Saturday, September 27, 2008

Canes Blow Easy Win Vs Tar Heels

This game was a tough one to watch. It's frustrating to see a team with superior talent consistently lose to inferior teams. North Carolina has Brandon Tate and nothing else on offense. I don't care if that sounds like I'm a sore loser. Fact is, UNC has limited talent and still pulled off a victory today in our home stadium after being down 14.

Sadly enough I'm not surprised. I'm disappointed, but not surprised. We seem to be cursed for some reason. Doesn't matter who we play at what position or what coach we have, our boys just fall apart. The defense today was a joke. Where was the tough play against the Gators? Our defensive backs have been just awful. Thank goodness we've been picking up some good DB recruits of late for the 09 class, because guys like Bruce Johnson need to be shown the door.

The defense cost us the game today, and Patrick Nix reverted to the offense we saw in Gainesville. Sure it looked good when Cooper was breaking long runs, but at one point Marve was 12/15 for 80 or so yards. Throw the ball downfield man! Pathetic. Then we got conservative at the end and set ourselves up for the eventual collapse.

We need improved play from the defense. It hurt not having Forston in there today, but it doesn't excuse the fact we got torn up at several intervals during this game. The defensive backs allowed way too many big plays, particularly Johnson, who needs to lose his starting job to Brandon Harris sometime soon. I don't care how young Harris is.

The final INT was just a punch to the gut. Even after blowing the lead, it seemed for a split second we would have a great final drive to be the first of many in Robert Marve lore. Instead it was overthrown by an inch or two, and Kayne simply didn't get the job done. Hate to see the game end like that.

So much for an ACC title. After the defense's performance at UF and the offense's at Texas A&M, I looked at the schedule and realized it was easy enough for this team to go 11-1. Unfortunately, I knew this wouldn't happen. Despite the fact that no team left on the schedule (and this goes for UNC too) has a clearly better team than the Canes, I knew we would have to go through the growing pains of a young squad. This team hasn't built it's killer instinct yet, but there is plenty to look forward to. Expect a 7-5 or 8-4 season, as we will be competitive in most games but will probably blow some more leads or trip over ourselves while trying not to lose the game.

What I've seen from today is that Graig Cooper has finally come around to show his true potential. Robert Marve is the real deal, despite the 2 picks. He'll have some struggles, but I expect him to be a serious contender for ACC player of the year in 2009. I don't mind Shannon keeping his promise to Jacory Harris to give him playing time, but it is clear that Marve is the man and should remain so. The receivers are young but have loads of talent. I just wish Nix would throw it to them in the open field more often.

The defense is erratic. My biggest gripe is the lack of turnovers. Do we even have an interception yet? We are 4 games through the season and I can't remember us forcing any turnovers. I want to say we got some last week, but that seems like so long ago by now. The coaches need to get guys on the field who can make plays. None of this bend but dont break mentality. The front line will need an infusion of youth, we all know that. And the DBs need some big time work.

Really this loss was something we had to expect would happen at some point this season. It's disappointing because I still hold this university's football team to high standards. Scrub teams like UNC shouldn't come within 30 points of our UM teams, much less with a 3rd string QB. But this hasn't been the first such loss and probably won't be the last before this team is back on top. We'll have to take our lumps and let other fan bases have their way with us while we lose to their teams this season. The future is a muddled one. Part of me knows the talent is there and we have much to look forward to, but the mental mistakes and lack of killer instinct is giving me 2nd thoughts about Randy Shannon and has confirmed to me that Patrick Nix is not the answer at OC.

Thoughts During the Bye

Like everyone else, I was absolutely stunned by the 38-13 destruction of the mighty New England Patriots. The Dolphins came out fired up and completely dominated both sides of the ball. Sure, Tom Brady was out, but the NFL MVP doesn't play defense.

I absolutely loved the Wildcat offense. Our Canes tried it against the Aggies last season and it worked well despite not being a frequently used part of our offense. It was pretty surprising to see that sort of formation work so well against such a well-taught defense at the professional level.

I wouldn't take too much from the game, as now it is unlikely that we'll be able to use that formation to that extent, at least successfully, for the rest of the season. I also think the Patriots just got caught in a snowball effect. We aren't 24 points better than anyone, much less the Patriots. Still, it was extremely exciting to see some production out of the offense and some big plays out of Joey Porter and the defense.

Chad Pennington proved that he deserves to stay the starter with a sparkling 17/20 performance. Henne can learn a lot from the veteran. Pennington can keep us competitive in most games. Expect to win 5 or 6 games at most, however. This team is still too young and has too many questions at too many positions to make a run at the postseason, even in the weakened status of the AFC East.

My favorite part of the victory was Ronnie Brown's return to his high form. Last season, Brown was a fantasy superstar, leading the NFL in total yards before getting hurt. He has looked like anything but a guy coming back from a career-threatening ACL injury. Besides his dedication and hard work, I credit the fact his injury came while trying to chase someone down, not getting tackled. It had to help.

Ricky also looked great, coming just 2 yards short of 100. I just hope the front office isn't holding his debt to them against him. I would think he deserves some sort of lenience, and if he continues to do his job and produce, that they would just waive the debt. It never made much sense that he owes the Dolphins 8 million that was paid to him by the Saints anyway.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Miami Schedules Their Favorite Whipping Boys

My personal favorite non-conference opponent to play against is the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 3 of our 6 national titles have come from playing them, including the finishing touch on the greatest team in college football history, the 2001 Canes.

It looks like it won't be that long until we once again have the chance to dominate the boys from the Midwest. The Hurricanes have scheduled a home and home with Nebraska in 2014 and 2015. Once again the series starts on the road, this time in Lincoln.

I really don't understand why recently our Athletic Directors can never get a home and home to start here. UF, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and now Nebraska. Only lower tier programs like USF and Texas A&M have even considered making the trip to Miami the first part of the schedule.

And that's if anyone will play us here at all. USC refused to play down here, asking for only one game, in LA. Michigan was especially bad, asking for both games of the series be played in Ann Arbor. Yeah, ok. And of course, Notre Dame refuses to play us at all. No big surprise there.

Here's to hoping both programs are back on top by the time the series rolls around. Despite my jabs, I have a great deal of respect for the Cornhuskers and they have never quite been the same since that Rose Bowl blasting at the hands of Ken Dorsey and Co. I also hope we get a chance to schedule other major programs to prove that we aren't scared of playing anybody. Bring back UF yearly. Take on Texas. Call up LSU and try to take some revenge for that Peach Bowl embarassment.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts on the UF Game

So I went up to G-Ville last weekend for the inevitable end of the 23-year streak. My thoughts on the game: (warning this is long)

First off, I was mildly surprised by the lack of hostility by UF fans. I think much of it had to do with the fact none of these students have seen a real UM team in action and that the rivalry has been reduced to trifling between old school fans. New fans (of which UF has many/all) don't know the history between these two teams and simply didn't think much of this underwhelming Canes team.

You could tell that they didn't care from the lack of any hostile environment at the Swamp. It was my first trip to the stadium and while it is certainly a nice enough place to play a game, it was a little overrated in terms of size and certainly didn't feel like the toughest place to play a game in the country. It could have been that the fans didn't care as much (but more likely some combination of that and the fact their team was shockingly one play away from going down in the 4th quarter). But at several points during the 3rd quarter after our defense made a big play our section would start chanting and I guarantee you could hear us on the opposite end zone.

Regarding the UF squad itself. I wasn't impressed at all. The only guy who really impressed me, and this is expected, was Tim Tebow. I hate the guy more than anyone in recent college football history, but he is a slippery fellow. I made a comment that was later confirmed in the telecast that he reminds me of a massive Doug Flutie. Figures he would unknowingly be emulating another hated rival who played 24 years ago. We had him under attack the whole game but he kept slipping out of easy sacks and completing improbable passes. It's pretty clear that without him UF doesn't stand a chance in hell against us or anyone in the SEC.

The rest of the team was blah. Louis Murphy had his words shoved in his mouth until late in the 4th, and Percy Harvin was pretty limited by his injury despite his score. The defense I'd have to give an incomplete, because despite playing very very well, it is difficult to say who is to blame for their success. The front four seemingly played excellently against the run, but Marve's jersey was spotless throughout the game.

But that of course could be because he never threw the damn ball. And here comes my lasting impression of the game. Miami could have won. The score might not indicate that, but I truly believe the Canes had a chance and Patrick Nix refused to take it. The first half gameplan was beautiful. Run the ball and keep Tebow off the field. Keep it close until late in the game where the Gators would start panicking. However, the 2nd part of that plan would be to open up the offense and strike. That never happened.

It is the general consensus that Nix ran the same five or six plays. Shotgun delay run, i-form run, Shotgun delay QB sweep, PA rollout, and the quick screen out of the no-back set. Pathetic. The shotgun delay run for 1 yard had to be the most frustrating thing to see, ever. He must have called it at least 15 times. Could have been two dozen, but I lost track. Nix had to see at some point that it was not working and that they needed to start throwing deep. There is no excuse for your longest play being 14 yards from scrimmage.

I don't care what Randy Shannon says about receivers not getting open, I didn't see a single deep post, slant, curl route. I saw nothing but flares and outs and little dump out plays. Robert Marve is a redshirt freshman, but so was Sam Bradford. If you really have faith in him, let him play and see what happens. I wouldn't blame him for throwing a couple of picks in the Swamp against a great team in his first start. But I do blame Nix for never giving him the chance. If Marve is truly great in adversity, then let him prove it on the field instead of babying him and Jacory Harris through the game.

What did Miami have to lose as a 5-7 team with no shot to win the game? All we care about is titles down here and that wasn't happening. The game has nothing to do with ACC standings, so why not throw caution to the wind? Try to WIN the game, not prevent a loss. I read someone on a board call this offense the "prevent offense," which is exactly what it was. Pathetic. We had a chance to pull off something special and simply didn't bother.

Down 13 in the 4th, they didn't change a thing and ended up getting run out of the building. Down 20 they did the same and ended up punting with 8 minutes to go. Why?! If you have already conceded defeat then so what if you don't convert on 4th and they score again. Screw it. Give us SOMETHING to be excited about. Absolutely terrible decision making by the coaching staff in that situation.

It's sad because they wasted an amazing effort by the defense. They held what was supposed to be the top offense in the country to basically 0 points going into the 4th. UF's first TD was a gift from Matt Bosher, and the special teams was to blame for that safety. Finally UF got rolling in the 4th but by then I wasn't mad. At some point they were going to get their's and the defense had to be tired and demoralized by the lack of offensive production. Regardless of the outcome, this is a Top 10 defense and is good enough to keep us in every game down the road. If Nix can get us to muster 24 points a game, which is reasonable considering the schedule, there is no reason Miami can't go 10-2 or 11-1. Unfortunately we know this won't happen and we'll go 7-5 somehow.

The result is just a sickening reality that we wasted a good chance to pull off the upset and never tried to step on the gas once UF finally solved our defense. However, I was pleased to see how well Harris and Marve played all things considered, and that our young defense is absolutely amazing. Bill Young is just sick. Sean Spence is the real deal and is the next big thing out of the real Linebacker U. He spun Tebow around like a ragdoll for a sack and Tim outweighs him by more than 30 pounds. What a player.

There's so much more for me to say, but this is getting pretty long. My final thoughts are regarding the final field goal and Randy Shannon's reaction. I personally didn't care for the kick, but knew that if they went for it they would be villified anyway. Nobody would kneel in that situation. It was dumb to keep Tebow in and risk injury, but whatever. Losing to the cocky Gators was a tough pill to swallow, whether it be by 1, 20 or 23. But Randy Shannon should have kept his mouth shut.

Don't cry foul about running up the score. If your offense had any semblance of effectiveness the field goal wouldn't have been an issue. We saw teams from BYU, San Diego State, and Ohio show more offensive firepower than we did with all our stud recruits. Pathetic playcalling, because I don't think it had all that much to do with our players (although the OL was a disappointment in run blocking). That aside, we all know Urban Meyer is a slimy scumbag. The field goal doesn't make him any better or worse. Calling him out makes you look like a pansy, and now with Warren Sapp chiming in, the U sounds like a bunch of excuse makers. Take care of business and it won't happen. Simple fact.

Thankfully nobody has complained about refs, which arguably was an issue. SEC refs? Come on. Several plays went wildly in UF's favor, swinging the momentum their way. However, it wasn't so bad that it prevented Miami from doing enough to win the game. If anything it should have amped them up to stick it to everyone. No excuses.

The good news is that things look promising, pending the offense gets opened up. Assuming Nix is gone by years end and we finally break the bank for a real OC, this team will compete for a national title in 2010. No doubt in my mind. Maybe even in 2009 if players develop quickly. So far I haven't seen proof that Shannon can coach, but there is no doubting his recruiting ability. There is some impressive young talent on this squad. We'll see what happens from here. But if we can't beat down Texas A&M, then I will officially give up on the season and maybe the coaching staff.

Friday, September 5, 2008

So Far So Good For Dolphins Draft

It's EXTREMELY early to bring this up, but considering the colossal failures of our recent drafts, I figured why not.

