Barry Jackson

Heat on cusp of moving into playoff position; Heat exception close to expiring; Marlins, media notes

The Heat’s $1.3 million disabled player’s exception expires on Friday and it looks like it will go unused, barring something unforeseen. The exception was granted because of the belief that Justise Winslow would miss the season because of shoulder shoulder.
The Heat’s $1.3 million disabled player’s exception expires on Friday and it looks like it will go unused, barring something unforeseen. The exception was granted because of the belief that Justise Winslow would miss the season because of shoulder shoulder.

Some Heat, Marlins and media items:

• In one of the most incredible NBA stories this decade, the Heat has gone from 11-30 to 31-34 and on the cusp of moving into playoff seeding with a bit over a month left in the season.

The Heat’s win over Charlotte tonight, coupled with Chicago’s loss at Orlando and Detroit’s loss at Indiana, leaves Miami (31-34) just one-half game behind the Pistons and Bulls, who are essentially tied for seventh and eighth.

And Miami remains only 2.5 games behind No. 6 Indiana.

And marinate on this: According to ESPN’s Stats and Information, Miami had a 0.03 percent chance of making the playoffs when it was 11-30.

• Dion Waiters, who had 24 points tonight, now has made five threes in each of his past two games. What pleased Erik Spoelstra is how he put the ball on the floor and found open shooters (five assists).

And Spoelstra mentioned one of the keys to the Heat’s three-point success: having attackers (like Waiters and Goran Dragic) who can draw defenders to the rim and pass out to open shooters.

• Spoelstra tonight tied Jeff Van Gundy and Larry Costello for 38th on the NBA’s all-times win list. And as Doug Collins said on ESPN tonight, he deserves to be considered for coach of the year.

• The Heat’s $1.3 million disabled player’s exception expires on Friday and it looks like it will go unused, barring something unforeseen. The exception was granted because of the belief that Justise Winslow would miss the season because of shoulder shoulder.

The exception does not preclude Winslow from returning this season but the Heat isn’t expecting that.

But the Heat would have needed to create a roster spot to do that, and Miami has felt no urgency to yet release Chris Bosh, a process that will happen before free agency starts, if not sooner. Bosh has had some contact with the Heat but needs to hire an agent to replace new Lakers GM Rob Pelinka.

• One serious Marlins concern is lack of major-league ready position players in the system if one of the starters or one of the four bench players (Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Dietrich, AJ Ellis, Miguel Rojas) is injured.

So who could step in? First baseman Tyler Moore, who has three homers in 16 spring at-bats, would be one option; he hit .228 with 24 homers and 91 RBI in 277 games for the Nationals.

Marlins executive Michael Hill mentions catcher Tomas Telis, outfielder Brandon Barnes and says Austin Nola can now play eight positions after learning to catch.

“I wish they would have kept Jeff Francouer,” MLB Network’s Cliff Floyd said. “He’s very good for the clubhouse. And remember Ichiro is 43.” But the decision to go with 13 pitchers precluded that.

MEDIA NOTES

Alex Rodriguez, who was always prepared and insightful as a Fox studio analyst during last year’s postseason, has joined Fox full-time. He will work in studio primarily but also will be given some Saturday game assignments.

• Of the Marlins’ 162 games, all 162 will be televised except seven --- one night game (Thursday, May 18 at the Dodgers at 10:10 p.m.) and six weekday afternoon games.

• MLB Network is carrying every World Baseball Classic game, with Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz handling the games from Marlins Park Thursday through Monday and Marlins TV voice Rich Waltz working games from Tokyo this week.

“There will be increased pride for the U.S. team to accomplish something,” Smoltz said. “There’s a little more urgency.”

Smoltz, who did good work as Fox’s new lead analyst last season, has some thoughts on the Marlins that we’ll share in a future column.

• After hiring Brad Nessler away from ESPN as Verne Lundquist’s successor on SEC football, CBS and Turner Sports surprisingly aren’t using him on any NCAA Tournament games. CBS said this is no slight against Nessler, but merely a show of confidence in the eight play-by-play men that had worked Tournament games for them in recent years and will again this month: Jim Nantz, Lundquist, Kevin Harlan, Brian Anderson, Ian Eagle, Spero Dedes, Andrew Catalon and Carter Blackburn.

Also missing from tournament coverage: Doug Gottlieb, whose basketball role had been dramatically reduced by CBS. He took the hint and is moving to a job at Fox…. For the first time on men’s games, CBS and Turner are using a woman (Debbie Antonelli) as a game analyst for the first weekend; she will work alongside Blackburn and Mike Gminski.

• An interesting sports fiction book, if you’re looking for such things as a gift or for yourself: Bruce Tollner’s and Tim Enoch’s On the Clock, about a young man going after his dream of playing in the NFL and working with his country music star dad and experiencing travails along the way (see ontheclockbook.com).

• According to multiple reports, and first reported by James Andrew Miller, college football sideline reporter Samantha Ponder has emerged as Chris Berman’s likely successor on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, with Suzy Kolber replacing Berman on Monday Night Countdown and Trey Wingo taking over as host of the NFL Draft.

Here are some Dolphins notes from earlier today, including a veteran linebacker visiting soon.

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