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15 posts from April 2013

April 29, 2013

Significance of NBA's first gay player (and the reaction); plus Nets stay alive to face Heat, Dolphins' new SB odds, Ed DuBois & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MAY 1. Another year, another Greg Cote snub in the Tony nominations. 2) "I am no better, and neither are you." --Sly Stone, 1968. This for the intolerant: Everyday People. 3) Played golf Sunday at Jacaranda for a great cause in the Angela Kramer-White Memorial Tournament. I played lousy; however, I did win closest-to-the-beer. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Grading Dolphins draft, Canes avert shuout, Heat sweep Bucks, Shane Larkin, Marlins Sad-O-Meter. 5Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Nets stay alive to face Heat guillotine: Brooklyn beats Chicago 110-91 at home to shave Bulls' series lead to 3-2. Winner faces Miami. Game 6 Thursday night in Chitown.

Click on The First Steps Forward for my latest column, on the bravery of Jason Collins and why this is important for pro sports and for the cause of equal rights.

1aa1collinsWIZARDS CENTER: "I'M GAY": Free agent 7-foot center Jason Collins, who finished this season with the Washington Wizards, reveals himself as the cover subject (pictured) of the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated newly available. His story begins: "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." Click here for the whole story; it is as compelling as you'd imagine. Collins has seldom been an important player on the court. He last started in the 2006-07 season and has become an end-of-the-bench journeyman. His career scoring average is 3.6 points. But he has become an important player now, near the end of that career, by becoming the first active, openly gay athlete in one fo America's big-four team sports. Does this have the same impact as if a rising star had come out? No. But it still is a significant watershed in that a door that always has been shut has now been nudged ajar. Somebody had to be the first. Good for Jason Collins. Update: There has been widespread praise and support for Collins on Twitter and then there as this from Dolphin Mike Wallace: 'All of them beautiful women in the world and guys want to mess with other guys ... I just don't understand.' Wallace soon deleted the Tweet and quickly apologized. Hey you're not all alone, Mike. Chris Broussard today on ESPN called being gay "an open rebellion to God." What century is this again!?

DOLPHINS' SUPER BOWL ODDS: Courtesy the good folks at Bovada, updated post-draft Super Bowl betting favorites are 49ers at 6-1, Broncos 15-2, Patriots 8-1 and Seahawks 9-1, with Miami a modest 40-1 (tied for 18th). Pats/Dolphins are 1-2 in AFC East well ahead of Jets at 75-1 and Bills at 100-1.

Dolphins' pre-training camp dates announced: Rookie minicamp will be May 3-5. OTA offseason workouts will be May 21-23, May 29-31 and June 3-6. And mandatory minicamp will be June 11-13.

Poll result: Dolfans pleased if not quite thrilled with draft: We asked for grades, almost 3,000 of you and counting have responded and a plurality of 48.4 percent gave Miami's draft a "B." "A" (26.1%) outpolled "C" (21.3%), while only 4.2% voted "D." So roughly three-quarters voted A or B. Is that fairly interpreted as pleased-but-not-quite-thrilled overall?

1aa1pain&gain 1aa1eddubTHE REMARKABLE ED DUBOIS: I met Ed (pictured) several years ago researching a 50-years-later column on a Miami team that won the 1958 Little League World Series. Ed was a member of that team who went on to a colorful career as a private investigator whose work in the 1990s partly inspired the new Mark Wahlberg/Dwayne Johnson film, Pain & Gain. Actor Ed Harris portrays the role of DuBois in the movie. DuBois, also a songwriter, has a new country-rock feel song called Pain & Gain. Click on the title to download.

UPDATED: MARLINS "SAD-O-METER": We have a new feature we'll update in the blog throughout the season as long as the Marlins' winning percentage is under .300. The New York Mets' 1aa1bbsad1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is widely regarded as the nadir in its class -- the single worst season in modern MLB history. Now, your Marlins are threatening that ignominy, despite a season-best two-game winning streak. (The sad face is now for Giancarlo Stanton getting injured yet again). Marlins Sad-O-Meter: Current record after last night's win, 7-19 (.269). Updated season pace, 43.62 wins, 118.38 losses.

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Live Blog Q&A/Chat has ended; next Chat May 6

Live Blog Chat: Today's Chat has ended. We do it here every Monday from 1-2 p.m. Click into 'Comments' section here to enter the spacious and lavishly appointed Chat Room live on Mondays or to read transcripts of past Chats.

April 27, 2013

Grading the Dolphins draft. Poll. Vote!; plus Heat's decisive sweep of Bucks, Canes avert draft shutout, Larkin's smart decision, Marlins' updated Sad-O-Meter & more

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 29. Click on Random Evidence for the Sunday notes column, leading with Dolphins' fight to reclaim market's top-dog status from Heat. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins draft: Dion Jordan and Day 2; Heat Game 3 win, Shane Larkin, Marlins Sad-O-Meter. 3Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

GRADE THE DOLPHINS' 2013 DRAFT: I know. It's a little bit insane, an instant-grade poll like this. So what! Sure, it takes a couple of years or even longer to fully, fairly judge any draft, but we're running a 1aa1abcd 1aa1dolsigblog here, not an encyclopedia. I don't care how you view this draft in restrospect after several years; I care what you think now. I don't care what Mel Kiper says; I care what Dolfans think. Looking for gut reaction here. From the trade-up for the top pick through to today's Day of the Gator (three picks from UF), how much did the Dolphins help themselves? Did they fill needs? How excited are you vs. how you hoped to feel? Factor in whom they might have drafted but didn't and give Jeff Ireland and Miami a grade on this draft, then say why. (Why did I not include an 'F' grade? Simply to disappoint Jets fans bent on anarchy). So here is a list of all Miami's picks to refresh the memory, followed by the poll. And the overall grade is...?

