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Heat rookies keep impressing; Dolphins notes; UM eager to see early arrivals

A six-pack of notes on a Monday night:

• For a team that often has treated draft picks as thoroughly expendable commodities in recent years, there’s something sweetly ironic about watching the Heat getting more from its rookie draft class than perhaps any other playoff-caliber team in the league.

There was a lot more of that Monday against Denver, with Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson adding to their impressive rookie resumes in a 124-119 win.

Winslow scored a career-high 20, while Richardson (17 points) continued his torrid three-point shooting and ignited a critical late third-quarter rally. 

“It’s awesome to see those young guys contributing so much to this team,” Goran Dragic said. “They’re unbelievable. They are so mature."

Richardson, who began getting regular minutes only after injuries to Tyler Johnson and Beno Udrih, hit 4 of 5 threes, making him a ridiculous 22 for 35 on three-pointers since the All-Star break.

Richardson said his shot “was not too pretty” at the start of the season but he improved by attempting at least 200 every day.

“So many shots have all added up,” he said, crediting assistant coach Chris Quinn for making an adjustment with his feet on his jump shot.

With the Heat down 89-82 late in the third, Richardson hit a three, and a bit later stole a pass, was fouled and hit one of two free throws to help draw the Heat to within 91-90 after three.

Then Richardson thwarted a Denver rally when he drove the baseline and threw down a violent one-handed dunk to put the Heat ahead 105-101 midway through the fourth. He also had two big blocked shots in the fourth.

Winslow, meantime, scored 15 points in the first half, then put the Heat ahead for good with 8:57 left in the game when he made a steal, was fouled and hit a layup and the ensuing free throw.

"I really feel comfortable and confident," Winslow said. "It is just about playing my game within the offense and just finding my time to attack and be aggressive."

Winslow continues to improve his mid-range shooting, closing 8 for 13 overall from the floor. His previous rookie high point total was 15, last month against Indiana.

“They’re fearless,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Winslow and Richardson. “They’re great workers, which is unique for young players. They’re in here all the time, first here, last to leave.... We've been working them hard and they've embraced all of that. They're gaining a lot of confidence because our veteran players have a lot of confidence in them.”

Richardson said: "I wouldn't even call me and Justise rookies anymore. We're basketball players.... I never leave the gym until I make 70" threes in 100 attempts.

• Whiteside, who provided less rim deterrence than usual but scored 12 of his 18 in the fourth, had produced double figures in rebounds for 12 consecutive games, and that streak extended to 13 when he corralled his 10th and final rebound with just over a minute left. That’s the longest double-figure rebounding streak off the bench in the NBA since Paul Silas did it 13 games in a row in 1975.

“His last six minutes of the game were his best,” Spoelstra said. “His first six minutes were his worst.”      

Spoelstra is still pushing for more from Whiteside. "How can we get that line of consistency?" Spoelstra asked after the game. "He's getting there."

• For the first time since being diagnosed with a blood clot, Chris Bosh sat on the Heat bench during the game.  Bosh, on the team’s inactive list Monday, had attended previous games but in a less visible part of the arena.

Bosh, who said last week that he no longer has the clot, has been working out “almost daily” with the coaching and training staff and doing work in the weight room, Spoelstra said. But even though Bosh has said he’s optimistic about being able to play this season, the Heat has declined to discuss the likelihood of that.

• Last offseason, the Dolphins tried to sign virtually every player who visited and succeeded in signing most. That hasn't been the case so far this month, partly because the Dolphins are being very deliberate and partly because they have been waiting for Denver's decision on whether to match Miami's offer for CJ Anderson. That decision is due today.

Defensive end Chris Clemons visited today, and the Dolphins made no offer when he left. They told him, essentially, that they will get back to him. Meanwhile, Clemons is planning other visits. Among defensive ends, the Dolphins also are considering Jason Jones, who visited last Saturday.

• At least 18 cornerbacks have come off the board in free agency, and the Dolphins still haven't signed anyone to play opposite Byron Maxwell, acquired by trade from Philadelphia.

The Dolphins simply didn't place a significant monetary value on nearly any corner in this free agent class.

Here's most of those still available: Leon Hall (played for Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph in Cincinnati, but 31), Nolan Carroll (Dolphins have called), Patrick Robinson (Miami called early but wasn't interested at the price he's asking), Jayron Hosley, Jerraud Powers (Dolphins hadn't pursued as of Monday morning), Alan Ball, declining Antonio Cromartie, Charles Tillman, Tarell Brown, Trumaine McBride, Terence Newman, Cassius Vaughn, Mike Jenkins, Chris Owens and Greg Toler.

Bottom line: Dolphins fans better hope they get the pre-2015 version of Maxwell, that Miami lands a quality corner at No. 13 overall (perhaps Ohio State's Eli Apple or Clemson's Mackenzie Alexander) or in the second round, and that Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett and Jamar Taylor make major strides.

• Five early enrollees should be on the field when Miami begins spring practice Tuesday: quarterback Jack Allison; linebackers Shaquille Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud and defensive end Patrick Bethel.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Quarterman “does things that are very natural to the linebacker position. Shaq knows where the ball is going instantly. He doesn’t need a GPS to find the ball."

He said Pinckney is a “very productive linebacker, makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage, which is something we’re going to pride ourselves on. Has a natural instinct for blitzing."

UM coaches say Bethel is 265 pounds and already very strong physically.

Please see the post from earlier Monday on players who will be limited this spring and the status of two arrested players. And please come back Tuesday afternoon for a report on Mark Richt's first spring practice at UM.