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Miami Dolphins fire coach Brian Flores after three seasons; GM Chris Grier to remain

The Dolphins fired head coach Brian Flores after three campaigns with the franchise, the team revealed Monday morning, barely 12 hours after he coached the team to a 33-24 triumph over the New England Patriots.

General manager Chris Grier will remain with the team in his current role, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported. Next season will be Grier’s seventh season as the team’s GM.

The decision came from Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who released a statement offering an explanation.

“I made a decision today to part ways with Brian Flores,” Ross said. “After evaluating where we are as an organization and what we need going forward to improve, I determined that key dynamics of our football organization weren’t functioning at a level I want it to be and felt that this decision was in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins. I believe we have a talented young roster in place and have the opportunity to be much better in 2022.

“I want to thank Brian for his hard work and wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

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Despite speculation that Ross was interested in hiring Jim Harbaugh as coach, the Dolphins are not targeting the Michigan coach he stated in a news conference to discuss Flores’ firing.

“I’m not going to be the one who takes Jim Harbaugh away from the University of Michigan,” Ross, who is an alumnus of the university, said.

Ross said the Dolphins’ quarterback position played “no role” in Flores’ firing.

“I have a lot of confidence in Tua (Tagovailoa) … I’m sure the next head coach will work with him, as well,” he said.

Ross also said that that he has “no plans” to pursue Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in a trade, adding that it will up to the next head coach to make the decision on the quarterback position.

Flores now is expected to be a prime candidate to get head-coaching consideration elsewhere during this next hiring cycle, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Miami was expected to compete for an AFC East title in 2021 after finishing 10-6 and missing the playoffs in 2020.

The team won its opening game before losing seven straight, putting itself in a hole no other team in NFL history has come back from to make the playoffs. However, Miami responded to its seven-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak — becoming the first team in league history to do both in the same season.

However, the high of that winning streak came to a sudden stop when the Dolphins were blown out by the Tennessee Titans in Week 17, knocking them out of playoff contention for the fifth straight season.

Flores was just the fourth coach in franchise history to record two winning seasons in his first three years with the team, going 24-25 in his tenure and 4-2 versus his former boss, Bill Belichick — the best mark of any coach against Belichick while at the Patriots’ helm.

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Grizzlies throttle Thunder by NBA-record 73-point margin

The game was long decided and the Memphis starters were relegated to cheerleaders on the bench when John Konchar got a steal and headed to the basket.

His right-handed dunk gave the Grizzlies a 145-67 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder with 3:02 left and a new franchise record for points in a match.

That 78-point advantage was Memphis’ biggest lead on Thursday night, but by the time it was over the Grizzlies were still 73 points ahead. Their 152-79 victory over the Thunder shattered the NBA record for the largest margin of victory.

“At that moment, I didn’t know it was a franchise record,” Konchar said. “I just kind of saw the lane, and I dunked it. But it’s awesome.”

The 73-point margin easily topped the previous mark, which was Cleveland’s 68-point win over Miami. The Cavaliers topped the Heat 148-80 on Dec. 17, 1991.

“Tonight is not necessarily who we are,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think we’ve definitely shown that from a competitive standpoint. This isn’t indicative of who our team is.”

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Memphis used 12 players and nine of them reached double figures in scoring, with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 27 points leading the way for the Grizzlies. Memphis was without its best player, injured guard Ja Morant.

It was 72-36 at halftime and the Grizzlies just kept adding to the lead.

“I think there was some slippage defensively and I think before you know it, teams are in a rhythm and the game is out of hand,” Oklahoma City’s Mike Muscala said. “We didn’t fight, obviously. You’d rather go out fighting. You would rather go out putting your best foot forward and playing together.”

The Thunder flirted with being on the wrong end of the record last season, trailing Indiana by 67 points on May 1 before rallying — such as it was — to lose by merely 57 points, 152-95.

This was worse. Historically worse.

The Grizzlies set a franchise record for shooting, making 62.5% of their shots. De’Anthony Melton scored 19 points, Santi Aldama scored 18 and John Konchar scored 17 for the Grizzlies, and none of those three players even started.

“Man, it feels great. It feels great to be in the history books, especially in front of our home crowd,” Melton stated. “And we did it one through 15. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard and we all got to get in the game. So, it’s always a blessing.

“We knew with (Morant) going down what we had to do,” Melton said. “We had to step up.”

No Memphis starter played more than 21 minutes. Lu Dort led the Thunder with 15 points, and Oklahoma City shot only 33%.

It was 12-8 after five minutes. From there, there was no stopping Memphis. The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder by 15 points in each of the four quarters.

It was the third consecutive game the Grizzlies have led from start to finish.

The Thunder lost their eighth straight as they continued to play without a number of players, including leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered concussion protocol earlier Thursday. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 39 points against the Rockets on Wednesday night but suffered a blow to the head late in the match.

Point guard Josh Giddey, who averages 10.4 points and 5.5 assists, sat out with a non-COVID-19 illness, and the remaining players couldn’t fill the void in Oklahoma City’s offense.

The Thunder had been competitive in their seven straight losses before Thursday night. Their largest margin of defeat was 13 points.

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Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo to have surgery for torn ligament in right thumb

Miami Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo will undergo surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, the team revealed Wednesday.

Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Adebayo is expected to be out for four to six weeks, which would cause him to miss between 15 to 20 matches.

“Can’t do anything about it,” Adebayo stated of the surgery, which will take place Sunday. “It was my only option.” Adebayo, 24, has blossomed into one of the NBA’s best two-way centers, able to switch out onto virtually any guard defensively while also being a hub of Miami’s offensive attack.

Through 18 games this campaign, Adebayo is averaging 18.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

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He suffered the injury during Monday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.

The Heat lost again Wednesday night, 111-85 to the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

Veteran Dewayne Dedmon stepped into Adebayo’s place in the starting lineup versus the Cavs, scoring 11 points in 31 minutes. Miami is still down another big, forward Markieff Morris, as he’s been out since early November after injuring his neck in a loss in Denver.

“Bam is one of the most dynamic, unique players in the league,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stated. “There’s not going to be one solution for that. It’s going to take some unique solutions and some thought and we’ll figure it out.

There’s going to be some things we have to do differently. There’s no way that we can make it look the same. He’s an absolute hybrid on both ends of the court, one of the most unique players in the entire association.”

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Pittsburgh Pirates trade Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings to Miami Marlins

Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings is coming to the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins obtained Stallings from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday in exchange for pitcher Zach Thompson and prospects Kyle Nicolas and Connor Scott.

Stallings, 31, is coming off the best season of his career. He earned his first Gold Glove for his handling of an inexperienced pitching staff that ranked among the worst in the major leagues while hitting .246 with career-highs in home runs (8) and RBIs (53) in 112 matches.

Stallings joins a team that is trying to elbow its way into contention in the NL East. Miami signed outfielder Avisail Garcia to a five-year deal worth $56-million and agreed to terms with pitcher Sandy Alcantara.

Stallings finds himself going from handling a staff that pitched to a 5.08 ERA — 28th in the majors — to one that posted a respectable 3.98 ERA and is anchored by Alcantara.

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The 26-year-old Alcantara has gone 20-34 with a 3.48 ERA in four campaigns with the Marlins. He started 33 games this past season for Miami, going 9-15 with a 3.19 ERA and had 201 strikeouts in 205 2-3 innings.

The only other pitchers with at least 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in 2021 were Zach Wheeler and Walker Buehler.

Pittsburgh is in the middle of a franchise-wide reboot focused on hoarding as many prospects as possible. Nicolas and Scott, both 22, fit that mold.

Nicolas, a right-handed pitcher, made 21 appearances between Class A and Double-A in 2021 and struck out 136 batters, the most among players in Miami’s minor-league system.

Scott, an outfielder, hit .276 with 25 doubles and 10 home runs in 2021 while playing for Class-A Beloit.

Thompson, originally drafted by the Pirates in the 48th round of the 2011 draft, went 3-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 75 innings for Miami in 2021. He began the season as a starter before shifting to the bullpen in September.

Pittsburgh also finalized a $4 million, one-year deal with first baseman/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo and one-year deals with left-hander Jose Quintana and outfielder Ben Gamel.

Gamel had been eligible for arbitration.

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Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor ready to return, to start Sunday vs. Miami Dolphins

Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, coach David Culley said Thursday.

Taylor has not played since the second quarter in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns when he injured his left hamstring. Culley stated Thursday that there haven’t been any setbacks with Taylor’s hamstring injury and that the quarterback is finally healthy enough to play.

From the beginning of Taylor’s time on injured reserve, Culley said that Taylor would return as the Texans’ starter and that he gave Houston the best chance to win.

“Coach [Culley] said early on that I would be the starter when healthy and thankful that he stood by that,” Taylor said.

Taylor has seen the opposite come true too many times before. In 2018, Taylor left a Week 3 game with a concussion and was replaced by then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns won the game, and Mayfield kept the starting job.

And in 2020 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor was named the starting quarterback going into the season. Taylor cracked two of his ribs during the Chargers’ first offensive drive in the season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals but finished the game.

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The following week, a Chargers team doctor tried to give Taylor a pain-killing injection just before kickoff and accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung.

Rookie first-round pick Justin Herbert started that game and every other game the rest of the season. He went on to collect Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Taylor said when he suffered his hamstring injury this season, he initially thought about his injury history and the fact it happened again.

“But that thought hasn’t necessarily resonated since then,” Taylor said. “It was unfortunate that it happened … but I can’t control it. You have to shift your mindset to getting back healthy and doing the things day in and day out so you stay on track so I could get back out and still be able to perform at a high level.”

Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve before Houston’s Week 3 game, said he was initially told it would be a four-to-six week window to come back from his injury.

“Hamstrings are tricky,” Taylor said. “Typically, you feel good mentally before you actually feel better physically. So, you try to test it, you do as much as you can, but at the same time, you also have to listen to your body. You don’t want to put yourself at a bigger risk coming back too early.”

Taylor injured his hamstring while running in for a touchdown during the second quarter in Cleveland and said he immediately knew something was wrong.

“I knew that I was injured at the time, tried to jog off the field,” Taylor said. “Still in pain, didn’t necessarily know what it was, just knew that something wasn’t right with the hamstring. Went back on for the two-minute drive. Got flushed out of the pocket one time and tried to accelerate and … just tried to get to the halftime and basically see what the doctor said.

“Obviously, I didn’t want to come out. Coach made the decision, thought it was best before I go out there and injured it even more.”

Taylor returned to practice on Oct. 27 but was not ready to return in Week 8.

Before he was hurt in Week 2, Taylor had completed 70.5% of his passes for 416 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Taylor was replaced by rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who went 0-6 in his six starts and completed 67% of his passes with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Texans have been outscored by an NFL-worst 122 points in eight games this season. Houston’s only victory came against Jacksonville in Week 1 with Taylor under center.

Taylor said it was frustrating being on the sidelines during the losing streak, not being able to do anything about it but “lead in my own way” and help Mills the best he could. On Wednesday, Taylor was able to take part in a full practice in the same way he was before he injured his hamstring.

“I think our trainer told me yesterday … I guess he read our numbers or my numbers from practice and was like you must have been excited yesterday just to be back out there,” Taylor said.

“Yeah, I felt like a little kid running around and being able to just be myself. So, you definitely miss it when you’re not out there.”

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Miami Dolphins OL Austin Jackson, TE Adam Shaheen hit reserve/COVID-19 list

The Miami Dolphins placed offensive lineman Austin Jackson and tight end Adam Shaheen on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, sources told ESPN’s Field Yates, potentially leaving them short-handed as the team prepares for its Week 1 match versus the New England Patriots.

The Dolphins confirmed the moves Monday and also elevated cornerback Jamal Perry as a COVID-19 replacement.

“We think he can help us,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “At the end of the day we’re going to do what we feel is best for the team and bring guys up who can help us. We felt that way about him so we brought him up.”

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The NFL Network reported that Shaheen tested positive for COVID-19, which means he’ll miss Sunday’s game as he is unvaccinated and must quarantine for 10 days, according to NFL policy. It is not yet clear whether Jackson is on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a result of contact tracing or a positive test.

Jackson started 12 games as a rookie in 2020 after being selected 18th overall by the Dolphins.

He was slated to once again start at left tackle for Miami this season.

For Shaheen, who came to Miami via trade last offseason, this marks a second stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list in as many months after he was deemed a close contact in August.

Shaheen has also vocally opposed getting the vaccine, calling his decision “bigger than just COVID.”

“For me, it’s a personal choice, and it’s bigger than just COVID,” he said. “The NFL is trying to push it. … I’m going to continue to go through the protocols of the unvaccinated that they make me do. I’m not going to get fined.

“But they’re not going to strong-arm me into doing something for more freedom when this is such a changing atmosphere, and they’re already taking away freedoms of the unvaccinated guys.”

“I would never question Adam’s commitment to the team,” Flores stated. As for Jackson, if he is unable to meet the requirements to move off the reserve/COVID list, Flores said, “We’ve got a few different options.”

The Dolphins plan to work different combinations of linemen in practice this week and Flores called potential replacement Greg Little a “hard-working kid” who has “had some bright moments in the couple weeks that he’s been here.”

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback AJ McCarron ‘heartbroken’ after right knee injury in preseason defeat

Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback AJ McCarron left the game in the second quarter of Saturday night’s 37-17 defeat to the Dolphins with a right knee injury at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

While Falcons coach Arthur Smith didn’t want to speculate on the exact nature of McCarron’s injury until after the veteran has an MRI, he did not sound encouraged by the possible prognosis.

“I really feel for AJ McCarron,” Smith said. “Any time something like that happens and it’s non-contact, it’s tough when you know what these guys put into it. I feel for AJ. We’ll obviously get the MRI to confirm but he’s heartbroken.

“He had bounced back and he was out there fighting, fighting for his team and trying to get the extra yards.”

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The injury came with 10 minutes left in the first half.

McCarron handed the ball off to running back Qadree Ollison and as he came out of his typical movement following the handoff he grabbed his right knee.

McCarron tried to walk toward the sideline but couldn’t initially get there. Falcons medical staff came to examine him and he walked off to the sideline. Minutes later, McCarron walked slowly to the Atlanta locker room. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 43 yards and had one run for seven yards versus the Dolphins. The run came a play before he hurt his knee.

Smith stated he wasn’t sure whether that play had anything to do with McCarron’s injury. McCarron was replaced by undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks, who he had been battling with for the No. 2 position throughout training camp. Franks, who was initially projected to play the second half, entered the game with 10 minutes left in the first half instead.

Franks completed 4-of-9 passes for 46 yards, no touchdowns and one interception while also rushing three times for 32 yards. He was sacked four times.

“The one thing that Feleipe has shown is that he can extend plays,” Smith said. “I thought he threw the ball a little bit better tonight at times. Still got to push him where he’s had a lot of growth and will continue to grow.”

Smith said in order to develop quarterbacks, you have to play them and that was the philosophy with Franks over the first two preseason matches. Smith said unfortunately the situation Franks faced Saturday — being forced to play earlier than expected due to injury — is what his role would be as a backup quarterback sometimes.

The Falcons signed McCarron to a one-year deal for more than $1.21 million on April 30 — hours prior to the second day of the NFL draft — to be No. 2 on the depth chart. A fifth-round pick out of Alabama in 2014 by Cincinnati, McCarron has played in 17 games, starting four and completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

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Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigns

Veteran assistant coach Chan Gailey has resigned after one year as Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, the team informed Wednesday morning.

This means the Dolphins will have a new offensive coordinator for the third consecutive season under coach Brian Flores as they continue to find the right scheme and playcaller to get the most out of rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“I want to thank Chan for all of his hard work and dedication in what was a unique year,” Flores said in a statement. “He played an important role on the staff and in the development of our young roster. I wish him all the best.”

Gailey’s resignation comes less than 24 hours after Flores said he expected all of his assistants back for the 2021 season — barring any surprises. It’s unclear whether Gailey’s departure comes as a surprise or whether the team had been planning for this possibility.

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When Gailey was asked multiple times throughout the season whether he planned to return in 2021, the 69-year-old was noncommittal, commenting only that this was the most unusual season of his coaching career given the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects.

Flores hired Gailey, who was a former head coach of the Bills and Cowboys, out of retirement in January 2020 to replace offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea.

The Dolphins will now start evaluating their own staff and possibly external candidates to find a new offensive coordinator. If Miami looks to promote internal options, tight ends coach George Godsey and running backs coach Eric Studesville are the top candidates.

Godsey took on an increased role coaching Tagovailoa over the second half of the campaign, and he was often seen breaking down the previous drive with the young quarterback on game days.

Tagovailoa went 6-3 as a starter, but all five of his interceptions came in the final four games, including three in the season-ending loss to the Bills.

Earlier this year, Flores also lauded Studesville as a “phenomenal coach, teacher and communicator” who has a future as an offensive coordinator and head coach.

The 2020 Dolphins finished 22nd in total offense (339 yards per game) and 15th in scoring (25.3 points per game). Gailey’s offense didn’t appear to bring out the most in Tagovailoa in their short time together. Now the 22-year-old will have a new playcaller and a full offseason to learn under him.

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Heat aim to close out Celtics in Game 5

The Miami Heat can earn their first appearance in the NBA Finals since 2014 when they duel the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando.

The fifth-seeded Heat inched closer to a shot at their fourth NBA title by holding off the third-seeded Celtics 112-109 on Wednesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Miami, which gained championships as the East’s second and first seed in 2012 and 2013, respectively, is trying to become the first team seeded fifth or lower to reach the NBA Finals since the eighth-seeded New York Knicks lost to San Antonio in 1999.

The last team seeded fifth or lower to win an NBA title was Houston in 1995, when it beat Orlando as the West’s No. 6 seed. Miami has never lost a playoff series in which it led 3-1. The Heat held such an advantage over top-seeded Milwaukee in the Eastern semifinals, then needed just one more game to eliminate the Bucks.

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The last time the Celtics found themselves in a 3-1 hole was last season versus the Bucks in the Eastern semis.

Milwaukee closed out the best-of-seven in the next game.

Boston hasn’t rallied to win a series after trailing 3-1 since defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Finals in 1981. The Celtics went on to beat Houston in the NBA Finals that campaign.

One of the Heat’s concerns in the wake of Wednesday’s victory was the condition of center Bam Adebayo’s sore left wrist. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra reported Thursday that his big man was fine as he attempted to treat his club’s workout session on the eve of a potential NBA Finals-clincher as just another day.

“We stuck with our routine,” Spoelstra noted. “Everybody got the treatment, rest. Today is another day for rest and recovery. Everybody knows what to expect for (Game 5).” Game 6, if necessary, is arranged for Sunday afternoon.

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Celtics defeat Heat in game 3 on Eastern conference finals

After falling 2-0 behind in the series following Thursday’s defeat, Celtics players apparently aired their frustrations in a raucous locker room and it seemed to do the trick as they were never behind in a 117-106 triumph.

The Celtics were also boosted by the return of Hayward, who scored six points in 31 minutes of a welcome return from an ankle injury that has kept him out since August 17.

“I didn’t expect to play him that much,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

“I thought he looked pretty good, he asked to come out a couple times – the wind caught up to him a couple times – but I thought he did what he’s done all year.”

Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Marcus Smart 20 as the Celtics, for whom Tatum added 14 rebounds, shot 48.2 per cent (41 of 85) as a team, outscoring Miami 60-36 in the paint.

“I’m extremely tired right now, my ankle is pretty sore, but I’m proud of the way we fought and proud of us getting the win,” Hayward stated.

“They are a hard-playing team, they compete. They are obviously extremely well coached and they don’t give up.

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“I think they also have a lot of guys that can get going, especially from the outside, so leads aren’t safe and they can score in bunches, as we’ve seen in the first two games.

“Tonight, I think me personally, just trying to help us offensively, being somebody who can get in the paint, create, also trying to help us rebound, bring the ball up. I think if we can run, that can’t set their defense and we have so many good athletes, so many guys that can score and bring up the ball – it makes it difficult for them.”

For Miami, Bam Adebayo had 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Tyler Herro scored 22 to lead six players in double figures for the Heat, who had just their second defeat in 12 playoff matches en route to their lead in the Eastern Finals.

“We didn’t play hard enough,” said Jimmy Butler, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

“We weren’t playing basketball the way that we have been to win the games that we have been winning.”

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