1st round (3rd overall) --  DE Dion Jordan, Oregon

2r (54th) -- CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State

3r (77th) -- OT Dallas Thomas, Tennessee

3r (93rd) -- CB Will Davis, Utah State

4r (104th) -- OLB, Jelani  Jenkins, Florida

4r (106th) -- TE Dion Sims, Michigan State

5r (164th) -- RB Mike Gillislee, Florida

5r (166th) -- PK Caleb Sturgis, Florida

7r (250th) -- S Don Jones, Arkansas State

Poll result: Dion Jordan pick grew on you: This was an anomaly. Normally it just takes a few hundred votes for trends to set pretty firmly and results to not change much. But with the Dolphins' selection of Dion Jordan third overall, that was not the case. The immediate-reaction/initial-wave showed "don't like it" in the lead, but that would change substantially. The final verdict: "Love it" 29.0 percent, "like it" 28.3%, "don't like it" 17.7%, "lukewarm" 14.8% and "not sure" 10.2%. That's still a mixed approval rating, but the favorable side grew steadily.

Canes avert draft shutout: Cornerback Brandon McGee goes in the fifth round (149th overall) to the Rams, and running back Mike James in the sixth (189th) to the Bucs. Remembering when UM used to be all over the first round, not Day 3 scraps. FIU equals Miami with two picks: safety Johnathan Cyprien (2nd round/33rd) to Jaguars, and defensive end Tourek Williams (6th/179th) to Chargers.

1aa1bucksheatG4: HEAT 88, BUCKS 77: SWEEEEEEEP!: Dwyane Wade sat out but LeBron James scored 30 to complete the four-game sweep Sunday in Milwaukee. Miami now awaits Chicago-Brooklyn winner, likely Bulls at this point. ..... Original post: Dwyane Wade is a game-time decision today with a sore knee. He should sit. Even if he says he can play, he should sit. 1aa1g4Miami, up 3-0 in the series, can win without Wade and also can afford a loss here. The clear priority should be geting Wade's knee right so is healthy in the ensuing series when he is far more needed.

CAN'T BLAME LARKIN: Two and done, Shane Larkin bolting the Hurricanes for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year. It's too bad for UM, but its understandable. Larkin is healthy and coming of an ACC Player of the Year season for a Sweet 16 team. His stock may never be higher, unless you think it will be one year older and coming off the down-to-earth season Miami is facing. It would have been tough for Larkin top repeat as a conference all-star as the only returning starter. He made the judicious call. Now, hvaing said that, he's still a borderline fiorst-round pick who is not seen as a future NBA star. Analyst Steve Kerr pegs Larkin a backup point guard in the pros. But I doubt one more year of college seasoning would have improved that judgment either. 

UPDATED: MARLINS "SAD-O-METER": We have a new feature we'll update in the blog throughout the 1aa1bbsadseason as long as the Marlins' winning percentage is under .300. The New York Mets' 1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is widely regarded as the nadir in its class -- the single worst season in modern MLB history. Now, your Marlins are threatening that ignominy. Marlins Sad-O-Meter: Current record after Sunday's win, 6-19 (.240). Updated season pace, 38.88 wins, 123.12 losses.

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April 25, 2013

Dolphins draft: Dion Jordan poll, Day 2 picks, Bess trade; plus Heat in charge, Larkin gone, Marlins Sad-O-Meter & more

1aa1dolnewunis1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 27. New blogpost coming later this afternoon! 2) We made some news with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross on the Le Batard show yesterday. (You're welcome). 3) R.I.P., George Jones, the country-music legend, gone at 81. 4) Pictured right, what Mike Wallace looks like in Dolphins' new unis. 5) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Bucks Game 2, Chris Bosh animation, my Mock Draft, Dolphins draft poll. 5b) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

FRIDAY DOLPHINS DRAFT UPDATES: BESS, TAYLOR, THOMAS, DAVIS: Dolphins trade WR Davone Bess to Cleveland for mid-round Saturday pick. Not positive on this deal. Bess was a reliable 50-catch guy. ..... Miami selects Boise State cornerback Jamar Taylor in second round, 54th overall. Gut feeling: Strong pick. Position of great need. Very fast (4.39 40) and fourth-rated CB by draftnike Mel Kiper. ..... Dolphins pick Tennessee OT/OG Dallas Thomas in third round (77th overall). Durable; 37 straight starts to end college career; Miami sees him at tackle ..... Miami trades out of 82nd overall pick but then trades into 93rd pick, selects Utah State CB Will Davis. Second corner of night reflects need at position. ..... Day 2 action leaves Miami with five Day 3 picks: 4-104, 4-106, 5-139, 5-166 and 7-250. ..... Biggest Day 2 question is that Miami failed to complete the trade for Kansas City OT Branden Albert.

