April 23, 2014

G2: Heat 101, Charlotte 97: LeBron's 32 lift Miami's narrow escape for 2-0 series lead; plus Arison's bravado, Heat's Game of Thrones, Jose Fernandez chasing history & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23. King Sport unleashes its 2014 schedule in an NFL Network show tonight. It's much ado about not much considering teams' opponents already are known, and tonight just attaches dates. 2) Record Store Day just passed. Support your local indie music shop. Long live vinyl! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte preview and Game 1, Typepad issues hold blog hostage & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

Blog note about recent issues: You know how you never really stop to appreciate how good you feel until you're sick? I go forth with renewed appreciation for the simple act of being able to post in this blog whenever I wish. That was taken away for several recent days as Typepad fought denial-of-service cyber attacks. Thanks for the patience and understanding, all.

G2: HEAT 101, CHARLOTTE 97: NARROW ESCAPE AS LEBRON NETS 32: LeBron James' game-high 32 points lifted Miami tonight in a narrow escaoe for a 2-0 series lead. Chris Bosh had 20 including some clutch shots late. Dwyane Wade was off offensively (4-for-10 shooting, 15 points) but had a victory-sealing steal with 1.2 seconds left. A very hard foul against James by Josh McRoberts with just under a minute left was not called a flagrant but will be subject to league review and possible discipline. Maybe that play is what is needed to fire up the Heat, which has not shown its best or most intense effort these first two games of the postseason. ..... Game 2 Heat Players of the Game: 1. James, 2. Bosh, 3. Wade (edging the early spark of Mario Chalmers). ..... Original post: Tonight's Game 2 of the Heat-Charlotte first-round series is the 100th home playoff game in Heat history. (Hallmark make a card for that?) More 1aa1aheatchaimportant, it's likely to be the stage for Miami taking 2-0 series command following that 99-88 opening win on Sunday and before 1aa1ag2heatchathe series swings up to North Carolina for Game 3 Saturday night. Mario Chalmers (shin) is game-time decision for Miami tonight. More significantly, Bobcats star Al Jefferson (foot) says he'll play but surely will be limited. Charlotte is 13-4 following losses since mid-January, but a far weightier 17-game sample is that Miami has won 17 in a row over Charlotte including five this season. Dwyane Wade's continued progress will be a watch-point again tonight after an encouraging and efficient 23-point game in the opener. He referred to himself Tuesday as still "working my way back." It'll also be interesting to see if James Jones' heroics off the bench in Game 1 (12 points in 14 minutes) was a one-off thing or portends a steady rotation role.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (through 1 game): Entering Game 2 tonight: Dwyane Wade 3 points; LeBron James 2; James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

HEAT OWNER SORT OF GUARANTEES RETURN OF BIG 3, ALMOST!: Well, he did. Sort of. Not that he can be sure, really. So this might be big news, or it might not be news at all. Welcome to Journalism 1aa1amickya2014, where sometimes news can be a casual aside in a Tweet, and sometimes it can be Micky Arison, on ESPN Radio Monday, answering, "100 percent," when host Dan Le Batard asked the Heat's owner for a percentage likelihood "this thing stays together next season." (Dan didn't say what he was referring to, but all know This Thing meant the Big 3 era). Micky (pictured far right with Pat Riley) could have said "we're hopeful" or some other vaguary but he took Le Batard's bait with the one percentage that sounds like all but a guarantee. The one problem: Whatever Micky thinks in April is trumped by whatever LeBron James thinks and decides this summer. Clearly nothing about this is 100 percent, but I don't think Arison is far off in his optimism. If Miami wins a third straight NBA title it almost guarantees the Big 3 stays intact. If Miami falls short I think the likeliest scenario is that the Big 3 all extend for one more season with the option to test free agency in 2015. I'd put that likelihood at a solid, um, 78.4 percent.

Heat = Lannisters in NBA Game of Thrones: I don't watch HBO's Game of Thrones. But I know many do, and may enjoy this piece drawing parallels between the popular show and the 2014 NBA playoffs. Pat Riley is cast as Tywin Lannister and his team as the Lannisters, which must mean something to somebody.

 

1aa1ajoshmcrBobcats enlist Jesus, fail anyway: The Charlotte Bobcats, who ran like hell from the depravity of South Beach after their Game 1 loss, fell in the opener despite Jesus playing for the team. And on Easter no less! (I'm surprised this was not a bigger national story, and thanks to Twitter follower @mancard1 for pointing it out to me). Jesus, pictured right, scored 15 points in the 99-88 Miami win while playing under the earthly name "Josh McRoberts."

MARLINS POSITIVITY: Miami is 10-11 right now after Jose Fernandez's 14-strikeout gem last night, but only six teams in MLB have a better run-differential than the Marlins' plus-12. As for Fernandez's dominance, see The List directly below.

THE LIST: KID K, JOSE FERNANDEZ: Fernandez so far in his young career averages 10.307 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. The only two pitchers in history to average more are Randy Johnson (10.610) and Kerry Wood (10.317). How Fernandez ranks in strikeouts-per-inning vs. the eight pitchers with 500-plus career strikeouts for the Marlins:

Pitcher                K's-per-Inning    Strikeouts / Innings

Jose Fernandez       1.145             234 / 204.1

Josh Beckett            0.997             607 / 609.0

Josh Johnson          0.908             832 / 916.2

A.J. Burnett            0.882              753 / 853.2

Anibal Sanchez       0.851              676 / 794.1

Ryan Dempster       0.827             628 / 759.2

Ricky Nolasco         0.817             1001 / 1225.2

Dontrelle Willis       0.740              757 / 1022.2

Brad Penny             0.729             570 / 781.2

YES, MEBRAHTOM KEFLEZIGHI IS AN AMERICAN: The Boston Marathon ran in peace Monday one year after 1aa1amebkthe terrorist bombings -- a triumph of American resolve and spirit -- and, fittingly, in the storybook style sports so often delivers, an American man won for the first time since 1983. The American is named Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi, and you could almost hear a million Americans snorting, "What!? That's no American!" Well, Meb emigrated from his native Eritrea in 1987 at age 12. (I know. Eritrea sounds like the dog in Scooby Doo mispronouncing a word, but it's a small country in the horn of Africa). Anyway, Keflezighi is now 38, living and raising a family in San Diego, and a U.S. citizen. His is a very American story, and a particularly sweet one for this year's Boston race. Congrats, Mebster!

R.I.P., RUBIN (HURRICANE) CARTER, 1937-2014: He was the former middleweight boxer who was framed, wrongly convicted of murder and spent 19 years in prison before his conviction was overturned. He died this week in Toronto. His story was the subject of the Bob Dylan song, "Hurricane," which we offer below. This is not Dylan singing (sorry), but is briefer than the original, includes lyrics (some adult language) and well-represents the tale.

 

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April 20, 2014

Whooo! Blog freed from bad-guy hostage takers!; plus Heat take G1 behind LeBron, Wade and James Jones off bench

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 22. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column, leading with Heat-Charlotte. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte series poll, Giancarlo Stanton, Jets' big moves, Dabo Swinney & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

A special note to our Blog Family: You must know by now from my Tweets, or from other sources, that our blog host Typepad has been under denial-of-service attacks off and on for several days. This is the first time in awhile I have been able to get into my own blog and post anything new, and for you to see it (hence the unusually low number of comments for this post). Thanks for the patience. And see our latest blogpost just above this one.

G1: CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE ... THEN HEAT BUST IT OPEN: It was tighter for longer than expected. Give Charlotte that much. Miami didn't take the lead for good here Sunday until 62-59 with two minutes left in the third quarter of this first-round NBA playoff series. There was an inevitability, though, to the end result: Miami 99, Charlotte 88. Keys: LeBron James' 27 points, Dwyane Wade with a healthy 23 and James Jones with a sparky 12 points off the bench in 14 minutes. Miami also caught a break when the Bobcats' Al Jefferson (18 points) was slowed by a foot injury. He stayed in but was less effectve. Click on Vintage Wade for my column off the game. We're going to pick the Heat's top three Players of the Game throughout the playoffs and keep a running tally of who the postseason MVP is, based on inverse 3-2-1 scoring. From Game 1: 1. Wade; 2. James; 3. Jones.

DIFFERENT FEEL, DIFFERENT STAKES THIS POSTSEASON AS HEAT LAUNCH THREE-PEAT BID: Original post: Plenty of talking heads and hoop literati are picking against a Miami three-peat on the heel of the Heat's worst 1aa1anum1 1aa1aheatbobsregular-season record of the Big 3 era and questions about Dwyane Wade's durability. This also is the first playoff run of the epoch that will be followed by the option of free agency for LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh. That combination -- doubts about another championship, and not knowing what will happen this summer -- adds yet more drama to this annual two-month thrill ride we call a Heat postseason. That is the gist of today's playoff preview column by me; click on Wild Ride, Destination Unknown to read fully. This first-round series vs. Charlotte, by contrast, figures to be drama-free. Miami has beaten the Bobcats 16 games in a row including 4-0 this season by a combined 42 points, so anything beyond a five-game series would be a surprise. This enables Miami (or should) to get Wade's wind and legs back and in effect use this first round as a tuneup for the tougher tasks ahead. Key matchup: Udonis Haslem's defense versus Al Jefferson.

Poll result: Heat in 5 games: We asked for your pick in the Heat-Charlotte first-round series that starts today, and the vast majority had Miami in five games (47.3 percent) or in a four-game sweep by (40.3%). Heat in six games garnered 7.2% and Heat in seven a scant 0.2%. An upset series win by Charlotte had 5.0%. (Thanks for reading our blog, bravely optimistic or perhaps delusional North Carolinians!)

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April 17, 2014

Sat pm 4-19: How many games will Heat-Charlotte series go? Poll. Vote!; plus CJ2K-to-Jets a worry to Dolphins?, word to Dabo & more

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 19. This April's Giancarlo Stanton is the Stanton we've been waiting for. This is the Stanton, with a healthy career, who gets to Cooperstown. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat vs. past years poll, Yasiel Puig saga, local money list & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATON FOR HEAT-CHARLOTTE SERIES?: I can't pretend. Won't construct false-drama by talking up Charlotte or reminding that upsets happen. Won't lie and tell you how worried the Heat 1aa1aheatchaare about Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. Um, Miami has beaten the Bobcats 16 games in a row and it's 4-0 this season by a combined 42-point margin. So, no, I do not expect a competitive series in the first-rounder that begins here Sunday at 3:30 to launch the Heat's run at a three-peat. No, Miami is not as good as last season, as I write in today's lastest column; click on Doubting the Champs to read. (Also see the poll results below). But LeBron in this season's four meetings scored 151 points -- including that 61-point game -- on 56-for-89 shooting. Charlotte has no answer for him. Chances are any doubts about Miami's ability to three-peat must wait at least until the second round. But enough of my jabberwocky. What is your realistic expectation for this series? Sweep? Competitive? Remember I'm asking not how you hope it'll turn out but how you'd honestly bet it will. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Poll result: Heat isn't as good as past seasons: We asked and your verdict was clear. A majority of 57.9 percent think the Heat is not as good as the past two years, vs. only 5.3% who think this team is better. Other 36.8 percent thought this team is comparabale to the previous two.