The big optimism with this new regime is the supposed expertise of the guys making personnel decisions. I have to say, so far they have been right on target with many of their decisions. I could go into their free agent pickups, but that's probably for another post. Here, I want to go into a very preliminary grade of their first draft. I'll start with our first 4 picks.

Round 1 Jake Long OT Michigan

This is looking like an A pick right now. We haven't seen him play a down, but so far Jake Long has shown that he belongs on the starting line. Much remains to be see of Long, a fact that remains true for all our rookies, but I am very optimistic about his potential.

Round 2 Phillip Merling DE Clemson

This was an interesting pick when it was made. I have to be honest I had never heard of him, and when we selected him I was skeptical. He was supposed to have 1st round talent, so I approved. So far, I haven't seen much to be impressed about, but it's only been the summer. The loss of Jason Taylor made this pick a good one in hindsight.

Round 2 Chad Henne QB Michigan

To be honest I hated this pick. I knew we needed to take a QB at some point, but I wasn't a fan of any of them. Henne in particular. I followed him out of high school and watched him play 4 years at Michigan and took away the impression that Henne simply wasn't much of a winner in big game situations. He could never manage to beat Ohio State, so how is he going to help us beat the Patriots.

But Henne has gained a lot of respect from me this summer. He has looked very good, even when making the usual rookie mistakes. It's clear that he is a much better value pick than John Beck was in last year's 2nd round. Beck has regressed big time and will be lucky to make the team, so Henne's progression is crucial to the success of this franchise. I'm confident that he can eventually become a pretty good QB. Think of Jay Cutler's peak potential, not Tom Brady's.

Round 3 Kendall Langford DE Hampton

If you were clueless about this pick, join the club. I never like seeing my team pick Div 1AA players, but all you need to know about this pick is that they think enough of Langford to start him over both Randy Starks, a decent veteran, AND Phillip Merling, a player of the same position picked a full round before Langford.

Langford represents the classic boom or bust pick. The fact he is currently starting on the depth chart as a 3rd round pick in a Bill Parcells system that favors wily veterans speaks volumes either about his talent or this team's lack of it. We'll see, but so far so good.

Part 2 will be soon with our lower round picks, including surprising OL Donald Thomas.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Marlins Hopes Fading

Unsurprisingly, the Marlins have finally started to fade out of the playoff picture. All of the weaknesses of their roster have finally caught up to them, leaving fans legitimately disappointed considering the recent resurgence of their young pitching staff.

Considering the fact the Marlins have already surpassed my preseason expectations (69 wins as of writing, when I projected them to win 68), I guess I should be happy that they gave us this much competitive baseball. We also can't forget that they technically aren't out of the hunt, being 7 games back of the surging Mets. It's still highly unlikely, but I suppose they aren't quite dead yet.

And I think it's safe to say that the Marlins' run the first half of this season would have easily been the story of the 2008 MLB season were it not for the Rays up north looking to win the AL East title and maybe locking up the best record in the AL. I was never quite sure how the Fish managed to piece together such a good record despite their poor pitching, poor defense, and lack of contact hitting.

But right now they are sitting at around 500 ball, having seemingly regressed to the mean and not looking to recover. We have to give it up to the players and the front office for producing so much from so little, but it is still hard to ignore the obvious problems this team has. Defense and pitching are a priority in the Bigs and we don't have much of that going for us. Our starters are young and doing well, but the bullpen has struggled at times and Kevin Gregg leads the majors with blown saves.

The biggest problem of course is that our payroll will forever be limited, even with a new stadium. This market just doesn't support having those big 100 million dollar payrolls. And while it is always possible to win without the big stars, it sure helps to be able to afford that big chip to fit in a needed position. It is also nice to be able to keep your homegrown talent after they become ineligible for arbitration and become full fledged free agents. I hate seeing Miguel Cabrera in a Tigers uniform.

What they need to do now is bring up all the young talent they have and give them legitimate shots to earn starting jobs for the 2009 season. Cameron Maybin is a strikeout machine but we have to see at some point what he can do in the major leagues. Try out some of our younger prospects in the infield, seeing as how Hanley has to be moved to the outfield at some point and the front office has made no attempt yet to lock up Dan Uggla.

Whatever they do, it has been a nice run for Marlins fans. They should have some decent enough hopes of breaking 500 next season, and look for this squad to be poised for a playoff run in 2010.

Mario Chalmers Caught Smoking Pot

Well, that was hardly what the Miami Heat needed. Hopefully the franchise overlooks Chalmers' error in judgment, because we can't afford to let go of talent just to stand by our morals.

The funny thing is that the big red flag with Michael Beasley before the draft was the questionable character issues that he came with. The Heat supposedly were trying like crazy to avoid having to draft him because they feared his immature attitude running wild on South Beach. Now they have to deal with Chalmers' issue.

Frankly, I don't see the big deal. I'm tired of the media and major sports leagues going crazy whenever a guy smokes a little pot. I'm no proponent of illegal drugs, but honestly we have bigger things to worry about than what 22 year old millionaires are doing with their cash in their free time. As long as he isn't hurting anybody or abusing the drug to the point he is a detriment to the team, then I don't care.

If you get to the point where you are on cocaine like Josh Hamilton, then it gets scary. And I guess that's what the league fears---players getting out of control with drug problems. So I suppose putting them into a program is a good idea. But vilifying these guys does nothing to solve the problem.

It's sad when the drug problems get out of hand, but to be realistic, there is a huge percentage of guys doing that sort of stuff and it does little to nothing to prevent them from performing on the field or court. Look at Ricky Williams. Lead the NFL in rushing in 2002 while high all the time.

Anyway, I just hope this blows over. Chalmers is a nice talent and will likely be our starting point guard by February if the Heat choose to keep him around. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Canes Romp in Opener 52-7

The final score of the Charleston Southern game is an interesting topic. Part of me says thats how badly we should have beaten them. A real Miami squad would always beat a cupcake by the normal 40+ point margin. So we shouldn't be too happy about that kind of result. These guys face tougher competition in practice.

However, we could have said this about many of the scheduled games we've played the past couple of years. Thanks to Coker, poor quarterbacking and general lack of talent, gimme games somehow turned into nail-biters and embarrassing losses. With Kirby or Kyle at the helm, I don't see how Miami could have scored 52 on a blind and deaf team.

So the 52 was a good sign in that regard. But it's still very dangerous to assume the offense is effective after a game like that. I'm not convinced that what I saw was enough to top the hated Gators on September 6. The defense looked good as well, but I can't promise a similar result when they face one of the best 2 or 3 offenses in college football.

Still, it was nice to see so many of our highly touted true freshmen playing. The one absent player that worried me was Arthur Brown. I'm a little concerned he will end up like Willie Williams. Not in the character sense, because Brown is an excellent individual. But because he was so good in high school, his only job was to kill the ballcarrier. Guys who are that good seem to have a lot of trouble making the transition to an organized, complex defense such as Bill Young's. To see him not play was a little disturbing, but I'm sure he'll pick it up at some point. Maybe he should even be redshirted to just learn the playbook and understand the system.

As for our chances next week, things look grim. I'm hoping Tropical Storm Hanna (now projected to graze Northeast Florida around Thursday night as of me writing this) slows down and if it must hit the area, to hit around the scheduled time for the game. If we could get this game postponed towards the end of the season, I would be thrilled. I'm not too confident about tossing in Robert Marve in his first start at UF like that. We did it to Kyle Wright at FSU and look what happened to him, he got shellshocked.

Unfortunately it doesn't look like we have a choice. Harris looked efficient, but efficient probably won't be enough to keep up with UF on the scoreboard. As much as I hate the Gators, and believe me my hatred runs deep, we were unlucky to face them this season. This team is just too young and has too many question marks to have a real shot at anything better than an 8-4 season.

However, it is a rivalry game. We've seen stranger things happen. Remember, that 2003 Gator squad wasn't that good either but it gave us a run for our money in the OB, when we had 6 first round picks on that team. So there's still a chance. I'm praying that the streak will live on, that we can rub it in the Gators face that they haven't beaten us in two decades. But I have prepared for the worst, knowing this day would come for 2 or 3 years now. A loss would hurt like hell, but I expect our boys to show some Cane pride and not let themselves get blown out of the water.

And if we win? Hell I wouldn't mind going 2-10 this season if that 2nd win was a UF victory. We all know this team can't win a title and titles are all that really count here in Coral Gables, so we'll have to settle for moral victories for now. A win at the Swamp would be one hell of a moral victory in my book.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

So Much To Cover So Little Time

Obviously I've neglected this blog for a while now, with other priorities taking up all my time. But I still intend on keeping it around, just not on the daily, or maybe even weekly level that I had the first 6 months.

Since my last post over a month ago, a considerable amount of changes have occurred in South Florida sports. I wish all this would have happened a few months ago, when I was struggling to find something to talk about in the dead period after the basketball season was over but still had time to write.

I guess for now I'll try to piece it together a little at a time, mostly about the stuff I really care about.

For starters, the Dolphins seem to be fielding a decent enough squad this season. I know it's only preseason, but Chad Pennington and Chad Henne have looked pretty good as this team's quarterbacks. The offense is effective enough. Not explosive or dangerous yet, but when Ronnie gets healthier and once the receivers have time to develop I'm pretty confident they can score a good 20 points a game.

I've been impressed with the offensive line play. This has to be the best line we've put out in nearly a decade. Not one position on the line can be viewed as a weak point, with rookies Jake Long and Donald Thomas anchoring the missing spots we had in the offseason. Thomas has been a revelation of sorts, being a raw but powerful 6th round pick with little football experience, but was quick to land the starting job at RG.

That being said, I wouldn't be surprised to see if the Dolphins don't take a look at Willie Anderson, who recently cut by the Bengals. We do have first dibs on waivers so it might be a possibility considering our massive cap space. The OT has some red flags, but when healthy he is a Top 5 or 6 offensive tackle in the league.

The defense supposedly has been "flying around", but frankly I see it being the weakest part of this team. Without Zach Thomas or Jason Taylor they simply don't have any playmakers left. Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford need time to develop and Joey Porter looks like his best days are behind him. Still, the team is looking solid enough to win at least 5-6 games and maybe do some damage at the end of the season once the rookies start getting a feel for the pro game.

My hopes are for Ted Ginn to keep the solid consistency he has shown this preseason and develop into a full fledged #1 receiver heading into the 2009 season. I want the OL to jell and stay healthy, giving us a solid group for the next 4 or 5 years. Other than that, it would be nice to just see the rookies develop. Henne looks like he might have some promise, though at this point I'm not sure I can say the same about John Beck, who has regressed since this point last season.

More than anything I'm looking forward to watching the team try to overachieve, but I know now that this squad comes with no expectations. The 2009 Draft will be more important to this franchise than the 2008 season, but we can still enjoy the Dolphins regardless. It's pretty apparent that the team is missing another big threat on offense and pretty much every position on defense, so Parcells has plenty of work to do. I'm sure he will unearth something from the recent cuts (like Anderson or maybe Jerome McDougle).

Anyway, I'll try to write some other thoughts of mine and have them scattered throughout the week so the posts don't all come at once.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

So Long, JT

After a considerable pause from writing, I figured I would have to at the very least write my thoughts on the Jason Taylor trade.

Once we all heard Phillip Daniels got hurt, it was pretty inevitable that JT would get traded to the Redskins. Dan Snyder loves big name guys and the Skins have a good enough team to make the playoffs. JT could help them get that extra push.

The big story is that the Fins got a fair price in exchange for their best defensive player. JT didn't want anything to do with the franchise this season and was probably going to retire after the 2008 campaign. Getting a 2nd rounder in the next draft and a 6th in the following year's draft is a very nice package for a guy who was adamant about never wanting to play here again.

I suppose the Skins were pushed to make a move due to the injury. It gave the Dolphins a little bit of leverage where up until now, they had none.

So now Jason is gone and so is the entire Jimmy Johnson era. No players from those teams are around now. Gone is Zach Thomas. Gone is Jason Taylor. Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, all of them. The teams that won division titles and broke our hearts in the playoffs are officially a memory now.

It's unfortunate, but for the best. Jason needed a new home and we found him one, getting a fair deal in exchange. The 2nd round pick should be in the late teens or mid-20s, but I'll take a top 50 player in the draft for the next 10 years (should we make a wise selection) over a guy who has got a year or two left and no motivation to play for us.

I wish Jason well, even if the last few months here as a Dolphin were a bit rocky.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Baron Davis to Clippers

Seemingly irrelevant news for Heat fans, who had no hope of teaming Davis up with Wade in the backcourt, but it looks like this spells bad news for anyone hoping to make Elton Brand the future C of this squad.

Davis' 65 million dollar deal with the Clippers opens the door for Brand (who is an unrestricted free agent now, thanks to his Monday opt out) to re-sign with the Clippers with the hopes of contending next season. It looks as if the Heat might miss out after all, even with Shawn Marion's expiring contract as a trade chip.

If we can't get Brand, then it's pretty certain that Marion will stick around for the 2008 season and that'll be that. His contract will be allowed to expire and the Heat will either try to re-sign him cheap or pursue Carlos Boozer next season. Boozer is just as good an option as Brand is in my mind, and is a bit younger. He has his flaws, but a tandem of Wade-Beasley-Boozer would be sick.

If not, then the Heat can choose to be frugal again in 2009, risking pissing Wade off, but then opening the door for Wade to be united with a huge superstar like Chris Bosh or even LeBron James in the summer of 2010. Seems like a pipedream, but we'll see.

I was hoping Brand would opt to go to Miami, which is looking unlikely as we can't sign him as an unrestricted free agent. Unless the Clips are looking to sign and trade him for Marion (don't see why they would) then he is pretty much certain to stay in LA.

The blogs at the Sun-Sentinel suggest maybe trying to scoop up Mickael Pietrus and/or Andris Biedrins from the Warriors, who are reeling from losing their best player to the Clippers. Both would fit excellently on this team, and a trade involving Marion that would bring both here would be ridiculously good for the Heat. Too good, it too, seems like a pipedream.

So there you have it, the Heat have a million options, but seem doomed to wait until next year because of the cap restrictions and their recent poor season which must be detrimental to their attempts at wooing free agents.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Best Draft in Heat History?

Tough to say, but I'd have to go with yes. The year we got Caron and Rasual Butler was a very productive draft for us, but Thursday night was the best night in Heat history aside from June 20th, 2006.

Drafting Michael Beasley, and keeping him, was the best move Riley could have made all night. I'm aware of his "character concerns", especially in a town like Miami, but he's a young guy and is a risk anywhere in the country. If he wants to go out on the town, he will. Face it. If the worst thing he does is go to a couple of clubs the night before a game, then I'll take the 25/20 he'll drop on any team in the league.

Granted, if he ends up failing in Miami, he'd be the most colossal bust in Heat history, and one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history. The thing is, the value we could have gotten for him in a trade was minimal. The Heat wanted OJ Mayo, and couldn't have known Minny would trade him to Memphis. He was going to go at 3 and there was nothing we could work out with Minnesota. The best option at that point was to stick with Beasley and go from there.

The funny thing is that I am almost as excited about our 2nd pick, Mario Chalmers, as I am about the Beasley pick. Michael can easily become our best player in time, yes even better than Dwyane Wade. But Chalmers is everything we need in a point guard and more. The guy plays D, shoots from the outside, and is clutch. That last shot against Memphis was a classic and proves he's got the leadership to take on the pressure when the time is right. Landing him for a couple of second rounders (we got one back after trading useless Darnell Thornton, nice player but no room) was a steal.

In a year in a half he should have molded into a starting caliber point guard. He won't be Derrick Rose or Steve Nash, but he can become good enough to run a championship team with Wade in the backcourt and Beasley at the 3 or 4. It really was a great day for the organization and for its fans, and everyone seems to agree we got the best draft in the league. Just hope for the best at this point. Wait out a rocky season that should see us get a 6 seed and maybe bounced in the first or 2nd round. Then 2009 will be our rise back to the top.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Please Draft Beasley

Enough of all the trade talks and speculation. My head is spinning from all the possibilities. Marion, the 2nd pick, Mark Blount, and even Dwyane Wade have all been discussed in rumors involving Miami and the NBA Draft.

As much fun as it would be to play fantasy NBA GM, I just want to draft Beasley tonight and sign him before Pat Riley does something foolish, like trading him. I understand they love OJ Mayo, but it's iffy if he can play the point in the NBA and Beasley is a force on the inside. You have a huge trade chip in Marion's expiring contract. Find someone who needs cap space and move him for an asset.

I still don't understand the problem with just signing Elton Brand this summer. If Brand is indeed interested in playing for Miami, why doesn't he just opt out and sign here? Wouldn't you prefer the 50+ million guaranteed over the next few years than a one year deal worth 16+? This isn't the NFL where you can get cut and lose all that money. If he would just opt out, it would save us a huge headache.

The problem then, of course, is that we would be way over the luxury cap without a way to dump salary. Micky Arison won't allow it. I think he should. I suppose it is a little too late, with our draft pick so close. Had we gotten a chance to sign Brand this summer, then we could have traded Haslem or Marion for a point guard, and draft Beasley, or kept them both and drafted Mayo. Who knows?

At this point, the only way to get Brand is to trade Marion or wait till next year. Instead, it is looking more and more likely that the Heat will just opt to dump salary through Blount and trade Beasley away just so they can sign Brand next season. It's a calculated risk. I'm not saying OJ Mayo isn't a special player, because he is, but Beasley is ridiculous. You'd be putting your job/legacy on the line by passing on him in an attempt to rebuild using other assets. We'll see.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Heat Pursuing Brand?

ESPN's Chris Broussard had an interesting tidbit of info on his blog yesterday.

The Clippers Elton Brand is in the same position as Shawn Marion. He's got one year left on his contract for a bloated 16-17 million bucks, but has the option to opt out if he wishes. Word has been for months that he might opt out to sign with Philadelphia, but Broussard says otherwise.

Apparently, the only way Brand would opt out of his current deal and take a paycut would be if he would be matched up with Dwyane Wade in Miami. That sound like a plan to me. Unfortunately the only way to make sure we get brand would be to trade Marion in a sign-and-trade. Broussard doesn't seem to think that's likely, but I would think that the Clippers would rather have Marion in exchange for Brand instead of seeing their star player walk away for nothing.

And if Brand opts out and is indeed looking to team up with Wade, then wouldn't we be free to sign him as a free agent? Then we would have the ability to trade Marion for some role players and/or picks. Then possibly draft Beasley anyway and march out a front line of Beasley, Haslem, Brand and Alonzo Mourning. Marion could bring us a point guard or a small forward, or both. Problem is matching up contracts and making sure we aren't a billion dollars over the luxury tax.

Or we could draft Rose if he falls to us, keep Marion and trade Haslem for a small forward. Or maybe keep Haslem as a role player, since I think the team could live with Ricky Davis/Dorell Wright at small forward.

Haslem could be moved at any time for a point guard as well, and in a scenario where we get Brand and Beasley, I would be happy to ship Haslem away. The possibilities are endless and my head hurts just trying to think of what the Heat could do if Brand were to force the Clippers' hand and get himself sent to Miami. Let's hope for the best, because the next 4 or 5 days are crucial for the success of this franchise.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tiger's Dramatic Victory

This is something I really wished I had time to write about on Monday or Tuesday night. How often is it that a single man captivates the entire country to care about something that otherwise ranks among going to the dentist and paying taxes on the list of things people find entertaining?

All I know is that I watched Sunday's final round, invested in Tiger's success as much as I am when one of my hometown teams is in a playoff hunt. I don't have any personal attachment to Tiger. I don't know him. I wasn't born in his hometown. I have no real reason to root for him other than I want to see history made.

But there is something special about a guy who is the best at what he does in the world. Maybe more so than anyone else is at their job. He is that good. Watching him is simply a privilege. I can't stress that enough. When he drained that putt on 18 to send the US Open into a playoff, I exploded. And millions of people around the world did so as well. For golf!

Then on Monday, as I watched online updates show Tiger's 3 shot lead shrink away with only holes to spare, I was legitimately worried. I snuck away from work into the break-room and stood with half a dozen other guys, all neglecting their duties, just to see Tiger somehow pull off yet another miraculous comeback with a birdie on 18. Then we all stuck around, risking our jobs, huddled around a crappy TV, just to watch him clinch his 3rd US Open title on the ensuing sudden death hole.

And if you read the papers or, you would have seen we weren't alone. People everywhere simply stopped what they were doing. Thousands of people who otherwise couldn't give a damn about golf had a vested interest in how the playoff between Mediate and Woods turned out. That's pretty impress. I think pretty soon, Tiger's legend will grow to the point that everyone will know where they were the day he sank that 25 foot birdie putt to win his 19th major.

What makes it all amazing is that he did it on a knee so badly injured, that he won't be able to play the rest of the season. For everyone who assumed he was faking it, you look pretty foolish now. He risked his health and his future for one shot to prove to himself and the world just what he could do. Unfortunately, it cost him a chance to win the British Open and PGA Championship, but Tiger will be back. If Tiger can win the US freaking Open with an injured knee, then a revitalized Tiger will do just fine on a rehabilitated knee next season.

Last weekend's tournament really was one of those special events in sport where you think to yourself "Wow, am I glad that I was a part of that. Even if all I did was witness it live on television, that is something people will talk about for years to come." Those sorts of sporting events come around once a year maybe, but what makes it most impressive is that America collectively celebrated Tiger's win despite having no allegiances to him.

This wasn't the Miracle on Ice, where the country rallied behind a team that stood for something more. It wasn't any single fanbase celebrating a team's first title in decades, or a legion of hometown fans toasting to their hero's success after a long career, like John Elway or Alonzo Mourning. Absolutely none of us had any logical reason to have such undying support for Tiger, so that makes what he does to us that much more special.