WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
With the Heat beginning the second half of its schedule on Tuesday, we solicited insight on this roster from a veteran scout and ESPN/ABC analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Doug Collins. Some feedback:
### On Miami’s chances to make the Eastern Finals: Collins: “To be a [contending] team, I look at point differential, road record and [players] that can close out games. They have two who can close out games in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The two things I worry about with them: In this league, you better be able to score and you better be able to shoot threes. They struggle in both areas. They play championship-level defense, but I worry when they play teams that really score. There’s no clear-cut No. 2 in the East. I put them in a group with Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago; I am not counting out Washington.”
Van Gundy doesn’t dispute that Miami could use another shooter but “to get something you have to give up something. They already gave up two No. 1s for Goran Dragic. There’s not a lot left…. Their defense is elite. Whether they have enough consistent offense after Bosh and Wade, that remains to be seen. That's where Dragic has to play consistently effectively at that end of the floor. Miami’s in that group of teams after Cleveland, and I believe someone is going to rise up and separate themselves.”
But Van Gundy believes Chicago and Toronto are the two teams who could "push [Cleveland] in a series."
The scout: “I know some people expected more, but you have to realistic. It’s not like they have a 23-year-old Wade, and they could use another shooter. I had them finishing three to six in the East and they’re still on pace for that.”
### On Hassan Whiteside: Van Gundy: “What's interesting is they're a little bit easier to guard when he's on the floor than when Bosh is at five. They certainly have an interesting decision to make at the end of the year. You never know how somebody is going to react to security, either positively or negatively.”
The scout says Whiteside’s rebounding and shot-blocking gifts are obvious but "he’s still limited offensively, struggles to finish around the basket. He has lapses in concentration and that hurts him a bit." He also said his "motor" isn't always good enough but he would still try to re-sign him if he were Miami.
### On Dragic: Van Gundy: “I just think he has to find the balance between being deferential to those two guys [Wade and Bosh], who are obviously Hall of Fame players, and being assertive himself. Can Dragic do that with a slower tempo? I think he can. He’s very good.”
Collins: “I felt they were trying to find their way with Dragic. When he was really successful in Phoenix, he was a one-man fast break and could push and probe and get in the paint. The Heat doesn’t play that way. I thought he was making the continued adjustment. But the ball is going to be in Wade’s hands. Goran always struggled being off the ball in Phoenix. That caused him duress playing that way.”
The scout wondered if this team is the ideal fit for Dragic. “He’s going back to the way he played in Phoenix when he was unhappy. I don’t know why they’re playing him off the ball so much. I see him stuck in the corner and Dwyane’s up top. I don’t know how that benefits Miami.”
### On Justise Winslow: The scout: “The guy I’m not really crazy about is Winslow. He doesn’t do a lot for me. His shot is broken and it really needs to be fixed. He has a great body, can get to the goal, can defend. The best part of his game is in transition. But I was really high on him in Summer League and he has lowered my expectations. He’s not a catch-and-shoot player. He can’t come off screens and shoot. It’s almost like a set shot. [Detroit’s] Stan Van Gundy made the right decision to take Stanley Johnson ahead of Winslow; Johnson is the better player.”
### Collins likes Luol Deng and Winslow but notes that “when you look at the top five teams in the league, every team has a very strong scorer at that [small forward] spot that can put up huge numbers. Lou is a corner-three guy; he’s a slasher and cutter. They are not a team that plays with great spacing and that hurts him, because he has always made his money getting on the break and getting easy buckets and cutting and slashing.”
The scout said Deng is still a plus-defender “and can still help as a rotation player, but he’s fading, not knocking down shots consistently.”
### All three naturally like how Bosh and Wade have played, though Wade’s mid-range game hasn’t been as efficient as past years. “Wade totally amazes me – he’s got a bounce in his step, looks a lot healthier,” the scout said.
### On Gerald Green: “He’s like a lot of players in this league; when he’s good, he’s good. When he’s bad, he’s bad,” the scout said. “It’s hard to rely on guys like that. He’s too streaky and too inconsistent for me. But they really need his scoring.”
### Even after adding Wei Yin Chen, the Marlins still have at least some interest in pitchers Tim Lincecum (they will attend his upcoming workout), Doug Fister, Cliff Lee and Alfredo Simon if any of those four is willing to take a low-money deal. If not, they’re content with Edwin Jackson, Adam Conley and others competing for the No. 5 job.
### We hear the Marlins were among a bunch of teams that submitted a bid to play the Cuban national team in Cuba during spring training, but MLB chose the Tampa Bay Rays.... The Marlins will play their April 5 opener against the Detroit Tigers at 7:05 p.m., instead of the normal late-afternoon start for home openers.
### We've heard very positive feedback on new Dolphins offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, who left the Colts after 14 seasons. Adam Gase will call the plays, but Christensen will help craft the game plan.
"I just feel the timing was right [to go to Miami]," Christensen told former Herald colleague Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. "Andrew (Luck) is in a great place. Chuck (Pagano) has a new contract and he's going to be here. I really do love everything about my job. I don't have a great answer. But it was a really, really tough decision."
When he coached Peyton Manning in Denver, Gase sought advice from Manning, who worked with Manning with the Colts. "It's been a sad couple of days," Christensen said. "But there is something energizing about this, too. It's going to be fun. I can't wait."
### The Dolphins today signed quarterback Zac Dysert, who was on the Broncos' 53-man roster the entire season when Gase was offensive coordinator there and threw for more yards than Ben Roethlisberger at Miami (Ohio).
But Dysert, a seventh-round pick, hasn't been able to stick on a 53-man roster since his rookie year. He was on Denver's practice squad in 2014 and was on the p-squads for Buffalo and Houston last season. He might end up simply being a camp arm.
### Why did the Dolphins never reach out to Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula about their head coaching job? One Dolphins official said they knew Shula was doing no interviews while Carolina was still playing and they wanted to hire someone quickly.
### UM sophomore Ja’Quan Newton (shooting 50 percent from the field) has outplayed senior Angel Rodriguez (shooting 39.7), but as one UM person said, making a starting lineup change would be dicey because of team dynamics. Rodriguez is very close with backcourt mate Sheldon McClellan, among others.
The Newton/Rodriguez assist-to-turnover ratios are similar (1.6 for Rodriguez, 1.5 for Newton) and Rodriguez is the better defender. But Rodriguez is 10 for his last 37 overall and is 21 for 75 this season on threes. Newton is arguably UM’s best penetrator. Rodriguez averages more minutes (27.9 to 21.6).
“Angel’s our point guard; he’s got to get everyone involved,” Jim Larranaga told WQAM’s Joe Rose.
### We hear the UM football team’s new strength staff is pushing players very hard in the weight room and on conditioning drills, and at least two players couldn’t finish one workout. UM football staffers say the goal is to be a better fourth quarter team. UM was outscored 115-94 in the fourth last season, the only period it was outscored.