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31 posts from September 2015

September 30, 2015

From Wade contract to Dragic pregnancy to Bosh illness, Heat reaffirms family commitment; WQAM fires Grimes; Dolphins, Canes, Miami Herald news


For 20 years, everybody has heard all about how the Heat treats its players like family. LeBron James mentioned that when he signed here; Amar’e Stoudemire said this week, unsolicited: “What you need is a family type atmosphere and truly it is” here.

The franchise has backed up those words with actions, everything from hiring former players for coaching and scouting and front office jobs, to consistently promoting from within (general manager Andy Elisburg started with the Heat as a public relations intern), to purchasing Tim Hardaway’s house when the IRS placed a lien on it in 2011.

For a few weeks in June, that reputation, that the Heat takes care of its own, threatened to crumble when Dwyane Wade and the team became embroiled in a contract dispute.

But the Heat’s subsequent actions with Wade --- and how it handled a difficult pregnancy for Goran Dragic’s wife --- reaffirm what players have been told about this organization for two decades under Pat Riley and Micky Arison. And that’s significant, not only because the Heat handled matters the right way, but anything less this summer would have damaged one of the franchise’s selling points in courting free agents.

In a few hours in June, Wade went from disappointed and seriously considering a move elsewhere to knowing how much he’s valued here.

“When you get the owner of the team [Arison] and the future owner of the team [Nick Arison] to come to sit at your table at your home and feel comfortable just sitting talking to them, it shows the relationship we built,” Wade said Tuesday.

“No agents around. No nothing. Just us three sitting there and reminiscing but also talking about the future. It means a lot, when they take their time to come and say, ‘Listen, we want you here. You’re a lifer and we want to do whatever it takes to make that happen.’

“I understand the business side as well. I understand as a player, I want certain things but I also understand the organization needs certain things. Us coming to a one-year [$20 million] agreement this year was the best for both sides. I never lost faith in the Heat family, ever. It’s a business. Things are said, but I never lost faith.”

The Wade issue drew headlines. This, though, unfolded in private:

Early this offseason, when Dragic’s wife Maja required hospitalization in Slovenia for 15 days, six months into her pregnancy, the Heat was in frequent contact, offering to help find a doctor or assist any way it could.

“[Erik Spoelstra], Pat, they were sending me messages checking on my wife,” Dragic said this week. “Pat called. They were real helpful. If I needed something they were here for me. Even D-Wade [emailed].”

After the baby was born healthy more than a month ago, the team sent a gift basket and Spoelstra bought and mailed a baby carriage and some clothes, Dragic said.

It arrived at the Dragic home in Slovenia this past week because “in Europe, with customs, it takes time,” Dragic said.

How touched was Dragic by all this? “It was unbelievable,” he said. “I never experienced anything like that. I was on a couple of teams in this league and in Europe, but here they do stuff differently.

“It’s a great feeling because you feel like a part of this great organization, part of this family where if you need something, you know they will be there for you.”

Chris Bosh, too, was moved when Spoelstra and Riley visited him at the hospital when he was diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs.

“I don’t know how many organizations where the GM and the coach on a game day would come to see you,” he said, noting Wade also visited. “Without being too mushy, coming to see me showed me how much we mean to each other. It’s always put to the test in difficult situations and they came through. It was pretty awesome.

“They sent gift baskets, flowers. Spo brought books. He tries to find something I never read or what he’s reading at the time. I thought I would be able to read them in the hospital but I was in too much pain.”

For the cynical, I should note that I learned of the Heat reaching out to Dragic during Maja’s pregnancy from a friend of Dragic, not from the Heat. So the team isn’t looking for publicity on this.

But in the wake of the Wade drama, preserving its pristine “family” image was vitally important for the Heat. After all, it would have been difficult to preach family in a room with Kevin Durant next summer if Wade had fled in anger or if your players didn’t consistently rave about the way they’re treated here.

### The Heat's starting five, which has never played together in a game, hasn't practiced together, yet, either, with Hassan Whiteside again sidelined Wednesday by a calf injury.


### Why was Jordan Phillips, who has Miami’s only sack this season, inactive against Buffalo? He said coaches told him it was performance-based, that “I’ve got to be better” and “I didn’t do what I needed to do in practice.” He said being inactive was somewhat shocking because “I’m supposed to have a big role on this team.”

### Joe Philbin says he will stick with struggling Jamil Douglas at right guard. So why can’t Billy Turner get on the field? Offensive line coach John Benton wants his linemen to block with the technique he teaches, and Turner hasn’t done it to Benton’s liking.

“[The issue] wasn’t my production,” Turner said. “Every coach wants things done with their technique. It’s much different than what I did in college, which was straight up power.”

### Miko Grimes, wife of Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, has been dropped from her on-air role on WQAM-560, after being charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence before Sunday’s Dolphins game.

The station declined to comment beyond saying she will no longer work there. WQAM hasn't determined a new weekend co-host for Omar Kelly.

### Though Brad Kaaya has improved his completion percentage from 58.5 in 2014 to 61.4 percent this season, offensive coordinator James Coley said this spring he wants it over 70 percent.

"I know he wants to get his completion percentage up so we can possess the ball a little bit better, especially on 3rd downs," Al Golden said today, of Kaaya. "That's really been a focus all week with him."

### Golden, asked today about UM's situation at safety with Deon Bush and Jamal Carter suspended for the first half Thursday against Cincinnati: "I think we're good there. We've been playing five all year,   so, Rayshawn Jenkins has two interceptions already, Dallas (Crawford) has [played well], I think, every game, and then 'Quan Johnson. We'll have a rotation there, and we'll help those guys on special teams by alleviating some of that pressure. We're not going to change anything. We believe in those guys. All three of those guys are really smart. We'll be deeper in the second half certainly with Deon and Jamal coming back."

### UM's running back oral commitments for 2016 are off to blazing starts. Travis Homer is averaging 7.5 yards per carry, with 441 yards rushing, six rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown. Zack Moss  is averaging 8.4 yards per carry, with 345 yards, six rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns.

FYI: Palmetto-based Florida quarterback Jack Allison, planning to arrive at UM in January, has thrown seven TDs and two picks.


Pleased to announce that two outstanding journalists --- Ethan J. Skolnick and Manny Navarro --- are joining The Herald's Miami Heat team. (I'll remain involved, as always).

Skolnick will write, report, columnize, blog and tweet about the Heat, with his work appearing regularly in The Herald’s print and digital editions.

It is a homecoming of sorts for Skolnick, who covered the Heat and the Dolphins during an earlier stint at The Herald, from 2000 to 2002.

Skolnick has since worked as a general columnist at the Sun-Sentinel, a Heat columnist at the Palm Beach Post and as a national NBA writer at Turner Sports/Bleacher Report.

Skolnick, who has 65,000 Twitter followers, has an afternoon-drive radio show on 790 The Ticket, which he co-hosts with another former Herald staffer, ESPN's Israel Gutierrez. Station management has said it's happy with the show but isn't ready to yet name them permanent hosts. Nielsen hasn't released ratings for the past two weeks, since Skolnick and Gutierrez started airing opposite WQAM's show, with Marc Hochman, Channing Crowder and Zach Krantz. 

Manny, who I've had the pleasure of working with for more than a decade, will focus on the Heat but keep his hand in UM coverage, as well.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for a lot more Heat, Dolphins and Canes if you missed last night's post.    

September 29, 2015

Strangers until recently, two former Duke stars ready to handle SF for Heat; Dolphins/Philbin; UM, Heat notes


Heat chatter off the start of training camp:

### The Heat always has shown an affinity for Duke players and now boasts a splendid synergy of Blue Devils at small forward --- current starter Luol Deng and the potential starter of the future (Justise Winslow), just 16 months removed from high school but already with an NCAA championship and an NBA body.

Deng and Winslow --- who both visited the White House this summer, Winslow with Duke’s title team, Deng to meet with President Obama about South Sudan --- never met before this summer.

“I want to take him under my wing,” Deng said this week. “I’ve been in this league for 12 years and I don’t have habits that will hurt him.

