The Heat didn't have a draft pick Thursday but has begun the process of signing players who went undrafted. Among the first to agree to terms: South Carolina small forward Michael Carrera.
Carrera agreed to play for the Heat's summer league team in Orlando and Las Vegas, his agent, Miami Beach-based Seth Cohen, told me this morning.
Carrera averaged 14.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1 block and 1 steal per game for the Gamecocks last season. He's considered a very good defender and his three-point game improved dramatically last year, with Carrera shooting 40.5 percent on threes (51 for 126). He shot 44.9 percent from the field overall.
Carrera will play for Venezuela in the Olympics this summer, Cohen said.
"When I speak to NBA people, they say his relentless approach to every possession, and his ability to defend from the 1 to the 4, coupled with his long-distance shooting, is what makes him attractive," South Carolina coach Frank Martin told The State in Columbia, S.C.. "Unbelievable teammate."
The Heat typically does not announce its summer league signings until about a week after the draft.
• 12:20 A.M. update: The Heat entered the night without a draft pick and departed the night without one. Meanwhile, UM guard Sheldon McClellan went undrafted but will sign a partially guaranteed contract with the Washington Wizards, reports TNT's David Aldridge.
• 6 p.m. update: The Dallas Mavericks have emerged as a serious suitor for Heat center Hassan Whiteside, who becomes a free agent on July 1. ESPN Dallas reported on Thursday that Dallas expects to be granted a meeting with Whiteside in the opening hours of free agency.
A friend of Whiteside did not dispute that report and said Whiteside, through back-channels, is generating considerable interest around the league. ESPN identified Portland as another team expected to seriously pursue Whiteside.
That friend said Whiteside prefers to stay with the Heat if all things are equal financially.
But the Heat has given no indication whether it’s willing to offer Whiteside a max deal, even though Heat president Pat Riley has called Whiteside “our No. 1 priority, period.”
A general manager for another team said he fully expects Whiteside to receive a max deal, with a first-year salary of $22 million if the cap rises to $94 million as projected.
During the regular season, a Heat official expressed hesitation about offering Whiteside a max deal, but that was a couple of months ago and it’s unclear whether the Heat would be willing to offer that if the alternative is losing him.
“More than likely, players out there in free agency, our No. 1 priority is Hassan Whiteside,” Riley said after the season. “He's 26 years old. He's a game changer."
Because the Heat does not possess full Bird rights for Whiteside, it cannot surpass the salary cap to keep him at a competitive salary.
Miami is limited to offering him only a four-year deal, the same length as other teams can offer.
But because Whiteside has Early Bird rights, the Heat can offer him 7.5 percent raises off his first-year salary, compared with 4.5 percent for other teams.
That means a Heat deal starting at just under $22 million next season would be equivalent to a max deal with another team. And if Miami goes to the max, the Heat also could offer a four-year deal for $97.9 million, while other teams could offer a four-year deal for $93.9 million, though the exact numbers could change slightly depending on the final cap number for next season.
Additionally, six teams – the Heat, Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs, Grizzlies and Magic – have a financial edge because they play in states without state incoming taxes.
But a friend said that would not be a determining factor, because it would not protect Whiteside if he is traded.
Whiteside led the league in blocks at 3.7 per game last season, was fourth in rebounding at 11.8 and averaged 14.8 points per game.
The Heat has $42 million in cap space, not including Dwyane Wade, who has said he plans to re-sign. Keeping Wade and Whiteside would consume most of that space.
Other free agent centers include Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol, Timofey Mozgov, Zaza Pachulia (Dallas’ incumbent center), Marreese Speights, Ian Mahinmi, Roy Hibbert, Kendrick Perkins, Jon Leuer, Chris Kaman, Bismack Biyombo and Nene Hilario.
The Heat likes Horford and Noah among others in that group, according to a source, and Miami pursued Gasol the last time he was a free agent in 2014.
The ESPN report cited Whiteside and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley as the Mavericks’ priority in free agency.
Please click here if you missed our story earlier this month in which one general manager explained why it makes sense for the Heat to offer Whiteside a max deal.
Former UM coach Al Golden has tried to maintain a good relationship with his former players, and several UM players praised Golden effusively after his dismissal last October.
But Golden had his share of detractors among former players, including Raiders and former UM offensive lineman Jon Feliciano, who ripped his former coach in an interview with WQAM's Orlando Alzugaray today.
Among his most scathing allegations: that Golden wouldn't give Stephen Morris an MRI to determine his injury because the team needed him in 2013 (we're trying to get a comment from Morris and Golden on this; UPDATE: Neither Golden nor UM has responded to a request for comment as of 5 p.m.), and that Golden started Brad Kaaya as a freshman so he would have an excuse if he lost.
Beyond all the questionable strategic decisions that Alzugaray listed, "there was just stuff that was internal that was even worse than that," Feliciano said. "Stephen Morris playing off one Achilles' the whole season  and they didn't want him to get an MRI until after the season because we really needed him. We didn't find out the extent of Stephen's injuries until the combine. He had a ruptured Achilles. So Stephen Morris doesn't get drafted. Bouncing around the league now. Golden has this degree in psychology and he definitely used that."
[Morris was not immediately available for comment. But a close associate of Morris said he had no knowledge of UM refusing to give Morris an MRI.]
Feliciano said Golden also tried to persuade Ereck Flowers “to stay [in school, rather than declare for the 2015 draft] by saying he wasn’t a first-round pick." Flowers went pro and was selected ninth overall by the Giants.
Feliciano said: "The whole Ryan Williams situation was the most messed up situation. We know Brad Kaaya is the best quartertback we've had in a few years, but me and Brad talked about this before. I'm taking no shots at Brad Kaaya. He's going to be a first-round pick. When you have a guy, Ryan Williams, who breaks a bunch of records at Memphis, has to sit behind Stephen for two or three years, does everything right,... tears his ACL [in the spring of 2014], works his butt off to be ready by camp. They said he's not ready. He's ready. No one knows how good Ryan Williams is. Telling him this is still your team only to find out he's back, but sorry, we're going with Brad."
He said players believed Golden played Kaaya because he was a freshman and wanted to play a freshman quarterback to have an excuse if he lost. "That's how the upperclassmen felt and the people who could have been drafted felt."
Williams was cut by the Packers recently. Feliciano said the 2014 team would have won four more games with Williams (10, instead of six with Kaaya) but also admitted he is friends with Williams.
On Anthony Chickillo, Feliciano criticized Golden's approach to "make him gain 60 pounds to play defensive end instead of playing linebacker like he did in the league."
Feliciano said: "Most of the coaching staff were pretty good guys. It had to be hard to coach a certain way when you [wanted] to coach a different way.... [Golden] might not have been over his head, but he might have been stubborn to his ways. I think that would be a better term to it. We had Tracy Howard and Artie Burns... Why did we run cover 2 and cover 2 man?"
Did the players ever try to get coaches to change? "Good luck with that," Feliciano said.
Last week, after Golden told The Detroit Free Press that he felt "burned out" at UM, Feliciano tweeted: "Ruining peoples' lives, but you felt burned out?"
Feliciano said: "I am in a group text with a few of my other teammates from Miami and everyone in that text just felt disrespected, felt like he was trying to put the blame on someone else when we weren't the head coach."
I was the only newspaper reporter at the Dolphins’ final media availability for a month, a Monday session in Overtown this week where all of the team’s rookies did good work helping grow vegetables in a garden across from Charles Drew Elementary.
• Kenyan Drake said his strained hamstring, sustained in a punt blocking drill the next-to-last day of minicamp, is not “major,” is quickly healing, and he will be fine for football activities long before the start of training camp.
“I’m feeling great,” he said.
This was the seventh injury Drake has suffered over the past four-plus years, but he politely brushed off questions about his durability that were raised by at least one scout.
“You’re going to get hurt as a football player,” Drake said. “It's about how fast you recover and get back on the field. It's not about how many times you get injured. It's about are you able to play in critical moments of the season when the team needs you to.”
Drake said he has been able to do that. He played in between 11 and 13 games for Alabama in 2012, 2013 and 2015 but was limited to five games in 2014. He missed 11 games in all at Alabama.
• Receiver Leonte Carroo, who made a favorable impression on everyone in the team’s offseason program, said his first priority is losing eight pounds.
“I'm 217 now, trying to get down to 210,” he said. “You become faster when you shed some pounds. I don't have any bad weight on me. That's what I was at the combine. Why not be as fast and explosive as I can be? I'm going to continue to be strong but also lose any weight that I felt comfortable playing at.”
• Jakeem Grant, an accomplished kickoff returner at Texas Tech, never returned a punt in college but said he’s quickly getting the hang of it. And special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi agreed during a recent media session.
Grant said he has fielded “over 1000 punts” since the start of the offseason program (though that sounds awfully high) and that he has dropped only two “because I took my eyes off it.”
Said Grant: “I didn’t do it at Texas Tech but I’m very comfortable doing it. I love being back there, just taking it and going.”
• Seventh-round tight end Thomas Duarte faces major challenges: He missed a month of practices while taking classes at UCLA. And in the preseason opener, he will be asked to do something he has never done in a game: inline blocking.
He said he practiced doing it several months at UCLA. “It's just footwork, technique stuff. You've got to build a base before you can go out there and succeed.”
Any idea if you'll be good at? "No idea. Just getting a little better every day."
But Duarte said he had no preference about whether he would be a receiver or tight end. Miami wanted him at tight end.
“I wanted a team that believed in me. And the Dolphins organization does,” he said. “They believe in my athletic ability and my ability to become a tight end. So I'm happy with that.”
• Al Golden, now the Detroit Lions tight ends coach, still keeps in touch with former Canes. He reached out to Dolphins receiver Rashawn Scott and told him to “do a good job in camp, keep pushing.”
Scott thanked Golden for his guidance, etc. Scott had some good moments late in last week’s minicamp and could make the practice squad if he has a good preseason.
• Jordan Lucas, the seventh-round pick out of Penn State, said he got work both on the boundary and in the slot over the past month.
Lucas is immersed in a competitive battle with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Tyler Patmon for the backup nickel job behind likely starter Bobby McCain.
• I spoke to first-rounder Laremy Tunsil and second-rounder Xavien Howard and will have more on them in a future post.
Two UM developments tonight:
• We reported yesterday that UM and Alabama grad transfer Maurice Smith, a former four-star cornerback, were on each other's radars, with Smith exploring the possibilities of transferring to UM.
The situation has progressed today.
A State of the U.com correspondent said he spoke to Smith and Smith is strongly considering UM, with Maryland and Georgia among other candidates.
And CaneInsight's Peter Ariz, a Herald contributor, tonight reports that Miami is "the likely destination" for Smith.
If he comes to UM, he would almost assuredly be one of UM's top four corners, with Corn Elder and Sheldrick Redwine and potentially Adrian Colbert.
Smith can play in the slot in nickel packages, a role Jaquan Johnson might handle if Smith doesn't come to UM.
• SNYTV first reported that Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman, who visited UM last weekend, is no longer considering UM.