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20 posts from March 2013

March 30, 2013

Scouts, ex-GMs analyze Marlins; Fins book draft visits; Heat decision; Canes chatter


With everybody expecting this to a long and losing season for the Marlins, who open Monday in Washington, we solicited personnel evaluations from three former general managers (John Hart, Steve Phillips, Jim Bowden) and three veteran scouts. Some feedback:

### The rotation of Ricky Nolasco, Nate Eovaldi, Wade LeBlanc, Henderson Alvarez and Kevin Slowey “is going to kill their bullpen because they will have a lot of five-inning starts,” said one AL scout who watched the Marlins a lot this spring. “It might get ugly quickly. Your No. 1 starter [Nolasco] would be in the back of a rotation of a championship team.”

Other views from the three scouts, who asked that their names not be used because of club policy: “It’s a bad sign when Wade LeBlanc is your No. 3 starter. Heck, I would pass on him as a No. 5 starter.”… “Nolasco has gone backward. The only consistent pitch he has left is his curveball.”…. “Alvarez is a better pitcher than he showed in Toronto. The key for him is getting good sink on his fastball.”… “Liked how Eovaldi looked this spring. He’s going to be a solid major league starter.”

Sirius Radio’s Phillips: “It’s a pretty thin rotation. Slowey doesn’t have the stuff to get away with a mistake.” But Hart said the good news is “Eovaldi and Henderson have good stuff. The development of a third pitch is key for Eovaldi.”

(Sunday update: Eovaldi and Alvarez will start the season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation; Alex Sanabia and elite prospect Jose Fernandez were promoted to take their rotation spots.)

### One scout said signing 37-year-old third baseman Placido Polanco, who missed time with back problems in 2012, was “stupid. You’re not going anywhere, and he’s going to end up on the disabled list.” Hart said “I wouldn’t want to play him everyday” because of injuries.

But Phillips said Polanco “is one of the smartest players and best situational hitters around. You’re not going to get power or speed, so he needs to hit over .300 to be a functional asset.”

### The evaluators believe Juan Pierre will be productive, at 35. “He’s a nice place card until Christian Yelich is ready,” ESPN’s Bowden said.

Phillips said: “He’s got something left, but he doesn’t have a great on-base percentage [.346 career] because he’s not the most patient guy. He’s not a prototypical leadoff hitter.”

### Bowden predicts Adeiny Hechavarria “will become an above average shortstop and a No. 2 hitter eventually. I really like his range.”… Phillips: “I don’t expect him to hit much.”… Hart: “I love guy defensively. He’s a special defender.”

### The evaluators bemoaned the lack of protection around Giancarlo Stanton. “He’s going to be in a lot of 3-1 counts and needs to be patient,” Phillips said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but he’s up for it.”

### Some were skeptical whether Justin Ruggiano could duplicate last season’s breakout. “Chris Coghlan has had a great spring, and he needs regular at-bats to be productive,” one scout said. “Give him 250 at-bats, and if he doesn’t hit, then you know [2009] was a fluke. When he’s driving the ball the other way, he’s a pretty good player.”

### On catcher Rob Brantly: “I don’t think [.290 in 100 Marlins at-bats last year] was a fluke,” Hart said. “I’m not saying he’s Buster Posey, but he has a chance for a nice future.”… But a scout who watched him this spring said: “He’s got a ways to go defensively. And he needs to work on his game-calling.”

### A scout said second baseman Donovan Solano “would be more of a utility player on a good team. I’m not sold on him as a starter, but he’s a better player than I gave him credit for.”

### The evaluators are hopeful Logan Morrison will get back on track once he returns from knee issues. “I think he can hit .300 with 15 homers and 80 RBI,” Bowden said. But “is that production good enough at first base?” Despite the 23 homers in 2011, “he’s not going to be a big power bat long term,” Phillips said.

### One scout said Casey Kotchman, who is filling in at first for Morrison, “looks much better than he did last year. Defensively, one of better first basemen in baseball.”

### A scout, on the bullpen beyond closer Steve Cishek: “Really like A.J. Ramos’ arm. To me, Ryan Webb should be better; he has regressed. Mike Dunn overthrows and can’t command consistently.” But “Jon Rauch was a good signing,” Hart said.

### Bottom line? “It going to be a tough year,” Phillips said. “With a lineup without a lot of power, they’re going to have to win a lot of low-scoring games.” But one scout said: “If you factor in the minor league systems, I’d rather be the Marlins than the Mets.”…

And another said: “Mike Redmond will create a more professional clubhouse than Ozzie Guillen did.” Hart: “Redmond is an overachiever. Are they going to make a [playoff] run? No. But I don’t see this as a hopeless case.”


### With the Heat’s recent slow starts (at least until Friday's strong open in New Orleans), Erik Spoelstra’s biggest remaining decision is whether to stick with Udonis Haslem as a starter in postseason or go back to Shane Battier and the starting lineup in last year’s Finals. Consider: The Heat outscores teams by 11 per 48 minutes with Haslem, Mario Chalmers and the Big Three, compared with 18 per 48 with Battier, Chalmers and the Big Three.

Though Haslem is ninth among power forwards in rebounds per 48 minutes, the Battier/Chalmers/Big Three lineup surprisingly rebounds better as a group.

Players guarded by Haslem are shooting 44.6 percent, compared with 37.5 for Battier. Haslem is shooting 51.7 percent, but just 37 percent beyond two feet, whereas Battier is shooting a career-high 42.8 percent on threes.

### The Dolphins says they might bring in competition for kicker Dan Carpenter, and they’re showing interest in Gators kicker Caleb Sturgis, who hit 23 of 27 field goals in 2012, including 8 for 9 from 40 yards or more.

###Among familiar names the Dolphins asked to attend their local workout day on Wednesday: UM’s Brandon McGee, Mike James, Ramon Buchanan and Vaughn Telemaque; UF’s Jon Bostic, and former Krop and Ohio State standouts Etienne Sabino and Travis Howard.

### The Dolphins are among the teams holding a private meeting with speedy, explosive West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin. He would be a bold choice at 12, considering receiver is not a need, and Miami might be able to get a right tackle or pass rusher at that spot, or possibly a corner, though none might be the ideal fit at 12.

### Please see our last post for some tidbits on new Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes.

### There have been encouraging signs this spring from UM offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, who said “I’ve matured a lot. In the past, I made a couple decisions that might have caused me to be in the doghouse from [Al] Golden. Now, I’ve been top of everything, watching film more, doing everything right academically. I’ve been better on the field and off.”

Henderson said the NFL Draft advisory board told him he would not have been picked in the first three rounds if he turned pro this year. Making himself a first-rounder “drives me a lot.”

### Anthony Chickillo, who needs to exceed last year's four sacks, said bluntly: "I missed around five sacks last year, and that's unacceptable. A lot of people last year expected me to be to a finished product, but I was only a sophomore and there's no doubt I had more [blocking] attention than my freshman year." Chickillo has had a good spring, including batting away and intercepting a Stephen Morris pass in last week's scrimmage.

### Next season’s power rotation is a big concern for UM basketball, which loses five key seniors, but if Shane Larkin doesn’t turn pro (and that's very iffy), Miami should be strong on the perimeter with Larkin, Rion Brown and Garrius Adams and newcomers DeAndre Burnett and Davon Reed.

“I go against Garrius in practice, and the guy is a beast, a terrific player, and nobody knows it,” Larkin said. “Coaches say Reed can be extremely good defensively. And DeAndre might be the best scorer in Dade since Guillermo Diaz.” Burnett spent the past year in prep school after starring at Carol City.


March 29, 2013

Saturday update: Notes on new Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes; Media column

Quick Saturday update: The Dolphins have addressed one of their two most dubious positions by agreeing to a one-year deal with former Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes.

Grimes, 29, was a Pro Bowler for Atlanta in 2010 but suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury in the first game last season.

### Don't underestimate how solid Grimes was before the injury. In 2011, Pro Football Focus ranked his play third among cornerbacks, behind only Darrelle Revis and Cortland Finnegan.

Quarterbacks had only a 62.9 rating when throwing into his coverage area, completing just 44.6 percent of the passes thrown against him (25 for 56) for a 10.3 average yards per completion. He allowed two touchdowns and had one interception.

Sean Smith, whom Grimes is essentially replacing, was ranked 105th by PFF in 2011 and 74th last year.

### In 2010, Grimes was ranked 10th among all cornerbacks by PFF, with quarterbacks producing only a 61.3 rating when throwing in his coverage area. He allowed four TDs but also had five picks.

### Grimes' addition means the Dolphins' top four cornerbacks, for now, are Grimes, Dimtri Patterson, Richard Marshall and Nolan Carroll. But Patterson or perhaps Marshall could be at risk if the Dolphins add at least one more cornerback that they feel is ready to step in and play immediately.

### The Dolphins like Patterson, but cutting him would save $4.6 million against the cap. But it also would leave Miami in the predicament of starting Marshall opposite Grimes (not ideal) or assuming a draft pick at picks 12, 42 or 54 would come in and start immediately.

The most prudent approach might be taking Patterson to training camp and see how the competition plays out. Remember, the Dolphins aren't in desperate need of cap space. They also could ask Patterson to restructure his contract.

### ProFootballTalk.com says Grimes' one-year deal is worth $5.5 million, of which $3 million is guaranteed.

### Grimes, coming off the Achilles', said he's not sure when he will be 100 percent, but said "I'll be able to practice soon." The Dolphins expect he will be fine for training camp. "I don't have any restrictions," he said, adding he's still "getting the strength back."

### Asked his strengths, he said: "I play the ball in the air well. That's why they wanted me here - because of my ability to make plays."

### Grimes said he likes coordinator Kevin Coyle's scheme. "They are building something great here and I would like to be a part of it.... They really wanted me here."

### He said he did not meeting with Joe Philbin but spoke to him on the phone and "he seems like a no-nonsense [guy], keeps everybody in line."

### The 5-10 Grimes signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent out of Shippensburg in 2006.

### There's a good chance the Dolphins take at least one corner with one of their five picks in the first three rounds of the draft. They are intrigued by FSU's Xavier Rhodes, Washington's Desmond Trufant, Oregon State's Jordan Poyer and several others.


When Marlins radio announcer Glenn Geffner hosted a few “Hot Stove League” talk shows last month, several fans vented angrily about the team’s payroll purge and “more than one” asked Geffner, as Geffner politely phrased it, to do something anatomically impossible.

Marlins TV announcers Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton and 790 The Ticket announcers Geffner and Dave Van Horne clearly don’t deserve to be the target of any hostility – they had nothing to do with the payroll slashing – but they will become easy targets for some fans if they say anything that suggests support for Marlins ownership.

When Geffner defended the Marlins’ decisions this winter, some posted on his Facebook page: “You work for the team -- you have to say that.”

But Geffner said: “You don’t have to say anything. We have a little bit more perspective or information” than some fans do. “I’m in an awkward position because I make myself accessible.”

That dynamic – people expecting the team’s announcers to bash management - makes their job more difficult this season, as does the prospect of calling games for an offensively-challenged, pitching-thin team with one of baseball’s lowest payroll and no realistic playoff expectations.

“If fans are unhappy, does it make the job more challenging? Absolutely,” Waltz said, looking ahead to Monday’s 1 p.m. opener at Washington. “For everybody in the Marlins organization and at Fox, the Toronto trade was a gut punch. We were stunned the first few days. A lot of people have said, ‘Boy, I feel sorry for you and Tommy.’

“My answer is: Don’t feel sorry for us. We have a great job and we’re going to do the best we can. The quality of the team you’re following shouldn’t impact your quality of performance as a broadcaster.”

Hutton agrees. Asked if the offseason moves make the job more difficult, he said: “It’s a little harder because it’s research on more players. Our job is to attract the fan and keep them with us.

“You can have a horrible broadcast, but if you’re [a team with heavy fan support], people are going to watch anyway.”

Hutton said he won’t discuss fan anger about the offseason, on the air, because “by the time April comes around, that’s old news. People hear enough of that. We’re not talk radio.”

Because the Marlins now have several highly-regarded prospects, “we’ll focus more on things like minor league prospects,” Hutton said. “We’ll have polls and e-mail Tuesdays.”

Waltz and Hutton are paid by Fox Sports, but the Marlins are consulted on announcer hires. By contrast, Geffner and Van Horne were hired by the Marlins, who also pay their salaries.

So it’s unreasonable to expect any of them to rant against Loria’s decisions, because they would run the risk of the meddlesome Loria dumping them if they did.

There are plenty of others – Joe Rose, Jorge Sedano, newspaper columnists – who can handle the anti-Loria ranting.

Fox Sports Florida’s ratings likely will drop because of the payroll-slashing, but FS-Florida general manager Steve Tello declined to answer when asked if Fox officials were angered by the Marlins’ trades.

Another Fox official said even though Fox obviously wasn’t pleased, it wasn’t outraged either, because networks know they have no say about the quality of the teams they’re broadcasting.


### Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent said among Loria’s biggest mistakes was “he sold off his TV rights in a [15-year deal through 2020] which was questionable on his part” because they could eventually be worth a lot more than he extracted. “He sold off the most valuable product he has because he needed it to generate a lot of cash,” Vincent said. Some other teams also signed undervalued long term deals, including Atlanta.

The Marlins’ annual TV revenue is now among the bottom five in baseball, meaning less money for payroll.    

### Three Marlins games will be Fox (non-cable) regional telecasts, and two others will be broadcast statewide as part of the Tampa Bay Rays’ cable package.

That leaves only seven no-TV games this season: April 20 at Cincinnati, April 27 vs. the Cubs, May 24 at the White Sox, Aug. 8 at Pittsburgh, Sept. 7 against Washington, Sept. 12 against Atlanta and Sept. 21 at Washington.  

### Considering the Heat's streak and UM's NCAA Tournament appearance, this was an odd and questionable week for 790 The Ticket to go without live programming during most of its morning and afternoon drive shows. Both the morning and afternoon hosts had pre-scheduled vacations, but live programming during either one of those slots, every day, would have been appropriate.

### In case you missed it, lead baseball analyst Tim McCarver announced Wednesday he will leave Fox after the World Series. But McCarver, who has worked postseason games on network TV for 28 years in a row, said he is not retiring.

March 27, 2013

Thursday update: Fins sign player; Heat, UM quick hits; More unethical behavior in UM/NCAA case

Our Wednesday evening story on the NCAA's latest unethical behavior in the UM case is below, for those who may have not seen it yet.

But first, a six pack of Thursday quick hits:

### The Dolphins view defensive lineman Vaughn Martin, who agreed to terms with Miami on Thursday, as an upgrade over Tony McDaniel in their d-line rotation. Martin, who can play end or tackle, started 12 games for the Chargers as a 3-4 end last season, and Pro Football Focus ranked him just 33rd of 34 qualifying 3-4 ends, including 30th against the run. He had one sack.

Martin started 15 games for the Chargers in 2011. He has three sacks in four NFL seasons.

But several teams reportedly were interested in him. He could play some end in Miami's 4-3 if needed, but his primary role likely will be as a member of the tackle rotation with Paul Soliai and Randy Starks.

### Some reaction to the Heat streak ending --- Kobe Bryant: "The Lakers winning 33 in a row was phenomenal, but the Heat's [streak of 27] was just as impressive." Jerry West, a member of the 1971-72 Lakers team that won 33 straight, told ESPN last night: "I really thought they were going to do it. This was great for basketball. People will talk about this forever.... I think [the Heat] is looking for bigger fish to fry." As in another championship.

### The Dolphins never made an offer to longtime Jets starting guard Brandon Moore, deciding that Lance Louis was better. Louis, signed Thursday, is the favorite to beat out John Jerry at right guard. The Bears considered Louis their best offensive lineman last year before his November knee injury. Pro Football Focus, which analyzes every snap, ranked Louis only barely ahead of Jerry; Louis was 47th, Jerry 49th, among 81 guards. Louis allowed two sacks and seven QB hurries. Jerry allowed two and 15.

### UM's Jim Larranaga said Miami's regional semifinal opponent tonight, Marquette, "plays harder than maybe any team we've played. That's a tremendous offensive rebounding team." Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble and UM's perimeter players must be especially alert on the defensive boards.

### Al Golden said today that converted defensive end Jake O'Donnell has been a "surprise" at tight end and that tight end Asante Cleveland is "having as good a spring as anyone."

### Golden said Gray Crow is "on the heels" of Ryan Williams for the No.2 quarterback job. "The real competition is Gray and Ryan," Golden said, noting Williams is ahead in his ability to recognize defenses.


Here's that UM story:

### The NCAA investigator who took over the University of Miami case last May attempted, as her fired predecessor did, to use Nevin Shapiro’s attorney to help build a case against Miami – a detail curiously omitted from the NCAA-commissioned report detailing the NCAA’s improper handling of the case, according to an email exchange between the parties that was relayed to me by two people.

Meanwhile, UM also will allege that NCAA investigators lied to interview subjects by claiming that other people interviewed made comments they never made, in order to trick the subjects into revealing incriminating information they otherwise might not have, according to multiple officials familiar with the NCAA’s case against UM and former coaches. UM believes such behavior is unethical, and it clearly is.

Both of these details will be included in UM’s motion to dismiss the case that will be submitted to the NCAA on Friday.

UM also will claim that significant charges made against UM in the NCAA’s notice of allegations are uncorroborated by anyone besides Shapiro, and that tainted evidence has not been fully purged from the case.

The NCAA already has informed UM that the infractions committee does not have the authority to dismiss the case before a full hearing in mid-June, but UM is disputing that contention.

Among the new details in the case: Stephanie Hannah, an NCAA director of enforcement who took over the UM case late last May from fired Ameen Najjar, continued Najjar’s policy of working with Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, to try to build a case against UM.

The Cadwalader law firm, asked by the NCAA to investigate its handling of the case, indicated that Najjar ignored the NCAA legal counsel’s instructions and accepted Perez’s proposal to use bankruptcy subpoenas to compel depositions from witnesses who had refused to cooperate with the NCAA. In exchange, Perez would be paid; Perez claimed it would be for her time and expenses, Najjar claimed it would be only for expenses.

“The Perez proposal was unquestionably a bad idea for the NCAA,” the report said.

After taking over for Najjar, Hannah attempted to work with Perez on obtaining information from Shapiro’s bodyguard, Mario Sanchez, who was subpoenaed to appear in a bankruptcy hearing. The deposition with Sanchez never materialized, and the bankruptcy trustee told us today that it wouldn't have been of interest to the bankruptcy trustee, anyway.

In an e-mail exchange with Perez last July, Hannah wrote: “Regarding the enforcement staff’s interest in questioning [name redacted], attached is a document that outlines questions/topics to discuss with him.”

The name redacted was Sanchez, according to multiple sources.

Hannah’s e-mail came to light because Perez included it in her response to the Florida Bar complaint filed against her by Sean Allen, the former UM assistant equipment manager who was subpoenaed by Perez for a bankruptcy court deposition in December 2011.

The NCAA tossed the Allen deposition from evidence because it was obtained improperly, and the matter ultimately led to the firing of NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach.

Ken Wainstein, from the Cadwalader law firm, e-mailed on Wednesday that he was busy on a personal matter and could not immediately explain why Hannah’s behavior was omitted from his report.

This evening, Wainstein e-mailed again after our story hit the wire. He did not offer a specific reason for not including it in his report but said that "after Mr. Najjar left the NCAA, Ms. Hannah became responsible for the U. Miami investigation.  As we explained in evaluating Ms. Hannah’s conduct, Ms. Hannah had not been involved in the initial arrangements with Ms. Perez and believed that there was nothing amiss and that it had been blessed prior to her involvement. 

"We understand that she provided questions and areas of interest for Ms. Perez to use in preparing to interview Mr. Sanchez in July 2012, similar to how Mr. Najjar had provided questions in advance of Mr. Allen’s deposition.  Mr. Sanchez was never deposed, however, for a variety of reasons including logistics regarding service of a subpoena."

The NCAA declined to comment.

“It’s troubling because it places Hannah’s culpability on the same level of Najjar’s,” said one official, on the UM/former coach side of the NCAA case, who asked not to be identified. “She should know better than to do this, having been there 20 years. Why did they cover that up?”

Wainstein’s report assigned no accountability to Hannah, saying: “Ms. Hannah assumed there was nothing amiss about the arrangement [with Perez] and that it had been completely blessed prior to her involvement in the case. In light of those circumstances, it is understandable that she raised no alarms about the Perez arrangement.”

The NCAA ended its working relationship with Perez shortly after NCAA associate general counsel Naima Stevensen reiterated last September what she had told Najjar a year earlier – that this arrangement was a bad idea and didn’t have the legal department’s blessing.

Hannah’s e-mail with Perez was the second significant matter not included in the Wainstein report. The other: Najjar wrote a letter to Shapiro’s judge shortly before his sentencing for operating a Ponzi scheme saying the NCAA might someday hire him as a consultant.

Wainstein said he didn’t mention the letter because the report “was not intended… to describe all aspects of Mr. Shapiro’s relationship with the enforcement staff.”

In an ESPN interview this week, NCAA President Mark Emmert insisted that once the NCAA found part of the UM case had been mishandled, “I’m confident we did exactly the right thing. We did it the right way…

"For those saying, ‘Fire Emmert!’it’s like saying if the assistant coach did something wrong, fire the [university] president.”

Please see the last post, from late Tuesday night, for Heat, Dolphins, Canes.

March 26, 2013

LeBron's 'amazing' achievement; Hall of Famer slights Heat; Canes, Dolphins news


As LeBron James steamrolls toward another MVP award, spearheading this remarkable winning streak, there might be nothing more impressive in his individual body of work this season than the 55.7 shooting percentage, easily a career high.

James stands poised to be the first player in NBA history to average at least 26 points, 8 rebounds, 7 rebounds and shoot 55 percent. To appreciate how “amazing” that shooting percentage is for a player his size (6-8), to use Charlotte guard Ben Gordon’s word, consider this:

My analysis of more than three decades of NBA data reveals James’ percentage would be the highest of any starting small forward, with any kind of three-point element to his game, since the NBA implemented the three-point shot in 1979-80.

Chris Mullin (55.3 percent in 1996-97) is the only one even close. James regularly plays minutes at power forward, but he starts at small forward.

“He improved his post-up game and now that he has developed his three-point shooting, this reminds me of Michael Jordan,” TNT analyst and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said by phone Tuesday. “How the heck are you supposed to guard him? David Stern should just call a press conference now and give him the MVP award."

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said James has become “so efficient at shooting” that “he really has no weakness.” Gordon said: “I don’t see him taking any bad shots.”

Some perspective: In the three-point shot era, 10 starting small forwards have shot at least 55 percent in a season.

But of those 10, only Mullin made more than two three-pointers or attempted at least 10 in that season. (Mullin made 83; James has 92 threes this season on 39.1 percent shooting, easily his career-high for three-point accuracy.) That’s significant, because launching lots of three-pointers can drag down shooting percentages.

The other nine who shot at least 55 percent, some multiple times: James Worthy, Bernard King, Adrian Dantley, Walter Davis, Calvin Natt, Marques Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, Rodney McCray and Kevin Gamble.

Of the greatest small forwards ever, only Worthy ever shot, over a season, as well as James is doing this year. But Worthy shot a combined 1 for 30 on threes in the four years he did that.

