Two nuggets apiece on the Heat, UM and Panthers:
• The Heat continues to hope that Dion Waiters can return before the end of the regular season, but nobody internally is certain of that because of the seriousness of the sprain. He’s doing treatment twice a day.
If he doesn’t return over the final 10 regular season games, a return during postseason (if there is postseason) is expected.
He is making progress, and the Heat so far has been disinclined to apply for a disabled players exception to add a 16th player for two reasons:
1) By league rule, Waiters couldn’t return during the length of the 16th player’s 10-day contract. Miami doesn’t want to eliminate that possibility. 2) Any player added probably wouldn’t get in a game.
Meanwhile, Josh McRoberts is making progress in his return from a foot injury and he’s on track to potentially make it back by the end of the season.
• Though the Heat would like to move up to the fifth, sixth or seventh seed, Tyler Johnson makes this clear: “We're not trying to avoid anybody. Cleveland obviously is a great team but we match up well with them. It's not something we're trying to avoid.”
• Rutgers canceled its 2018 and 2019 football home-and-home with UM in order to play Boston College instead and owes the Hurricanes $100,000 for leaving the Canes in a tough spot.
Miami is looking for a new opponent to fill those dates. Rutgers’ moves leaves UM with these Power 5 conference schools booked in future years: UF, LSU (in Arlington, Tx., to open the 2018 season), Michigan State and Texas A&M. (Notre Dame, which is independent in football, is also booked, of course.)
• UM coach Jim Larranaga watched possibly his best recruit ever, incoming guard Lonnie Walker, put on a 35-point show in the Pennsylvania high school playoffs last week and told The Reading Eagle:
“He reminds me of Usain Bolt," Larranaga said. "When he gets into the open court, he just flies to the basket. He can handle the ball. He can shoot the 3. He makes his free throws. He's not just a special player, but a special individual."
Walker scored a game-high 22 to lead Reading High to the Pennsylvania 6A state championship on Saturday night.
• Even in a disappointing Panthers season, there has been no bigger bargain in the NHL than Jonathan Marchessault, who had 28 goals and 20 assists after signing a two-year, $1.5 million contract last July.
In Saturday’s 7-0 win against Chicago, Marchessault scored his three goals consecutively, turning a 2–0 Florida advantage into a 5–0 lead. According to Elias, this was the first “natural” hat trick by a Panthers player since Oct. 30, 2009, when Steve Reinprecht scored the first three goals of the game in a Florida shootout win at Dallas.
Also, he is the first player to score five goals over a two-game span for the Panthers since Olli Jokinen on Jan. 10–11, 2007.
• The Panthers will have modest flexibility this summer ($12 million in cap space, according to capfriendly.com) but must make decisions on unrestricted free agents Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek.
Defensive Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic are restricted free agents but Florida stands to lose potentially one of them to Las Vegas in the expansion draft.
Please click here for my Sunday post about why I (and an analytics web site) are still deeply concerned about the Dolphins’ defense.