“What I really like about him is… you can see he’s very mature for his age (19).  His talent is amazing. He’s versatile. I don’t think physically he will struggle with the game.”

The 6-foot-7 Winslow, who has gained close to 10 pounds since leaving Duke and is now 230, said he made “a lot of progress” this summer in two areas where growth was needed: mid-range shooting and extending his range to the NBA three-point line.

“I’m hitting many of the [threes in practice],” he said. “I’ve become a better player in all aspects.”

Winslow was consistently able to drive by defenders during the Orlando Summer League. But can he do it against NBA competition?

“I’m very confident,” he said. “Of course summer league isn’t the same as the regular season. I feel it’s going to translate. But we’ll have to wait until the first game to find out.”

When Winslow was working out in the past month, Erik Spoelstra approached and started asking him these questions: Do you want to be great? Do you want to be a champion? Do you want to be a guy an organization can build around?

“Mentally, throwing those types of things at me is the best way to motivate me and get the most out of me,” Winslow said. “I’ll respond to yellers [too]. I played for Coach K. [Spoelstra] has been great. He’s trying to make me earn everything, not giving me anything.”

Spoelstra also told him this: “You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to get in line.”

The opportunity is there, but he must earn minutes. And if Spoelstra chooses to play only nine, he also can use backup shooting guard Gerald Green behind Deng. James Ennis also is competing for the backup small forward job.

“What [Winslow] has going is youth; he has a great conditioning level,” Spoelstra said. “He’s going to attack this camp and respect the veteran players by showing them no respect on the court. Production will ultimately tell [his role].”

Winslow said the first day of Heat camp felt like his first day at Duke.

He values having Deng in his ear. “He’s a good guy; he has been teaching me little things about playing on the perimeter. It has really helped out a lot,” Winslow said.

Deng, meanwhile, comes off a season in which he averaged the fewest rebounds of his career (5.2) and the fewest points (14.0) since his rookie season, though a slight reduction in minutes contributed to that. He also attempted more threes (220) than would be his preference.

“It’s very hard to judge what I could do from last year,” Deng said. “It was a year where you saw Luol Deng at his best, Luol Deng at his worst. [There] wasn’t consistency. 

“When there’s a lot of change of lineups, guys coming in that you haven’t had a lot of time playing with, it’s not my style of basketball” because he’s at his best when he’s cutting, where teammates know where he’s going to be.

“As long as we keep the group together and everyone is healthy and as deep as the bench is, you’ll see a more consistent me,” Deng said.

Spoelstra agrees: “Now that we have a full complement of players, I think you’ll see a much more versatile Luol Deng.  He knows how to adapt to different systems. I’ve told him we’re not going to put him in a box.”

Deng said he opted in to the final year of his contract, for $10.2 million, because “you opt out and have to go through the process again. I wasn’t ready for that. I was happy with what I see going on in here.

“With this team, if you take the names and lay them out, it’s a championship team. We’re going to be really tough to beat.”

The Heat also has a third Duke alum on the team: Josh McRoberts.

### We’re told the Heat is happy with its roster and is not pursuing Gerald Wallace or any other available veteran free agent.

### Magic Johnson also loves the Heat’s roster: “Looking at it now, only two teams from the East could win the NBA Championship – Cleveland and Miami,” Magic tweeted today.

### Some fans complained when Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and a few other Heat players joined LeBron James two weeks ago for a “Wade Field Day” bonding session.

To which Haslem says this: “People want to complain about LeBron leaving and how can we still hang out and be friends. But people don’t understand that without us being friends, we don’t win those championships.

“The friendship is why we won, why were able to endure being down against Indiana and being down against Boston or coming back against San Antonio. Those friendships, the bond that we had, is why we were able to persevere through the tough times. That’s the reason why we are able to continue to be together, but that’s the reason why people complain. You can’t have everything. I can see why they may be salty with him leaving but you can’t have an issue with us being friends.

“When we step on the lines, I’m going to compete as hard as I can against LeBron. If I have to take a charge, if I have to knock him down, it’s all part of the game. That has nothing to do with how I feel about LeBron personally off the court. We enjoyed a great four years of success together. You build a love that’s beyond basketball.”


Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who often responds to e-mail, declined to answer when asked if Joe Philbin will finish the season as coach. Though an in-season change remains a possibility, one problem is Dolphins brass isn’t believed to be enamored with the idea of any of their top assistants becoming interim coach (though it might come to that).

### The Dolphins have been outscored by 91 points in the first quarter of Philbin’s 51 games as coach, including 27-3 this season. They’ve been outgained 482-107 in the first quarter through three games.

On Sunday, we mentioned players privately grumbling about the length and intensity of a recent practice. “Maybe we are doing a little too much,” Philbin said Monday. “Maybe our energy coming out of the gate isn’t good.”

But the poor starts also raise another player complaint that persists with Philbin: He doesn’t inspire or particularly motivate his men.

“I’m excited the Dolphins found a new month to quit on Joe Philbin,” Bill Simmons tweeted. “December was getting stale.”

### Current 53-man NFL rosters have 63 players who entered the league with the Dolphins, tied for sixth-most. So Miami is finding NFL players. But many aren’t good enough to make a big impact, and some aren’t being developed properly here and have more success elsewhere.

### The Dolphins signed former Missouri tight end/receiver Marcus Lucas to their practice squad, according to the team's web site. He spent last season with Carolina's practice squad. Linebacker Terrell Manning was cut... Remember linebacker Jordan Tripp? Jacksonville released him from its practice squad today... Ex-Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis found a job with Philadelphia this week... Andrew Franks' missed PAT Sunday was hardly surprising considering he missed eight in college at RPI.

### UM coach Al Golden said he wants to redshirt linebacker Jamie Gordinier (despite depth issues at that position), four-star defensive end Scott Patchan, defensive tackle Ryan Fines, safety Robert Knowles and offensive linemen Bar Milo, Brendan Loftus and Hayden Mahoney.

### Five-star Norland power forward Dewan Huell, who would be a huge get for Miami, visits the Hurricanes on an official visit this weekend. A close associate of Huell has long identified FSU as the front-runner, and South Carolina is the other top contender. But Miami still has a real chance here.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

September 28, 2015

Chalmers leans on LeBron, Wade during summer of trade rumors; Canes, Dolphins; Miko Grimes

A few Monday night items:

### When the trade rumors were flying this summer, when Mario Chalmers wasn’t quite sure if he was coming or going, the veteran Heat guard leaned on two old friends: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

“LeBron and D-Wade are my two closest people when I’ve got things going on in my mind,” Chalmers said Monday on the eve of the start of Heat training camp. “I talked to those two in the summer and it really helped ease my mind. Bron, big brother, he told me, ‘Don’t worry --- it’s a business.’”

A general manager from another team said the Heat shopped Chalmers during the summer in an attempt to lessen its luxury tax burden, because Chalmers’ $4.3 million salary could result in a tax hit of more than double that amount for Miami if he’s on the roster at the end of the regular season.

But Chalmers said he never sought clarity from the Heat, nor has management given him any assurances.

“I talked to them at the end of the season,” he said. “They said, ‘If we have to trade you, we will. If we don’t, we won’t.’…  It’s always stressful when you hear your name in trade rumors.”

Chalmers, who had minor knee surgery in May, said the knee discomfort was a “big factor” in his decline last season.

He also was never quite sure of his role, because he switched between both guard spots and between starting and coming off the bench.  

“It was kind of, in a way, disappointing,” he said of his role last season. “Maybe I could do more, but I’m not being allowed to. It was more an inside battle, had to figure it out.”

This season, there is clarity; Erik Spoelstra announced Chalmers will be the backup point guard. “You still have to prepare for anything,” Chalmers said. “But at least knowing the clarity of what exact position I can focus on, it does ease my mind going in.”

Said Spoelstra: “Clarity always breeds confidence. Hopefully Rio will wrap his mind and arms around the clarity. I care about Rio. We’ve been through so much as a rookie player, a rookie head coach to now we’re both veterans. I’m excited about him embracing this new role. I’m open to changing for more, better, wherever it could possibly go.”

### Forward Chris Andersen, who also was made available in trades this offseason, said he has felt no need to ask the Heat where he stands. “I didn’t let it bother me one bit,” he said.

### Though there will be an emphasis on pushing the ball, players agreed the Heat will play several different styles, depending on the lineup on the court.

“You want to be able to play a bunch of different styles,” Chris Bosh said. “We are going to get the ball up the court fast. That’s the goal. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to shoot it fast.”

Said Wade: "We have Goran; we want to be able to unleash him…. [But] when you have an opportunity where you need to slow it down and run offense, you want to feel your half-court talent is good enough as well.”

### Forward Josh McRoberts, limited to 17 games last season because of knee surgery, said he’s fine physically and the emphasis is getting his “fitness and endurance back.”

### Goran Dragic said he was “sad” to see his brother traded to Boston but that Zoran is happy playing in Russia this season.

### A few issues addressed by Al Golden: With Deon Bush and Jamal Carter suspended for the first half against Cincinnati, Golden said he won't do anything different from a strategic standpoint before halftime. He said he's confident Rayshawn Jenkins, Dallas Crawford, and freshman Jaquan Johnson can play effectively...

On the team's health: "We’ve gotten healthy. We had a situation where it was just circumstances were odd with [Marques] Gayot. Other than that, we’ve gotten healthy. Stacy [Coley] is further along to being healthy, we’re just not ready yet with that hamstring, and we’re going to be in for it all season if we don’t take care of it. But Braxton [Berrios] is healthy, [Jermaine] Grace is healthy."...

Despite the lack of depth at linebacker (exacerbated by the loss of Gayot and season-ending injury to Darrion Owens), Golden said he wants to redshirt Jamie Gordinier. He hopes Charles Perry or James King emerges as depth.

### Among 75 guards who have played at least 25 percent of their team's downs, Pro Football Focus rates Dallas Thomas 71st and Jamil Douglas 74th. Douglas has allowed 12 quarterback hurries; no other guard has allowed more than nine.

"I think he's done a lot of good things," Joe Philbin said of Douglas. "It’s a process, it’s his first year in the NFL and I think he’s adjusted well. We were hoping to watch continued development. I'm not ready to pull the plug on him yet. We thought Dallas overall played a little bit better than he did last week.”

 ### Meanwhile, PFF ranks Cam Wake 37th and Olivier Vernon 43rd among 45 defensive ends who play in a 4-3 defense. Each has no sacks and only two quarterback hurries.

### Philbin was asked if Brice McCain was giving a lot of cushion to receivers by design or because of poor technique.

 “I think there is some of both there?" Philbin said. "There were some times we wished his alignment were a little bit tighter maybe to discourage some of those underneath throws you were talking about. Some of them are coverage where potentially his alignment is seven yards off. There were pictures of both in the film.”

### Following her Sunday arrest at Sun Life Stadium, Miko Grimes --- wife of Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes --- is in jeopardy of not being permitted to attend Dolphins home games, WINZ's Andy Slater reported.

Miko Grimes was charged with battery on a law-enforcement officer, resisting with violence and disorderly conduct. 

Miami-Dade Police Department Detective Zabaleta told Slater that usually in a case like Grimes', the person would be given a trespass warning and not be allowed back at that location. Banning Grimes "is something that (special events police officers) are going to have to discuss," Zabaleta told Slater. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz.... Please see the last post for a lot more Heat and Dolphins from today, including President Obama's thoughts on the Heat and some introspective analysis from Dwyane Wade.

5 p.m.: Obama likes Heat; Zo's challenge to Whiteside; Wade on how he has changed; Spoelstra addresses issues; Dolphins nuggets

We'll have posts all day from Heat media day, plus some Dolphins fallout:

Please scroll down for Dolphins notes from Monday morning.

### Luol Deng met with President Obama alone for 20 minutes about the great work Deng has done in the South Sudan and he said Obama "believes this year with the pieces we have, he's really excited about watching the Heat and thinks we could do a lot of good things." 

He said Obama "wasn't happy" that he's no longer with the Bulls. Obama, of course, is a big Bulls fan.

### The Heat, as expected, signed journeymen guards Tre Kelly and John Lucas III, giving them the maximum 20 players for training camp.

### Hassan Whiteside said Alonzo Mourning said "I should focus on being Defensive Player of the Year. That’s one of my big focuses --- being the best defender in the NBA."


Here's what Erik Spoelstra had to say moments ago:

### On Hassan Whiteside: “He’s is in tremendous shape. Even for a player that has great strength and power near the rim, he also has the potential for versatility and speed and quickness to where the game is going. His body fat is at a career low. He can run up and down the floor and not get tired, like a guard would do it. He can leverage his strengths near the basket. He has worked on his game as consistent as anybody this summer.”

### On Goran Dragic: “A player who’s a rhythm player, attack player, a player who tries to facilitate, it’s really going to be an exciting experience for him. I was able to see him in July and then he came back after he and his wife had their first daughter. All of that will help him feel more at ease. He knows how we want to play. Goran is a guy that likes to feel comfortable in his environment…. You will see that translate into more comfort and success on the court.”

### On Justise Winslow: “I told him you don’t have to wait, you don’t have to get in line. What he has going is he has youth. He has a great conditioning level right now. He has an approach he’s going to attack this camp and respect the veteran players by showing them no respect on the court. I want him to attack it. Production will ultimately tell [his role].”

### On Chris Andersen: “He came in arguably in as good a shape for a training camp as he’s been with us. He lost some weight, which is so essential as you get further in your career [37]. He’s quicker. We love his contagious motor.”

### On Mario Chalmers, who has a more clarified role (backup point guard) after alternating between both guard spots and starting and backing up last season: “He’s had a very good summer too. He’s had work in conditioning, weight work. He’s motivated to be part of a team that has an opportunity. Clarity always breeds confidence. Hopefully Rio will wrap his mind and arms around the clarity. I care about Rio. We’ve been through so much as a rookie player, a rookie head coach to now we’re both veterans. I’m excited about his embracing this new role. I’m open to changing for more, better, wherever it could possibly go.”

### On the offense: “The operative word I’ve used is pace. We want to play at a pace that gets us up the court quickly. I have to leave room to adapt. The team will ultimately tell me.”

### Do they have enough three-point spacing? “We do feel comfortable with it. We may not be the most conventional and traditional of 3-point shooting teams that are out there. Who cares? Space and pace will be critical for this team. We have proven shooters. So while there may not be the type of 3-point shooting that will be competing in an NBA 3-point shooting contest, you don’t want to leave some of our guys open. They have enough of our resumes to make enough 3-point shots that hurt you. We’ll see if we can have some career-high shooting percentages. I’m not married to they have to be 3-point shots.”

### Overall: “We’re excited about this team and the expectations we have. I’m starting my 21st year here and every single year I’ve worked for Micky Arison and Pat Riley, we know what we’re trying to play for. We’re excited about the depth. We've added the essential and needed depth you need to compete for a title."

### As far as his rotation: "We’ve had some guys penciled in and we have four weeks to see how that plays out. This year we had time and focus and tremendous amount of energy going into this offseason.

"Our team has a nice blend of veteran experienced players, guys in their prime athletically and to have youthful exuberance. We like the roster. Most teams do right now.”

### On why they’re going to Boca Raton for training camp for five days: “This is a great opportunity to set the foundation for this season and get away. I like to spend all the in-between times together. This group will need it. We have new faces coming to camp.”

### On rest for older veterans during camp: “Any veteran player over 30 I’ll keep an eye on. I’ll be aware of Chris and all the players over 30 to move them forward. We have done an inordinate amount of planning. I’ll adjust as necessary. Communication will be at an all-time high among the coaching staff, training camp and players.”

### On recovering emotionally from a lottery year: “The pain of last year is about two weeks. You’re in a hole. You’re depressed. You throw on a playoff game and have so much regret.”


Highlights from Wade's session with reporters:

### His general thoughts entering the season: "I'm self-motivated. Where I come from, it's an honor for me to be going into my 13th year in the NBA. I've been broken, broken, broken and I'm still here. I work as hard as anybody to prepare myself for a season. I'm a different ballplayer than I was; no secret about that. But I'm an effective ballplayer being different.

