Barry Jackson

Decisions loom for Heat; Dolphins, UM, Panthers, Marlins nuggets

Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow drives against Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thurs., Nov. 10, 2016.
Miami Heat forward Justise Winslow drives against Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Thurs., Nov. 10, 2016.

A six-pack of Heat, Dolphins, UM, Panthers and Marlins notes on a Sunday morning:

• With Justise Winslow expected back soon after missing 11 games with a wrist injury, Erik Spoelstra faces some interesting lineup decisions.

Does he stick with Josh McRoberts at starting power forward and move Winslow back into the lineup at small forward, where Winslow had been starting before the injury?

Does he shift Winslow to power forward and start him alongside Rodney McGruder or Wayne Ellington (who have both had some good moments)?

Or does he bring Winslow off the bench?

After a horrible shooting stretch (he’s at 37.7 percent of the season), McRoberts has started three consecutive games and scored a combined 23 points on 10 for 19 shooting against Utah and Portland.

Regardless of whether McRoberts starts, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Spoelstra experiment more with smaller lineups – with Winslow playing some power forward, especially when Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson return.

The Heat has outscored teams by nine in the 40 minutes with Winslow at power forward this season.

Even if Winslow plays some power forward, he’s the only natural small forward on the roster and will need to play some there, especially because power forward James Johnson has been very good and warrants regular minutes off the bench.

Waiters is out at least week-and-a-half with an injury near his groin and Richardson is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.

When the Heat’s wing players get healthy, it’s difficult to see a lot of minutes being invested in Derrick Williams (a DNP-coach’s decision last night) or Luke Babbitt (day-to-day with a hip flexor).

In fact, when the Heat is healthy, Williams or Babbitt could end up on the active list some nights, with Chris Bosh.

• Ellington has given the Heat a big lift in his first four games of the season, averaging 15 points (well above his 7.2 career average) and shooting 51.1 percent (well above his 41.3 career average).

The Heat went 2-1 on its Western swing; Portland ended Saturday’s 99-92 victory against the Heat with a 14-1 run, leaving the Heat at 7-13 entering Tuesday’s home game against the Knicks.

“We see our team as getting better,” Spoelstra said, via Fox Sports Sun. “Nobody will recognize it with our record, but the team is getting better.

• Dolphins center Mike Pouncey will miss his third consecutive game with hip problems today, and Adam Gase said he has no idea if Pouncey will be able to do anything at practice this coming week.

Gase acknowledged Friday that this is something the Dolphins must address longterm.

“I haven't dug deep enough as far as what this injury could be as far as long term goes,” Gase said. “Knowing him and how he tries to take care of his body and figure out what went wrong to where we can make some adjustments, he's really invested himself into figuring out, 'How can I get in a situation where I'm out there for 16 weeks.' I think that's really his mindset right now.

“One: how do I get back so I can be a part of this at the end of the season? And then when we finish - whenever this finishes for us - it's probably going to be, go back and reevaluate more of how can we help him to where we can get a full season out of him, because he's extremely valuable to not only the offense but the entire team. He's one of our best vocal leaders for sure. He's one of those guys that when young guys see him operate, if you follow him, good things will happen, because I don't know if I've been around too many guys that work as hard as him on the field, off the field. The amount of time he spends doing what he does is very impressive and we need him.

“We need him here. Obviously, we want him here. So we need to figure out a way to make sure that we can get him on the field for 16 games."

• Last week’s coaching change wasn’t Dale Tallon’s call, and the lingering question is why did Tallon stay with the Panthers (in a new job of president/hockey operations) when he no longer has final say on hockey matters?

“I want to see this finished off; I want to see the Stanley Cup here,” he said earlier this season.

But did the reduction in power bother him? “I'm all about team,” he said. “I'm very blessed to have great parents. That was hammered into me. I was the second pick overall. I won golf tournaments. I've had a great life. I'm very blessed and very fortunate. What else can I do?

“This is the way I am. I accept it and move on and what's best for the team is always what I've strive for. I love to see other people succeed. That's what I'm here for. I want our kids to succeed. I want our team to succeed.”

The Panthers gave Tallon permission to speak to Las Vegas about their opening, but nothing materialized.

• Some UM people were told tight end David Njoku has a good chance to go in the first three rounds if he turns pro. They will not be at all surprised if he turns pro, unless he can be convinced to spend a year helping nurture his brother, UM oral commitment Evidence Njoku. … UM oral commitment Waymon Steed, the three-star Central High linebacker, was scheduled to undergo ACL/meniscus knee surgery this past sweek but expects to be back for the start of next season.

• Though Don Mattingly previously indicated interest in David Phelps starting, the front office prefers him in the bullpen. That’s why Miami is seeking another veteran starting pitcher to join Adam Conley, Edinson Volquez, Wei Yin-Chen (they’re counting on a big comeback) and Tom Koehler.

They haven’t ruled out trading Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria or Derek Dietrich but it would take a very big return, especially for Ozuna. They prefer to hold onto those position players but will at least listen if teams call.

For my in-depth look at how Gase has made Ryan Tannehill better, plus what longtime GMs are saying about Tannehill, please click here.