other attractive options, Miami cannot use the $3.4 million at this point for this critical reason: A team cannot receive a player in sign-and-trade if it has used its taxpayer's midlevel exception, according to cap expert Larry Coon's incredibly detailed cap thesis.

The Heat has 14 veterans under contract --- 11 of those are fully guaranteed, and those 14 do not include draft picks Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson --- and Miami has been trying to trade players (Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen are among those available) primarily to reduce its tax burden, with the intention of replacing them with cheaper ones.

Several of those players would be moved to Portland if Aldridge surprisingly chose the Heat over six other suitors.

According to a Heat official, Thornton and Bellinelli are among a very select group of shooters that interest Miami.

The Heat and free agent guard Lou Williams (the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year) have mutual interest, according to someone with direct knowledge, but this would require a sign-and-trade with Toronto because Williams will command more than the taxpayer’s midlevel.

Other teams also are interested in Williams, who averaged 15.5 points last season, and I have no indication of any ongoing sign-and-trade discussions on this front.

Bellinelli, a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter, appeals to Miami but likely will command more than the taxpayer’s midlevel. [FRIDAY 2:30 p.m. UPDATE: Sacramento is signing Bellinelli to a 3-yr, $19 million deal --- more than Miami had available.]

The 6-4 Thornton, originally drafted by the Heat 43rd overall in 2009 but immediately traded to New Orleans, could be more realistic. He has averaged 12.7 points and shot 36.2 percent on three-pointers in a six-year career. Last season, he averaged 7.9 points and shot 37.8 percent on threes for Boston and Phoenix.

There are a handful of other guards that would be bench upgrades: Jason Terry, Gary Neal, Wesley Johnson, Alan Anderson and Rodney Stuckey, but all could command more than the minimum, and Miami hasn’t decided if it will pay more than that.

J.J. Barea has been mentioned as a possibility, but NBA.com backed off a report calling Miami the front-runner. (We’ve been cautioned that he’s considering several teams.) As of Wednesday, the Heat hadn’t reached out to several free agent Heat alums: Caron Butler, Rasual Butler or James Jones....We like Lakers free agent Wayne Ellington, but the Heat as of Wednesday night had not pursued that.

### Please see the last post for details on how Miami could accommodate Aldridge within restraints of the salary cap, and a bit on Wade's new deal.

MARLINS CHATTER

According to an official who has spoken to the team, the Marlins are open to dealing pitchers Mat Latos and Dan Haren, two impending free agents, but that could change if the Marlins build on this modest win streak and start reeling off victories. They’re also willing to move reliever Steve Cishek, who likely won’t be tendered this winter.

But at this point, they’re not looking to deal third baseman Martin Prado (who’s under contract through 2016).

### The Marlins reach the halfway point of this dreadfully disappointing season on Friday, and the question remains: How can a team with a credible player at every position, a team widely predicted to be a playoff contender, be languishing 12 games below .500 and with the third-fewest wins in baseball?

“There was no overestimation [of talent],” Marlins special assistant Andre Dawson insists. “We’ve underachieved.”

Marlins consultant Jack McKeon said he feels empathy for owner Jeffrey Loria because: “He's done the right things, but like a manager, you can make the right moves and the guys don’t execute. This should be a winning team.”

The odd thing about the Marlins’ train wreck is that three of their five big offseason moves were enlightened in retrospect: the Dee Gordon and Prado trades and acquiring two pitching prospects for Casey McGehee, who’s hitting .213 and was designated for assignment by San Francisco this week.

Injuries (to Henderson Alvarez, Prado, Michael Morse and now Giancarlo Stanton) and Jose Fernandez’s three-month absence shouldn’t be underestimated.

Beyond key injuries, there have been a half-dozen developments the Marlins front office never saw coming:

### How weak this team is in the clutch (Justin Bour’s Wednesday heroics aside).

The Marlins squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation opening day, and it was a harbinger. The fact the Marlins are hitting .255 (14th in the league) is misleading. Here’s how they rank in clutch spots: 26th with runners is scoring position (.227), 23rd with runners in scoring position and two outs (.200) and 28th with the bases loaded (.194).

“We have a chance to put a team away and it’s just not there,” Dawson said. “You keep shaking your head, waiting for it to happen.”

### Marcell Ozuna’s power outage.

He had 23 homers and 85 RBI last season but is on pace for eight and 52.

“His makeup is he’s an aggressive hitter, but he’s gotten away from that to focus on getting on base more,” Dawson said. “He has to be himself. He’s a 25 home run guy and can drive in 85-90 runs, but that comes with aggression. I’ve talked to him.”

### Christian Yelich’s decline.

ESPN analyst/former Nationals GM Jim Bowden and Dawson say Yelich has what it takes to win a batting title. So how do you explain the .251 average, after hitting .288 and .284 his first two seasons?

“Sometimes he has a tendency to get down on himself,” Dawson said. “He’s a patient guy and likes to get into a hitter’s count.” But sometimes to his detriment.

He’s hitting .287 in June, which is very encouraging.

It’s notable that 72 percent of Yelich’s balls in play this season have been ground balls –-- among the most for any left fielder, and there’s some luck involved here, because he’s not finding a lot of holes. But because he’s not hitting a lot of fly balls, only 12 percent of his batted balls are line drives, among the worst in baseball.

### Mat Latos’ ERA swelling to 5.27, 10th-worst in baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. This, after five seasons in which he had an ERA of 3.50 or lower (one of only five starting pitchers to do that).

His fastball velocity has increased slightly, to 91.2 MPH, from a year ago, when he had a 3.25 ERA. But he’s giving up far more line drives: 28 percent of balls hit, compared with between 15 and 22 percent each of his first six seasons.

“Location is his problem," a National League scout said. “He thinks just throwing hard is the answer and it’s not the answer. Good hitters hit good fastballs. The worst thing that could happen to him was being traded back home.”

### Steve Cishek blowing as many saves in seven chances (four) as he did in 43 last season.

### What a mess first base has been, aside from the last two days. Between Morse and Bour, Marlins first basemen entered Thursday with the 25th-lowest average in baseball (.228) and second-fewest RBI (31).

Though Bour and Derek Dietrich can play first, the Marlins desperately need Morse to rebound in the final 1 ½ years of his two-year, $16 million deal, because there’s no top first-base prospect in their system. The good news: After hitting .215 in 2013, Morse rebounded to bat .279 in 2014 for the Giants.

DOLPHINS NOTE   

### Among the feedback we've heard from Dolphins players: There's definitely concern about the situation at guard, where nobody has seized a position (though rookie Jamil Douglas has had some good moments); optimism about the secondary even beyond Brent Grimes (Jamar Taylor, Brice McCain were solid in May/June practices and Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett flashed); and praise for how linebacker Chris McCain has handled his increased responsibilities.

Also, lots of positive feedback from players on the Dolphins' receivers beyond the top four -- some believe Rishard Matthews would thrive if he had a larger role and players are impressed with some receivers who likely aren't going to make this team, such as Michael Preston.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz          

Wade re-signs with Heat; Heat joins LaMarcus Aldridge pursuit

Dwyane Wade's new contract with the Heat is done. The Associated Press reported the deal is for one year and $20 million, which I have confirmed with someone involved.

A Wade associate said Wade did not take a one-year deal with the intention of leaving next summer. He wants to remain with the Heat longterm and is of the mindset to work with them, as he has in the past.

As we noted in our post last night, Wade had been talking to the Heat about two scenarios: a one-year deal at close to the $23 million maximum and a multiyear deal at a lower rate. Wade chose the first option.

As we noted last night, the Heat had been telling people in the past two days that Wade re-signing was not in question.

Wade's full statement: “It has been an honor and privilege to play with the Miami HEAT the past twelve years. The HEAT family and I have shared incredible moments over the years and I look forward to continuing our journey. I am extremely proud of my personal contributions in helping to build the HEAT franchise and for bringing three NBA championship wins to our great city. For my entire NBA career, Miami has always been my city and my home. I’m overwhelmed with the love and support the Miami community have consistently shown me and my family throughout the years.”

Agent Henry Thomas' statement: “This contract is a win-win for both Dwyane and the HEAT. Not only does Dwyane get to extend his Hall of Fame-worthy career with the only franchise for whom he has ever played, but he will have the flexibility next summer to sign an additional deal. And the HEAT gets to keep their franchise cornerstone while having the ability to build a championship-contending roster.”

Wade opted out of a contract that would pay him $16 million this season. Thomas said earlier this offseason that Wade preferred a long-term deal for the security. But Wade ultimately decided to take a substantial one-year payout.