"Last year was the year to me I reassured myself I'm still an elite player. Just a different game. Maybe not SportsCenter top 10 elite player but still... a you-better-look-at-me-in-the-scouting-report top player. I will strive to be that this year as well."

### Spoelstra said he plans to work the starting lineup of Wade, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside as a unit a lot in camp: "That's very important," Wade said. "We hopes everybody makes it through training camp and gets to the real thing. It's a great starting lineup. That doesn't guarantee us anything. What it is does is gives us an opportunity to have confidence. We hope we can make it one of the best starting fives in the league in production.

"There's only one basketball. Everyone is going to have to be as selfless as can be for us to be successful. You can't have the individual mind of, 'I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.'... We'll see what kind of mentality our team has."

### On the Heat's style: "You want to be able to build a team for the first five. You want to build the game for the second five. We want to have different games for everyone to be successful. When you've got a guy like Hassan Whiteside, and you can go, let's go. When you have an opportunity where you need to slow it down and run offense, you want to feel your halfcourt talent is good enough as well.

"We have Goran; we want to be able to unleash him. I don't want to make that game where it's consistent. If not, we'll slow it down. Hopefully, we're efficient in that game as well."

### On his health: "I have a good offseason. Last year, it was missing games from my hamstring but I worked as hard as I could to make sure that's not the case this year."

### "Obviously, every team loves their team right now. Everybody thinks they have a chance. But we like what this season brought us. We had a pretty decent summer. We're able to add Gerald Green, Amare,... a  player coming in as a winner in Justise Winslow. To be able to get Josh McRoberts back, I obviously like that.... Now, we have to get behind closed doors and see how everything works....

"Everyone talks about how excited we are about our depth. But you've got to understand at times the depth will get in the way of your playing time. How are we going to get past that? Those are the things people don't look at that affect teams. We've got to be able to get over that hump."


A few things that stand out from Pro Football Focus' analysis of the Dolphins-Bills debacle and a couple other items:

### PFF gave an unspeakably bad grade to right guard Jamil Douglas (a minus 8.9). Can't remember seeing a grade that poor for an individual performance in a Dolphins game. He allowed six QB hurries and two hits. And PFF says his run blocking was even worse.

The other guard, Dallas Thomas, was given a minus 2.9 and allowed three hurries. The Dolphins' guard play has been consistently substandard through three games. What else is new?

### The gruesome numbers on the Dolphins pass defense: As poor as the defensive backs were, the linebackers were also atrocious in coverage. Kelvin Sheppard allowed the one pass thrown against him to be caught for 24 yards. Koa Misi, beaten by Charles Clay, allowed 3 of 4 to be caught for 53 yards....

Among cornerbacks, Brice McCain allowed 6 of 10 to be caught for 100 yards, Jamar Taylor 3 of 4 for 49 yards (that includes the Chris Hogan TD where Walt Aikens was out of position), Brent Grimes 3 of 3 for 14 yards and Zack Bowman 1 for 1 for 12 yards.

### Bill Lazor distributed receiver snaps by giving 60 (of 78) to Jarvis Landry, and in the 40s for everyone else: Greg Jennings (47, probably too many), Kenny Stills (41), DeVante Parker (42) and Rishard Matthews (40).

### Jonas Gray and Damien Williams each had 16 snaps behind Lamar Miller (44).

### Defensively, Cam Wake played 40 of the 65 defensive snaps, Olivier Vernon 41, Derrick Shelby 33 and Terrence Fede 24. Among d-tackles, Ndamukong Suh played 52, Earl Mitchell 37, CJ Mosley 21 and AJ Francis 11.

### Kevin Coyle went back to splitting time at middle linebacker, with Sheppard getting 26 snaps and Zach Vigil 15.

### For the second straight week, Chris McCain played just one defensive snap.

### At cornerback, Brent Grimes played 65, Jamar Taylor 42, Brice McCain 47 and Bowman 3. Michael Thomas got more safety snaps than Walt Aikens (40 to 24).

### PFF graded Brice McCain and Olivier Vernon worst among defensive players.

### What about that vaunted Dolphins d-line? Miami has one sack, tied with the Giants for fewest in the league. And only Cleveland has allowed more rushing yards than Miami's 435.

### Overall, the Dolphins' defense ranks 26th in yards allowed, 391 per game.

### The Dolphins' offense ranks 27th in points per game (just 17.0).

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz ... Check back throughout the day for more Heat.                   

September 27, 2015

General managers, scouts analyze Heat; Dolphins, Canes, Panthers, Beckham/MLS chatter


With training camp beginning Tuesday, we assembled a panel of two veteran scouts, two general managers and a respected veteran assistant coach to assess the Heat’s offseason moves. Some of the feedback:

### Most, but not all, of the response was positive on Justise Winslow.

“He was a top seven talent, and he’s going to be a better player than the two kids taken ahead of him [Stanley Johnson by Detroit, Frank Kaminsky by Charlotte],” one of the GMs said. “Winslow rebounds, he defends, he plays the game the right way. The shooting will come. At the very least, he’s Michael Kidd Gilchrist [10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds for Charlotte last season] but better offensively.”

One of the scouts said Winslow will become a quality starter: “He has to learn to shoot better; he’s got a funny release off the side of his hand. Anytime he shot a jump shot in Orlando, he missed left. The Heat coaches will correct how the ball is coming off his hands.

“But remember, Dwyane [Wade] also had to improve his jump shot and Winslow might have a better body than Dwyane at that age. He’s definitely the heir apparent to Wade. He can handle, can take it in transition, can distribute. He can get in the lane and score or pass.”

Another scout expressed some concerns:  “I was a little underwhelmed by him in Summer League. What he does great is in transition. He can rebound and take it coast to coast. He handles well and he got to basket a lot in Orlando, but I’m not sure he will get to the basket like he did in summer league or get the calls he did. He struck me more as a complementary NBA guy than a major piece.

“He’s not super athletic. His shooting is worrisome. I don’t think he’s a lock-down defender. I didn’t like his body language. He seemed to be projecting that he was too good for summer league.”

### Those who watched rookie second-round guard Josh Richardson came away impressed. “He was better in Summer League than I thought after watching him at Tennessee,” one of the scouts said. “Very good athlete. Can be a defensive factor. Good size if he’s a point. Probably a good combo guard. His progress will depend on his shooting.”

### All agreed Gerald Green was great value at the $1.4 million minimum, with one GM saying he rates Green among the five most explosive bench scorers in the NBA.

“Excellent pickup,” one of the GMs said. “But he’s not the sharpest guy. Sometimes he forgets plays. Has some JR Smith in him.”

One of the scouts: “He’s still mindless with his shot selection. If he’s hot, keep him in. If not, bench him. But he’s a little more under control than he used to be and he’s one of the best athletes in the league.”

The assistant coach said: “He’s a solid team defender but suspect as an individual defender. He will be better in Erik [Spoelsta’s] system. Offensively, they’ve really upgraded their bench.”

### The view on Amar’e Stoudemire: He’ll help but only in measured minutes.

“For what Miami needs right now, for someone to come off the bench, he’s OK,” one of the scouts said. “He can face up and shoot. If he catches the ball in the paint, he can do something with it. But his agility is diminished. It’s hard for him to move laterally like he did.”

Said the assistant coach: “Against younger players, he’s going to get calls because he has the respect of officials. And I still would double team him at times.”

### All rated the Heat a playoff team, but mostly among the bottom tier. “To me, they’re a sixth seed --– maybe better if they have no injuries,” said one of the GMs, adding that might be unrealistic with Wade’s history.

The other GM rated Miami a bit higher, seeing great potential with the Chris Bosh/Goran Dragic tandem Miami never had on the court together last season: “I love what they’ve done,” that Western Conference GM said. “Green can take over a game, and there’s not a lot of bench guys you can say that about. Miami didn’t have that on their bench last year.”

One scout said “they’re in that sixth, seventh, eighth slot. Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington, Chicago are better and I can’t say Miami is better than Milwaukee. But you have to like what they’ve done. They’ve got really good bigs, good size, and don’t forget what Josh McRoberts will give them” after being limited to 17 games last season.


