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Wade non-committal on future; Dolphins working through linebacker scenarios; UM/MLS update; Golden; Heat draft; Marlins

Dwyane Wade declined to answer directly tonight when asked by ABC about his future.

Wade, appearing as an analyst on ABC's coverage of The Finals, prefers to exercise an opt-out clause by a late June deadline and sign a multiyear deal instead of making $16.1 million next season, according to multiple sources close to Wade. And by saying he will "worry" about his future "in July," Wade suggested tonight he would exercise that opt out.

But there remains a substantial gap between what Wade wants over the next three seasons and what the Heat wants to pay him, sources said.

Jalen Rose asked Wade: "What about these headlines? Are you leaving Miami?"

Wade: “It feels like Miami up here. It’s hot up here.” 

ABC's Sage Steele then noted Wade has an opt-out clause and can become a free agent July 1 and “leave Miami. You’ve played your whole career there. How close are you to making that decision?

Wade: “Well, listen, it’s summer time. With summer time and free agency, it’s going to be a lot of talk. Right now, I’m glad that the Finals is on, that we’re here. We’ll worry about that in July. Right now, we’re going to focus on these Finals. This is our biggest showcase. We want to focus on it.”

Before he was asked about his Heat future, Wade said: "Since 2006, when we were there for the first time... I’ve been every year to The Finals. I always go. I just want to feel it. I want to be a part of it. I’ve been blessed to go five times. I go every year. I’m happy to be here with you guys this time."

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Though the Dolphins like their young players at guard, cornerback and linebacker, there remains some concern internally at those positions.

With linebacker, here’s what we know:

### Who starts alongside Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi? The Dolphins say that decision won’t be made for a long time.

“Probably midway to the latter part of training camp before we’re settled on who the top three guys are,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.

### The Dolphins are looking closely at two potential starting groups: Misi in the middle, flanked by Jenkins and Chris McCain; or Kelvin Sheppard in the middle, paired with Jenkins and Misi.

For now, they’re giving a lot of first-team snaps to McCain.

But “the message I’ve given to all of them is the best three guys will play,” linebackers coach Mark Duffner said.

### The Dolphins expect to have only two linebackers on the field more than half the time, as they did the second half of last season. So the importance of the third starter shouldn’t be overstated.

### Besides working with the starters at strong-side linebacker (a position handled by Philip Wheeler last year), McCain also is being used to potentially fill the Dion Jordan defensive end role on third downs. It’s a big jump in responsibility for a player who logged just 46 defensive snaps last season.

“He’s got true linebacker skills,” Duffner said, noting that McCain played outside linebacker in a 4-3 at California. He had 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 24 games there before being dismissed from the team for reasons that have never been disclosed.

“He’s got very good pass rush upside,” Duffner added.

But how good is he against run?

“Hard to say yet,” Duffner said. “Because he’s lanky, people have some questions about that. We’ll see when he gets pads on. With his length and stature [6-5, 250 pounds], that allows for a lot of good things to happen.”

Former Dolphins linebacker and WINZ Dolphins analyst Kim Bokamper puts it this way: “Is he a pass rusher or an every down linebacker? That’s the question for me.”

### There are several key people inside the Dolphins who like Sheppard, even though he couldn’t retain starting positions long-term in Buffalo (which drafted him in the third round out of LSU in 2011 and later traded him) or Indianapolis, which chose not to bring him back after one season (2013).

Pro Football Focus graded him below average overall among starting inside linebackers and especially poor against the run (bottom 20 percent) when he started 15 games for Buffalo in 2012 and seven for the Colts in 2013.

But Duffner said “he’s a fireball in terms of what he’s doing on the field and the weight room. Really excited what he brings.”

### After replacing injured Dannell Ellerbe midway through last season's opener, Jenkins was something of a revelation, with 110 tackles (22nd in the league), 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

The flip side: PFF rated him 24th of 40 linebackers --- seventh in coverage but just 36th against the run.

Jenkins was part of the defense that was steamrolled on the ground in several late-season games, and Jenkins conceded recently that he must “eliminate errors. I'm in position where if I do make an error, it's a big play.” He also said he must “keep my eyes where they're supposed to be in man coverage.”

Duffner is challenging Jenkins: “I want to see him take a step forward as a productive player and aware player.”

### Misi said “nothing is set in stone” about what position he’ll play.

In his first year at middle linebacker last season, PFF rated Misi 12th of 60 inside linebackers. But he missed five games, meaning he has been sidelined 12 games in his five-year career.

The Dolphins explored middle linebackers this offseason, but the Jets’ David Harris never made it to free agency; Mason Foster said Miami finished second behind Chicago in the pursuit for him; and the Dolphins passed on new Patriot Brandon Spikes because of vulnerabilities in pass coverage.

### The Dolphins have given some first-team outside linebacker snaps to Spencer Paysinger, who has 14 starts in four seasons, including one for the Giants last season.

“He has cover skills but he’s marginal to poor vs. the run,” an NFC scout said. “Doesn’t have the strength to play the run well. Good special teams player.”

### Jordan Tripp, who played just nine defensive snaps as a rookie, “has had a great camp,” Coyle said. Duffner also mentioned that Tripp has really come along.

Also, Duffner said the Dolphins had draft-able grades on the four linebackers they signed after the draft, all of whom ranked in the top 14 in the NCAA in tackles last season: Penn State’s Mike Hull (the Big 10 linebacker of the year), Cincinnati’s Jeff Luc, Marshall’s Neville Hewitt and Utah State’s Zach Vigil.

“We were very fortunate to get all four; all are hungry, competitive guys, highly heralded,” Duffner said.

With Luc, “you see physicality, really good movement skills… Hull has a knack for being around the football. He’s made a big play in every practice.”

CANES CHATTER

### Though stadium owner Stephen Ross has declined to comment, several UM officials say they believe Ross will be receptive to negotiating terms to allow UM out of its Sun Life lease if the joint stadium project materializes as UM and MLS hope.

Ross makes more than $4 million annually in revenue from having the Hurricanes as a tenant; UM doesn’t pay rent but the sides split some revenue.

The Hurricanes have 17 years left on the lease. So Ross would lose in the neighborhood of $60 million over 14 years if UM leaves. But for buyout purposes, that number could be reduced somewhat factoring in discounted cash flow or if UM occasionally plays big games at Sun Life.

“Let’s hope Steve doesn’t make it difficult,” said a high-ranking UM Board of Trustee member. “Our fans don’t like it up there; they want to be down south. That’s where our base is. You have politicians involved from the city and county, so this is difficult. But MLS needs us for the political side of getting this done. We don’t want to be a renter. We want to be a partner in the project.”

Donna Shalala, who has left UM, won’t say if she will remain involved in the stadium pursuit, but UM doesn’t expect her to have a significant role in talks moving forward. Provost Tom LeBlanc is filling in as president until Julio Frenk takes over Sept. 1.

### UM offensive lineman Hunter Knighton, who spent 12 days on a ventilator after collapsing at a February 2014 practice, announced Saturday he has been “cleared for everything” by doctors and can resume playing on UM's football team, beginning with practices in August.

“So close to becoming the first D1 player to return from a catastrophic heat stroke,” he posted on Facebook. “All thanks to God for building my faith through this long process. Couldn't do it without my family. My parents and siblings have made some huge sacrifice this past year. Can't thank the Korey Stringer Institute enough for guiding me through this process.”

Knighton collapsed on the UM practice field Feb. 24 and spent two weeks in the hospital.

"On February 24th [2014]...with a 109 degree body temperature and unknowingly suffering with the flu, I was stricken by a heat stroke,” Knighton said in a statement released a couple months after he fainted.  

