Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Florida Panthers mascot Stanley C. Panther, employees laid off due to NHL lockout - WPTV

Panthers mascot Stanley C. Panther became the first recognizable victim of the NHL lockout.

Not the furry figure itself but rather the performer inside the costume, who was among an undisclosed number of employees laid off by the Panthers on Tuesday, according to a source who works for the team.

The announcement of layoffs came a day after Panthers President and COO Michael Yormark said the organization was proceeding with "business as usual" on the second day of the NHL's fourth work stoppage since 1992 that puts the upcoming season in jeopardy.

In a statement released by the team, Yormark said: "Due primarily to the NHL work stoppage, but also due to changes and efficiencies in our normal business operations, SSE and the Florida Panthers instituted a number of staff adjustments today including staff reductions. We thank all of those former staff members for their efforts, while SSE's human resources department has volunteered to work with these former staff members to assist them in finding new employment."

Panthers spokesman Matt Sacco declined comment on the mascot other than to say that Stanley C. would remain a visible part of the organization. Sacco reiterated Yormark's statement that, "Out of respect for both the former and current staff members, we will have no further comment at this time."

Stanley C. Panther received honorable mention as "Best Mascot" of 2011 by GameOps.com, a sports entertainment website.

The team did not reveal how many employees were let go or from which departments. According to a source with the team, no one under contract in hockey operations was laid off, including coaches, scouts and personnel evaluators. Another source estimated as many as a dozen employees were laid off, and some were told they would be rehired after the lockout.

On Monday, Yormark said he remained hopeful that an agreement would be reached on a new collective bargaining agreement in time for the season to begin on schedule. The Panthers are to open Oct. 13 at the BB&T Center against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"We are approaching this as business as usual. We are hopeful that a deal will get done sooner than later. Until we are told otherwise we're focused on Oct. 13," Yormark told the Sun Sentinel on Monday.

The Panthers are continuing to sell tickets for the opener and beyond. On Sunday they launched an "I Love Panthers Hockey" campaign, promising that the entire Panthers staff (more than 100 employees) will make appearances at charitable organizations, schools, rinks and neighborhoods throughout South Florida on Fridays beginning this week to promote the team and assist with various charitable initiatives.

The Panthers aren't the first NHL team to announce layoffs. According to Sports Business Daily, Ottawa Senators employees were given layoff notices weeks ago that would take effect in the event of a lockout, and the Calgary Flames were offering unpaid leave during the lockout.

The Lightning announced Friday that it did not plan immediate staffing changes due to the lockout. Among other teams reportedly not planning layoffs are the Capitals, Bruins, Penguins and Jets.

Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Miami Heat Trumps Knicks in Off-Season Too with Harrellson Signing: A Fan's ... - Yahoo! Sports

It may not register much in the interests of many basketball fans, but New York Knick fans who pay close attention to the agate type in the transaction section of daily tabloids 12 months a year understand. They understand all too well.

The Miami Heat yesterday signed Josh Harrelson to a contract. A couple of months ago, the Knicks mysteriously and imprudently included him in a deal for 38 year-old Marcus Camby, who joined the team's AARP unit comprised of Jason Kidd and Kurt Thomas. A park bench and checkerboard has been installed in the locker room.

Much as they did on a more significant level with Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks surrendered an absurd amount of assets for Camby, with Harrelson only one of several players and, of course, draft picks exiting. Unlike the Anthony deal, it doesn't appear sensible to blame Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan for the Camby trade, thievery at its most palpable. However, since his track record is so dreadfully abysmal, perhaps we simply aren't looking diligently enough. Most decried the loss of Toney Douglas in the move, all but concealing the bad news about Harrellson's departure.

Harrellson didn't light up scoreboards in his brief tenure with the Knicks. You wouldn't characterize him as impactful by a cursory glance at his meager statistics. But Harrellson was just the type of player any team needs. Most players with Harrelson's game contribute little more than good defense, a couple of charging calls, some rebounds, and a bunch of toughness in limited action. In fact, minus the toughness, that's Marcus Camby in a thumbnail. But Harrelson demonstrated some offensive skills as well. They're raw as a scrape on the arm, but they're apparent.

This lamentation doesn't concern the Knicks lack of interest in re-signing him. In fact, they couldn't have done so by league rule. The NBA doesn't want surreptitious deals featuring trades, releases, and re-signings by the original team. But every Knick fan knew he'd find his way to a team that will haunt the Knick decision to relinquish is services. Probably the worst of all those options is the Miami Heat.

And guess where he wound up.

Glenn Vallach has been a basketball fan, player, and coach during his lifetime and, as such, an ardent follower of the NBA even with all its warts. He have also been a New York Knick fan since the days of Howie Komives and Walt Bellamy, when he regularly boarded the IRT Subway at 180th Street in the Bronx for a trip to the Garden to see his heroes.

Sources:

  • · Yahoo! Sports New York Knicks page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Josh Harrellson page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Marcus Camby page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Toney Douglas page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Miami Heat page
  • · The Associated Press, Heat sign Josh Harrellson

Talking Points: Miami Dolphins still have to prepare for Tim Tebow and Wildcat ... - Palm Beach Post (blog)

A trio of Dolphins Talking Points to kickoff Jets week:

1. Dolphins have to prepare for Tim Tebow and the Wildcat, even if the Jets won’t use it.

One of the biggest surprises of the NFL season so far is that, after all the talk this summer about Tim Tebow and Tony Sparano and the Wildcat package, the Jets barely used it in their first two games.

Tebow rushed five times for a whopping 11 yards in the season opener, and then ran just three Wildcat plays in Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh, with Tebow scrambling just one time for 22 yards.

But just because they haven’t used it much doesn’t mean it isn’t an effective weapon. The Dolphins still have to spend plenty of time practicing it this week.

“They have the element of, ‘How much of the Wildcat are they going to try to implement on a weekly basis?’” Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said Monday. “There’s always that hanging over your head and, defensively, it always makes you have to prepare and do some additional work that takes away from other things that you may want to do during the course of the week.”

The Dolphins, of course, are familiar with Tebow â€" you may remember that little comeback he had last year with the Broncos at Sun Life Stadium â€" and Sparano, the Wildcat maestro. But Coyle said it will be key for the Dolphins to try to squeeze in as much Wildcat prep as they can during their few free minutes of practice this week.

“We’ll have a plan to defend it. We’ve seen it before,” Coyle said. “Each week, there’s an element of what a team does that you have got to spend a little extra on as a defense. Wherever you have an extra walkthrough or a period that you can devote time towards it, you do that. Each week, I look at the team that we’re going to play and say, ‘We’re going to have to use this teach period for that particular thing.’ It might be an empty. New England comes out with no backs. You’ve got to spend more time on that than typically you might in a normal week.”

“This is just one of those other things you’ve got to get ready for and then, hopefully, it’s like anything in football, if you show that you’re prepared, you have a chance to slow it down, you may not see as much of it. If you don’t, you could see a boatload.”

2. For the Dolphins’ defense, thin is in.

When Bill Parcells began constructing his ideal 3-4 defense with the Dolphins in 2008, the key phrase was “bigger is better.” Big defensive ends to take on two blockers. Big nose tackles to swallow the middle of the offensive line. Big linebackers to take on multiple defenders.

Now, the Dolphins are in the 4-3. And thin is definitely in.

Randy Starks, who beefed up to play defensive end in the old scheme, is now a thinner, more athletic defensive tackle. Cameron Wake is, at 6-4 and 260 pounds, lithe for a defensive end. Karlos Dansby said he came into camp at his lowest playing weight in years (around 245 pounds). Even big Paul Soliai is a slim and fit 345 pounds.

And through two games, the Dolphins’ lighter defense is swarming around the football. They only have two sacks this year, but have allowed just 106 rushing yards (fourth-best in the NFL) on just 2.2 yards per carry (first).

“I think that they realized that (being thin) has helped their stamina, helped their quickness,” Coyle said. “Randy, for sure, I think it’s helped him. Paul, inside, as strong as he is, he’s able to use his initial quickness now and not only try to muscle the blockers, but he outruns them some. That’s been impressive.”

Wake, especially, has impressed the coaches with his play in the running game.

“We had some concern going into the season with his size and his matchup ability,” Coyle said. “But yet he’s been very strong at the point of attack.”

Coyle credits coach Joe Philbin’s up-tempo practices this offseason as helping get the players in shape.

“When we first started doing it, even back in the beginning during OTAs, it was like,’ Are we going to be able to sustain this?’” Coyle said. “And then we were figuring, ‘Oh, after a few days, we’ll have to tweak it and this and that.’ Then, all of a sudden, it became the routine and the players bought into it, and I think it’s going to be reflected in how we play, particularly early in the season.”

3. Mike Pouncey is turning heads.

If you’re noticing the center during a football game, it’s usually for one of two reasons: 1) He fumbled the snap; 2) He’s allowing sacks and getting blown up at the line of scrimmage.

So you may not have noticed center Mike Pouncey this year. The Dolphins’ first-round pick a year ago, who only played one year of center in college, not only is playing mistake-free football. He is quickly becoming one of the best in the league at his position.

Pouncey has impressed his new coaches with his full-out effort on every play. Last week, Philbin, a former longtime offensive line coach, said of Pouncey, “he did some things that I haven’t seen a linemen do in this league in a long time.”

This week, Philbin expanded on what makes Pouncey so good.

“Just the way he finishes plays,” Philbin said. “It’s hard to move a guy and stay on a guy in the National Football League. I know they (offensive linemen) don’t like to hear it, but defensive linemen are usually better athletes than offensive linemen, typically. And so when you see a guy stick and engage and finish and drive his knees â€" he really plays the game the right way, he really does.”

“He plays hard. I’ve been impressed with him. I don’t want to give him too much or he’ll start getting a big head, but I thought he played well. He’s played well two weeks in a row.”

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Miami Heat: Assessing the Odds of Each Player Remaining Healthy the Full ... - Bleacher Report

If the Miami Heat want to repeat as NBA Finals champions, the first step is remaining healthy.

Miami needs everyone to be ready to contributeâ€"you can’t help if you’re on the sideline nursing an injury.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are obviously the key cogs that must retain health throughout the season, but even scrubs like Dexter Pittman need to be ready in case of emergency foul trouble.

Here are the chances each player stays out of health trouble.

(All stats credit to www.basketball-reference.com)

LeBron James: 90 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Considering the physicality with which he plays and the number of minutes he logs, it’s remarkable how injury-free LeBron James has been throughout his nine-year career.

He’s never endured a major injury, and the most time he’s missed in a season was back in 2008, when he missed seven of Cleveland’s 82 games.

James has also never missed a playoff game, playing in all 115 possible matches.

The only thing that concerns me is the cumulative toll the past year will have on him. After going through a condensed 66-game schedule, James played 42.7 minutes per game in the playoffs. It caught up to him in Game 4 of the Finals when he went down with leg cramps.

Participating in the Olympics also took away a full offseason to rest up.

James has recently participated in several “Hell Week” training sessions with Kevin Durant to get in shape for the upcoming season. We’ll see if that prepares him to stay healthy for a full year.

Dwyane Wade: 60 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Dwyane Wade has never had luck with the injury bug.

He’s never played a full season, and he’s missed at least 26 percent of his games four times.

Having said that, he’s also never missed more than 31 games in a season. He should be healthy for the majority of the season, but don’t count on him suiting up for every game, either.

His knee problems during the playoffs were discouraging, but skipping out on the Olympics allowed him to make a full recovery.

Chris Bosh: 80 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Chris Bosh has been steady with his health throughout his career. Besides last year’s 66-game schedule and 2005 when he played in 81 games, Bosh has played somewhere between 67 and 77 games each season.

That’s not great health, but it’s not bad either.

Like Wade, Bosh declined a spot on the Olympic roster this summer to recover from an injuryâ€"a lower abdominal strain in his case. That should be plenty of time for a full recovery, considering he was able to play in the Heat’s final eight playoff games.

Ray Allen: 70 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Normally, Ray Allen is one of the most durable players in the NBA. He never missed a game in his first five seasons. In his first fifteen seasons, he had only missed more than six games four times.

But last year, Allen missed 20 games due to various injuries, the biggest of which were the bone spurs that forced him to sit the final nine regular season games and the first two postseason matches.

Allen is 37 now, so his body won’t help him prevent injuries anymore. But his limited role off the bench will.

Only time will tell which new aspect will overcome the other.

Shane Battier: 85 Percent

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Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Shane Battier has only missed more than four games twice in his eleven-year career, and he’s logged two perfect 82-game seasons.

His age could start to take a little toll on his body, now that he recently turned 34.

Battier is such a hard worker, however, that age toll should be minimal.

He also only played 23.1 minutes per game last year. Those minutes might increase some, since he played 33.4 minutes in the playoffs.

This years’ minutes should fall somewhere in between those two numbers. Either way, Battier won’t play a substantial amount, helping him prevent injuries.

Mario Chalmers: 95 Percent

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Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Unlike most players on the Miami Heat roster, Chalmers is still relatively young.

He’s never endured a major injury, and the most minutes he’s ever averaged over a season is 32.0, back in his rookie campaign.

The only concern I would have about Chalmers’ health would start with his brain. He’s known for having a confidence that doesn’t quite match his skill set. If he gets too carried away, he might do something foolish and end up breaking his own ankles instead of the defender’s.

Udonis Haslem: 60 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Not too long ago, in the 2011 season, Udonis Haslem tore a ligament in his foot and missed the final 69 games of the regular season. He also missed the first nine games of the 2011 postseason.

It seemed like that was going to be a huge concern going forward, but Haslem bounced back strong.

He managed to average 28.3 minutes per game over the final 10 playoff games in 2011 and played in all but two games in the 2012 season.

Still, with his age and the magnitude of that 2011 injury, I’m a little skeptical he can turn in a fully healthy year.

Mike Miller: 10 Percent

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Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

This just isn’t going to happen. Mike Miller has missed 96 total games over the past three years, and one of those wasn’t even a full 82-game season.

When he has played since joining the Heat, he’s never been at 100 percent.

The injury to his thumbs in 2011 caused him to shoot 36.4 percent from long range, an extremely low mark for the sharp shooter.

Then in 2012, Miller constantly winced in pain up and down the court and bent over to relieve his aches anytime he got a chance.

I feel for the guy because he tries so hard. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe if Miller just takes it easy this next season and paces himself, he’ll be able to stay on the court longer and contribute more effectively.

But until he proves he can stay healthy, I won't be convinced of anything.

Joel Anthony: 95 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Joel Anthony missed a fair share of games in his first two seasons, 2008 and 2009, but that wasn’t because of injury. He was still extremely raw and wasn’t ready yet to play with the big boys of the NBA.

Since his third season, Anthony has only missed 11 total games, but that was more of a result of Erik Spoelstra constantly messing around with his lineups and rotations.

Given his injury record and his 20.2 minutes per game average over the past two years, I would say there’s an optimistic chance that Anthony won't get hurt this year.

Norris Cole: 95 Percent

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Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Like Chalmers, Norris Cole has the rare advantage on this team of still enjoying a young age.

He only missed one game last season, but again, this was because of Spoelstra and his never-ending game of figure-out-the-rotation.

Cole never missed a game in college, playing in all 140 games at Cleveland state from 2007 to 2011.

And like Anthony, Cole’s low minute count of 19.4 from a year ago should help keep him out of harm’s way.

Rashard Lewis: 60 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

After staying consistently healthy for most of his career, Rashard Lewis has gotten bit by the injury bug hard the past couple seasons. He missed 25 games in the 2011 season and 38 last year.

Lewis also just turned 33, and age will not be on his side heading into this season.

Still, Lewis will benefit from how Miami will use him. In the limited amount of minutes he sees, he will probably just be standing in the corner waiting to shoot wide-open threes.

It’ll be a little different story on the defensive side of the ball, however, where he’ll likely have to get physical down low against opposing power forwards.

Overall, the rest he gets on offense and limited minutes should keep Lewis relatively healthy.

James Jones: 90 Percent

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Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Jones is yet another victim of Spoelstra’s ever-changing rotations. Although he appeared in 81 games in 2011, he missed 15 last year due to lineup changes.

Overall, though, he’s never really had any major injury problems. Jones benefits from having to shoot three-pointers and do nothing else, much like Lewis will do this year.

His age is getting up there (he turns 32 in October), but he’s another beneficiary of little playing time.

Don’t expect to see Jones get hurt.

Dexter Pittman: 90 Percent

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Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The word “health” can imply different things. It’s important to point out that for the purposes of this article, I mean avoiding injury, not being in shape.

If I was talking about the latter, Dexter Pittman’s number would be much lower, as he consistently has had trouble with endurance.

But, this is about the former, and that’s why Pittman’s percentage is so high.

Considering he’s almost never going to play, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he gets injured.

Unless he suffers a heart attack in practice, that is.

Josh Harrellson: 70 Percent

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Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

During his rookie season of 2012, Josh Harrellson sustained a wrist injury that kept him out of action for 21 games.

This injury is significant enough to raise some questions about his health.

But Harrellson also played in all 38 games in his senior season at Kentucky, so that is encouraging.

He might see some playing time as a shooting big man to help spread the floor for James and Wade to slash, but he won’t see the floor often by any stretch. That should keep him fairly healthy for the year.

Everyone Else: 50 Percent

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

This group includes Jarvis Varnado, Mickell Gladness, Terrel Harris, Garrett Temple and Justin Hamilton.

I included all of them in the same group and put them at 50 percent because there’s just no way to tell what their status will be for the upcoming season.

Varnado and Hamilton have never played in an NBA game, and Gladness, Harris and Temple have combined for 99 games and 12 starts in their respective careers.

Temple spent last year playing in Italy and only played in 24 games in 2011 as he bounced around to three different teams.

Gladness was cut by the Heat in February last year before signing with the Warriors for the remainder of the season. He wasn’t brought back until a couple weeks ago when Miami signed him as a free agent.

Harris graduated from Oklahoma State in 2009 and spent his time in the D-League and Europe until the Heat signed him in December 2011. The only playing time he saw was in garbage time.

Bottom line, none of these guys have enough NBA experience to place a firm percentage on their chances of health. Most likely, none of them will even make the final 15-man roster. At that point, the chances of them staying healthy are irrelevant.

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