### How odd is it for Ndamukong Suh to have just one tackle, as he did last Sunday? Not that unusual. He has had one or zero in 17 of his past 50 games.

What’s worrisome is Suh’s lack of pass rush (no defensive tackle has had more sacks since 2010) and his inability to shake single blocks, which he saw a lot of last Sunday. Remember, even though the Suh-led Lions were first around the run last season, they were 24th, 23rd and 16th in Suh’s first three seasons. So his presence guarantees nothing.

The Dolphins need to start moving Suh around, to keep opponents off balance. But Dolphins defensive end Derrick Shelby said Wednesday that there has been no discussion of that with coaches.

### The Dolphins desperately need to generate pressure with a four-man rush, because mediocre Kirk Cousins and Blake Bortles completed 15 of 21 passes for 196 yards against Miami’s blitz, with Bortles posting a 146.7 rating against Miami’s blitz, 71.1 otherwise. Too often, Miami’s defensive backs (excluding Brent Grimes) haven’t been able to hold up in coverage without help.

### Player complaints already are starting, with one saying the team practiced too long and hard in the heat a few days before the Jaguars loss. So Joe Philbin made the right move by cutting practice short this past Friday.

Even after 50 games here (24-26), Philbin told his players last week: “You guys have to have faith in our staff and yourselves in terms of the way we prepare for games.”

### Buffalo tight end Charles Clay returns to play his former team Sunday months after difficult negotiations in which the Dolphins kept expressing concerns about his knee. That prompted the Clay camp to ask the Dolphins: What about Jordan Cameron’s history of concussions? Cameron, for Sunday, gets $156,250 for every game he plays.

### Today's Dolphins inactives: Branden Albert, Dion Sims, Raheem Mostert, Jordan Phillips (a surprise), Billy Turner, Matt Hazel and Tony Lippett. What it means: Jordan Cameron is active and will play. So will Lamar Miller and Earl Mitchell... AJ Francis replaces Phillips as a backup defensive tackle alongside CJ Mosley... Jonas Gray is active and could play behind Miller and Damien Williams.... Jason Fox starts in place of Albert.

### Former UM coach Butch Davis said by phone it’s “uncomfortable” seeing the banners flying overheard before Hurricanes games, the ones calling on UM to fire Al Golden and hire him. Does he feel for Golden? “I feel for all coaches,” Davis said. “It's an unbelievably difficult job and it gets harder all the time.”

So he is flattered? “I don't look at it like that,” said Davis, who has been out of coaching since the end of 2010. “You would be remiss if you didn't say you're always appreciative that people recognize you did the job, you're a good person, that you and your family made a difference in the community. It's a nice feeling to know people respected what you did and felt like you did a good job.”

Let’s make this clear: The banners will have no impact on Golden’s job security, and if anything is having a corrosive effect, according to a player. “It’s going to kill us in recruiting!” former All-American Bennie Blades said, indicating it gives recruits a bad impression of the fan base.

By the way, Laurence Levy, the superfan who shows up at sporting events all over the country wearing a Marlins jersey, told WINZ he will pay for a banner or blimp to be flown over Sun Life Stadium during a future game with the message “Keep Golden. Class, not trash.”

### Updating two issues that seemingly drag on forever (MLS stadium and the Panthers' lease):

Miami city manager Danny Alfonso said Friday that the city feels strongly about holding a voter referendum on David Beckham’s proposed soccer stadium adjacent to Marlins Park, and that the earliest one could be held would be in March. So we're at least six months away from clarity on this, possibly much long. Beckham and the city would strike a deal before it would be put to the voters for approval. Beckham has said the stadium will be privately financed.

Meanwhile, Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko said “private” discussions have resumed, amid several Broward commissioners voicing strong opposition and Broward County still studying whether to let the Panthers leave town if they eventually ask.

The Panthers’ lease runs through 2027-28, and co-owner Doug Cifu said last week: “We’re not moving. [The Panthers and Broward] are in a marriage together and we are going to stay married.”

But the Panthers --– $6 million below the $71 million salary cap ceiling --– are losing a ton and “that’s not fun,” Cifu said.

### Cifu also told me: “I won’t be happy if we don’t make the playoffs this season” and that majority owner Vinnie Viola feels likewise. “[Panthers general manager] Dale Tallon had a formula he followed in Chicago: draft well and be big up the middle. You can’t build a championship team solely through free agency.”

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

September 25, 2015

Friday night notes: Heath Evans with another epic rant against Suh & Dolphins; Dolphins, Heat and local radio update

A bunch of Friday night notes:

### No ex-Dolphin on TV is more critical of the Dolphins than NFL Network’s Heath Evans, and Evans was in epic form today, first bashing ex-Dolphins cornerback Sam Madison ---who criticized Evans recently --- and then trashing Ndamukong Suh.

To refresh: After Evans said Suh should be suspended for four games for grazing the head of Washington's Alfred Morris with his foot in the regular season opener, Madison (Evans’ teammate in 2005) --- tweeted: “I wish #heathevans would have never put on a Miami Dolphins jersey. #hater #soft and so one-sided.”

Evans responded diplomatically on Twitter but went on the attack against Madison and Suh during an appearance today on WQAM's Hochman, Crowder and Krantz Show, leveling shots at both Suh and Madison:

On Madison: "He called out my analysis as one-sided.... The truth is, If Sam was any good... at his current job, he'd have my job. Well he doesn't and he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to the Dolphins. Everything I've said about the Dolphins has come true yet again. So all the Dolphins fans can... whine and gripe and complain."

On Suh: "What does Suh have so far? Three tackles, no TFLs. A shin to the face of a running back. No sacks, no pressures. He's not getting double teamed. He's getting cut down. He looks like he's playing out there to protect himself. You should break down what he's getting per tackle right now....

"This is where I get tired of lazy analysts not watching every single game and every single play of Suh," Evans said. "I'm not going to stand up on my soapbox and beat the drum unless I'm sure what I'm talking about. Warren Sapp was the first one to [say] 'Just watch this. This guy is a very limited player. He gets a lot of hype for a lot of other things he shouldn't get hype for. Watch his tape.' So two years ago, I started doing it. Playoff teams, the guy doesn't show up....

"People were hitting me up on Twitter after Week one vs. the Redskins, saying he was double teamed. Count the double teams. You can count them on one hand. He was losing one-on-one matchups. The first two drives on eight plays, he fell subject to the same block two times. The same no-good right tackle cut him down four times on the same block.

"No awareness, no understanding of the scheme he's facing. Why do you think no legitimate, true Lombardi contender was after him in free agency? The Lions who knew him better than anybody weren't going to pay him what the Dolphins were. There was no one in that race for Suh except for the Dolphins. Ask yourself why. Dolphins fanatics don't want to answer that question because it makes them look like, 'Dog gone, our management is screwing this up again.'

"This guy isn't even playing anywhere near as good he played in Detroit and I don't think his Detroit play was worth $120 million. Suh is playing very tentative football. He's playing like he's trying to protect himself from not getting hurt."

Evans, on that WQAM interview, praised Ryan Tannehill but said "this offensive line is still garbage for the Dolphins. Everything I've said about the Dolphins so far is perfectly true.... Let this coaching staff look at the Patriots film and say how they are masking two rookies on their offensive line." 

### The Dolphins have used only three cornerbacks in their first two games (Brent Grimes, Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain). But rookie Bobby McCain said he got more work in practice this week, both in the slot and in the boundary, and hopes to get a chance.

“I’m really antsy; you want to play but I know my role [involves] being patient,” he said.

### Safety Walt Aikens is still bemoaning being beaten by Allen Robinson on a double move for a touchdown against Jacksonville. “I hold myself to a higher standard,” he said. “I’m mad at myself. It’s about me making more plays.”

Aside from that play, he said he has generally received good feedback from coaches.

### After being impressively disruptive (and disruptively impressive) in training camp, Terrence Fede has found that getting to the quarterback has been considerably tougher in games. He doesn’t have a sack in preseason or in 79 regular season-snaps, 38 of which were plays in which he rushed the quarterback. He does have two QB hurries in the first two games.

