June 24, 2015

Wednesday night Heat notes: Payroll cutting?; Wade; Dragic; Free agents; Draft

Some pre-draft Heat chatter:

### For the second time this week, a national media outlet has reported the Heat’s desire to shed salary. In the wake of ESPN’s report that Miami is trying to dump Mario Chalmers (due $4.3 million next season) and Chris Andersen (due $5 million), CBS’ Ken Berger said the Heat is open to trading the 10th pick if it helps them unload salary. Berger mentioned Josh McRoberts, who’s owed $17 million over the next three years.

Just a thought: If there’s no player at 10 that Pat Riley feels strongly about, he could trade the 10th pick and a veteran (Chalmers or McRoberts or Andersen) and trade back in the first round, then get a skilled-shooting two guard or small forward in the late teens or 20s --- perhaps UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn, Georgia State’s RJ Hunter (if still on the board) or Virginia’s Justin Anderson.

The reports of the Heat's desire to trim payroll would mean two things:

1) Miami wants to be able to pay Dwyane Wade a substantial amount next season without incurring a huge luxury tax bill.

2) If the Heat can't come to a deal with Wade, it wants to have some cap space to fill out a roster around Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic (presuming he re-signs) and Hassan Whiteside. If Wade and Luol Deng leave, and if the Heat dumps Chalmers and Andersen without bringing money back, and if Miami re-signs Dragic, it could have around $11 million in cap space, depending on Dragic's first-year salary. But if Deng opts in, Miami wouldn't have any real cap space in this scenario.

### ESPN's Chad Ford speculated tonight that Charlotte's acquisition of Nic Batum from Portland today "probably" means the Hornets will take Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky 9th. "Charlotte told Kaminsky reps they are high on him," ESPN's Andy Katz said. (The Hornets also acquired guard Jeremy Lamb from OKC, according to a Tulsa TV station.)

This means Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker could be available to Miami at No. 10, if Miami wants him, unless Detroit takes him at No. 8. Booker said that Pat Riley told him last month that Riley would envision him backing up Wade and learning from him.

### Berger said rival executives “are split” on whether Wade will stay in Miami. He said one Western Conference executive told him "there are strong indications Wade is gone, with Cleveland and the Lakers chief among his likely destinations.” [My quick aside: Difficult to see him going to Cleveland for exception money.]

But Berger said another Western Conference official predicted Wade will stay in Miami. "I don't see why they'd argue and fight after what they've both done for each other and for that franchise," the exec said.

Associates of Wade remain uncertain how this will turn out. Though they say they won’t be the least bit surprised if he leaves --- and so none of us should be, either -- it’s still hard for me to believe that the Heat would allow its signature player to leave acrimoniously.

### Amid reports from ESPN’s Chris Broussard and RealGM.com that the Heat has interest in Monta Ellis (who’s reportedly opting out), keep this in mind: The Heat could afford Ellis only if two of three leave among Wade, Dragic and Deng (who will become a free agent unless he invokes an opt-in by Monday, which he hasn’t to this point).

And also keep this in mind: The Mavericks reportedly were troubled by Ellis' moodiness and reportedly have no interest in re-signing him.

On the plus side, Ellis would A) be cheaper than Wade (Ellis opted out of $8.7 million and might get around $10 million next season); B) he would be a fit in an up tempo game that the Heat wants to implement; and C) his 19.3 scoring average is the highest in history among players that have never been an All-Star.

Wade ranked 11th in the NBA in scoring at 21.5 points per game last season. Ellis ranked 19th at 18.9.

Wade missed 20 games last season; Ellis missed two.

If Wade opts out as he prefers, he would jump to the front of the class of unrestricted free agent shooting guards, along with Danny Green (Dallas reportedly plans to target him), Wes Matthews, Aaron Afflalo, Ellis and Lou Williams.

### The Heat hasn’t informed Michael Beasley if it’s picking up his $1.3 million team option for next season. The Heat has until midnight Monday night to make that decision.

### The Heat never brought in Duke’s Justise Winslow for a workout, believing he wouldn’t fall to them at 10. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said even though he wouldn’t expect Winslow to slip to 10, “it wouldn’t shock me. An elite athlete with speed, size, power and strength. Measures as a two-guard at 6-5. He’s a winner.

“The flip side is how much was it done in the 12 games at the end of the year when he was playing power forward. Bigger, slower guys were trying to stay in front of him and it was an impossible task. A coach will have to play him creatively on offense. He doesn’t have a mid-range game right now."

### Some asked us how the Heat can justify paying Goran Dragic so much money. But keep in mind that when the cap jumps dramatically in 2016, $17 million to $19 million will be the going rate for players of his caliber. (Heck, an executive told The Sporting News that DeMarre Carroll can expect to get more than $15 million.)

And the Heat simply cannot risk losing Dragic --- a third-team All-NBA selection in 2013-14 --- after trading two future No. 1 picks.

As we noted in the last post, we’re told the Dragic camp fully expects a Heat offer of between $90 million and $100 million over five years. If Miami doesn’t offer that, it would be a surprise to them.

Offering $80 million or even $85 million over five would leave the Heat at risk because other teams could offer a maximum of $86 million over four. And even if Dragic is offered only, say, $75 million over four years by another team, the Heat needs a market-value fifth year salary to entice Dragic to stay.

Both the Heat and Dragic remain optimistic a deal will get done.

### For those wondering about Deng potentially opting out of a $10.1 million salary next season, keep in mind that a player with nearly identical scoring and rebounding stats last season (Thaddeus Young) just opted out of a near identical salary ($10.2 million) from the Nets. Though Young, at 27, is three years younger than Deng, he has never been an All-Star, something Deng has achieved twice.

### Quick TV note: ESPN has chosen Jay Williams to replace the jettisoned-Bill Simmons on its NBA Draft set, alongside Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose.

Please see the last post for a lot more draft stuff... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

June 23, 2015

Analysts, scouts assess Heat options at No. 10 in draft; Dragic; Dolphins, Marlins, Canes items


For insight into the Heat’s options with the 10th pick in Thursday's draft, we solicited input from Fran Fraschilla (a college basketball TV analyst who has become a major asset on ESPN’s draft coverage), Ryan Blake, the NBA’s senior director of scouting operations, and two veteran NBA scouts.

Some feedback:

### All agree Devin Booker would be a great pick for Miami, but the Kentucky shooting guard could go ninth to Charlotte. So if Booker’s gone, then what?

Even though he knows Miami’s power rotation is in good shape, Fraschilla said if he were Pat Riley, he would take Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky next if Booker is gone and Kentucky power forward Trey Lyles third if Booker and Kaminsky are off the boards --- all ahead of small forwards Stanley Johnson (Arizona) or Sam Dekker (Wisconsin).

Kaminsky is appealing “because it’s so hard in the NBA game to find a stretch five,” Fraschilla said. “He has some Ryan Anderson in him.”

Blake projects Kaminsky, at 6-11, to be more of a power forward than center: “He’s a coach’s dream: smart player, versatile, unselfish, can shoot. Can he defend big centers? He’s got to get stronger” to do that.

One of the scouts, on Kaminsky: “Very unique talent, guys that size who can handle the ball like that. To me, he's like Josh McRoberts but a better talent.”

The other scout: “People are underestimating him. He’s got three-point range and a post-up game. He would be a good pick at 10.”

And Lyles?  “Lyles is a Miami Heat kind of guy,” Fraschilla said. “Trey has got a David West kind of game. He has the room to become a great NBA player. He was 4 for 29 on threes, but his low post analytical numbers were outstanding. He’s a low post scorer. He’s 6-10 and just 19.”

The scouts had generally positive feedback on Lyles. One said his distance shooting will improve in the NBA and “he does a lot of things well, but I’m not sure he’s great at anything.”

### Johnson would fill a need and could become a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard, according to Blake.

“He has an energy level like Leonard, good ball-handler, gym rat, a real worker,” Blake said. “He’s always in attack mode.”

But there are concerns: “He’s not going to finish at the rim early in his career,” Fraschilla said. “He looks like a young Ron Artest with the body type but they’re completely different players. Extremely strong and well-put together.