JETS TAKING OFF. SHOULD DOLFANS BE WORRIED?: So the New York Stinkin' Jets add running back 1aa1acj2kChris Johnson on a two-year deal, balancing a retooled offense that previously added quarterback Mike Vick and receiver Eric Decker. I must say, a bad Jets offense doesn't seem so bad anymore. Johnson, at 29, isn't the runner or fantasy darling he was in rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009, but he's still very good when healthy, as last season's 1,422 for the Titans attests.

PLAYING AND PRAYING. WORD TO DABO SWINNEY: Many of you may know Dabo Swinney is the successful Clemson football coach. You may not know he also is devoutly religion, constantly references Jesus and Scriptures, organizes "Church Day" bus trips for his team, and sometimes pauses practices for 1aa1adabosprayer sessions. A Wisconsin non-profit group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has formally complained. My take: Swinney is free to believe what he wants as devoutly as he wishes, but he should separate that from his football role when with his team. Clemson hired a coach, not an evangelist. Since Clemson is a public university, the doctrine of separation of church and state also comes into play. Religious and political views are personal; when not, they are argument starters. Not saying Swinney is, but the devoutly religious often are anti-abortion and believe homosexuality is a sin. What if a coach who was open about such views had a quarterback who felt differently? What if the QB's brother was gay? There is a potential team divisiveness to what Swinney is doing beyond the other issues. Don't change what you stand for, my religious friends. Just don't wear Jesus on your sleeve at all times. I don't know or care if Canes coach Al Golden is Catholic, Baptist, agnostic or worships the devil, and his players shouldn't know, either. Likewise my kid shouldn't know if his math teacher is a staunch Democrat or hates Obama. It's all about context. Don't change who you are, Dabo, just dial it back. Compartmentalize. Praise Jesus as loudly as you wish on your own time. But on your team's time, just be a football coach.

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April 16, 2014

Wed pm 4-16: Heat isn't as good as past two years. True or False? Poll. Vote now!; plus Heat-Charlotte in 1R, scary saga of Puig, local $$$ list & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16. Panthers win lottery for No. 1 overall pick in June NHL draft. Here's betting GM Dale "Trader" Tallon swaps it. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why No. 2 seed is better for Heat, Philbin on candid camera, Nirvana, NHL playoffs, Bubba, Pacquiao & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Heat open playoffs vs. Charlotte here Sunday: It's Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats in first-round Game 1 here Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC-TV. No need for instant over-analysis; Miami should sweep. Be interesting though to watch Udonis Haslem's defense against Al Jefferson. Miami rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh in tonight's meaningless regular-season finale vs. Philadelphia, a loss. Recently sidelined Dwyane Wade saw limited action and looked sharp, and Greg Oden returned from injury.

DIFFERENT CHALLENGE AND DOUBT CHASING HEAT INTO PLAYOFFS: The Heat love a challenge. Love to be doubted. LeBron James says that all the time. OK, so here's the challenge and the doubt, Heat, and it's 1aa1abig3heatdifferent than in the past: Are they good enough? Simply that. Because the presumption is that this Miami team seeking a three-peat just isn't as good as the teams that won back-to-back championships. A worse regular-season record is the backbone of the presumption but there's more. Of the two big new additions, Greg Oden hasn't played much and might not at all in the postseason, and Michael Beasley has faded out of the rotation. Departed Mike Miller is sorely missed, still. Ray Allen and Shane Battier just seem older. Depth appears to be thinner. Chemistry doesn't feel as rock-solid. Then there's Dwyane Wade's fragile health of course. These things -- not to mention how great San Antonio is -- cast Miami as a somewhat vulnerable defending champ as the playoffs begin this weekend against Charlotte or Washington. Do you buy the basic premise that this Heat team is not as good as the ones that won consecutive titles? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

THE BIZARRE, SCARY ODYSSEY OF YASIEL PUIG: The L.A. Times' Los Angeles Magazine, in its May issue, has a lengthy and fascinating piece on Dodgers star Yasiel Puig written by Jesse Katz. Get it 1aa1apuigyHERE. It reads like a screenplay. It probably will turn into one. It is the tale of Puig's path from Cuba to the major leagues via Mexico, and it is fraught with shady characters, skullduggery and ominous overtones. Read it, understand Puig a little more, and suddenly you'll be less focused on his speeding tickets or his showing up late for a game. The story gives a new understanding and appreciation for his situation. The young man has a lot on his mind. Reportedly his path out of Cuba was underwritten by a Miamian, Raul Pacheco, and involved smugglers -- human traffickers working for a major and murderous Mexican drug cartel. There are allegations that Puig promised 20 percent of his future earnings and that some exceptionally unsavory people may still be looking for their money. If I were the Dodgers and MLB I'd not only take this seriously, I'd enlist the FBI and anybody else who might help. What a scary tale. Forget protecting your investment, Dodgers. Protect Yasiel Puig.

Sad coincidence for baseball: This week marked the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, and this week there are exactly -- and only -- 67 active African-American players on MLB rosters. 

"MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY ... MON-EY!" (PINK FLOYD, 1973): ESPN has a list of the world's 1aa1amoneytop-paying sports teams, and Manchester United of soccer's English Premier League is on top with an average salary of $8.11 million per player, edging the Yankees' $8.03 million. The Heat check in 16th at $5.57 million, led by LeBron James and Chris Bosh at $19.1 million apiece. Interestingly, among Greater Miami's other three pro teams, the Panthers are next at $1.85 million per, edging the Dolphins ($1.77M) and Marlins ($1.55M).

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April 14, 2014

Tue pm 4-15: Why Heat preferred No. 2 seed (by a lot); plus Philbin on candid camera, All Apologies, Wade verdict, Bubba's Mastery, Pacquiao & more

It's Radio Tuesday Thursday!: I'm in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show again this week, but Thursday, not today.

1aa1abostonstrong1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 15. Remembering those killed, injured and otherwise affected on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with the end (for now) of the Heat drama, Waiting on Dwyane. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dwyane Wade poll, Wade shines in return, Heat-Pacers, Stephen Colbert, Dolphins cheerleaders & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

LeBron, Bosh sit in Heat loss: LeBron james and Chris Bosh sitting out last night's 114-93 loss at Atlanta verified (see item directly below) how little interest Miami had in the No. 1 seed at this point.

FIGHT FOR NO. 1 SEED WAS A FALLACY. HEAT BETTER OFF AS NO. 2: Miami's season-long chase with Indiana for the No. 1 Eastern Conference playoff seed has been a fallacy. As the standings have set, it 1aa1ano2has become clear that the Heat much prefer being right where they're at, holding the No. 2  seed. Take the two reasons chronologically. The second seed means Miami's first-round playoff opponent is Charlotte, not Atlanta. Though Miami would be hugely favored over either and be threatened by neither, the Heat are 4-0 vs. the Bobcats this season, only 2-2 vs. the Hawks. But the second round is the big reason. The No. 2 seed in the second round would face the winner of the Toronto-Washington series, while the No. 1 seed would face the winner of Chicago-Brooklyn. Miami of course is 0-4 vs. the Nets, and only 2-2 vs. the Bulls and irritant Joakim Noah. The Heat are 4-0 vs. the Raptors, and 2-2 vs. the Wizards including last night's token effort. Bulls or Nets in the second round would be a real test for Miami, whereas Raptors or Wizards would be more of a waltz into the conference finals. The Heat won't ever say they preferred No. 2, but it's beyond logical why they would. (Oh, and Miami would still have that Eastern finals Game 7 at home if the opponent is anybody but Indiana, whch it very well could be with Brooklyn).

Poll result: Still concern over Wade's health: We asked how you feel about Dwyane Wade's health situation entering the playoffs, and a narrow plurality of 39.2 percent were confident he'd be healthy and a major contributor. But 38.9% were concerned about rust or reinjury, and another 21.9% were worried his contruibution would be limited.

1aa1ajoemoeBLOG EXCLUSIVE! JOE EATS AT MOE'S: A blog spy shot this picture over the weekend of Dolphins coach Joe Philbin having lunch alone at Moe's Southwestern Grill just north of Dolphins camp. Joe, an apparent fork southpaw, appears to be digging into a healthful salad. We thank our blog spy for passing this along. We'd thank them even more if it wasn't a bad photograph framed by giant cups in the foreground. The news value in this exclusive photo is that Philbin appears -- at least to me -- to be in deep thought mulling options as to what the Dolphins will do in the first round of next month's draft.

I WISH I WAS LIKE YOU, EASILY AMUSED...: At the recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions one of my favorite bands, Nirvana, performed one of my favorite songs, "All Apologies," with one of my favorite newer performers, Lorde, on lead vocals. Love it. You might, too. Or, not.

  

NHL PLAYOFF ODDS; CANADIAN MISERY CONTUNUES: Boston is a 7-2 favorite (via Bovada) to win the NHL's Stanley Cup as playoffs near, followed by St. Louis at 6-1, Pittsburgh 7-1 and Chicago 8-1. A Canadian team, Montreal, last won it all in 1993. Montreal is the only northern neighbor of 16 qualifiers this year, and is mid-pack 20-1. 

1aa1abubbawBUBBA THE PERFECT MASTERS WINNER: Bubba Watson's second Masters victory in three years must please the men who run Augusta. What better representative for an Old Boys Network that fought kicking and screaming to admit blacks and women as members than a champion named Bubba? In all seriousness, gotta love anybody who just pocketed a 1.6 million check and celebrates at a Waffle House. Mea culpa: Originally I referred to Bubba as Watkins, not Watson. OY! Sorry. Quick aside: Nobody -- with the possible exception of the grand marshal in a St. Patrick's Day parade -- looks good in a green jacket.

My own golf game: I am playing as well as I ever have, which I say modestly. My past two rounds, at Holywood Beach and Hillcrest, have both been scores of 92. One included seven pars, the other four pars and a birdie (on a 25-foot putt on a par 3). 

PACQUIAO-MAYWEATHER?: Manny Pacquiao's decision over Timothy Bradley in their rematch in Vegas, avenging a controversial 2012 loss, did two things. 1) It made Heat coach Erik Spoelstra very happy. Spo is big fan of Pacquiao, a fellow Filipino. 2) It will mean a resumption of speculation about a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout. Such a fight would have been pay-per-view gold a couple of years ago. Interest is diminished because both fights are, but interest remains. Could still set PPV records with the right hype.

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April 11, 2014

Mon pm 4-14: Health & Trust: The Dwyane Wade Poll. Vote now!; plus Heat squander seed lead, Stephen Colbert, Brianne on top & more

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 14. New blogpost coming later today! 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with the end (for now) of the Heat drama, Waiting on Dwyane. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat biggest-challenger poll, Dolphins' preseason schedule and draft projection, U.S. World Cup video, Kaepernick police report, Hank Aaron & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Wade shines but Heat fall: The good news: Dwyane Wade returns from nine games' absence and scores 24 points in 23 minutes on 10-for-14 shooting. The bad news: Heat fall at Atlanta, 98-85, to fall into tie with Indiana for No. 1 Eastern seed, both teams at 54-26. Then Pacers beat Oklahoma City and now can clinch the top seed by winning at Philadelphia Wednesday. Heat end at Washington tonight and vs. Philadelphia Wednesday. No. 1 seed will open playoffs vs. Atlanta and No. 2 seed likely against Charlotte.

1aa1adwadesuitTHE DWYANE WADE POLL: ON HEALTH AND TRUST: The Heat's bid for a three-peat is less about No. 1 (the conference seed) than it is about No. 3 (Dwyane Wade's health). Wade missed a ninth consecutive game with a strained left hamstring before finally returning to action last night. For the season he has missed 28 games with various ailments. The goal is to have him fit and ready for the playoffs but nobody can be sure of that. In posing this poll question I ask what you sense Wade's realistic postseason contribution may be. How much do you trust his body to be healthy for the long playoff run? Not what you hope he does, but what you honestly expect. Vote and say why.

LEBRON'S 36 POWERS HEAT OVER PACERS IN DUEL FOR NO. 1 SEED: Regular season nights do not get 1aa1aheatpacersmuch better than this one as the Heat hosted Indiana and won 98-86 Friday night to seize control of the NBA's No. 1 Eastern Conference playoff seeding. If you think home court in a series Game 7 is important, then those are the stakes. The tired Pacers were sufficiently rested and deploy their full starting lineup, but Roy Hibbert -- a 7-2 slug against the rest of the league but usually Superman against the Heat -- was a nonfactor against Udonis Haslem's defense. Dwyane Wade once again out with a strained left hamstring, but LeBron James' 36 points made up for it. "Playoff atmosphere" gets thrown around too casually, but we came close to that last night. My column off the game focused on how all the chatter about the top seed has diminished how Wade's health remains a far greater factor for Miami in the playoffs. Click on It's About No. 3, Not No. 1 to read.

Poll result: Pacers still biggest East threat to Heat: We asked in the last blogpost and 53.5 percent called Indiana the greatest challenge to Miami in the Eastern Conference, followed by Brooklyn (31.8%), Chicago (11.6%) and "other" (3.1%). The same poll in September, before the season, had it Indiana 54.7, Chicago 33.9, Brooklyn 8.9 and other 2.5, so, in effect, the Nets and Bulls just swapped roles.

COLBERT REPLACING LETTERMAN, BUT NOT THAT COLBERT: Stephen Colbert is replacing David 1aa1acolbertLetterman next year, but it won't be as his character (pictured) from The Stephen Colbert Report on Comedy Central. This is a risk, in that his lovable mock-right wing zealot character his how most know Colbert. But those who know him best and know his talents best, like Jon Stewart, say he'll be terrific as himself. He'd better be, because his competition, Jimmy Fallon, is kicking some serious late-night a--.

DOLPHINS SIGN ANOTHER WIDE RECIVER. HMM...: Dolphins sign ex-Titans wide receiver Damian Williams, 25, to a one-year deal. Interesting, because receiver is not a position where depth or another body would seem to be needed. Could be a hedge, with Brian Hartline coming back from an injury. Or, maybe we should resurrect that recurring rumor about the team shopping around Mike Wallace?

1aa1abrianne


(WARNING. THIS ITEM MAY INVOLVE CLEAVAGE). BRIANNE VOTED TOP DOLPHINS CHEERLEADER!:
We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog couldn't be prouder of Brianne Herndon, whose photo at right was voted No.

1aa1abrianne21 most popular in a Dolphins Cheerleaders March-Madness style bracket on their website. (Who knew cheerleaders had websites!) Voters consisted entirely of middle-aged married men. This contest, along with the cheerleaders' annual swimsuit calendar, are perfect examples of these brave young women fighting back against the sexist objectification of women by determining that the objectification will be on their terms, dammit! Because 1aa1abrianne3when you think about it, the one freedom perhaps most

worth fighting for is Brianne's freedom to wear the bikini of her choice. She is pictured top left in her official cheer attire, and bottom left lounging languidly on a sunny beach, daydreaming perhaps of a really big Dolphins field goal. God Bless America!

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April 09, 2014

Thu pm 4-10: Who is now Heat's main obstacle in East? Poll. Vote!; plus Kaepernick cop report, Dolphins draft, Hank Aaron, U.S. World Cup soccer vid & more

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 10. Quick question after watching Marlins blow a 5-0 lead at Nationals last night: What's the point of having a relief pitcher who isn't big on control or throwing strikes? Talkin' about you, Carlos Marmol. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Draft/QB poll, Heat-Nets, UConn, Masters odds, Mickey Rooney, Bob Coy & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Miami cops investigating Kaepernick: Miami police are investogating 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick for an alleged sexual assault. Backgrounder HERE. Police report HERE.

Dolphins' latest first-round projection: This via Todd McShay's Mock 4.0 today on ESPN.com: Miami at No. 19 drafts Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses. (There is a growing consensus that Notre Dame OT Zach Martin will be gone by 19 and it might take a trade-up to get him).

On Hank Aaron, 40 years later: This week is 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record. In today's latest column I reflect on how Aaron was a victim of the times -- then, and now. Click on The Real Home Run King to read. 

1aa1athreeblind"Yes, that absolutely was a foul on LeBron James in the closing seconds the other night against Brooklyn. NBA officiating crew played by Three Blind Mice." --Greg Cote

NBA'S EASTERN LANDSCAPE SHIFTS, BUT HIERARCHY DOESN'T: Indiana was the hot pick to unseat champion Miami before the Pacers' recent fade. Brooklyn nominates itself as King-
1aa1ablocklebron

1aa1ablocklebronslayer now with its newly minted 4-0 season record vs. the Heat. Chicago and Joakim Noah always seem to give Miami a tough time. (Toronto is pretty good, too). Point is, Miami could have a tough time from somebody getting to a fourth straight NBA Finals in search of a third straight title ... but from who? Click on Still Chasing Heat for my column off Tuesday's 88-87 home loss to Brooklyn preceding last night's loss at Memphis. I write how the East's landscape may shift, but the hierarchy has not. Now it's your turn. We asked this same poll question before the season, last September, and will be interested to compare results. Who, right now, looks Miami's toughest challenge in the Eastern Conference playoffs? Vote and say why.

DOLPHINS PRESEASON SCHEDULE: Kickoff times and most exact dates not out yet, but NFL and Dolphins announced the team's preseason exhibition schedule would be at Atlanta (wekend of Aug. 7-10), at Tampa Bay (Aug. 14-18), then home games vs. Dallas (Aug. 21-24) and St. Louis (Thursday, Aug. 28).

AWESOME U.S. WORLD CUP VIDEO: ESPN has a new promo for the summer World Cup in Brazil and it is entitled "American Outlaws," after a U.S. fan group. The name of the group and video is apt, because American soccer fans are sort of the outlaws of American sports, growing, but still cult-sized compared to football, basketball and baseball fans. There is also an element of "us against the world," given the enormous mass popularity of soccer elsewhere more than here. The video is awesome. Goosebumpy.

      

Poll result: UCF's Bortles is top QB in draft: We asked who among the three consensus first-round quarterbacks will go first in next month's NFL Draft (you may still vote), and it was 50.97 percent for UCF's Blake Bortles, 32.04% for Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, and 16.99% for Louisville's (and Miami's) Teddy Bridgewater.

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April 08, 2014

Tue pm 4-8: Who'll be first QB taken in NFL Draft? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat tries to cut down Nets, Bob Coy, Mickey Rooney & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan Le Batard Show for my 18th national appearance. Airs 3-7 p.m. on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 8. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with a week of heaven for basketball junkies. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UConn beats Kentucky, Zo talks Hall, Heat Drama Week, Ryan Williams injury & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Betting odds for Tiger-less Masters: It's Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott co-faves at 10-1, then Phil Mickelson 12-1, Jason Day 14-1, Matt Kuchar 18-1 and Sergio Garcia 20-1. 

1aa1adraft14ONE MONTH FROM NFL DRAFT, WHICH QB GOES FIRST?: The first round of the NFL Draft is May 8, so let's start the one-month countdown with a poll 1aa1abig3qbquestion. Normally this would be Dolphins-related, like, what's the greatest need, but this year offensive line is such a no-brainer answer it's pointless to ask. The most interesting draft question, for me, is which of three 1R-stamped quarterbacks will be taken first, and when. Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are pictured, left to right. There is great variance in the many mock drafts I've perused. Most but not all mocks have all three guys going in the top 10, and each has support as the likely first QB taken. What do you think? Take a dip in our poll (listing is alphabetical) and say why.

CUTTING DOWN THE (BROOKLYN) NETS: UConn just cut down the nets. Tonight it's the Heat's turn to cut 1aa1aheatnetsdown the Nets. Beating the Knicks Sunday got Miami's Drama Week off to a strong start, but this is a greater challenge. Brooklyn has been quite good (32-13) this calendar year, and is 3-0 this season against Miami. This also serves a preview of a possible-dare-say-likely second round playoff matchup. (Miami's supposed waltz into the Eastern finals may be tougher than many think). You know LeBron James and the Heat will bring their A-game tonight; question is whether they'll have their A-team available, especially Dwyane Wade, who could miss a seventh straight game with hamstring issues. I write about Wade's hobbled season in today's latest column; click Counting On Wade to read.

CUTTING DOWN THE (NCAA) NETS: I was happy last night the One & Done Kentucky Wildcats got their comeuppance and that the Won & Done UConn Huskies snipped nets after a 60-54 win. John Calipari runs an NBA factory, while Connecticut holds truer to what college sports are supposed to be about. Having said that, it was only a year ago that UConn was closer to You-Con, banned from the postseason for academic reasons. So it wasn't exactly a feel-good final. There was not a truly great team in it, and neither was there a classic Cinderella. Seventh-seed UConn was the highest seed to win it all since No. 8 Villanova in 1985, but both UConn and Kentucky had too much program pedigree to be true Cindys. Bottom line, the right result: Team 1, Individuals 0.

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R.I.P., MICKEY ROONEY:
Famed child star and entertainment legend Mickey Rooney passed away this week at 93, and here is a photo of Rooney taken on March 30, one week before he died. Rooney, seated, is flanked by fellow entertainment icons Dick Van Patten and Mel Brooks, at Santa Anita Park, the Los Angeles-area racetrack Rooney frequented. The picture is copyrighted by and courtesy of Benoit Photo.

ON BOB COY AND THE 'MEGACHURCH': Pastor Bob Coy (pictured) has resigned in disgrace from Fort Lauderdale's 1aa1abobcoyCalvary Chapel, a 20,000-member "megachurch," over a "moral failing" reported to include extramarital affairs. This reminds us that men of the clergy can be just as ethically bankrupt as the rest of us, and that anybody can throw on a robe and claim to speak for God. What interests me more about this story is the revelation that Calvary Chapel's assets are said to be around $135 million. Hmm. For me, the very idea of the "megachurch," the profiteering big business of of it, does more harm to the idea of religion than the occasional rogue infidel pastor. Of course, I may be wrong.

Poll result: You had NCAA final a razor's edge for Kentucky: We asked who'd win the NCAA Tournament men's championship and rarely have we had a closer blogpoll. It was 50.63 percent for Kentucky, 49.37% for Connecticut.

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April 06, 2014

Mon pm 4-7: Won 'n Done! UConn beats Kentucky; plus Zo on Hall induction, Heat's Drama Week, Dolphins, Canes' big loss & more

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 7. WR Nate Burleson turns down Dolphins for Cleveland for the prospect of more playing time. Logical. 2) Click on Random Evidence for the latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with a week of heaven for basketball junkies. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four, Marlins Big 2 poll, Kiper on Dolphins draft, thank you Zo/Letterman & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

HALL OF FAME: ZO GRACIOUS, AS ALWAYS: Alonzo Mourning spoke for the first time today about his 1aa1azompending Aug. 8 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and said, "I stand here on the shoulders of so many people. I'm very, very grateful. Zo, now a Heat executive, especially thanked his family, his Georgetown coach John Thompson, Pat Riley, and his cousin Jason Cooper, who donated the kidney for Mourning's 2003 life-saving operation. Mourning will be remembered for overcoming kidney disease, for helping win the 2006 NBA championship, and for his post-career philanthropy that continues. The Hall of fame has only confirmed what Heat fans have long known about the man. "If my life ended today, " he said. "I've lived a storybook life. I think I've had a lot of angels n my life." Zo is the fourth Heat family member to be enshrined, after Riley, Bob McAdoo and Gary Payton.

WON 'N DONE! UCONN BEATS EVIL KENTUCKY!: UConn wins 60-54 tonight. No predictions from me. Not after I misfired on both of 1aa1aonedoneSaturday's semifinals. I had Florida and Wisconsin. Instead the two upsets made it 22 upsets (by seeding) in 62 NCAA Tournament games, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 35.5 percent. However I most certainly did have a rooting interest, and it was UConn by default. I disdain what Kentucky and John Calipari stand for. "One and done" is a mockery of what college sports and the "student-athlete" should be about. You may disgree. Check back tomorrow for our pregame poll result.

HEAT DRAMA WEEK: WILD RIDE BEGINS WITH DEFEAT OF KNICKS: Miami beat the visiting Knicks 102-91 yesterday behind LeBron James' 38 points (still no Dwyane Wade) in a revival of a former bitter rivalry that still percolates pretty hot. Tuesday the Heat host the Brooklyn Nets, who are 3-0 against Miami this season. Wednesday Miami visits Memphis, which is fighting for its playoff life. Then Friday the Heat host the Pacers in what could be a winner-take-all for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed. I'd contend the Heat has never had a bigger, more dramatic regular-season week. Let's go!

UNFORTUNATELY, CANES JUST GOT INTERESTING: We've been joking how this spring has been "splendidly boring" for Al Golden's Miami Hurricanes, with no NCAA cloud and no controversies. Well, unfortunately, things got interesting fast with the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Williams. The fifth-year senior caught an awful break with a reported ACL tear injury in his right knee requiring surgery. No prognosis yet, but an extended recovery of four-plus months may be anticipated. That means redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen is the likely starter now, for the forseeable future, and likely tino the start of the upcoming season. A huge blow for the 2014 Canes, and you have to feel badly for Williams, who waited in line for this opportunity only to see it taken from him.

Poll result: Marlins should keep Jose over Giancarlo: We asked which of Marlins' Big 2 you'd prefer the club spend big to keep long-term, and it was 73.98 percent for Jose Fernandez, 26.02%  for Giancarlo Stanton.

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April 04, 2014

Sat pm 4-5: Gator Nation mourns Final Four loss; plus Marlins' Fernandez-or-Stanton poll, Kiper on Dolphins draft, Heat, Zo, Letterman & more

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 5. Heat really missed Dwyane Wade in last night's double-OT loss to Minnesota. Miami three-peats with a healthy Wade, doesn't without him. Period. 2) I was remiss in not remarking yesterday on the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most important people anywhere, any time. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should-college-football-players-be-compensated with poll, Pat Riley talks Big 3 future & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

1aa1afinal4FINALLY THE FINAL FOUR: GATORS UPSET LOSERS, KENTUCKY IN: No. 1-seed Florida Gators were favored over No. 7 UConn in today's early game but lost 63-53, a surprise if not a stunner. No. 8 Kentucky edged No. 2 Wisconsin 74-73 in in the late game. Our original post on the Final Four from four angles:

Our analysis, predictions: Florida-Connecticut--Gators have won 30 straight since last losing Dec. 2 to UConn on a buzzer beater, and I like Florida here without much hesitation. UConn is a one-man show with Shabazz Napier, while the Gators are so balanced and deep, with Scottie Wilbekin's court command, Casey Prather's offense, Dorian Finney-Smith's rebinding, Will Yeguete's unsung dirty work, and of course man-among-boys Patric Young's power inside. Wisconsin-Kentucky: Fascinating contrast, with Wisconsin's veteran, unheralded bunch vs. Kentucky's young One-and-Done crew of highly recruited stars led by NBA-ready Julius Randle and villain-coach John Calipari. Team vs. Individuals. My picks: Handling the atmosphere, stage and crowd of 75,000 in a football stadium could be a huge factor tonight. That's partly why I like the two older, veteran teams. Make it Florida, 68-58, and Wisconsin, 70-67.

My bracket: Go Gators!: Florida is the only team I have alive in the FF, and I have the Gators winning it all, so my rooting interests are with Gainesville (sorry, Canes fans). I'm out of the running in my lone office pool but it'd be nice to at least say I got the champ right.

1aa1affanimalsFinal Four by influential alumni: Somebody at Time.com had waaay too much free time and came up with a way to compare schools by how many influential alumni each has. Influence in this case was measured (dubiously) by how many alumni had Wikipedia pages and how long they were. Anyway, Florida Gators are 3.66 times more influential than UConn Huskies (220.6 to 60.2), and Wisconsin Badgers are 1.70 times more influential than Kentucky Wildcats (151.2 to 88.7). So there's that.  

Cinderell-O-Meter: Entering the Final Four exactly one-third of men's NCAA Tournament games this year (20 of 60) have been upsets based on seeding. All 20 upsets, ranked by seed differential: +11: 14-Mercer d. 3-Duke; +8: 10-Stanford d. 2-Kansas, 11-Dayton d. 3-Syracuse; +7: 8-Kentucky d. 1-Wichita State, 12-North Dakota State d. 5-Oklahoma, 12-Harvard d. 5-Cincinnati, 12-Stephen F. Austin d. 5-VCU; +6: 8-Kentucky d. 2-Michigan; +5: 7-UConn d. 2-Villanova, 11-Dayton d. 6-Ohio State, 11-Tennessee d. 6-UMass; +4: 7-UConn d. 3-Iowa State, 8-Kentucky d. 4-Louisvile; +3: 4-Michigan State d. 1-Virginia, 6-Baylor d. 3-Creighton, 7-UConn d. 4-Michigan State, 10-Stanford d. 7-New Mexico; +1: 2-Wisconsin d. 1-Arizona, 9-Pitt d. 8-Colorado, 11-Dayton d. 10-Stanford.

WHICH OF MARLINS' BIG 2 SHOULD TEAM PRIORITIZE KEEPING?: The premise of course is that the penurious Marlins won't spend to keep both pitcher Jose Fernandez and slugger Giancarlo Stanton long-

1aa1ajoseright 1aa1agiancarloleftterm. Each will command the kind of financial committment associated with Yankees or Dodgers spending, not with Jeffrey Loria. (I explore all of this in today's latest column; click Marlins Big 2 to read). The likeliest scenario is that Miami will prioritize locking up Fernandez and trading Stanton after this season, but is that wise? Which player would you keep if you thought the team had an equal chance to sign either and planned to keep only one? I know, I know. Why can't they keep both!? But we're trying to deal with reality here. So take a dip in our poll and say why.

DOLPHINS' TOP 3 DRAFT PICKS ACCORDING TO KIPER...: Mel Kiper Jr. on ESPN.com predicts every NFL team's top 1aa1acalvinpthree picks in the May draft and here are his guesses for Miami: 1st round--Safety Calvin Pryor (pictured), Louisville. 2nd round--Offensive tackle Joel Bitonio, Nevada. And 3rd round--Offensive tackle Jack Mewhort, Ohio State. (I should note that the player most early mock drafts have Miami taking first -- Notre Dame OT Zack Martin -- goes 17th, according to Kiper. Dolphins pick 19th).

THANK YOU, ALONZO MOURNING: Comes the news that former Heat star Alonzo Mourning is going into 1aa1aalonzomthe Basketball Hall of Fame, and it is deserved. We're talking about a great player and a better man. On the court he was an inspiring, scowling, biceps-flexing defensive monster. Off the court he encouraged many fighting and overcoming kidney disease, and he has been a community giant with his philanthropy and time-giving. A small snapshot I recall: A brawl in the 1998 Heat-Knicks playoff series found Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy latched onto Mourning's lower leg "like a poodle on a redwood," I wrote in a column. Next day at practice, Mourning started laughing out loud at the reference, saying how much he'd enjoyed it. Thank you, Zo.

THANK YOU, DAVID LETTERMAN': David Letterman, for me the No. 2 late-night icon of all-time after 1aa1adavelJohnny Carson, says he's retiring next year, and that's worth a quick homage here. Letterman is my kind of humor, absurdity meets wise-ass, and I loved him from the start. For years you were a Letterman guy or a Leno guy, and the choice was always a no-brainer for me. There was something about dropping watermelons and TV sets from a three-story building to watch them smash on the ground that appealed to me. I was just out of college when he came on in the early '80s and he's been a big part of the laugh-track of my life ever since. Thank you, Dave.

Poll result: Close call, but don't further compensate college football players: We asked in the wake of the NLRB/unionization ruling (you may still vote) if college football players should be compensated beyond their scholarships, and "no" beat "yes" 49.7 percent to 43.9%. The remaining 6.4% were undecided.

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