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Barkley, Kenny Smith like Heat; Mattingly update; Belichick opines on Dolphins

Some notes on a Monday afternoon as we await the Dolphins' only night practice this season:

### During a TNT conference call this afternoon, I asked Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith what they think of the Heat, two days before the season opener.

Barkley: "Miami is the fourth best team if everything works out together [behind Cleveland, Chicago and Milwaukee]. Pat Riley has done a good job retooling that team. The big key is Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is the key. That's a lot of pressure to put on a young kid for them to get over the hump. Those three top teams in the East are really good. Miami is in that fourth spot. Erik Spoelstra has done a good job down there. Dwyane Wade is going to play pretty solid. Goran Dragic is an All-Star. Chris Bosh is going to do what he does. Whiteside is the key."

Kenny Smith: "They have eight guys who have started at some time. For me, that's a big upside for them and Gerald Green and the rookie Justise Winslow can give you a lot of energy. Talent wise, they're underrated and forgotten about. They are probably the second-most talented team in the Eastern Conference."

MARLINS/MATTINGLY UPDATE

### Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly interviewed for the Marlins’ managerial job on Monday, and both sides are interested in striking a deal with each other in the coming days.

Mattingly met with Marlins officials in Miami and more conversations are planned.

Mattingly, 54, likes working with young players and is intrigued by the idea of working with the Marlins' roster, according to an associate. He wants assurances that he could hire his own coaches, but the Marlins have said publicly they will grant that authority to anyone they hire.

He also wanted to make sure the offer would give him financial security, but finances weren’t expected to be an issue because owner Jeffrey Loria has been willing to spend generously on managers that strongly appeal to him. Mattingly earned $1.5 million this year as Dodgers manager and was reportedly set to make $1.6 million next season, which the Dodgers would not owe him if he lands another managing job for at least that amount.

Loria, who lives in New York, always has been fond of Mattingly dating to his days with the Yankees, where he spent his entire 14-year career, made six All-Star teams and was named American League MVP.

The Dodgers and Mattingly announced a “mutual agreement” to part ways last week. Mattingly won 55.1 percent of his games in five seasons there and led the Dodgers to the past three National League West titles but never made a World Series. The Dodgers apparently wanted a bigger return on their $272 million payroll, baseball’s largest in 2015.

Washington and San Diego also have managerial openings, but neither is believed to have targeted Mattingly, who wants to manage next season.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said he is “confident that Don Mattingly is going to be a World Series champion manager” and praised how he handled interaction with players.

"Nothing was ever done in a group setting," Ellis said.

“It was always one on one, which is the way I think it should be done. Nobody wants to be embarrassed or called out in front of teammates. He would have a coach grab someone and have them come to his office. He'd hash it out there and have a conversation.”

Mattingly received high marks for how he handled players.

"I think he had a good sense of when to approach players, not just when to do it, if to do it all," General Manager Farhan Zaidi told The Times. "But also the timing, when to let things calm down for a day or two before approaching guys. Knowing when to push buttons and when to let things go.”

"Being the manager of a major league baseball team, a lot of times people focus on the Xs and Os, but the players are people and individuals. Just like in any business, when you're a manager you have to know how to manage egos and personalities. And I think that's a big part of this job."

The Times said that Mattingly was receptive to analytics --- something the Marlins are placing more emphasis on.

DOLPHINS TALK

Bill Belichick can make any opponent sound like a Super Bowl champ, and he predictably had a lot of nice things to say about the Dolphins in a conference call with South Florida writers a few hours ago.

"Coach Campbell has done a great job," Belichick said. "They’ve played great the past two weeks in all areas of the game. A lot of credit goes to coach Campbell; a lot goes to the entire organization. They have a lot of great players. I have a lot of respect for the Dolphins.

"We know how good they are. Everybody is contributing. They’ve got plays coming from everywhere. What we’ve seen the last two weeks from Miami has been a really solid team effort. Miami is a very talented team; they’re tough. They do a lot of things well. That’s why they’re winning big. They deserve it because they’re good.

"The things we’ve seen, particularly last couple weeks, where the Dolphins have clearly made some changes. They get a lot of negative runs with their defensive front. They don’t have many negative runs on offense. The running game in general has been a huge advantage for Miami.

"Disruptive plays. Their offense has done a great job of taking care of the ball, having positive plays. Ryan Tannehill had a perfect passer rating, can’t do better than that. Turning the ball over, hitting the quarterback, strip sacking them, a lot of disruptive plays and they’re making great plays in the kicking game. Jarvis Landry is the best player we’ve faced at that. Everything [with Miami] is a problem.

On Ndamukong Suh: "Strong, quick, explosive, very instinctive. He recognizes things quickly, hard to knock off his feet, good balance, good leverage player. Has an explosive violence to his game..... Good motor. Great player."

### The Dolphins, who were required to come out with an injury report today, will have only a walk-through tonight but said Brent Grimes, Brice McCain and Zack Bowman -- as well as Matt Moore and Spencer Paysinger -- would have been limited in a full practice.

### This from my colleague Adam Beasley: Brice McCain will play Thursday at New England, per sources. The assumption is he'll start at corner.

McCain missed Sunday's win over Texans with a knee injury he suffered the week before. McCain did not practice at all last week. Jamar Taylor started in McCain's place, and was part of a Dolphins pass defense that played very well in the first half, but allowed 26 points in the second.
 
Taylor will likely still see plenty of action Thursday, as the Patriots often spread teams out and force opponents to use their nickel package as their base defense.
 
Please see the last post for UM coaching news; Manny Navarro also has a couple of good blogs up on this.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz 

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