“There’s a lot I need to improve on with technique in the pass rush,” he said.

### CBS’ main 4:25 p.m. game isn’t Dolphins-Bills, but a matchup we would traditionally see on Fox (Chicago-Seattle). Beginning last season, the NFL started cross-flexing a handful of games between CBS and Fox, and this game was given to CBS because it was deemed more attractive than any AFC game available for the second game of the double-header window.

Dolphins-Bills, the other CBS game in the late window, will go to 22 percent of the country --- primarily the state of Florida, south Georgia, the Northeast and New England. Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots, CBS’ No. 5 team, handle the call.

### With Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts missing a lot of time last season, Luol Deng too often was cast as a stand-still three-point shooter, and he said at the end of last season that “I’m better in motion. I don’t really like to just stand still. Not having someone like Josh definitely hurts my game.”

Deng was asked by 790's Ethan Skolnick if he expects to go back to a role of being a cutter instead of a space.

“Definitely, I want to get back there but at the same time, it helps me being familiar with the system," Deng said. "Last year, being new to the system, and everything the team went through, it was difficult to be consistent. I'm not asking to have the ball in my hand all the time. My strength comes off what other guys are doing. I play off of other guys. The chemistry is going to come from everyone playing a lot of minutes together."

Erik Spoelstra didn’t elaborate on Deng’s role during a conversation this week but said they spoke during the summer and “we’re both more comfortable. It does take time to build a relationship and comfort level. We started to hit our stride in the spring. Luol is coming in terrific shape this year. I'm excited about him feeling more comfortable in our culture and system.”

### DuJour Magazine and the Forge had a party Thursday night to welcome Amar’e Stoudemire to the Heat. Stoudemire, Heat coaches and other players had a private dinner afterward.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said of being honored and the private dinner. “We can celebrate the team this year. We have a pretty good team. We're excited about the season. We have a good range of players. Solid coaching staff. We've got a well-rounded group. Very team oriented type of team. Everyone gets along.

"The sky is the limit for us. From a roster standpoint, we match up with the best of them. It's just a matter of us putting it all together.”

He is accepting of a role off the bench. “Whatever Spo needs, I’m here for,” he said.

### Skolnick and Israel Gutierrez have capably handled the afternoon-drive slot on 790 The Ticket for the past week-and-a-half, but station general manager Doug Abernathy said today that he isn’t ready to name them permanent hosts.

“I haven’t witnessed anything that would deter me from putting them in there,” he said. “I’ve been impressed. I’m excited. They have big shoes to fill [with Dan Le Batard’s move to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.]. You need consistency.”

Besides wanting to see if Skolnick and Gutierrez can sustain the quality of their show, Abernathy cracked about wanting to see “how much money they can make me” in terms of revenue and ratings.

He said he has no timetable for making a decision but doesn’t plan to audition others in the role at this point.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

September 24, 2015

Dolphins hoping for better home-field advantage after losing too many home games as favorites under Philbin; Heat, Hurricanes, Marlins chatter


Since Seattle’s CenturyLink Field --- which NFL.com rates as the NFL’s best home-field advantage --- opened in 2002, the Seahawks have gone 8-0 at home three times and 7-1 three times.

You know how many times the Dolphins have won more than five home games in those 13 seasons? Just once (2002).

What's more, Miami had a winning record at home just three of the past 12 seasons, which is dismal. The Dolphins’ 37-43 record at home over the past decade is seventh-worst, ranking ahead of only Tampa and Washington (35 wins each), Cleveland and Detroit (34) and Oakland and St. Louis (27).

Perhaps Sunday’s home opener against Buffalo in a reconfigured Sun Life Stadium --- with 2300 seats now much closer to the field --- will mark the return of a home-field edge, something that hasn’t been the same since the Dolphins bolted the Orange Bowl in 1987.

Miami was a remarkable 110-38-3 (73 winning percentage) in 21 years in the OB. They’re 130-93-0 in 28 years at Sun Life (58 winning percentage).

Though Miami’s home record largely stems from their inability to construct good enough teams, there’s more to it. Consider:

### The Dolphins have been just as good or better (record-wise) on the road as at home four of the past eight seasons, suggesting --- among other things --- the lack of an appreciable home-field advantage.

### In three seasons under Joe Philbin, the Dolphins are just 12-7 as a home favorite, according to Paramount Sports oddsmaker Lee Sterling. And Philbin is just 8-11 against the spread as a home favorite.

“Even coaches who finish near .500, like he has in his head-coaching career, usually fare much better at home. I would say his performance so far [in that regard] has been subpar,” Sterling said.

The Dolphins are a three-point favorite against Buffalo.

### For the past three seasons, the Dolphins were good enough to beat the Jets on the road but couldn’t at home. And there’s no excuse for Arizona, Tennessee and Jacksonville having better home records than Miami over the past decade.

The Dolphins’ season tickets have plunged from 61,121 in 2006 to 40,192 in 2012. They rose to 47,500 this season before sales were cut off, which allowed more individual game tickets to be sold, with capacity dropping from 76,018 to 65,326.

Dolphins players are hoping the reconfigurations will help. “I hope so,” Mike Pouncey said. “I hope our fans bother [the opposing team] just like [opposing fans] bother us on the road. At times, the stadium is loud when we're playing well.”

### Lamar Miller has taken some accountability for his 2.9 per carry average (23 for 67). But a review of the tape confirms that the offensive line simply isn't creating enough holes. Miller is running hard; he has broken five tackles. Among players who have broken more tackles, only the Patriots' Dion Lewis has fewer carries than Miller.

Miller was among those limited in practice today, along with Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, Reshad Jones and Mike Pouncey. Earl Mitchell (back) and Branden Albert (hamstring) couldn't practice.

### One encouraging sign of increased Dolphins interest: Sunday’s Dolphins-Jaguars game was viewed in 25.9 percent of Miami-Dade/Broward homes with TV sets --- highest for a Dolphins game in at least several years. Last season's high: 22.0 against Denver.


### Though Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he doesn’t want to pigeonhole Justise Winslow “in a box” with a particular position, another Heat official said he probably projects best long-term as a small forward, but the Heat also believes he can play guard and perhaps power forward at times.

Everyone knows his mid-range and three-point accuracy must improve, and “that's our job to… develop his shooting,” Spoelstra said. “He's been very consistent with that, often times working twice a day with our coaches. He has a lot of effectiveness in the paint and near the basket.” 

Spoelstra told both Winslow and second-round pick Josh Richardson to “just get in the gym and work. Make sure you don't miss a turn, don't miss a drill, don't miss a day. Both have been terrific with that. They're in great shape, they're eager, they're hungry to learn our culture and system. The rest will take care of itself.”

### One of the oddities about Josh McRoberts is “he’s right-handed in virtually everything he does except he shoots the basketball left-handed,” Spoelstra said. “He will bat and throw the football right-handed and play golf right-handed. It's one of those interesting contradictions. It's something unique and something we definitely want to leverage.”

### Please see the last post for a report on what Chris Bosh had to say this afternoon.

### Most pleasant surprises on this UM football team?

Tackle Sunny Odogwu (has gone from unpolished project to competent starter); the fact Joseph Yearby is running better through contact (his 7.6 per carry average ranks 19th in the country); cornerback Corn Elder’s emergence into a dynamic playmaker (20.3 punt return average ranks 12th nationally and his seven pass breakups are second-most in country); and receiver Tyre Brady’s and tight end Chris Herndon’s evolution.

Disappointments? Start with defensive tackle Michael Wyche, who coaches once thought would be an impact starter but is now on the scout team and can barely get on the field in games.

### Poor crowds have hurt UM with some recruits in recent years, including Georgia’s Sony Michel. And some schools use it against Miami, too. “Wow, is anybody at [the] Miami game?” FSU tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster tweeted during UM-Nebraska.

### Several Marlins players would love if the managerial job went to roving minor league hitting coach Andy Barkett, the team’s former Double A manager, but the players are having no input in this decision and Jeffrey Loria traditionally prefers bigger names.