The highest Larry Bird ever shot in a season was 52.7, Scottie Pippen 52, Rick Barry 51, Alex English 54, Julius Erving 54.6. Dominique Wilkins, Elgin Baylor and John Havlicek never shot 50 percent.

“The thing LeBron added is the ability to square up and shoot,” Kobe Bryant said. “He has a lot of confidence in that jumper, which opens up the rest of his game when he’s able to knock down the mid-range shot because guys have to close out.”

James is shooting 45 percent from 16 to 23 feet, up from 39 last season. He’s at 50 percent in the paint, up from 43. And he has made half of his 38 corner three-pointers after hitting 32 percent the past two years.

“I’m not surprised LeBron is shooting like this,” Pippen said. “He’s very patient and disciplined with the shots he takes. And he gets a lot of dunks.” In fact, his 429 transition points – many dunks and layups – are most in the league.

James -- who has raised his shooting six consecutive seasons, from 47.6 in 2006-07 -- “is going to be 50-plus percent the rest of his career because of his improved jump shooting, which had been a relative weakness,” Shane Battier said. “And he gets any shot he wants.” 


### Not everyone is impressed by the Heat’s streak. Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, the Knicks announcer, called it “more of an indication of how weak the NBA is right now than their superiority. Please don’t say this is a great team. This is not a great team. I wouldn’t rank them anywhere near the top 10 best teams ever.”

Dick Vitale blasted Frazier’s comment on ESPN Radio Tuesday, ranting: “Give me a break! That’s absurd, ludicrous, ridiculous! To win 27 in a row blows my mind.”

### Heat players can’t avoid streak talk: Rashard Lewis was implored by his garbage man to keep it going; Norris Cole said a woman in church asked him Sunday if Miami will win every game the rest of the year; and Battier says his wife told him: “I don’t care how many games you’ve won in a row. I need you to watch our daughter while I take a run.’ So the Battier family is not impressed.”

### Among those enjoying the UM NCAA Tournament run: Rick Barry, the Hall of Famer and the greatest player in Canes history.

“It’s cool - I’m happy for them and for Jim Larranaga and I am rooting for them,” Barry said from his Colorado home Tuesday. “After the game Sunday, I texted Jim: ‘You have two good players with off games and you can still win.’ Rion Brown saved their [butt] the last game. Jim has them playing as a team, unselfishly. I like Shane Larkin a lot. It’s nice to see the program come back to prominence.”

Barry, who believes staying in or near the top 25 is sustainable for UM long-term, said Larranaga had interest in his son Canyon last year, but “my son felt it would be better off to play in an arena where his father’s name isn’t hanging in the rafters. Jim was the first Miami coach who had interest in any of my boys.” He ended up at College of Charleston, which --- according to Barry --- plays UM the next three years.

### Larranaga also received congratulatory texts Sunday from Pat Riley (who asked him for tickets for UM’s game Thursday in Washington D.C., according to Larranaga) and Celtics coach Doc Rivers (Larranaga’s son Jay works on Rivers’ staff)…. Many former Canes are offering support. Malcolm Grant earlier texted Julian Gamble from Australia: “This is crazy! I’ve never been prouder to be a Hurricane.”

### The NFL allows team to bring 30 non-local draft prospects to their headquarters, and the Dolphins are using some of those visits on positions they don’t need, such as Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel and receiver teammate Marquess Wilson. Wilson quit the team in November, alleging verbal abuse by coach Mike Leach.

Dolphins receivers coach Ken O’Keefe met privately with Tennessee receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter even after Miami signed Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson.

Taking Patterson at 12 would be very surprising considering Miami has needs elsewhere, but this is clear: If a receiver is high on Miami’s board in rounds two through four, Miami could draft him and trade Davone Bess.

### For Marlins and Canes football notes from Tuesday afternoon, please see our last post. 


March 25, 2013

Dolphins bring in lineman, ESPN blasts Marlins, Canes notes, Heat

A few quick Tuesday afternoon notes:

### San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Vaughn Martin was Miami's only veteran free agent visitor today, and so far this week. He started 12 games at defensive end last season and produced one sack and one forced fumble. Martin, who also can play d-tackle, has just three sacks in four years.

### With Reggie Johnson sidelined for NCAA Tournament games this weekend because of minor knee surgery, that means more minutes for Julian Gamble and perhaps Tonye Jekiri when UM goes big or Rion Brown when UM goes small.

### ESPN announcers blasted the Marlins on a conference call today.

"If I'm a fan of the Miami Marlins, I don't know if I would be a fan anymore," John Kruk said. 
"How do you root for anyone?  You root for a team, you're loyal to your team, but you also get loyal to players.  It just doesn't seem like the Marlins are that interested in keeping players around that long for you to get loyal with.  

"Yes, they won a couple World Championships, that's great.  Each time after they won they dismantled the whole team.  I think they were very disloyal to their fans by signing these guys, getting the hype about the new stadium, everything is going to be great, we're going to be spenders, win another World Championship, then a couple months into the season, Okay, this doesn't seem to be working, let's get rid of everyone.   If I was a fan of the Marlins I would be confused, upset and not sure I'd be willing to spend my money anymore to go watch them."

Said Orel Hershiser: "It's just really sad.  It's sad to see the South Florida baseball fans get the wool pulled over their eyes.  The popularity rating of the owner is not real good right now, I wouldn't think.  You look at the names that exited Florida, it's unbelievable.  Usually the Canadian people come south to get warm, but it sounds like all of Miami had to go north to be in Toronto now.  

"It's really sad to me.  I hope that they turn it around.  I hope that the ownership says, You know what, we have to be loyal to our fan base, to this commitment we made to this new stadium, to Florida baseball, turn it around.  But that would be a big switch from where they are right now."

### UM defensive end Dyron Dye's leg injury sustained in Saturday's scrimmage is serious, but Al Golden said he isn't ready to give details yet.

### Golden said running back Dallas Crawford "is having the best spring" of anyone -- linebacker Alex Figueroa also is in that mix. Golden remains uncertain whether Eduardo Clements' neck injury will allow him to return.

### Golden said UM is "teaching" Duke Johnson "how to be a 20-carry guy, which is hard" partly because UM doesn't want to overburden him this spring, or reduce his effectiveness.

### Malcolm Lewis, still recovering from his serious ankle injury in the Georgia Tech game, was running routes before the scrimmage Saturday, which Golden called a "medical marvel." Still, he won't be cleared to practice for a few more months.



### Nobody does near-triple-doubles like LeBron James. On Sunday, he fell two rebounds short of a triple double. In Monday's win against Orlando, he fell one rebound short, closing with 24 points, 11 assists and 9 boards. James is behind only Jason Kidd among active players for career triple doubles. James has finished one rebound or one assist shy of a triple double 24 times in his career.

### Since LeBron James joined the team, Miami is now 23-6 when Dwyane Wade is out.

### Wade, who rested again because of right knee soreness, expects to play Wednesday at Chicago.

### With its 27th win a row, Miami passed the 1916 New York Giants (baseball) for the second longest winning streak in the history of professional sports.

### Is there a more improved player during this winning streak that Norris Cole? He had three three-pointers Monday, along with four assists and one turnover.

### Chris Bosh shot 4 for 14 and is now 10 for his past 33. But the wins keep coming.

### The Tampa Bay Tribune reported today that the Buccaneers are likely no longer a serious option for free agent cornerback Brent Grimes, and that the Dolphins or Cleveland are his likely destination. Grimes was a Pro Bowler for Atlanta in 2010 but tore his ACL in the first game of last season.

### Golden, during his weekly Monday morning segment with WQAM’s Joe Rose said “our [pass] coverage is better than at any point last fall”… said “the biggest difference” with the defense overall is “we’re getting more activity with the linebacker group”… said “a guy I’m really impressed with is Olsen Pierre.”… and praised early enrollee Alex Figueroa, asserting he will help in the pass rush and other areas.

### Rose asked Golden if there’s a chance Herb Waters could now be Miami’s best receiver. “There’s a chance,” he said. “We thought he would be a big wideout. But we’re learning he has lateral quickness and can make people miss.”

### Amusing to hear NCAA president Mark Emmert defend himself on ESPN’s Mike and Mike Show this morning and justify his lack of accountability in the mishandling of the UM investigation.

Emmert said: “For those saying, ‘Fire Emmert’ – it’s like saying if the assistant coach did something wrong, fire the [university] president.”

Why didn’t Emmert know the investigation was being mishandled? “You don’t want the president in the middle of the investigation mucking around,” he said.

And Emmert insisted that once the NCAA found mistakes had been made in the investigation, “I’m confident we did exactly the right thing. We did it the right way.”

UM strongly believes otherwise. UM will file a motion to dismiss the case with the NCAA by Friday's deadline to submit documents, even though the NCAA has told UM that the infractions committee doesn't have the authority to dismiss it. UM disagrees about that, too.

Great tweet today from ESPN’s Jay Bilas:  “NCAA President: Buck stops with anyone short of me!”

By the way, it was Sean Allen who justifiably filed a Florida Bar complaint against Nevin Shapiro's attorney, Maria Elena Perez. Allegations against Perez are being reviewed by the Bar's grievance committee. 

Allen was essentially duped into giving information about the UM case through the guise of a bankruptcy hearing, with the NCAA conspiring with Perez to get Allen under oath.

March 23, 2013

Wade out vs. Orlando; Winston update; UM, UF tip times announced; Fins book more draft visits; Heat, Canes

The Sunday buzz column is below. First, three quick updates:

1) Dwyane Wade will miss his second game in a row against Orlando on Monday. He's continuing to nurse a sore/bruised right knee.

2) Agent Drew Rosenhaus said on his weekly WSVN-7 segment that free agent offensive tackle Eric Winston "would really like to play" for the Dolphins and that the Dolphins have interest, but that the situation is "fluid." But the Dolphins have had a week to strike a deal since he visited and so far have not.

The Dolphins, as of Saturday, had not shown any interest in free agent Bryant McKinnie, who also has expressed interest in the Dolphins. Miami also has considered a trade for Kansas City tackle Branden Albert.

3) UM's Sweet 16 game against Marquette was set for 7:15 p.m. Thursday on CBS, with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery announcing. Florida's regional semifinal game against Florida Gulf Coast is scheduled for approximately 10 p.m. Friday on TBS, with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr announcing.



A six pack of Dolphins notes:

### Though it might not necessarily be the best fit with Miami’s pick at No. 12, the Dolphins want to add defensive backs in next month’s NFL Draft and have begun quietly reaching out to several.

According to sources, the Dolphins have booked the draft’s best safety, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, to visit team headquarters and are working on bringing FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes here, too. The Dolphins like several corners in the draft, including Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer.

And here’s a sleeper alert: According to an Arkansas State source, the Dolphins have spent a lot of time with explosive under-the-radar safety/corner Don Jones – the Patriots also like him – and are summoning him to Davie to meet with team executives. Jones, a great athlete with good speed, could go in the mid-to-late rounds.

A defensive back might not make sense at 12 if Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is long gone, as expected, by Miami’s pick. Mel Kiper projects Vaccaro to go 16th, noting he’s “sound in coverage, takes great angles, makes very good reads.” But safety isn’t a huge need, and he had just five career interceptions.

Draftinsider.net's Tony Pauline said No. 12 would be too high for Rhodes, and he’s not the perfect scheme fit for Miami because press man is his specialty and the Dolphins will play some zone.

Besides Milliner, Kiper has only two other first-round corners: Rhodes 29th and Washington’s Desmond Trufant 28th. Todd McShay has Rhodes 28th and Connecticut’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson 29th.

### If Miami waits until picks 42 or 54 for a cornerback, Pauline sees five possible options: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks (“problem is he’s a liability down the field, because of his lack of speed”); perhaps Wreh-Wilson (decent chance he will be gone by 42; “great cover skills but a lot of injuries the past two years”); Boise State’s 5-11 Jamar Taylor (“underrated, could go earlier than 42”); Virginia Tech’s Logan Ryan (speed a question); and Poyer.

Other evaluators also would include in that group Mississippi State’s Darius Slay (fastest defensive back at the Combine) and San Diego State’s Leon McFadden, who’s also fast but at 5-10 struggles sometimes against bigger, more physical receivers.

Southeast Louisiana’s Robert Alford, Utah State’s Will Davis, Connecticut’s Dwayne Gratz, and William & Mary’s B.W. Webb could be Miami options at 77 or 82, if they’re still available. So might North Carolina State’s David Amerson, who had 13 interceptions in 2011 but “was beaten far too much last season,” Kiper said. Some have UM’s Brandon McGee in the third/fourth round range, some later.

The cornerback class overall “looks deeper now, with Trufant, Rhodes and a handful of others running well to back up the tape,” Kiper said.

What about former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist who was kicked off LSU’s team before last season (reportedly for failed drug tests) and later arrested for marijuana possession?

Miami hasn’t shown interest so far, and Kiper said he’s a fourth- or fifth-round pick. “He’s not a great cover guy,” Kiper said. “But day three is when you roll the dice on him. He can help your defense and special teams.”

### The Dolphins are showing considerable interest in North Carolina and former St. Thomas Aquinas running back Giovani Bernard, who spent five hours at Dolphins headquarters Thursday. Bernard, an option for Miami’s picks at 42 and 54, had 1228 rushing yards (6.7 per carry), 490 receiving yards and two punt returns for touchdowns in 2012.

Miami also will do a private workout with Clemson’s Andre Ellington, another potential second-round back. The Dolphins want a back that can compete with Daniel Thomas for carries behind likely starter Lamar Miller, who “impressed us,” Philbin said because he’s “instinctive” and has “explosiveness.”

### We hear that after being badly outbid by St. Louis for Jared Cook, Miami made a late run at Martellus Bennett, but the Bears offered him a bit more. The Dolphins then signed Dustin Keller.

They love Keller’s receiving skills, but Joe Philbin admitted “we have to work with him” on blocking. Philbin said “we are going to keep looking” for tight ends. Miami prefers to add a skilled blocker to the Keller/Charles Clay/Michael Egnew troika, with Cincinnati mid-rounder Travis Kelce among those drawing Dolphins interest.

### Quarterback has gone from a liability to an asset in luring free agents. New Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson said of Ryan Tannehill: “I’ve watched tons of film and think he’s going to be one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL. He’s got a big arm, very intelligent.” Said Keller: “Very impressed with him. Like his game a lot.”

### Philbin said the Dolphins studied every catch and drop by Mike Wallace the past two years and suggests people sell him short if they view him as just a deep threat.

### Besides pursuing cornerback Brent Grimes, the Dolphins also made an inquiry on Tracy Porter, an associate said. But they’ve so far stayed away from mid-30s vets like Antoine Winfield.

### Philbin said the Dolphins believe new linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler “might be able to make a couple more impactful plays” than Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. Meanwhile, the Dolphins internally have discussed the possibility of playing Koa Misi at middle linebacker, though Ellerbe still could end up there.


### One underrated key during this Heat winning streak: Erik Spoelstra is always keeping LeBron James or Dwyane Wade on the floor (before garbage time), after experimenting in January with a disastrous second-quarter lineup with Chris Bosh and four reserves.

Surprisingly, the Heat’s second-most used lineup during the streak is Wade with four backups: a group that has outscored teams by 13 and is shooting 52 percent. During the winning streak, only the Heat's starters have played more minutes, as a group, than that lineup, which often starts the second quarter.

So what are Miami’s best lineups during the streak? Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and the Big Three (plus 73 in 82 minutes) and Ray Allen, Chalmers and the Big Three (plus 55 in 45). Not coincidentally, one of those two lineups usually is on the floor at the end of close games.

