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News, notes from NBA Finals media day and Dolphins practices

Chatter from NBA Finals media day and the one Dolphins’ OTA session this week that was open to the media: 


Best snippet to come out of Finals media day? Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recounting how he called Pat Riley after Riley put together the Big Three.

“I still call him Coach Riley,” Popovich said. “I can’t help it. I guess he’s Executive Coach Riley and all that slash, whatever. He put together a team fairly, within the rules, that is a monster. So why wouldn’t he get credit for that? Why wouldn’t you congratulate him for that?  So I did.

“I always respected his competitiveness and how he ran things in New York and L.A. And as an executive, he’s done the same thing. He lets people do what they do, puts things together, and he put together a hell of a team. And so I called him to thank him because I respect him so much. Not to thank him, but to congratulate him. That’s the last thing I do is thank him for doing that.”

### Popovich has little patience for questions that he deems foolish. And so when one reporter asked him “how amazing is it” for Tim Duncan to have a chance to win rings in three different decades, he answered thusly:

“Truly amazing. That’s how amazing. How amazing? How am I supposed to answer that? Really, really amazing. Not trying to be a wise guy. What am I going to say? He’s ridiculous. He’s amazing, as you said.”

### Ask Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem, separately, about the prospect of defending two future Hall of Famers in the NBA Finals, and they offer identical answers: “Looking forward to the challenge.”

Chalmers will draw the initial assignment on Tony Parker, though Norris Cole and perhaps LeBron James also will chase the Spurs’ point guard at times. The key?

“Keep a body on him,” Chalmers said. “Try to match his speed and not let him get any open looks. He never gets rattled. It’s going to be my job to make it a tough series for him.” Chalmers has always been disruptive in passing lanes, but he said his individual defense “is a lot better. I keep getting wiser and wiser.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat will “throw different bodies in front of” Parker and hope it’s “wearing on him.”

Haslem played stout defense against Duncan in their last encounter, forcing a late miss in the Heat’s victory on March 31. Duncan, 6-11, has a three-inch height advantage, but that’s not as extreme as Roy Hibbert’s six-advantage when he and Haslem were matched up in the Indiana series.

“I’m used to playing guys bigger than me,” Haslem said, adding his approach with Duncan is to try to “make him uncomfortable, keep him out of his sweet spots.

“I play about 17 minutes a game, so it’s going to be another 30 minutes somebody else might be on him. So in my 17 to 20 minutes, I’ve got to make him work defensively. Offensively, he has the total package. You try to take away something from him and he counters that.”

### Shane Battier said the Heat has given him no indication whether he will return to the rotation Thursday after he was benched for Game 7 of the Pacers series – only his second did-not-play/coach’s decision of the season. He was coming off an injury in the only previous DND/CD, on Jan. 14 at Utah.

He said not playing Monday was “maybe the toughest thing I’ve gone through as a competitor. Super happy for my teammates.  Every now and then, you’ve got to eat a turd sandwich. Eat a turd sandwich, that ribeye tastes really good next time. That’s life…. I know my time will come.”

### Chris Bosh said one reason for his ongoing 8 for 34 shooting slump is issues with balance. “If I’m on balance, everything falls into place. I wasn’t on balance for a while. [But] my confidence never wavers.”

He said he wants “to get going offensively early in the game because it helps me play better, propels me for the rest of the game.”

### Bosh, who had Duncan posters on his wall growing up, called Duncan “one of the greats,” but then said he has no relationship with him and added: “I know everybody is going to try to pick him out to be a nice guy, but you can’t be nice and win championships. It’s a simple fact. You can’t be nice and win in this league.”

### Wade, who was obviously also struggling heading into Game 7, said Bosh’s “mindset of being aggressive [in Game 7] was a change to hopefully bring into this series, and my mindset as well. So hopefully there was a turning point.”

### Heat guard Ray Allen said he feels “pure joy just getting back here. This is my third time and this feeling never gets old.”

Wade said “the greatest thing I can say is after Game 7, we were all sitting in the middle of the ropes [for the Eastern Conference championship trophy presentation], and Ray was just smiling so big and he said, ‘Last year, I was on the outside of these ropes. And this year, I’m in the inside. And that is what I came here for.’”

### Asked if he needs to watch less film of James because he’s on TV so much, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said: “I don’t watch TV much.” But “guarding him is going to make me a better player. I would rather guard the best guy on the floor.”

### Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said that compared to Miami’s last opponent, “we are not as athletic as Indiana but we maybe move the ball better and shoot better. We will try not to turn over the ball like Indiana did.”

### Duncan, asked about the scrutiny the Heat faces: “I’m definitely glad I don’t have that kind of pressure on me.”

### Spoelstra said James “will be on every single one” of the Spurs’ players “at some point. He’s our Super Glue.”



### Rookie tight end Dion Sims got some first-team reps opposite starter Dustin Keller this week, but the other young tight ends (Charles Clay, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller) have had more opportunities in the passing game than Sims. And it’s impossible to judge Sims’ blocking in OTAs, where contact is not permitted. But he’s considered the best blocker of the group.

### Good to see Egnew consistently create separation in the middle of the field in OTAs. And though he has dropped a couple of passes, he also has made some impressive catches.

“I see the same things that you do and it makes us feel more confident about his abilities that he is starting to understand his role in the offense better,” Joe Philbin said. “And maybe we know a little bit more about him to so we put him in a position where he can make some more of those types of plays. It’s been encouraging.”

### Koa Misi is trying to get the two new linebackers, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, up to speed about the defensive system, and it’s taking time, which is understandable.

Misi was the one linebacker starter the Dolphins didn’t replace. Among the reasons for that:

“We loved his play speed,” Philbin said. “We thought he played the game the right way. On defense you have to be decisive, you have to be physical, you have to tackle well and he does those things that a good old fashion defensive player does. He pursues to the ball, those things are still important in this defense and I like the way he plays the game.

“[Defensive coordinator] Kevin Coyle and I were commenting on him last week. He was on a play away and nobody really blocked him and sometimes you don’t really have the outside linebacker blocked on a run play, but we were watching tape and there he is just moving fast, he is a fun guy to coach.”

### The Dolphins continue to experiment with numerous potential punt returners who can handle the job primarily or share it with Marcus Thipgen.

Among those handling punts this week: Lamar Miller, Brian Hartline, Brent Grimes, Brandon Gibson and undrafted rookie receiver Jasper Collins.

### Rupert Bryan, who was an offensive tackle at FIU, is struggling in some aspects of his transition to fullback. He dropped two easy catches at Monday’s OTA.

### ESPN did a viewer poll on Wednesday asking who will be the NFL's breakout player of 2013. Ryan Tannehill won, for whatever that’s worth.