“[Like Artest], he can become a very good defender. But he has to learn to defend guys who are a little quicker. There wasn’t a need for him to shoot a lot of threes, but he should become a good three-point shooter. He went from being hard-headed and tough to coach at Arizona to completely buying into Sean Miller and the coaching staff by the end of the year. You can coach him hard.”

One scout said of Johnson: “The game comes very easy for him, but I thought he played at a coasting pace at times.”

Another scout: “He has a low release point on his shot. Not exceptionally quick. The more I saw him, the less I liked him.”

### What about Dekker, who (along with Johnson) have both been linked to Detroit at No. 8?

Fraschilla said two things concern him:

1) The decline in three-point shooting (from 39.1 percent as a freshman to 33.1 as a junior this year) and

2) “Is he getting a Final Four bump? He has gone up seven or eight spots because of a great NCAA Tournament."

Fraschilla said Dekker "has got some things going for him: size [6-9], good athleticism and good toughness. The key to his career is can be become a flat-out knock-down three-point shooter?”

He shot well overall from the field (52 percent) because Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan “was putting him in great isolation situations, creating mismatches,” Fraschilla said.

Blake compares Dekker with Atlanta small forward DeMarre Carroll “with bigger size. He may not be franchise player but he can be a Carroll or Shane Battier.”

Said one of the scouts: “The question for me is whether he shoots well enough. Teams historically have been fooled by [high-level] NCAA Tournament performance and that could be happening here.”

### Fraschilla and the scouts believe No. 10 is too high for Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre and Georgia State guard RJ Hunter.

“Oubre, in time, can become a very good shooter and wing defender but is very raw by NBA standards,” Fraschilla said. “With a good team, he’ll be redshirted. His ball-handling is a little suspect. I think mid-teens for him.

“With Hunter, I’d be scared to take him [at 10]. Overall NBA athleticism and inconsistent shooting keep me from putting him higher than 15.”

One of the scouts on Oubre: “I saw him a lot. Even though he’s long and athletic, the performance was pretty average.”

### Booker would be the sensible choice if he surprisingly slips to No. 10, Fraschilla and the scouts said.

Said Blake: “Great shooting numbers and he’s able to get to the free throw line. Not a great ball-handler but crafty enough to create for himself.”

The scout said Booker’s defense isn’t bad and he “would be a great pick at 10. At any other school, he would have been a star.” 

### Fraschilla said at No. 10, he would not consider two power forwards (excluding Lyles) who have been tossed around in that range in mock drafts: Texas’ Myles Turner (“I worry about his athleticism”) and Arkansas’ Bobby Portis (“would be a great pick between 15 and 25. He’s like Udonis Haslem”).

Incidentally, besides Turner, do not by any means rule out Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein, a top-eight talent who could slip to 10.

Miami summoned the 7-1 Cauley-Stein to South Florida for a workout in the past week. Cauley-Stein, who averaged 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks at Kentucky --- is raw offensively but would be insurance if Hassan Whiteside bolts as an unrestricted free agent in 2016. He also could be a trade chip.

### Fraschilla said the Heat would have to take Duke's Justise Winslow or Mario Hezonja at 10 if either surprisingly falls. “The only reason Hezonja would slip is if someone has concern about his maturity,” Fraschilla said. “Part of that is a fiery, competitive personality which I think would be a positive for him. He’s the only guy in this draft who can win both the three-point contest and dunk contest.”    

### Murray State point guard Cameron Payne is also in Miami’s range (“he a left-handed Damian Lillard,” Fraschilla said) but “Miami doesn’t make sense for him” because he can’t play two-guard, Fraschilla said.


### Amid an ESPN report that the Heat will offer Goran Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million, the Dragic camp expects the proposal to be five years for between $90 million and $100 million.

That’s less than the $115 million Miami can offer but more than the four years and $86 million that another team can offer. The Heat and the Dragic camp remain optimistic a deal will get done with Miami.

### Hassan Whiteside, tonight on Twitter: "Man if another person ask me if d wade staying in Miami I'm going to lose it! I DONT KNOW!!! I just catch LOBS from the man 💯 #HeatNation."

### In the wake of gamblers betting a lot of money on Miami winning the Super Bowl, the Mirage and 11 Nevada casinos have dropped the odds of the Dolphins winning the Super Bowl from 50-to-1 to 20-to-1, which represents the 10th shortest odds among 32 teams.

Who has shorter odds than the Dolphins? Seattle, Green Bay, Indy, New England, Dallas, Denver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and surprisingly, Buffalo.

### The Marlins --- who will have nine starting pitchers when Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez return --- have been getting trade calls inquiring about many of them, but they say they don’t want to trade any of them. They’re OK going with six starters before the All-Star break, five after.

###  Dan Jennings says Derek Dietrich (who learned first base this past winter) has made himself a viable option at that position. But the Marlins are committed to getting Michael Morse’s bat going when he returns at some point in the next week or so.  

### Adidas, eager to make UM feel special as it takes over its apparel contract from Nike, informed the Hurricanes it will unveil their new uniforms in a July 18 bash at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach. Adidas says it's not ready to confirm that or release details...

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, in an apparent attempt to significantly expand his sports portfolio, is partnering with a group of Qatari investors in a bid to purchase controlling interest of the Formula One auto racing circuit in a deal estimated between $7 billion and $8 billion, The Financial Times reported Tuesday.

Ross’ potential purchase could be the prelude for Formula One’s entrance into the United States.

In March, Forbes ranked Ross as the world’s 216th-wealthiest person, with a net worth of $6.5 billion. That ranked 72nd among U.S. residents and fifth among owners of a team in a U.S. pro sports league --- behind only the Los Angeles Clippers’ Steve Ballmer; Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen; Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Heat owner Micky Arison ($7.1 billion).           

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz  

June 22, 2015

Monday hoop notes: On Wade contract, Riley, Dragic, trade report, NBA Draft and college hoops announcement set

When Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade meet in the coming days, they must address matters beyond money. There’s also the critical issue of trust.

Yes, they go hand in hand, in the sense that a financial commitment to Wade’s liking will help restore trust in a relationship that clearly has been fractured.

Associates say Wade’s trust in the Heat has been damaged by Miami’s stance in contract negotiations. A friend has described Wade as “pissed” and not feeling like a priority to the organization.

So if the Heat hopes to keep Wade, Riley must not only substantially raise the Heat’s offer (a Wade associate said the Heat initially floated Wade opting in for $16 million this season, then making $10 million each of the subsequent two years), but he also must convince Wade that he’s valued, that he deserves to be rewarded handsomely for all that he has done.

The unanswered question is how much money Wade feels will be enough.

Is it the three-year, $60 million deal that he requested, according to an associate? Or would something closer to $50 million over three suffice? And would the Heat even go that high, knowing it would severely restrict its ability to sign an elite free agent in 2016?

Wade must inform the Heat by the end of June whether he's opting out of the final year of his two-year deal. He already has conveyed privately to the Heat that he prefers to opt out and also suggested that he would opt out in an ABC appearance when he said he won't deal with his future until July.

ESPN’s report Monday that Wade and the Heat will meet sometime in the next week isn’t really news. Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick reported weeks ago that the sides planned to meet in the days before the draft, and The Herald's Joe Goodman reported Sunday that there would be a meeting in the coming week. The sides might hold off until July 1, the official start of free agency.

At the very least, the meeting should at least give both sides clarity and a sense of whether this relationship can be salvaged. At this point, it genuinely could go either way.

### On “The Hot Corner,” an internet radio show, Wade’s father was non-committal when asked if Wade plans to stay with the Heat.

“You know I’ve heard that maybe two-to-three hundred times,” he said. “And the best answer I can probably give to that is, you guys have had D-Wade ever since he came in the league, let’s just pray with God that he stays here the rest of the way.”

### The new information in ESPN’s story today is that the Heat is trying to trade Chris Andersen (due $5 million next season) and Mario Chalmers (due $4.3 million) to make it easier to stomach a big salary for Wade.

The Heat likely will be over the cap if it re-signs Wade and Goran Dragic, regardless of whether it deals Andersen and Chalmers, and regardless of whether Luol Deng opts out or not.

So dealing Andersen and Chalmers wouldn’t open cap space (unless Wade and Dragic leave) but it would dramatically reduce the Heat’s luxury tax bill if Miami wants to give Wade a salary approaching the $23.5 million maximum next season.

The Heat could replace either player in the draft or with a free agent at the minimum or with the mini-mid level exception for $3.4 million or the non-taxpayer's exception of $5.5 million (depending on where Miami's payroll ends up).

Frank Kaminsky or Trey Lyles or Myles Turner or even Willie Cauley-Stein (if he lasts to 10) are possibilities to replace Andersen in the draft if Birdman is dealt. Devin Booker (if he lasts to 10) and swingman Stanley Johnson could replace what Chalmers offered as a backup shooting guard.

The Heat is covered at backup point guard with Tyler Johnson and Shabazz Napier.

The Heat declined to comment on Wade or the Andersen/Chalmers trade story. And in an unusual move, the Heat will not hold a news conference before the draft. Wade, disinclined to discuss his contract situation, will not hold his usual media availability at his fantasy camp this week.

### The Lakers have emerged as a threat for both Wade and Goran Dragic and have substantial cap space to be able to afford one. But with Kobe Bryant on the cap for $25 million and other cap commitments in place (such as $5.2 million for Nick Young), the Lakers couldn’t afford to pay market value for both.

But if the Lakers clear out cap space to make significant market-value offers for both, then the Heat should become alarmed because the Lakers hold some appeal to both and Dragic likes playing with Wade. But it would be difficult for L.A. to do that.

Dragic has long been considered likely to re-sign if Wade stays. If not, it’s more in question.

Dragic today made official his long-stated intentions to opt out of his contract.

### As for Cleveland, the Cavaliers could pay Wade only the mid-level exception unless they dump both Kevin Love (an impending free agent) and Tristan Thompson. Difficult to see Cleveland doing that, or Wade taking a $3.4 million taxpayer’s midlevel exception.

### Couple thoughts from ESPN’s Jay Bilas heading into Thursday’s draft: “Devin Booker and Frank Kaminsky are the best shooters in the draft. This is not a draft full of great shooters….. Frank is going to improve. What Kaminsky is right now is more than good enough. I still think he’s going to get better. He’s a top 10 pick because of who he is and not who he’s going to be.”…

On Stanley Johnson and Sam Dekker: “Sam is a good shooter. He’s a little bit streaky. He’s very athletic. Good in transition. Long, has size. I like him a lot. I think he’s a lottery player. I think Stanley Johnson is a lottery pick. Sam is a better shooter than Stanley.

“Stanley gets fouled more, gets to the free throw line more. He can be a better defender and better rebounder than Sam. The question is how high the motor will rev. That’s the issue with Stanley Johnson. He’s not a good shooter; he can make an open shot. He’s not a natural shooter, not a natural scorer. His offensive game is easier to limit than Sam. [But] I rate Stanley Johnson ahead of Sam as a prospect.”

### Look for the Orange Bowl to announce this week that the Gators will play Oklahoma State and FSU will play FAU in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic on Dec. 19 at BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz         

June 20, 2015

Tough roster decisions loom for Dolphins and other Fins nuggets; Midnight Dragic update; Heat/Wade; Stanton; Hurricanes notes


Postscripts from the Dolphins’ offseason program that ended this past week:

### Slicing the roster to 53 will be more difficult than any time in recent years. Why?

Start at defensive back.

The Dolphins began and ended last season with a combined 10 cornerbacks and safeties. Barring injuries, a strong case can be made to keep 12 this year, which would create painful roster choices elsewhere.

At cornerback, there’s Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor (solid as the first-team cornerback opposite Grimes all offseason), projected nickel starter Brice McCain, Will Davis and rookie Bobby McCain.

Though Zack Bowman has done nothing notable this offseason, he has starting experience (five games for the Giants last season) and is very good on special teams. That’s six.

And we’re told barring something unexpected, the Dolphins intend to keep rookie Tony Lippett, the 6-3 converted receiver who had three picks in one practice and made a terrific play on a Ryan Tannehill bootleg last week.

Lippett has “made some plays on the ball that are pretty impressive,” backup quarterback Matt Moore said. “His athletic ability and length stand out. He's done well.”

So that’s seven corners --- two more than Miami normally keeps and not including long shot Sammy Seamster, who has impressed this summer.

At safety, Louis Delmas, Reshad Jones and Michael Thomas are automatic, and Walt Aikens’ development has been so impressive this off-season that one Dolphins official privately said he believes Aikens could be a starter eventually (not this season). So that’s four.

Rookie fifth-rounder Cedric Thompson, Jordan Kovacs or Don Jones could stick around as a fifth safety for special teams value, with Thompson having the edge if he excels in August.

### Defensive back is not the only conundrum from a numbers standpoint. Last year, the Dolphins started and ended the season with eight defensive linemen. This year, they’ll have to keep nine if they want to retain either Anthony Johnson or A.J. Francis, two skilled young tackles who were pushed outside the top four by C.J. Mosley’s addition.

So if you keep 12 defensive backs and nine defensive linemen, where do you slice to create those three additional spots? Therein lies the quandary.

### For those wondering about other prominent guard options beyond Evan Mathis, Miami has shown no interest in Patriots free agent guard Dan Connolly. And as we mentioned yesterday, they also hadn't called on former Seahawks third-rounder John Moffitt.

### When Joe Philbin was asked last week which undrafted rookies are excelling, he mentioned the linebackers. Utah State’s Zach Vigil received some second-team work at middle linebacker last week; keep an eye on him in camp.

“I like the way Zach Vigil communicates, and Mike Hull is going full speed all the time,” Michael Thomas said. Dolphins coaches love how Hull, the rookie from Penn State, swarms to the ball.

### At linebacker, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Chris McCain and presumably Kelvin Sheppard will be on the team and Spencer Paysinger should, though he’s not a cinch.

That leaves second-year player Jordan Tripp (who is much improved and got a few first-team reps last week) competing with Vigil, Hull and fellow rookies Jeff Luc and Neville Hewitt for two or three jobs. Paysinger could be at risk if he's outplayed by several of the young players in preseason.

Miami kept eight linebackers last year but might need to make do with seven to accommodate the corner/safety logjam.

### Chris McCain, by the way, says he spent 60 percent of his practice time at linebacker and 40 percent in the Dion Jordan defensive end role.

“To do both is amazing,” McCain said. “You don’t have too many people in the NFL doing both. Julius Peppers does. Maybe one day I can be like him.”

### The Dolphins kept two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster last season and I can’t see any way (barring injury) they keep anyone beyond Ryan Tannehill and Moore, even though Josh Freeman (awful early in camp) was very good on Tuesday.

### Thomas was among those raving about journeyman receiver Michael Preston (who has made a ton of plays), and Philbin said Matt Hazel is dramatically improved.

But unless DeVante Parker isn’t ready to start the season (the Dolphins’ Mike Tannenbaum has said he will be) or there’s another injury, it’s very difficult to see Preston, Hazel, LaRon Byrd, Tommy Streeter or any of the other fringe candidates making the final 53, presuming Miami keeps five.

The Dolphins have made it clear to Rishard Matthews that his earlier trade request won’t be granted.

### Found it notable that LaMichael James was the first name Philbin mentioned when asked which of the backup running backs has impressed him. Jay Ajayi still must beat out Damien Williams, who played ahead of Ajayi with the second team last week. If the Dolphins keep four backs, Mike Gillislee seems the odd man out, presuming James beats him out.

### The No. 3 tight end job is as unsettled as anything. Arthur Lynch, sidelined his rookie season by a back injury, had two drops in Tuesday’s practice (he said his strength is “being a physical guy in the running game”) whereas 6-8 Northern Illinois rookie Tim Semisch continues to impress as a receiver (he skillfully used his size to make two end-zone grabs in minicamp) and Ohio State alum Jake Stoneburner showed surprising speed after catches. Gerell Robinson has been slowed by injury.


### One more reason why the Heat needs to try to work this out with Dwyane Wade:

With the Pelicans’ Eric Gordon and Hornets’ Gerald Henderson opting in last week, there are only four other above-average starting shooting guards eligible for unrestricted free agency besides Wade: Wes Matthews, Danny Green, Arron Afflalo (reportedly will exercise opt-out; Miami likes him) and Monta Ellis (has an opt out, which Dirk Nowitzki predicts he will exercise).