THRILLING THURSDAY: MIAMI'S BIG 4 PRO TEAMS ALL TOOK STAGE: This was rare. Last night, all intersecting, we had Dolphins in first round of NFL Draft, Heat-Bucks Game 3 in Milwaukee, Marlins back home to face Cubs, and Panthers in their season home finale. Those are two big events and two sad ones. Marlins are pretty awful (and lost again, 4-3) and Panthers (who lost 4-0) are wrapping up a really disappointing hockey season. So let's accentuate the positive as our two biggest teams took the national stage:

DOLPHINS' FIRST-ROUND: A BIG TRADE-UP FOR DE DION JORDAN: Miami gives up its 12th overall pick and its higher of two second-round picks to trade up to third overall and select Oregon pass rusher Dion 1aa1djordanJordan (pictured). Not expected. A referendum on GM Jeff Ireland's judgment as much as on Jordan. Click on Trusting Ireland for my column on the selection. Now give us your reaction in new poll just below. Original post: up, trade down or stay with the 12th overall pick? We'll find that out before we learn the identity of Miami's newest sports star. Click on '13 1aa1draftnfl13 1aa1dolhelnewMOCK for my 22nd annual Mock Draft. You know by now I think Miami will and should select Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. A wild-card on this draft day is the negotiation to acquire Chiefs tackle Branden Albert by trade for a second-round pick. Talks have been ended until after each team's 1R pick tonight. That's a risk for each side. KC could lose its trade partner if Miami chose an O-lineman, a decision the Dolphins now must consider. Cornerback, offensive tackle and a pass rusher are other primary needs, but with 11 picks as of now including five in the first three rounds Miami will have a chance to address every need. Drafting Eifert would give the Dolphins (they would hope) what the Patriots have in Rob Gronkowski, and continue the emphasis of surrounding QB Ryan Tannehill with weapons.

My mock did not rock: I am not pleased. Overall I correctly picked 24 of the 32 first-round selections, but only three to the exact teams. That's slightly below average on the overall and significantly so on the exactos. Tough year; muddled draft. Florida State QB EJ Manuel going 1R surprised me and just about every other mocker. My biggest miss was Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o, who was not selected Thursday night after I'd had him going 20th.

Poll result: Eifert would be popular pick with fans: We asked and 62.1 percent said they'd like to see Miami draft Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert, vs. only 8.7% for Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes and 5.9% for Alabama OT D.J. Fluker. Another 23.3% voted "somebody else."

1aa1bucksheatG3: HEAT 104, BUCKS 91: CAN YOU SAY 'SWEEP'?: Ray Allen's 23 points off the bench led Miami and LeBron James added 22 but the story of the night (despite the win ) might have been Dwyane Wade scoring only 4 points on 1-for-12 shooting despite big minutes. He had 11 assists and five steals, yes. But his night offensively called into further question the health of his right knee moving forward. Original post: Heat made it look pretty easy in going up 2-0 in Miami. Milwaukee must hold serve tonight at 1aa1g3home for any realistic (read: remote) chance of getting back in this series. Doubt it will happen. Thinks Bucks could pinch Game 4 Thursday, but see Heat with a win tonight. It'll be interesting to see if Dwyane Wade's balky right knee allows him to put on a show for the Milwaukee crowd, his former hometown fans from his Marquette days, because you know he'll want to. (Meantime, Brandon Jennings still thinks Bucks will beat Heat in six games; clear here to hear what "delusional" sounds like).

SHANE LARKIN TURNING PRO ALL BUT OFFICIAL: His announcement news conference is set for 6 p.m. Sunday, but chances are it will be anticlimactic -- stating the obvious. It is widely assumed he will forego a return to UM and instead enter the NBA Draft, with ESPN reporting it's a done deal. That would leave Jim Larranaga with zero returning starters from his Sweet 16 team. 

1aa1bbsadUPDATED: MARLINS "SAD-O-METER": We have introduced a feature we'll update in the blog throughout the season as long as the Marlins' winning percentage is under .300. The New York Mets' 1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is widely regarded as the nadir in its class -- the single worst season in modern MLB history. Now, your Marlins are threatening that ignominy. Marlins Sad-O-Meter: Current record, 5-17 (.227). Updated season projection, 36.8 wins, 125.2 losses.

They're kidding, right? No!?: The Marlins just sent out the following Tweet. It made me laugh out loud:

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April 23, 2013

Wade, Birdman lift Heat as champs seize 2-0 series lead; plus my NFL Mock Draft, your vote for Dolphins' 1st-round pick (w/ poll), new Bosh film & more

1aa1dolnew1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24. New Dolphins uniforms (left) equal much ado about very little. Apart from the apparent disappearance of the color orange they don't seem that new/different. 2) R.I.P., the great protest singer Richie Havens (right). 3)
"Stay white, Miami!" --Micky Arison, 2006. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Five reasons Game 1 should leave Heat fans cockier than ever, new Heat song, biggest-threat poll, lists. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

G2: HEAT 98, BUCKS 86: WADE'S 21 LIFTS MIAMI TO 2-0 LEAD: D-Wade's 21 points and LeBron's 19 were enough last night, with Chris Bosh, Bird Andersen and Shane Battier all adding 10. Dwyane's right knee still isn't just right but he's playing through it. Click on Wade Summons Some Vintage Moments for my column off Game 2. Oh, and Dear Brandon Jennings: How's that prediction looking!? (The Bucks guard had guaranteed Milwaukee in six games). "If it wasn't for their run in their fourth quarter," said Jennings, "we still should have won this game." The word is "delusional." ..... Original post: Game 1s in a seven-game series always are the feeling-out stage. What is each team's game plan? What's the rotation? "Game 2s are always harder," Dwyane Wade said after after today's morning shootaround. "We understand they're going to make adjustment and we have to be ready." That means Erik Spoelstra's imprint on the series gets a little bigger starting tonight. Bracketheads love the one-and-done of the NCAA Tournament -- they don't just love it, they rhapsodize over it -- but I prefer a seven-game format because who advances is a truer reflection of the better, more deserving team. Also love a long series because the complexion of it changes with each result. For example: Can you imagine how differently things would feel if Miami lost tonight and was 1-1 facing two straight games in Milwaukee? Yeah, I can't seem to imagine that, either...

1aa1boshfilm'New Adventures of Christopher Bosh in the Multiverse!': We brought you the first bizarre little Bosh animated film several months ago. Well, a new one has been issued. Click RIGHT HERE to view. It includes a reference to the Miami cannibal face-eater, but that's not my warning. This is: The 11-minute film is so damned trippy that it probably would be best appreciated while floating on a '70s-style mushroom cloud. (Not that I'm endorsing that).

1aa1mymockOUR 2013 NFL MOCK DRAFT: EIFERT TO DOLPHINS: It's our 22nd annual Mock, suggesting an expertise that may or may not be there, although my mock did prove more accurate than Mel Kiper's last year. (Self-depracation plus boasting = Humblebrag). Click on '13 MOCK for my entire first round with capsule analysis for each choice. Here is my Dolphins pick in its entirety:

12. MIAMI DOLPHINS: TYLER EIFERT, TE, NOTRE DAME —So many hedges and caveats trying to divine this pick. Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes might be the safest, most predictable call. And Alabama RT D.J. Fluker also looms 1aa1eifertpossible. I might go Rhodes or Fluker if I wanted the safest bet. A trade-up to grab LT Lane Johnson or even Eric Fisher is possible; Miami has the ammo to go movin’ on up like The Jeffersons. Even a trade-down would not shock. (Much depends on whether the Dolphins complete a predraft deal to acquire chiefs OT Branden Albert.) I have a hunch about Eifert, though. Twelve is higher than his typical projection, but I am told GM Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin are enchanted by Eifert (pictured), seeing in him what the Patriots have in Rob Gronkowski — somebody who can wreak havoc in the red zone and continue giving Ryan Tannehill all he needs to make it big. Eifert is too tall (6-6) for DBs to cover and too fast for most linebackers. If this choice is a bit of a “reach,” it’s a calculated gamble that could hit big for the Dolphins.

OK, now it's your turn: Whose name announced with the 12th pick Thursday night would please you most to hear assuming Miami does not trade up or down? A consensus of most major mock drafts is that it will be Rhodes. I have Eifert. Kiper says Fluker, whose inclusion in the poll presumes a trade for Chiefs tackle Branden Albert will not be completed pre-draft. Obviously plenty of other guys will be available at 12 so I have a "somebody else" category. In voting somebody else, though, please make sure you are thinking of someone who would realistically be available and tell us who. Alright. Ready, set ... vote!

HERE IS A LUNATIC LIST OF ALL 11 GUYS DOLPHINS WILL DRAFT: You'd click on predictionmachine.com for picks on the entire 7-round draft. I list their guesses for Miami's 11 picks here, and call it  a lunatic list with all due respect, of course. Here are their Dolphins picks: 1st round (12th overall)--Utah DT Star Lotulelei; 2r (42)--LSU DE Sam Montgomery; 2r (54)--Oregon State CB Jordan Poyer; 3r (77)--Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor; 3r (82)--Tennessee OT-G Dallas Thomas; 4r (111)--Alabama S Robert Lester; 5r (146)--UCLA OG Jeff Baca; 5r (166)--Tennessee WR Justin Hunter; 7r (217)--Georgia Tech CB Rod Sweeting; 7r (224)--Georgia S Shawn Williams; and 7r (250)--Auburn TE Philip Lutzenkirchen. Two respects to highly suspect this list: They have Oregon's Dion Jordan going late in the third round and LSU's Barkevious Mingo going mid-fifth. Both are certain 1st-rounders, Jordan likely top-five overall and Mingo not far behind.

Poll result: Thunder still biggest threat to Heat: We asked and you had to 39.1 percent Oklahoma City, 28.3% New York Knicks, 19.9% San Antonio Spurs and 12.7% somebody else.

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April 22, 2013

5 reasons why Game 1 win should have Heat fans feeling cockier than ever; plus biggest threat to Heat (poll) & much more

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 22. Thanks to all of today's live blog chatters. We do it Mondays from 1-2 p.m. Now I'm back in The Herald's Mock Draft Laboratories today birthing my annual M.D. Details to come. 2) Somewhere, Ryan Tannehill is smiling as Darrelle Revis is traded from Jets to Bucs. 3)  "Stay white, Miami!" --Micky Arison, 2006. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins schedule and forecast, NBA first-round odds and picks, Branden Albert, Brittney Griner. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

FIVE REASONS HEAT FANS SHOULD BE COCKIER THAN EVER: Ebulllient joy should be raging across the area after last night's 110-87 Game 1 rout of Milwaukee in the first-round playoff series. Heat fans should be cockier than Stephen A. Smith because of these five reasons:

1. LeBron James is so good it's frightening. Last night he scored 27 points on 11 shots. Is that even possible? Bucks cach Jim Boylan: "The guy is the best player in the world, so what can you do?" Bucks guard Brandon Jennings: "You fall asleep out there because you're so worried about what LeBron's gonna do." Dwyane Wade: "LeBron is in playoff mode. We like him like that."

2. Heat is now bigger than just the Big 3: D-Wade was quiet with 16 points, Chris Bosh took only seven shots and it hardly mattered. Miami no longer is a team that needs all of the Big 3 to be 'on.' As James said, "We have so many threats on the floor now, it allows me to play without stress." That stress is transferred to the opponent, because...

3. Bench and depth make Miami better: This year's new weapons, Ray Allen and fan favorite Chris "Birdman" Andersen, combined for 30 of the team's 42 bench points. Former key reserves like James Jones and Joel Anthony are stuck to the bench now. Mike Miller didn't even play last night.

4. Confidence is at an all-time high: Winning it all last year, the record-setting regular season this year. LeBron's MVP season and last night's spar from Allen/Andersen combine to make this team, right now, feeling better about itself than it ever has.

5. Milwaukee poses no threat: Heat can ease though this series and use it to hit a stride for bigger tests ahead because the Bucks, after guards Jennings and Monta Ellis, have no real third scoring threat. I mean, the center is Larry Sanders. What the hell is HBO's Garry Shandling doing as a starting center!?

* Click Milwaukee No Match for my column off Game 1. Click The Best Got Better for my column in our Heat postseason preview section. Click Random Evidence for our Sunday notes column leading with Heat playoffs and Dolphins draft making it an exciting time for Miami fans.

Heat introduce new playoff song, "Wade in the Water": Click on Wade in the Water to hear Heat's new playoff anthem, featuring the lyric, "Wade in the water, he gonna trouble the water..." 1aa1wadewater'Trouble the water,' of course, is street slang for create havoc or, in this case, dominate the postseason. OK that's the premise here. The real story: Wade in the Water is a 1950s gospel song by the Staple Singers (pictured). To imagine this old spiritual being played in the arena as pump-up music is (at least to me) funny.

G1: HEAT 110, MILWAUKEE 87: LEBRON'S 27 LEAD PLAYOFF-OPENING WIN: LeBron James' 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists led Miami in Game 1. It was close for awhile but the champions pulled away. Heat enjoyed 43 bench points, including 20 from Ray Allen, and showed last night why it is better than last season. Allen and Chris "Bird" Andersen, the two new players, played major roles. Dwyane Wade was quiet and Chris Bosh took only seven shots, but it didn't matter. Mike Miller couldn't get off the bench Sunday night. ..... Original post: Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings promised the Bucks would win this series in six games. The number of people in the United 1aa1bucksheatStates who truly believe that could convene in the bed of a Ford F-150 pickup truck and not be particularly crowded. Miami is a prohibitive betting favorite not just to win this first-round series but to win four games in a row starting with Game 1 here tonight at 7; odds of a sweep are 4-to-5. The intrigue in this series, for me, is to see how coach Erik Spoelstra's starting lineup and rotation shake out after the Big 3 of 1aa1heatseatsLeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and steady fourth starter Mario Chalmers. Will the fifth man be Udonis Haslem? Shane Battier? What will be Mike Miller's role? Will the basic rotation be pared to nine or even eight? Might we see an April Surprise such as big minutes for Joel Anthony? The better question for the moment: Can the Bucks avoid a four-game sweep? I say no. Pictured left: What arriving fans will see at the arena tonight. Pictured right: A deer in the headlights.

WHAT TEAM IS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO A HEAT REPEAT?: Sorry, but "nobody" isn't an available 1aa1heatwhanswer. Heat fans have a right to be confident/cocky with Miami a 5-to-8 betting favorite to repeat. But somebody out there poses the biggest eventual challenge, whether it's Carmelo Anthony's Knicks in the East, perhaps the Thunder or Spurs out West ... or someone else. We might all agree the answer is most likely not Milwaukee, but after that, who? Take a dip in our poll and say why. A number of the early votes are saying "somebody else." Curious who you mean. Indiana? L.A. Clippers? Share.

Heat beyond prohibitive first-round favorites: Miami is a 1-to-250 betting favorite to advance past this first round, according to Bovada. That's insane. Next biggest favorite is Oklahoma City at 1-20. Heat individual over/unders on series averages are LeBron James 27.5 points, Dwyane Wade 21.5 and Chris Bosh 16.0. For Milwaukee it's Monta Ellis 19.5 and Brandon Jennings 16.5.

1aa1brawlTHE LIST: HEAT PLAYOFF HISTORY: This is the first time Miami has faced Milwaukee in the postseason, making Bucks the 15th different opponent Miami has met. Heat playoff opponents, ranked by total number of postseason games:

Games   Opp.   Heat W-L (Series)   Years

29      NY Knicks         15-14 (2-3)     97-98-99-00-12

26      CHI Bulls            9-17 (2-4)     92-96-97-06-07-11

17      BOS Celtics        9-8 (2-1)       10-11-12

16      DET Pistons      10-6 (2-1)      00-05-06

12      IND Pacers         6-6 (1-1)      04-12

12      DAL Mavericks   6-6 (1-1)      06-11

12      ATL Hawks        5-7 (0-2)      94-09

9        NJ Nets             8-1 (2-0)      05-06

7        NO Hornets       4-3 (1-0)      04

5        OKC Thunder     4-1 (1-0)       12

5        PHI 76ers          4-1 (1-0)       11

5        ORL Magic        3-2 (1-0)       97

4        WAS Wizards    4-0 (1-0)      05

3        CHA Hornets     0-3 (0-1)      01

NOTE: Heat's six seven-games series have been in 1997 (Won/Knicks); 2000 (Lost/Knicks); 2004 (Won/Hornets); 2005 (Lost/Pistons); 2009 (Lost/Hawks); and 2012 (Won/Celtics).

1aa1dwade46THE LIST II: HEAT PLAYOFF RECORDS: Individual Heat postseason game records in eight major statistical categories across the franchise's 25-year history:

Category       Record     Player               Set

Points             46       Dwyane Wade     2010 vs. BOS

Field goals      19       LeBron James     2012 vs. BOS

Free throws    21        Dwyane Wade    2006 vs. DAL

3-pointers        7        Damon Jones '05 v. NJ & Mike Miller '12 v. OKC

Rebounds       20       Rony Seikaly '94 v. ATL & Shaq. O'Neal '06 v. CHI

Assists          15         Dwyane Wade     2005 vs. WAS

Steals             6         LeBron James    2012 vs. IND

Blocks             9         Alonzo Mourning  2000 vs. DET

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Live Blog Q&A / Chat has ended; next chat April 29

Live Blog Chat returns!: Today's chat has ended. We do it every Monday from 1-2 p.m. expects Mondays when we don't. Click on Comments below for transcript of our latest chat.

April 18, 2013

Dolphins' schedule: Here's early call on won-lost record; plus NBA 1R playoffs odds and my picks, Branden Albert, Heat MVOG, Brittney Griner & more

1aa1rsd1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 20. It is Record Store Day! Unshackle yourself from the chains, go find a local indie shop and hunt for some great vinyl. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat MVOG poll, Heat-Bucks, Kiper plays Ireland, Marlins odds, Shane Larkin, reflections on Boston. 3) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

That ol' Peyton Magic?: Bovada tells us the Super Bowl champion Ravens will be a 7 1/2-point underdog at Denver in the 2013 NFL season opener, the first time in at least eight years the defending champ has been an opening 'dog.

DOLPHINS SCHEDULE IS READY FOR PRIME TIME: NFL schedules were finalized, and Miami will be under the lights thrice: Sept. 30 at New Orleans (a Monday), Oct. 31 here vs. Cincinnati (a Thursday), 1aa1dol13logoand Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay (a Monday). Dolphins open with two straight on road, Sept. 8 at Cleveland and Sept. 15 at Cleveland, with the home opener Sept. 22 at 4:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta. Bye week is Oct. 13. The full schedule:

September: 8--at Cleveland, 1 p.m.; 15--at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.; 22--vs. Atlanta, 4:05 p.m.; 30--at New Orleans, 8:40 p.m. October: 6--vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m.; 13--Bye; 20--vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m.; 27--at New England, 1 p.m.; 31--vs. Cincinnati, 8:25 p.m. November: 11--at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:40 p.m.; 17--vs. San Diego, 1 p.m.; 24--vs. Carolina, 1 p.m. December: 1--at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.; 8--at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.; 15--vs. New England, 1 p.m.; 22--at Buffalo, 1 p.m.; 29--vs. N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

The quickie analysis: Six games clear favorites, four clear 'dogs, six in-between. Seeing 10-6 / playoffs as a legitimate early possibility. Not a great home schedule, beyond Patriots and champion Ravens. Although I guess we still include the Stinkin' Jets, even though they actually do stink now.

NBA FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF ODDS, OUR PICKS: The 16 most deserving teams have made the playoffs that start this weekend. Or, as i like to say it: The 15 most deserving teams plus the Milwaukee Bucks. Our opening-round synopses and picks, starting with the East of course:

1aa1buckNo. 1 seed Miami Heat vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks: Must we even go through the pretense that the losing-record Bucks will be anything other than ease-into-it fodder for the revving defending champions? No, we must not go through that pretense. Miami vs. Milwaukee in the first round is like the U.S. vs. Barbados in a war. Bovada betting title odds: Heat 2-3, Bucks 500-1. My pick: Heat in 4 games. [Click on Must Win for today's latest column from me on the Heat as it segues from regular season to playoffs]. 

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and wise Doc Rivers have enough left to make this interesting. Surely the recent Boston bombings will be an emotional factor. NYK and Carmelo bring too much, though. Title odds: Knicks 16-1, Celtics 66-1. My pick: Knicks in 7.

No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks: Indy brings the annoying, cocky, defensive brats Miami wouldn't mind avoiding en route to the Finals. I give Hawks a better chance than most seem to but do not see an outright upset. Title odds: Pacers 25-1, Hawks 150-1. My pick: Pacers in 6.

No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls: By seed and betting odds an even series. Tough to side against Deron Williams, but I like Chitown rising up even without Derrick Rose. Title odds: Nets 60-1, Bulls 60-1. My pick: Feels like an upset even if it isn't. Bulls in 7.

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets: James Harden vs. his former team makes the easy storyline, but Jim is surrounded by enough talent o top his ex's. No hiccup here to the inevitable OKC-Heat Finals rematch. Title odds: Thunder 17-4, Rockets 100-1. My pick: Thunder in 6.

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have been on the court together without Kobe Bryant five minutes all season. Five minutes! Just a gut feeling on this one. Title odds: Spurs 10-1, Lakers 40-1. My pick: Upset! Lakers in 7.  

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors: Denver has hardly seemed to miss Danilo Gallinari. I give Golden State less a first-round shot than any team not named Milwaukee. Title odds: Nuggets 25-1, Warriors 100-1. My pick: Nuggets in 5.

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies: I think a strong Memphis defense will slow LAC into a haf-court mode and take away the Clips' run-and-lob preferences. Title odds: Clippers 25-1, Grizzlies 40-1. My pick: Upset! Grizzlies in 6.

NOT SURE BRANDEN ALBERT IS WORTH IT: The Dolphins are negotiating to agree to terms with 1aa1albertband then trade for Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert -- even though coach Andy Reid later told KC media his team had not granted Miami permission for such discussions. Hmm. Anyway, the issue to me is whether Albert (pictured) is worth the second-round pick being talked about. He is 28, a pretty solid starter but nothing more. Has not made a Pro Bowl in five seasons. Has had sporadic back issues. He'll be wanting Jake Long money, but is he worth it? Is he that much better than Jonathan Martin to spend that much and also yield a high pick? I'd be more inclined to make the deal if it was for the lower (54th overall) of Miami's two 2R picks; the other is 42nd overall.

Poll result: Battier, Birdman lead Heat 'MVOG' vote: Who is the Heat's Most Valuable Other Guy? (Meaning non-Big 3). We asked, and you anointed Shane Battier (40.4 percent) and Chris "Birdman" Andersen (30.3%) as your clear picks. Results surprised me a bit. I thought starter Mario Chalmers (12.7%) and star-reserve Ray Allen (11.3%) would fare much better. The other four guys on the ballot (Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis) had negligible support.

GOOD FOR BRITTNEY GRINER: The Baylor star-turned-No. 1 pick in the recent WNBA draft has revealed 1aa1brittneyshe is gay. She didn't "announce" it. She mentioned it casually. She was not defensive, flip or ambiguous. It was as if she was discussing the weather. Perfect. America has been waiting for a prominent, active professional team-sports star to come out. We have one  now. It isn't the headline maker it would be if it were an NFL or NBA star -- far from it. But that's OK. Griner's honesty (and to a degree bravery) makes it that much easier for her male counterparts to someday prove themselves as strong. You're out there, guys. We're waiting...

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April 17, 2013

Vote! Who is Heat's MVOG (Most Valuable Other Guy)?; plus Heat-Bucks schedule, Kiper plays Ireland, Marlins, reflections on Boston & more

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 18. NFL says Larry Litttle will anounce Dolphins' 2nd- and 3rd-round draft picks. 2) UM linebacker Eddie Johnson officially departs for Hinds Community College. 3) R.I.P. Pat Summerall, 82, for many the voice of football. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Boston Marathon tragedy, Man vs. World on Heat, Dolphins' Mount Rushmore results, UM spring football, New Orleans visit. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Heat-Bucks schedule: Game 1--Sunday 21st at MIA 7 pm; 2--Tuesday 23rd at MIA 7:30; 3--Thursday 25th at MILW 7; 4--Sunday 28th at MILW 3:30. If necessary: 5--Tuesday 30th at MIA tbd;p 6--Thursday 2nd at MILW tbd; 7--Saturday 4th at MIA tbd. Click on Must Win for my forward-looking column off last night's regular season finale. Dwyane Wade says Miami must win a repeat title for the record-setting regular season to matter.  

Click UM In Right, But NCAA Has Might for today's latest column.

FORGET THE BIG 3. WHO HAS BEEN HEAT'S MOST VALUABLE OTHER GUY?: LeBron James will win another NBA season MVP award or the league should be disbanded. So a vote on the Heat's season MVP 1aa1heatwould be pointless; it's obvious. Likewise, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the Heat's second and third 1aa1mvogbest and most valuable players beyond argument. But after the Big 3? There the debate begins. In this poll I offer a choice of the eight other players who have played most. Any of four of them, to me, might be legitimate picks here. Have your say. Vote and say why.

KIPER PLAYS IRELAND ON DOLPHINS DRAFT: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, take the month off. ESPN draftnik Mel Kiper has done your job for you by revealing Miami's picks in the first three rounds. Dolphs are only NFL team with five, by the way. They'll be, says Mel: 1st round (12th overall)--Alabama OT D.J. Fluker; 2R (42nd)--Florida State DE Tank Carradine; 2R (54th)--UConn CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson; 3R (77th)--North Carolina State CB David Amerson; and 3R (82nd)--Harvard FB Kyle Juszczyk.

MORE REFLECTIONS ON BOSTON: I grew up in South Florida but was born in Massachusetts, 25 miles west of Boston, in Lawrence. Many longtime readers know the Red Sox and Carl Yastrzemski were my 1aa1bosnyfirst love in sports. My second was the parquet floor on which Bill Russell and John Havlicek worked. But of course I felt Monday's Boston Marathon tragedy not because of those roots, but as an American. Background matters not at a time like that. We are all one country. It sounds corny, but it is the one truism that the terrorists fail to understand: That what they think will tear us apart, binds us together instead. I was so moved to see people running toward where the bombs blew, to render aid. To hear of runners sprinting straight from the race to the nearest hospital, to donate blood. New York understands, and so the Yankees last night displayed both teams' logos with the banner, 'United We Stand,' and played the Red Sox anthem Sweet Caroline during the game. (Click here to see and hear that sweet gesture). Times like these remind us there are so many evil people in the world .. but also that there are so many, many more who are good. [Click on We Deal With It for my reaction to the tragedy, a column I am grateful to say has appeared in newspapers all over the country].

Papelbon goes there: Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies (and ex-Red Sox) pitcher, might have had a little internal voice saying, "Don't go there." But he went there. He might have heard that little inward voice warn, "Don't be that guy." But he was that guy. Papelbon, yesterday, on the Boston bombings: "Today's day and age has gotten so crazy. Shoot, man, Obama wants to take our guns from us and everything."

MARLINS UPDATED WORLD SERIES ODDS. NO, SERIOUSLY!: Hey, Mr. Vegas wants somebody to bet on everybody. Hence, odds. Updated World Series odds from Bovada, new today, have a bunched crowd for favorite, with Tigers 7-1, Braves 15-2 and Nationals 8-1. Your Marlins are dead last now at 1,000-to-1.

SHANE LARKIN, DON'T GO: Hurricanes point guard Shane Larkin's protrcated decision whether to return 1aa1larkinto UM or enter the NBA draft is said to be leaning toward go-pro, according to ESPN's Chad Ford. That would be unfortunate for him, I think. Larkin would not be a certain first-round draft pick. TNT's Steve Kerr, appearing on 790 The Ticket recently, responded to my question about Larkin's NBA future by saying he'd be a career backup. Larkin needs another college season to solidify his first-round status and improve perceptions about his upside on the next level.