“The results were not good: brain swelling, multiple seizures, kidney and liver failure. Unresponsive, I was placed on a ventilator for twelve days during which time I fought one of the greatest battles of my life against a loss of blood platelets, double pneumonia and fever.” 

### Neat motivational tactic by Al Golden; we hear he rewarded the best players at each position this offseason by inviting them to his home a couple of weeks ago.

### Good to see Jim Morris and UM get back to Omaha after a six-year drought. It's Morris' 12th trip there in 22 years as UM's coach. Ron Fraser made the College World Series 12 times in 30 years.

HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER

### Dwyane Wade declined to shed any light on his contract situation during a Saturday appearance at a reading competition involving 100 local middle school students, an event held in conjunction with his Wade's World charitable foundation. Wade also spent time with Carlos Oser, a 15-year-old boy diagnosed with Wilms Tumor.

Wade, typically one of sports' most accessible stars, was not made available for interviews. And even though he answered questions from the children in attendance, one youngster who asked about his Heat future was told that "none of those" types of questions would be answered.

Associates say Wade prefers to opt out of the final year of a contract worth $16.1 million before a late June deadline and replace it with a more lucrative longterm contract. But the sides will need to bridge a substantial gap in their vision for what he should be paid over the next three years. Wade has until late June to tell the Heat if he's exercising the opt-out.

Wade will appear on ABC's coverage of The Finals on Sunday and Tuesday, then take a four-day Harvard course on the business of sports media and entertainment. "I'm going to class," he said. "I haven't been to school in a long time."

### The Racine (Wis.) Journal Times quoted an Eastern Conference executive who said Pat Riley “loves” Sam Dekker, the Wisconsin small forward who’s in the mix for Miami’s pick at No. 10.

But we’ve also spoken to people who said Riley likes Kentucky guard Devin Booker, Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson and Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky. Another said not to discount Kansas small forward Kelly Oubre or Kentucky power forward Trey Lyles.

In my conversations with two scouts and three TV/draft analysts, Booker is the prospect in that group who gets the strongest endorsements.

“I think Booker is the next Klay Thompson,” CBS’ Doug Gottlieb said. “Ten would be too high for Decker. He will have to become a more prolific shooter.”

### The Heat, looking for another young shooting guard, has been auditioning a bunch who will go after the first-round or undrafted:

They're trying to schedule high-scoring All-ACC combo guard Olivier Hanlan of Boston College to come in and meet with team officials; they like the three-point shooting of Auburn's TK Harrell, who auditioned recently; and they have a Thursday visit with FSU’s Aaron Thomas (the Seminoles’ leading scorer before being declared ineligible), according to Thomas' Miami Beach-based agent Seth Cohen.

Louisville point guard Terry Rozier, another Cohen client and a borderline first-rounder, also has a Heat visit tentatively planned but might need to cancel because of a schedule conflict.... Miami has become a breeding ground for sports agents (NFL's Drew Rosenhaus, David Canter, Brett Tessler, MLB’s Scott Shapiro, NBA’s Pedro Power, among others). Cohen --- a 17-year Miami Beach resident who played college ball at Yeshiva in New York --– is the latest, with his six clients ranking among the most for an agent in this NBA draft. Impressive for a guy who ran a mortgage business and an Asian restaurant on Miami Beach before breaking into the agent business in 2008.

### Baseball America and ESPN have the Marlins selecting Texas high school outfielder Trenton Clark with the 12th overall pick in Monday’s amateur draft. ESPN’s Keith Law says the Marlins also have been linked to right-handers James Kaprielian (UCLA) and Phil Bickford (Southern Nevada). College pitching appeals to the Marlins.

### How is Dan Jennings adjusting to the manager’s job?

“Good guy [but] there’s a learning curve,” one Marlins player said last week, adding it has been difficult at times. “He’s leaning on his staff.”

He said players don’t make suggestions to Jennings because they don’t want to overstep their bounds. The Marlins are 7-11 under Jennings.   

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

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