Barry Jackson

Spoelstra finishes second in coach of year; Dolphins rookie with surprise contact; Heat and Dolphins nuggets

The NBA media awarded NBA Coach of the Year to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni over the other two finalists - Erik Spoelstra and the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.
The NBA media awarded NBA Coach of the Year to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni over the other two finalists - Erik Spoelstra and the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

A six-pack of Heat and Dolphins notes on a Monday night:

• Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did wonderful work guiding the Heat to a 30-11 finish over the final 41 games, as Miami became the first team to rally from 19 under .500 to finish at .500.

But during the league’s first-annual awards show Monday, NBA media awarded NBA Coach of the Year to Houston’s Mike D’Antoni over the other two finalists - Spoelstra and the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

Spoelstra finished second with 153 points and nine first place votes. D’Antoni had 400 points and 68 first-place votes.

Popovich had 115 points and eight first-place votes.

Earlier in the day, Hassan Whiteside was passed over for first- or second-team All Defense, and Rodney McGruder was bypassed for first- or second-team All Rookie.

• One reason why it was absurd that James Johnson didn’t get a single vote for the all-defense teams in media voting:

Among players who defended at least 500 shots, Johnson allowed the fourth-lowest shooting percentage (40.3) against players he was guarding, behind only Patrick Patterson, Jrue Holiday and Draymond Green.

Forty-nine players received votes for all defense. Johnson should have been among them.

Incidentally, Johnson was fifth in NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting, behind winner Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodola, Lou Williams and Zach Randolph. Tyler Johnson had one third-place vote, one of 13 players to receive votes.

And James Johnson was sixth in Most Improved Player ballotting. Dion Waiters was 11th, Hassan Whiteside 20th.

• In an era where a lot of teams are playing small ball, a formula that worked well for the Heat during major stretches last season, Spoelstra spoke of the possibility of going the other direction with the addition of Kentucky power forward Bam Adebayo, the team’s first round pick.

“I think a lot of it is so overstated; I think the narrative changes very quickly in this league,” Spoelstra said.

“We don't care about conventional boxes, where players fit in. We may play — who knows? — five guys over 6-9 next year in certain segments of a game without a point guard, and make teams adjust to us.”

Spoelstra added: “We think he fits with the way the league is going. Just look at the Finals. You saw guys of his athleticism out there running around and making plays at the highest level….

“We love the versatility he brings, and you can define versatility in so many different ways and I think that's where sometimes the

narrative gets a little bit lost or lazy. People think the league is only going to three-point shooting. It will still always be about the paint. It will always be about the rim and there's two sides of the floor.

“So you need the versatility to be able to defend out on the floor. You need guys that can defend multiple positions. I'm still stunned by a young man this large and athletic and explosive that can move his feet and be that light on the ground. We think that fits to our defensive system, our style. And the way the league is going you need guys that can show that kind of quickness.”

• As it turns out, the Heat will have only one salary cap exception, not two. Miami will have a $4.3 million room exception. But teams that use a room exception cannot use the $3.3 million bi-annual exception, cap expert Larry Coon tells us. So the Heat will have the $4.3 million (which cannot be combined with cap space), but not the $3.3 million.

• Dolphins seventh-round rookie receiver Isaiah Ford came on strong late in the offseason program, and he has his father to thank for a mentor who’s emerged in his life: five-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith.

Earlier this year, Ford’s father called Smith, who retired in January, and asked if he could train his son.

Smith said he wasn’t interested in training players but “he watched my film and told me things I can improve on,” Ford said.

The Dolphins rookie and Smith now keep in touch.

Ford came on strong late in the offseason program and said there’s a reason for that.

“I started relaxing,” he said. “Being a rookie, you want to make a good impression. I started to press and stress out. I talked to coaches, back from college [at Virginia Tech] and stopped [stressing as much].”

What does Ford do well? “I’m a good route runner and pay attention to details and pride myself on getting jump balls.”

Ford, incumbent Rashawn Scott and undrafted Arkansas rookie Drew Morgan appear the top contenders for the No. 6 receiver job if the Dolphins again keep six receivers.

• In the wake of Cam Wake’s success, the Dolphins have experimented with a couple of CFL players the past two years. But this year’s addition, linebacker Deon Lacy, didn’t leave much of a mark in the offseason program.

Pursued by several teams, Lacy signed with Miami believing he would have a chance to compete to start. But at this point, he’s a long shot to make the 53 man roster.

FYI: Former Dolphins players in the CFL this season include cornerback Brandon Harris, receivers Brian Tyms and BJ Cunningham, quarterback McLeod Bethel Thompson and defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman.... Former Hurricanes in the CFL include Harris, Jacory Harris, Gionni Paul, Joel Figueroa, Brandon Washington, Justin Renfrow and Kacy Rodgers II.

• Here’s my piece from earlier on the wonderful gesture that the Dolphins, and former players, made for Jim Kiick.

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