Dolphins bringing in veteran CB and sign 3 others; Thursday UM football notes; Exploring Hassan Whiteside's offensive evolution, his eye-popping numbers and next offensive frontier
Rounding up three Dolphins signings today that were announced and one visit that wasn't yet announced:
• Veteran cornerback Greg Toler is visiting the Dolphins tonight and Friday, according to a league source. The 6-foot Toler, 31, has eight interceptions in six career seasons --- the first three in Arizona and last three in Indianapolis. He started 15 games for the Colts in 2014 and 10 last season.
There isn't much left on the free agent cornerback market, but Toler, Jerraud Powers and Antonio Cromartie are probably the most accomplished of the bunch.
The Dolphins, at some point, need to add a veteran corner to supplement Byron Maxwell, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain and Jamar Taylor. They're also looking hard at drafting a corner at No. 13 overall.
• Your old friend, Daniel Thomas, is back after a year out of the league. The running back was drafted in the second round by Miami in 2011 after averaging 5.1 and 5.3 yards in two seasons at Kansas State.
But he never came close to matching that success here. He increased his yards per carry every season in Miami, but only incrementally, from 3.5 to 3.6 to 3.7 to 3.8. He signed with Chicago last summer but was released during training camp.
Only 28, he will have a chance to compete for a roster spot with Damien Williams and ...
• Isaiah Pead! The running back, who signed with Miami today, has just 78 yards on 19 carries over three seasons, mostly with the Rams.
He also has added 14 receptions for 94 yards (6.7 average) and returned 18 kickoffs for 413 yards (22.9 average).
Pead was suspended for the 2013 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The next August, he tore his ACL on a kickoff return. He spent last November with the Steelers but didn't get a carry.
• Tight end MarQueis Gray, who also signed with the Dolphins today, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with San Francisco in 2013 and has played for Cleveland, Minnesota and Buffalo, appearing in 29 games and starting seven. He has 12 catches for 144 yards in his career and caught one pass in four games for Buffalo last season.
WHITESIDE'S OFFENSIVE DEVELOPMENT
LOS ANGELES --- Even in suffering one of its most exasperating losses of the season Wednesday in Los Angeles, there was one constant: the usual double-double from Hassan Whiteside, his 17th in 20 games since the All-Star break, all off the bench.
When Whiteside --- who had 18 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks Wednesday --- returns to northern California on Friday night to play a Kings team that gave up on him four years ago, Sacramento naturally will be leery of his shot-blocking (first in the league at 3.75 per game) and rebounding (fourth at 11.8) – two elite skills that he displayed immediately when he took the NBA by storm last season.
But like every team that has played the Heat in recent weeks, the Kings also must now be concerned about his flourishing offensive game.
Whiteside scored just 29 points combined in his first two NBA seasons, as a raw, seldom-used backup in Sacramento. It took him just two games this week to score 47.
Whiteside’s offensive evolution has been one of many fascinating subplots of the post All-Star break Heat. When TNT’s Charles Barkley spoke earlier this season of Whiteside being about to average 20 points a game, Chris Bosh said even 18 per game for Whiteside, with a full roster, would be unrealistic because of the Heat’s myriad scoring options.
But with Bosh sidelined, Whiteside has averaged 18.5 points on 62.0 percent shooting since the break, including a career-high 27 Monday against Brooklyn.
Whiteside's post-All Star break scoring average ranks sixth among centers and 38th among all players. Before the All-Star break, he was scoring just 12.2 points per game, 13th among centers.
He’s shooting more now, naturally, his field-goal attempts increasing from 8.3 per game in early February to 11.5 since the All-Star break.
“I’m glad I got the opportunity, glad I get to show a little extra offensive things,” said Whiteside, whose 61.8 percent accuracy from the field is second-best in the league, behind only DeAndre Jordan’s 70.2. “I think my team is getting more and more confidence in me. I always knew it was there.”
A look at several aspects of Whiteside’s offensive development:
• Jump shots: He’s shooting 45.3 percent overall on jumpers but 51.2 percent since the break, according to NBA.com.
Since the All-Star break, he’s shooting 54.3 percent from 5 to 9 feet (25 for 46), 50 percent from 10 to 14 feet (9 for 18), 43.8 percent from 15 to 19 feet (14 for 32) and 2 for 3 from 20 to 23 feet.
“I’ve always been a really good shooter; I’m just getting more chances to display that,” he said. “The guards are getting more confident in giving it to me out there.”
Whiteside said he’s shooting jumpers no differently than he did last season but he feels he’s “a little more balanced” when he releases the ball. He said taking 250 a day much of last summer also helped.
• Hook shots: He has shot far fewer of those (110) than jumpers (192) this season. He’s making 44 percent of his hooks and has been studying tape of Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon because “they never shot an off-balance jump hook.” He’s working on developing a pump fake on his hook.