### Ichiro Suzuki (just 66 hits away from 3000) insists he wants to play next season, and the Marlins are saying publicly they want him back, but at 41, it’s a bit worrisome that his .238 average is 24 points below his career low and well below his .314 career average.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Bosh given good shortterm and longterm news by doctors, addresses Heat roster, Dragic possibilities

More than seven months after being hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs, Heat forward Chris Bosh said Thursday he has been taken off blood thinners and cleared for basketball contact, days before the team opens training camp Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

More significantly, Bosh said he was informed by doctors that he does not have the hereditary gene that would make him more vulnerable to a recurrence of the clots that sidelined him for the final 28 games last season.

Still, Bosh knows there are no assurances against a recurrence. He will take preventative measures, such as getting up to walk during flights and stretching his legs, wearing a compression socks and taking Aspirin.

Bosh could not engage in basketball contact while taking blood thinners the past seven months because it would have put him at serious risk if he started bleeding. He said if the clots do return, he would not be required to take blood thinners for the rest of his life.

Bosh spoke introspectively at a news conference at American Airlines Arena, admitting his extended absence from basketball made him appreciate the game more.

 “I am almost 7 feet tall; I have things that I can do that people would call a gift,” he said, while promoting Janssen Phamaceuticals and Treatmyclot.com.

“I have the opportunity to go back out there and give passion to the game, because I think I was lacking a little passion for a while. Mentally, I can see myself just really continuing to have an excellent career as far as this season is concerned. It’s such a great game. I came that close to losing it. I would rather be [playing basketball] than have tubes in my chest. That sucks.”

He said he’s also now less likely to bemoan the rigors of an NBA schedule after enduring something so frightening.

“I had a lot of time to think,” he said. “I was in the hospital for about nine days. I couldn’t walk. I was in too much pain. It was quite an experience.”

In recent months, he “cut down a lot of interests I used to have. I’m a ball player. So many people around the world connect with the game. I have this opportunity to play it at the highest level and hopefully inspire children and adults alike to do something positive.”

Bosh said he spent four or five days per week in the gym this summer and has bulked up to 240-245 pounds, his highest weight since joining the Heat in the summer of 2010.

“I wanted to make sure I came in with enough cushion to sustain contact,” he said. “You are going to lose weight. Coach is going to run us. I wanted to have a nice cushion to get to my ideal weight. I know I am going to lose that five or six pounds pretty easily. But the strength and conditioning will be there. I will be the same strength as somebody heavier but lighter and faster.”

Bosh said he’s “excited” about the roster and playing alongside Goran Dragic, who was traded to the Heat on the day Bosh was diagnosed with blood clots. He said not being able to play with Dragic last season “gnawed” at him.

“I have played with players with similar games like Goran; with his talent level, we’ll be able to read and react off each other,” Bosh said. “It’s going to be pretty good when we get to collaborating and talking about things and it will show on the court. I have watched a ton of film on him over the summer, really all of our newcomers.

“I’m a shooter, he’s a driver. He can be a driver; I can be a shooter. We can interchange positions. It’s perfect. I have a very good feeling about how things are going to go.”

Reflecting on missing the playoffs for the first time as a member of the Heat, Bosh said the team didn’t have time to prepare for new roles when LeBron James left last summer.

“It’s like everything that could have gone wrong for us last year went wrong,” he said.

Bosh last month arranged for most of his teammates to join him for several days of basketball and bonding in Los Angeles, where he has a home.

“One thing last year has taught me is the camaraderie is very important,” he said. “We all could have worked a lot harder [on that last summer]. We all assumed it was just going to happen. I just wanted to do something cool. L.A. is a great place.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back tonight for Dolphins, Marlins, Canes and more Heat.

September 23, 2015

Spoelstra addresses his plans, new players, Wade, Bosh and other issues; UM, Dolphins, Panthers, Marlins

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke today with me and four other writers.

A quick look at some of his thoughts:

### On missing the playoffs last season:  "I take full ownership of what happened last year. There are some things I would have done differently. I take responsibility. It should be on my shoulders. I’m not running away from that. My energy and focus is on this team. Big expectations, and that’s the way we like it."

### On his long offseason: "It was strange. I went on vacation in May. Was able to surprise my mother for Mother’s Day. Wasn’t able to do that for 20 years. Was able to visit Portland twice. Get away twice to clear my head, recharge and take on the challenge of this new season. I wouldn’t want that every year. But it was fantastic this summer."

### On getting engaged: "From a personal standpoint, great summer. Right time, right person. We’re excited about it." No date has been set.

### He met with other coaches and business executives as part of personal growth this summer but declined to give details. 

"I kept a little more quiet this year.  Met with people in multiple sports, business leaders in different fields. I didn’t speak to 100 people. It was big time growth for all of us. Time to reflect on the last seven years and also for the players. Guys are refreshed."

 ### Spoelstra said: "We are going to try to build a team tough defensively. We will defend with physicality, rebound the basketball. We have to potential to do those things."

### He confirmed the Heat will try to run more or as he would say, play with pace.

"It might not as be as conventional as what you think. If you asked 10 NBA people what that means, 10 NBA people would define that 10 different ways. The word I am using is pace. We want to play with an adequate amount of pace. This team has to get the ball up the floor, get into our actions with decisiveness, clarity and pace. Whether than translates into us being in the top 3 of fast break points, it may or may not. It will benefit us to get into our spacing, play with pace. Playing with a slower, methodical pace doesn’t do that as efficiently."

"I’m putting 5 basketball players out there. that’s how we’re going to play [regardless of position]. Some of our perimeter players are better in the basket area and near the paint. Some of our bigger players are better outside the paint. We are going to try to leverage that, whether you call that positionless, That’s what we’re going to try to do. 

"We will play some conventional basketball in some peoples’ eyes. Other times, we’ll be able to use versatility and flexibility of our roster to play positionless. Our practices and roster will tell us. I’m very open minded going into this season."

 ### He said Chris Bosh "has been working out. We fully expect him to be cleared for contact for camp."

### Spoelstra, on Josh McRoberts, coming off knee surgery last December: "I’ve been encouraged with his summer. He’s also trained very hard. We’ve been in constant communication. He’s moving fluidly. He’s stronger than he’s ever been in a Miami Heat uniform. In terms of moving and getting on the court, he’s been able to do that for a while. He will be cleared but we will be judicious with how much he does."

### On his crowded group of power rotation players, which includes six established veterans: "We like the talent. We like the depth. We like the experience. We like the skill set with that front line and the expectations that brings."

### On Dwyane Wade, Spoelstra said there will be no restrictions on his minutes: "I can’t imagine coaching a Miami Heat team without Dwyane....Dwyane has to be our leader. He has grown in that role and with new veteran players, everyone just naturally turns to Dwyane. And they turn to CB and UD. I’m very pleased with his summer, with his leadership, where his peace of mind is right now. I’m looking forward to working with him."

### On Amare Stoudemire and Gerald Green: "If you had told me a year ago we would have an opportunity to sign both those players, I would have said that’s not realistic. We recruited Amare in 2010 and were fans of his game back then. His game has evolved and he has found a niche and a role the last couple of years we definitely can take advantage of.

"Gerald Green is an explosive player. Those type of game changing players are tough to find in this league. He has been very committed to get to know us and also be in a great shape. To be part of a championship culture and a team with high expectations. I told him you put on this jersey, there are different expectations. He loves the challenge of that."

### On Mario Chalmers: "Last year, Mario was a combo player coming off the bench. Now he’s a backup point guard."

### On Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson: "We don't want to overload their mind. I want them to learn our culture and our system. The rest will take care of itself."

Please see the last post for a lot on the Dolphins, Canes, Marlins and Panthers and check back later for more Heat. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz        

September 22, 2015

Heat, Panthers hoping they've solved their offensive issues; Dolphins and Canes notes; Marlins interview manager


The three-time champion Heat and the one postseason-appearance-in-the-past-14-years Panthers --- two franchises with very little in common before last season --- had quite a bit in common last winter and spring:

Both acquired offensively-gifted European-born stars in February, fizzled late in their unsuccessful bids for playoff berths, ranked in the top half of their leagues in defensive metrics and were ultimately undone by injuries and offensive deficiencies, the Panthers ranking 25th in goals per game (2.41) and 23rd with 40 power-play goals, the Heat finishing 27th in scoring (94.7) and 24th in three-point shooting.

The question is whether each did enough to address their offensive shortcomings. The Heat, which opens camp next Tuesday, seemed to. For the Panthers, the answer lies in the growth of their young players and whether Jaromir Jagr can play over a full season like he did in his first 20 games here.

Here’s what the Heat did: Added an explosive bench scorer (Gerald Green) who has the NBA’s eighth-most three-pointers the past two seasons; a former All-Star (Amar’e Stoudemire), who scored more points per game (11.5) than any backup power forward or center last season except Ryan Anderson.

They drafted a top-six talent in Justise Winslow and most importantly, get back Chris Bosh, who would have ranked 12th in the NBA in scoring (21.1) before being sidelined the final 28 games with blood clots in his lungs. The next game Bosh and mid-season pickup Goran Dragic play together will be their first.

The belief internally is this team will be a lot more potent. “As far as collective punch, I think we’re as good as anybody in the league,” Bosh said.

And, as Josh McRoberts said: “We can play a lot of different styles with the lineups we have. Amar’e gives us a guy who’s a proven All-Star. Everyone is familiar with Gerald Green’s athleticism, his shooting ability. He brings a lot of excitement to any team he’s on.”

Also, don’t underestimate McRoberts’ return from a knee injury that limited him to 17 games; he hit the sixth-most three-pointers of any NBA power forward (105) for Charlotte in 2013-14. That, incidentally, was the season when only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard hit more threes than Green’s 204. (Green was 23rd with 137 last season.)

The Panthers offseason? They kept Jagr, which was big, but did nothing else of great significance in free agency, and drafted winger Lawson Crouse, who was considered very good value at No. 11; he had 29 points and 22 assists in the Ontario Hockey League.

But in terms of goals scored in the NHL last season, they’ve actually subtracted more than they’ve added since the offseason started.

They jettisoned Jimmy Hayes (19 goals, 16 assists) in a deal to Boston for winger Reilly Smith (13 goals, 27 assists) and parted ways with disappointing Tomas Kopecky (7 goals, 6 assists) and Scottie Upshall (8 goals, 7 assists).

But the Panthers look at Jagr as an offseason addition in a sense --- sort of like the Heat with Dragic --- partly because both Jagr and Dragic had to be re-signed. The question is whether, at 43, Jagr can deliver the sustained brilliance he gave them in essentially a quarter of a season.

He had six goals and 18 points in 20 games for Florida, which would be a pace of 25 goals and 74 points over a full season. But before the trade, Jagr – in nearly identical minutes per game for the Devils – was on a 16-goal, 42-point pace. That’s a big difference.

But this is encouraging: In 2013-14, he had 24 goals and 67 points in 82 games for the Devils, so perhaps his Panthers pace of last spring can be approached or repeated.

“That top line [Jagr, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov], if they all got 60 points, that would be amazing,” general manager Dale Tallon said.

Tallon believes the roster has enough goal-scoring.

“We have four solid lines; all of them can score,” he said. “We brought in guys that have had a history of scoring [Jagr, Smith]. Smith can play any forward position, has offensive upside, can kill penalties. We’re going to count on [Vincent] Trochek and [Brandon] Pirri to contribute more offense.

“We are going to get more production from some of our younger players that showed flashes last year. Everybody’s got to contribute more. Some of the guys we had didn’t contribute offensively; hopefully we replace those guys with some of our younger guys who can create more scoring chances. [Center] Dave Bolland [who had six goals last season] came to camp in the best shape of his life and can add a lot of timely scoring for us.  

“We brought in David Booth [seven goals for Toronto last season] and Martin Havlat [five for New Jersey] to spike some of the offense and create some competition for jobs. They’re both hungry. Our defense will really be solid; I think we’ll get more offense from them as well…. [And] Crouse will get a fair shot [to stick]. I like what he brings to the table. Great skills and size.”

Tallon said he never seriously considering adding a pricey scorer in free agency because “it’s hard to find those guys. You’ve got to build them and draft them. It didn’t make sense. We don’t want to block our kids.”

But the Panthers’ hopes for offensive improvement also hinge on young players taking the next step.

For instance, Barkov (16 goals, 36 points in 71 games last season) “is a 20-goal scorer, I think, and will eventually be a point a game guy,” Tallon said. “Hopefully 60 points this year.”

They’re also expecting a lot from the second line: Smith, Pirri and Nick Bjugstad.


### With Lamar Miller hobbled (he said he will play through an ankle injury), perhaps the Dolphins shouldn’t have put Jay Ajayi (ribs) on short-term injured reserve to sign Logan Thomas for what turned out to be five days. Though he was not complaining, Ajayi --- who's ineligible for return until the eighth game --- said last week that he probably would have been ready for Sunday against Buffalo.

10 a.m. Wednesday update: The Dolphins have promoted running back Jonas Gray to their 53-man roster.

### If Dallas Thomas keeps struggling, fans will continue to second-guess Miami not signing Evan Mathis. But Mathis already has allowed a sack for Denver and like Thomas, Pro Football Focus grades him in the lower-half of all guards through two games. Miami made a very respectable offer for Mathis, according to a Mathis associate.

### As Armando Salguero noted, the Dolphins today auditioned tight end Adrien Robinson, who played in 19 games, with five receptions, for the Giants over the past three seasons. Miami hadn't made an offer as of early evening, according to his agent.

### Only Philadelphia and Detroit are averaging fewer yards rushing than Miami (58 per game), and Mike Pouncey said: "We've got to get our run game going. When our run game is going, our offense can't be stopped." Though Joe Philbin said blocking is primarily to blame, Lamar Miller said: "I need to do a better job trusting my offensive line."

### Though an NFC scout said junior cornerback Artie Burns could become a high-round pick, draft analyst Tony Pauline said this next potential UM draft class “is weak, very much so,” with Deon Bush a possible fifth-rounder, Ufomba Kamalu a sixth-rounder, junior Rayshawn Jenkins a seventh-rounder and Tyriq McCord, Raphael Kirby, Calvin Heurtelou, Tracy Howard, [juniors] Jamal Carter and Stacy Coley free agents, Pauline said.

“Tracy Howard draws a variety of opinion,” Pauline said. “Most scouts feel he’s free agent material, something I agree with, though I’ve been told he’s also received a few middle-round grades. Howard offers solid ball skills but poor size/speed numbers which I believe will knock him out of the seven rounds.”

### Smart move by UM and new partner Adidas to change the nameplate font style, beginning with UM's next game. The names were difficult to read on the back of the jerseys.

### We wrote in the hard-copy newspaper version of The Herald on Sunday that Marlins management considers being bilingual a plus in their manager search and I also mentioned that factor could help Manny Acta, among others.

Today, ESPN Deportes reports that Acta interviewed for the Marlins job today, which is not yet technically open.

The Marlins have informed Dan Jennings he won't be retained as manager, even though Jennings wants to keep the job. But they have not announced it publicly, which makes the Acta timing odd.

Acta hasn't had much success as a manager, finishing last in his division infour of his six seasons. He was 158-252 in three years with Washington and 214-266 in three years with Cleveland.

Numerous candidates are expected to be interviewed for the manager job, and experience is strongly preferred. CBS reports Jennings did not seem aware that Acta interviewed today.

Jennings, by the way, is not interim manager. He is manager, period, but that will change within two weeks.

### The Marlins will explore longterm deals with Dee Gordon (under team control through 2018) and Adeiny Hechavarria (2019) but Hechavarria already has rejected one offer last winter.

### Whereas Dwyane Wade appears lighter, Chris Bosh has bulked up, and the Heat wants to make sure he doesn’t lose his quickness and agility to play a lot on the perimeter.

“The strength gain he made this summer hopefully will help him endure the rigors of a long NBA season,” Erik Spoelstra told 790 The Ticket. “When we get into the season,… hopefully… he’ll keep the strength but maybe the weight will come back down.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz