05/29/2014

Postscripts, reaction, notes, quotes from Heat's Game 5 loss

Thoughts and reaction from Indiana’s season-extending 93-90 Game 5 win against the Heat that sends this series back to Miami on Friday:

### As reality television goes, that was pretty riveting stuff. From LeBron’s most unusual night, to Paul George’s 31-point second half, to Lance Stephenson blowing sweet nothings in LeBron’s ear, to Rashard Lewis’ out-of-nowhere three-point eruption. Heck, there was even a Michael Beasley sighting. (And Toney Douglas, too!)

### James, limited to 24 minutes by foul trouble, finished with seven points, one fewer than his previous career playoff low (set against Dallas in the 2011 Finals), on 2 for 10 shooting. It wasn’t LeBron’s lowest scoring playoff game ever; he once scored three points in a regular season game. (ESPN noted that Michael Jordan never scored fewer than 15 points in a playoff game, by the way.)

“It sucks for me because I’m not able to make plays to help our team win,” LeBron said. “24 minutes is not enough for me to make an imprint on a game.”

His only baskets were an alley-oop dunk to open the game and a fourth-quarter three. He had more turnovers (three) than baskets.

“I picked up some early fouls,” James said. “It was something I’m not accustomed to. My teammates put us in position to win. That’s all I can ask for.”

### The Heat was plus 13 without James in the first half but unraveled after he left with his fifth foul with 8:34 left in the third quarter and the Heat ahead 45-37. By the time he returned with 10:30 left, the Heat was down 69-62.

### Stephenson shot 4 for 11 on a 12-point night but was an irritant, blowing in LeBron’s ear and playing stout defense on LeBron and others. He also poked his head in a conversation between Spoelstra and Norris Cole.

Asked about Stephenson’s antics, LeBron said: I’m just here to play basketball. All the extra curricular activities I don’t get into. We put ourselves in position to win.... Professionals, that's who we are. All the extra whatever, Lance wants to do I don’t really care about that. Lance is Lance. He’s going to do what he does to help his team win.”

Paul George cracked: "I hope his breath wasn't too bad for LeBron."

### George was magnificent: 21 points on 8 for 10 shooting in the fourth quarter. George (who finished with 37) and David West scored Indiana’s last 36 points over the final 13:30, shooting 13 for 17 over that stretch. All other Pacers shot 0 for 6 over the final 13:30.

"In the back of my mind the whole night was how I can be an impactful player for us," George said.

### Off a pass from LeBron, Chris Bosh had a good look on his missed potential go-ahead three-pointer with five seconds left. Remember Bosh was third in the NBA in field-goal percentage (54) in clutch moments during the season. “We’ll take that look,” Erik Spoelstra said.

Roy Hibbert said afterward he was relieved that LeBron didn’t take the shot or drive to the basket.

Asked about Hibbert’s comment, James said: “My teammates trust me I’m going to make the right play to help us win. It doesn’t matter from somebody else’s perspective. We got a great look. I was able to get into the paint, drew two” and passed to Bosh.

Bosh closed with 20 points on 9 for 21 shooting and 10 rebounds.

### Lewis, who shot 0 for 7 in the previous two games, sank 6 of 9 threes and his 18 points kept the Heat afloat amid LeBron’s foul trouble.

“We just wanted him to be aggressive,” Spoelstra said. “He had been getting good looks in these scenarios. He has an absolute neon green light. We want him attacking his opportunities like that with a clear mind. We didn’t even run a play for him.”

“His timely shots, his defensive activity, he’s been great ever since he was inserted into the lineup,” James said.

### Dwyane Wade had 18 points on 7 for 14 shooting but also six turnovers. “We have to be better, led by me, having six turnovers. That was a poor job by us, led by me. But we still gave ourselves an opportunity.

“I thought our defense was great. We gave ourselves a chance all night because of our defense. We gave ourselves a chance to win. On the road, that’s all you can ask for, even without LeBron putting his imprint on a game.”

### With James sitting out most of the third quarter with foul trouble, Spoelstra briefly summoned Beasley, who missed his only shot in three minutes in his first appearance in this series. The Heat was outscored by four points with him in the game. Spoelstra opted for Beasley over Douglas (who played five scoreless minutes in the first half) or James Jones (who didn’t play at all).

### This was huge: The Pacers --- down 42-33 at the half --- had 11 turnovers in the first half, just one in the second.

### This was odd: The Heat shot better on three-pointers (15 for 31) than two-pointers (19 for 44). “Their shot making was ridiculous, but we were still able to prevail,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

But Miami attempted only seven free throws, compared with 22 for Indiana; was outscored by 20 in the paint; committed 17 turnovers; and was outrebounded 45-38.   “Some of the careless turnovers, some the entry passes where we were just careless with it, that’s some of the stuff you can clean up,” LeBron said.

### Ray Allen scored 15 but didn’t play much of the time in crunch time, with Spoelstra opting instead to use Mario Chalmers.

### Norris Cole had his worst game of the series, with three turnovers and 0 for 2 shooting. Cole replaced LeBron when he picked up his fifth foul in the third, and the Heat squandered its lead over the ensuing minutes.

### Bosh had the Heat’s best plus minus at plus 10. Udonis Haslem had the worst: minus 13 in seven minutes.

### Spoelstra: “When we needed three or four stops in a row, we couldn’t do it. We will collect ourselves and get ourselves ready for another great opportunity. They stepped up their pressure, and once they got us into a few sloppy possessions, their energy picked up.”

### Bosh's take afterward: "Game 6 is our Game 7. We defend our homecourt. We have to put this behind us, get a day of rest. Turnovers were the key for us tonight. We can't have 17 turnovers." 

### Paul George: "It's not going to be like this in Game 6. We're expecting LeBron to be LeBron. [But] we're capable of winning a ball game with LeBron scoring 30 or 40 points. It's containing the role players and making sure they don't have a big night. This Game 6 is going to be about performing like champions."               

05/27/2014

9 a.m. Fins signing; Tannehill, Jordan, JT & lots of Dolphins chatter; A dozen Heat notes; Marlins, Canes buzz

9 a.m. update: According to a close associate, the Dolphins are signing former Buccaneers cornerback Anthony Gaitor, an FIU grad who has played in 12 NFL games. Gaitor played in eight games for Tampa in 2011, four in 2012 (with two starts) but missed all of last season with a knee injury. He has 12 career tackles.

A former seventh-round pick in 2011, Gaitor played with Marcus Forston, Sean Spence, Jacory Harris and others at Miami Northwestern. He has experience covering slot receivers.

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Chatter from the first day of Dolphins’ full-squad offseason practices:

### The pressure is heightened on the Dolphins’ 2012 and 2013 first-round draft picks, and coaching issues surround each.

For Dion Jordan, the question is whether coordinator Kevin Coyle and his staff can be creative enough to carve out more playing time amid their decision to keep him at defensive end behind Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon and not move him to linebacker.

For Ryan Tannehill, the issue is whether new coordinator Bill Lazor --- who said he is very “demanding” with quarterbacks – can extract from Tannehill what he and Eagles coach Chip Kelly squeezed out of Nick Foles (27 touchdowns, two picks last season). Foles was drafted 88th in 2012, 80 spots after Tannehill.

Tannehill struggled at times Tuesday, throwing an interception to Cortland Finnegan, overthrowing a deep ball to Mike Wallace and throwing two other passes nearly intercepted by Finnegan and Jamar Taylor.

“It’s been exciting but challenging, completely different system,” Tannehill said. “Lot of stuff we haven’t done before. There’s still a learning curve. It’s not going to come overnight. Receivers are running routes they haven’t run before. [Lazor] wants to run it fast. We’re going to huddle but once we break we want to put pressure on the defense.”

Lazor will push Tannehill hard.

I asked Lazor where Tannehill needs to improve. Lazor's reponse: “I want to see the ball coming out on time, his footwork telling him when it’s time to throw it. I want to see that he trusted us that this is how it all fits together. The quarterback has got to play at game speed every day in practice.

“The receivers will catch up to him. That’s the first thing we’re trying to do with Ryan…. If you see them back there holding the ball or patting the ball, you’ll know I’m not happy.”

Lazor said with quarterbacks: “You’ve got to make it very clear what you expect, not only what to do but how to do it. And No. 2, you’ve got to be very demanding. If you’re demanding but didn’t go a good job explaining how you want it done, then you’re a jerk who just yells all the time.

“If you do a great job teaching it but you don’t hold them to a real high standard, then their play is only going to reach a certain level and it’s going to stop. But if you can do a great job teaching that 'this is what I want done and exactly how I want it done’ and hold them to it every single day. Every guy has traits that can be improved, but if a quarterback is accurate and he’s decisive, you get a feel that you can work with him. You can mold him. You can push him.”

Though Zac Taylor is the QB coach in title, it will be fascinating to see what Lazor can get out of Tannehill.      

As for Jordan, the third overall pick in 2013 played the fewest snaps of any defensive player drafted among the top 20 last April. Jordan said he was 260 last season and is now just over 265.

“I needed it,” he said. “I was too light to go against some of those offensive tackles. It wasn’t weight. It was mainly getting stronger. I’m trying to better myself in a lot of areas.”

Though Jordan’s defensive coordinator at Oregon believes he would be better suited to linebacker, Philbin said the staff has decided against that because “to develop him and those [pass-rushing] skills requires a time commitment. And if you’re always worried about pass drops and who you have in zone --- not that we haven’t used him in there” then there’s less time to focus on being a pass rusher.

### Jason Taylor, at practice on Monday, approached Philbin about working with the defensive linemen as a volunteer, and the Dolphins hope that will help Jordan.

“I think he’s going to be around a lot in OTAs,” Philbin said.  “I don’t know if there could be a bigger mentor for our young players. He’s energetic and enthusiastic about helping out and contributing.”

Jordan, who has been compared physically to JT, is thrilled to have him around: "It’s wonderful. Just his presence alone I feel like it’s a benefit to this team because not only was he a great player, he’s a great person. He’s dropping a lot of knowledge. He’s going to be in there watching film and working with us out here, so I’m going to pick his brain.”

Nick Buoniconti addressed the team last week and Philbin said he has reached out to other former Dolphins.

### Philbin stopped short of saying Koa Misi’s move to middle linebacker is permanent but the Dolphins are intrigued by the possibility. With Misi in the middle, “we should be more stout,” Philip Wheeler said. “He’s obviously a bigger guy.”

And Dannell Ellerbe, who played middle linebacker last season, said, “I got to show more athleticism outside. In Baltimore, I played outside. Koa's athletic and fast enough to do it. We have to get him on the field more.”

The job carries a lot more responsibility for Misi, who will be responsible for barking out the calls if he stays in the middle.

By the way, Wheeler took all the first team snaps and said he expects to be the starter. (So far, there's no indication Jelani Jenkins is seriously challenging him.) Also, it was interesting that Misi and Wheeler --- and not Ellerbe --- were on the field in some traditional nickel packages.

### What did we see of Lazor’s offense Tuesday? Lots of: shotgun, screens, motion, dump offs to running backs, three-receiver sets (one with tight end Charles Clay lined up on the opposite side), two tight end sets, sets with either one back or two backs with each lining up next to the quarterback and a few read option plays and a receiver reverse.

The Dolphins huddled “most of the day,” but “there will be times we operate a different way,” Lazor said. “If No. 1 [top receiver] is one-on-one, we expect him to win and we expect to throw the football.”

### Mike Wallace loves the offense: “It’s fast. It’s going to be good. We catch a lot of people off guard. We got a lot of play action, a lot of shots. I feel like I know what’s going on. I feel a little more in control.”

Philbin likes how Wallace is doing a lot of work on his own. He was the last one to leave the field Monday. “He feels a lot more comfortable, better about being a Dolphin,” Philbin said. “Really like what he’s doing.”

### Lazor is a no-nonsense type and made clear Tuesday: “They’ve got to get the communication ironed out right away. We’ll make that point  real fast to them.”

### Finnegan joined Brent Grimes as the first-team cornerbacks and said when he’s playing at his feisty best, “I’m a jerk. I think everyone will attest to that.”

### With Marcus Thigpen out with a back injury, Jarvis Landry, Brian Hartline, Brent Grimes and ex-Titans receiver Damian Williams worked as returners. Williams and Landry will be the primary competition for Thigpen when he returns…

Armon Binns caught a 70-yard bomb from Matt Moore, beating Taylor, and will push Williams and Rishard Matthews hard for the No. 5 receiver job. The Dolphins love Binns' size (6-3) and have issues with Matthews for reasons unrelated to performance…

Sam Brenner, getting work at backup center, struggled with snaps. Nate Garner played everywhere, as usual (backup left tackle and guard).

CHATTER

### Please see the last post for a lot of Heat notes from Tuesday night. We separated Heat into a separate post tonight for length reasons.         

### Per ESPN, UM and USF are the two leaders for power forward Kamari Murphy, who is transferring from Oklahoma State after averaging 6.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as a sophomore last season. UM lost out in its bid for three other transfers in the past month.

### The UM football team will try using 6-9 former UM basketball player Raphael Akpejiori as an offensive lineman. Akpejiori had been working as a tight end but has had trouble catching passes consistently, according to someone who observed him working with receivers coach Brennan Carroll during spring ball.

### Though it makes sense for Andrew Heaney, MLB’s top left-handed pitching prospect, to take struggling Randy Wolf’s rotation spot eventually this summer, the Marlins would be at risk of making Heaney eligible for free agency after 2019, instead of 2020, if they call him up now instead of mid-to-late June. (That's also the difference with him becoming arbitration eligible after 2016 instead of 2017, unless he's sent back to the minors.)

Heaney threw six scoreless innings, allowed one hit and struck out seven for Triple A New Orleans tonight.

Also, the Marlins have some wiggle room with Wolf because his $1 million salary won’t become guaranteed until late June.... Apparently not having seen his work with the Marlins, the Reds reportedly agreed to terms with Carlos Marmol.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... And again, please see the last post for Heat chatter (including interesting Stan Van Gundy comments) heading into Game 5 Wednesday.

6 p.m. Tuesday Heat update: Injuries to two key Heat players; George fined; Vogel yells; Notes, quotes

A 6 p.m. Heat update: (Please check back shortly for lots of Dolphins news, plus Canes and Marlins):

### Erik Spoelstra said Chris Andersen (thigh) and Ray Allen (thigh, hip) will be evaluated Wednesday. Their status is in question for Game 5.

"He's the human bruise, so he has a lot of different things going on all over his body, and he's been able to play through all of that," Spoelstra said of Andersen. "He's a tough guy. We all know that. He plays through pain. But you have to understand the difference between pain and injury."

### Pacers coach Frank Vogel told his players on Tuesday to stop worrying and complaining about the officiating. The warning came too late to save forward Paul George, who later was fined $25,000 by the NBA after saying Monday night that the Heat’s 34-17 edge in free throw attempts “maybe was just home cooking.”

Vogel told his players: “We can't control calls.  We've got to worry about what we've got to control: our turnovers, our shot selection, our passing, our defense.”

Vogel said he wasn't disappointed in George's comments, but LeBron James noted late Monday night: “We only had five turnovers, seven steals and 20 points off their turnovers. That has nothing to do with the free throw line.”

Asked if he disagreed with some calls in Game 4, Vogel said: “Can’t go there.” But Vogel, who was given a technical in the third quarter, said: “We weren’t disciplined with our fouling.”

### Paul George’s claim that the Heat got “home cooking” with the officiating, and that the Pacers “attacked the basket” just as often as the Heat, is ridiculous considering James drove to the basket nearly as many times in Game 4 as the entire Pacers team (10 to 11). The Heat had 27 drives, according to SportVU.

Vogel said he regularly sends tapes to the league when he questions officiating calls but declined to say whether he did that after Game 4.

###  Vogel said he believes Lance Stephenson’s “sign of weakness” comment about LeBron James on Sunday had nothing to do with James’ 32-point performance in Game 4.

But Vogel conceded that “maybe Lance tried to walk the walk a little too much and maybe put too much pressure on himself, didn't get going early, and then he got in foul trouble. It might have had an effect. It's tough to say.”

Several Pacers players expressed disappointment with Stephenson’s comments. “We got to stay away from giving guys bulletin board material,” David West said.

George said: “Lance is young and that’s a learning lesson for him. We’ve just got to be smarter with situations.”

### Pacers center Roy Hibbert said he took only four shots in 22 scoreless, foul-plagued minutes because the game plan “wasn’t to utilize me as much.”

On Tuesday, Vogel said: “Look, Roy Hibbert's hurt the Miami Heat more in the pick and roll game and on the glass in previous years.  That's where he's put up his biggest numbers while mixing in the post game.  It's not like he's had success getting 20 to 30 post ups a game.

“That's how we're trying to utilize him. They're doing a great job with their hands and deflecting those passes.”

### NBA teams with a 3-1 lead in a series are 214-8 in those series.

“Any time you lose three in a row in the playoffs, it shakes your confidence some,” Vogel said.

### Vogel has yelled at Shane Battier and Norris Cole before launching three-pointers in this series, though neither player said he heard it.

“He’s the man, he can do what he wants for his team,” Battier told Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick. “It makes them feel part of the game."

But Battier, who said Lawrence Frank and Vinny Del Negro also did that to him, added Vogel is “one of the guys who does not like when I call out what plays come in. I've been doing it my entire career. But some coaches it irritates. I don't think he likes me very much. When the play comes in, he waits until I turn away, and I stare right at him." 

Asked about Vogel yelling at players, new Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told Dan Le Batard, Greg Cote and Jon Weiner on ESPN Radio: "You don't see it often, so when you do, it's strange to see."

Has he done it? "Not that I know of."

### Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers have each played 98 minutes in this series, but the Heat has outscored Indiana by 28 with Cole on the floor in this series but been outscored by 22 with Chalmers. “I’m doing terrible this series,” Chalmers said earlier this week.

### Even though Rashard Lewis is shooting 0 for 7 in this series, the Heat is somehow plus-35 in his 42 minutes.

### The Heat often draws its highest local TV ratings after a loss and that remains the case; its 24.4 local rating for Game 2 against Indiana ranks as South Florida’s highest in these playoffs. That equals 24.4 percent of South Florida homes with TV sets. Game 4 got a 23.9, the second highest of the postseason.

### Stan Van Gundy said after Miami lost in the opener of this series, he texted his brother, ABC's Jeff Van Gundy, and predicted Miami would win four straight to win the series.

Stan Van Gundy said the Pacers' reaction Monday night suggests "a team running from accountability." (Great to see Stan so candid even though he's back in the NBA.)

### The Heat is on the verge of becoming the first team to make four consecutive Finals appearances since Boston (1984-87)…. The Heat’s 11-2 record is its best-ever postseason record at this point. Miami was 10-3 after 13 games the past three years. 

Postscripts, reaction from Heat's Game 4 win; Pacers upset with officiating

Postscripts and reaction from the Heat’s 102-90 win against the Indiana Pacers that leaves Miami with a commanding 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals:

### By late in the first quarter, Chris Bosh (25 points, 7 of 12 from the field) had already surpassed his scoring output in his any of his previous SEVEN playoff games against Indiana.

“Beginning of the game, coach drew up a play for me, and I pretty much decided I was going to shoot,” Bosh said. “When the shots do go in, teammates look for me a little more.

“I put the cerebral stuff to bed. Not thinking as much. I felt I could give more to the team. My mindset was a defensive first type of feel. I will make sure I do that for the rest of the series and the season.”

Did Bosh have to overcome a mental crisis? “Mental crisis? No. That’s for the weak minded.”

Bosh entered having failed to reach double figures in any of his previous seven playoff games against Indy. He had nine points in each of the first three games.

### The difference tonight? "Chris Bosh," LeBron James said. "We've been talking the last couple days about how we're going to get Chris going."

Still, Paul George inexplicably said: "I thought we outplayed them."

### Did Stephenson’s sign of weakness comment about LeBron fuel him on a 32-point, 10-rebound night for James? "I don't need any motivation," he said. "I'm motivated enough to try to get back to the Finals. Being one of the leaders of this team, I have to do my part to help us win."

Does he find Stephenson comical? "No," LeBron said. "I got a smirk out of him."

### A day after he made his foolish comments, Stephenson was outscored 32-9 by James, with the Pacers guard scoring eight of those points in the final 5:31.

Stephenson made himself accountable afterward, but only to an extent. He said he doesn’t regret anything he said.

“I tried to get into his head,” Stephenson said afterward. “I guess he stepped up and got the win. I can take the heat; I can take the fire.”

Said Paul George, afterward: “When you make comments,… you got to bring it. It wasn’t a good time for him. Sometimes you got to watch what you say. We’ve got to be smarter.”

Dwyane Wade: "We try to beat you at basketball. We don't go into the back-and-forth talking."

### But Stephenson’s ineffectiveness was matched, even exceeded, by Roy Hibbert, who went scoreless, missing all four of his shots and never getting to the free throw line. The Pacers were outscored by 23 points in his 22 minutes on the floor.

Both dealt with foul trouble, with Stephenson picking up his third less than a minute into the second quarter and Hibbert called for his fourth with 8:32 left in the third.  

“Silly fouls by both that have had no impact on the game,” ABC’s Mark Jackson said.

### Hibbert, who had five rebounds, entered averaging 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in this series. But on Monday, he often resembled the player who looked passive and lost during several games earlier in the playoffs.

“The game plan wasn’t to utilize me as much,” he said. “Would I have liked more touches early in the game to get going? Yes. But that’s how the cookie crumbles. I can only control what I can control.”

Hibbert also was helpless to prevent Bosh’s first offensive eruption of the series. Defending him is “tough, especially when he’s hitting threes,” Hibbert said. “My teammates told me he was going to cool down.”

### Stephenson missed his first three shots before finally scoring when he hit the second of two free throws with 4:34 left in the third quarter.

“I was in foul trouble, never got my rhythm,” he said.   

### The Heat shot twice as many free throws (34-17), and West said: “There were some new rules tonight. I thought we were as aggressive as we've been in terms of driving the ball. We were consistently getting two feet in the paint. I thought we shot the ball well enough [49.3 percent].”

### George, on the foul disparity: “You can’t tell me we don’t attack the basket as much as they attack the basket. We’re just as aggressive. Maybe it’s home cooking.”

James shrugged off that "home cooking" comment, saying several aspects of the Heat's performance (seven steals, 20 points off turnovers) have "nothing to do" with fouls.

### Wade, who scored 15 points on 4 for 12 shooting: Game 5 "will be the toughest game of the series. But we're up to the challenge, as always."

Said James: "We don't want to come back [to Miami] for a Game 6. It's not going to be easy. They're the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference."

### Rashard Lewis, who replaced Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup, shot 0 for 5 but had three rebounds and two steals and Miami was a plus-14 in his 26 minutes.

### Chris Andersen (thigh bruise) will be re-evaluated Wednesday. “He wanted to fight through it,” Erik Spoelstra said. “This is the one thing we didn’t allow him to play through.”

05/26/2014

8 p.m.: Birdman out; Heat, Pacers respond to Stephenson accusing LeBron of "sign of weakness"; Heat summons draft prospects; Dolphins, UM

8 p.m. update: The Heat announced a short time ago that Chris Andersen will miss tonight's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a bruised thigh. He is day-to-day. That's a big loss for the Heat. Andersen had averaged 11.8 points and 10.3 rebounds through three games of the series.

Also, Rashard Lewis will replace Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup.

### Heat players on Monday offered several amusing retorts in response to Pacers guard Lance Stephenson’s comments that he not only has gotten inside LeBron James' head, but that James responding to his trash-talking in Game 3 was a “sign of weakness.” 

Meanwhile, Pacers forward Paul George suggested Stephenson probably should have kept his mouth shut.

"If getting in his head is averaging 27 points, then I hope he stays there,” Chris Bosh said.

Asked if he has seen any weakness from James, Shane Battier cracked: “Not in the last decade.”

Norris Cole, asked the impact the comments might have on James in Game 4, said: “It might be worse for Lance. Sometimes LeBron gets in that gear when he has to prove a point. Paul Pierce did it [two weeks ago] and LeBron had 49. It doesn’t take much.”

Stephenson said he has no regrets about making the comments.

“I don’t care how he feels,” Stephenson said Monday morning, when asked if the comments might motivate James. “When I talk junk, it makes me happier to do my job. I like the challenge. I like to bring the best out of people. If it’s going to bring the best out of him, we’re going to have to get the win tonight.”

Stephenson said no Pacers coach or official spoke to him about his remarks.

But George told reporters Monday: “He’s doing it to the wrong guy, barking up the wrong tree. LeBron feeds off that. It motivates him. That’s Lance. That’s him being from Brooklyn. Some of the stuff Lance says is genuine. Some you can dial it back, keep in house, be modest. He’s got to be smarter about it.”

Asked if Stephenson’s comments will create a monster out of LeBron, Pacers forward David West said: “More than what he is? I don’t know.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Stephenson’s comments will have no effect in Game 4. “I don’t think LeBron, Dwyane Wade are going to play any harder than they’re already playing,” Vogel said.

Bosh said the Heat generally doesn’t trash-talk because “we don’t have any of those guys on this team. We’ve never been into that in the first place. It takes all your energy to win a game. This is a good team we’re facing.”

### Chris Bosh, who hasn't topped 10 points in any of his last seven playoff games against Indiana, was asked today if teammates are giving him encouragement.

“For the most part, I don’t need any encouragement," he said. "Encouragement for us is a win. I’ve never been selfish and I’m not going to start now. But I do want to play better.”

DRAFT TALK

While Heat players and coaches are immersed in this Eastern Conference Finals, the team’s front office has begun studying possibilities for the 26th selection in the first round of the June 26 NBA Draft.

According to ESPN college basketball writer Jeff Goodman, the Heat will host a workout with several players on Tuesday, including North Carolina 6-5 shooting guard PJ Hairston, Wichita State 6-8 small forward Cleanthony Early, Connecticut 6-9 forward DeAndre Daniels, 6-5 UCLA guard Jordan Adams and Louisville 6-0 point guard Russ Smith.

Hairston, who averaged 14.6 points last season and shot 39.6 percent on three-pointers, is considered a mid to late first round pick. So is Early, who averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds for Wichita State.

Adams, projected as a late first-round pick, averaged 17.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and shot 48.8 percent for UCLA.

Daniels, a potential second-round pick who can play either forward position, helped lead Connecticut to the national title, averaging 13.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

Smith, considered a potential second-round pick, averaged 18.2 points and 4.6 assists for Louisville last season and shot 46.8 percent from the field.

Tennessee 6-8 forward Jarnell Stokes, considered a late first-round pick or early-second rounder, will audition for the Heat on Thursday, according to ESPN. He averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds last season.

Because the Heat traded its 2015 first-rounder to Cleveland as part of the 2010 sign-and-trade for LeBron James, Miami is not permitted to trade its first-round pick before this year’s draft in accordance with NBA rules prohibiting dealing a No. 1 pick in consecutive years.

But the Heat can select a player on behalf of another team and trade that player after the draft.

DOLPHINS, UM ITEMS

### In case you missed it, the Dolphins cut three undrafted rookies this weekend: Cornerback Deion Belue (a starter at Alabama the past two years), Arkansas offensive lineman David Hurd and CFL offensive lineman Michael Ola.

The Dolphins signed offensive lineman Michael Philipp after he auditioned over the weekend. Philipp started 48 games for Oregon State and can play tackle and guard. He attended the Cleveland Browns’ rookie minicamp earlier this month but was released.

### We mentioned in the Sunday buzz column that UM called Jake Rodrigues, who was one of the nation’s top prep quarterbacks in the 2012 class and is transferring from Oregon. Rivals.com reported this morning that he will sign with San Diego State.                   

05/25/2014

4:30 Sunday: Lance says LeBron shows 'sign of weakness'; Dolphins CBs Taylor, Davis ready; Dolphins, UM buzz

A quick 4:30 p.m. Heat-Pacers news update from Sunday:

Asked about his trash-talking with Lance Stephenson in Game 3, LeBron James said Sunday: “One thing I’m not going to do is give you all a storyline with LeBron and Stephenson," who mocked James with the choke sign after James missed a free throw during their 2012 playoff series.

“I’m not going to do it.”

Leave it to Stephenson to throw gasoline on the flames.

About an hour later, Stephenson said the fact James responded to his trash-talking in Game 3 “is a sign of weakness.”

Said Stephenson: “He never used to say nothing to me. I always used to be the one that say, ‘I’m going to get under you. I’m going to do something to get you mad.’

“Now he’s trying to do it to me. So I feel like there’s a weakness. I feel like I’m doing something right, and I’m getting under his skin. I’ve got to keep stepping up to the plate and be more aggressive when he do that…. It’s definitely a sign of respect. I don’t have no beef with him. It’s just basketball. When you’re on the court, it’s no friends.”

James said earlier in the day that he never starts trash-talking:  “I’m not much of a talker, but I can. I don’t ever start it. But I can get involved in it and am still able to keep my head and understand what still needs to be done to help our team win.”

Does trash-talking make him more engaged? “Sometimes,” James said. “Eastern Conference Finals, the competition is already high. You don’t need it.”

But Dwyane Wade said James got “closer” defending Stephenson after the trash-talking. “It gives him a challenge, a game within a game,” Wade said.

Considering Wade’s comment, isn’t it counter-productive for Stephenson to trash-talk James?

I’m going to say whatever it takes,” Stephenson responded. “I’m not afraid of him if he’s going to be more aggressive on defense on me. I’m going to keep taking it to him. That doesn’t bother me at all.  I love it when someone challenges me.”

Other Pacers reacted to Stephenson’s trash-talking:

### Coach Frank Vogel said: “You don’t want it to be counter-productive, to give him a spark.” But… “I don’t think it matters one way or the other, if he’s silent or if he’s talking. Both guys are playing as hard as they can. I’ll say [he should do] whatever he feels he’ll be at his best.”

### David West: “There’s a time and place for it. Your mind has to be clear.”

### Paul George: “I’m not a trash talker. That’s his deal. I try to play the right way. But I like it as a fan of the game.”

Stephenson said the Pacers are like the “little brother” tired of being beaten by their “big brother.” Vogel used that analogy with his team Sunday.

“These guys have beat up on us so many times,” George said. “It’s about time we get angry.”

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Beyond offensive line, no Dolphins position has more uncertainty than cornerback, excluding Brent Grimes. Cortland Finnegan hasn’t had a good year since 2011, and Jamar Taylor and Will Davis played just 110 defensive snaps as rookies last season and allowed 12 of 14 passes to be completed against them, for 17.3 yards per reception.

Because Miami made no effort to keep Nolan Carroll (now with Philadelphia) and Dimitri Patterson (Jets), Taylor and Davis project to be among Miami’s top four corners. Joe Philbin said both will be given every chance to beat out Finnegan for a starting job.

“Those are guys we thought highly of; they had injury issues,” Philbin said.

Taylor, selected 54th overall out of Boise State, was inactive for seven games, partly because of a groin injury related to offseason hernia surgery. He played just 45 snaps and allowed all four passes thrown against him to be caught, for 100 yards.

“I felt down plenty of times,” he said late last season. “It’s frustrating. When you’re healthy, you don’t play much. When you’re not healthy, you don’t play. It’s tough when you see teams like Buffalo playing their rookies. I had great guys in front of me. [But] I got drafted here to help and I haven’t.”

He said “stuff that worked in college isn’t going to work here. [But] I know I’m damn good.”

Taylor told The Idaho Statesman recently: "It was to the point last year I thought I was done playing football. I didn't want to play anymore. I was out of it. Coming back, not being myself, being slower, not as quick, not as agile -- watching on Sunday, knowing you're better than some guys. I'm healthy and ready to take over the world. I’m going to turn a lot of heads.” 

Davis, selected 93rd out of Utah State, flashed  ball-hawking skills during training camp. “He made a lot of plays during practice,” quarterback Matt Moore said. “You would like to see that in a game.”

The Dolphins haven’t yet, not in a small sample size that included 65 regular season defensive snaps. Pressed into service against New England because of injuries, Davis struggled and finished 2013 allowing 8 of 10 passes thrown against him to be caught, for 108 yards.

“When I came here, I gambled more,” he said. “Now I’m a little more disciplined. The coaches love my aggressiveness and they don’t want to take that away from me.” One Dolphins receiver said Davis needs to improve coming out of his breaks.

Davis said his frustration never reached the point of Taylor’s. “That’s more of my personality, a happy-go-lucky kid who enjoys life,” he said. “The higher the draft pick, the more frustrated you get. And Jamar had injuries. And it’s not like we’re playing behind chumps.”

### At the NFL owners meetings in Orlando in March, two front office executives with other teams told me that Finnegan’s physicality and feistiness should help Miami if he’s disciplined and provided his skills do not diminish.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher insisted Finnegan hasn’t lost speed and St. Louis wanted him back as a nickel-back. One NFL executive said then-Rams coordinator Tim Walton (since fired) didn’t use Finnegan to his strengths. (Walton previously was d-coordinator at UM.)

“I’m on my worst behavior, in a modified way,” said Finnegan, 30, once a Pro Bowler when he played for Tennessee. “Just stay tuned. I won’t hurt the team by any stretch. I’m back. I lost that edge, but it’s back.”

Incidentally, the Dolphins’ fifth and sixth cornerbacks are rookie fourth-round pick Walt Aikens and journeyman Jalil Brown, who played 34 games with two starts for the Chiefs and Colts.  

CHATTER

### A close associate of LeBron James has made the Heat the heavy front-runner to retain James next season, with Cleveland a distant No. 2. And though the Cavaliers winning the draft lottery could help them lure James back several years from now if they draft a future star, it probably won’t help them land James this summer because his No. 1 priority is winning championships now, and Cleveland is unlikely to be in position to do that next season. James can opt out of his six-year contract this summer or next summer.

### Content with Matt Moore, the Dolphins decided not to inquire about a trade for Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon, and the Buccaneers say they want to keep him anyway…

Though they’re already deep at receiver, the Dolphins conveyed interest in moving running back Marcus Thigpen (who has been sidelined with back problems) back to receiver and want him to have competition for his return jobs, with rookies Jarvis Landry and Aikens and ex-Titans receiver Damian Williams among potential challengers.

### Among undrafted Dolphins rookies worth keeping an eye on: LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (“A lot of people thought he was better than [fellow LSU tackle] Ego Ferguson, who was picked 51st by the Bears,” Sporting News analyst Russ Lande said. “He has most of the traits you look for in an NFL starter”) and Marshall tight end/H-back Gator Hoskins, whose 15 TD catches last season led the nation. “Hoskins knows how to get open,” Lande said.

### Please see the next-to-last post from earlier Saturday for 10 more Dolphins notes.

### It’s too soon to tell if the Dolphins erred by not signing Colts pickup Erik Swoope, who’s trying to follow another UM alum, Jimmy Graham, in the transition from basketball player to tight end.

But Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Swoope, so far in practice, “has exceeded our expectations way beyond anything that you’d ever imagine for a guy that never played. Off the charts. He looks natural running routes. Great hands. High ceiling.”

### UM is among several schools that reached out last week to quarterback Jake Rodrigues, who is transferring from Oregon after attempting just six passes there. A California native, Rodrigues was rated Rivals.com’s fifth-best pro style quarterback in the 2012 class. He has two years of eligibility left but must sit out this year. Michigan and San Diego State are among others that have inquired.

Rodrigues reportedly prefers a school with a senior starter, allowing him to come in and play in 2015. Here, though, he would need to beat out Kevin Olsen and Brad Kaaya, among others, in 2015.

### The Marlins’ Jacob Turner is closing in on unfortunate history: He hasn’t won any of his first 18 big-league road starts (0-11). Since 1921, only two pitchers have opened their careers with a longer road drought: Rube Fisher (20) and Dewon Brazelton (19). Turner won his first game of the season on Saturday, pitching 6 1/3 scoreless innings against Milwaukee at Marlins Park.

### An interesting study by Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg revealed that a remarkable 7.5 percent of all NFL Draft picks the past three years (57) are from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. UM had nine of the 57. The Los Angeles area produced the second most with 42. Miami-Dade and Dallas Fort-Worth tied for the most from one county (27).

### Best wishes to Miami Herald recruiting guru and WQAM host Larry Blustein, 58, who had a kidney transplant recently (a longtime friend donated one) and then suffered a heart attack five days later, which will require quadruple bypass surgery in a few weeks. 

### Again, a reminder to please see the last post for Heat-Pacers chatter.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

Postscripts, reaction to Heat's Game 3 win

Postscripts, reaction in the wake of the Heat's 99-87 Game 3 win over Indiana, which gives Miami a 2-1 lead in this Eastern Conference Finals:

### Even at 38, Ray Allen is still capable of moments like this --- 13-point fourth quarter, including 4 for 4 from beyond the arc. The Pacers had power forward David West defending him in the fourth.

“Whenever I see a big on me, I salivate,” Allen said.

But West said he’s fine with that defensive assignment, which he has handled in games the past two years when the Heat uses a small lineup.

“That’s not a problem for me,” West said of defending Allen. “He got free one time. It was a breakdown on my part.”

LeBron James said Allen "creates so much for our team --- he shifts the defense by himself. It's great that we have that. He's one of the few on the team that can create two on the ball. He's always in constant motion. I was able to find him for the majority of the shots he got in the fourth quarter."

### Dwyane Wade, who entered shooting 26 for 38 in this series, was again highly efficient, shooting 9 for 16 on a 23-point night. Wade has now scored 28, 27, 23 and 23 in his past four games.

Wade hit two threes, equal to his total of the entire postseason before tonight.

### LeBron scored 16 of his 26 in the second half, with six turnovers but also seven assists, five rebounds and four steals. James went to the locker-room briefly in the third quarter with cramping, the result of dehydration.

"We hate the way we played to start the game," James said of falling behind 17-4 early. "We can't play that type of basketball. We have to play like we're down 15 to start the game or it will bite us in the butt."

### Lance Stephenson (10 points, 3 for 9 shooting, 11 rebounds) downplayed his trash-talking with LeBron.  “Nothing personal between us,” Stephenson said. “There are no friends on the court. We’re just playing hard basketball.”

Asked if he tries to respond every time LeBron scores, Stephenson said: “I’m not trying to go back and forth with him.”

### Several Pacers bemoaned their 19 turnovers, which led to 26 Heat points. David West had five, George Hill four.

“They pressured us and we collapsed,” Stephenson said.

### The Heat closed at 54.4 percent from the floor, scored 33 and 28 points in the last two quarters and hit 10 of 18 three-pointers.

“Their guys were getting the shots they wanted every time down the floor,” West said. “We have no ball pressure. They got us on our heels. They’re not doing anything special. They’re just moving the ball, we’re allowing them to do it and they’re teeing off on us right now.”

### The conventional thinking before the season was that Greg Oden would be the Heat’s best way to counter the Pacers’ frontcourt size advantage.

The conventional thinking (and Erik Spoelstra’s) after the first quarter of Game 1 of these Eastern Conference Finals was that starting Udonis Haslem alongside Chris Bosh would be the best way to open games against the Pacers’ combo of Roy Hibbert and David West.

Turns out, neither has turned out as Miami envisioned.

But nobody could have predicted this: The Heat did some of its best work in Game 3 when using a power forward, Rashard Lewis, who didn’t even play in the first two games.

And Hibbert and West, after strong starts, combined for just four points in the fourth.

With Haslem and Bosh on the court together, the Heat was outscored by nine points in nine minutes on Saturday and by an obscene 37 points in 34 minutes in this series.

But with Lewis on the floor, the Heat outscored the Pacers by 21 points in 17 minutes on Saturday, including a terrific close to the third quarter, when Lewis played alongside Chris Andersen, who had a team-high seven rebounds in 23 minutes. The Pacers shot 30.4 percent when Lewis was on the court.

LeBron and Wade praised Spoelstra for inserting Lewis. "If you look at the stats, it doesn't look like he did much. But he did a great job defending David West and on pick-and-rolls," Wade said.

Lewis’ numbers (no points, rebounds or assists and 0 for 2 shooting) don’t tell the story of his contributions. He blocked a shot and capably defended West, who made his first three shots but then went 27 minutes of game time before his next basket. And ball movement was crisp with Lewis in the game.

### West closed 5 of 8 from the field, with 13 points, five turnovers and five rebounds.

### The Pacers were outscored by 21 with West in the game and by 21 with Hibbert in the game.

### With 1:10 left in the first quarter, Hibbert had as many points as the Heat (10). But Hibbert scored just six points the rest of the game, had just two rebounds overall and took only two shots in the fourth quarter.

“I got my chances,” Hibbert said. “I got to do a better job finishing. I got to be more effective.” In the fourth quarter, “we just couldn’t get into a rhythm and couldn’t score. We weren’t defending at a high level.”

### Pacers backup power forward Luis Scola gave Indiana a big lift with eight first half points. But he missed his only shot of the second half.

### Spoelstra insisted before the game that the Heat never signed Oden “to be a Roy Hibbert stopper.” And he didn’t play Saturday, despite being active for the first time in this series.

### The Heat got more strong work from Norris Cole, who had nine points (4 for 6 shooting), two assists and more stout defense on Stephenson.  "Norris is great for our team," James said. "He changes our tempo. That's what you need coming off the bench, energy guys. He makes his mark defensively. He attacks the rim."       

### More struggles for Bosh, who had 9 points, missed 8 of 12 shots and was limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. He is averaging 7.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and shooting 29.9 percent in his past seven playoff games against Indiana.

05/24/2014

3 p.m. report: Bosh explains aversion to post; Oden, pre-game Heat chatter; 10 notes, views from Fins camp

Lots of Heat and Dolphins items on a Saturday afternoon, as we await Game 3 of Heat-Pacers:           

### The Heat’s desire for spacing, and Chris Bosh’s ability to hit threes, is the primary reason why Bosh spends less time in the post than he ever has. But Bosh admitted Saturday there’s another deterrent to playing more in the post.

“For some odd reason, I always get double-teamed still,” he said. “I don’t understand it. And that’s the reason I really stopped, because every time I go down there and get double teamed, it’s like, ‘For what?’ They won’t double-team LeBron [James], but they’ll double-team me.”

Asked when he realized that banging in the post wasn’t his strength, he cracked: “When I found out you could get one more point for shooting threes.”

But seriously… “It gets tiring, what they ask us to do,” he said of the demands on him in the Heat’s defensive system.

Bosh isn't complaining but said those responsibilities include “to blitz the screen and roll every single one. Close out and get back. I was already 20 to 30 pounds lighter than everybody else. All that stuff takes my energy.”

Bosh attempted only 67 shots on post-ups this season --- a number that has declined every season with the Heat, from 240 to 190 to 131. By contrast, James took 188 shots on post-ups this season. Bosh hit 55.9 percent of his attempts on post-ups, compared with under 42 percent shooting over the past three seasons.

### Yes, Greg Oden admits, not playing in the first two games of an Eastern Conference Finals wasn’t what he envisioned when he signed with the Heat last summer.

But Oden said he doesn’t regret signing here, despite his limited role.

“I want to help, but if they don't need my help and we win, I'm perfectly happy,” he said. “I’m happy to be on this team and have the chance to win the championship. That’s all I really think about these days. This is the furthest I’ve been in the playoffs, so I’m happy.”

Oden said he has dealt with physical issues “here and there” over the past month --- a sore back was the only one he disclosed --- but “my knees haven't had any problems recently.”

And he reiterated Friday he is healthy enough to play in this series. Erik Spoelstra was non-committal about Oden for tonight, but said he would decide during the game whether he would use him, which suggests he might be active, unlike the past two games. But Spoelstra doesn't need to decide on who's active until before the game.

“I know they brought me here to be a big body, another big opponent to help stop Roy Hibbert, but [Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen] have been doing a good job,” he said.

Hibbert hit five of six shots against Oden in the first six minutes of the Heat-Pacers game on March 26. Oden, soon after, was sidelined by the back injury and hasn't rejoined the rotation since then. But Spoelstra insisted Saturday that how Oden played in that game is not affecting his thoughts about using him.

### Indiana’s Paul George, who sustained a concussion in Game 2, said he will play tonight. “I feel great,” he said this morning…. Indiana coach Frank Vogel said today that he’s aware that Evan Turner did some of his best work against the Heat this season (as a member of the 76ers) and he will take that into account the rest of this series.

### Shane Battier, who is retiring after the season, was named the NBA’s Teammate of the Year in a vote by players throughout the league. Players could not vote for their own teammates. Spoelstra today called him “the ultimate teammate, selfless.”

Battier called it “one of the biggest honors of my life….Everything I do, I try to make that locker-room, this team, better.” He said there are “arguments or disagreements” in the Heat’s locker-room “but every last guy in the locker-room has his teammate’s back.”

### Spoelsta said Battier is the first player he has ever had who asked the coaching staff for a detailed printout of opposing player tendencies before games.

“It’s not like we don’t go to extensive lengths with our preparation,” Spoelstra said. “That goes back 19 years. Then to have a player come to us and say, ‘This isn’t enough. I need more.’ That absolutely caught our attention. Our staff absolutely loved it.”

### Game 3 is the 150th playoff games of James’ career. He entered with 97 wins in those 149 games. Michael Jordan won 99 of his first 150 playoff games.

 

DOLPHINS CHATTER

Ten notes and observations from Friday’s first day of Dolphins rookie mini-camp, the only one of the three open to the media:

### Wise move by the Dolphins to place each of their new potential rookie starting offensive linemen alongside a veteran instead of playing them on the same side. Billy Turner, barring a change of heart by the team, will play on the left side alongside Branden Albert. Rookie tackle Ja’Wuan James will play alongside Shelley Smith on the right side.

If Turner doesn’t win the job, Nate Garner could step in. But the Dolphins are very hopeful Turner will win it.

### If Turner makes as positive an impression on the field as he does off, the Dolphins will be thrilled. Turner is bright, articulate, self-confident --- qualities all on display during a lengthy session with reporters yesterday. On the field, he has big hands, quick feet and a nastiness that intrigued the Dolphins.

### The Dolphins like Jordan Tripp’s motor, intensity and ability to diagnose plays quickly, and are eager to see what he can do at middle linebacker over the next few months. Projecting Tripp as anything more than a backup and special teams player, at this point, would be premature.

But the kid is always around the ball, filling the stat sheet at Montana last year with 100 tackles, two sacks, three picks, two pass breakups, blocked kick, forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

### Damien Williams, tossed off the Oklahoma team last year, showed good quickness on Friday and the battle for the No. 4 running back job --– with Mike Gilislee and others --– sets up as an interesting one. It’s not 100 percent certain the Dolphins will keep No. 3 running back Daniel Thomas but there’s not much of a trade market for a back who averaged 3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 yards in his three seasons here. Thomas is probably good enough to stick around another year.

Tulane’s Orleans Darkwa was the other undrafted running back signed to a contract by the Dolphins.

### Quarterback Brock Jensen gave little indication Friday that he’s ready to seriously challenge Pat Devlin for the No. 3 job. Several of his throws were inaccurate, though some of that could be attributed to understandable lack of timing with a new set of receivers.

### You always pay attention to starters on Nick Saban’s Alabama teams, but free agent cornerback Deion Belue --- who started for Alabama the past two years --- was toasted by Utah State’s Travis Van Leeuwen (a tryout player) on a deep route Friday. Belue had three picks combined over the past two seasons but was slowed by turf toe last season.

“Played hurt as a senior and has desirable intangibles, [but] must shore up his tackling,” NFL.com Nolan Nawrocki said.

### I won’t be surprised if an undrafted offensive lineman or two sticks around from this group, with Utah State center Tyler Larsen and Arizona State’s Evan Finkerberg both well-regarded. Also, keep an eye on undrafted linebacker Andrew Wilson, who was highly productive at Missouri.

### The Dolphins really liked Marshall offensive lineman Garrett Scott and used one of their 30 pre-draft visits on him. Good thing Miami didn’t sign him. Seattle drafted him in the sixth round but released him Friday after discovering a rare heart condition.

### The Dolphins this year drafted no players from power five conferences except the SEC, from which they selected three. And they also signed seven undrafted players from the best conference in college football: Wilson, Belue, Georgia receiver Rantavious Wooten, Vanderbilt cornerback Steven Clarke, Arkansas offensive lineman David Hurd, Georgia defensive tackle Garrison Smith and LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson (the highest-regarded of the seven).

### Among the players brought in for tryouts this week, several will be familiar to those who followed prep football in Dade and Broward: UCF receiver Jeffrey Godfrey (Miami Central), Mississippi cornerback Charles Sawyer (Coral Reef), West Virginia receiver Ivan McCartney (Miramar), Rocky Mountain College receiver Jonathan Aiken (Piper), Vandy’s Clark (Boyd Andersen) and Rutgers linebacker Marcus Thompson (Boyd Anderson).

Please check back later for a lot more Dolphins news in the Sunday buzz column, as well as Canes, Heat, Marlins and more

05/23/2014

Media column: Foul NBA picks; More Barkley; Hartline/WQAM host go at it; Media notes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

Our May media lessons/conclusions:

### Your mailman has as good a chance predicting these NBA playoff series as the guy on television.

Charles Barkley bristles whenever TNT's Ernie Johnson calls him an expert. “We’re just guys giving opinions,” Barkley says.

Barkley’s right, if only because his recent predictions couldn’t have been more wrong. And he isn’t alone.

Jeff Van Gundy, one of the best TV analysts in any sport, inexplicably predicted, in mid-April, that the Houston Rockets would win the championship.

Barkley said in February that Evan Turner’s acquisition would seal the Eastern Conference title for the Pacers (Turner’s impact has been negligible), said the Wizards would beat the Pacers (they didn’t) and insisted San Antonio’s “old players” would struggle against Portland (they were very good). And Barkley, of course, predicted the Pacers would oust the Heat from the playoffs last season.

Shouldn’t analysts know more than the average fan? Sure. But predicting results is risky business, and Barkley expresses opinions with such conviction that he leaves himself open to ridicule when he’s wrong.

TNT pays Barkley for his larger-than-life personality, snappy one-liners and ability to draw casual fans to a postgame show that often airs very late on the East Coast. And if faulty predictions undermine Barkley’s credibility with fans, it hasn’t seemed to hurt his talent for drawing eyeballs. Viewers are watching Barkley to be amused and entertained –-- he does that better than anybody --- not for advice on bets.

(And what about Barkley's assertion that Heat supporters aren't "real fans"? It's unjustified, obviously, but don't take it seriously. He likes to needle Heat fans after they taunted him during TNT's postgame shows outside AmericanAirlines Arena a few years ago.)

### Be careful trusting mock drafts.

Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock do outstanding work, but Kiper had only five player-to-team picks correct in his final first round mock draft, and Mayock four --- an indication of the difficulty of this exercise. As recently as February, Kiper’s mock draft listed UF’s Marcus Roberson and Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson as first-rounders. Neither was drafted.

### Show professionalism when criticizing players.

WQAM-560’s Brandon Guzio was a bit too personal and confrontational in recent Twitter criticism of Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline.

It’s fine for Guzio to say the Dolphins should cut Hartline based on cap savings and that Brandon Gibson is “the better player,” though I don’t agree with Guzio on either opinion.

But Guzio crossed the line by tweeting: “Hopefully, Fins cut Hartline after this [Jarvis Landry] pick. Get that fool off my team.” And “take a walk, Hart.”

Guzio then added: “Catches balls with his chest, zero yards after catch, no separation, only reason he gets # is because him and his wife hang out with Tannehills.”

(By the way, Hartline's 4.4 yards after catch average ranked 77th of 111 qualifying receivers last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.)

Hartline, trying to become the first Dolphins receiver with three consecutive 1000-yard seasons, responded on Twitter with this, among other comments: “I embrace criticism but your lack of knowledge is astonishing.”

Guzio shot back: “Lack of knowledge!? I think Dolphins fans who are realistic think my evaluation of your game is spot on.”

WQAM program director Andy King said he does not believe Guzio's tweets were inappropriate and noted Guzio did not include Hartline’s Twitter handle in his tweets, which King believes makes a difference.  (I don't believe it makes any difference. Calling someone a "fool" is insulting regardless.)

### Steve Kerr is going to be missed badly on TNT’s NBA game coverage.

Kerr’s sensible analysis, understated humor, candor and quick retorts to Marv Albert’s quips have made him one of the top 10 TV analysts in sports, and his decision to coach Golden State leaves a huge void on Turner’s staff.

Reggie Miller holds one of TNT’s top two analyst slots but there’s no obvious choice for the other. Chris Webber has improved marginally but still spews too many head-scratchers, such as “you can’t take losing for granted.” (Huh?)

Greg Anthony and Steve Smith are serviceable but too dull to enhance the viewer experience during games that aren’t compelling. The wild card could be Barkley, if he asks Turner to allow him to do more games. Retiring Heat forward Shane Battier also figures to apply.

### If you say you want to be treated just like everyone else, don’t give the green-light to your own reality show.

Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, presumably learned that lesson when he decided, along with Oprah Winfrey’s Network, to put on hold (perhaps permanently) his reality show.

### It’s not a good idea to order the beaning of a 10-year-old player during a youth baseball tournament, even more so if you work in television!

Former Phillies closer Mitch Williams reportedly did that recently (according to Deadspin) and now he’s on leave from his job as an MLB Network analyst.

### Former players hired without broadcasting experience need more coaching.

Exhibit A: Carl Pavano. The former Marlins pitcher, hired recently for a Marlins studio job, has a pleasant demeanor, but isn’t anybody at Fox Sports Florida telling him he needs to say something substantive? 

Pavano’s cliché-ridden analysis has consisted largely of stating the obvious or offering something of a pep talk to struggling players. Based on off-air discussions with him over the years, we suspect he’s capable of more, but it would help if somebody at Fox would offer guidance on what qualifies as cogent analysis and what doesn’t.

### Networks can’t resist hiring sideline reporters, even if they feel they’re obsolete.

After previously opining that sideline reporters aren’t particularly necessary on NFL games, CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus promoted Tracy Wolfson to that role this week, on the network’s lead team. She had been working CBS’ SEC games.     

Wolfson will work CBS' Thursday night package, among other games. Incidentally, James Brown, Deion Sanders and Bill Cowher will handle the CBS pre-game and postgame shows on those games.

05/22/2014

Wade's peak efficiency and how he's doing it; LeBron opines; Heat, UM notes

When he wasn’t missing 28 games for health and maintenance reasons, Dwyane Wade achieved the nifty feat this season of equaling the highest shooting percentage by an NBA starting two-guard in 35 years, better than Michael Jordan ever shot in a single season.

And now that the games are more meaningful, Wade is at it again, performing at an exceptional level of offensive efficiency.

Heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday, Wade has scored 28, 27 and 23 points in the Heat’s past three outings --- his highest-scoring three-game run since mid-December.

But what’s most impressive is how efficiently Wade is doing it: He’s shooting 32 for 52 over that stretch (61.5 percent), including 22 for 34 in the first two games against Indiana.

He’s doing it by consistently finishing at the basket, by displaying polish and precision in his mid-range game and by being resourceful and creative --- including a Game 2 sequence when he lofted a shot so high over Roy Hibbert, hoping to keep it from being blocked, that it seemingly kissed the ceiling of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“I did that a couple times in practice and everybody looked at me crazy when I did it,” Wade said Thursday, smiling. “They’re like, ‘Take game shots.’ I’m like, ‘This is a game shot.’ I know who we’re about to play against. It felt good for that one to go in.”

Wade is shooting 53.1 percent this postseason, which happens to be the best Jordan ever shot in a single playoffs (1988). That’s higher than Wade shot in his first three postseasons playing alongside LeBron James: 48.5, 46.2 and 45.7 last year, when he was slowed by a knee injury.

Since 2000, only two starting shooting guards whose teams advanced past the second round have shot better than 50 percent over an entire postseason: Phoenix’s Jason Richardson in 2010 (50.2 percent) and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili in 2005 (50.7 percent).

A pair of shooting guards still playing have done it so far in these playoffs: Wade and the Spurs’ Danny Green (54.4 percent).

This isn’t surprising considering Wade has led all NBA shooting guards in field-goal percentage five of the past six seasons. His 54.5 percent accuracy this season tied Otis Birdsong for the highest by a starting shooting guard since the NBA implemented the three-point shot in 1979.

Wade cites health as a big reason.  

“I love to play with a free mind,” he said. “When I feel good, when my mind is in the right place, I can pull things out of a hat that I’ve worked on before. I’m not robotical and mechanical.

“When you’re not feeling healthy, you go to what doesn’t hurt and you kind of become robotical in a sense. It feels good to be able to go to whatever is in the repertoire and bring it out.”

This postseason, Wade has been excellent in transition, hitting 13 of 15 shots. He’s shooting 76.3 percent at the rim, an increase from 71 percent during the regular season.

On shots from 5 to 9 feet, Wade is 20 for 32 (62.5 percent) --- well above his 50 percent accuracy from that range during the regular season, according to NBA.com. Among players with at least 15 shot attempts this postseason, only James has shot better from that range (10 for 15, 66.7 percent).

Wade had displayed a diverse arsenal in that range: runners, floaters, post-ups, a hook shot (he’s 2 for 2) and pull-up jumpers. He has worked vigorously to polish everything in his mid-range game.

“It’s been a big part of his reinvention,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday.

During these playoffs, Wade has shot just 40 percent on attempts ranging from 10 feet away from the basket to just in front of the three-point line. But he has kept his shooting percentage high by launching only seven three-pointers (two makes) and taking about half his shots --- 81 of 160 --- within 10 feet of the basket.

Wade sat out 28 games this season, 13 for reasons the Heat attributed to “rest,” and that approach has benefited him.

“It was very frustrating for him, for us as a team,” James said of Wade missing so many games. “But we knew ultimately what it was about. We’re happy he’s playing some of the best basketball he’s played in the past couple of years.”

Wade, who had OssaTron shockwave knee treatment last summer, said Thursday that his maintenance program “wasn’t to keep me fresh for the playoffs. When you have a situation where you're lucky enough to play to the end of June, you get two months off at best.

“A lot of guys in the NBA have five, six months to rest when they're coming off an injury. I had two months. So instead of coming back into the season saying, ‘We’re going to wait until January before we get on the court,’ we came up with our plan.”

And that approach has been a success, right? “So far,” Wade said.

MORE HEAT NUGGETS 

Spoelstra’s willingness to accept input from players became a talking point after practice Thursday, two days after James’ suggestion to have Norris Cole defend Lance Stephenson paid dividends in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

“Whatever it takes,” Spoelstra said. “It’s being made a little bit more than it is, but I’ll go along with it. It happens all the time. It wasn’t as major as people are making it out to be.”

But players say Spoelstra’s openness to their ideas is appreciated.

“In certain moments he trusts us to come up with what we feel is best,” Wade said Thursday. “…We wouldn’t be champions if we didn’t have it. We wouldn’t be the team we are today if we didn’t have the trust from both sides to understand we don’t have all the answers, they don’t have all the answers. We’re figuring it all out together. A lot of it is on the fly at times.”

James said he is “usually the culprit of putting guys in a position of where I want them to be defensively. Spo has allowed me, D-Wade, [Udonis Haslem] …. to make in-game adjustments.”

Chris Bosh said he, too, has made suggestions “plenty of times. It doesn’t mean we always use it.”

Of James’ recommendation to put Cole on Stephenson in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Spoelstra pointed out that Cole handled that assignment at times in Game 1 and earlier in Game 2.

“They wanted to make a change,” Spoelstra said. “I’m fine with it. As long as it’s not something crazy, then I’m always fine with looking at something for a possession that they feel comfortable with. If we need to make a change from there, we will. Those guys have a feel for what’s going on, on the court, even more so than us because they’re out there experiencing it.”

### Forward Paul George, who suffered what the Pacers believe was a concussion after his head collided with Wade’s knee in Game 2, did not participate in practice Thursday but did some light shooting and dunked.

George went through several steps of the NBA-mandated concussion protocol but Pacers coach Frank Vogel said his status for Game 3 on Saturday might remain undetermined until the day of the game.

Vogel said he has "no clue" if George will be available Saturday. James said he expects George will play.

### James, on Cleveland winning the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery: “I heard about it, but I don’t really have thoughts about it. I’m in the middle of conference finals. I don’t worry about draft lotteries. That’s the last thing on my mind.”

### James, on Charles Barkley saying Heat fans are not real fans: “I don’t have a comment about that. Cleveland has great fans. Miami has great fans.”

### James asserted the Heat is “not the most talented team in the NBA” but declined to say which team is.

“We have very, very high IQ basketball players,” James said. “I think IQ is more important than talent when it comes to the league.”

### James said he would need time to "digest" Mark Cuban's latest comments about race and society before commenting about them. (We're not reprinting all of Cuban's comments here, but see ESPN or the Internet for details!)

### Spoelstra said Greg Oden, working his way back from back spasms, had “a great day of work yesterday and today” and will be re-evaluated Friday.

UM ITEMS

### Cornerback Larry Hope and walk-on quarterback Garrison Lassiter are off UM's roster. Lassiter, clearly, was never going to play.

Hope worked with the starters early this spring but since had fallen well down on the depth chart, behind Tracy Howard, Ladarius Gunter, Artie Burns, Antonio Crawford, Corn Elder, Nate Dortch and probably behind freshman Ryan Mayes, who impressed the coaching staff this spring.

### UM basketball has been in the mix for three transfers this offseason. They've missed out on all three, including Campbell center Darius Leonard, who said he's opting instead for Wake Forest (which is closer to his hometown of Raleigh).

### Please see the last post for an update on the UM/David Beckham stadium situation.