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

Even without any cap space, the Heat has joined a list of teams pursuing Portland Trail Blazers free agent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

As Yahoo! first reported, Pat Riley will meet with Aldridge in Los Angeles. Aldridge and Riley will have dinner tonight, ESPN reported.

The Heat has been telling people that it fully expects Dwyane Wade will re-sign. But even if Wade surprisingly left, the Heat still would not have any cap space --- let alone the space for a max offer for Aldridge --- without considerable salary purging.

Signing Aldridge realistically would be possible only with a sign-and-trade with Portland.

Such a deal hypothetically could include Chris Bosh or Wade (which seems HIGHLY doubtful in both cases). More likely, if Aldridge decides he wants to play for the Heat, Riley could try to entice Portland with a package including some combination of Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers, Chris Andersen and possibly Hassan Whiteside.

If he resigns with Portland for purposes of a sign and trade, Aldridge can make $109 million over five years. He could sign for no more than four years and $86 million with another team, without a sign-and-trade.

Two things to keep in mind with a sign-and-trade: A team receiving a player in such a trade cannot be above the tax apron ($4 million above the tax threshold) after the trade. This is do-able for Miami but will require more brilliance from Andy Elisburg, the Heat's sharp GM.

Also, a team receiving a player in a sign-and-trade cannot have used its taxpayer's midlevel exception yet (one reason for Miami to hold off).

A four-time All-Star, Aldridge averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds for Portland last season.

Whiteside will be a free agent next summer and the Heat will need to fit him under the projected $89 million salary cap if he signs for anything more than the league's average salary. That's because Whiteside won't have full Bird rights.

There would be roster duplication at the power positions with Whiteside, Bosh and Aldridge. So trading Whiteside cannot be ruled out in such a scenario. Aldridge doesn't want to play center, but Bosh has been a good sport about doing it when asked over the past five years.

San Antonio and Phoenix are reportedly the top contenders for Aldridge. The Suns sent three players to Detroit today in an attempt to clear salary cap space to sign Aldridge. Besides those teams, Aldridge also has met with Houston, Dallas and Toronto.

The Lakers are having a second meeting with him today. Aldridge canceled his meeting with the Knicks, according to multiple reports.

A Portland assistant coach said at a clinic this week that Aldridge has decided not to return to the Trail Blazers.

Without a sign and trade, there is no way to carve out space to make Aldridge a competitive offer as long as Wade, Goran Dragic and Bosh are on the roster.

Check back later today for a lot more Heat news... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

July 01, 2015

9:45 p.m.: Heat conveying Wade intentions; Heat open to trades; Barea report; Jose Fernandez/Marlins notes

9:45 p.m. update: Veteran combo guard J.J. Barea is leaning toward signing with the Heat, NBA.com and TNT reporter David Aldridge reported tonight. But a source cautioned that Barea has not made any decision and is considering several teams.

Barea, 6-0, averaged 7.5 points and 3.4 assists and 0.9 turnovers in 77 games for Dallas last season, including 10 starts.

Barea, a point guard who also can be an undersized shooting guard if needed, shot 42 percent from the field but just 32.3 percent on threes (54 for 167). He played last season for $1.3 million, the minimum for players with his years of service.

Barea, 31, played his first five seasons for Dallas and his next three for Minnesota before returning to Dallas last season.

His overall career averages: 8.2 points, 3.4 assists, 41.9 percent shooting and 34.5 percent on threes.

He was born in Puerto Rico and attended Miami Christian High in Miami.

If he signs, it could allow the Heat to trade Mario Chalmers, who is available as Miami tries to cut payroll to lessen its tax bill. Chalmers is due $4.3 million next season. (See our post below about that.)

The Heat has available a $3.4 million taxpayer's midlevel exception and also can sign players to minimum contracts.

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

A six pack of Heat and Marlins notes on a Wednesday evening:

### While nothing has been finalized, NBA people who spoke to the Heat in the past two days say Heat officials are not expressing any doubt about signing Dwyane Wade and are instead operating under the belief that a Wade deal will get done, even as Wade considers multiple Heat proposals.

Whereas the Heat announced it intends to sign Goran Dragic, neither the Heat nor Wade is ready to make any public announcement because negotiations are ongoing and Wade (as of earlier today) hadn't signed off on a deal.