As we've noted, simply losing Wade (and nothing more) would not create the cap space to sign any of those four.

Other unrestricted free agent shooting guards available: Lou Williams (ace sixth man), Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Green, J.R. Smith, Jason Terry, Rodney Stuckey, Marcus Thornton, Marco Bellinelli, Landry Fields, Wayne Ellington and Manu Ginobili (presumably a Spur for life).

Both Wade and the Heat hope to work this out, and there will be more discussions, but it remains to be seen how it will play out.

### The Heat can pay impending free agent Goran Dragic as much as $116 million over five years, while other teams can pay him no more than $86 million over four. But ESPN's Marc Stein reported tonight that the Heat's initial offer to Dragic will be five years "in excess of $80 million."

Wade's decision could impact Dragic's, considering how much he enjoyed playing with Wade.

### UM says there won’t be any academic casualties in its incoming recruiting class; the final five players are enrolling shortly, including defensive tackle Gerald Willis, who was booted from the Gators and won’t be eligible to play until 2016.

The others enrolling for Summer Session 2: four-star receiver Lawrence Cager, three-star linebacker Jamie Gordinier, four-star defensive tackle Kendrick Norton and quarterback Evan Shirreffs.

### Weird UM recruiting stories of the month: Fort Pierce linebacker Greg Simmons de-committing from UM after finding Nebraska to be “utopia” on a visit to Lincoln; and Pembroke Pines Somerset Academy receiver Daewood Davis committing to UM on Twitter but UM not accepting his oral commitment because defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio offered him but forgot to tell Al Golden, according to what Davis  told Canesport. Davis believes his offer will be accepted eventually, but there's no proof of that. 

### What an impressive debut tonight for Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino, who became the first Marlins starter in history to pitch seven scoreless innings in his debut and fourth Marlins starter in history to allow no runs in his major league debut. He's also the second left-hander to win his first start as a Marlin, joining Scott Olsen.

### Gary Sheffield, who holds the Marlins’ home run record for a season with 42, is fully braced for that mark to be broken by Giancarlo Stanton, who entered tonight on pace for 59.

Sheffield, participating in DJ Irie's charity golf tournament Friday, told me he won’t be surprised if Stanton gets to 60.

"He has the capabilities of doing it," Sheffield said. "He has the power, the makeup. It's just a matter of if they're going to pitch to him. It doesn't matter how big the field is, he's still going to hit it out a long way whether it's right center or left.”

There have been only eight 60-home seasons in baseball history, topped by Barry Bonds’ 73 in 2001. Could Stanton do it?

“Hell, yeah,” Marlins manager Dan Jennings said.

Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin, who struck out Stanton four times in one game this month and then gave up a homer against him the next, said: “He has a good chance to get over 59.”

So why pitch to him?

“He has some weaknesses,” Rusin said. “You can’t give him one thing over and over because he will make adjustments.”

Stanton also entered tonight on pace to smash Preston Wilson’s team record of 121 RBI in a season (he’s on pace for 147) and also Wilson’s strikeout mark of 187 (on pace for 207).

### The Patchan family, familar names in South Florida, are embroiled in a controversy not remotely of their doing, and one that exposes an indefensible flaw in how the NCAA allows schools to discard injured players.

Brandon Patchan, son of former UM standout Matt Patchan and brother of UM defensive end/early enrollee Scott Patchan, was a sophomore basketball player on Division 2 Nova Southeastern in Davie this past season.

Brandon said he sustained two significant injuries playing/practicing for Nova early last season: a ligament tear in his shooting wrist and an Achilles’ strain in his ankle. Brandon and Matt Patchan said Nova misdiagnosed both injuries.

Brandon, a backup, continued to play. Midway through last season, Brandon said he politely told coach Gary Tuell that there was a disparity in how fouls were called in practice, with starters being protected.

Brandon said Tuell verbally attacked him in response, “told me ‘I’m so tired of you being [expletive] soft. It’s embarrassing.’”

Brandon said Tuell “crossed the line, practically spit in my face” and never allowed him to play again and Nova gave him “no chance to voice our side of the story. He said I’m not on the team because I didn’t apologize and was disrespectful” --- which Brandon disputes.

Brandon said he recently underwent surgery for the ligament tear in his shooting wrist and will need another wrist operation and ankle surgery.

Matt Patchan said Nova is paying for the surgeries --- which they expect will sideline him at least part of next season --- but that Tuell said he will withdraw Brandon’s scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year; the Patchans said it costs $45,000 cost to attend Nova without a scholarship, which is too steep for them.

“What they are doing is morally indefensible,” Matt Patchan said. “The NCAA allows kids injured competing for you to be thrown out like trash. Jobs have grievance procedures but the NCAA doesn’t. The NCAA shouldn’t allow someone to railroad a kid.”

Tuell and Nova Southeastern officials declined to comment.

“I feel betrayed,” Brandon said. “I’m angry. It’s the coach, the trainers, the [Nova] president.”

Scott Patchan, meanwhile, is coming off an ACL injury last year and everyone believes he has a bright future at Miami.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

June 19, 2015

Friday night notes: Dolphins' guard search; Heat draft notes; UM football items

Dolphins, Heat and Canes items on a Friday night: 

### While the Dolphins remain interested in Evan Mathis, they haven’t reached out to the other talented veteran guard who has come on the market this week: John Moffitt.

Drafted in the third round by Seattle in 2011, Moffitt started 15 games in his first two seasons for the Seahawks, was traded to Denver and then retired in November 2013, saying he was unhappy and that he did not want to risk his health for money.

The 28-year-old Moffitt has overcome a drug issue, gotten his life back in order and came of retirement recently. Several teams reached out to his representation this week, but not the Dolphins as of Friday afternoon.

As for Mathis, the Dolphins remain interested, as we reported Tuesday. But as of the end of the offseason program this week, Miami hadn't made a formal offer.

The Dolphins don't want to be in a situation of bidding against themselves but they're monitoring the situation.

One of the things that I've assured the teams that are interested in Evan is that I'm simply not going to identify who they are and talk about them because they have a set roster at this point," agent Drew Rosenhaus told WQAM today. "But there are 10 teams that have expressed bona fide interest in signing Evan.

"I can tell you that this deal will happen at any time or it may still take between now and training camp to get it done. There are several teams that are in the mix right now, and we don't want to discourage anybody from pursuing it in the event that there will be collateral damage if they don't get him."

### Dion Sims and Brandon Fields, at DJ Irie’s charity golf tournament today, spoke glowingly of Thursday’s Navy Seals Training experience that was put together by Joe Philbin but also said it was quite grueling.

There were training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean, another in which players held their hands behind their heads and kicked heavy logs, another in which they lifted logs and other difficult exercises that tested them physically and mentally over a three-hour period. When it was over, they all went their separate ways for the next six weeks.

### The Heat continues to book last-minute workouts before the draft, including one this coming Monday with Texas power forward Myles Turner. 

On ESPN’s pay-only site, Jay Bilas and Chad Ford had an interesting discussion about two players in the mix for Miami’s pick at No. 10 --- Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson and Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre.

Here was Bilas’ take: “Johnson is bigger, stronger and more prepared to play right away [than Oubre]. Johnson is built like a linebacker and is very good in transition, on the glass and driving the ball. Johnson is not what I would call a natural player. Rather, he is a natural athlete. The one area where Johnson can excel is on defense. He is an NBA-ready wing who plays hard, and has the tools in every area except in shooting the ball. Johnson has a fairly low release point, but he has been working on his shot. He actually shot a decent percentage at Arizona….

“Oubre can be better down the road and has the higher ceiling. But I like the things that I know Johnson can do and the player he is. Plus, I don't discount that Johnson can improve, and his ceiling is pretty high. You can flip a coin on this one.”

Ford’s take: “Johnson is huge and athletic [but] he really lacks explosion. He's not fast-twitch, and I think that affected his finishing at the basket. He was used to bullying everyone in high school, and that won't happen in the NBA. And although I think he's a great competitor, he had a bad habit of slacking defensively when things weren't going his way offensively. That may change with maturity, but there was a reason he was on the bench, on occasion, in Arizona. Johnson is a very safe pick. He'll be in the league for a while. But I question whether he has the upside to be a very good starter….

“Oubre is all about upside. You watch video of when he was with Kansas, and it would be hard to put together a 10-minute highlight reel. There were moments, but they weren't very consistent. Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by the 7-foot-2 wing span, the smooth athleticism, the fluid lefty jumper and the improvement Oubre showed defensively and especially this past summer.”…

According to sportado.com, German 6-11 power forward Maxi Kleber will play for the Heat in summer league. The 23-year-old, who went undrafted, averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and shot 45.7 percent for Liga ACB in the Spanish League.

### The state’s Big Three will all play in marquee football openers in the next few years. Alabama and FSU agreed to play in 2017 in Atlanta, as The Palm Beach Post’s Tom D’Angelo reported today.

UF and Michigan will open the 2017 season in Arlington, Tx. And as we reported many months ago, LSU and UM will meet to open the 2018 season in Arlington, Tx.

### Kudos to former UM stars DJ Williams (the organizer of the event), Vernon Carey, Najeh Davenport, Olivier Vernon, Jon Beason and Jonathan Vilma for Thursday’s Home Team event in which they cleaned out unused clothes in their closets and gave them to people in need.

“And [Dolphins cornerback] Jamar Taylor helped out with middle size clothes; we didn’t have a lot of that,” Williams said.

Williams, 32, started 10 games for the Bears last season and remains unsigned. He said he “would have loved” if the Dolphins called him but that Miami never has expressed interest during free agency.

### UM said that contrary to an Internet report, neither the Hurricanes nor defensive lineman/UF transfer Gerald Willis filed an NCAA appeal seeking that he be ruled eligible to play this season. (It's highly unlikely that the NCAA would have made him eligible for 2015, anyway.) He won’t be eligible to play until 2016.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 18, 2015

Media column: HBO's new fictional series Ballers brings more attention to Dolphins with UM at intersection; Media notes


Perhaps more than any other network, HBO delivers great television, from its documentary on alleged killer Robert Durst to the tense law enforcement series, True Detective.

Ballers, HBO’s new South Florida-based fictional series that debuts at 10 p.m. Sunday following the premiere of the second season of True Detective, does not qualify as great television in the classic sense.

But it is pretty good television for what it sets out to do: Building a 10-episode series around a former player-turned-financial manager (the immensely popular Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) who attempts, often fruitlessly, to help active and recently retired pro athletes navigate life’s pitfalls and then watches helplessly as they succumb to temptation.

Ballers, co-produced by the heavyweight team of actor Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson (who worked together on hit shows Entourage and Boardwalk Empire), quickly evolves into something highly watchable thanks largely to the likable Johnson, who’s convincing in the role of financial advisor Spencer Strasmore; a decent supporting cast and enough surprises to keep you interested.

Among them: There’s Don Shula and Larry Csonka sitting on a yacht, when receiver Rickey Jerret (played by John David Washington, Denzel’s son) breathlessly arrives one minute late for a meeting with the Dolphins coach -- a visit that Jerret hopes will result in a contract offer.

“You are an [expletive],” Shula deadpans, as the boat takes off without Jerret.

“Bad life choices, son, bad life choices,” Csonka chimes in.

Jerret requires much of Johnson’s attention/baby-sitting in early episodes. The Packers cut Jerret after he fought a patron in a nightclub when the man complained about Jerret taking too much time in the bathroom for a carnal encounter.

 Later, when the Dolphins eventually sign him, Jerret quips that he’s “blessed that God, Jesus and Mr. [Stephen] Ross have bestowed upon me this opportunity.” 

Alas, there are no appearances by Ross or any Dolphins officials, and HBO did not seek permission from the Dolphins --- the team most prominently mentioned --- or from the NFL to display their logos and use their names. HBO said it had no legal requirement to obtain their consent, but we’re told that some NFL people have concerns.

Meanwhile, the NFL and the Dolphins declined to discuss that or anything else concerning Ballers.

There’s one subplot in Ballers that likely will irk the Dolphins, more than a year removed from Bullygate: There’s an extreme case of locker-room hazing --- an over-the-top prank against Jerret --- after he sleeps with a woman who he later learns is a teammate’s mother.

But at least the Dolphins are treated with more respect than the Jaguars. Jerret, before the Packers released him and the Dolphins signed him, complained: “If they want to send me to sorry ass Jacksonville, where careers go to die, I’ll quit.”

And there's this nuance which some UM students will notice: Dolphins practice scenes were filmed at UM for what the network claimed were logistical reasons.

But a source said HBO never asked the Dolphins to use their facility. I find it odd and disconcerting that HBO never reached out to the Dolphins; it leaves the impression they thought the Dolphins would not like the show and thus did not want to notify them.

In fact, most Dolphins officials were unaware of the project even on the day of filming at UM earlier this year, when Dolphins logos were placed in UM's weight room and on walls near the Hurricanes' practice field.

There’s one scene in the Dolphins “locker-room” where the UM logo is visible, an oversight in editing.

Among the recognizable faces making cameos: former Dolphins (and now Jaguars) defensive lineman Jared Odrick, Giants and former UM linebacker Jon Beason and ESPN’s Dan Le Batard and Mark Schlereth. HBO wanted Ryan Tannehill to appear, but he had a schedule conflict.

Other NFL players with appearances: Victor Cruz, Lamarr Woodley, Stephen Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Antonio Brown and Julian Edelman.

Clearly intended for an adult audience, Ballers begins with unsettling images: Johnson having visions of a jarring hit late in his Dolphins career, and then popping pills when he wakes up; and a player’s car caroming head-first into a truck after his mistress starts punching him when he tells her that he’s not leaving his wife. Marlins Park was used to film the memorial service that followed.

If there’s a way for an athlete to self-destruct (drugs, reckless spending, laziness, nightclub fights), the show’s writers assuredly thought of it and incorporated it into Ballers.

Ballers serves up a bunch of unexpectedly funny moments in the first three 30-minute episodes, but not so much in the fourth and final episode made available to critics.

When Jerret’s girlfriend reminds Johnson and Jerret’s agent that he’s “the 22nd all-time receiver behind Steve Largent,” it’s Jerret, oddly enough, who says, “Who the [bleep] is that?”

A girlfriend of Jerret's agent keeps shouting: “Who’s going to win the LPGA?” during an especially intimate moment. “You are!” is apparently the only acceptable response.

But Johnson fuels this series, and his patience is tested not only by clients behaving recklessly --- “No more nightclubs! No more [expletive] girls in the bathroom! No more [bleeping] Twitter!” he admonishes Jerret in one scene --- but also by a business partner who derails a client-recruitment event on a yacht by using the n-word when addressing everyone in attendance.

Expect plenty of what you would expect in a pay-cable series about pro athletes: fast cars, partying, gaudy jewelry and scantily-clad women.

But also expect to be amused as the show's writers lampoon everything remotely mock-able in a pro sports culture where an athlete can cite religious faith one minute, then have sex with a stranger in the bathroom the next.


### How big a ratings success were these NBA Finals? Cavaliers-Warriors averaged 19.9 million viewers per telecast on ABC, making it the most watched NBA Finals since Michael Jordan’s Bulls beat Utah in the 1998 Finals. That series averaged 29 million viewers. Heat-Spurs last season averaged 15.5 million.

Meanwhile, an average of 17.7 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets watched each Cavs-Warriors game, on average, ranking sixth among 56 major cities. Conversely, 2.8 percent of Dade/Broward homes watched the Game 6 finale of the Stanley Cup Finals, ranking 39th.

### Celebrating LeBron James’ failure to win a title was a natural topic for sports-talk radio here, but ESPN’s station in West Palm Beach took it to curious extremes.

On Wednesday, ESPN West Palm dispatched on-air staffers to Palm Beach Post offices (“where LeBron did not take out a thank you ad," according to the station); to beneath a billboard off Okeechobee Boulevard (“one of many that LeBron did not purchase to thank Heat fans”) to a Walgreen’s on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard (“next to the thank you cards that LeBron never wrote to Heat fans”) and to Duffy's on Village Boulevard ("where they handed out free chicken wings, in honor of LeBron being 'too chicken' to stay in Miami," as the station put it.)

### NBC’s Bob Costas, speaking to Fox about James this week calling himself the best player on the planet:  “He's so admirable in so many ways and what he said is so self-evident that he shouldn't have to proclaim it. It isn't as if he's an underappreciated or underrated player….

“We hear ‘best player on the planet,’ that very phrase, about five times a broadcast and then however many times it's in the newspapers and on talk shows and on the internet. This is not in dispute. I don’t think it’s a big demerit, but it makes you wince a little bit.  It's unbecoming for someone as accomplished and as thoughtful as LeBron to have to say that. He shouldn't have said it."

### Tidbits: WQAM and the Panthers have an oral agreement on a new contract… WFOR-4 says Kim Bokamper, who retired from the station in January, will return for a prominent role during Dolphins season… ESPN extended Dick Vitale’s contract through 2017-18. Jay Bilas essentially replaced Vitale as the network’s lead college basketball analyst over the past two years, but Vitale --- who turned 76 last week --- still gets good assignments.

 Please see the last post for non-broadcast notes from Thursday... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Thursday Dolphins notes; Portis responds to Deadspin story

Some quick Thursday items:

### For the first time in his tenure as Dolphins coach, Joe Philbin has agreed to hold joint practices with another team. And for the first time since he fled the Dolphins and accused teammates of bullying him, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin will be back on a practice field with his former team.

The Dolphins and Carolina Panthers announced Thursday that they will hold joint practices on Wednesday, Aug. 19 and Thursday, Aug. 20, before playing Aug. 22 in Charlotte.

The two morning practices, open to the public, will be held at WoffordCollege in Spartanburg, S.C.

This marks the first time in 11 years that the Dolphins will practice with another team. In 2004, then-coach Dave Wannstedt held joint practices with the Houston Texans.

As for Martin, he’s trying to make the Panthers, who signed him March 27, a day after the 49ers released him.

Martin fled the Dolphins in late October 2013, prompting an NFL investigation of the team’s locker-room conduct. Martin never returned to the Dolphins and was traded to San Francisco the following March for a seventh-round pick.

### The reason Philbin canceled Thursday’s final day of mini-camp came to light: The team participated in Navy Seal training as part of a team-bonding exercise.

“As a team, we went Navy Seal training,” assistant wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan said on Twitter. “Players and coaches. Unreal experience. Seals are the real deal! Now I have to get in the cold tub.”

Dolphins defensive tackle A.J. Francis said on Twitter: “The Navy Seals team training we just did is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If you’re a Navy Seal you are a better man than me, no question.”

### Among those competing for a roster spot: tight end Arthur Lynch, a fifth-round pick in 2014 who missed all of last season with a back injury.

“I’ve done a good job; it’s nice to be healthy for the first time [as a pro],” said Lynch, who characterizes himself as “a physical guy in the running game.”

Philbin said of Lynch: “I think offensively he’s catching on to the system better, and special teams he’s done a good job as well.”

### The Dolphins named Myles Pistorius senior vice president and general counsel. Pistorius, who will report directly to team president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, had been working for the NBA as senior vice president of content and business affairs.

### Former University of Miami and NFL running back Clinton Portis, who earned more than $43 million in his career, owes more than $1 million to various creditors, including more than $450,000 in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, Deadspin reported this week.

Portis told TMZ this week that he’s “doing fine” and his financial troubles resulted from bad business deals.

Among reported claims against Portis:

### MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas won a default judgment in the amount of $287,178.56.

### A auto dealer is seeking $157,290 in payments on an Audi S5.

### A Florida bank is attempting to re-possess a Gainesville home that Portis purchased for his mother, Rhonnel Hearn.

### Foreclosure proceedings are continuing on a $512,000 mortgage for a Miami condo.

### Portis is facing a $20,000 lawsuit from a condo association over assessment money.

### The IRS claims Portis owes taxes from 2006 and 2010.

Portis told TMZ that in 2008, he made a considerable investment into a casino that ultimately went bankrupt.   

Portis and other NFL players later sued a financial adviser who allegedly persuaded them into investing. 

"This been ongoing since 2011, 2012 ... we just gotta go thru the court process," Portis told TMZ. "There's nothing else I can do. My lawyers are currently dealing with this….

“At the time I was the biggest name and had the deepest pockets. Now, they're trying to hold me solely responsible for what was a bad business deal involving a lot of different people…. My lawyers are on top of it," Portis says ... "I'm still eating. Look at my Instagram. I'm not starving. I'm gaining weight. I'm doing fine. I'll be okay."

Portis, 33, last played in the NFL in 2010 and has since done some work as a commentator for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s digital network. He played his first two seasons with Denver and last seven with Washington, scoring 75 touchdowns and producing a 4.4 career rushing average.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 17, 2015

Lots of news, notes from final Dolphins' practice of offseason: QB, RB, O-line and much more

The final day of the Dolphins’ spring/summer program featured some of Ryan Tannehill’s best work of the offseason, including seven touchdown passes (most in red zone drills), a perfectly thrown deep pass to Jarvis Landry and several pinpoint throws to Jordan Cameron and Greg Jennings.

Tannehill has developed very good chemistry with Cameron; they’ve connected on several touchdowns in the back of the end zone this offseason. And Jennings has consistently found a way to get open, on slants and other routes.

Tannehill “has had a good offseason,” Joe Philbin said. “He and I visited one and one [Tuesday] and talked about some things…. Conceptually, we’ve added a couple things slightly different.”

Now in his second season working with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Tannehill said he feels “really comfortable in this offense in the sense of knowing exactly where everyone is supposed to be and being more of a coach on the field this year as opposed to trying to learn the whole system with everyone else like I did last year…. The pieces we have added… we have a plethora of different options to attack people.”

There’s a lot Philbin feels good about with this offense.

“We feel better about our plan, our scheme, our utilization of people,” Philbin said in his final media session for six weeks.

“The one thing I feel best about the offseason program is the situational work we’ve done. The red zone --- how important it’s going to be for the success of our team.”

Defensively, what encourages Philbin is “our pursuit, the way we’ve been running to the football. If we combine that with tackles, it limits the explosive plays.”

### Though the Dolphins rotated a lot of players in drills, Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain ended mini-camp as the first team cornerbacks, along with Brent Grimes, of course.

Kelvin Sheppard returned after missing Tuesday’s session because of the birth of his child. But Chris McCain remained with the first team at strongside linebacker.

Meanwhile, Philbin remained non-committal about whether Koa Misi will stay at middle linebacker. Misi would shift outside if Sheppard beats out McCain in training camp.

Misi would love to stay in the middle.

“I know all the plays and all the calls and I don’t have to second-guess myself,” he said. “I feel good. I know a lot better than I did last year. Playing the same position I did last year makes a difference.”

### Which of the backup running backs has stood out behind Lamar Miller?

Philbin first mentioned LaMichael James, saying he has “flashed a little bit. We didn’t have a lot of time to evaluate him [last year]. It was good to have Mike Gillislee back. He had some good days out here as well. Damien Williams has been moving around athletically. I think it’s a good group. It’s going to be competitive. Jay [Ajayi] is doing a good job.”

### Philbin said he wants Jarvis Landry to “take a little better care of the football in the return game.” Christion Jones, Bobby McCain and James have also handled returns in practice.

### Random stuff from today’s session: The Tannehill deep ball traveled 45 yards in the air, with Landry beating Sammy Seamster… More good work from Tony Lippett, who wasn’t fooled on a Tannehill read option…. Brent Grimes picked off McLeod Bethel Thompson. And Brice McCain returned another MBT pass for a touchdown, though a Koa Misi sack might have ended that play before that…

 Seamster picked off a pass that was bobbled by Matt Hazel. Certainly wasn’t Tannehill’s fault… Michael Preston, a major long shot at receiver, continues to make plays… Christion Jones dropped two passes…

Jamar Taylor picked off a pass that bounced off Ajayi’s hands…  Mike Hull broke up a screen to LaMichael James…. Terence Fede had a sack… Tim Semisch, the 6-8 rookie tight end, continued to impress, using his length to make two receptions in the end zone.

### Philbin canceled Thursday's final day of mini-camp because "we got a lot accomplished." He said players will reconvene July 28, with camp practices expected to start a few days later. 


The Dolphins ended their offseason program Wednesday with more questions than answers at guard, a position where they have plenty of bodies but no clarity about who will be the starters when Miami opens the season Sept. 13 at Washington.

A few things are clear:

### The Dolphins remain interested in adding free agent Evan Mathis, but they aren’t in position to become engaged in a high-end bidding war for the Pro Bowler, who was released by the Eagles last week in the wake of a contract dispute.

“I think we'll be methodical,” Mathis’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said last week, during his weekly segment on WQAM, while declining to identify interested teams. “We won't necessarily rush into signing immediately.”

ESPN’s John Clayton said the Dolphins, Colts, Chiefs and 49ers are the top contenders to sign him. But the Indianapolis Star reported the Colts won’t pursue Mathis, and the Chiefs are up against the salary cap.

### The Dolphins front office conveyed earlier this season that they projected Billy Turner, their third-round pick in 2014, to be a starter this season. While that may eventually be the case, it was veteran Jeff Linkenbach who lined up at right guard with the first team to start practice the past two days.

Though Turner received some first-team snaps the past two days, Linkenbach appeared to get more of them.

Linkenbach, 28, has started 36 games in five seasons, including 16 for the Colts in 2011 but just three for the Chiefs last season.

### The battle to start at left guard is neck-and-neck between Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas, with both receiving first-team snaps this week. Thomas again lined up with the starters to start Wednesday’s session.

But Mathis would take that job if he signs with the Dolphins; Pro Football Focus rated him the best left guard in 2012 and 2013 and second-best last season.

Philbin insisted that he’s pleased with the internal options.

"I like what I see so far but it's early,” Philbin said. “With the speed up front, it's hard to great a great assessment of where everything's at. I believe we will have enough opportunities in training camp and preseason to get a good evaluation.

“I like the guys we have. There's no question in my mind they will be capable of doing the job. They just need experience,… repetition, exposure. They need to work with [Mike Pouncey] next to them and get it figured out. It may not be as pretty as we want it day one of training camp, but they're great guys who are working extremely hard. You have to have some patience.”

Pouncey said in February that he would love for the Dolphins to sign a veteran guard but answered diplomatically this week when asked if he wanted Miami to sign Mathis.

“Evan is a really good football player; had an opportunity to meet him at the Pro Bowl,” Pouncey said. “It would be great if he signed here but if not, we got to roll with the punches with the guy we've got. The guys we have inside this building will do a great job for us.”

Though Thomas allowed seven sacks last season, all of them came during his snaps at tackle. He didn’t give up any sacks in 362 snaps at guard.

“I'm so comfortable out there now,” Thomas said. “I’m understanding concepts of the plays. You can know the plays but until you understand it, it won't be easy for you.”

Thomas said he played on the left side at Tennessee and is happy to be back there: “I am settled in. It's been going good for me. I haven't had problems there. I played there in college. I came here, they put me at right, but now I'm back home.”

Offensive line coach John Benton has said Thomas is much improved. But how so?

“It's knowing the playbook way better,” he said. “I was out there thinking a lot. And when you're thinking a lot on the field, you play a little slower.”

He said he noticed his “set” was a problem in last December’s Baltimore game, when he struggled, and “this whole offseason, that's what I've been working on. My work is starting to pay off.”

Thomas said he “would be disappointed” if he isn’t a starter “because I know what I can do.”

Pouncey said Thomas “came in this year with a whole different mindset. He's playing great football. He's gaining all my trust right now with the way he's practicing on the field and being attentive inside meetings.”

As for Douglas, the rookie fourth-round pick “doesn't look like a rookie,” Pouncey said. “He's playing at a really high level. We won't really know what he can do until he puts the pads on but he's impressed a lot of the coaches. He's got the eye of a lot of veteran guys in the offensive line room.”

Turner, who appeared in just two games last season, “is a very physical, explosive type player,” Benton said last month, adding he needed to improve playing “with balance and under control.”

Pouncey said “Billy is doing a really good job.” But he clearly hasn’t seized the job, considering it was Linkenbach getting first crack with the starters this week.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 16, 2015

Wake looks to future with Suh; Dolphins/Mathis update; Fins OTA, Heat and UM nuggets; Marlins-A Rod future?


Cameron Wake was sipping on some blended concoction of broccoli, kale and spinach the other day --- it looked a little like algae and it’s questionable if it tasted much better --- and it served as a reminder of how the four-time Pro Bowl defensive end treats his body like a temple, perhaps more so than any recent Dolphin.

Wake says he hasn’t tasted candy or ice cream since leaving Penn State after 2004. And fried foods? Out of the question.

At 33, Wake enters a pivotal season, his seventh in Miami and one that will determine whether the cap-strapped Dolphins will have the leverage to ask him to take a pay cut for 2016, when he has an $8.2 million salary (it’s $8.9 million this season) and a $9.8 million cap number.

Adding intrigue is this: Can Wake achieve a career-type season playing alongside Ndamukong Suh, whose presence (and commanding of double-teams) historically boosts the production of defensive ends?

To appreciate how important it is for Wake to be at his best, consider:

He had eight sacks last season in the Dolphins’ eight wins, just 3.5 in their eight losses. He had two sacks in Miami’s only December win against Minnesota but no sacks and just four combined tackles in the December losses to the Ravens, Patriots and Jets.

Wake watched every one of his 2014 snaps on tape this offseason and said his blood boiled when he reviewed those three late-season losses.

“I look at that sometimes and say, ‘I could have made that play. I could have changed that game.’ Every year, my blood pressure goes up [when I watch tape]; I've got to go get some medicine.”

After producing 15 sacks and 53 tackles in 2012, Wake’s numbers have been good but not extraordinary the past two: 8.5 sacks and 37 tackles in 2013, 11.5 and 38 in 2014.

“Obviously, I want to be better than I was,” he said.

Wake and Suh have lined up next to each other during the majority of offseason practices, and the question now is whether Suh’s presence can again catapult Wake toward the top five in the league in sacks. (He was fourth in 2012 but 29th in 2013 and 11th last season.)

What impact does Suh have on defensive ends? Consider the five seasons in which Cliff Avril started at least half his team’s games.

When he played with Suh in Detroit, Avril had 8.5 sacks (in 13 games), 11.0 and 9.5. In his two other seasons as a full-time starter, Avril had 5.5 sacks (for Detroit without Suh in 2009) and 5.0 for Seattle last season.

Wake expects Suh’s presence to benefit both him and Olivier Vernon, whose sacks dropped from 11.5 to 6.5 last season.

“I'm looking forward to watching offenses and trying to figure out how to make that happen,” Wake said. “The relationship [with Suh] is coming along great. We've spent time with each other in meeting rooms. It's been accelerated. We've already built a relationship that will help us out.”

Said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle: “I see a chemistry already developing between those two that will be real exciting to watch as the season unfolds next year. They will help each other in a lot of ways.”

Wake, who hasn’t made the playoffs in his six seasons in Miami, plans to travel in the coming weeks “to another hemisphere, maybe Indonesia or someplace distant.”

He said he doesn’t feel his mortality because “I take care of myself the best way I know how. [But] it’s like two worlds. One world I'm a young pup. The other world I'm a senior citizen.” Perhaps Suh’s arrival will push Wake back into his prime. 


### The Dolphins are interested in free agent guard Evan Mathis, according to someone with direct knowledge, but whether they end up with him will depend on how high bidding rises.

The Dolphins have a bit under $9 million in cap space and want to save several million heading into the season.

During Tuesday’s minicamp, it was notable that veteran Jeff Linkenbach took many of the first-team right guard snaps ahead of Billy Turner, while Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas shared first-team snaps at left guard. Mathis would become the left guard if he signs.

“I like the guys we have,” coach Joe Philbin insisted today. “There's no question in my mind they will be capable of doing the job.”

### Some nuggets from the first of two Dolphins' mini-camp practices: Chris McCain remained the starting strongside linebacker and Jamar Taylor the starting cornerback opposite Brent Grimes... Safety Walt Aikens continued his good work with an interception and two pass breakups...

Josh Freeman threw an early interception to Aikens, then rebounded with several excellent throws..... Louis Delmas, who tore his ACL last November, participated in 11 on 11 drills and said he is fully cleared.... Tommy Streeter, signed last week, caught a 50-yard pass on Zack Bowman, from McLeod Bethel-Thompson. But MDT also threw an interception to Reshad Jones....

Kenny Stills sat out for precautionary reasons with an injury that was described as not serious.... With Caleb Sturgis still sidelined after his kickball injury, Andrew Franks made 3 of 4 field goals. He missed his longest field goal of the day, from 46 yards, and it wasn't especially close (wide left)....

Sun Life Stadium seats signed by Don Shula, Dan Marino and Bob Griese will be auctioned on miamidolphins.com beginning at noon Wednesday. They'll be thrown away if not purchased during the auction.... Check out Adam Beasley's story on the home page about Suh and newcomer C.J. Mosley.

### Expect sharp-shooting sixth man Lou Williams to reach out to the Heat, among select other teams, when NBA free agency starts on July 1.

Williams (who ranked 15th in the league this season with 152 three-pointers) might be affordable only if two among Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade or Luol Deng leaves. Otherwise, the Heat would have only exception money ($5.5 million or $3.4 million, depending on whether it incurs a luxury tax).

### As associate of veteran power forward Carlos Boozer said Boozer wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with the Heat next season (almost assuredly at the minimum).

Boozer, who spends a lot of time in Miami, can still play as a backup (11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 49.9 percent from the field for the Lakers), but signing him makes sense only if Josh McRoberts or (less likely) Udonis Haslem is dealt.

### Dwyane Wade, on ABC's pre-game show, credited receiver Brandon Marshall for suggesting he take the four-day business class at Harvard that he completed last week.... Some on Twitter are reading a lot into Wade beginning an anecdote tonight by saying, "When I was in Miami, we had this saying..."

Wade might leave the Heat  because of major contractual differences (or he might not), but I would be surprised if there was intent in that comment tonight. Just my opinion, since nobody is a mind-reader.

### A few weeks after ESPN’s Buster Olney advocated that the Marlins hire Yankees slugger/Miami native Alex Rodriguez as manager next season, A-Rod went out of his way this week to praise the Marlins owner (“Jeffrey Loria has done a great job with this franchise”) and their “great young talent.”

There are no negative feelings between Loria and A-Rod, but a source close to Loria dismissed the idea of Loria hiring him right off the field as a manager. A decision on whether Dan Jennings will manage in 2016 will be made based on how the season unfolds.

Having Jennings as the manager --- unsettling to some players initially because of lack of on-field experience --- is “getting more and more normal,” reliever Mike Dunn said. “Dan’s a great motivational speaker.”

### Tampa area tight end Tre' McKitty, not rated by rivals.com, today became UM's eight non-binding oral commitment for 2017. UM has 24 such commitments for 2016 and five for 2018. Those 37 commitments are the most in the country.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz             

June 15, 2015

Monday 7:45 p.m.: Jose Fernandez update; A-Rod addresses Miami reporters; Heat draft and UM recruiting news; Stephenson trade to impact Heat?

A six pack of notes on a Monday night:

### More than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Jose Fernandez said tonight that he is planning to return to the big leagues on Thursday, July 2 at home against San Francisco.

That Marlins-Giants game, a 12:10 p.m. start, wasn't scheduled to be televised but Fox Sports Florida has agree to air it.

Fernandez, who has made two minor league rehab starts, said earlier in the day that he’s strong enough to pitch in the big leagues immediately but wants to work toward being able to throw 100 pitches in a game.

He will throw 80 pitches in his Wednesday start for Triple A New Orleans, then said he would potentially throw 90 to 100 in his next two minor-league starts. So Fernandez appears set to make three more minor-league starts before his Marlins season debut.

“My arm strength is not a question,” he said. “I feel I’m ready. The last start is the start where I turned the corner."

### Yankees starter Alex Rodriguez spoke to about three dozen reporters before playing (or at least initially, not playing) the Marlins in his hometown.

A-Rod, primarily a DH this season, wasn’t in the lineup tonight but voiced no objections to Joe Girardi’s decision.

“I’ll be able to pinch-hit if he needs me to,” A-Rod said.

A-Rod, who entered hitting .268 with 12 homers and 32 RBI, said: “This has been amazing year for me. I know a lot of people gave up on me.”

A-Rod, who rose to fourth on the all-time home run list earlier this year and is now closing in on 3000 hits, said tonight: “These milestones have made me step back and think about my childhood in Miami” and swinging in his backyard.

He declined to say how many more years he wants to play, saying it would be based on his enjoyment and if he’s still productive.

“Even my biggest haters would say I’m disciplined and hard working,” Rodriguez said.

He said he’s eager to see the Marlins’ “great young talent.”

### Add Texas power forward/center Myles Turner to the list of players summoned by the Heat to team headquarters. That means all of the realistic possibilities for the Heat’s pick at No. 10 (a list that runs 5 to 8 deep) have all either been booked for visits, or in the process of booking visits….

Jay Bilas is assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the top 40 prospects on ESPN.com.

Here’s what he said about two of the Heat possibilities, on ESPN’s pay site:

On Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson: “Big, strong and athletic wing who powers his way to the basket and is very good in the open floor. Has been a winner at every level, and is very competitive. Very physical and plays hard, has the ability to be a versatile and effective defender.” But… “ Limited shooter, although improved. Low release point on his shot, and takes time to get it off. Shot a reasonable percentage from 3-point range, but is not a shooter. Very strong, but not explosive athletically. Skill level is good, but must improve. Finishing ability is there, but efficiency needs to improve.”

On Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre: He likes his “size, superior length and athleticism at the wing. Can be an excellent and versatile defender. Athletic and quick, can get to the rim off the dribble. Lefty with a good midrange shot, but inconsistent shooting the ball. Improved toughness and defense throughout the season.” But… his “ballhandling and passing must improve, as should reads and decision-making.”

(We’ll offer more in coming days. And thanks to ESPN’s Insider folks for the info.)…

The Heat, which has the 10th and 40th picks, announced it’s holding a draft party on June 25, with gates opening at 6 p.m. (an hour before the draft) and Erik Spoelstra, Hassan Whiteside and Alonzo Mourning scheduled to appear.  

The event is free, but a ticket is required to attend the event. Each person may select up to four tickets, which must be reserved on line at heat.com. A credit card is required to reserve seats, but the credit card will not be charged. Fans must print their tickets prior to arriving at the AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat's ticket office will not reprint tickets. Tickets on mobile devices will not be accepted for entry. The first 2500 fans will get draft T-shirts.

### South Florida’s ratings for the Warriors-Cavaliers series keep soaring. Game 5 was viewed in 18.1 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets --- compared with 16.9 for Dolphins games last season on average, 16.2 for the UM-FSU football game and 12.3 for this year’s college football championship game.

### Yahoo reported that Charlotte and the Clippers are discussing a deal that would send Lance Stephenson to L.A. for center Spencer Hawes and forward Matt Barnes. (Update: ESPN is reporting the deal is essentially done, and Yahoo now says it's done.)

This could affect the Heat because it would leave an even greater deficiency at shooting guard for the Hornets and could provide yet more impetus to them to take Kentucky shooting guard Devin Booker one spot before Miami.

Booker, considered the best shooter in the draft, has met with the Heat and Pat Riley has told him that he could develop behind Dwyane Wade, according to Booker.

But it's now very dubious whether Booker gets to Miami's pick at No. 10.

What's more, Hornets shooting guard Gerald Henderson hasn’t said if he’s exercising a $6 million player option, something Charlotte might not know before the draft.

If Booker is gone, Wisconsin forward/center Frank Kaminsky and small forward Sam Dekker, Johnson, Oubre and power forwards Turner and Trey Lyles could be the best options at No. 10.

### UM recruiting notes: In a week, the Hurricanes have gone to 24 oral commitment for 2016, back to 23, up to 24 and now back to 23 after today’s news that Pembroke Pines Flanagan safety Devin Gil de-committed to UM during a visit to Michigan. Gil told Canesport.com that Miami is still in his top five….

Palmetto, Fla.-based quarterback Jack Allison, a UM oral commitment, told Canesport that he will enroll at Miami next January.  Rivals.com ranks him the sixth-best pro style quarterback and 200th best prospect overall.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz