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44 posts from June 2013

June 29, 2013

Fins nuggets: Ireland's cap management; Tannehill studying Wallace, visits Pennington; Heat, Marlins


Dolphins chatter, three weeks from the July 20 start of camp:

#### Whether Jeff Ireland has constructed a playoff-caliber team won’t be clear until the games begin. But give him credit for this: He hasn’t left the Dolphins in future salary cap hell, though his spending money will be far more limited next spring.

Despite the fact that cap numbers will jump dramatically for several players in 2014, the Dolphins are on pace to have more than $20 million in cap space next spring. It would be less if – in the coming months - they give multiyear deals to 2014 unrestricted free agents Reshad Jones (talks haven’t started), Brent Grimes, Chris Clemons, Koa Misi, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, Richie Incognito or Dustin Keller.

But there could be significantly more space if the Dolphins part ways with a few players such as Dimitri Patterson, who has cap hits of $4.6 million in 2013 and $5.4 million in 2014, but no cap hit if he’s cut.

Once Dion Jordan is signed, the Dolphins will have $108.8 million in cap commitments for 2014. Keep in mind that the top 51 count against a team’s cap during the offseason.

Factor in $3.57 million in dead money for Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, and that would leave Miami nearly $11 million below the cap if it remains $123 million. The cap rose $2.5 million this season but is expected to remain flat in the next couple of years.

But the Dolphins also can carry over unused space from this year, which stands at $13 million (factoring in Jordan's already determined cap hit). That number will shrink by $2 million to add players No. 52 and 53 and a practice squad and will decrease a bit more if fullback Vonta Leach is signed. His agent told us last week that Miami remains the front-runner for Leach and that this is the best place for him.

Next spring, the Dolphins figure to commit to either Soliai or Starks and move Jared Odrick to tackle permanently, creating a starting job for Jordan at defensive end. If Ireland chooses, he should have enough money -- if contracts are structured astutely -- to keep his safeties, Grimes, Keller (or another free agent tight end) and Misi. Interest in retaining Incognito would hinge on his performance and the development of rookie Dallas Thomas.

There won’t be enough to make a big splash in free agency next year, but that’s expected, because cap numbers are rising for Mike Wallace ($3.2 million to $17 million), Dannell Ellerbe ($2.4 million to $7.4 million), Philip Wheeler ($2.4 million to $6.4 million), Matt Moore ($2.5 million to $5.5 million) and Brian Hartline ($2.15 million to $6.2 million), among others.

Credit Ireland and executive vice president/football administration Dawn Aponte for keeping the Dolphins out of the awful cap predicament that has plagued the Jets and some others. Of course, it helps having a young quarterback who doesn't count a lot against the cap; Ryan Tannehill's cap number will be just $3.455 million in 2014.

### The enduring image of Wallace is beating cornerbacks deep. But something else stood out when Moore walked into the room recently while Tannehill was studying Wallace’s Steelers tape.

“What was impressive to see was what he can do with the ball [on short patterns],” Moore said. “Everyone talks about the deep routes, but Ben Roethlisberger would sometimes get him the ball quickly and just let him go.”

In fact, Wallace led the league two years ago in average yards, per attempt, on throws of 10 yards or fewer, ESPN’s KC Joyner tells us. “Pittsburgh used him on a lot of quick screens,” CBS’ Bill Cowher said.

Former Jets coach Herman Edwards insisted on ESPN that Wallace “was a [deep] guy. He needs to learn to run patterns.” ESPN’s Ron Jaworski shot back: “He can run patterns!”

So what do the Dolphins' cornerbacks think? Richard Marshall said: “He runs better routes than some might think.” And Brent Grimes added: “It’s not, ‘If I can’t get the deep ball, I can’t do anything else.’ He has good hands, can run other routes. He’s not a one-trick pony.”   

### Nobody on offense helped his stock more this offseason than receiver Armon Binns, who dropped two passes in the season finale. “That left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. “I want to show Ryan I can be consistent, show them who the real Armon Binns is.”

Joe Philbin likes having bigger receivers in the slot: 6-0 Brandon Gibson or 6-3 Binns. “Sometimes, it’s easier when you have a bigger body at times cruising through the middle,” Philbin said. “I don’t want to jinx him – I’m usually the kiss of death – but [Binns] is playing faster.”

### Chad Pennington, who worked as a quarterback consultant at some offseason Dolphins practices, said Tannehill visited him in Kentucky and “I gave him a few handouts that I found in my notes concerning leadership, favorite quotes, etc. that I thought may be useful.”

They talked for awhile about “teamwork, media interaction” and more, then “went to the horse races at Keeneland.” Pennington said he doesn’t expect to attend training camp.


### Though Heat president Pat Riley has a trademark on the term three-peat, which he and a business partner secured before the Lakers fell short of doing it in 1989, he said “it might be a little bit presumptuous to put it out there” next season.

“I’m not sure the Heat wants to use that as a trademark. We haven’t talked about it. I’m not using this as a platform to become a brand and make money off it.”

Riley has made a “considerable amount of money” off royalties from merchandise – largely from three-peats by the Bulls, Yankees and Lakers – “and a good portion of it goes to charity.” The idea was hatched when Lakers guard Byron Scott talked about trying to “twee-peat.”

### Erik Spoelstra and Riley – who are close - offered insight into their relationship last week, with Riley admitting to 790 The Ticket's Dan Le Batard that they didn’t talk for two months in Spoelstra’s first season as head coach, 2008-09, and “I don’t even know what it was over.” Riley added: “I didn’t break away from [coaching] gracefully.”

Spoelstra spoke of once telling Riley, when he was still coaching: "If you suggest [a particular idea] one more time, we're going to have major problems." Spoelstra said he and Riley have had "epic" confrontations after losses.

These days, Spoelstra still goes to Riley for advice. Every now and then, Spoelstra will ask him simply: “Do you have a pearl?”

Meanwhile, Riley will draw up some late-game plays “and slide them under his door. I don’t know if he’s ever used one of them.”

Riley loved how Spoelstra came up with a new play -– “it wasn’t part of the offense; it’s one he saved” -– to free up Dwyane Wade for a dunk, off a Shane Battier pass, with 2:56 left in Game 7. “I’m so proud of Erik and how he’s grown as a coach and a man.”

Incidentally, the plan to start Mike Miller in Game 4 was hatched in Spoelstra’s suite after the Game 3 loss, as Spoelstra, Riley and David Fizdale drank wine while brainstorming and reviewing tape. Riley said they finally left Spoelstra's suite close to dawn.

### One other interesting story from last week: Heat vice president/player personnel Chet Kammerer recalled going to trainer Tim Grover’s gym in Chicago to interview Chris Kaman before the 2003 draft.

"There was this guy shooting, and he was pretty impressive.... down at the other end of the court," Kammerer said. "I remember Pat saying, ‘Who is that guy down there?’ We were quite a ways away." Kammerer told Riley it was Wade.

"Maybe that was the start of ‘We should be watching this guy a little closer,’" Kammerer said. "I can remember several scouts telling me when we picked him at five: ‘Chet, I like your guy’s athleticism, but you know he can’t shoot. That’s pretty high where you took him.’”

### Thanks to Nielsen and WPLG researcher Marci Crawford for uncovering this: Game 7 of Heat-Spurs was viewed in 44.2 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets –- the highest local rating since a 50.8 for the MASH finale in 1983. Heat-Spurs easily topped the 38.7 for the Marlins’ clinching Game 6 World Series win against the Yankees in 2003.

### Encouraging: Even with Ricky Nolasco assuredly in his final month here, the Marlins have built up pitching depth to the point that they eventually should have at least 10 young arms competing for four spots behind Jose Fernandez: Jacob Turner (who continued his excellent recent work Saturday), Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and prospects Andrew Heaney (batters hitting .198 against him in Single A), Justin Nicolino (4-1, 2.38 at Single A), Anthony DeScalfini (6-2, 1.75 at Single and Double A), Adam Conley (7-2 at Double A), Brad Hand (2-3, 3.19 at Triple A) and perhaps current No.5 starter Tom Koehler and Jose Urena (7-3 at Single A). 

Saturday update: Heat options entering free agency; NBA free agent list; UM schedule update

Heat and UM notes on a Saturday:

Unlike past years, the Heat won’t be aggressively pursuing players when free agency starts Monday, aside from trying to lure Chris Andersen back. As we’ve noted previously, the Heat can pay Andersen either $1.7 million next season (the veteran’s minimum plus a 20 percent raise) or the $3.183 taxpayer’s midlevel exception.

The Heat prefers to re-sign Andersen at the minimum. Offering the mid-level, instead of the minimum, would significantly increase the Heat’s luxury tax burden.

If Andersen re-signs, the Heat will have either two or three open roster spots – two if it doesn’t use the amnesty provision on Mike Miller or Joel Anthony between July 11 and 17. (Pat Riley has said he prefers not to use it on Miller, unless he’s instructed to do so by ownership.)

Those two roster spots were filled, at the end of this past season, by unrestricted free agent Juwan Howard and center Jarvis Varnado, whose $789,000 contract becomes partially guaranteed if he's on the opening night roster.

The Heat figures to sign at least one young veteran to a non-guaranteed contract, as it did with Josh Harrellson last September, and will wait to see what players shake free later in the summer.

Here’s a look at the unrestricted free agents; a few names will be added over the next two days and during the amnesty period.

### Centers or forward/centers: Chris Andersen, Greg Oden, Marreese Speights, Cole Aldrich, DeJuan Blair, Andrew Bynum, Jason Collins, Sam Dalembert, DeSagana Diop, Ryan Hollins, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Chris Kaman, Nzar Mohammed, Jermaine O’Neal, Earl Barron, Andray Blatche, J.J. Hickson, Byron Mullens, Zaza Pachulia, Chris Wilcox, Brandan Wright, Johan Petro, Joel Pryzbilla, Ronnie Turiaf.

Comment: Riley said the Heat plans to explore signing Oden if he’s healthy enough. Oden isn’t ready for contact drills but might work out for Miami in the next month or so.

If the Heat can’t re-sign Birdman, there aren’t many appealing affordable options, unless Chris Kaman surprisingly settles for a mid-level exception.

Don’t expect a reunion with O’Neal. Sam Dalembert said he would welcome Heat interest, but he wasn’t always happy in two recent stops, and the Heat won’t add anyone that it fears would complain about playing time. The Heat already has passed once on Blatche, who revived his career with the Nets last season. If Anthony is amnestied, several veterans – such as Hollins or Blair – will become possibilities.

### Forwards: Aminu Al-Farouq, Lou Amundson, Luke Babbitt, Matt Barnes, Corey Brewer, Ronnie Brewer, Chase Budinger, DeMarre Carroll, Earl Clark, Marquis Daniels, Mike Dunleavy, Juwan Howard, Antwan Jamison, Wesley Johnson, Dahntay Jones, Carl Landry, Corey Maggette, Cartier Martin, Kenyon Martin, Jason Maxiell, Josh McRoberts, Paul Milsapp, Lamar Odom, Mickael Pietrus, Vladimir Radmanovic, Quentin Richardson, Josh Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Anthony Tolliver, Charlie Villanueva, Luke Walton, David West.

Comment: There are some intriguing young players on this list, including Al-Farouq, Clark and Johnson, the fourth overall pick in 2010. Most of them, including Clark, will command more than what Miami can offer. The Heat will peruse what’s left of this list in August and September and could add a young player that slips through the cracks.

But there won’t be a necessity to add one, especially if a forward – such as second-rounder James Ennis – emerges during the Heat’s summer program.

### Swingmen: Tony Allen, Allan Anderson, Keith Bogans, Kyle Korver, Tracy McGrady, Martell Webster, Damien Wilkins, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, Sam Young, James White.

Comment: Simply not a need, with Miller, Ray Allen, Shane Battier and James Jones all available off the Heat’s bench.

### Natural guards: DJ Augustin, Leandro Barbosa, Chauncey Billups, Marco Bellinelli, Will Bynum, Jose Calderon, Deaquan Cook, Keyon Dooling, Monta Ellis, Derek Fisher, Randy Foye, Daniel Gibson, Manu Ginobili, Devin Harris, Xavier Henry, Royal Ivey, Jarrett Jack, Mike James, Shaun Livingston, John Lucas III, Kevin Martin, Roger Mason Jr., Anthony Morrow, Jannero Pargo, Chris Paul, A.J. Price, J.J. Redick, Nate Robinson, Nolan Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Jamaal Tinsley, Beno Udrih, Earl Watson, Elliot Williams, Reggie Williams.

Comment: Riley has shown no interest in adding a veteran No. 3 point guard, and that will continue to be the case. The Heat will audition several young guards in summer league, including Texas’ Myck Kabongo and UNLV’s Anthony Marshall.



With UM finalizing a home and home series with Arkansas State on Friday, here’s an updated look at future UM non-conference schedules:

### For the 2014 season, UM will play at Nebraska and home against Florida A&M and Arkansas State and hopes to finalize a home game against Southern Mississippi as part of a home-and-home.

### Also booked: For 2015: Nebraska, at FAU… 2016: at Notre Dame, FAU, and Florida A&M… 2017: Notre Dame and at Arkansas State… 2018 and 2019: home-and-home with Rutgers… Also, UM will play a home-and-home with Toledo between 2015 and ’18… 2020 and 2021: home-and-home with Michigan State. Many games will be added, with advanced talks progressing on a home-and-home with Penn State.


June 27, 2013

Ray Allen stays with Heat; Hardaway on Knicks-bound son; Nuggets from Pat Riley and Heat's draft pickup; UM news

5:30 p.m. update: Ray Allen's agent, Jim Tanner, told me Allen has exercised his opt-in and will stay with the Heat next season in the final year of a two-year deal. Allen will earn $3.2 million. The Heat will enter the offseason with 12 players under guaranteed contracts. Birdman and Juwan Howard are unrestricted free agents and Jarvis Varnado is non-guaranteed. (Please see my full story on Allen on the sports home page.)


The Friday buzz column is below. First, three late Thursday night breaking news items, on the Heat, UM and Tim Hardaway:

Some quick notes on Long Beach State 6-7 forward James Ennis, the 50th pick of the draft who was acquired by the Heat from Atlanta for reportedly, a conditional second-rounder in 2017:

### Ennis was the Big West Player of the Year last season and consistently filled the boxscore, averaging 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks.

### He shot 49.1 percent overall and 35.7 percent on threes (55 for 154).

### Ball-handling is a weakness. He had 99 turnovers and 70 assists last season.

### Heat president Pat Riley released a statement: "We were happy to get into the draft. We feel that James Ennis, with his size and athleticism, has a huge upside and someone we hope can develop into a high-quality NBA player."

### The NBA's draft guide says his strengths are great athleticism, "good size and length. Solid spot-up shooter. Very good defender. Excellent finisher around the rim."

### He raised his free throw shooting from 71.1 percent as a junior to 83.4 percent as senior.

### "He's a complete player. He's a stud," Cal State Fullerton coach Andy Newman told the Los Angeles Times in March. "He's one of those guys who can score in a lot of different ways. He does everything."

### Long Beach State played four games last season against teams ranked at the time -- all blowout losses. Here's how Ennis did: 1) Against North Carolina: 18 points (8 for 16 shooting), 8 rebounds, 4 blocks.

2) Against Arizona: 17 points (6 for 12 shooting), 7 rebounds.  3) Against Syracuse: 10 points (3 for 14 shooting), 7 rebounds, 4 turnovers.  4) Against Ohio State: 12 points (5 for 15 shooting), 2 rebounds.

### He played two years at Long Beach State after two years in junior college in Ventura (Cal.)

### Ennis will join Jarvis Varnado, among many others, on the Heat's summer league team that will play games in Orlando and Las Vegas.


 During the heyday of the Heat-Knicks rivalry, when the teams met four consecutive years in the playoffs, Tim Hardaway was quoted as saying: “I hate the Knicks with all the hate you can hate with. Can you hate more than that? If you can, then I hate them that much.”

Now, in an odd twist, Hardaway – who does scouting and community liaison work for the Heat -- will become at least a part-time Knicks fan after New York selected his son, Tim Jr., 24th overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“Wow! My nemesis,” Hardaway said Friday as he traveled with his son to New York for Tim Jr’s introductory news conference.

But “I was happy that he got in [the first round], and it doesn’t matter where he went,” Hardaway added. “It happened to the Knicks. A lot of people were kidding me about that. Everyone is stunned because I had a lot of heated battles with the Knicks. It's very ironic. The years I played and the rivalry we had, now it's coming full circle.”

The irony was not lost on former Knicks guard Allan Houston, now the team’s assistant general manager. Houston was at the epicenter of that Heat-Knicks rivalry, hitting a game-winning shot to eliminate the Heat from the 1999 postseason.

“Allan called me after the pick,” Hardaway said, “and was like, ‘Wow! This is surreal. This is amazing that this comes about like this. We went at it 12, 15 years ago in the 1990s and now your son will be playing for the Knicks.’ Allan asked me the same questions that reporters will be asking me. I can remember Allan's shot like it was yesterday.”

Yes, rooting for the Knicks will feel strange. But Hardaway said he will root for both his son and the Knicks when they’re not playing the Heat.

“I will root for him and his team to do well,” Hardaway said. “I him want to experience winning a championship, too. I want him to win as many games as he can.”

And what team will he root for when the Knicks are playing the Heat?

“I don’t even know how to approach that, don't know what I'm going to do,” he said. “I’m going for the team that wins. That is going to be nerve-racking. I always want him to play well. You never want your son to fail.”

Hardaway downplayed how difficult this will be for him emotionally, considering the venom of the Heat-Knicks rivalry. The Heat beat the Knicks in the 1997 playoffs, but Miami was eliminated by New York in the postseason in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

“That era is over with,” he said. “It’s about him now. It’s not a conflict at all. It’s never about me.”
He said he will attend the Knicks’ opener but doesn’t expect to attend a lot of Knicks games because of his Heat scouting work.

At 6-6, Hardaway is seven inches taller than this father and plays shooting guard, not point guard. A dangerous shooter, Hardaway Jr. averaged 14.5 points and 4.7 rebounds for Michigan last season and made 73 of 195 three-pointers (37.4 percent). He and guard Trey Burke helped lead the Wolverines to the NCAA title game, which they lost to Louisville.

“He’s a pure two [guard] – a knockdown shooter, long, can play some defense,” Hardaway said. “Rivalries aside, [New York] is a real good fit for him. To come into an established team that needs help in shooting the ball and athleticism."


Badgerblitz.com is reporting that Wisconsin senior starting defensive end David Gilbert is transferring to Miami. He reportedly graduated in May and thus would be eligible to play for the Hurricanes this season, if that is indeed the case. (Again, no confirmation from UM at the time of this posting at 1:40 a.m.)  [UPDATE THIS MORNING: UM expects Gilbert to end up with the Canes, but it's not yet official.]

This would be a huge get for Miami, which needs help on the defensive line, provided he can stay healthy after a history of foot problems.

Gilbert, who attended Oakland Park Northeast in Broward, started 13 games last season and had 42 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, four sacks and three forced fumbles and was named honorable mention on the All-Big 10 team.

He played in 43 games at Wisconsin, including 17 starts, and has 8.5 career sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses.

Gilbert announced in April he would not continue playing football at Wisconsin because of recurring injuries to his right foot. But he gave no indication at the time that he would play elsewhere.

He broke his foot twice in 2011 and missed spring practice this past April to undergo more surgery on the same foot, this time to repair ligament damage. But he apparently changed his mind about playing, according to the report in Wisconsin.

Coming out of Northeast High, Gilbert was a four-star prospect and rated by rivals.com as the No. 12 weakside defensive end prospect.



It became the go-to line for Heat critics this season, especially Charles Barkley: “The Heat is too old and too small.”

But Heat president Pat Riley doesn’t buy it and explained this week why he feels no obligation to get younger or bigger next season.

### On the youth issue, Riley said: “We are not concerned about [that], at least for next year,” adding: “If you look at all the young teams that are rebuilding, they are going to be rebuilding for a long time until they get some veteran talent that can collaborate with that youth to make it work.

LeBron James [28] is very young to me. Mario Chalmers [27] and Norris Cole [24] are young…. Mike Miller [33] is a young player because we didn’t play him all year long and… he was fresh.” And Chris Bosh is just 29, two years younger than Dwyane Wade.

Riley conceded that “we’re going to have to, one day, find another D-Wade or Udonis Haslem or Caron Butler.  But in order to do that, you’re going to have to lose or figure out a way to get in the lottery. I’m not interested in getting into the lottery, nor is Micky Arison, by losing.” He prefers free agency, trades or finding a diamond in the rough.

### On the size issue, Riley quibbled with a reporter who said Roy Hibbert gave the Heat problems. (He averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds in the Eastern Conference Finals.)

“We didn’t have any problems against Hibbert,” Riley insisted. “We cornered the market on big guys three years ago” – citing Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire and Dexter Pittman.

“I made sure I signed all those guys because I didn’t want other teams to sign them and beat us,” he said. “And Erik didn’t use any of them. The way Erik plays, I’m not saying big men are not important, but how we play it’s about verticality and being able to play in a cylinder with playmakers like Dwyane and LeBron. Roy Hibbert is a great center. But we will continue to search for the kind of player that suits Spo’s system.”

Even so, Riley said “if there’s a possibility” former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden will be able to play after five knee surgeries, “we will pursue that” because “he could be such a force” and because other centers – such as Ilgauskas and Kurt Thomas – overcame major injuries early in their careers.

Oden, who met with Riley earlier this year, is interested in the Heat and willing to work out for teams in July but won’t do contact drills. He’s hopeful of being ready to start next season, but there are no guarantees.


### Riley told 790 The Ticket's Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner that Wade, listed at 220 pounds, “is going to get down to 212. And everyone is going to say he picked up 10 years on his life again. Dwyane is going to have to reinvent himself,… do something to change. We will talk about this summer and how he will accomplish that. He’s not over the hill. He was injured. Dwyane was very gallant” in postseason.

### Riley is acutely aware of anti-Heat sentiment. "For some reason, there are a lot of people in other cities that want us to lose more than the norm,” he told 790.

Why? “Envy and resentment. Everybody thinks you have it all, and people don’t like that. We don’t think we have it all. It seems when it’s bad for us, everyone is happy.”

### Even after a 66-win season and another championship, Riley told 790: "We could have the best year we've ever had next year."

### Miller, on his weekly WQAM-560 show with Jorge Sedano, said it was “awesome” that Riley announced Wednesday he doesn’t want to amnesty him unless Riley gets a mandate.

“Why would you ever want to leave this?” Miller said, joking “they’re going to spend a lot of money based on my dumb contract.” Miller said “the way my body feels now, I want to play for a long time.”

### Bulls center Joakim Noah said at a New York event this week: “I feel like we’ll be the team that beats [Miami] next year.”

### UM now has three oral commitments at quarterback for 2014, and the highest-rated one – California’s Brad Kaaya (rated 200th by rivals.com, among all players nationally) – said he’s firmly committed to Miami even though Southern Cal and UCLA keep pursuing him after his impressive showing in 7-on-7 camps this offseason.

Alabama-based three-star prospect Malik Rosier, who committed to UM on Wednesday, is rated the 12th-best pro style quarterback after rushing for 1002 yards and 12 touchdowns and throwing for 2230 and 20 TDs.