• Dunks: Whiteside, of course, never practices those, but it’s notable that he flubs fewer dunks that any other high-volume dunker in the league.
Whiteside, who is fifth in the league in dunks, has missed only three of 139. Conversely, Jordan and Anthony Davis have missed 19 dunks and Howard 15, according to basketballreference.
• Free throws. His improvement there, Whiteside said, is his biggest source of pride offensively. And he credits it largely to the change he made in mid-January, after Udonis Haslem remarked how well he shot jumpers and said, half-jokingly, that he should shoot free throws like that.
Since he began shooting free throws like jumpers, Whiteside is shooting 75 percent from the line (105 for 140), though he was 6 for 12 against the Lakers.
Before changing his free-throw form, he was 5 for 12 on free throws for the Kings, 50 percent last season for the Heat, and 51.8 percent in the first half this season.
“I read all the analytics and the media where they say if you can't shoot free throws, it's because you're not a good shooter," Whiteside said. "But I feel I'm a really good shooter. I just wasn't making enough [foul shots]. Now, I want to be one of the better free throw shooters in the NBA --- anything over 80 percent.”
• Passing: This is the area where there is still the most room for growth. His six assists last season were the fewest ever for an NBA player who played 500 minutes, compared with 58 turnovers.
This season, he’s up to 27 assists and 126 turnovers, which represents the second-worst assist-to-turnover ratio among centers, ahead of only JaVale McGee. But 10 centers have more turnovers than Whiteside’s 126.
He is determined to improve on “passing it out of the double team, and passing it for a score, not just passing it out.”
Whiteside might not have to face Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 27 points and 11.6 rebounds. Cousins received his 16th technical foul of the season Wednesday for sarcastically clapping in the face of a referee near the end of the team's victory over the Washington Wizards. If the ruling is upheld, it will trigger an automatic one-game suspension Friday against the Heat. The NBA reviews all technical fouls and will make a ruling later.
[UPDATE: The NBA tonight upheld the suspension, and Cousins will sit out Friday's game against the Heat. He will end up missing both games against Miami this season, both because of suspension.]
• Here are the details and postgame reaction from last night’s debacle, a 102-100 overtime loss to the Lakers.
• After the game, Wade and Kobe Bryant visited former teammate Lamar Odom, who attended an NBA game for the first time since being found unconscious at a Nevada brothel in October.
Bryant left two tickets for Odom, who sat in the front row behind one of the baskets, and said his return to health is a “miracle.” Odom told reporters "it was awesome" to be back and "I got goosebumps."
After speaking with Odom, Wade tweeted: “… Made losing this game not matter "as much" after getting a chance to spend time with my guy LO. #GodisGood”
Kobe said of the Odom visit: "It was just like old times. We talked before the game and talked after the game. It was great to just talk basketball with him and talk trash. It was good. It was unbelievable.
"To see him walking around now . . . it's as if nothing even happened. It's really a miracle. It's beyond good to see him."
• Wade popped into Bryant's postgame media interview and joked that Wade, 34, "knows he's going to be the oldest guy in the league next year."
Bryant said Wade is a "vicious competitor" and "the hardest player I've ever had to guard in a screen roll. He could come off the screen and just disappear."
• If you missed the crazy details that caused a surreal scene at Staples Center before the game, check this out.
Couple UM football notes:
UM's annual pro day, affected by rain, reinforced the need for an indoor facility.
"It was sad that it was a downpour at the moment they needed to be able to show what they could do," Mark Richt told reporters today, via Canesport. "Now, they fought through the adversity and I think the pro scouts appreciated that and saw that. I did like how they handled adversity. That’s part of the evaluation process.
“Not to have a place where they could have the type of day that they’ve been working so hard for, for so long – not only from the end of the season to now, but really their whole life, they’re waiting for that opportunity, was just tough on them.”
UM originally thought it could build a practice facility for $17 million, but now the cost is likely to top $20 million, according to the administration. Athletic director Blake James said he has approached potential donors. A large gift is needed to make this happen.
• Richt indicated Malik Rosier hasn't stood out as the backup QB. That job is open among Rosier, Evan Schirreffs, Vincent Testaverde and Jack Allison (who could redshirt).
“I’m just trying to evaluate that, that’s why I’m trying to give them as fair an opportunity as I can,” Richt said, via Canesport. “Clearly Brad [Kaaya's] No. 1, but after that I really don’t know.”
• Offensive line coach Stacy Searels said his unit "has days where they’re really, really good, and there’s some days we’ve been really, really bad. We’re looking for more consistency. … We have some good young talent, but we need to grow up.”
With Sonny Odogwu and Nick Linder missing the spring due to injuries, UM has been going with a first team --- from left to right --- of Trevor Darling, KC McDermott, Alex Gall, Danny Isidora and Tyree St. Louis. Searels says Isidora has been the most impressive.
Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Check back later today for more.