FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
### Wednesday provided another reminder of everything the Heat is missing without LeBron James. Most are obvious, but this has been a more subtle impact: All seven returning Heat players are shooting less accurately with James no longer around to draw so much of the defensive focus.
Four of the seven are shooting worse than they ever have as NBA players. For Chris Bosh, the sizable drop-off is even more pronounced when Dwyane Wade is sidelined.
“LeBron did make things a lot easier for guys, but you can’t use that as an excuse,” Norris Cole said. “Sometimes we try to get too much of the perfect shot instead of taking what’s open. Sometimes, we’re hesitant on shots.”
The Heat is shooting 45.5 percent (12th in the league) compared to a league-best 50.1 last season.
Wade, who was usually the NBA’s most accurate shooting guard before and after James’ arrival, has seen his percentage drop from a remarkable 54.5 (best among two-guards last season) to 48.7 (third in the league at his position).
Bosh has dropped from 51.6 to 46.0, his worst percentage since his rookie season (45.9). What's more, Bosh is shooting just 44.5 percent this season in games Wade doesn’t play.
His less accurate shooting post-LeBron “was to be expected,” said Bosh, who has dropped from 22nd last season to 58th in the NBA in shooting percentage among qualifiers. “The volume has increased and you see the difficulty with the defense shifting over and focusing more on me. They’re really loading up on me. It’s not getting shots in spots I want. Before I was just lining guys up wide open and shooting 50 percent. That’s easy.”
Cole is down from 41.4 last season to a career-low 38.6, Mario Chalmers from 45.4 to 39.9 (equaling his career worst), Udonis Haslem from 50.7 to a career-low 42.3, Chris Andersen from 64.4 to a still excellent 62.8, and seldom-used Justin Hamilton from 45 to 41.5.
### An official who has spoken to the Heat said Miami very much likes Phoenix combo guard Goran Dragic, who has a $7.5 million player option for next season and is expected to test unrestricted free agency. But he will command more than Miami can offer (a midlevel exception) barring a sign-and-trade or a significant clearing of cap space.
A Racine, Wis. newspaper said Thursday that the Suns are open to trading Dragic and want a first-round pick.
Oklahoma City impending restricted free agent Reggie Jackson also intrigues the Heat. Jackson politely declined to say if the Heat interests him.
### Real GM reported tonight that the Heat has explored a trade for Denver's Jameer Nelson, who has played for three teams this season, but that nothing is imminent.
But I'm not sure Nelson, in steep decline at 33, would be much of an upgrade. He's averaging 7.5 points and shooting just 36.6 percent this season and is now dealing with an Achilles' injury. He would be worth a second-rounder at most and only if Miami deals Cole. But the Heat already has one small point guard with defensive issues (Shabazz Napier).
### Besides point guard, backup shooting remains an issue, even amid some good moments from Tyler Johnson.
“Mike [Miller] and Ray [Allen] weren't just great shooters," Bosh said. "They were great passers, could finish at the rim. When we play two point guards, it can work because we can push the tempo. But size is one thing we have to worry about with that lineup.”
Small forward Danny Granger hasn’t played shooting guard because he’s too vulnerable defensively at that position.
Though the Heat spoke to Ray Allen last summer, Miami surprisingly never made an offer to re-sign him. Allen is considering whether to resume his career, likely with a contender.
An Eastern Conference GM said Tuesday that Denver is listening to offers for swingman Wilson Chandler. Denver also has made Aaron Afflalo available, and the Heat is said to have interest. But ESPN reported the Nuggets want a first-round pick for both players, and Miami cannot offer one before 2017, per league rules prohibiting teams from trading its own first-rounder in consecutive years.
### Among the options the Dolphins have been considering with Mike Wallace is raising the idea of a contract restructuring. It’s highly questionable whether Wallace would accept one. He’s due to make $9.9 million for the 2015 season, of which $3 million is guaranteed if he’s on the team at the start of the league year (March 10).
### Left tackle Branden Albert remains the Dolphins player who has been most vocal in advocating Wallace’s return. “He’s getting a bad rap right now,” Albert said. “Mike Wallace is a good teammate. And he’s a hell of a player.” Ryan Tannehill also has conveyed that he can make it work with Wallace.
### Though this isn't unusual, a bunch of Dolphins who are still awaiting their fate, including Randy Starks and others, have been given no indication of the team's intentions. Dennis Hickey has wanted to discuss everything with Mike Tannenbaum and Joe Philbin before approaching players or their agents. Players will begin to be informed soon enough, perhaps at the Combine starting next week.
### After replacing two NFL-bound assistants, UM coach Al Golden quietly continues to tinker with his staff.
Former UM defensive end Kareem Brown will remain a graduate assistant but will assume duties of coaching outside linebackers. Linebackers coach Hurlie Brown, a former safety at UM, now will focus on inside linebackers. Beyond that, UM said publicly Thursday that no further staff changes are planned.
### Regarding UM’s 21-player recruiting class that featured only seven prospects from South Florida, former coach Howard Schnellenberger said this past week that the goal should be having 75 percent of the class from South Florida: “I would think [Golden] would want more than seven,” he said. (Golden said he had to look elsewhere for offensive linemen this year, but he missed out on a lot of the tri-county region's top players at other positions.)
Schnellenberger, who is a Golden supporter, said it’s “absolutely” still realistic to expect UM to build a proverbial wall around South Florida.
“There are so many skill people down here,” he said, “and every recruit you bring in will help with attendance because people in the players’ sphere of influence will come to the game.”
### The Marlins broached the idea of fourth outfielder Ichiro Suzuki possibly playing backup first base to get him more at-bats, but Ichiro hasn’t played there since high school and wasn’t comfortable with that.
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz