Barry Jackson

James Johnson a Heat revelation; Whiteside, UM football, Marlins news

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, center, smiles after hitting a basket against the Denver Nuggets late in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wed., Nov. 30, 2016, in Denver. The Heat won 106-98.
Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, center, smiles after hitting a basket against the Denver Nuggets late in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wed., Nov. 30, 2016, in Denver. The Heat won 106-98. AP

Heat, UM football and Marlins notes on a Friday:

• Has there been a greater revelation on the Heat than James Johnson, whose 24 points were vital in Thursday’s 111-110 win at Utah?

When Johnson signed with the Heat, he was considered a rugged defender who was very limited offensively.

With Miami, he’s averaging 10.3 points, a significant bump from his 6.7 career average and 5.0 average last season in Toronto.

He’s shooting 35 percent on threes, up from his career mark of 27.8.

Johnson, who is 21 for 60 on threes, is one three-pointer away from equaling his NBA season high for threes. He hit 22 in 2013-14, but needed 87 attempts to do it.

And consider this: Johnson is holding the player he’s guarding to 33.2 percent shooting (62 for 187), while those players shoot 44.3 percent overall. That’s best among all NBA forwards who have defended at least 100 shots and second-best overall behind guard Matthew Dellevadova.

• Heat center Hassan Whiteside told me he was happy to hear that Pat Riley envisions the offense going through him in a year or two, but he must improve his assist to turnover ratio (30/137 last year, 14/39 this season) for that to become viable.

“That would be very exciting,” he said. “I'm going to keep getting better at it. I'm fine with my passing. I'm learning. Guys are learning to make cuts.”

Whiteside is fifth among centers in points per game (17.3, up from 14.2 last season) and field-goal attempts per game (13.1, from 9.3).

He was held to nine points on 4 for 11 shooting against Utah and wasn’t an offensive factor in the fourth quarter, with the Jazz paying close attention to him.

• For perspective on how impressive it was for the Heat to win back-to-back the past two nights, consider that Miami went 3-5 in games in Utah and Denver during the Big 3 era.

The Heat finished Thursday’s game with nine healthy players. Luke Babbitt is out with a hip flexor and Derrick Williams had back spasms -- the latest two injuries.

• Goran Dragic scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter in that win against Utah. And according to Elias, only one Heat player in the last 10 seasons scored more points in the fourth quarter of a one-point victory for Miami: Dwyane Wade with 16 points in the fourth quarter of a 99-98 Heat win in Orlando in 2009.

• Tampa based quarterback Cade Weldon, a UM oral commit, told that UM coaches, during his home visit this week, "were saying it's up in the air now, 50-50 [if Brad Kaaya returns]."

Weldon plans to enroll early and wants to compete for the job if Kaaya turns pro.

• Why is UM running back Joe Yearby reportedly turning pro despite no assurance he will be drafted? One associate mentioned he has two kids to support and doesn’t particularly like academics. He also essentially has fallen to third-string at running back despite averaging 6.0 yards per carry this season.

• There’s some disappointment inside UM that the Hurricanes have drawn no interest from the bowl at Yankee Stadium, which reportedly prefers Pittsburgh. Earlier this week, UM officials believed Jacksonville was more likely destination than Orlando, but the Canes believe there’s also a real possibility they could end up in Orlando.

• reports UM is making a push for Virginia based Elijah Conliffe, the nation’s No. 12 defensive tackle prospect in the 2017 class, according to Rivals. Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski has visited him three times, including this week. He has said Penn State and Alabama are his leaders but he’s open-minded to UM if he visits.

• The Marlins are looking for a new right-handed hitting first baseman in an attempt to upgrade over free agent Chris Johnson, with Steve Pearce (.288, 13, 35 for Tampa Bay and Baltimore) holding some appeal to them and Mark Reynolds and Dae-ho Lee among others available.

For my Friday Dolphins post, with news on DeVante Parker, a second former Hurricanes player now on the Dolphins’ roster, and more nuggets, please click here. And please follow me on Twitter for quick links: @flasportsbuzz

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