On FIU's basketball hire: Norfolk State's Anthony Evans taking over FIU men's basketball feels like a solid hire if only because -- unlike star names Richard Pitino and Isiah Thomas before that -- Evans seems like he might not treat the job as an immediate stepping stone. FIU doesn't need another fast-break outta town. It needs a coach who wants to stay, and build.   

1aa1gokartqb"DEAR GREG...": "...your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a picture of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill riding a go-kart. Thank you." Dear reader, I'll see what I can do. No promises.

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April 15, 2013

On the Boston Marathon tragedy; plus man vs. world on Heat title chances, Shula tops Dolphins Mount Rushmore, New Orleans & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17. Dolphins' Joe Philbin is named one of four new members of a coaches' subcommittee to the NFL Competition Committee. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins' Mount Rushmore vote, Heat's club-record for wins. 3) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

1aa1boston2 1aa1bostonON THE BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING TRAGEDY: I have written about this even though it is only in the most peripheral and insignificant sense a sports story. That's OK, because I am not a sports writer first. I am an American. Click on We Get Up; We Deal With It for my new column on yesterday's tragedy, now online and in the A-section of Tuesday's inky pulp editions.

ONE MAN VS. WORLD ON HEAT TITLE LIKELIHOOD: John Hollinger, ESPN's NBA numbers-nerd turned Memphis Grizzlies executive, is pretty much flying solo on thinking Miami is not the favorite to repeat 1aa1heatrepas NBA champion. His rankings formula that ESPN continues to use has Oklahoma City rated No. 1 by better than a 2-point margin over the Heat, and his playoff permutations give the Thunder a 34.1 percent likelihood to win the title, vs. Miami's 25.9%. (It's a two-team race. Next are Denver at 8.8% and the Knicks at 7.5%). Hollinger does not reflect public opinion, which sets and moves betting lines. Bovada today has Miami a prohibitive 5-7 favorite to repeat as champ, with OKC next at 9-2. (That's a big shift to the Heat just since Jan. 5, when Bovada had Miami a 2-1 favorite and OKC 15-4). I side with the odds over Hollinger. Miami's path to the Finals is a bit less trecherous than OKC's in the West. Don't think the Knicks can beat Miami in a long series, not even if Carmelo Anthony stays fire-y. It's also huge that the Heat (36-4 at home) will have the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. One could argue intangibles such as "hunger" leaning in OKC's favor in the presumptive repeat Finals, but I wouldn't -- not with LeBron James and Miami chasing a dynasty, a legacy. Pictured: LeBron celebrating last summer's trophy. Lesson contained in photo? Erik Spoelstra should never again wear a cap backward.

1aa1dolmtrDOLPHINS' MOUNT RUSHMORE: SHULA EDGES MARINO FOR PEAK: We asked for your input on a Dolphins Mount Rushmore in the previous blogpost (you may still vote) and almost 8,000 votes were cast -- one of our most successful polls ever. Thanks to all. Don Shula, Dan Marino, Larry Csonka and Joe Robbie made the mountain, in that order. Shula with 24.38 percent edged Marino's 24.17% for the top spot. (Given the poll format, that means each was included on more than 96% of ballots cast). Csonka made it comfortably with 16.55%. The fourth spot was tight, with founding owner Robbie edging Bob Griese, 10.79 to 10.14. I think your choices were solid, as was the order. (I wonder if Marino might have narrowly topped Shula if the vote were taken prior to his recent little infidelity skirmish). Anyway, thanks to all.

A quick note on the 'Mount Rushmore' concept: Of course I am aware my friend Marc Hochman does a Mount Rushmore thing on his 790 radio show. Folks, Mount Rushmore has been around since 1925 and media references to "the Mount Rushmore of..." have been around nearly as long. In the mid-'80s I nicknamed the Hurricanes' defensive line "Mount Rush-More." On July 16, 2010, pre-dating Hoch's bit, I wrote, "Any local athletic Mount Rushmore started with Don Shula and Dan Marino before opening itself to debate." (You could look it up; I did). Upon Neil Rogers' death I referred to Uncle Neil as being on the -- you guessed it -- of local radio. And so forth. The idea is hardly Hoch's, or mine. Laying claim to Mount Rushmore is about like taking credit for a play on March Madness bracketology. C'mon, man!

ON UM SPRING FOOTBALL: Never been a big fan of college spring football. I think universities could save a ton of money and also swing the student-athlete definition a bit closer to what it should be by not having the guys be football players in February, March and April. Beyond that, results of UM's Spring Game on Saturday were less than illuminating. QB Stephen Morris and RB Duke Johnson looked great. We figured going into the spring that the Canes looked explosive on offense but had doubts to settle on defense. Exiting the spring we think the same.

SINGING NEW ORLEANS' PRAISES: Love the Big Easy. Been there for three or four Sugar Bowls, a couple 1aa1noarcof Dolphins-Saints games, two Mardi Gras and, just now, a long weekend with friends. The people are great, and the music and food get me every time. Love the architecture and the funky vibe (photos by me). The city is constantly in party-mode and therefore is 1aa1nojestervery touristy, but there nevertheless are places worth visiting despite the tourist factor. They include Cafe du Monde for beignets, Preservation Hall for old-school jazz, and Nola for dinner (the stuffed chicken wings are one of a kind). Also did a bayou airboat excursion that was well worth it. I avoid Pat O'Brien's; you can drink a better Hurricane elsewhere. In the future I'll also steer clear of the all-you-can-drink Bloody Marys at Daisy Dukes. They lead to trouble ... :)

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