But the Heat is committed to keeping Wade and privately has expressed confidence that a deal is going to get done, according to league (non-Heat) officials in touch with Miami.

"It would be shocking" otherwise, as one Heat person put it.

Wade, it appears, has overcome the initial anger of what he considered a lowball offer, one that has subsequently been raised. Conversations with team officials in recent days have helped Wade move past that.

Terms are still being discussed and several scenarios have been tossed around.  The idea of giving Wade the maximum of about $23 million (the maximum and the exact salary cap number for 2015-2016 have still not been established by the league) or close to the maximum has been talked about. That would allow Wade to become a free agent again in 2016. There also have been discussions about a multiyear deal at a lower average.

Teams that potentially appealed to Wade, including the Lakers, have been pursuing other players initially.

### A team that has spoken to the Heat said today that Miami is, in fact, trying to move contracts, as ESPN previously reported, because the Wade and Goran Dragic deals will push them into luxury tax territory.

As we explained in the last post, the luxury tax is particularly onerous for Miami because the Heat is classified as a repeater tax team.

Chris Andersen ($5 million) and Mario Chalmers ($4.3 million) remain candidates to be dealt.

There is some hesitation to dealing Josh McRoberts, who’s due $17 million over the next three seasons, because the Heat likes the skill set, and he offers protection should Miami be outbid for Hassan Whiteside next summer.

We mentioned two weeks ago that Carlos Boozer thought there was a chance he could end up on the Heat, and Miami was among teams that expressed interest in him today, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

Boozer, at the minimum, would cost only $947,000 against the luxury tax --- far cheaper than Birdman at $5 million.

### ESPN reported that Dragic offered to be flexible with his deal to help the Heat sign Wade. And by agreeing to a deal reportedly worth $90 million over five years, Dragic took several million less than what his agents thought he could get from the Heat if he hadn’t been willing to work with Miami.

### On the eve of Jose Fernandez’s first major league start since Tommy John surgery 13 months ago, the Marlins ace admitted he expects to feel some butterflies when he takes the mound against visiting San Francisco on Thursday (noon, Fox Sports Florida).

"I’ve got to control my emotions as best I can,” he said. He said there is “no chance” he sleeps well tonight.

“I feel great, feel healthy,” he said. “I have all my pitches, feel comfortable with all my pitches.”

He said he envisions throwing between 90 and 95 pitches, though he wasn’t sure if there was a set-in-stone pitch count.

### Agent Scott Boras, in town to support client Fernandez, has represented a number of pitchers returning from Tommy John (including Stephen Strasburg).

“For anybody that’s had Tommy John, there are boundaries,” Boras said a couple of hours ago. “You have to manage emotion and you have to manage command. You may be stronger than you’ve ever been in your career. In many cases, players come through it better, more in tuned with their bodies, with their conditioning habits.

“And they have a relationship with the game that’s different, because the appreciation level of the game is definitely more real for players who have lost it for a period of time and regained it. It’s an exciting time.”

Boras, on the Marlins’ (our word: disappointing) season: “When you talk about three-fifths of your rotation not being available [Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Jarred Cosart], that’s going to dramatically impact a club in many directions. You’re going to call up players you didn’t anticipate having. When you look at the position players on the team, it’s a very solid club. It’s a team that has the ability to compete.

“You’re in a division where the pitching is so strong in New York and Washington, and Atlanta obviously has some frontline arms as well. When you’ve got to call on pitchers you didn’t expect to call on early in the year, it’s going to really cause you to be shorter an inning, shorter in experience and put you behind  in a lot of games.”

### With Alvarez still out and Justin Nicolino sent to the minors, the Marlins appear to have settled --- for now --- on a rotation of Fernandez, Dan Haren, Mat Latos, Tom Koehler and Cosart (who returns to the rotation Saturday).

Manager Dan Jennings said the Marlins are deciding whether to put Jose Urena in the bullpen or send him back to Triple A. “It’s easy to put them in the pen, but is that in their best interests?” Jennings said of Urena and Nicolino.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz           

June 30, 2015

Heat keep Dragic; Heat optimism on Wade; Tidbits on Heat's free agent options & tax conundrum; Dolphins; Canes; ex-Fin/Cane to run for Congress

9:45 a.m. update: The Heat agreed on a new deal with Goran Dragic this morning (five years, $90 million), which both sides had expected for months.

