NCAA

How can the Miami Heat improve?

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How can the Miami Heat improve?

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Pat Riley's approach to free agency has changed considerably since 2010, simply because the Miami Heat have nowhere near the same amount of money left to spend as they did during the coup that brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together. Still, the sales pitch from the Heat president will remain the same. "There's a lot of room out there this year," Riley said. "But there aren't many teams that have a chance, really, to win a title. And I think a lot of veteran players might be interested in something like that." So again, when free agency starts on Sunday, Riley and the Heat will ask prospective newcomers to make a sacrifice. They can also show those recruits that their current formula works -- with this year's NBA championship trophy serving as proof. After draft night came and went without the Heat making any significant changes to their roster, Miami's attention now moves to free agency. Because the NBA's shopping window hasn't opened, Riley didn't discuss any of his specific targets by name. But it is widely assumed that the Heat will try to woo Boston guard Ray Allen, who when healthy remains one of the game's best outside shooters. James, the league's reigning MVP of both the regular season and NBA Finals, shared that terribly kept secret on his Twitter account Thursday night. "While watching the Draft my son Bryce ask Is Ray Allen gonna play for the Heat,'" James tweeted. "I said I don't know. I hope so.'" Let the recruiting begin. Riley said the Heat have "five or six" guys targeted to open the free-agent period. "If we could add a shooter that would help us, because we are that kind of a team," Riley said. "If we could get a real big that had to be guarded and had some versatility, then we might try to go in that direction. If there's a 3-point shooter that's long and can defend, then we might go in that direction. So there is a lot of areas you can go. There isn't one specific thing. I just know that we want to find as much space as we can on the floor for Dwyane and for LeBron and for Chris to be able to operate." The Heat spent years making sure they would have the spending capability to land a trio like James, Wade and Bosh in 2010. This summer, Riley and the Heat will go into free agency only able to offer the mini mid-level exception of 3 million, or a veteran's minimum contract of about 1 million, or the ability to package some future draft picks in trades. Moving players through trades is another option, though Riley said the Heat are "not exploring" that yet. Riley said there have been no discussions about using Miami's one-time amnesty provision this summer, on Mike Miller -- who made seven 3-pointers in the title-clinching win over Oklahoma City -- or anyone else. Riley also said that Miller plans to take a couple weeks to decompress before making any decisions about his future or surgical options. Miller met earlier this week with Dr. Barth Green to evaluate his back, the primary source of his pain during the season. Riley said the team will guarantee center backup center Dexter Pittman's contract for next season, meaning he will earn about 885,000. Eddy Curry might factor into the team's plans again, with Riley saying he would have a conversation before too long with the veteran center who appeared sparingly in 14 games this season, none in the playoffs. He also said that the strained lower abdominal muscle that sidelined Bosh for nine playoff games was more daunting than previously thought. "He's still nursing an injury," Riley said. "He had a significant abdominal injury that I'm sure that if we weren't in the playoffs against Boston then he probably would not have played for another three or four weeks." Wade removed himself from Olympic consideration on Thursday, telling USA Basketball that he will need surgery on his left knee this summer. Bosh, who also played on the 2008 gold medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics, said earlier this week he was "all in for now" on participating in the London Games, but would reassess after speaking to doctors. And on Friday, that reassessment came: Like Wade, Bosh has taken his name out of the Olympic mix. "This injury was a pretty serious one," said Henry Thomas, Bosh's agent. "He was able to come back and play under the circumstances because he was trying to contribute to them winning a championship. There's still pain. There's still discomfort. And the real concern is if he doesn't rest and do the rehab associated with the injury, this could become sort of a chronic thing for him." Riley also said the celebration of the championship, at least for people like him, coach Erik Spoelstra and other team executives, is pretty much complete now. This past season was fueled in many respects by the pain of losing the 2011 finals to Dallas. Obviously, that pain was replaced by joy this time around -- but Riley is still hoping the Heat find some way to sharpen the focus again, even after winning it all. "One of the things that you need to think about, all of us after last year, how did we feel when we got beat by Dallas here? You saw guys falling down in the hallway here because of their disappointment and how discouraged they were," Riley said. "So whatever the players did last summer, I would advise them to try to go back to their caves and hibernate again." He is not as brash as he once was -- for example, he won't guarantee that the Heat will repeat as champions, like he famously did when he was coaching the Lakers during their "Showtime" era. All Riley will say now is that Miami believes it has built a team capable of contending for a long time. "If you can win it, you enjoy it, you put it in your back pocket," Riley said. "We've won two titles in the last six years. We have a compelling, contending team. It excites me to try to make it better. And so we're a contender. We'll be the defending champion next year, but as long as you have a chance and you feel like you can improve this team, then that's all it's about."

Hall, Guy lead No. 2 Virginia past No. 18 Clemson, 61-36

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USA TODAY Sports

Hall, Guy lead No. 2 Virginia past No. 18 Clemson, 61-36

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Devon Hall scored 14 points, Kyle Guy had 12 and No. 2 Virginia broke open a close game with a 22-2 run in the second half to win their 11th straight, 61-36 over No. 18 Clemson on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (19-1, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who lead the nation in scoring defense, allowed their fewest points of the season.

Clemson led 23-16 before going scoreless in the final 6 minutes of the first half and getting just six points in the first 14 minutes of the second half. Virginia's decisive burst stretched its lead from 30-27 early in the second to 52-29 with 6:48 remaining.

Gabe DeVoe scored 11 points, all in the first 12 minutes, and was the only player to score in double figures for the Tigers (16-4, 5-3). They shot 31.9 percent (15-47) and scored just 13 points in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: The Tigers played their first game since losing No. 2 scorer and rebounder Donte Grantham to a torn ACL suffered against Notre Dame, and after getting off to a fast start against Virginia, seemed to be lacking an offensive identity. DeVoe scored 11 points in the first 12 minutes, but none thereafter and top scorer Marcquise Reed (16 points per game) managed only six in 33 minutes. He finished 3 for 10 from the field.

Virginia: The Cavaliers played without their best defender, Isaiah Wilkins, for most of the second half after he appeared to hit the floor hard while being fouled late in the first half. Wilkins didn't participate in warmups before the second half, but started and played only briefly.

UP NEXT

Clemson stays on the road and heads to Georgia Tech for a game Sunday.

Virginia faces its toughest test to date, playing at No. 4 Duke on Saturday night.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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