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32 posts from April 2014

April 29, 2014

Wed. 6 p.m. Heat schedule update; Obstacles surface, but interest remains, in UM/MLS stadium; Fins, Marlins

A quick Wednesday evening Heat scheduling update:

The Heat will not know until late Friday night whether it will open its next series on Sunday or Tuesday. The Heat will play on Sunday if the Nets-Raptors series ends in Game 6 on Friday night AND if only one or neither (but not both) of the San Antonio-Dallas and Portland-Houston series goes seven games.

If the Spurs and Trail Blazers series both go seven games, the Heat's next series would not begin until Tuesday, even if the Nets-Raptors series ends Friday.

The NBA's reasoning for that: Unless there are three seventh games Sunday, the NBA prefers to have only two games on Sunday, to fit into ABC double-header slots at 1 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. If the Heat plays Sunday, there are several scenarios in which Miami would play at 1 p.m. and one in which it would play at 3:30 (if there's a Spurs-Portland Game 1).

If the Heat series starts Tuesday, Game 2 would likely be in Miami next Thursday and go head-to-head with the first round of the NFL Draft. ABC has its only Saturday night NBA window on May 10 -- two days later -- and the Heat would be a strong candidate for that slot.

Please see my story on the sports home page about LeBron James' message to NBA owners today.





Even with Sun Life Stadium upgrades appearing more likely than a year ago, the University of Miami remains very interested in sharing a stadium with David Beckham’s MLS team if Beckham’s group determines it’s feasible.

An MLS source said a joint UM/MLS facility remains a “real possibility” that interests Beckham, and Beckham’s people are still studying financial and traffic issues before coming back to UM with details and a definitive answer.

Problem is, a high-ranking Sun Life Stadium official who’s directly involved said Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross is opposed to allowing UM to escape the final 18 years of its lease to move to an MLS facility. UM hasn’t asked yet, because it’s premature.

Since everything is negotiable, I believe a UM/Sun Life settlement is possible if MLS deems the project do-able, even though Ross has told people he’s adamantly opposed to letting UM bolt its lease.

If the stadium is built at PortMiami (Beckham’s preferred site), traffic would be a concern for UM games because some cruises leave on Saturday afternoons. UM also wants to make sure there’s adequate parking. Beckham’s group is trying to formulate solutions on both issues.

UM isn’t unhappy at Sun Life. But several high-ranking UM officials love the MLS stadium idea because of the appeal of a smaller venue (with 40,000 seats) with better atmosphere and sight lines and closer to campus, according to one of those officials. UM also would consider an MLS stadium near Marlins Park, an option Beckham’s group has considered.

UM has publicly confirmed its interest in potentially sharing a stadium with Beckham's team and is awaiting word from MLS on the feasibility.

Ross declined to comment when asked if he would allow UM to escape its lease. But a source close to him said he would have no incentive to do so.

What if UM offered a lot of money? “They don’t have a lot of money to offer,” the Sun Life source said.

That’s not necessarily so, UM people tell us. A person involved in the negotiation of UM’s Sun Life lease said a negotiated settlement is do-able and UM could come up with a sizable amount, especially if Beckham charges UM much less than Sun Life does. UM pays Sun Life between $4 million and $5 million per year from a split of ticket and suite revenue, parking and concessions and a maintenance fee.

If UM wanted to leave with 15 years left on its lease, that would project to about $67 million. But a buyout would be somewhat less factoring in net present value, a UM source said.

UM president Donna Shalala, who is intrigued by the MLS idea, ultimately would decide if the benefit of the move would offset the buyout cost --- something that cannot be known until Beckham’s group gives the go-ahead and tells UM what it would be expected to provide financially.

Ross has expressed skepticism about MLS’ chances of getting a stadium, especially at PortMiami. “I don’t believe the University of Miami would try to leave because it’s not in their best interests,” Ross said.

If MLS deems the UM idea feasible but Ross balks, this would get fascinating. Would Shalala appeal to Ross publicly or privately, saying he could be viewed as a hero by UM fans if he allows the Canes to leave but would be disdained if he doesn’t? It would be interesting to see if such an approach, and a hefty payout, could persuade Ross to change his mind.


### Though Dan Marino would like a proposed Dolphins job to include something on the football side, the Dolphins have had trouble coming up with something, preferring a non-player evaluation role initially that could expand eventually, according to a Marino associate. The sides will keep working at it.

### With the draft nine days away, the Dolphins dispatched its special teams coach to Laramie, Wyoming, on Tuesday for a workout and meeting with Wyoming 5-9 receiver Robert Herron, a potential mid-round pick who has now had several interactions with Dolphins officials. Miami likes the former track star’s receiving skills (72 catches, 937 yards, 9 touchdowns in 2013) and wants to see him as a return man --- which is the reason for sending the special teams coach.

Among some of the other lower-profile receivers the Dolphins have shown interest in: Rutgers' Quron Pratt, Lane College's Greg Moore and Virginia Tech's DJ Coles.

### Center Mike Pouncey told the team-owned radio show today that he hopes Miami uses the 19th overall draft pick on an offensive lineman.

### Surprising on the surface but not really when you consider the recent history: The Heat outscored Charlotte in their playoff series by 25 when LeBron James was on the court without Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh but was outscored by 12 when the Big Three played together.

In last year's playoffs and during the regular season, the Heat's plus/minus was much better when James played without Wade than with him --- which hadn't been the case previously. Chris Andersen clearly has something to do with that.

### James and Wade were pleased with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's punishment of Clippers owner Donald Sterling

LeBron tweeted: “Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!”

Wade tweeted: "Commissioner Silver....STRONG...way to take charge and protect our great league."

### Last September, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was the one who wanted his front office to give a one-year, $1.7 million contract this season to Greg Dobbs (who was designated for assignment Tuesday after a 1-for-13 start) and he also told his front office to give a three-year, not a two-year, contract to Heath Bell a few years ago (which explains why the Marlins are paying the reliever – now with Tampa - $7 million this season not to pitch for them). Loria liked Dobbs personally and valued his opinion about the team.

Bottom line: The Marlins are paying $9 million of their $48 million payroll to Bell and Dobbs because Loria intervened (yes, his right as an owner) and miscalculated. But give Loria credit for no longer meddling in baseball decisions. He didn't give the front office a hard time about designating Dobbs this week.

### With a 9-0 win against Atlanta tonight, Jose Fernandez is now unbeaten in his first 19 career starts at Marlins Park. Fernandez is 12-0, with a 1.00 ERA, at home. David Palmer is the only other pitcher in history to begin his career with more consecutive starts at home without a loss (21).... Fernandez has made six starts this season and allowed no earned runs in four of them. Remarkable... And there's this: In 29 career innings against Atlanta, Fernandez has allowed three runs and struck out 35.

April 28, 2014

Heat-Bobcats postscripts; More Dolphins visits; UM pursues QB; Marlins, bowl news

Notes on a Monday night:

### A playoff series that never felt like much of one is thankfully over, and now the Heat will be off either until Sunday (if Nets-Raptors ends Friday night) or at least until Tuesday otherwise.

“Advantages and disadvantages,” Wade said of the upcoming layoff. “We are going to be professional and work on our individual selves. The disadvantage is you’re out of rhythm playing in games.” (As we saw in Game 1 in the second round against Chicago last year, when the Bulls stunned the Heat, 93-86, after a long Heat layoff. Miami then won four in a row.)

Wade said closing this out Monday was important because “If you got a team on the ropes, you don’t want to [give them] life. This was a good series for us. They pushed us. Obviously, we felt we were the better team…. To be able to be aggressive the way I was, it was a good step in the right direction.”

The Heat --- which will play the winner of the Toronto-Brooklyn series --- won’t know until after 10:30 p.m. Friday whether it will have a game on Sunday.

“Nobody knows what to expect in that series,” Wade said. “Two different styles totally. We’ll be ready for either one.”

### Amazing that if the Wizards and Hawks win one more game to close out their first round series, one of those teams would be assured a spot in the Eastern Finals. Thursday's Indiana-Atlanta Game 6 stands as one of the more anticipated first-round games in recent years, considering the potential consequences on the Pacers franchise.

### LeBron James shook off the thigh contusion to finish with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists. "The thigh is definitely sore. So fortunately we were able to close out tonight and I can get some rest."

### Wade played 30 minutes tonight, and Erik Spoelstra said: "I don't think we can push him to 40 minutes yet."

### Even though the decision to play James Jones was driven initially by matchups, Spoelstra --- in the next series --- will be hard-pressed to ignore either his performance or how well the Heat has played with Jones on the floor.

Since Spoelstra started playing him regularly on March 28, Jones is 26 for 53 on three-pointers, and the Heat has outscored opponents by 112 points in 11 games during the minutes when Jones was on the court. Jones was a plus-46 in 64 minutes of the Bobcats series, including a plus-eight tonight.

### Norris Cole continued his playoff renaissance after a dreadful second half of the season. He’s now 12 for 23 overall and 6 for 10 on threes in these playoffs.

“Zero turnovers  --- that’s the first thing I look at with him,” Spoelstra observed, while studying Cole’s line in the box score after his 13-point, 4-assist night. “Offensively, he made strides this series of getting us organized, making other players better. He’s one of our better shooters, when you line him up in the gym and let him shoot.”

### LeBron and Wade went over to embrace Bobcats owner Michael Jordan after the game. “Congratulated him on a great season,” LeBron said. "He told us to stay healthy and keep it going."

Afterward, James also embraced Josh McRoberts, who delivered an elbow to his throat in Game 2.

### Please see the last post for a retrospective on the life of Hall of Fame coach and former Heat TV analyst Jack Ramsay, who was a remarkable man.

### The Dolphins have used a handful of their 30 permitted pre-draft visits on prospects who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine, and add Middle Tennessee cornerback Sammy Seamster to that list of player who visited team headquarters. He previously was timed at 4.3 in the 40.

"I think a mixture of size and speed is what [the scouts] like the most about me," said Seamster, who had a career-high 33 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception last season.

### Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Koaundjio --- who attended the Combine but struggled with injuries and inconsistency last season --- also visited Davie, as reported by the Palm Beach Post’s Andrew Abramson. Draft analyst Tony Pauline said Miami won’t consider him in Round 1, but he’s a possibility if he’s available in the second round.

### UM is one of the five schools being considered by four-star Jersey City-based prospect Brandon Wimbush, rated by rivals.com as the sixth-best pro-style quarterback in the 2015 class, and 203rd overall.

“They have a decent chance,” Wimbush told Canesport.com. “My relationship [with UM offensive coordinator James] Coley is awesome.”

Wimbush also is considering Ohio State, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Boston College.

### The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl, to be held in late December at Marlins Park, plans to match BYU (assuming they’re draft-eligible) against a team from the American Athletic Conference (ideally not Houston, UCF or Connecticut --- all of whom BYU plays during the regular season).

### The Marlins need more consistent bullpen work, but hard-throwing reliever Henry Rodriguez --- who was very good at times in spring training --- continues to alternately impress and exasperate at Triple A. He has 23 strikeouts and only six hits and four runs allowed in 12 innings at Triple A New Orleans. But he also has walked 16.

April 27, 2014

Noon Mon. update: Ramsay dies & NBA reaction; Buzz on state draft prospects; Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, UM chatter

The Sunday buzz column is below. First, a retrospective on the great Jack Ramsay, who died overnight:

Jack Ramsay, a Hall of Fame coach who won an NBA title guiding the Portland Trail Blazers and later became a South Florida fan favorite for his colorful and cogent commentary on Heat telecasts, died Monday after a battle with cancer.

“The game has lost a giant today,” Heat president Pat Riley said. “Dr. Jack Ramsay meant a great deal to me as a mentor when I was coaching and while I've been with the Heat running the team....His legacy will live on through all the coaches and all the player's he's had relationships with over the years.”

In fact, his imprint on the Heat extended well beyond his announcing work.

Heat owner Micky Arison said when he bought the team in 1995, “we had no basketball organization in place and Dr. Jack was the first person who I turned to.... Over the years, I often turned to him for advice.”

Erik Spoelstra, speaking to reporters in Charlotte today (including colleague Joe Goodman), said the Heat has an inbounds play that Ramsay drew up for Spoelstra four years ago.

“He gave me a play that he used quite a bit during his championship year with the Blazers and it’s a play that I’ve used from time to time after timeouts and we’ve affectionately called it Ramsay,” said Spoelstra, who has known Ramsay since Spoelstra was 8 and attended all of his basketball camps. “And it was one of the biggest plays in Game 7 [of The Finals] last year coming out of a timeout. We executed to perfection and Wade got that curl for a layup" with 2:56 left that put the Heat ahead by five.

Heat play-by-play announcer Eric Reid, who teamed with Ramsay on Heat telecasts from 1992 through 2000, called him "a warm, wonderful man who made everyone around him feel great. As great a coach as he was, he was an even better person. He led an exceptional life.”

Ramsay, who has a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania and is affectionately known as Dr. Jack, spent just over 20 seasons as an NBA coach, finishing with an 864-783 record with Philadelphia, Buffalo, Portland and Indiana.

After guiding his alma mater, Saint Joseph’s, to 10 postseason appearances and a Final Four in 12 years as coach, Ramsay took his first NBA position in 1967, as general manager of the 76ers, who won the championship in his first year on the job.

He moved to the 76ers sidelines the next season and remained an NBA coach for two decades before resigning after an 0-7 start with the Indiana Pacers in 1988-89.

“Jack was a great man and I don’t use that term lightly," Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird said. "His contributions to the game, as a coach, advisor, broadcaster will endure forever. I remember talking to Jack, either in Florida, or when he came to our training camp when Jim O’Brien [Ramsay's son-in-law] was the coach. I always learned something from him. This is a sad day for all of us in basketball and a sad day for anyone who knew Jack.”

Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1992, Ramsay experienced his most NBA success in Portland. When he took the coaching job in 1976, the Trail Blazers had not made the playoffs or produced a winning record in their six-year history.

In his first season, he guided that team, led by Bill Walton, to their only NBA title, as the Blazers overcame a 2-0 series deficit in the Finals against Philadelphia to win the next four.

“Jack’s life is a beacon which guides us all,” Walton told USA Today in 2007. “He is our moral compass, our spiritual inspiration. He represents the conquest of substance over hype.”

As a coach, Ramsay was known for his colorful plaid jackets, his teaching skills and for preaching a brand of basketball that emphasized selflessness, sharing the ball, precise execution and defensive tenacity.

“Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals,” he once said.

That quote accompanies a mural of Ramsay that Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had constructed above his desk inside Portland’s arena.

When Ramsay left coaching, he ranked second on the all-time wins list, behind only Red Auerbach. He’s now 13th.

His popularity in South Florida resulted from his work as a Heat announcer, with fans often imitating his catch phrases and distinct vocal inflections.

Baskets by former Heat guard Voshon Lenard usually would be followed by an authoritative “Lenard!” When Tim Hardaway hit a three-pointer, Ramsay often would shout: "This away, that away, Hardaway!" Slam dunks were followed by "Slamma!"

Ramsay, who has been living in Naples, left the Heat after the 1999-2000 season and worked as ESPN Radio’s lead NBA analyst before leaving the position last May to receive medical treatment.

In addition to his TV and radio work, Ramsay wrote several books, including The Coach's Art and Dr. Jack's Leadership Lessons Learned From a Lifetime in Basketball.

Ramsay was always thin and muscular, a result of his commitment to fitness, which began during his service in the Navy when he was a member of an underwater demolition team training for the planned invasion of Japan in 1945.

Until recent years, he would swim a mile a day in the Gulf of Mexico near his Naples home. A triathlete until age 70, Ramsay’s daily routine, which he sustained into his 80s, included 100 crunches, 100 push-ups and running as much as four miles a day.

“He would do pushups and run in place in his hotel room even if he didn’t have time to go to the gym,” Reid said.

But Ramsay has battled various forms of cancer over the past 14 years --- on his left foot, his lungs, his prostate, bladder and his brain --- and, as Ramsay said two years ago, “melanomas all over my body.” He conceded, at that time, that he was not expected to live before the cancer went into remission.

But the cancer returned last spring, and he expressed frustration that it had begun to affect his active lifestyle in recent months.

Ramsay lost Jean, his wife of 60 years, to Alzeimer’s disease in 2010 and is survived by five children.

Ramsay’s son Chris, a director for ESPN.com, wrote on the web site today that his father cared for Jean for 10 years after she became ill. “She didn't know who he was most of the time, but he held her hand when she was scared and fed her and tried to ease her through the confusion for days and months and years. It was hard, but he did it."

Heat TV voice Eric Reid said: “One of things I love so much about him is his compassion and patience. What I saw traveling around with Jack was the old school basketball people revered Jack for his great and longtime career as a college and NBA coach. But he also had a whole new generation of fans that television created for him.

“He had done TV for a few years for the 76ers before coming to Miami, but his beautiful TV personality really blossomed in his time with the Heat. He was able to explain the game in such an intelligent but also a warm way. That warmth you felt off the TV screen was so real.”

Said Chris Ramsay, on ESPN.com: “My dad had drive, incredible determination and discipline. He had integrity, ambition and a big imagination. No matter what we say about Jack Ramsay today it will seem inadequate. It won't be enough. He led such a great life. He did so many great things. He was a great man, a giver.”

### NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's statement on Ramsay: "Today, the NBA family mourns the loss of one of the true legends of our game, Dr. Jack Ramsay. From his coaching tenure to his broadcast work, Dr. Jack left an indelible mark on every facet of our game and on every person he came in contact with, including me. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends.”






There’s an element of mystery surrounding some of the state’s top NFL draft prospects because four have red flags unrelated to performance: UM offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (suspensions for marijuana use); UF cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (marijuana possession arrest and suspension); UF cornerback Marcus Roberson (suspension last November for team rules violation) and UF defensive tackle Dominique Easley (has had ACL tears in each knee).

Some buzz on the state prospects as we close in on the draft, May 8-10:

### Hurricanes: This UM draft class elicits as much frustration as optimism. One longtime NFC scout was bemoaning how disappointed he was that the impressive physical tools of Stephen Morris and Henderson didn’t translate into more consistent play.

The scout said there’s no question about Morris’ arm --– and there are no character questions --– but he’s not sure he can even be a No. 2 quarterback in the league.

“He’ll throw late to receivers, or on a crossing pattern, the ball will sail on him,” the scout said, aware that Morris understandably attributed some of last season’s mechanical issues to an Achilles’ injury. “I’m not sure he judges the speed of the receivers coming across the middle. He’s 50/50 on his throws; his misses are more high than low. The accuracy and vision are concerns.”

Nolan Nawrocki --- in his outstanding NFL Draft preview book (Triumph Books) --- said Morris is a fifth- or sixth-rounder who “struggles to handle pressure and presses to create plays. Eyes drop to the rush very quickly and vacates the pocket prematurely. Makes too many head-scratching decisions and makes his receivers consistently work for the ball. Has moldable talent for a backup role and enough raw tools to pique the interest of a patient quarterbacks coach.”

Beyond questions about Henderson’s character and marijuana use at UM, one scout said “he couldn’t draw up formations” when he met with him at the NFL Combine.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Henderson has high bust potential. “No consistency with this kid at all,” Mayock said. “From a talent perspective, he's a first- or second-round talent. But he’s probably a fourth-round kid just because you don't know what you're getting. If you can take Brandon Linder’s toughness and tenacity and place it in Seantrel Henderson’s body, you’ll have a first-round pick.”

NFL.com’s Nawrocki said Henderson “already has been removed from many draft boards” but still could go in the second or third round.

Scouts like Linder as a late-round pick. “He’s smart enough to be a guard/center swing guy, and a lot of guys can’t do that,” the scout said. “He was very impressive at his Pro Day.” Said Draftinsider.com’s Tony Pauline: “Miami coaches have been raving about Linder's character and his grade is rising.”…

One scout said he was impressed that Allen Hurns’ yards per catch jumped dramatically from 11.2 as a junior to 18.7 as a senior. “Maybe he’s a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver,” the scout said. “I would consider him in the fifth, sixth round.”

Mayock said Hurns’ issue “is that he's got average size and speed. I don't see him separating in man‑to‑man press coverage very easily.  He's not overly big or fast.  So how does he fit in?  He's got to be crafty; he's got to run great routes.”…

The NFC scout said Pat O’Donnell, one of the top five punter prospects, “is better than some of the punters in the league now. What a weapon.”

That scout said he wasn’t impressed with any of UM’s seven draft-eligible defensive ends and linebackers. “Not like it used to be at Miami at those positions,” he said…. Tight end Asante Cleveland, defensive end David Gilbert (the Dolphins had him break down film), offensive lineman Jared Wheeler and defensive linemen Shayon Green, Luther Robinson and Curtis Porter should get a look in an NFL camp. So might UM basketball player Erik Swoope, who has auditioned for the Dolphins and three other teams as a potential tight end.

### Gators: The question is how high either of UF's top cornerback prospects will go considering their off-field issues and the fact they didn’t run well in workouts, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper.

Purifoy “is one of the most naturally talented defensive backs in this draft,” according to ESPN’s Todd McShay. But his stock could take a hit after a recent report that he was caught with marijuana and bath salts in March but wasn’t charged because he agreed to be an informant.

Roberson “can get a little lackadaisical,” Kiper said. “But it can also look easy for him out there because he has good instincts and a sense of where routes are going. He needs to be more physical against the run and grab a little less in coverage.”

Kiper sees Roberson going in the third round, Purifoy in the third or fourth.

Nawrocki said Roberson could “develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 corner if he regains his sophomore form. However, he lacks desirable instincts and tackling ability.”

Easley sustained his second ACL tear last season and “went from a top 25 pick to a third or fourth round pick,” Mayock said. Easley said he’s 80 percent recovered and will be ready for minicamps.

Potential mid-round Gators: cornerback Jaylen Watkins, linebacker Ronald Powell, receiver/tight end Trey Burton, guard/center Jonatthan Harrison and possibly guard Jon Halapio,who privately auditioned for the Dolphins.

### Seminoles: Two potential first-rounders in receiver Kelvin Benjamin and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan and a possible second-rounder in cornerback LeMarcus Joyner.

Kiper has Benjamin going 22nd “and he could be a steal, given his size, speed, catch radius and ability to beat defenders before the catch and run away from them.” But McShay said: “He needs to learn how to run better routes, and I've seen him drop too many passes when watching him on tape.”

Kiper has Jernigan falling to 36th: “If he had better reaction time, he would go higher. He's not a blow-by rusher, but has the strength and quick feet to eat up a running play before it goes anywhere.”

McShay has Joyner going 51st and said that even though he’s only 5-8, “he plays bigger than his size. Quick, fast, instinctive.” But Mayock said: “I think he's going to have to kick inside and either be a safety or a nickel or both.”

Potential FSU mid-rounders: running back Devonta Freeman (Mayock has him in the third round) and safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith and center Brian Stork. One scout expressed concern about Jones’ instincts. Running back James Wilder Jr. could go late, after a recent arrest for an outstanding warrant for driving with a suspended license.

### Random stuff: Draft analysts expect the first state player drafted will be UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, who’s eighth in Kiper’s mock… UCF running back Storm Johnson, a former UM player, “has good hands but is not tough,” an NFC scout said. “He cringes when he’s asked to block. Maybe a fourth-rounder.” The Dolphins called him… FIU’s best prospects should be invited to a minicamp if they go undrafted: defensive end Gregory Hickman and defensive tackle Isame Facione.


### The Dolphins’ search for offensive linemen is so all-encompassing that it has even extended to a Canadian medical school student and two identical twins. UCF starting guards and twins Justin and Jordan McCray, who are both 6-3 and 310 pounds, each auditioned at Dolphins headquarters (together, naturally). Bortles said he can tell them apart only because Justin has a small freckle on his face.

The Dolphins also summoned Canada-based McGill University tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif to team headquarters. A potential fourth-round pick, Duvernay wants to become a sports doctor and practiced only once a week during the season because of classes and a pediatric rotation. "He has a lot of talent but he's got to get stronger," Kiper said. "Third or fourth round pick."

### After Saturday, LeBron James has 21 career playoff games with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists --- most in NBA history. That broke a record he had shared with Elgin Baylor and Kareem Abdul- Jabbar.

### Heat guard Norris Cole said he is “spoiled” because he has never lost a playoff series (he’s 8-0) and “I can’t imagine what it would be like” to lose one. The good folks at Elias Sports Bureau tell us that only one other player in NBA history has never lost a playoff series he has appeared in, minimum eight series: former journeyman guard Randy Brown, who was 12-0 because he was on the Bulls’ second three-peat (1996-98).... Some perfectly acceptable Heat/Bobcats fraternizing last week: Charlotte Bobcats assistant Patrick Ewing and Heat executive Alonzo Mourning, former Georgetown greats and buddies, enjoying a late-night dinner at Prime 112.

### Please see the last post for notes, reaction and tidbits from the Heat's Game 3 win Saturday night, including a prominent analyst who says the Heat won't win the title this season.

### Though Marlins and former Blue Jays prospects Jake Marisnick (.184 batting average), right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (3.77 ERA) and lefty Justin Nicolino (4.35 ERA) had slow starts in the minors this month, the blockbuster 2012 Marlins/Blue Jays trade looks pretty good from a Marlins perspective considering Josh Johnson (now with San Diego) is 2-8 (6.20 ERA) since the trade and is now out for the year after elbow surgery; often-injured Jose Reyes has played in only about half of Toronto’s games since the trade; Henderson Alvarez has pitched generally well for Miami; and Derek Dietrich (obtained when the Marlins flipped Yunel Escobar to Tampa Bay) and Adeiny Hechavarria have improved offensively.

Mark Buehrle is 16-10 for Toronto since the trade, but his contract would have been an albatross for the Marlins, who have found quality cheaper starting pitching elsewhere.

### Three-star Georgia based defensive tackle Quentez Johnson is UM's latest Class of 2015 oral commitment. He had 25 offers, including from FSU, LSU, Oregon and Tennessee. Rivals.com ranks him the 35th-best defensive tackle in the 2015 class.

### Please check out my story posted earlier today on The Herald's main home page, offering a comprehensive look at the chances of David Beckham's proposed MLS team succeeding in our market.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

April 26, 2014

Postscripts, reaction, notes from Heat's Game 3 win in Charlotte

Postscripts from the Heat’s 98-85 Game 3 win against Charlotte at Time Warner Cable Arena:

### This was the Heat’s best road performance against a playoff team in two months, since winning by 22 in Oklahoma City shortly after the All-Star break, and an encouraging sign not only after a closer-than-it-needed-to-be win in Game 2, but also in the wake of the 11-14 close to the regular season.

So now make it 19 wins in a row against Charlotte overall, 18 straight since LeBron James took a job here.

Remember, the Heat won the same number of road games (22) as Phoenix, Washington and Toronto during the regular season and entered just 4-10 on the road against Eastern Conference playoff teams (two of those wins against Charlotte) and having lost six of its previous eight road games overall.

But forget all of that. This is a different team in postseason, as Chris Bosh reminded everyone Friday.

“Our guys wanted this opportunity on the road,” Erik Spoelstra said. “Going through that struggle [on the road the past two months] hopefully made us better. The guys were looking forward to going on the road and taking this challenge.”

### The Heat offered another reminder of how suffocating its defense can be when it’s engaged and interested.

Miami allowed just 10 field goals combined over the second and third quarters, albeit against a team that can be offensively challenged at times. "One of our best defensive efforts in a while," Dwyane Wade said. "Our defense was phenomenal."

Charlotte didn’t hit a shot from the field in the third quarter until Kemba Walker’s three-pointer six minutes into the second half. Then the Bobcats went another 2:19 without a basket until Josh McRoberts hit a three. The Bobcats closed at 41.5 percent from the field, with 15 turnovers for a team that averaged a league-low 12.3 this season.

### After abusing the Heat with 15 points on 7 for 9 shooting in the first quarter, Al Jefferson scored just five the rest of the way, on 1 for 4 shooting, with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem and others doing a better job of denying him the ball.

“Every catch was exactly where he wanted it [in the first quarter],” Spoelstra said. “It was too easy. We didn’t have a disposition. And then it changed. Everyone was upset about it during the timeout.”

"We adjusted, denied him catches on the post," Chris Anderson said.

Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said because of his plantar fascia strain, Jefferson "is a shell of himself. They made it so difficult to get him the ball. He doesn't have the same mobility."

### LeBron James justifiably torched Clipper owner Donald Sterling before the game, then torched the Bobcats by flashing his complete arsenal of moves, including a couple of fadeaway jumpers that would be eye-opening for virtually anyone except James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. He closed with 30 points (10 for 18), 10 rebounds and six assists.

James improved to 35-7 in the first round of the playoffs and is on the verge of being 9-0 in those series.

"The most important thing for us is that we're healthy," LeBron said. "We have our whole team. We can go 15 deep if need be."

### ESPN's Dave Pasch said James gazed at Bobcats owner Michael Jordan while dribbling down court, just before an open court dunk, and video shows James peered off to the side (though it wasn't clear what, if anything, he was looking at). James disputed Pasch's comment. "Absolutely didn't look at MJ for sure," he said.

### After the Bobcats tied the game for the final time at 42, the Heat took control with a 16-4 spurt to close the first half, then stretched the lead to as many as 26.

By the end of the third quarter, Jordan had left his courtside seat (though presumably not the building).

“We played a great game on the road, better than we did the first two at home,” Dwyane Wade said. Wade, by the way, chipped in 17 points (7 for 16 shooting), with six assists.

### Spoelstra: “I told the guys it was a professional approach. Our approach the last 48 hours was encouraging, to really lock in. We’ll have to do it again. You don’t want a series to go longer than it needs to.”

### Miami shot just 43.4 percent but committed just seven turnovers.

### The Heat didn’t need much offensively from Chris Bosh (8 points, 3 for 4 shooting in 33 minutes). But he did good work against Jefferson in the second half when the Heat went with a small lineup.

“In the third quarter, he was outstanding, putting a lot more pressure on Jefferson’s catches,” Spoelstra said. “Either he couldn’t catch it in the post or had to catch it further out.”

### Birdman struggled against Jefferson late in the first quarter but played well otherwise, as usual, with 12 points and seven boards in 22 minutes. “It’s vital for us,” Spoelstra said. “He injects that instant energy, athleticism. He plays until he has zero in the tank. You wish everybody would play with that type of intensity. That energy gets infectious.”

### A trend: The Heat outscored Charlotte by 16 with James Jones on the court, making him a remarkable plus-38 in 42 minutes in this series. Jones shot just 1 for 6, but spreading the floor clearly has worked in this series.

### After shooting just 34 percent after the All-Star break, Norris Cole has recaptured last year’s postseason magic.  Cole, who shot 48 percent and 17 for 32 on threes in postseason last year, is now 8-for-17 overall through three games and 4 for 7 on threes. Miami is plus 27 with Cole on the court so far this postseason.

### By the way, no team has ever lost an NBA series after taking a 3-0 lead. The Heat took a 3-0 lead in the first round each of the first three years of the Big Three, but swept only one of those three series (against Milwaukee last year).

### This one can’t get over quickly enough. The second round likely would start next Sunday for the Heat if the Nets or Raptors win their series in six games or fewer. If Brooklyn-Toronto goes seven, the Heat could be facing an eight-day break if it sweeps Charlotte.

### From NBA TV's postgame show: "Washington can give [Miami] some problems because they can score inside," former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "I'm not saying they can beat them. But they can make them uncomfortable with their two bigs [if Washington makes the Eastern Finals]. That's their Achilles'... You see what Al Jefferson did to them on one leg."...

"You've got to be perfect" to beat Miami "on both ends," former Knicks coach Mike Woodson said....

Dennis Scott: "In the Eastern Conference, I don't see anyone getting in their way," before noting several Western Conference teams obviously could.

### Earlier in the day, TNT's Kenny Smith said: "I don't think the Heat can win another championship this year."... TNT's Charles Barkley added: "The key is going to be LeBron. You have to beat him four times. He has a lot of dead weight to carry. He has to score the most baskets and get all the rebounds. They are limited inside and will always struggle against big guys. They are vulnerable this year."

Please check back Sunday for the Sunday buzz column, with lots of NFL draft stuff and other notes.

April 25, 2014

Friday 6 p.m: Dolphins items; Heat upset with LeBron treatment; Bosh sees double standard; Sad news on Dr. Jack; Media column

Before we get to a Heat report from today, a few 6 p.m. news items:

## Sad news on former Heat TV analyst and Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay: Longtime NBA writer Peter Vecsey reported today that Ramsay is in hospice.

Ramsay, 89, has battled various forms of cancer over the past 15 years --- prostate cancer (diagnosed in 1999) and melanomas "all over my body," Ramsay said several years ago.

He told me last May that he was leaving his ESPN Radio job because he needed to begin immediate medical treatment. He declined to elaborate at the time.

His daughter, Susan Dailey, politely declined to comment about Ramsay's condition when reached this afternoon.

Affectionately known as “Dr. Jack,” Ramsay --- who has a doctorate degree in education from Pennsylvania -- has distinguished himself throughout his life: for his class and integrity; for his coaching --- he guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 – and finally, for his substantive, authoritative analysis as a broadcaster.

He has announced games since retiring as a coach early in the 1998-89 season and worked as the Heat’s TV analyst from 1992 through 2000.

Ramsay endeared himself to Heat fans not only with his cogent commentary but also his playful expressions, such as “Slamma!” after dunks and “Lenard!” after big baskets by former Heat guard Voshon Lenard.

### New Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a former Pro Bowler coming off two disappointing, injury-impacted seasons with St. Louis, is known for being feisty and sometimes pushing the envelope with receivers.

He told the team-owned radio show today: "I won't hurt the team by any stretch but I'm back. I lost that edge but it's back, baby. So stay tuned." 

### Auburn running back Tre Mason, who disputed a report today that he needs wrist surgery, is among the running backs who has auditioned for the Dolphins recently. He's a projected second- or third-round pick, though the wrist situation could hurt his stock. 

### Dan Marino went 2-1 against Joe Montana in their careers, including a wild card win when Montana played for Kansas City. Marino's one loss to Montana, of course, was in Super Bowl XIX, a 38-16 49ers win.

So why in the world do we bring this up? Because the 49ers announced yesterday that Marino has been chosen to lead a team of former NFL players against Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark and other San Francisco 49ers  legends in a flag-football game scheduled at Candlestick Park for July 12, one of the final events to be held at “The Stick," which is closing down. The 49ers move into their new stadium this season.

By the way, tickets for the event go on sale May 10, if you're planning to be in the Bay Area in July.


Now on to today's Heat story:

LeBron James often takes a pounding on his drives to the basket, and several especially physical plays against him in the past month haven’t been called flagrant fouls.

The Heat is unhappy about that, and Erik Spoelstra let everyone know Friday that multiple team officials have spoken to the league about the issue.

In the wake of Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts’ elbow to James’ neck late in Game 2, the way James is officiated became the narrative at practice Friday, hours before the team flew to Charlotte for Game 3 of its opening round series at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re not going into this game looking for retribution,” Spoelstra said. “There’s not going to be a retaliation. But there is going to be more attacks. The retaliation will be, from us, to continue to attack, to continue to make those decisions tough, and we’ll see how it’s called.”

The Heat is upset that McRoberts was assessed only a fine ($20,000) for his foul against James with 50 seconds left in Game 2. Heat officials believe a suspension was warranted.  “We expressed it with the league; we disagree with it,” Spoelstra said.

The league assessed McRoberts a Flagrant 2 foul a day after the game, but if it had been given to McRoberts during the game, it would have carried an automatic ejection. Instead, McRoberts was charged with only a common foul after the play.

“It should have been a flagrant and it should have been reviewed during the course of the game,” Spoelstra said.

James wouldn’t say Friday whether McRoberts should have been suspended – “that’s over and done with” - but did say this: “It should have been a Flagrant 2 at that point in the game. It was a big point in the game….

“What frustrated me is when I go home and watch other games. [In Thursday’s Golden State-Clippers game], it was three flagrant fouls called that got checked [on replay]. My foul didn’t even get checked, and it was a crucial point of the game…. I don’t cry for fouls. I don’t really care. If the game is played and [called] how it’s supposed to be, I’m OK with it.”

James added: “I take a lot of hard fouls. I understand that. Guys try to stop me from getting three-point plays. We all know the difference between a basketball foul and a non-basketball foul….

“I already know there’s going to be a headline tomorrow: ‘LeBron is crying for fouls.’ That’s not me. I don’t want that at all. It’s not about me wanting fouls or wanting to be pampered. It’s not about that. I’m going to be my aggressive self and get to the free throw line and put pressure on their defense.”

So does he just want to be treated like everyone else?

 “I’m not going to be treated like everyone else,” he said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been treated like everybody else. So I understand that side.”

Retaliating is not an option for two reasons, James said: “Every time we hit back, we get suspended or get fined. We tried that tactic. It don’t go for us.”

And also, “The game is different. If this was the 1980s, I would come out swinging. It’s not. I mean too much to our team. I can’t do that. Me being out of the game hurts us more than it would hurt the other team. I get frustrated at times.” 

The Heat also wasn’t pleased when flagrant fouls were not called on two especially physical fouls committed against James in the March 26 game at Indiana. But James was called for a flagrant foul against Roy Hibbert that night when “Hibbert’s face happened to hit my elbow.”

Said Spoelstra: “It feels like we’ve been down this road already four or five times this year. We just want there to be a better vigilance and awareness of those plays. LeBron is an attack player. He should not be penalized for his aggressiveness, the size and speed of his drives at the rim. We’re all fortunate [because] that play could have been much worse. It’s not the first time it’s happened.

“You’re talking a top five attacker in this league. Is it easy to officiate a player like LeBron or Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard? No. But we’ve been down this road enough times already this season that we just want there to be a better overall awareness for that because he is going to attack.

“It’s not going to stop how he plays, how we play. There are going to be collisions at the rim. If it means opponents have to take him out because a normal defensive play won’t prevent him from getting to the rim or prevent him from getting a three-point play --- that you have to be excessive with it --- that should be penalized excessively, because that’s what it is.”

The league says a Flagrant 2 foul should be called for contact deemed both “unnecessary and excessive.”

Chris Bosh suggested there’s a double standard at work.

“You see the difference,” Bosh said in how fouls against James are called compared with others. “I know he’s big and fast and strong. But if you get elbowed in the throat, it deserves a flagrant foul. If we elbow somebody in the throat, I expect to get kicked out of the game.”

Bosh, asked if the fouls against James could get worse, said: “How worse can it get? He’s been tackled. He’s been hit in the throat. I would hate to see it get any worse. That’s damn near impossible without actually body-slamming him. He’s too big for that.”

Udonis Haslem said McRoberts’ foul “looked bad. He didn’t make any play for the ball. It looked intentional.” McRoberts denied that and said he believes he shouldn't have been fined.

How would James defend himself on penetrations into the paint?

“I don’t know,” he said. “There’s only one of me.”

Please see the last post for the weekly media column. 

April 24, 2014

Media column: Details on the NFL's TV changes; Heat; Problems for Kosar, Keyshawn


Several NFL television changes loom this coming season --- some subtle, some significant, with most coming into focus with the release of the schedule this week. The details:

### Shifting of games between CBS and Fox. For years, Fox has been authorized to air only games in which the road team is from the NFC, whereas CBS games featured an AFC road team. But to balance out the schedule, the NFL is allowing the league to switch as many as 14 games between the two networks this season.

That allowed the NFL to schedule Bears-Lions on CBS as the Thanksgiving opener, followed by Eagles-Cowboys on Fox and Seahawks-49ers on NBC. Under the old rules, the Lions’ Thanksgiving opponent this year would have had to be the Dolphins or Bills, because the Detroit game must air on CBS in 2014.

“We decided to make a statement on Thanksgiving," NFL executive Howard Katz said told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. "It sounds corny, but it's our most traditional national holiday. Let's play great traditional rivalries games on Thanksgiving. So we took Chicago-Detroit and made that our CBS game.”

At the moment, the NFL has shifted two CBS games to Fox (both involving the Bills) and four Fox games to CBS (including a Redskins-49ers contest Nov. 23 that should now be seen in far more homes than it would have otherwise). The NFL still has work to do, because by the end of the season, CBS and Fox must have gained and lost the same number of games.

### The new CBS Thursday night package. This was announced earlier, but here’s how it works: Under a one-year contract, CBS will air 8:25 p.m. Thursday games during Weeks 2 through 8, plus an 8 p.m. game on Saturday, Dec. 20 (either Philadelphia-Washington or San Diego-San Francisco, with the other game shifting to 4:30 p.m. on NFL Network).

NFL Net will simulcast all eight of those games and also exclusively carry games on every other Thursday expect Week 1 and Thanksgiving, which remain NBC’s domain. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will call all but one of the CBS/NFL Net games.

CBS’ first Thursday schedule is decent, but not great. Steelers-Ravens is an appealing opener, but Tampa Bay-Atlanta on Sept. 18 doesn’t hold great national appeal. CBS’ other Thursday games: Giants-Redskins, Vikings-Packers, Colts-Texans, Jets-Patriots and Chargers-Broncos.

NFL Network’s late-season Thursday package is again littered with matchups that aren’t necessarily worthy of a national stages (Cleveland-Cincinnati, Miami-Buffalo, Arizona-St. Louis, Tennessee-Jacksonville). But every team is required to have at least one full national game.

### Increased flexible scheduling. NBC’s ability to replace Sunday night games with better ones, which previously started in Week 11, will now begin in Week 5, but with one caveat: Between Weeks 5 and 10, NBC can flex only two games.

The NFL continues to give NBC the best schedule of the prime time packages, so it’s possible none of the Week 5 through 10 games will be flexed. NBC’s openers: Packers-Seahawks on Thursday, Sept. 4 and Colts-Broncos on Sept. 7.

### ESPN’s playoff foray. For the first time, ESPN will get a wild-card playoff game --- one of the two that NBC had been televising on the first Saturday of the playoffs.

To replace that game, NBC will get a division-round playoff game beginning next season. Next January, NBC will take that game from CBS, and the next from Fox, and so forth. NBC also gets the Super Bowl next season.

Unfortunately for ESPN, its schedule never quite measures up to NBC’s, even though ESPN pays substantially more for rights. ESPN’s 2014 Monday night lineup features only four games in which both teams made the playoffs last season. NBC’s includes nine such matchups and also has a flexible scheduling element.

ESPN’s opening Monday double-header --- Giants-Lions and Chargers-Cardinals --- is decent, not great.

### Morning football. For the first time, a game will be aired live nationally at 9:30 a.m. --- Detroit-Atlanta from London on Oct. 26 Fox, allowing viewers to watch 14 consecutive hours of football that Sunday.


### There were 13 times during the regular season that Sun Sports and a national network aired the same Heat game. Twelve of those times, more local viewers watched Sun Sports. The other was a tie. During those competing cablecasts with ESPN or TNT, Sun Sports averaged a 5.8 rating, compared with 4.2 local rating for ESPN and a 3.5 for Turner.

But that changed Wednesday, when Game 2 of the Heat-Bobcats series drew a 7.4 Dade/Broward TV rating on TNT and a 6.7 on Sun.

The combined 14.1 was good, but down from the 17.1 local rating for the series opener that aired on free TV (ABC). Sun Sports can televise first-round games not carried by ABC but none beyond round one.

### The latest setback for former UM quarterback Bernie Kosar: The Cleveland Browns dropped him as their preseason TV analyst this week, nine months after he drew criticism for saying, on air, that the Rams receivers are “horrible,” that their parents “should be embarrassed,” among other harsh criticisms.

“I believe this decision stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL,” Kosar said in a statement Thursday…. Also dropped recently: College basketball analyst Digger Phelps, whose contract was not renewed by ESPN.

### What’s wrong with the folks running the Buffalo Bills’ web site? First they incorrectly reported last week that Buffalo would play at Detroit on Thanksgiving. Then they posted a story this week that Bills coach Doug Marrone has “blank type of cancer.” Yes, blank. Marrone said later that a cancerous mole was removed from his skin.   

### ESPN hasn't said whether it will take any disciplinarian action against NFL analyst and former receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who was jailed briefly after an argument with his girlfriend Monday.

Deputies were called to Johnson's Calabasas, California, home early Monday "regarding a possible spousal assault," a Los Angeles sheriff's statement said.

"When deputies arrived, it was determined that the resident and his ex-girlfriend were involved in a domestic dispute," the statement said. "The ensuing investigation resulted in the arrest of the resident for misdemeanor domestic battery." Johnson was released after posting a $20,000 bond.     

### Please see the last post for some on-field Dolphins notes from Thursday afternoon.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

April 23, 2014

1 p.m. Thursday Dolphins tidbits; Postscripts, reaction from Heat's Game 2 win against Charlotte

Couple quick 1 p.m. Thursday Dolphins updates:

### Departing UM basketball player Erik Swoope --- who has never played Pop Warner, high school or college football --- told Herald colleague Michelle Kaufman that he is working out for the Dolphins today.

Swoope, 6-5, is a terrific athlete and teams want to see if he has the skills to possibly develop into a tight end or receiver. He decided to enter the NFL draft instead of enrolling in graduate school and playing one year of football for UM.

Over the past two weeks, he also has worked out for Denver, Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

If he impresses teams, he could get a contract after the draft. Swoope has consulted with former UM basketball/football player Jimmy Graham about making the transition. For more details, check out Michelle's interesting story on her twitter feed (@kaufsports).

### As we've noted, the Dolphins have told a couple of people that they like Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin and believe he's NFL ready. They also have told people they like Michigan's Taylor Lewan, who is projected to go higher than Miami's pick. (Everything uttered around this time of year obviously can be subterfuge, but these are people the Dolphins typically are honest with.)

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post reported last week that Miami prefers Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio to Martin and is considering him at No. 19, though draft analysts expect him to go significantly later than that.

Draftinsider.com's Tony Pauline addressed that in his blog today: "Contrary to recent published reports I’ve been informed Cyrus Kouandjio is not a first round target for Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey. In fact I was told the team won’t consider him in the first frame due to medical red-flags. It seems Zack Martin is the object of their desire but the team does not expect the Notre Dame product to be available when they are called to the clock in round one. Who then? Sources seem to think Hickey will attempt to trade down if the opportunity arises. If they are able to trade down Joel Bitonio, a name that keeps popping up in the late first/early second round area, is a player they like. The Dolphins did hold a private workout with Bitonio" --- on his Nevada campus.

Quick aside: Though the Dolphins haven't invited Bitonio to Davie (which does NOT indicate lack of interest), they like his skills and have studied him closely.


Postscripts from the Heat’s 101-97 win against Charlotte in their first-round Eastern Conference series, which put Miami ahead 2-0:

### With the Heat coming dangerously close to blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, this was a game when neither team emerged all that thrilled.

“We have to play better going into their building,” LeBron James said. “It’s a scrappy team. They don’t give up. We can play better basketball. We haven’t played our best basketball.”

Erik Spoelstra’s take: “You do have to credit them. However, there were segments and pockets of the game where there was a lapse of either energy offensively or concentration and discipline defensively, and those moments were usually when we were up double digits."

Meanwhile, the Bobcats bemoaned missed opportunities. “Just so many mistakes we need to fix,” Bobcats guard Kemba Walker said. “We need to fix it fast. I know those guys are defending champs. [But] I think we have a chance.”

### Bottom line: Make it 18 wins in a row for the Heat in this series, including 17-0 since LeBron James became a Heat employee. And there's this: The Heat has taken a 2-0 series lead 12 times in postseason history. Miami won the previous 11 times that happened.

### Forward Josh McRoberts delivered a forearm to James’ throat with 50 seconds left, but the foul was not called a flagrant. “It looked worse than it was,” McRoberts said. “It wasn’t intentional. I got caught in the air.”

James didn’t rip McRoberts afterward or give an opinion about whether it should be a flagrant foul. He described the play thusly: “Elbow to the throat. It’s not a very good feeling, especially how I was attacking the lane. Just trying to catch my breath.... I haven't seen it again. I don't need to see it again.”

### James was terrific, with 32 points, six rebounds and eight assists. He was especially pleased with the eight assists, after having one in Game 1, because he said he wants to get his teammates involved. He became the third player since 1990 to score at least 32 points, grab at least six rebounds, dish at least eight assists and record four steals in a postgame game, joining Chris Paul (2011) and Gary Payton (2000).

### Encouraging to see Chris Bosh shoot 8 for 11, including 4 for 5 on threes, after missing 9 of 13 shots in Game 1 and struggling over the final month of the season. He scored 20, with five rebounds and two blocks.

“He’s one of the best big guy shooters in the league,” James said, before clarifying that “he’s one of the best shooters we have in our league [regardless of position].”

Said Bosh: "I know I don't dunk and hit a bunch of crazy shots. I just want to play good, effective basketball."

### Walker’s three-pointer trimmed Charlotte’s deficit to 98-97 with 12 seconds left, before two James free throws pushed the margin back to three. But Dwyane Wade foiled Charlotte’s next possession by stealing the ball from Chris Douglas-Roberts with 2.9 seconds left.

Gary Neal had put Douglas-Roberts in a bad predicament by passing him the ball in a precarious position along the sideline, which drew a quick double team.

Wade, on the last play: “It was not my man. I did my job on Gary Neal. I just saw that [Douglas-Roberts] was bobbling the ball a little bit and I was right there, so I just had the opportunity and the ball was right there, so I grabbed it.”

In that situation, “to get a three, you need somebody with size and athleticism to get a shot off quickly,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “We don’t have anybody like that.”

### Bobcats center Al Jefferson felt his strained plantar fascia “rip all the way through” when he ran upcourt in the first quarter. He rebounded from his first-half struggles (six points, 3 for 10 shooting) to produce a terrific third quarter (10 points, six rebounds) but had just two points (1 for 3 shooting) and one rebound in the fourth.

“A lot of pain,” he said. “Doctor said there was nothing more I can do to hurt it, so I had to play through it. I rushed a lot of my shots, thinking about it. Just missed a lot of shots I should have made.”

Clifford said Jefferson “is no where close to 100 percent. He has no mobility basically, limited mobility.”

### The Bobcats got a big lift from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Clifford called it “the best game he’s played as a pro.”

But Walker shot just 5 for 18 on a 16-point night: 4 for 9 on three-pointers but 1 for 9 on two pointers. And Neal shot 1 for 8.

### The Bobcats committed the league’s fewest turnovers during the season, just 12.3 per game. On Wednesday, they had 12 in the first half, leading to 18 Heat points, but just three in the second half.  “Against a team like this, you can’t play a first half like we played,” said Clifford, whose team trailed 29-19 after a quarter.

Ultimately, the Bobcats couldn’t overcome 42 percent shooting, not on a night the Heat shot 52 percent and attempted 10 more free throws (29-19).

### The Heat hasn't allowed 100 points in 18 consecutive first-round games... This was the 100th postseason home game in Heat history, with Miami 72-28 in those games: 10-9 at Miami Arena, 62-19 at AA arena. All 100 sold out.

### Clifford said owner Michael Jordan has been helpful in this series. “Similar to what he does all year --- he’ll text me with things he sees,” Clifford said. “He’s a great resource for me. I appreciate the way he treats me and how he gives suggestions but always lets me know, ‘You’re the coach. You can do what you want, but this is what I see.’”

April 22, 2014

4 p.m. update: Fins bring in more players; Examining Dolphins' options at No. 19 in draft; Heat playoff chatter, Marlins

A quick 4 p.m. update:

### North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner, an under-the-radar offensive lineman who  really intrigues the Dolphins, has been summoned to team headquarters today, and part of Thursday, to meet with Dolphins coaches and front office officials, according to a source.

Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens also has been called to Dolphins offices.

They are the 17th and 18th players we've confirmed have been invited to visit the Dolphins; teams are allowed to bring in no more than 30 non-local players, plus an unlimited number of players who went to college or high school locally. 

Turner "has a chance to be a nice fourth-round pick," Mel Kiper said today.

Said NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki: "Big-framed, raw, aggressive FCS standout who flashes a nice combination of foot quickness, punch strength and nastiness," Nawrocki said. "Smart, hard working, dependable."

It would not be surprising if the Dolphins draft two tackles.

As for Aikens, he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, but has visits with 10 teams. CBS' Rob Rang said he "has the aggression and athleticism are there to project him as a legitimate rotational player early in his career with the possibility of developing into a starter as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL."

### Erik Spoelstra said Mario Chalmers (bruised shin) is a game-time decision tonight.

### Charlotte center Al Jefferson was still in a walking boot this morning with a plantar fascia strain but said he will play. "I can't say there won't be any kind of pain, but I feel like every hour it's getting better and better."

Said Bobcats coach Steve Clifford: "If he can be effective, we'll play him. If not, we'll get him out."



An offensive tackle naturally would make sense for the Dolphins with the 19th pick in the May 8-10 NFL Draft. But what should Miami do if Notre Dame’s Zack Martin is off the board at that point (ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have him going a bit earlier), and if none of the top three tackles (including Michigan’s Taylor Lewan) surprisingly falls to 19?

Then what?

Barring a trade, using the pick on another position is a decent possibility considering Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey insists he likes to select the best player available. Predecessor Jeff Ireland preferred to factor in need in his evaluation.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said teams can procure quality tackles in the second or third rounds in this draft, with Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James a potentially solid option for Miami at No. 50.

The Dolphins have told people they like Martin. Whether another tackle beyond the draft’s top four (Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Lewan and Martin) is worthy of the 19th pick is highly questionable.

McShay advocates Miami picking Virginia tackle Morgan Moses at 19, noting “he possesses excellent size and length and played his best against his best individual competition.”

Mayock projects him as a possible late first-rounder and said: "The more tape I watched, the more he grew on me. His Clemson tape, he had two or three plays where he literally locked on a linebacker or a defensive end and drove him over the sideline and into the bench. He looked like Michel Oher in that movie (The Blind Side) when he almost took him across the gate. He’s got some toughness. His feet were better than I thought they were going to be. I think he’s a starting right tackle in the NFL.”

But Kiper doesn’t envision him going as high as Miami’s pick and slots him 28th in his mock draft.

Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, originally forecast for Miami’s range, is slotted 34th by McShay and 55th by Kiper in their respective mocks. Kiper says “health questions and consistency issues during his junior season caused his stock to take a hit.”

So what if an offensive tackle isn’t the pick at No. 19? Other possibilities:

###Linebacker: Alabama inside linebacker CJ Mosley (106 tackles last season) would be appealing. Draft analyst Tony Pauline said Mosley won’t be available at 19, but Kiper believes otherwise (at the moment) and predicts Miami will take him in his newest mock draft.

“Brings great instincts and effectiveness against the run,” Kiper said. “He is the best coverage linebacker in the draft. If he stays healthy, Mosley is a special player. The guy doesn’t need to come off the field [on third down]. A gifted player in coverage.”

McShay said Mosley’s past shoulder, hip and elbow injuries raise durability concerns but still has him going 13th.

Two other options: Ohio State inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (Kiper slots him 21st and cites his “great instincts and range”) and UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr (10 sacks in 2013). “At one time, I thought he would be a top 10 pick, but if Barr is more consistent and improves on his awareness, he could be a steal,” said Kiper, who slots him 25th.

### Receiver: The fact the Dolphins have used at least four of their visits on first- and second-round receivers suggests they’re at least considering this.

LSU’s Odell Beckham and USC’s Marqise Lee, who both visited team headquarters, are possibilities at 19; Kiper has Beckham 15th and Lee 23rd.

So are Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (“no player was a tougher cover in college football last year,” said Kiper, who has him going 18th) and FSU’s 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin (22nd). The Dolphins also brought in potential second-rounders Donte Moncrief (Mississippi) and Martavis Bryant (Clemson).

### Defensive tackle: Don’t rule out Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, whom Kiper slots 14th and calls “the most disruptive defensive player in the nation last year.” He had 11 sacks and 28 tackles for loss in 2013.

At one point, FSU’s Tim Jernigan and Notre Dame’s Louis Nix were universally thought to be in Miami’s range. Kiper has neither rated as a first-rounder, but McShay has Jernigan 16th and Nix 29th.

Jernigan “is not a blow-by rusher but has the strength and quick feet to eat up a running play before it goes anywhere,” Kiper said, adding he would be a natural fit in a 4-3 defense like Miami’s.

### Defensive back: Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert and Michigan State cornerback Darqueeze Dennard are expected to go higher than 19th and Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller a bit lower, though both are options at 19.

Kiper slots Roby 24th and said he “can be a special player with elite speed and change of direction quickness.” He has Fuller 26th.

Louisville safety Calvin Pryor is slotted 17th in Kiper’s mock, but safety isn’t a big Dolphins need. “A player who can cover and deliver hits with authority,” Kiper said of Pryor, who is projected to be the second safety drafted after Alabama’s Ha-Ha Clinton Dix.

### Tight end: It’s difficult to envision North Carolina’s Eric Ebron falling to 19th. Kiper has him going 12th. “Ebron is the kind of new-breed tight end who can be split out, line up in the slot [and] becomes a constant matchup threat,” Kiper said. Sporting News analyst Russ Lande said Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro is worth considering at 19, but Kiper has him going 53rd.

No guard or running back is projected in the range of 19th overall, though some give a first-round grade to UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo.


### Add San Diego State safety Eric Pinkins and Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the list of players invited to visit Dolphins headquarters. (Please see the last post for a complete list of confirmed visits, plus other Dolphins and NFL notes)... Also, add North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen to the list of quarterbacks who have been called multiple times by Miami. Jensen, likely to go undrafted, was 47-5 as a starter and led North Dakota State to a third consecutive national championship.

### Not only has James Jones shot an absurd 19 for 37 on three-pointers since Erik Spoelstra took him out of mothballs on March 28 (his first appearance since mid-January), but consider this: Miami has outscored teams by 84 points (22.4 per 48 minutes) during the 180 minutes he has logged since then.

Miami was plus-18 in his 14 minutes in Game 1 against Charlotte.

How does Jones stay ready? Lifting weights, doing sprint work and making at least 100 three-pointers on practice days and 70 threes during shooting sessions on game-days. He made 36 threes in a row during one practice this season.

### Shane Battier, on falling out of the rotation for now: “In the twilight of my career, it’s a new experience I didn’t think I’d have at this point. I would be extremely selfish to cry, ‘It’s not fair!’”

Battier said he has expressed his desire to play in conversations with Spoelstra when he has fallen out of the rotation in the past, but not this time, and “I don’t know how effective that is.”

Speaking in general, Spoelstra indicated Tuesday that he hears often from Heat players who want to play more.

He said he would understand if some of his players not getting a lot of minutes “see me in a dark alley and want to do bodily harm to me. You want guys seething. I have no problem with the emotion that comes with it.”

### Jacob Turner better pitch well when he returns to the Marlins rotation sometime in May, because prized prospect Andrew Heaney continues to pitch brilliantly at Double A (one run allowed, 22 strikeouts, over his past three starts).

### With Jose Fernandez shutting down Atlanta tonight, the Marlins and Braves combined for 28 strikeouts and no walks. According to Elias, that's the most Ks without a walk in a game since 1900.

Dolphins book more pre-draft visits; Dolphins chatter; NFL TV change announced

Teams are allowed to bring 30 non-local players to their headquarters for pre-draft visits, and here are the 21 I’ve confirmed were invited: 

Tennessee offensive tackle Ju'waun James

Georgia State offensive tackle/guard Ulrick John

Nebraska guard/tackle Spencer Long

Kansas State offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas

Marshall offensive tackle Garrett Scott

Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines

Washington tight end Austin Seferian Jenkins

Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant

USC receiver Marqise Lee

LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief

Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson

Arizona outside linebacker Marquis Flowers

San Diego State safety Eric Pinkins

Marist defensive end Terence Fede

North Dakota State offensive tackle Billy Turner

McGill offensive tackle Laurent Duverney Tardif

Libery cornerback Walt Aikens

Alabama offensie tackle Cyrus Kouandjio

Middle Tennessee State cornerback Sammy Seamster

Clemson offensive tackle/guard Brandon Thomas was invited to visit but canceled his visit after tearing an ACL during a pre-draft workout with the Saints.

Jeff Ireland drafted several of the players that he brought to Davie for pre-draft visits. We’ll see if Dennis Hickey does the same.


A couple of quick snippets from Joe Philbin's and Mike Wallace's interviews with the team-owned WINZ radio show today:

### Philbin said he likes Knowshon Moreno’s “versatility and multiple skill set.”

### Philbin, on new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor: “Bill has done an excellent job.…. We’re going to be stressing the tempo of our offense, the play speed."

### Mike Wallace said Ryan Tannehill "has texted me eight, nine times" because he's excited about Lazor's offense. "Everybody is excited about the new offense."

### Wallace: "We can't have the kind of year we had last year."

### Phibin said he told his linebackers “we need more game-changing plays.”

### Philbin, on Dion Jordan: “Growth and development are two words I think of when I think of with this particular player. He’s been here two weeks, off to a good start. We’ve got to get him up to speed on the fundamentals at his position, which were new last season for him.” 


The NFL will announce the 2014 schedule, with dates and times, at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

And a quick broadcast note: ESPN will get a wild-card playoff game for the first time next season (one of the two that NBC has been televising on the first Saturday of the playoffs).

To replace that game, NBC will get a division-round playoff game beginning next season. One year, NBC will take that game from CBS, and the next from Fox, and so forth. NBC also gets the Super Bowl next season. 

Please check back late tonight for a lot more Dolphins draft chatter.

April 21, 2014

Arison addresses assorted topics; Heat could get increased flexibility

Some highlights from Heat owner Micky Arison’s interview on Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show today on 790/104.3 The Ticket:

### Le Batard asked him the percentage chance "this thing stays together next season" --- in other words, the nucleus of the team.

Arison's response: “100 percent."

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all exercise early-termination clauses this summer but haven't said if they will.

### The greatest challenge to keeping the Big Three together?

“I hope it’s not going to be a challenge at all," Arison said. "We’ll see…. Our focus is winning a championship. Hopefully, after that it will be a nice parade and a good summer.”

### What about people who say the Big Three era would be a failure without another championship this season?

“It’s not fair at all," Arison said. "Half the franchises in the NBA have never won one championship. The San Antonio Spurs, who have had a tremendous run, have never won back to back championships. To say it’s anything but a huge success is ridiculous.”

### Is the Heat good or bad for his health?

“Bad,” he said. “Don’t like to lose….. I go to bed grumpy and wake up grumpy” after losses. During games, “I will occasionally curse."

### On what happens if he and his son, team CEO Nick, disagree: “It hasn’t happened. We generally have pretty good consensus.”

### The number of times Pat Riley and Arison have had a loud disagreement?

“A handful. We’ve never had a loud disagreement. We’ve always found a way to find a middle ground and agree….

He also said: “I’m made aware of trades" before they are made. "More often than not, I wouldn’t have an issue.”

### Arison said: “I have a few times asked” Erik Spoelstra “why he did something. He will explain to me why he does why he does.... I’m no more than any other fan. If I see something I’m curious about, I’ll ask him. But it’s only happened a handful of times. It usually happens when I observe practice. More often than not, I would have that conversation with Pat.”

### The decision Arison had to make that hurt the most?

“Trading Caron Butler and Lamar Odom. I loved bringing back Shaq, but we loved those guys. We had to do it. The Mike Miller [amnesty] decision was made the day the collective bargaining agreement was passed, and we voted against it. Mike knew that too."

### Was the collective bargaining agreement put in place partly to break up Heat?

“Well definitely,” Arison said. “The lockout was summer of 2011. [The Heat signing James and Bosh and re-signing Wade a year earlier] was very fresh in everybody’s mind.”

Arison said the Heat, in the Big Three era, “has been great for the league. A lot of owners, and the league office would admit, it has been great for the league.”

### Hardest time to be the owner of the Heat? “The 15-win season” in 2007-08.

### On the difference with Adam Silver replacing retired David Stern as commissioner: “Over time, it will become a lot more transparent league. Adam is a very different person and will bring his own approach. It will be a more consensus approach and a more open approach. David Stern was a more dictatorial leader. I didn’t mean by that to say anything negative about David; he did an incredible job.”

### On Donald Trump as an owner (if he buys the Buffalo Bills): “As long as it’s football, I have no problem [with it].”


The NBA informed teams last week that its expects the salary cap and luxury tax threshold will increase by about $5 million next season, a development that will give the Heat a bit more flexibility in assembling a supporting cast around its stars.

If the Heat is able to keep James, Wade and Bosh, then they will be above the salary cap, which is expected to be $63.2 million, up from $58.6 million this season.

The NBA also projects the luxury tax threshold to rise from $71.7 million to $77 million, and the tax is a big deal to the Heat because it becomes a lot more punitive next season. Because the Heat was a tax-paying team this season and the previous two, Miami will have to pay a repeater tax next season, combined with the regular tax.

Bottom line: If the Heat is $4 million over the tax threshold next season, its tax bill would be $10 million. If the Heat is $10 million over, the tax bill would top $26 million.

So let’s say the Big Three stays in Miami at the salaries they are due to earn next season in their current contracts: $20.59 million for both James and Bosh, and $20.048 million for Wade. That would add up to $61 million.

Throw in the $2.15 million due Norris Cole, $4.6 million for Udonis Haslem (who assuredly won’t opt out) and $1.6 million for Chris Andersen (who might not opt out, either), and that’s $69.5 million.

And Miami would still have nine roster spots to fill, which would put it over the tax threshold. One could go to center Justin Hamilton, who has an $816,482 team option for next season.

But with a tax threshold of $77 million, the extra maneuverability could make it easier for Miami to re-sign Mario Chalmers and/or use its taxpayer mid-level exception (which will be $3.27 million) and/or use its $2.2 million trade exception (acquired in the Joel Anthony/Toney Douglas trade) without sustaining a crushing tax hit.

The tax hit on signing a 10-year veteran at the $1.4 million minimum is $500,000 below the $1.4 million figure, but only if it’s a one-year contract. That makes signing players to the minimum even more appealing for teams hoping to avoid a tax hit.

### If James and Bosh opt out, all three would be eligible to receive five years and 7.5 percent annual raises from the Heat, compared with four years and 4.5 percent raises from another team. So James could earn more by staying here. If Wade opts out, he likely would be taking less money in exchange for more years.

The original contracts signed by the Big Three were six-year deals, with opt-out clauses after the fourth and fifth years, meaning the next two summers.