Despite the two other oral commitments, Hialeah’s three-star Alin Edouard “is still steadfast in his commitment to Miami,” Hialeah coach Marc Berman told us Thursday. “UM gave him a heads-up” before Rosier’s commitment. “He will not back away from competition.”

Other schools keep pursuing him. "That's not to say he won't listen," Berman said. But he expects him to stick with UM.

### As of Thursday afternoon, the Dolphins still weren’t close on a deal with top pick Dion Jordan and unsure when it would get done.

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ attacks of several state representatives that didn’t support the stadium funding proposal practically eliminate any already slim chance of getting state money in the 2014 Legislative session, since all these politicians will still be in office next spring. The Dolphins won't come out and say they won't pursue money in Tallahassee next year, but 2015 is more realistic, if Ross can help unseat the representatives who opposed his plan.

Trouble is, a Dolphins official said the team hasn’t identified a way to secure enough public money to do the major stadium upgrades without state involvement and approval.

### Marlins’ talks have progressed with the Dodgers on a Ricky Nolasco trade, according to ESPN, with several other teams also in pursuit. The Marlins would love for a team to cover all of the $6 million or so he's due but would consider paying a small amount if that gets them a prospect much better than what other teams are offering.

A team that spoke to the Marlins said all Giancarlo Stanton trade inquiries continue to be rebuffed by the Marlins.

June 26, 2013

2 p.m. update:Riley addresses many topics in news conference; Dolphins, UM news



Sixteen highlights from Pat Riley’s Heat news conference today:


### Riley said the Heat won’t be as active in free agency this year as the past two. He said he will be patient with his $3.1 million mid-level exception – it’s not even certain Miami will use it – and then he will “cannibalize the market” for a player or two in August and September. “We are not going to rush into anything.”

One free agent that already has visited: Center Greg Oden, who has had five knee procedures and hasn’t played since 2009. Riley said: “We will explore that. You have have to monitor that very closely.”

### Riley said the Heat will exercise its $4 million option on Mario Chalmers and he wants to keep free agent Chris Andersen.

He obviously wants to keep Ray Allen, but Allen hasn’t informed the Heat if he will opt out of his contract and Riley isn’t sure what he’s thinking. By opting out, Allen could make $3.7 million from Miami next season, as opposed to the $3.2 million he’s due.

### Riley said most of the improvement will come “from within.” He wants his players to come back “leaner, lighter, stronger, quicker and faster. Erik [Spoelstra] and I have already had two conversations about that.”

### Riley suggested he doesn’t want to use the amnesty clause on Mike Miller unless “there’s a mandate to.” He said it hasn’t been discussed. Miller will make $6.2 million next season, and keeping him could add another $14 million to Miami’s tax bill.

He called Miller a “great, great player” – “not just a great shooter” – and said he didn’t play enough this season. “Mike is as healthy as he’s ever been. He’s worked very hard on strengthening his back. We want to keep this team together.”

### On how much Micky Arison is willing to pay with regard to the luxury tax, Riley said: “That’s up to him. We talk about it a lot. Winning helps to some extent.”

### He compared his team to the old TV series, The Fugitive. “That’s sort of like I feel our team was. We have truly been the hunted. After 337 games [in three years] and being hunted and being characterized in a certain way, it’s very fatiguing, very tiring. But I still feel like we’re on the run. They’re still coming after us. That motivates the hell out of us. I don’t want to get caught. I don’t want the players to feel like they’re going to get caught.”

### More on the roster: “If we get everybody back that we want back, then we have 13 roster spots filled with contracts. One of [the other two] will be one of our younger players. It’s a good free agent market. We are going to be very fluid.

“We are not going to be that active in the way we were the last couple years with Shane Battier and Ray Allen.”

Though he wants "improvement from within, you just never know. We didn’t know Chris Andersen would be available in January. That’s where we will be patient.”

### Amid unsubstantiated Chris Bosh rumors printed in at least one out of town newspaper, Riley said “you don’t [change] your core that much” on a team that has won a championship. “I don’t think you should, unless something happened that knocks your socks off. We don’t like to change.”

Riley didn’t mention Bosh, but the Heat wants to keep him. Riley said Bosh "made five plays in the last 30 seconds [of Game 6] to help us win."

### The Heat doesn’t have a draft pick. “After the first 10 or 12 picks, I’m not sure there’s that player out there” that would make a big enough difference to trade for, Riley said.

### A day after LeBron James said the idea of riding it out longterm here with Bosh and Dwyane Wade would be “the ultimate,” Riley concurred.

“That would be my dream. I hope what he said yesterday is something that will come true. When we build these rings again, what I would like to put on inside is ‘I got no worries.’ They’re coming again and they’re going to come harder and harder.”

### Riley, on now being a part of nine championship teams: “I have been lucky, very fortunate. I say that with all humility. Two great organizations, two great owners and willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

### Asked about the problems Indiana's Roy Hibbert created for the Heat, and whether it will compel him to add another big man, Riley said: “We didn’t have any problems against Hibbert. We cornered the market on big guys three years ago.”

### On getting younger: “We’re not concerned about it as far as next year. One day, we’re going to have find another Dwyane Wade. . In order to do that, you have to lose. I’m not interested in getting into the lottery.”

### Riley has trademarked the term three-peat and he and his business partner “have made a considerable amount of money from that. Most goes to charity. I’m not using this as a platform to become a brand and make money off it.” He said he’s not sure the Heat will even use that term next year in its bid for a third title in a row.

### Riley, 68, has no plans to retire: “I don’t think about it – I love what I am doing right now. Why would anyone want to get off this train? I take it more personally than I’ve ever taken it. As long as Micky will have me, I will be here.”

### Would a loss in Game 6 (or 7) have changed the way he approached this offseason? “It probably would,” Riley said. “The absolutely dynamics would have been a negative flood of energy. We probably would have been thinking differently. But I don’t want to go back and think about it. You all know what it would have been like. The point is, we found a way. In this game, there are miracles.”       

### Couple other things: The Heat's Chet Kammerer expects UM's Shane Larkin to be picked between 12 and 20. He isn't sure if any other Canes will be drafted, though he likes Kenny Kadji.... Center Justin Hamilton -- last year's second-round pick out of LSU -- has an injured hamstring and his status for the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues is undetermined, Kammerer said.  

June 25, 2013

More revelations from LeBron; Heat notes; UM player leaves team; Fins front-runner for Pro Bowler


TNT’s Charles Barkley said last week that he believes LeBron James will leave the Heat next summer unless Miami gets him more help and stops asking him to do so much.

But not only did James say Tuesday that riding it out here long-term with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be the “ultimate,” but he also said he likes that the Heat asks him to do a lot and will not ask Pat Riley for help. 

“My mindset is at a point where there is no relief,” James said, laughing. “I love the burden, and I love what I have to do for this team to win. If that happens and we get someone that relieves something from me as far as a big or a wing guy or something, then it would be good for our team.

“But I’m not going to those guys or approaching this summer saying I need help,” James said, without making any reference to Barkley’s comment. “If we come back with this same roster we’re going to compete for a championship.”

James said he “would love to have, if not all the guys back, at least a couple for sure” and named Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen. “They’re huge parts of our team.”

The Heat is expected to exercise its $4 million option on Chalmers by Sunday’s deadline. Andersen, an unrestricted free agent, spoke Monday of wanting to go for a three-peat here.

Allen, 37, hasn’t said if he will opt out of his contract by Saturday’s deadline and declined to speak to reporters Tuesday. If he opts out, the Heat could pay him $3.7 million next season, as opposed to the $3.2 million his contract calls for. He also can sign for as many as four years, with 4.5 percent annual raises, by opting out.


### James has an idea for how he can improve his free-throw shooting, which sunk to 75.3 percent in 2012-13, his lowest in five years.

“During my workouts in the summer when I’m dead tired, I should go to the line and challenge myself to make five, 10 in a row because you’re going to be put in those situations throughout the season, where it’s late in the game, you’re dead tired and you have to make them.” But he said: “I don’t need to hire a shooting coach.”

### Please see the last post for more highlights of what LeBron said today.... (By the way, for those who live in South Florida, The Herald has a 26-page Heat commemorative section in Wednesday's paper, with numerous stories and photos.)

### As expected, forwards Rashard Lewis and James Jones exercised their player options for next season. Jones will make $1.5 million, Lewis $1.399 million. Next season will be the last year of their contracts.

### Chalmers’ summer priority? “To be better with decision making, be more trustworthy in the offense.”

### As if James doesn’t do enough for his teammates on the court, he ended up buying eight gifts for each of them this past season – with two sets of pricey headsets the latest, according to Rashard Lewis.

He wasn’t alone: Wade bought teammates sandals, and Allen got them custom-made robes. “I’ve been on teams where one guy gets everyone something, but here it’s six or seven,” Lewis said. “Keep ‘em coming.”

### Wade said this week that Erik Spoelstra -- now one of only eight coaches to win back-to-back titles -- doesn’t get “enough credit for his ability to be able to manage us. He does a great job managing egos and keeping us level-headed.

“It takes a special coach to have guys of this caliber, to all stay on one path and not jump off. That’s his strength – his ability to manage this team. He’s one of the game’s young greats. He’s on the path of Pat Riley and those kind of coaches.”

Spoelstra also has evolved with motivational techniques. Earlier in the playoffs, he “put on a Ray Lewis motivational speech, and it got the juices flowing,” Lewis said.

### Excluding endorsements, here was the financial difference between winning and losing the Finals: The NBA playoff pool gives the Heat what amounts to, on average, $153,482 per player, compared with $101,701 for the Spurs. Each Heat player also picked up another $100,000 or so by having the best record in the league and winning the first three rounds of the playoffs.

### Udonis Haslem cracked that “somebody always has something to say” to undermine the Heat’s achievements, such as those who absurdly asserted the 2011-12 title was tarnished by the lockout-shortened schedule. “Right now, they’ve got be quiet,” Haslem said. “At least give us two months.”


### James said UM guard Shane Larkin – projected to be picked in the teens – “has got great potential. Shane is a definitely a guy that has the opportunity to be really good in our league, and some other UM guys as well. I’ll be tuned in watching” Thursday’s draft.

### Agent Ralph Vitolo said the Dolphins remain the front-runner for Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, but he might take one more visit elsewhere (perhaps the Giants). Asked if he believes Leach will sign with Miami, Vitolo said: “I think so. I hope so. It’s the right place to be. We’re trying to crunch the numbers.”

### Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline, on a conference call with fans Tuesday, said Ryan Tannehill “has taken a huge step. I couldn’t ask for more. He’s making every throw. He’s got great touch. His deep ball is awesome.”

### As expected, quarterback David Thompson left the UM football team to concentrate entirely on baseball. He said he injured his shoulder by throwing a football – he needed surgery twice in the past 11 months – and believes he would risk another injury if he kept playing.

“And I’ve been told baseball is where my future is,” he said. “It was a decision I didn’t want to make. I cried a couple of nights.” Thompson will spend the summer rehabbing after his latest shoulder surgery but expects to be ready for the start of the 2014 UM baseball season.

### UM is up to 17 oral commitments for 2014 after securing non-binding pledges from Miami Northwestern cornerback Ryan Mayes (formerly of Miami Krop) and Carol City’s Trayone Gray, who will play quarterback this season but projects as a receiver or running back for UM. (Wednesday morning update: Alabama-based quarterback Malik Rosier also has orally committed. He ran for 1002 yards, threw for 2230 and 20 TDs last season. He also had offers from Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Misssissippi and Mississippi State.)

### The Yankees, Orioles and the entire NL West are among teams reportedly pursuing a trade for Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who is expected to be dealt in the next few weeks - if not sooner.

Tuesday 6 p.m. update: LeBron offers encouraging news on Heat future in press conference

With a season done and a championship won, LeBron James offered encouraging news for Heat fans during his season-ending news conference on Tuesday when he said the ultimate goal would be to ride it out long-term here with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But he stopped short of saying he would definitely remain with the Heat beyond next summer, when he can exercise an opt-out clause in his contract. 

Asked if something unexpected would need to happen for him to want to leave the Heat next summer, he said: “I don’t know. I’m not really thinking about that right now. Our focus is how we’re going to get better this year with all these other teams getting better, to keep that trophy here.”

But when asked whether he has thought of riding it out with Wade, Bosh, team president Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra for years to come, he said: “That’s the goal. That’s the ultimate finish. We all hope that can happen, obviously, to be able to have success with two guys and with Riles and Spo.

“This is what we came here for. That would be the ultimate. But I don’t know. Life changes, things happen, and you have to be prepared for that. But this is what we all want to be here for. And that’s to be able to compete for a championship each and every year. If we can do that, then it would be awesome.”

He said the prospect of another free agent decision next summer will not weigh on him next season and he won’t think about it until “it comes up. It won’t roll around in my mind [before then]. I’ve been in this position before. It can’t get worse than the season before I became a free agent in 2010.

“What I prepared for right now is to come back a better player and try to defend our crown and be the leader of this team and try to go for a three peat. I’m going to come back a better player because I owe it to my teammates.”

During the past two summers, he concentrated on improving in one particular area. In 2011, it was his post game. Last summer, it was his three-point shooting.

This year? Even James isn’t sure.

James said when he takes time later this summer to assess his 2012-13 season, he will determine “what aspect of my game that I least went to throughout that previous season. That’s what I try to work on coming back,… so I can be even more dynamic.”

Free throw shooting is one potential area of improvement.

But he said “I don’t  need a shooting coach. For me, it’s continue the repetition and continue to work on it. During my workouts in the summer time when I’m dead tired, those are the opportunities I should go to free throw line and challenge myself to be able to make five in a row or 10 in a row because you’re going to be put in those situations throughout the season, where it’s late game, fourth quarter, you’re dead tired and you have make free throws. It’s mental more than anything.”

James addressed other issues:

### He said this team is good enough as is to compete for a title but said “every individual has to get better.” He said he won’t ask Riley for more help.

### On winning a title: “It’s unexplainable feeling. My emotions were out of this world last year when we won it and they were out of this world again this year.

It’s something I want again. I’m obsessed with success. I want I want that feeling again – I want to be able to win another championship because it’s the best feeling in the world.”

### On the fact he has been so exceptional in game 7s: “I love Game 7s – I have been able to be pretty good in Game 7s – I say, if I’m on one team and playing another team, you’ve got to beat me one game and I like my chances in one games. I have a lot of confidence in my ability.”

### During the Finals, Maverick Carter – his childhood friend and business associate didn’t talk to him for five days – which is highly unusual.

“I usually talk to Maverick after every game,” he said. “After Game 5, he went five days without talking to me. It’s not just a bed of roses with us. They’ve been around me too long to allow me to be careless, not stepping up to the plate at the highest level. They critique me more than I critique myself. They got on me.”

### On his September wedding, in San Diego, to Savannah Brinson: “I am involved enough to where everything is going to go right. The most important person is Savannah. If she’s happy, I’m happy. That’s all that matters. I don’t care about nobody else on that day besides her.”  

### Other plans this summer include a trip to China for Nike and a basketball camp in Ohio, which the top 100 high school players will attend.

“I will find time to rest and work on my game. When you don’t have to be on your feet, that’s rest. For me, rest is not playing basketball which is hard for me to do, so hard. I have to police myself.”

Spoelstra said he believes James will be back in the gym within 10 days because he loves the game so passionately. “That’s possible,” James said, smiling. “I love the game so much. I start to miss it. I’m missing it already. My body feels great – I don’t know how it feels like it does right now. You miss the game less than a week after it’s over.

What’s the one thing he can’t wait to? “It’s like: ‘Damn, I wish we could come into the locker room – have another practice, take another flight, have another bus ride. Those 15 guys. You start to miss the guys throughout the summer. I know my family probably doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. You spend so much time with these guys. That’s what you start to miss.”

June 24, 2013

Wade addresses future; Teammates lobby Allen, Birdman; Highlights from Heat celebration

(If you read the first item on this blog a few hours ago, scroll down a few paragraphs for some highlights from press conferences today with a few Heat people.)



The questions already have begun, more than year before there will be any definitive answers.

LeBron James – who, like teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, can opt out of contracts and become free agents in the summer of 2014 – was non-committal when asked about that topic by CNN.

“I don’t know, because I haven’t really even thought about it,” James said in an interview that aired Monday. “So when that moment comes up, I will approach it, like a professional, and we’ll see what happens.”

During 2010 free agency, James was criticized for announcing his plans “to take my talents to South Beach” during a 60-minute ESPN special, The Decision, that raised money for a Boys and Girls Club.

“You learn from your mistakes,” James said. “That’s something I’ve lived with, and if the opportunity comes if I’m in that position [again], I’ll be able to handle it much differently.”

Bosh said recently he wants to spend the rest of his career here. And Wade said Monday he will probably be in Miami “for the rest of my life, in this amazing city.”

James will not speak to reporters until Tuesday. Wade spoke Monday and said the three players have not discussed their long-term plans, “just like we never even envisioned we would play together until free agency came about, and it became a reality.

“Now, we’re in the middle of this great, historic team and run and we’re enjoying it and you don’t want it to come to an end. But you can’t think about the future. When that time comes after next season, when we have to sit down and talk about the futures and what direction they’re going in, hopefully they’re all going in the same direction. We’ll do what we did in 2010 -- sit down as men and talk about it.”

An associate of James said he would make Miami the strong favorite to retain him in 2014, with Cleveland potentially also drawing some consideration. But the associate also cautioned that a year before free agency in 2010, nobody would have made the Heat the front-runner.

By opting out next summer, James can earn more than the $20.59 million he’s due in 2014-15 or the $22.1 million he would earn in 2015-16 if he exercises that year’s player option. Bosh’s contract is identical financially to James’.

Wade’s contract, if he eschews opting out, would call for $20.048 million in 2014-15 and $21.56 million in 2015-16.

Opting out also would give any of them the ability to add additional seasons to their contracts.

But before any of those decisions, the Heat will try to become just the fourth franchise to win three titles in a row, joining the 1952-54 Minneapolis Lakers, the 1991-93 and 1996-98 Chicago Bulls, the 2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers and the 1959-1966 Boston Celtics, who won eight in a row.

“Magic Johnson has five rings and he never won three in a row,” Wade said. “That shows how tough it is. We’re going to be back next year hungry again to try to place ourselves in history.

“Winning back-to-backs is special; winning back to back to back would be something out of this world. That will be our goal: How do we come back and muster up enough to keep us focused and… hungry throughout this season to get back in a position to win another championship?”

 ### Though Ray Allen hasn't announced if he's exercising his player option for next season, Chris Bosh said: "He's coming back. That's just how I see it. There's really nothing else to think about."

Udonis Haslem said he raised the topic of Allen's future to him in the shower -- of all places -- after Game 7. "I told him I'm not going to put any pressure on you," Haslem said. "Just know I'm thinking about what you're going to do."

### Erik Spoelstra said of unrestricted free agent Chris Andersen: "Both sides want each other." And Andersen said at the championship celebration Monday: "Let's try to get a three-peat next year."

Wade said "we wouldn't have won the championship" without him.


During the Heat’s post-parade celebration inside AmericanAirlines Arena, Wade cracked: “Me and LeBron were about to fight in Game 6.”

Wade, who’s close friends with James, was asked about that later in the day.

“When you are in moment and every possession counts and someone messes up or someone feels like someone messes up -- not block out or turn the ball over --you give each other death stares. You complain. We had a moment of each other of back and forth. Our teammates were looking at us like, ‘We don’t see this often.’ But we wanted to win so bad. After that, we move on.”

### Wade said he has been advised to give his knees a month of rest. After that, his focus will be on rebuilding strength in his legs.

Wade said the discomfort in his right knee – which had three bone bruises - “was terrible” during the first three rounds, especially in the Indiana series. It improved in The Finals, after “our trainers started treating it a little different.”

His left knee, which was injured in a Game 6 collision with Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, required “painful” draining last Wednesday and hours of treatment Thursday, the day of Game 7. He reiterated he doesn’t expect to need surgery.

### Wade said he felt his 2006 championship was for Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton “and those guys who played so long and never won,” and the 2012 title was “LeBron’s [because] he never won one. Get that monkey off his back.”

But Wade said this championship “is for me. There’s not a lot of players in that category of winning three. I wanted to be there for the legacy I’m building.”

Said Udonis Haslem: “With those knees, he can have it.”

### Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said this championship “felt more challenging.”

### Good story from Spoelstra today: He said he was "despondent" after the Game 3 blowout loss to the Spurs and went to his hotel suite to watch film with assistant coach David Fizdale. Pat Riley knocked on his door, holding three bottles of wine, and asked, "What do you need me to do?" The three men then broke down tape for a while.

### Spoelstra showed his team another replica NBA championship trophy before and during the playoffs; the Heat made check marks on it after each win.

“It’s more of a contract, promises we made to each other each,” he said. “We would bring it out from time to time to remind ourselves of the promises.”

Spoelstra said it was marked blood red for the Bulls and Pacer because “the series were so dang physical,” and silver for the Spurs series “out of ultimate respect for our competitor.”  

### Shane Battier will conduct player interviews during ESPN's draft coverage Thursday.

### Please see the last post for all the notable comments made by Heat players during the championship celebration.      


Monday 2 p.m. report: What Heat players said at Monday's title celebration

Highlights from the Heat’s celebration today inside AmericanAirlines Arena, which followed the parade:

### LeBron (introduced last) and Wade both had cigars in their mouths when introduced to the crowd during the post-parade celebration inside AmericanAirlines Arena. Wade and Birdman were wearing sunglasses. LeBron and Juwan Howard kissed the trophy. Pat Riley danced.

### Erik Spoelstra told the crowd: “We feel like Miami parties better than any city in the world, but it took nine months of incredible sacrifice. We could not have done the two Game 7s without you [fans].”

### Riley, after receiving a city of Miami honor from Mayor Tomas Regalado and several commissioners: “It’s been 337 games in the last 3 years. A lot of people don’t understand how much it takes to play 337 games and end up in Finals three years in a row and win two back to back championships. It really is about respect. There isn’t any doubt they’ve separated themselves from the pack this year. Their names are going to be respected and honored. And that’s all we have.”

### Ray Allen, asked on stage about his game-tying three-pointer in Game 6: “That is the biggest shot I ever hit in my career. This is the greatest collection of shooters I’ve ever been a part of.”

He said Mike Miller’s shot when he lost his shoe was even more amazing than his. After the first two weeks, I felt like I had been here for two or three years. He said the veteran Heat players treated the new ones “like long lost brothers all year.”

### Everybody was interviewed, even Jarvis Varnado, who said: “I’m extremely blessed being around all these guys.” You don’t say?

### James Jones: “This is hardest working team in sports. Every guy came back better this year than last year.”

### Norris Cole, on winning two championships in his first two NBA seasons: “My teammates got done telling me I’m pretty spoiled. I’m blessed to be on a team like this. I don’t take it for granted.”

### Mario Chalmers: “My teammates believe in me. That makes it easier to believe in myself. The thing about this team is, we hate losing. We like to come back with a vengeance, let them know that was a fluke that they beat us.”

### Udonis Haslem: “This is the reason why all of us came here. I’ve been known to kick a little [butt] now and then [on opponents]. I told my teammates, I never thought I’d be making this kind of money. Just to pay $2000 to slap someone upside the head, I’ll pay that all day. I might have gone to one Miami Heat game growing up, and that was way up top. I’ve never thought I’d be here.”

### Mike Miller, on his former UF teammate: “I’ve been grooming [U.D.] a long time to do this. To be here winning two championships with him is a great experience.”

### Chris Andersen: “I never imagined being in this spot in January when I was sitting at home debating if I would play this year. To play with some of the best all-time basketball players is amazing. I love a big challenge. When everybody counted me out, I made a point to prove them wrong."

Why is he so popular? "Maybe because I’m a crazy ass white boy.”

An unrestricted free agent, Andersen said: “Let’s try to get the three-peat next year.”

### Wade: “To be here celebrating my third championship, who would have thought it? This one is special because I know the category it puts me in. I know how hard it was to get to the point.”

### On dealing with his knee problems: “I’ve got a great support system. Being resilient. Just never giving up. When people believe in you, you can do amazing things.”

### Wade, on his teammates: “Me and Bron were about to fight in Game 6. Nobody seen that. We’ve got moments like any family. We get along, then we don’t. I thank them for being my teammates, for being awesome people. It doesn’t work if everyone is not selfness.

“In 2010, one of my decisions was to play with Udonis hopefully for the rest of my career. We all knew to do that, it would be a financial sacrifice. Then it became sacrifice for what we do on the court. It hasn’t been easy. But at the end of the day, we’re champions.”

### Wade: “I’ve seen him grow to be Chris Bosh. He’s no one else. He’s himself. That’s what I love about him. He’s the best bleeping player in the planet. The thing I like best about LeBron is he’s probably one of the best teammates in the world. He deals with things a lot of us doesn’t.”

### Shane Battier: “Let’s be honest. I was not very good for most of the playoffs. But I was proud I was able to finally show up for my teammates. That was what this year was about: To show up for your brother…. We all know the secret to this championship was our performance at the South Beach Battioke this year.

“We care about one thing – winning the ring and doing it with class and togetherness. That’s what separates the Miami Heat from any other team in pro sports. It starts with the best owners in pro sports, the Arisons. We’re the most prepared team in the NBA.”

Battier then donned a Horse-tronaut mask, one of the highlights of the ceremony.

### Chris Bosh: “Thank you, Miami, for everything you guys do.” Then he spoke in Spanish briefly.

“That was one of the most challenging years I’ve ever had… We came to work every day knowing what we had to do to accomplish our goal, and I can’t believe that we did it…. I’m just a guy on this team playing his part.”

### LeBron James to the Heat fans: “I love you all. You guys were unbelievable once again.” LeBron then asks fans to chant: “I’ve got no words.”

On the playoffs: “It was a war mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s a grind to win a championship.”

Sun Sports’ Jason Jackson gave him a headband. On losing his headband in Game 6: “It was an out of body experience for me. My headband comes off in a game, I lose all powers. I can’t dunk, shoot or dribble. I’m like a newborn baby, I start slobbering.”

On his two championships: “They always say you love your first. But the second one was sweet as well. I love them both.”

June 23, 2013

Hall of Famers disagree on LeBron; Barkley rips Heat again; Dolphins, Canes, Marlins chatter


It is the ultimate water cooler discussion: Where does LeBron James rank among the all-time greats? After winning his second Finals and second Finals MVP trophy Thursday, James reiterated: “I want to be, if not the greatest, one of the greatest, to ever play.”

During the playoffs, we asked eight Hall of Famers and a certain future one (Shaquille O’Neal) where they would place LeBron all time, and responses varied widely.

Shaq said he isn’t sure LeBron even belongs in the top 10, and Charles Barkley said he will never place him in the top five.

Contrast that with Scottie Pippen -- Michael Jordan’s running mate --- who called James “the most complete player” ever and asserted he’s “going to be the best player to ever play.”

In fact, Alonzo Mourning, at the opening of a Miami Microsoft store last month, said: “I’m going to tell you what Scottie said. Scottie said that LeBron would kick M.J.’s [butt]. And I said, ‘Scottie, You’re right.’”

Magic Johnson, walking out of AmericanAirlines Arena Friday morning, said: “LeBron is top 10 and moving up fast, and he can surpass Michael as the greatest who ever played. He’s the best defender, smartest player in the game. And he [plays for] the greatest organization in the world.”

Then there’s Isiah Thomas, who places James in the top three with Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “who we don’t give the credit he deserves. He dominated the NBA for two decades.”

Hall of Famers Jack Ramsay, Marv Albert and Bob McAdoo said James belongs in the top five.

“I don’t think LeBron is Jordan, but he’s in the ballpark,” Ramsay said. “Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West have to be in there. The last two seasons, LeBron finally got it together.”

And McAdoo, the Heat assistant coach, says: “For this era, LeBron is the best.”

So why does Shaq say it’s “debatable” if LeBron should even crack the top 10? “There’s a lot of great players,” he said. “I don’t put myself in the top 10. He’s a great player. However, the more championships he gets, the more you slide him up.”

Barkley’s take? “He’s top 10, no question. But I don’t think you can put anybody top five on my list: Kareem, Wilt, Russell, Jordan and Robertson. He’s never going to be Jordan. He’s not a better shooter. Nobody is a better defender than Michael.”

Jordan has the higher career field goal percentage (49.7 to 49.0), but James’ “effective field goal percentage” – factoring in three-pointers – was 60.4 this season, far better than Jordan’s best (54.7).

### A couple of eye-opening LeBron factoids: According to ESPN, over their first 10 seasons, James led his team in points, rebounds and assists in the same game 96 times; Jordan did it 43.

And ESPN announcer and Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown mentioned to us that James has averaged at least 26 points, six rebounds and six assists nine times, whereas Robertson “did it eight. Jordan and Larry Bird did it three times.

“If he keeps doing this, he is going to pass Michael and Russell and Kareem,” Brown said. “The potential is there [to be the best ever] but he has to stay injury free.”

### Ray Allen marveled Friday how James “wanted to learn everything that I know” this season. He said they competed “toe to toe a lot this year” --- everything from three-point shooting after practice, to card games, to jogging. (After a practice this past season, James and Allen ran back from the arena to the team hotel in Washington D.C.)

### The last word from former Heat guard/NBA TV analyst Steve Smith: “I don’t think we’ve seen the best of LeBron because of the competition. He isn’t being challenged enough.”


### Even a championship didn’t silence Barkley’s Heat bashing. He told Dan Patrick on Friday that Indiana and San Antonio have better teams, but the Heat has the best player. “That team is very flawed,” Barkley said. “They’re old and slow. They’ve got to break that team up.

“Unless they do something, LeBron is not going to stay there. He’s smart enough to know if he has to play like he plays now, it’s going to shorten LeBron’s career. You think Karl Malone and I would be licking our chops playing the little Miami Heat?”

But Pat Riley insisted: “We’ve got a young team.” And James couldn't have sounded any happier to be here than he did Thursday night.

### Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press on Saturday that a lot of fluid was drained from his left knee the day before Game 7 of the Finals, and that he needed nearly eight hours of treatment on that knee on the day of Game 7. The left knee was injured in a collision with Manu Ginobili in Game 6.

Meanwhile, Wade told AP he received platelet-rich plasma therapy late in the regular season to deal with the three bone bruises in his right knee -- the injury that hampered him through much of the playoffs, but improved considerably in the Finals.

### Classy move by Riley after Game 7: When asked about putting together this team, he said “I didn’t,” then credited five of his basketball people – “they smack me in the face all the time when I start to do something stupid” – and called over senior vice president Andy Elisburg: “This man here is the one that keeps me together," Riley said. "I mean it. I get to sit there and do nothing. He’s on his computer all the time.”

### Not only did Johnson call Dwyane Wade “the most unselfish superstar I’ve ever seen in my life; no superstar would do what Dwyane did,” but Thomas mentioned this to me: “Nobody complained about their role on this team, and I give all of that credit – all of it – to Wade. What he has done is spectacular. I marvel at his intellect.”

### Random postscripts from Game 7: Great tweet from Nuggets forward Andre Iguodola: “If you still hate LeBron, you really need a life coach. And I’ll sponsor you.”… Rapper Drake argued with a security guard who wouldn’t allow him in the Heat locker-room after Game 7. “I am media!” he protested…

Most prominent active athlete lingering outside the Heat locker-room for awhile? Carolina quarterback Cam Newton…… Spurs guard Danny Green was spotted at the Heat’s postgame party at Club Story on South Beach. He later tweeted: "Got give Miami credit but don't think for one sec I was out celebrating with them. Just happened to be at the same place, wrong time."...

The Heat spent $100,000 in alcohol at the party -- including 110 bottles of Dom Perignon and more - but Club Story picked up the tab… A professional poker player paid a Heat-record $40,000 for a courtside seat for Game 7.

### Please see the last post for a look at difficult decisions facing the Heat this off-season.


### Ryan Tannehill said “what impresses me most” about Lamar Miller – the Dolphins’ first-team tailback all offseason – is “he’s picking up pass protections a lot better. Now that he’s got that, he’s going to be a great player.” Former NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, now with NFL Network, said Miller is faster and more explosive than Reggie Bush.

### Two notable recent walk-on additions at UM: 1) Three-star running back De’Andre Johnson, who was Stephen Morris’ teammate at Miami Pace High but was dismissed from the Iowa Hawkeyes last August (he averaged 4.4 yards on 18 carries) after two incidents, including – we kid not – being ticketed for “maintaining a disorderly house” and failing to pull over immediately for a motorcycle speeding violation; and 2) New York kicker Joshua Bacon, who said UM called and invited him to come compete with Matt Goudis after he mailed UM coaches a tape showing him nailing field goal after field goal. (It's now on YouTube.) “I’m automatic inside 55,” Bacon said.

### Please check out the last post for info about the four players who orally committed to UM on Saturday.

### Even beyond Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez’s golden arm, his work ethic bodes well: He said he gets to the ballpark between noon and 12:30 on days he’s not pitching – “I try to beat Juan Pierre here” – because “I want to learn, talk to other players. I ask [Marlins hitters]: If I’m 2-0 in the count, what pitch are you looking for? I come with a plan for each day. I want to be the best I can possibly be.” 

Fernandez (4-4, 3.05 ERA) has 81 strikeouts in 79 innings, and batters are hitting .203 against him. 

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

June 22, 2013

UM gets four commitments; Looking ahead: Rising tax creates challenges for Heat

UM began the day with 11 oral commitments for its football class of 2014. UM ended it with 15, with all four of the new commits in attendance today at Al Golden's Summer Camp in Coral Gables.

The most ballyhooed of the four additions are Miami Northwestern's Mike Smith, rated the nation's 21st best defensive end by rivals.com; and Orange Park linebacker Darrion Owens, who had attracted a slew of recent offers.

Smith had 73 tackles and 18 sacks last season and also had offers from Georgia, FSU, Tennessee and others. (Check out Manny Navarro's UM blog for more about Smith.)

Owens played safety last season and had 101 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. He had more than 20 offers, including from Georgia, Ohio State, Nebraska and Michigan.

The other new oral commitments are under-the-radar: Norcross (Ga.) tight end/H-back Christopher Herndon and Fort Lauderdale Dillard cornerback Dennis Turner.

UM assistant coach Micheal Barrow was impressed with Herndon when he made a recruiting trip to Georgia, and UM made him an offer a week ago. Herndon, 6-5, is rated the nation's 64th best tight end by 247sports.com and had only one other offer from a BCS conference school: Mississippi State. Western Kentucky and the fledgling program at Charlotte were among others that offered. But FSU reportedly had been showing some interest.

UM projects Turner as a cornerback, though he also can play receiver. He told recruiting services that he was shocked by UM's offer Saturday. He picked Miami over offers from Arkansas, Wake Forest, N.C. State, FIU and Northern Illinois.

But UM lost out - at least for now - in its pursuit of Chaminade Madonna four-star defensive tackle Khairi Clark, who orally committed to UF. Defensive tackle remains UM's biggest area of need.


Some thoughts about the Heat's future:

### So much of what happens beyond this season depends on how much owner Micky Arison decides he is willing to pay in luxury tax penalties that becomes far more punitive next season and even more onerous in 2014-15.

Arison said his front office “is going to have to be very creative” in crafting a roster around the stars, noting “that’s going to be very tricky going forward.”

And even though LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh cannot opt out of their contracts until the summer of 2014, a few decisions loom this summer regarding the supporting cast.

Though nobody internally is predicting the breakup of the Big Three in the wake of two championships – Pat Riley said in April he wants to keep all three together long-term – a bit of tinkering is expected.

Three factors will create challenges: 1) The tax; 2) The Heat’s lack of cap flexibility (Miami is well above next season’s projected cap of $58.5 million) and 3) The supporting cast’s limited trade value.

### Teams above the luxury tax threshold pay $1 for every $1 they’re over the threshold. Last season, the Heat paid a $6.1 million tax.

But beginning next season, there’s an incremental tax rate, with teams charged $1.50 for every $1 over the threshold between $1 and $4.99 million; $1.75 per every dollar over the threshold from $5 million to $9.9 million, and so forth. The threshold is expected to be $71.6 million.

So even in the highly unlikely event that the roster returns with everyone except free agents Chris Andersen and Juwan Howard, Miami would already face a tax bill of more than $28 million next season.

Throw in Andersen and a free agent with the taxpayer’s $3.18 million exception, while keeping everyone else, and Miami’s tax bill would swell to more than $38 million. It’s difficult to envision Arison paying that kind of tax or anything close to it because he has said the team is making very little profit during the Big Three era.

That’s why it makes sense this summer to use the one-time amnesty provision, which is available until the 2015-16 season and removes a player’s salary from a team’s cap, though the player would still be paid. By using it on Mike Miller - who is due $6.2 million next season and $6.6 million in 2014-15 – the Heat would save nearly $14 million in taxes based on its current roster.

Amnestying Joel Anthony instead would save substantially less – he’s due $3.8 million each of the next two seasons. This summer, the amnesty window is July 11-17. Players who are amnestied cannot return to that team for the length of their contracts.

### The Heat would owe $85.6 million to 12 players next season, if Miami picks up Mario Chalmers’ $4 million option, as expected, and if Ray Allen ($3.3 million), James Jones ($1.5 million) and Rashard Lewis ($1.4 million) exercise player options. Jones and Lewis say they will exercise those options; Allen remains non-committal. A 13th player, Jarvis Varnado, has a non-guaranteed deal worth $789,000.

### Considering the tax ramifications, there’s no guarantee Miami will use its $3.18 million exception. The Heat hopes to re-sign Andersen to the minimum. Instead of using the exception, Miami might opt instead to sign another veteran free agent at the minimum.

Some notable unrestricted free agents could end up commanding only a portion of an exception, or the minimum, such as centers Zaza Pachulia, Greg Oden, Samuel Dalembert and DuJuan Blair; forwards Jason Maxiell, Lamar Odom, Antawn Jamison and Josh McRoberts; and swingmen Dorell Wright, Martell Webster, Mike Dunleavy, Matt Barnes, Marco Bellinelli and Nick Young. Oden's agent has said he will strongly consider the Heat; Oden has had knee surgery five times, but his agent said he will be ready for the start of next season.

So the Heat, if it wishes, can patiently wait out free agency. And others will join the market. Richard Hamilton and Al Harrington are among those eligible for buyouts. Drew Gooden, Metta World Peace, Tyrus Thomas and Kendrick Perkins are among potential amnesty cuts.

### Miami doesn’t have a draft pick but will field teams in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues and wants to find a few developmental projects. Among those who will suit up for the Heat team: centers Varnado and Justin Hamilton (last year's second-round pick who played in Europe this season).

### Please see the last post for more from the championship aftermath. We'll post the Sunday buzz later tonight, with Heat, Dolphins, Canes and Marlins.