WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
As Heat season opens Wednesday, the starting lineup has become both a source of optimism and uneasiness internally.
Optimism because three are former All-Stars (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng), a fourth (Goran Dragic) was third-team All-NBA two seasons ago and a fifth (Hassan Whiteside) became the first player in 54 years to average 10 points and 10 rebounds in less than 24 minutes a game.
“That’s arguably as good as any starting lineup in the Eastern Conference,” ABC’s Jeff Van Gundy said.
But there’s also uneasiness because Heat officials (privately) and players (publicly) are already expressing concern about the dynamics of that first group.
One Heat official said though Miami obviously likes all five, the concern is whether that group fits the style it wants to play (fast). Another Heat official wondered if there’s enough three-point shooting in that group and said Erik Spoelstra (committed to this lineup for now) will need to adapt if it doesn’t work.
The Heat is one of only six teams expecting to start five players who each averaged double-figures in scoring last season.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Wade said of this starting group. “We don’t know how shots are going to be passed out. We don’t know how it’s going to affect someone’s confidence when they’re not getting the opportunities they’re used to.
“The only thing that scares me about it is that we've got a lot of guys who are offensively minded… in that first unit. There's not a lot of role players in that first unit. It’s a good thing to look on paper saying we’ve got scorers, so you don’t necessarily have to rely every night on one or two guys. But that could be a bad thing, too, because maybe there’s no one willing to sacrifice. When you have a lot of [scoring] depth, sometimes guys like to individually will it.”
The responsibility of sharing the ball among five scorers will fall in part on Wade and in part on Dragic, who took two shots per game fewer in Miami (even without Bosh) than he did in Phoenix the year before. Dragic’s 12.8 shots per game for Miami were well beyond Stephen Curry (16.8), Kyrie Irving (16.5), Kemba Walker (15.8) and a bunch of other point guards.
He said he may “sometimes” need to pull back his scoring.
“It’s a fine line; it depends what the defense is giving,” Dragic said. “If I have the ball in the open court, I’m the best at that, try to draw fouls, try to suck the defense and then I can kick the ball out. At the beginning of the game, I try to get everybody involved. I just need to read the game. But when you’re alone, you need to shoot it.
"For me, to involve everyone is the main challenge. Let’s say four of the five are really hot. That’s really tough to stop because it’s coming from all over the place. That is going to be a great challenge for me. But it’s good because we have so many weapons.”
Bosh cautions: “We have to make sure we hold each other accountable, even if you have to say, ‘I know you can score, but that wasn’t a good shot.’ You have to tell each other, ‘I know you can score but you’ve got to move it, man.’”
Though the Heat has enough three-point shooting off the bench (Gerald Green, Josh McRoberts, Mario Chalmers), there’s no pure spacer in the starting lineup, which remains a concern. Deng can hit threes but doesn’t relish standing in the corner.
“Everyone would love to have one of those guys, but not every team wins because they have a spacer like that,” Wade said. “In 2006, we didn’t have a spacer like that and we won a championship. It helps, but it’s not the end all and be all. We have to learn to get spacing and make the game easier for each other.”
### Good thing Dragic has gotten his legs back in the past few days, more so because he ran 194 miles during games last season, fifth-most in the league. (Portland’s Damian Lillard was first last season at 205 miles.)
### Jimmy Johnson told me that he and UM athletic director Blake James have texted and “I let him know I’m available if he wants a sounding board” on the coaching search. A UM source said James will take J.J. up on the offer.
Johnson says candidates shouldn’t be limited to people with UM ties. “You want the best candidate,” he said. “There are some outstanding individuals who will be interested in this job. I wouldn’t want any restriction.
“The University of Miami is a very unique place – there are obviously some things Miami does not have that some other top schools do have --- but Miami has some advantages – being in such a great area for recruiting. For a football coach, if you want to win, you’ve got a great opportunity. I still think it’s a great job but it takes the right individual.”
### UM safety Dallas Crawford said James told players that Golden’s firing “had to be done. He said he will do everything he can to get us the best head coach for the University of Miami.”
A UM Board of Trustee member said besides Golden’s poor record, a change was going to happen because some mid-level donors were going to stop contributing without one. One high-level Trustee said several Trustees lobbied for a coaching change during Saturday’s game, but it was James’ call ultimately.
### Credit FootballScoop.com for noticing this from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney's news conference today. Swinney called UM's game-day set-up "bush league."
“Anything that you do nowadays, everyone has a camera around, and first of all, it’s a terrible setup down there…it’s bush league," he said. "They shouldn’t have two teams going out [on the field] from the same place.”
“You’ve got bickering and all this stuff going on and there’s a distraction before the game that I wasn’t out there to address it early, and then you’ve got all this stuff in the game, and then we all have to go back through the same [tunnel]…it’s just, it’s not smart.”
### Please see the last post for a lot more UM news from Tuesday.
### Besides Reshad Jones, a Dolphins official says two others grading out very well recently are defensive end Derrick Shelby (Miami coaches love him and the front office might now make a real effort to re-sign him) and Mike Pouncey, who said, “This is my best season yet as a Dolphin. Now that my brother's out [Steelers center Maurkice], I have a chance to chase after being first team All-Pro. That would be my goal all season.”
### Good stuff tonight from Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, talking about Dan Campbell on Showtime's Inside the NFL: "Coach Campbell was our tight end coach then [when Marshall was a Dolphin]. And that guy was more passionate than anyone that I’ve ever been around … I mean, he got everything out of his players. Not only at the tight end position, but the wide receivers, the running backs, the defensive players and even coaches. So I’m not surprised about this.
"It’s obvious what you need to build a team and have a successful team: good scheme, philosophy, good players, good coaches. But what we overlook sometimes is leadership. We overlook passion. And we overlook respect. Coach [Campbell] has all of that. And that’s why those guys are firing on all cylinders because that coach is building an environment down there, a culture, where the guys will run through a brick wall for him.”
### Jones said coaches have installed some wrinkles to make it easier to cover Rob Gronkowski.
### No malcontents on this year's Dolphins team, which certainly helps. Whereas Mike Wallace was disruptive at times last year by imploring coaches to throw him passes, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said nobody has lobbied him for balls this year. “You watch these guys block for each other downfield and it tells you the team players we have,” Lazor said.
### The Marlins continue to move toward a deal for former Yankees star Don Mattingly to become their next manager. Larry Bowa, the only other candidate who had interviewed twice for the Marlins job, announced he will remain the Phillies' bench coach and is under the impression that the Marlins want to hire Mattingly. As we first reported last week, Mattingly is very interested in the job.
Though a deal with Mattingly could be struck before the World Series ends, the Marlins are expected to wait until after the Series to announce it.