WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
(NOTE: For those who earlier read the Heat portion of this column when I posted it this afternoon, please scroll down to CHATTER for notes on the Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricanes that I'm posting late Tuesday night.)
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Don't assume you're going back to the Finals, Heat fans. That was the message Charles Barkley relayed Tuesday. I solicited opinion from a half dozen network analysts on the Heat, with next Tuesday's season opener approaching.
Some of the feedback:
### TNT’s Charles Barkley, on Tuesday afternoon: “Everybody wants to anoint, everybody wants to say it’s going to be the Heat against the Lakers. To me, the Miami-Boston series is a toss-up. Nobody can guard LeBron James, but Boston has great depth. They got great size in Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger in the draft. The most underrated player in the NBA is [Boston’s] Jeff Green. Boston has got a legit chance of beating them.
“The only way you can beat Miami, if you go back to the Dallas series, is you’ve got to beat them up physically. They are a very small team. LeBron covers up a lot of weaknesses because he’s so physically amazing.
“Oklahoma City I don’t think can beat them. The Lakers can beat them because if you’ve got a big team that can dominate them down low like [Dallas] did, you can beat that team. You are not going to beat them on the perimeter. LeBron James is great but he can’t stop Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard down low. He’s got a much better chance of getting in foul trouble trying to guard those big guys. Little guys can’t guard big guys.
“Him trying to guard a 7-foot guy, in a halfcourt set, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are going to get any shot they want and those guys are going to be very tough to keep off the boards. Chris Bosh is a very good player, but he’s still an undersized power forward. They are going to try to put LeBron James and Chris Bosh against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. They got problems on one end of the court but Miami has problems on the other end.”
### TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal: “The Heat is the team to beat because they are the champs. Pat Riley and Micky Arison did a great job of adding more shooters around the great LeBron James….
"But if Boston is healthy and fully healthy, they have a shot. The Lakers on paper are very talented, but the only thing that concerns me is Steve Nash’s age and Kobe Bryant’s age. Miami is still younger. They are still the team to beat. I wish both those teams make the finals.”
### TNT’s Reggie Miller: “Miami is the favorite to win it all. Until someone can follow LeBron James at power forward,… Miami has to be the favorite. When Miami goes to that smaller lineup, you can put out there Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. LeBron can guard five positions. I love what Boston has done. They are the Red Sox, Yankees of professional basketball.”
### TNT’s Steve Kerr: “Miami has to be the favorite because of the continuity and the confidence they’ve gained winning a championship. That puts them ahead of everyone. But the Lakers would be a very, very difficult matchup for them.
“I would be surprised if Erik Spoelstra altered his starting lineup when they play the Lakers, but they absolutely will have to play their bigs more often against them. It’s too much to ask Chris Bosh to guard Dwight Howard and LeBron James to guard Pau Gasol beyond small stretches. It’s one thing for LeBron to guard Indiana’s David West; it’s another to guard Gasol.
“Phil Jackson played guys in the regular season, whether it was Bill Wennington or Bobby Hansen, and wasn’t afraid to play them in the playoffs. This season will be about preparing Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony for what’s to come. The only concern I have about them is the depth up front and size when they play the Lakers. The Lakers are their only potential problem.”
Kerr worries that Shane Battier, over a full season, “will be overwhelmed by a lot of power forwards. Udonis Haslem gives them interior defense and playing a little more of a traditional way.” He said the Heat could use Dwyane Wade at small forward and James at power forward to close some games, with Mario Chalmers at Ray Allen at guard.
### ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy said there’s no favorite among the Heat, Lakers and Thunder: “The talent for all three is unique and superior to anybody else in the league. All three have every quality necessary to win it. Talent won’t the separator. It will come down to health and chemistry and who is playing their best at that point.”
Van Gundy, who has touted the Heat since LeBron James came aboard, isn’t sure this will be the best incarnation in the Big Three era despite adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
“They are a little better talent wise. But are Allen and Lewis healthy? For Allen, playing off the bench is a huge adjustment, and adjusting to lesser minutes for a shooter is a huge adjustment. It will be interesting to see how he responds. And how many guys can they play on the perimeter and keep everyone in rhythm and playing efficiently?
Van Gundy doesn’t worry about Bosh defending big centers, because “his skill level and talent make that every bit as hard a matchup as anyone he’s supposed to guard.”
### Former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, now with NBA TV, said Miami’s edges against the Lakers would be experience playing together and the fact they’re younger. But “on paper you may say the Lakers have more talent.” He said he might favor the Lakers slightly in a Finals matchup because he believes they would get higher percentage shots than the Heat would because of Dwight Howard, their overall size advantage and Steve Nash’s pinpoint passing.
“If you’re the Lakers, you make them shoot over you. Is Miami going to make 15, 18 three-pointers a night against them? Chances are, no,” he said.
### Among reasons for the Ozzie Guillen firing, which was advocated to Jeffrey Loria by Marlins executives: They want a manager who would foster a more serious clubhouse culture, instill more discipline and professionalism in his players, and be a better motivator than Guillen.
“He yelled at the other team more than us,” one player said.
Guillen’s act – including allowing his sons to hang out in the clubhouse – wore thin with management.
### Here's what Guillen said on Twitter on Tuesday night, his first public comments since the firing: "Thanks to my family and great friends for their support - my kids, my wife, and all my boys. To the fans that support me and to those that are happy as well: my love and respect to you, as well. In life, there are [worse] things and I have experienced them.
"I have lived through bad moments and I will get through this with support. Better things will come or worse things, but they will come. Thanks a lot for the support in this difficult time, but not the worst. I'm fine with the people that I love --- with my head held up high, real high."
### Ricky Nolasco, who spent time with Guillen in Spain this month, tweeted of the firing: “U gotta b [bleeping bleeping] me,” then erased it.
### Though Marlins special assistant Jeff Conine would be a worthy candidate, he said this season that this isn’t the right time in his life to manage because of family reasons... Marlins executive Larry Beinfest: “Maybe we have gotten away from the Marlins way. Maybe we need to re-think how we make roster decisions. We need to spend some time redefining ourselves.”
### We hear Jordan Zimmerman, CEO of Zimmerman Advertising (one of the nation’s largest ad agencies), has expressed interest in buying the Dolphins, but Stephen Ross has declined overtures. Zimmerman, who owns a piece of the Florida Panthers, and Ross have had serious discussions the past two years but none recently. Zimmerman declined to comment.
### The Dolphins feel validated in sticking with young safeties instead of signing bigger name free agents. Consider: Opposing quarterbacks have a 39.7 rating when throwing in Reshad Jones’ coverage area (third-best among all starting safeties) and 67.6 against Chris Clemons.
That compares with Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson (120.7), the Jets’ LaRon Landry (91.0) and Washington’s Madieu Williams (91.1) --- free agents Miami passed on. It’s 87.5 for Jets/ex-Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell, whose overall play is rated 49th by Pro Football Focus.
Conversely, PFF ranks Jones third and Clemons 22nd. “I see [Jones] evolving into the kind of player we had hoped he would be,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.
### UM canceled a home-and-home football series with Memphis in 2014 and 2015, feeling it was pointless to play.
### Though he presumably would have left for Nebraska regardless, a UM source said it didn’t help that former athletic director Shawn Eichorst’s Pinecrest home was robbed – with lots taken, including his wife’s jewelry – while he was traveling to Boston for the football opener this season.
### Please see our last post for Marlins comments about Ozzie Guillen's firing.