### The admiration from James’ ex-teammates keeps growing. “What I like,” Lakers forward and ex-Cavs teammate Antawn Jamison said, “is he always says, ‘I can improve.’ He can win the MVP five straight years, but it doesn’t matter to him. Five years ago, it might have mattered. It seems like the weight of the world is off his shoulders. Winning has put him at ease, and he’s invincible.”

### So why are the Marlins waiting until after the season to make a long-term offer to Giancarlo Stanton, who cannot be a free agent until November 2016? One official said the Marlins philosophically do not like to sign players before they’re arbitration-eligible, which would be next winter for Stanton. Though it’s very difficult to see him signing here long term if the Marlins keep payroll so low, a close Stanton associate said Stanton actually loves Miami as a place to live.

At least one Marlins official advocates trading him now rather than waiting a year or two to maximize his value. But another Marlins official said: “We won’t do it [now]. He’s important to our team with what we’re trying to do.”

### Though UM’s Shane Larkin said last month he will return for his junior year, he deflected that question Thursday, and a UM source said the coaching staff isn’t certain he’ll be back. ESPN’s Chad Ford rates him 37th among all draft-eligible prospects, adding: “If he were a few inches taller [than 5-11], he would be a lottery pick.”

### The UM early enrollee drawing the most raves? First-team linebacker Alex Figueroa -  and that was even before he impressed everyone with his instincts, hard hitting and coverage skills in Saturday's scrimmage. "He’s smart, tough, will be good in coverage, is stout against the run and a good blitzer,” coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said…. Coaches says Ladarius Gunter has emerged as UM’s best cornerback, with Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford battling for the other starting spot and Nate Dortch running fourth.

### For notes and thoughts from Saturday's UM scrimmage, please see our last post.

### An NCAA source says UM sent a strongly worded letter to the NCAA essentially saying that it reserves the right to sue the NCAA (that’s considered a last resort) and disputing the NCAA claim that the infractions committee doesn’t have the right to dismiss the case, which UM will formally request this week. 

Notes, stats and observations from Saturday's UM football scrimmage; UM gets hoop commit

Notes and observations from UM’s football scrimmage at Traz Powell Stadium on Saturday morning:

### Phillip Dorsett (shaken up after dropping a pass in the end zone), Rayshawn Jenkins (ankle) and Clive Walford (shoulder) needed assistance, but Al Golden said the only injury he is “worried about” is Dyron Dye, who suffered a leg injury (reportedly an ankle), couldn’t put any pressure on it and needed assistance to get off the field. Dye was beginning to feel comfortable at defensive end again after switching over from tight end.

### Among Saturday’s standouts: Early enrollee Alex Figueroa – He was outstanding in goal line work, including a big hit on Duke Johnson, and then bottled up Phillip Dorsett on an end-around. (We’ll have more on Figueroa in our Sunday column)…

Other standouts: Herb Waters (several nifty catches); Olsen Pierre (snuffed the run on several plays) and Anthony Chickillo (deflected and then intercepted a Stephen Morris pass), and of course, Johnson, who showed his usual burst and quickness (including on a 30-yard run) and will be incorporated selectively in the passing game in James Coley’s offense, much like Jedd Fisch utilized him.

### Coley’s offense looked a lot like Fisch’s, though Johnson said there are some subtle differences. Coley ran a lot of rollouts for the quarterbacks and made ample use of slants and screens. He smartly has adjusted to his players’ strengths, rather than making them to adjust to him.

### Throwing at times against a stiff wind, Morris was erratic with his accuracy, but that’s no big cause for concern considering how good he looked last November. “He rushed a couple throws, not as crisp as we want to be,” Golden said. “We’re just a little bit off. But he was right on in terms of [knowing] where the ball should go.”

Morris had three passes batted down, overthrew Waters down the sideline on what could have been a potential touchdown, overthrew Waters again when he was wide open in the end zone, misfired on several other throws, and threw a pick to Antonio Crawford to end the scrimmage – Morris’ second pick of the day.

But Morris also made several sharp throws (including a dart to Allen Hurns) and was victimized by drops, from Hurns and Rashawn Scott, among others.

### Ryan Williams, clearly the front-runner for the backup QB job, had some good moments and appears improved on intermediate routes. Williams threw a 20-yarder to receiver Garrett Kidd, who is replacing graduated Kendal Thompkins as Mr. March, apparently.

### UM played five quarterbacks, including walk-on Garrison Lassiter. Gray Crow, No. 3 at the moment, badly overthrew his first pass before completing two short throws.

Preston Dewey, during limited work, appeared sharper than at the start of last spring, when he seemed overwhelmed after arriving from high school.

### UM didn't release stats, but Canesport.com listed these final numbers for the QBs: Morris: 16 for 29, 166 yards, one TD and two picks; Williams: 6 for 11, 67 yards; Dewey 2 for 2, 16 yards; Crow 2 for 4, 16 yards.

### Ladarius Gunter, Tracy Howard and Crawford shared first team cornerback snaps. Howard made a couple of nice plays in coverage but also was beaten badly by Dorsett on a 32-yard gain.

### Jenkins and Deon Bush opened at safety, but AJ Highsmith got a lot of work with the ones.

### Jimmy Gaines opened with the first group at middle linebacker, flanked by Figueroa and Denzel Perryman, but Raphael Kirby has a real shot to win the middle linebacker job. Olsen Pierre and Curtis Porter opened at defensive tackle, but Luther Robinson got a chunk of first-team snaps. Chickillo and Shayon Green remain the starting ends.

### UM generated a strong pass rush at times, but Morris escaped on several of those occasions. Of the seven sacks, Dwayne Hoilett had 2, Kelvin Cain 1.5; Jelani Hamilton, Jalen Grimble and Corey King 1 each, and DeQuan Ivery had half a sack.

### Dallas Crawford – the No. 2 tailback behind Johnson – was bottled up on a handful of carries before showing his dynamic speed on two plays: a screen from Morris, which he took for 22 yards, and a 29-yard run in which he turned the corner and scampered down the sideline against mostly second- and third-team defenders.

### Beside Johnson and Crawford, other carries were shared among Danny Dillard and Brandon Yosha, who ran well against reserves. Dillard turned the corner for a five-yard TD run during the red zone portion of the scrimmage.

Canesport.com had these final stats for the running backs: Johnson - 6 for 52; Dillard 5 for 12; Crawford 10 for 51. Johnson left the field before the scrimmage to take medication for a headache.

Two more backs – Gus Edwards and Corn Elder – arrive this summer. Eduardo Clements’ football future remains very much in question because of a neck injury.

### Dorsett (before he left), Hurns and Waters often were used in three-receiver sets, with Scott also getting a lot of playing time. Jontavious Carter and D’Mauri Jones played behind them.

But Waters was the best of the group Saturday, including one play where he caught a short slant and exploded for 20 yards of YAC. He also caught a TD from Morris on third and goal from the 8. (That was Morris' only TD throw of the day.)

The safeties played too deep on the play; Waters could plant his feet just past the goal line for an easy catch.

Waters finished with 4 catches for 43 yards, Hurns 4 for 35 and Dorsett 4 for 43.

### Not a great day for UM’s new tight ends. Standish Dobard couldn’t fight off Howard for a pass at the goal line and dropped another pass. And Beau Sandland dropped an easy pass from Williams.

But Jake O’Donnell, who redshirted as a defensive lineman last year, made a couple catches and seems to be making a smooth transition to tight end.

Asante Cleveland, battling Sandland for the No. 2 job behind Walford, also dropped a catchable pass.

### Several defenders missed tackles, including Perryman whiffing on Johnson (OK, that could happen to anyone), resulting in a long gain.

### The offensive line remained without key starters Brandon Linder and Shane McDermott. Taylor Gadbois had a couple of penalties.

### Matt Goudis made three field goals from 36, 25 and 49 yards. His underdog competition, Ricky Perez, missed from 50 and 49.


According to several recruiting web sites, UM received a basketball commitment from James Kelly, a three-star junior college power forward from Toledo, Ohio.  He averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds this season. He had several other offers, including Lousiana Tech and Marshall.

UM still needs to add three or four more players, in addition to Kelly and previous commitments DeAndre Burnett and Davon Reed. Football recruits Corn Elder and Derrick Griffin will walk on with the basketball team and could end up as rotation players, especially Griffin if he qualifies academically.

### Check back later for the Sunday buzz, with lots of Dolphins and more Canes, Heat and Marlins... In case you missed it, the UM-Illinois NCAA Tournament game has been set for 8:40 p.m. Sunday on TNT.

March 22, 2013

Saturday update: UM time set; Bosh's clever retort; A plea from LeBron's family; Jason Terry tweaks LeBron

The start time for UM's NCAA Tournament game Sunday against Illinois has been set for 8:40 p.m. on TNT. If UM wins, it will play Thursday night in D.C.


Check out my Heat game story for details on win 25 in a row Friday night against Detroit. And check out the blog this weekend for lots of Dolphins and Canes football.

A couple Heat postgame items of note:

### Jeff Van Gundy quipped on ABC last week that it might be a bigger accomplishment setting the NBA's all-time win streak record than winning a championship, before clarifying that he meant that it would be more difficult to set the record but that he would rather win a championship.

Bosh said a friend asked him which is the superior achievement.

"I'm going to take the championship every time," he said. "You don't get a plaque or a ring or nothing for 34 in a row. You get a record that will probably be broken one day. Records are meant to be broken. But championships last forever.

"Someone was telling me it's way cooler to win 34 [in a row]. I'm like, "Man, please! Get out of here with that. They won't be throwing confetti for that. I'll guaran-damn-tee you that."

### Dwyane Wade said fans have been telling him, on Twitter, to "stop giving them a heart attack" with all the close games and double-figure deficits.

And after Miami rallied from 27 down against Cleveland Wednesday, James said his family told him: "This is too much for us to handle. So please stop."

### LeBron's 12 for 15 shooting Friday tied the best shooting percentage of his career, minimum 15 attempts.

### Worth noting for out of town Heat fans: NBA TV picked up Sunday's Charlotte game, and ESPN added Monday's game at Orlando. Sun Sports will televise both in South Florida. Expect national TV for most or all these games as long as the Heat continues this streak.


### Loquacious Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry lobbed the latest volley in the back-and-forth exchange with LeBron James on Friday, asserting that the Heat “put [James] on me to shut me down in the NBA Finals in 2011 and he couldn’t get the job done. Hopefully, he’ll have another chance this year in the Eastern Conference Finals or wherever we match up.”

Terry has taken several jabs at the Heat in the past couple years, including saying last week that he is “not really impressed” with the Heat’s winning streak “or anything they do.”

Then, after James dunked over Terry in Monday’s game in Boston, James said: “It was one of my better ones. And the fact that it happened to JT made it even that much sweeter. Because I think we all know that JT talks and he talks too much sometimes and I’m glad it happened to him.”

Asked Friday if his issue is with the Heat or James, Terry told WEEI radio in Boston: It’s not even LeBron. It’s just the Miami Heat personally. Is it the red and black? Maybe, I hate that color. I just don’t like them.

“It goes back to ’05-06. It doesn’t matter who’s in those Miami Heat uniforms. … [Terry’s Dallas Mavericks] were up 2-0 and [the Heat] come back and win four straight games and you lose the NBA Finals.

"So LeBron inherited something bigger than the matchup of he and I. It’s about the Miami Heat and that organization. He picked his poison.”

Terry added: “I’d love to see Miami in the playoffs, so we can roll through the champions. We’re fired up. We would love that matchup. You know at some point – I don’t want to say that it’s fixed – I think it’s going to happen. We are going to see them, and it’s going to be fireworks.

“I’m telling you right now, I love us, I love the way we’re built. We miss Rajon Rondo, we miss Jared Sullinger, but with this team we have, we have a chance.”

The Celtics and Chicago entered Friday tied for the sixth and seventh spots in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of No. 8 Milwaukee. The Heat will play the No. 8 seed in the first round, and the winner of the 4-5 matchup in the second round.

### Coach Erik Spoelstra hasn’t mentioned the 24-game winning streak to his players but he said people have been mentioning it to him.

"Friends, family they don’t. They know me better,” Spoelstra said before the game. “Everybody else does. It’s not a taboo subject. I’m not walking around saying, ‘You can’t talk about it. That’s not allowed in this building.’”

Spoelstra said he “mistakenly put on the TV when I was on the road. I wanted to see some college highlights to get my bracket ready. ESPN was on and already they were talking about [Heat] games that could happen of significance 10 days from now.

“That’s most the dangerous thing in this league, playing for a future that is unknowable and when the most important time is right now.”

### Before the game, Spoelstra emphasized the need for his players to be sharper at the outset of games, in the wake of slow starts in Boston and Cleveland earlier this week.

“We did not come out with the proper energy, focus, disposition,” he said. “You allow teams confidence. When teams get confident, they get aggressive, you can turn them into beasts and you can’t control them.

“We want to set the tone from the beginning. These teams are dangerous. These are teams either urgent, desperate for a playoff [berth], or teams with nothing to lose, no pressure.”

### The Heat signed Juwan Howard for the remainder of the season, following the expiration of his 10-day contract. “He brings credible veteran leadership – it’s tangible, it’s real,” Spoelstra said. “It felt off not having him around” earlier this season.

### See our last post for the media column, including surprising Heat/Dolphins ratings news.

March 21, 2013

Media notes: Heat surpassing Dolphins with record ratings; local radio; Marlins-related apology


South Florida is being treated to the greatest and most captivating basketball of any market in the country, between the Heat’s long winning streak and UM’s magical season. And TV audiences are climbing to levels once considered unfathomable for February and March basketball in this market. Consider:

### The notion of a regular-season Heat game outdrawing a Dolphins game would have been absurd a few years ago. No longer.

During the Heat’s 24-game winning streak, the two ABC Sunday afternoon games produced larger Dade/Broward ratings than the 13.5 for the Dolphins’ opener against the Texans last September. Heat-Lakers Feb. 10 drew a 13.9 and Heat-Knicks a 14.3, meaning 14.3 percent of all Dade/Broward homes with TV sets were tuned in.

Even more impressive: Monday night’s Heat-Celtics game on Sun and ESPN produced a combined 17.5, smashing not only the Dolphins opener (by nearly 65,000 homes), but also topping the 16.3 average Dolphins rating locally last season. It also eclipsed the Heat-Thunder Christmas game on ABC (15.6) to become the most-watched Heat game this season.

Wednesday’s Cavaliers game drew an 11.7, peaking at an 18.5 in the game’s closing minutes.

### Twice during this streak, the Heat set a record for most watched Heat game ever on Sun Sports, playoffs included: Monday against Boston and March 10 against Indiana.

### Overall, Heat games are averaging a superb 8.8 rating on Sun during the streak, compared with a 5.4 before the streak. Heat games on Sun often are now the most-watched programs on local TV at night, though seven percent of Dade/Broward homes don’t have cable or satellite TV, according to WPLG-10.

### When Sun Sports and ESPN carry the same Heat game, Sun is drawing more than twice as many local viewers (7.3 rating to ESPN's 3.6).

### UM hoops audience are building, with the ACC title game drawing a solid 5.6 local rating between ESPN and MY-33 (91,000 homes), even though it was competing with a Heat-Raptors game that was viewed in 133,000 Dade/Broward homes.

### On WQAM-560, UM basketball games are producing anywhere from a 1.7 to 4.5 share, depending on the opponent. Last year’s games averaged a 1 share.


### CBS and Turner are discussing possibly shifting next year’s Final Four to Turner – two years earlier than planned. Under terms of their joint agreement, Turner and CBS are to alternate Final Four coverage beginning in 2016, with Turner getting the semifinals and title game one year and CBS the next, through 2024. The four regional finals will be split among CBS and Turner beginning in 2016, possibly sooner.

### Charles Barkley is too critical of the Heat, but he has become an advocate for UM, asserting that Miami “deserved a No. 1 seed” and alleging a double standard exists against Miami. “Don’t you think,” Barkley said, “that if Duke or North Carolina won both the ACC regular season and conference tournament that they would have gotten a No. 1 seed?”

### Turner/CBS assigned Tim Brando and Mike Gminski to UM’s regional. Gminski needs to correct his mistake on the ACC Network last weekend, when he said Frank Haith was fired by UM. He wasn’t; it was his decision to leave for Missouri.

### The ACC says it likely will take the Big East’s 7 p.m. slot on ESPN’s Big Monday next season. The new Big East – including seven Big East defectors, Xavier, Creighton and Butler – is shifting to the new Fox Sports 1, a 24-hour-network that debuts in August, replacing Speed.

### ESPN president John Skipper, whose networks smartly air late-afternoon and late-night NCAA Tournament studio shows even though they don’t have Tournament rights, said: “We love college basketball [and] it’s very important to us,” but the sport must address issues.

He hopes the NBA adopts a rule, like the NFL, requiring players to “stay in school for three years. If Kyrie Irving were still at Duke, ratings would be up. If Anthony Davis were at Kentucky this year, it would be a big deal.

“You have too many games. You could lose 8, 10, 12 games and still make the Tournament. You don’t have continuity. You have new guys you have to learn every year. There’s no chemistry on the teams. The teams aren’t as good because they’re not playing together three, four years.”

### Good to hear former Heat radio voice David Halberstam – one of the most descriptive and creative play-by-play men to ever work in the market – calling Nova Southeastern basketball on WMEN 640.

### Yankees announcer Lou Piniella apologized after saying this week: “I don’t want to use the word ‘raped’ but [Toronto] basically took a lot of talent from the Miami Marlins.

### John Renshaw and two out-of-market hosts are among candidates to replace fired Dan Sileo on WQAM’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot.


March 20, 2013

Jerry West: Heat has great chance to break record; More Heat feats; Dolphins notes

Jerry West, a key member of the 1971-72 Lakers team that set the NBA record with 33 consecutive wins, said this afternoon that he believes the Heat has "a great chance" to break it. Miami has won 24 in a row entering Friday's game at Detroit.

"They've got an incredible chance to do it," West said in a conference call, adding it wouldn't bother him in the least if Miami did it. "I think it could be easily broken this year. It's great for the league. I look at their schedule and say unless it's a horrible shooting night, I don't that these teams are capable of coming close to them."

He makes an exception with one team: the Spurs, who host Miami on March 31. "I see one team that's a terrific team - the Spurs. That's one game I'd be concerned about."

West said he never thought the Lakers record wouldn't be broken.

West said he would be "delighted" for his longtime friend Pat Riley, his teammate on that 1971-72 Lakers team, if Miami breaks the record. He would be happy for LeBron James, too. "He makes it so much easier for those guys and I'm thrilled for him. He's proved what kind of player and person he is."


Tidbits off Wednesday night’s remarkable Heat comeback win in Cleveland --- Miami’s 24th victory in a row --- plus a few Dolphins notes:

### Quite a 68th birthday present for Pat Riley. The Heat, which rallied from 27 down with 7:03 left in the third quarter, set a franchise record for largest halftime deficit overcome in a win (21 points).

And there’s this: Miami tied Atlanta and Milwaukee for largest comeback in any game this season. And the 27-point rally in a win tied the largest in an NBA game since 2009. 

And then there's this: According to ESPN, teams trailing by at least 27 points in the second half have a record of 6-2013 in the past 15 years. By the way, the largest comeback win in NBA history is from 36 down (Utah against Denver in 1996).

### Erik Spoelstra’s reaction to this craziness: “I didn’t know what to say to our guys. We haven’t been part of a game like that. It’s not the way we designed it. We caught lightning in a bottle. What happened in the third quarter,… it wasn’t designed offense. It was those guys making shots. Our defense was much more active. It took some embarrassing minutes and down 27 to change the disposition."

That Miami could do this is “part of their greatness,” Spoelstra said of his players. “Great competitors making big shots like that. That’s stepping back and letting them do their thing. We said, ‘Don’t focus on the score. Let’s just peck away and see if we can get three or four possessions more to our liking. Let’s get back to playing our game, and after five, six minutes, we’ll see what the score is.’ It’s great to see that competitive fire.”

### Mark Schwartz, who’s following the Heat during this streak for ESPN, asked Spoelstra if the winning streak motivated the Heat when it was down 27: “I don’t know if that has anything to do with the streak or pride. The tide turned very quickly. I don’t think that had anything to do with the streak.”

### The rally from the 27-point deficit was the largest comeback win in LeBron James’ career.

### Cleveland led 67-40 with 7:03 left in the third quarter. From there, Miami unleashed a stunning 55-19 run. Over the final 19:03, the Heat outscored Cleveland, 58-28.

### James had his 36th career triple double. Among active players, only Jason Kidd (107) has more. He had one of his worst shooting games during this streak (8 for 22) but scored 19 in the second half to close with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, his fourth triple-double of the season.

James scored 14 points and assisted on four other baskets in the fourth quarter. That means he accounted for 22 of Miami's 30 points in the quarter. According to ESPN, no NBA player has accounted for a higher percentage of his team's points in the fourth quarter of a game all season.

“We started playing Miami Heat defense,” James said of what changed when Miami was down 67-40. “We had to dig deep for this one. Every team is going to give us their best shot. We should embrace that. The streak wasn’t on my mind. Us getting blown out was on my mind.”

### Shane Battier (11 points, 3 for 7 on threes) and Ray Allen (10 points, 3 for 6 on threes) were instrumental in the comeback. Allen also had five steals. Mario Chalmers’ 17 points were also big. “Shane got the momentum going with his back to back threes” in the third quarter, James said.

Said Battier: “I’m proud of the resolve of this team.”

### During the third quarter, a fan identified as James Blair stormed on the court wearing a “We miss u, LeBron” shirt” before security grabbed him. Blair shook James’ hand. “I patted him on the hand,” James said. “It happened to me at Madison Square Garden. I wasn’t scared. I embraced it.”

“That’s too much,” Spoelstra said of the fan’s behavior. “Luckily, it didn’t disrupt the game or harm the players.”

### The jeers were louder than the cheers when LeBron was introduced, but this was nothing like his first game in Cleveland as a member of the Heat. “It can’t get worse than Dec. 10, 2010. I knew it would be OK.”

### The Heat has downplayed the streak, but Dwyane Wade said after Wednesday’s game: “Obviously, it’s awesome to be in this streak.”

### The Dolphins, in an ideal scenario, could have a new right side of their offensive line in the next couple days if they make offers that tackle Eric Winston or guard Brandon Moore deem adequate.

Winston and Moore began visits with the Dolphins on Wednesday, with general manager Jeff Ireland expected to join in on Thursday after returning from the NFL owners meetings.

Moore, 32, has started every game for the Jets the past eight seasons, and Pro Football Focus ranked his performance fourth among all NFL guards in 2012. The Dolphins are Moore's first free-agent visit, and he wants to see how this one goes before deciding whether to visit other suitors, including Dallas potentially.

Winston would love to play for the Dolphins IF financial terms can be worked out. He has other suitors, including Philadelphia, New England, Dallas and San Diego.

Miami wants to upgrade over John Jerry at right guard if it can find an affordable option.

### The Dolphins have about $14 million remaining in cap space and will automatically add $7 million more in space after June 1 because of recent roster moves, including the release of Karlos Dansby.

### Giants free agent defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who has drawn interest from the Dolphins, made the Atlanta Falcons his first free agent visit.