Barry Jackson

Riley likes Waiters & JJ, will push for more; New job for Phil Simms

Pat Riley addresses the media after the 2016-17 season

Miami Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual state of the Heat press conference on April 19, 2017.
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Miami Heat president Pat Riley gave his annual state of the Heat press conference on April 19, 2017.

Couple quick Wednesday night notes:

• If the free-agent market explodes for James Johnson and Dion Waiters after breakout seasons, they could end up consuming much of the Heat’s $38 million in cap space. Heat president Pat Riley made clear Wednesday that he wants to keep both but expects more from each.

Waiters shot 42.3 percent overall (one point above his career average), 39.4 percent on threes and just 64.6 percent on free throws.

“The great guards in this league, he has the ability to shoot over 40 percent from three,… to be maybe a 47 or 48 field goal percentage guy,” Riley said. “If he gets over 50, look out. What bothers me is that he’s not making 85 percent of his free throws. This is all focus. He has that in him and I think we saw enough of it, plus we really like Dion. He’s a good guy.

“I don’t know if there are two tougher minded guards in the league than Goran Dragic and Dion. Dion has this affable defiance. I like [that he] wants to take big shots. But the two of them did complement each other because both are attackers.

“Dion can create off the dribble and get to areas of the court when you can get up shots in late clock situations. He’s going to become a better finisher because… he gets into the paint 12 to 14 times per game. He realizes now what it takes to be a great player. The one word that coach was talking about all the time that we just want to improve is his efficiency.”

Miami Heat president Pat Riley talks about the team's plans for Chris Bosh during his season-ending press conference on Wed., April 19, 2017.

Riley said “what James Johnson showed was another playmaker, a guy that could do a lot more than anybody ever thought and he can get better. My conversation with him the other day is that, ‘There’s another level for you efficiency wise at the end of a game.’ If somebody is going to put the ball in your hands at the end of the game and they want you to be that player then there’s another level.”

As good as Johnson was this season, he shot just 10 for 37 in the final five minutes of games with a margin of five or less (including 4 for 17 on threes), with 11 assists and 12 turnovers in those 96 clutch minutes.

• Phil Simms, who lost his job on CBS’ lead NFL announcing team to Tony Romo, has a new job: studio analyst on The NFL Today.

Simms replaces Tony Gonzalez, who previously announced he wasn’t returning. That’s an upgrade; Simms has what it takes to be an entertaining studio analyst, as viewers of Showtime’s Inside The NFL have seen.

Simms will join James Brown, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Bart Scott on the show.

Simms told Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand: “I was under contract, so I knew I was going to be at CBS. If I’m not going to be on the No. 1 game, this is a pretty good place to land. … When this opportunity came up, I didn't have to think long. [CBS Sports chairman] Sean [McManus] and I have talked about this for years. I’m really happy about it.”

And Simms told SI.com’s Richard Deitsch: “Initially was my pride hurt? Absolutely. Of course it was…So it took a little bit. Not long. I started thinking about it in a positive way and then I became excited about it. Sean had talked to me over the years about maybe going into the studio. I now get to follow the league like I want to. That was probably the most frustrating thing about my job. You do one or two games a week, you can’t really pay attention to the other teams like I wanted to do. When you do games, you are all-in on those games. On Inside The NFL, I get to say things about stuff that I never get to say in a broadcast.”

Here’s a look at what Mel Kiper and two other ESPN analysts say the Dolphins should do in next week’s draft.

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