SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
At one point earlier this calendar year, the Heat had serious concerns about making a huge financial commitment to Hassan Whiteside. But in the Heat’s eyes, Whiteside has helped himself considerably since, and Miami clearly would like to re-sign him this summer.
But the amount the Heat is willing to pay won’t be decided until after the playoffs, and no contract discussions have even begun, because an extension with Whiteside isn’t permitted until the summer, in accordance with league rules prohibiting extensions for players on two-year contracts.
Not only are teammates much happier with Whiteside than ever before, but Pat Riley approached him recently “and told me how proud he was of me and to keep building on that,” Whiteside said. Heat executive Alonzo Mourning expressed similar sentiments.
An opposing NBA general manager told me at the All-Star break that he could see a team paying Whiteside a deal starting at $17 million or $18 million.
Considering his sterling work since the break, and the enormity of cap space in the league this summer, Whiteside could snag a deal at or very near the first-year max, which in his case would be in the $22 million range, depending on the size of the salary cap.
Whiteside said the Heat has given him no indication about its interest in keeping him.
“They haven't talked about [free agency],” he said. “They want to see how far we get this season with this team. Playoffs will speak a lot.
“I hope [there’s interest]. I like the organization. Pat Riley is always going to do a great job of adding people that are going to help you win. It's not hard to sell to come to Miami. You can always recruit great talent.”
He said he wants to “win more than anything” and believes he can do that here. “I don’t know too much about free agency yet,” he said. “I’m going to learn, though.”
Whiteside reveres Riley and really likes it here, a friend said. But it’s unrealistic to expect Whiteside to give the Heat a discount.
“It’s going to be very interesting, isn’t it?” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said of Whiteside’s free agency. “You anticipate someone giving him a big deal. Bigs that can block shots these days are very valuable. He’s got an unbelievable body for a basketball player. He hasn’t had an easy journey. You have to respect that.”
If the Heat can somehow lure Kevin Durant (a long shot), there wouldn’t be enough cap space for Whiteside.
Riley isn’t going to decide how much of this team to keep until he sees how it does in postseason. The odds of the Heat being able to keep everybody aren’t good, but it’s not out of the question.
After initial projections of an $89 million cap, teams are now operating under the belief it would be $92 million, ESPN reported. The Heat is doing projections with the more conservative number, as well.
Taking into account 2016-17 salaries for Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Josh McRoberts, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson and required cap holds for open roster spots, that would leave Miami with just over $40 million in cap space with a $92 million cap.
If the Heat can somehow find a taker for McRoberts without taking money back, cap space could grow to $46 million.
Say, hypothetically, the Heat gives Whiteside $20 million next season.
With a $92 million cap, that would leave $20 million for Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson, likely not enough to keep more than Wade and Johnson. But if McRoberts is dealt, that would leave $26 million for Wade/Johnson and either Deng or another player.
Assuming Wade’s return and the fact Miami says it wants to re-sign Johnson, it would be very difficult to keep Deng unless McRoberts is dealt.
The Heat can exceed the cap to re-sign Tyler Johnson; regardless of his salary, it will take up just $980,000 of cap space. Miami also will have a $2.9 million room exception but cannot combine that with cap space.
• Please see the last post for details on why the Cavaliers are upset with LeBron James for his behavior at last weekend's Heat game.
• Among the Dolphins’ curious moves this month: They showed no interest in Derrick Shelby for months, and then called at the last minute asking if he would accept $3 million, according to a team source. Instead, he took four years, $21 million from Atlanta. Miami signed Andre Branch for that $3 million.
They made initial expressions of interest on several free agents (running back Alfred Morris, cornerback Patrick Robinson) but never followed up… They summoned a handful of players for visits but never aggressively tried to several of sign them, though they probably would have made a stronger effort on cornerback Josh Robinson if they knew Denver was going to match the offer to running back CJ Anderson…
The Dolphins never called Matt Moore's agent for weeks, booked visits with Luke McCown (who canceled to re-sign with the Saints) and Brandon Weeden, then went back to Moore because Adam Gase endorsed Moore and Moore’s price shrunk (two years, $3.5 million).... They never called several of Pro Football Focus' highest-rated corners, including Casey Heyward, because they simply didn't like this free agent class of corners.
• It will be fascinating to see how much UM’s exceptional recruiting class can contribute right away: power forward Dewan Huell (the 25th best prospect in this class, according to 247sports.com), guard Bruce Brown (36th), center Rodney Miller (102) and Australian guard Dejan Vasiljevic (213th).
Jim Larranaga can't comment on Vasilijevic, but I spoke to him about the others on Friday.
Larranaga said Brown is a “heck of a guard. Very versatile and will help us primarily because he's such a terrific defender. He reminds me of Durand Scott, really an attack player, goes to the basket really hard, defends, rebounds, catches lobs. He's more of an athlete like a Sheldon McClellan more than anybody else.
“Dewan Huell is also a very active defender. Dewan's scoring in high school came because he was bigger than everybody. We are going to have to have him develop his offensive skills with his back to the basket, his skills at the high post. Hopefully [he can] even [be] a three-point shooting threat.”
As for Miller, he’s a “a huge body, 7 feet, 250 pounds. Rodney looks like Kenny Kadji but not the three-point shooter Kenny is," Larranaga said. "He is more of a low-post presence, like a Reggie Johnson."
Larranaga isn’t sure how much he can expect right away from any of the freshmen.
“You got to get them here and work them out before you have any idea," he said. "You really have to see them in practice. It's a huge jump from high school to college.”
Rashad Muhammad, a 6-6 transfer from San Jose State and a three-star prep player out of Las Vegas, also becomes eligible and will pick up some of the scoring load. He's a very good three-point shooter.
And UM has one additional scholarship left, beyond the four freshmen newcomers.
• Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter have been UM's first-team safeties in spring practice so far. Jaquan Johnson has been running mostly with the twos while getting some first-team work.
Jenkins says the new defense is "simple and if you're an athlete you're going to excel in this defense. I think it's good for our defense as a whole, because we have a lot of athletes on our defense."... Please see the last post for a lot of Saturday UM football notes.
• If the Panthers can stay in the top 10 in the league in goals per game – they're seventh as of this morning – it would mark the first time they achieved that since 1999-2000, when they were sixth. Florida’s historically moribund offense ranked no higher than 25th in goals any of the past six seasons.
Incidentally, the Stanley Cup champ finished in the top eight in scoring every season from 2004 through 2011, but 29th, second, 26th and 17th in the past four.
• By scoring his 25th goal in Saturday's big win at Tampa, Jaromir Jagr (at age 44) thus became the oldest player in NHL history at the time he scored his 25th goal of a season, breaking the mark that Gordie Howe set at age 41, less than two weeks shy of his 42nd birthday, with the Red Wings in 1969-70.
According to Elias, Jagr's 18 seasons with at least 25 goals are the second-most by any player in NHL history, trailing only Howe with 20. But this is the first time Jagr has scored 25 goals in a season since 2007-08 with the Rangers.
• One Marlins player spoke of improved morale in the clubhouse and how different it is now playing for a manager they respect.
• Derek Dietrich has struggled this spring, going 3 for 27 with 11 strikeouts, but will be a key member of the bench, with the ability to play most anywhere. The Marlins say he's out of minor-league options....
Former Marlins shortstop and Miami Southridge High alum Robert Andino, 31, who last played in the majors in 2013, has had a good spring (.346) and will be in the mix for a promotion from the minors if the Marlins lose an infielder to injury this season.