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Another nerve-fraying summer for the Heat has essentially become a three-step plan: Re-sign Goran Dragic (both sides are optimistic that will happen on a five-year deal for at least $90 million), re-signing Dwyane Wade and finding another shooter for its bench.

There could be a fourth step if the Heat dumps a player or two to lessen its luxury-tax burden, which wouldn't be surprising because the tax ramifications are so severe otherwise.

On the Wade front, several Heat people are optimistic a deal will get done, even though Wade is expected to at least consider other options.

As Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick noted, Wade and Heat owner Micky Arison have met to discuss the situation. And Wade isn't acting like somebody who's about to leave; he has been in contact with the Heat’s first-round pick Justise Winslow.

What's more, ESPN’s Chris Broussard said “league execs [are] telling me there is not a robust market for D-Wade because of his age (33) and injury problems.”

And several teams that would be appealing to Wade appear to be prioritizing other free agents. At this point, it would be surprising if Wade leaves the Heat.

Asking and answering as free agency starts:

### What’s realistically within Miami’s price range as far as outside help?

If Wade and Dragic re-sign, Miami likely would have only a $3.4 million taxpayer’s midlevel exception, but there’s no assurance the Heat would use it because of a potentially large tax bill. The chance of Miami using its exception increases if the Heat dumps Mario Chalmers and/or Josh McRoberts and/or Chris Andersen without taking money back.

Depending on Wade’s and Dragic’s first-year salaries, using that $3.4 million could result in a tax hit of between $10 million and $15 million if Miami doesn’t dump a few players to lower payroll.

Remember Pat Riley said Friday, speaking generally: “This is also a business, as much as it is about basketball.”

If Wade surprisingly bolts, then Miami probably would have a $5.5 million mid-level exception and possibly a $2.1 million bi-annual depending on where its payroll falls.

At $5.5 million, the Heat could be in the mix for Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Green, and (buyer beware) JR Smith, though Chicago wants to keep Dunleavy and Cleveland also is said to be pursuing him. The $5.5 million probably wouldn’t be enough for Monta Ellis, an expected Heat target if Wade bolts.

But at $3.4 million or less, realistic names --- should Miami even spend exception money --- would include Marcus Thornton (there has been Heat interest in the past), Alan Anderson,  Marco Bellinelli (Yahoo! says Charlotte has made him a priority and has a full $5.5 million midlevel), Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington, Dorell Wright, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Terry, Rodney Stuckey, Mo Williams, J.J. Barea (ESPN Dallas reports Heat interest), Aaron Brooks and C.J. Watson.

Some of those names could be available at the minimum, as could Leandro Barbosa, John Jenkins, Richard Jefferson, Rasual Butler, Luke Babbitt, Jimmer Fredette, Gary Neal, James Jones, Willie Green and Gigi Datome.

Among power forwards (should Miami care to add one at the minimum), Broussard today mentioned Carlos Boozer (who we've previously mentioned as a possibility) and Sacramento's Derrick Williams as players of interest to the Heat. 

Keep this in mind: For players signing minimum deals (topping out at $1.5 million), teams are charged a tax hit only on $947,000.

### Where could Wade go?

Two Wade associates cite the Lakers as his top choice other than the Heat. But the Lakers have only two centers under contract (Tarik Black and Robert Sacre) and reportedly will initially target LaMarcus Aldridge (he's meeting with them tonight), DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love and Greg Monroe. The Lakers have about $23 million to spend –-- not enough for an elite power rotation player and Wade.

For the Lakers to turn to Wade, they probably would need to miss out on all four of those centers or power forwards. And even then, they are expected to turn to Tyson Chandler and Robin Lopez.

The Lakers, by the way, could miss out on all of its four targets. Aldridge is strongly considering the Spurs; Jordan is meeting with multiple teams; Love reportedly leans toward staying in Cleveland; and the Knicks are “about as close to a done deal” for Monroe “as you can get,” according to The New York Daily News.

What about other options for Wade? Several of the other potentially appealing teams are pursuing other players, at least initially.

The Knicks have $27 million in space, but Yahoo! reports they’re front-runners for Monroe and Aaron Afflalo, who combined would take all of that cap space. Chicago is not likely because the Bulls have made a max offer to restricted free agent Jimmy Butler. Milwaukee can't be ruled out but the Bucks are reportedly targeting Tyson Chandler with its cap space. Detroit has cap space and Wade has a history with Stan Van Gundy but does Wade want to finish his career playing for a non-contender?

Dallas has more than $20 million in space and needs to replace Monta Ellis; but Aldridge, Jordan, Wes Matthews and Danny Green are reportedly its priority targets. And the Spurs are initially pursuing others, including Aldridge.

Other playoff teams with the cap space to make competitive bids for Wade, if they choose, include Atlanta (if Hawks lose DeMarre Carroll), Portland (which has more than $40 million if Aldridge and Matthews bolt), Indiana, Phoenix and Toronto.

The Clippers and Cavaliers could offer no more than mid-level exception money, making them unlikely.

### What can the Heat do if Wade leaves?

If Wade bolts --- and again, this would surprise the Heat --- it would still be difficult for Miami to get under the cap.

Here’s why: Chris Bosh, Dragic, Luol Deng and Justise Winslow would take up between $50 million and $53 million of a $67 million cap. Throw in Chris Andersen ($5 million salary), Mario Chalmers ($4.3 million), Udonis Haslem’s $2.9 million and Josh McRoberts ($5.5 million) and other low-salary players or cap holds and that would leave the Heat with only exception money --- not enough to land any of the other top free-agent shooting guards (Afflalo, Green, Matthews, Ellis or probably Lou Williams).

The Heat could create room to offer Ellis a deal starting with a salary of at least $8 million only if it loses Wade and trades four of its non-minimum backups.

### Why is the luxury tax worrisome for Miami?

Because the Heat falls into the category of repeater tax teams --- a punitive penalty for franchises that have surpassed the tax threshold three of the past four seasons.

Say the Heat gives Wade a contract starting at $18 million and Dragic $17 million. Without trading anyone, that would leave the Heat with a payroll of about $93 million, with a projected tax threshold of $81 million. (That tax threshold and the cap could end up slightly higher than expected, CBS reported late tonight.)

But instead of having a dollar-for-dollar $12 million luxury tax payment, the Heat instead would be taxed by increments of 2.5 percent for each dollar over the tax (on money spent between $1 and $4.99 million over the threshold), 2.75 percent (for money spent between $5 million and $9.99 million); 3.5 percent (for money spent between $10 million and $14.99 million over the threshold) and so forth.

So if the Heat is $12 million over the cap, that would be a $33 million tax hit.

And trading Andersen and Chalmers could save the Heat $26 million or more in this scenario. Trading McRoberts and Chalmers would save even more.

CHATTER

### Receiver Greg Jennings told ESPN’s Vikings reporter recently that he didn’t think he would sign with the Dolphins until a phone conversation with president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum.

That eased his concerns about how he would fit in and whether he could assert himself as a leader here. Though some evaluators say Jennings has lost something, Ryan Tannehill said: “It’s unbelievable how he can break corners down, with his savviness of how to get guys leaning.”

### ESPN analyst Damien Woody, talking about the Dolphins this week: “The last couple of years they've melted at the end, which tells me they’re soft. They’re soft mentally. Until they’re able to finish, you know, I’m going to call it what it is.”

### Please see the last post for details on the Dolphins' training camp schedule, which was released today.

### Look for former Dolphins and Hurricanes receiver Randal Hill to announce plans to run for U.S. Congress in District 24 in Miami.

### UM's entire 2015 recruiting class is now enrolled, without an academic casaulty in the bunch.

### The Cowboys aren't the only team that UM coaches visited to pick up tips this offseson. Art Kehoe said he and tight ends coach Larry Scott went to Dolphins camp. And Kehoe said he met with Tampa Bay coaches as well.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Dolphins announce training camp schedule and special event at FIU

With Sun Life Stadium undergoing renovations, the Dolphins announced Tuesday that their annual training camp scrimmage will be held on Friday, Aug. 7, at Ocean Bank Field at Florida International University.

Admission for that 6:30 p.m. practice/scrimmage is $5; tickets can be purchased at dolphins.com. Parking is free – lots open at 4 p.m. for tailgating and a “fan festival” -- and there is room to accommodate 15,000 fans for the scrimmage.

The Dolphins say fans will be able to get autographs from current players and alumni. A fireworks show will follow.

Sun Life Stadium, which is undergoing $400 million in renovations as part of a project that will continue into 2016, will be ready for the Dolphins’ first home preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 29, against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Dolphins open their preseason schedule on Thursday, Aug. 13, at Chicago, and then play Aug. 22 in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. After the Falcons game, they close preseason with a Sept. 3 home game against Tampa Bay.

The Dolphins also announced Tuesday that training camp will open on Thursday, July 30 --- one of 12 practices free to the public and one of 13 free and open to season-ticket holders who are members of the “Finatic” program.

Ten of the 12 open practices begin at 8 a.m.

The Dolphins say they will have the same number of practices free and open to the public as last year even though they will be traveling to Spartanburg, S.C. for joint practices with the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 19 and 20.

Those practices at Wofford College begin at 8:30 a.m. and are open to the public.

The Dolphins say they chose FIU to host the scrimmage because it’s the only venue in Miami-Dade that’s big enough to accommodate it.

That will allow additional time for renovations to Sun Life Stadium. The project is being done in stages. A re-design of the main seating bowl will be ready to start the season; a weather canopy will take another year to complete.

Additionally, high-definition scoreboards will be placed in each corner; each screen will have a “founding partner” that will generate additional advertisement revenue. The Dolphins also are adding a permanent stage to the parking lot for smaller-scale concerts.

Owner Stephen Ross agreed to pay for or borrow $350 million of the project’s $400 million price tag. In return, the Dolphins will be paid a subsidy by the county for bringing major events to the Miami Gardens facility.

Here’s the training camp schedule:
 

          TIME                    DATE                                                  LOCATION

8 a.m.                   Thursday, July 30                             Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Friday, July 31                                   Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Saturday, Aug. 1                              Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Sunday, Aug. 2                                 Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Tuesday, Aug. 4                               Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Wednesday, Aug. 5                         Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Thursday, Aug. 6                              Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

7 p.m.                   Friday, Aug. 7                                   Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium – Miami, FL

3 p.m.                   Sunday, Aug. 9                                 Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

12:30 p.m.           Monday, Aug. 10                             Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Tuesday, Aug. 11                             Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

*1:15 p.m.           Saturday, Aug. 15                            Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Sunday, Aug. 16                               Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

8 a.m.                   Monday, Aug. 17                             Doctors Hospital Training Facility – Davie, FL

 

*Finatic Only Member Day

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back later today for a lot more. 

June 29, 2015

Winslow, Wade talk; Deng stays with Heat; Wade opts out; What Justise Winslow, Riley and Spoelstra had to say at Winslow's introductory news conference

Three updates below, followed by what Justise Winslow and Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra had to say at Winslow's news conference today:

2 p.m. update: Forward Luol Deng is staying with the Heat. Agent Herb Rudoy said, via text, that he has exercised the opt-in on his contract and will remain with the Heat.

Deng will earn $10.1 million next season, the final year of a two-year contract. So the Heat will enter the off-season set at small forward with Deng, and Justise Winslow and James Ennis behind him.

Deng was excited about returning to a team that he believes can be very good next season.

And this is good for the Heat, because Miami would not have had cap space to replace him with a similar player.

The Heat fully expects Dwyane Wade to become a free agent by tonight's 11:59 p.m. opt-in deadline but was still awaiting official word as of noon.

Goran Dragic has informed the Heat that he's opting out, and both sides are expecting a deal to get done shortly after the July 1 start of free agency.

Dragic is expecting the Heat to offer him a five-year deal between $90 million and $100 million.

With Deng opting in, the Heat very likely will be limited to a $3.4 million taxpayer midlevel exception if Deng and Wade re-sign.

The Heat still could be position to use the full $5.5 million midlevel exception if it cuts salary elsewhere, but using the $5.5 million also means Miami would have hard cap, which would limit its flexibility.

The Heat remains optimistic about Wade staying in Miami, even though he will look around in free agency. We'll see how this plays out. The concern for the Heat would be if the Lakers and Knicks --- who are also pursuing bigs --- make a big offer.

3:30 update: Wade, as expected, will opt out of his contract, ESPN reports. (This was confirmed shortly before 5 p.m. by Wade's spokesperson, who said there will be no additional comment.)

3:35 p.m. update: Heard this morning that Wade and Winslow have talked, according to his Roc Nation agent, Joe Branch.

Winslow told Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner later in the day that he spoke to Wade and "told him [it would be] a lot of fun if he stays."

Interesting nugget, from Le Batard: He said the Celtics offered the Heat four first-round picks and two second-round picks for the No. 10 draft pick. Like Miami, Boston also wanted Winslow.

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Highlights from Justise Winslow’s introductory Heat news conference today:

### Pat Riley: “Justise was highly thought of by everybody in the NBA. For some reason, he ended up in Miami. If we had projected him to be No. 10, we would have locked in on him. He ended up falling to us in a very blessed way. We are so excited about possibly having him with our team for his entire career.”

### Erik Spoelstra: “We like players that can play multiple positions, can do multiple things. But more important than that, it’s the winning quality, coming from a winning program. You can tell a lot about a player during times in the Tournament when you’re down.

"There were some tough moments, some times of doubt, particularly the game against Wisconsin. And then all of a sudden, it changes. Winning players rise in those occasions. You can’t quantify that with analytics or a statistic. When you see it, you know it. You want those players on your team. Winslow has proven, in a remarkable way, [to be able] to rise [in those moments].”

Spoelstra called him a “swiss army knife” because of that versatility.

### Winslow: “I definitely think I’m a very versatile player.  I showed that at Duke…. Since draft night, I’ve been able to soak it all in, live in the moment. It’s an organization that wants to win right now. That’s what I’m most excited about. That’s why when I got an opportunity to go to the Heat, I was so happy…

“I don’t listen to the comparisons. I watch film on different guys, trying to pull things different guys do. It’s about me being me, me playing my game and going out there and performing….

“I had no time to be a kid. I wasn’t just a freshman on the bench. I had to pick up the game faster. That’s where my basketball IQ came from…. I’ve been working hard all my life…. They expect nothing but greatness from me, and that’s what I expect to produce.”

### Winslow is playing Summer League for the Heat in Orlando and Las Vegas. The goal, Spoelstra said, is “get out there, get to know our system. We can’t wait to get started.” The first summer league practice is Wednesday at 10 a.m.

### Winslow: "I've had pressure on me my whole life. It's nothing I can't handle. I sort of think I thrive under pressure."

### Winslow said he lifted weights with John Lucas in Houston in past years…. Winslow spoke of the importance of not “taking criticism personally.”

### How much as Coach K told him about the transition? “Ever since I declared, Coach K has been very supportive and helpful through the whole process," Winslow said. "He told me it’s going to be a tough transition, especially since I’m so young. [At such a young age], playing with veterans in their 30s, it’s going to be tough. He has been telling me to stay with it and be true to yourself.”

### Winslow cracked: “Right now, I’m focused on trying to remember everyone’s name…. and then we can move on to strength and agility training.”

### Winslow, on his impressive play in the NCAA Tournament: “Four of us didn’t know what to expect in the Tournament [because they were freshmen]. Coach had me guarding a lot of different people. As long as I’m on the floor, I’m going to produce…. Ultimately, we got the job done.”

### Riley, on acquiring players from Duke: “I’m a Kentucky Wildcat. Same qualities probably. Obviously, Mike and what he does at Duke and his whole career as a basketball coach and the number of great players that have come out of his program and on to the NBA, and the fact he has won the NCAA championship a number of times. We call it ‘it.’ It’s an intrinsic inner quality that players have. That’s something that helps self-motivate him.

“That’s what he has, that ‘it’ quality, that intrinsic motivation and desire and grit to do whatever he has to do to win. That’s what’s compelling. That’s what I saw on film, that’s what I read in all the reports. It’s not a coincidence that as things became tougher for his team, he became great.”

Riley joked: “We were drooling at the fact he’s not going to come to us.”

### Spoelstra, smiling: “If it’s 50/50, we’re going with the Duke guy. This was 99 to 1. Coach K has developed an incredible program there of sustainable winning. It’s developing players that want to sacrifice and play for something more than themselves.

"This is a me generation. Basketball is a team guy. When you show ‘we’ qualities at a young age, that stands out. The maturity he’s shown at 18, 19 years old. We didn’t talk like this at 18, 19 [Spo referencing Winslow’s poise and thoughtfulness on the podium today]. We weren’t this mature.”

### Riley: “Everybody knows I like experience. But you can also sense when you watch [Winslow] on the court, there are 19 year old players and I get the feeling he plays like a grown man. He’s got the same maturity as some [older players]. He’s unique [in that way]. Come October, in training camp, he is going to show why he’s beyond his years.” 

Note: Because Riley addressed free late Thursday night, free agent questions were not taken at today's news conference.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz