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15 posts from April 2014

April 29, 2014

Silver hammers Sterling: Clippers' racist-owner banned for life, with Heat reaction, poll result; plus Jameis Winston, Bruce Springsteen & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30. ICYMI, click on The Perfect Quarterback for our column on the death of Dolphins icon Earl Morrall. It generated a voluminous positive reaction. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte Game 4, Donald Sterling poll, RIP Dr. Jack, Dolphins draft, Herald building, Panthers firing, Jeff ireland, NCAA odds & more. 3) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

Crab theft sacks Winston:
 Man the folks over at TMZ are en fuego. Just days after breaking the Donald Sterling/racist tape story, they report here that Florida State has booted two-sport star Jameis Winston off the baseball team after a charge that he stole crab legs from a grocery store.

 SILVER HAMMER! 1aa1aadamsCLIPPERS OWNER BANNED FOR LIFE, FINED MAXIMUM: New NBA commissioner Adam Silver (pictured) wasn't fooling around yesterday. At a news conference in New York he banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling "for life" for racist views expressed in an audiotape -- views that outraged players throughout the league. Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by the NBA Constitution. In addition, Silver said he would seek a three-fourths majority vote of NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the team. Click Silver Lining for my latest column, online and in today's inky pulp editions.

Poll result: You support tough sanctions against Sterling: We asked what the punishment should be for Sterling and most, 58.6 percent, said he should be made to sell team or relinquish power, while 20.8% said he should be suspended and/or fined. Another 16.9% said no punishment, that he has a right to his views, while 3.7% said an apoogy was enough. (You may still vote in our previous blogpost).

Heat react to decision: Heat players and others were among the NBA family reacting strongly and positively to Silver's actions Tuesday against Sterling. A sampling from Twitter: Owner Micky Arison: "Great job Adam.The NBA is in good hands. You have my full support." LeBron James: "Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerfukl league!! Great leader!!" Dwyane Wade: "Commissioner Silver....STRONG...way to take charge and protect our great league."

THE BOSS REIGNS IN SUNRISE: We saw Bruce Springsteen at the Panthers arena in Sunrise last night (posted a couple of Vines from it) and for me he lived up to and in some ways exceeded his legend's 1aa1abrucesstatus. Stevie Van Zandt was not in the E Street Band last night but he was mostly missed visually with that iconic bandana. The sublime Tom Morello, from Rage Against the Machine et al, more than made up musically. Attendees, in the mosh pit near the stage, included Heat prez Pat Riley and his lookalike pal, actor Michael Douglas. [Background: This was my fourth Springsteen show. The first was his famous Orange Bowl gig in September 1985 on the Born in the USA tour, the next was his Ghost of Tom Joad acoustical tour at the smaller Sunrise Musical Theater in December 1996, and the previous was I think May 2008 back at the hockey arena on the Magic tour. I call myself a big Springsteen fan, though not a know-every-lyric-to-every-song worshipper]. Last night's show was weighted to non-radio hits, though he played enough of those to satisfy casual fans. Are there casual Springsteen fans, though? You get the feeling 90 percent of the fans at his shows are devotees wearing 30-year-old Springsteen T-shirts. No artist I have ever seen live connects better with his audience, and last night that was literally. He constantly walked among the crowd to sing and at one point fell backward into the floor-level throng and was slowly transported in that fashion at least 20 yards back to the stage, singing all the while. What a sight. What a show. There were so many signtaure songs Springsteen did not perform, including "Born In the USA" and "Glory Days," but nobody seemed to mind. It was three hours of verifying his nickname with energy and excellence: The Boss.

Springsteen setlist from last night: 1--Clampdown; 2--Badlands; 3--High Hopes; 4--No Surrender; 5--I Wanna Marry You; 6--Linda Let Me Be The One; 7--Boom Boom; 8--Hearts Of Stone; 9--Talk To Me; 10--Wrecking Ball; 11--Hungry Heart; 12--Save My Love; 13--The River; 14--Prove It All Night; 15--My Love Will Not Let You Down; 16--Darlington County; 17--Shackled and Drawn; 18--The Ghost of Tom Joad; 19--The Rising; 20--Land of Hope and Dreams. Encores: Highway To Hell; Born To Run; Dancing in the Dark; Tenth Avenue Freeze-out; Shout; The Wall; Thunder Road (video of latter below).


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April 28, 2014

G4: Heat 109, Charlotte 98: Sweep = sleep!; plus new Dolphins draft projections, NBA racist-owner poll, Panthers, Dr. Jack, Ireland, Herald & more

1aa1amichotwalt1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 29. Demolition has begun on the iconic Miami Herald building, and Walt Michot's photo here is worth a thousdand words, all of them sad. 2) Jay Z and Beyonce's summer tour will kick off June 25 at Dolphins stadium. 3) ICYMI, click on The Perfect Quarterback for our column on the death of Dolphins icon Earl Morrall. It generated a voluminous positive reaction. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte G3 with preview/live blog/postgame thoughts/Sunday reflections, Dolphins best-game result & more. 5) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

Panthers fire coach: The Florida Panthers today fired coach Peter Horacheck. It isn't a susprise in the least. They never removed the "interm" tag from him, he did not spark a notable turnaround, and the Cats need a replacement with more NHL experience. With an impressive young nucleus of talent and the No. 1 overall draft pick coming, Florida has a fairly inviting roster. Now GM Dale Tallon must find a premier goal-scorer and make the right coaching hire to re-energize a listing franchise.

No radio today: No me today on the Dan Le Batard Show. I'll be on Friday this week instead.

DOLPHINS LATEST DRAFT PROJECTIONS: ESPN dueling Mock Drafters Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay crap their latest guesswork today and Kiper has Miami selecting Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley 19th overall, while McShay has the Fins picking Virginia tackle Morgan Moses. They have Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin -- the guy Miami really wants -- going 15th and 17th, respectively. Sounds like a trade-up for Martin may be the way to go.

Seahawks hire Jeff Ireland as a temp: Champion Seattle has hired ex-Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland as a consultant through next month's draft. Explained coach Pete Carroll: "We were tired of all this success." Naw, Pete didn't really say that. But Seattle really DID hire Ireland.

G4 FINAL: HEAT 109, CHARLOTTE 98: SWEEP = SLEEP: Postgame: Miami sweeps Charlotte 4-0 with tonight's triumph led by LeBron James' 31 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Now let the playoffs begin! I mean the real playoffs. Brooklyn-Toronto winner on deck for Miami in next round, but, with that series tied 2-2, Heat could be in a for a full week's rest thanks to this sweep. Tonight's Heat 3 Stars: 1. LeBron. (Or did that go without saying); 2. Chris Bosh, with 17 points, 8 rebounds; 3. Norris Cole, with a sparky 13 points, 4 assists off the bench. ..... Halftime thoughts: Heat trail by two 54-52, but Al Jefferson sitting for Bobcats with foot injury and like Heat based on flow of game. Funny that Charlotte fans boo LeBron James at every touch. It's so 2010! Loved Heat's pregame warmup-shirt stunt in support of Clippers and against racist Donald Sterling. Miami shooting only 41.5%, only 2-for-12 from 3 and LeBron with a mortal 11 points and yet it's a (near) even game. Thse things do not bode well for the Bobs. ..... Original post: While playing golf on Saturday (I had a 93 at Inverrary-East while my showboat son shot 79), I predicted the fired-up Heat would win that night's Game 3 easily but 1aa1aheatchag4 1aa1aheatcha 1aa1aheatsweepthen lose Game 4, which is tonight. I called the first one right. Now I'm wavering on tonight.  All know the series is effectively over, and that in 108 all-time NBA playoff sets the team up 3-0 has won every time -- 108 for 108. But human nature can work two ways tonight. It might spark the Bobcats to avoid the embarrassment of a series shutout coupled with the Heat being complacent and coasting. Or! It might find the Bobcats going through the motions, resigned to defeat, while the Heat rev it up again for the sweep -- knowing that would mean welcome extra rest before the next round. Unlike Saturday, I don't have a strong feeling which way this one will go. (I'll be back here with commentary at halftime and postgame).

THE LIST: HEAT-CHARLOTTE SERIES SCORING LEADERS: The top five updated through Game 4:

1. LeBron James, Heat            30.0

2. Kemba Walker, Bobcats       19.5

3. Al jefferson, Bobcats           18.7

4. Dwyane Wade, Heat            17.5

5. Chris Bosh, Heat                 14.5

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated through 4 games/first round): Entering second round: LeBron James 11 points, Dwyane Wade 6, Chris Bosh 4, Chris Andersen 1, Norris Cole 1, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' every game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

MY VIEW: NBA SHOULD FORCE OUT STERLING AS OWNER. NOW YOUR VIEW GOES HERE: No company or entity that deals with the public can afford to be owned or led by a racist -- let alone a franchise owner in 1aa1adonaldsthe NBA, with more than 70 percent of its players African-American. That is why L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racism on that audio tape is such a bombshell-crisis for the NBA and must be dealt with quickly. For now the NBA has told Sterling (pictured) not to show up at Tuesday's Clippers home playoff game, but surely more punishment is ahead. I think Sterling needs to be forced out as owner or at least be made to relinquish his authority -- the harshest penalty. But a hefty suspension and/or fine also is possible. Perhaps you think a public apology would suffice. Some of you may even think no punishment is due because, after all, it's a free country and Sterling isn't breaking any laws with his views even as they outrage most of us including NBA star like the Heat's LeBron James, who said, "There is no place for Donald Sterling in our league." How would you handle this situation if you were new NBA commissioner Adam Silver? (Hmm. Sterling and Silver. How bizarre). Take a dip in our poll and say why.

1aa1adrjackHEAT REACT TO DEATH OF "DR. JACK": [Update: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is pcitured left at age 10, with Dr. Jack at a basketball camp in 1980. Lil' Erik was so cuuuuute!] Original post: Jack Ramsay passed away Monday morning at age 89 at his home in Naples, Fla., after a long battle with cancer. (Naples, 1aa1adrspocoincidentally, was also the adopted hometown where Dolphins great Earl Morrall died on Friday). Ramsay is best known as the basketball Hall of Famer and 20-year NBA coach who led the Portland Trailblazers to their only championship in 1977. But his post-coaching career in broadcasting also was long and accomplished. He has a niche in Heat history as the team's eight-season on-air personality alongside Eric Reed from 1992-2000. Fans may recall the Dr. Jack nugget, "This-away, that-away, Hardaway!" Team owner Micky Arison said today, "When I first bought the team we had no basketball organization in place and Dr. Jack was the first person who I turned to for advice. So for a few days, he was the entire basketball organization for the Miami Heat. Over the years I often turned to him for advice. Club president Pat Riley said: "Dr. Jack Ramsay meant a great deal to me as a mentor when I was coaching and while I've been with the Heat running the team." Ramsay's long, remarkable life included a pre-hoops stint in the Navy working underwater demolition. R.I.P.

GATORS, CANES ODDS FOR '15 NCAA MEN'S HOOPS TITLE: With deadline past for declaring for NBA draft, new odds are out on 2014-15 NCAA men's basketball season, and national-championship favorites are Kentucky at 5-1, Duke 9-1, Wisconsin 12-1 and Kansas 14-1. Florida, Arizona and North Carolina are bunched at 16-1. Miami is 66-1, ahead of Florida State's 100-1.

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April 26, 2014

G3: Heat 98, Charlotte 85: LeBron's 30 has fired-up Miami 3-0; plus Heat 3 Stars & 3 Sunday reflections (on defense, discipline, Donald Sterling)

1) It is SUNDAY, APRIL 27. Click on Random Evidence for today's Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Bobcats. 2) Click on The Perfect Quarterback for our latest column, a farewell to Earl Morrall. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Earl Morrall dead at 79, Dolphins schedule and poll, Heat angry over McMuggerts, Miami Corporate Run, FIU sand volleyball, Springsteen & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

SUNDAY REFLECTIONS ON HEAT'S VICTORY: I'd offer three thoughts sitting over a Sunday morning cup of java:

1. A reminder of the bedrock of the Heat's strength: This was the best the Heat has looked to me in a long time, especially on the road. Let there be no doubt any more who the best team in the Eastern Conference is, and remains. The entire NBA playoffs are a muddled, competitive scrum ... except for Miami sitting pretty at 3-0. The Heat is awfully tough to beat when they're in the mood to bring their A-effort defensively, as they did last night. That is the foundation of this team's power. LeBron James is the engine. But defense is where it all starts. "Our defense was phenomenal," said Dwyane Wade. That is not a word tossed around this lockerroom casually. Phenomenal. And LeBron of course continues to be just that, and to make excellence routine. Last night was the 18th playoff game in his career with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, the most ever.

2. A veteran team shows discipline, focus: Viscerally the Heat wanted to floor Charlotte's Josh McRoberts last night with payback for his flagrant foul to the neck of LeBron in Game 2. Udonis Haslem would have loved the assignment. But give coach Erik Spoelstra credit here. He directed the team to offer its payback on the scoreboard. That was smart, and classy, befitting a champion.

3. LeBron's stand on Donald Sterling: Before James impressed on the hardwood last night, he impressed in the pregame lockerroom, blasting L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for the racist comments attributed to him. "There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league," James said, among other amplifications. Usually, the bigger the stars the less the outspokenness because big-paying sponsors don't like controversy. Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods toed this line their entire careers. Last night James impressed by speaking as a man, a black man but first just a right-thinking man, not speaking as a corporate brand. That the NBA -- of all leagues -- would have a racist owner is reprehensible, a crisis for the league, and good for LeBron giving voice to that.

G3: HEAT 98, CHARLOTTE 85: MIAMI DELIVERS PAYBACK NOT WITH ELBOWS, BUT WITH DOMINANCE: Plenty of folks including me thought Miami (likely enforcer Udonis Haslem) would exact retribution last night on Charlotte's Josh McRoberts for his Game 2 flagrant foul against LeBron James. We were wrong. No physical payback. Just another kind: Dominance. Miami led by as many as 26 last night before coasting to a comfortable win and an even more comfortable 3-0 series lead heading to Game 4 back in Charlotte Monday night. In the history of the NBA 108 teams have held a 3-0 series lead. Here is how many of those 108 teams went on to win the series: All 108. The only drama left in this series is whether Monday's Charlotte funeral game completes the sweep, or whether it ends the following game back in Miami. Heat 3 Stars: 1. LeBron James (30 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists); 2. Dwyane Wade (17 points, 6 assists after not scoring until middle of second quarter); 3. Chris Andersen (12 points, 7 rebounds and a bench spark from Birdman).

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (through 3 games): Entering Game 4 on Monday: LeBron James 8 points, Dwyane Wade 6, Chris Bosh 2, Chris Andersen 1, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' every game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

LIVE BLOG ON HEAT GAME 3: 4th Quarter: MIA subs including Battier in with 2:04 left. Game time. ..... LeBron hits 30-point mark. ..... CHA on 14-5 run, within 14. ..... Miami with 26 assists. Ball movement has been great. ..... Commissioner Adam Silver on NBATV talking about Donald Sterling issue. Sounds like league will come down on him like Heat is coming down on Bobcats tonight. /// 3rd Quarter: Heat up 86-66 after 3Q. ..... Walter Brennan with first FG since first quarter. ..... CHA timeout and in a 79-53 hole. LeBron roaring with 24. ..... McRoberts mugs LeBron again, shouldering into him on a breakaway. Could have been called a flagrant or a clear-path but was called neither. ..... James steal and tomahawk jam, looks right at Michael Jordan as he freight-trains to basket. ..... Wade still only 6 points on 3-9 shooting. ..... LeBron with 18, Heat up by 16. ..... Bosh rejects Jefferson. ..... Bobcats arena sounding very quiet right now. /// Halftime: Turned up defensive intensity turned this game Miami's way. LeBron has 16 points fueled by 7-8 on FTs. MIA 6-8 on 3's also is big. Need more from Wade (6 points). For CHA, Jefferson has 17 on 7-10 shooting. Bobcats otherwise are 10-28 shooting. Defend Jefferson better and B-cats have no chance. /// 2nd Quarter:  Heat up 58-46 at half with a 35-point 2nd quarter. ..... CHA has no shot when Walter Brennan Jefferson isn't in game. ..... We want Bismack Biyombo! ..... MIA 6-7 on 3's, back up. ..... Prince's hairdresser with breakaway layup. ..... Wade first points mid-quarter. ..... Bird hard foul on McRoberts, but not flagrant. Still early, but, could it be there might be no payback for McMuggerts? ..... Douglas-Roberts looks like he might be cast as Prince's personal hairdresser. ..... Allen big 3, has five straight points. It's what Heat needs from bench. /// 1st Quarter: Bobcats win 1Q by 27-23, shooting 56% to MIA's 34%. ..... Jefferson en fuego for 7-0 CHA run, has 15 points in 1Q. ..... Heat first lead at 19-18 on pair of Bird FTs. ..... MIA within 18-17 on 6-point run; CHA timeout. ..... LeBron rejected by Zeller, makes amends with a 3. ..... Credit Jefferson for playing while moving like Walter Brennan in 'The Real McCoys'. ..... CHA 7-11 FGs early, MIA only 5-15. ..... Boom! LeBron hard driving basket over a fouling McRoberts. That isn't payback yet, but it's a start. ..... Haslem two early fouls. ..... Michael Jordan's giant loop earring in the left lobe makes him look like a fey pirate. ..... Mavs beat Spurs on ancient Vince Carter buzzer-beater, lead series 2-1. ..... McRoberts looks like Jesus, fouls like Satan. ..... Heat 0-for-5 to start game before Chalmers layup. /// Preamble: Cannot confirm that Udonis Haslem has just been assessed a flagrant foul during pregame warmups for what he's thinking of doing to Josh McRoberts tonight. ..... Racist comments attributed to the L.A. Clippers owner have been a pregame topic and the Heat are pulling no punches. "There is no room for Donald Sterling in our league," said LeBron James.

G3: HEAT @ CHARLOTTE: MIAMI HAS TWO THINGS ON ITS MIND TONIGHT: Original post: The main imperative is to win, sure. The difference between a 3-0 Miami series lead and 2-1 is huge. At 3-0 the thing is effectively

1aa1aheatchag3over. At 2-1, with Game 4 back in Charlotte Monday, there is an infusion of drama in this first-round NBA playoff series and maybe even a smidgen of doubt. For me, though, who wins tonight won't be as much fun to watch as the other thing on Miami's mind: Retribution. Coach Erik Spoelstra can talk all he wants that there will be none of that; it's what he has to say. But 1aa1ahaslemuJosh McRoberts' flagrant foul against LeBron James in Game 2 -- that hard forearm to the throat -- is very much on the Heat's mind tonight. McMuggerts was fined $20,000 by the league (a piddling) but not suspended as he should have been. And I will be surprised -- no, shocked, -- if McRoberts is not on the receiving end of some mayhem tonight. Enter Udonis Haslem (pictured), the team's warrior-enforcer. Will it be an "accidental" elbow to the ear? A forearm to the neck? When will it occur? Join us here toght for a live blog on the fight game. Should be delicious.

Poll result: Opener vs. Pats is Dolphins' sexiest home game: We asked and your answer was no surprise. The Sept. 7 season opener vs. New England was the best-home-game choice of 56.5 percent. Second place was a surprise, though, at least to me, with the Oct. 12 visit by Green Bay beating the Dec. 28 season-ender vs. the Jets, 23.5% to 12.9%. The other five home games shared the crumbs.

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April 24, 2014

R.I.P. Earl Morrall, 79; plus Heat are angry (war on Charlotte!), Dolphins-schedule poll (vote now), runners, FIU sand volleyball (what?) & more

1) It is FRIDAY, APRIL 25. I'm holed up at Random Evidence Laboratories today craft-brewing Sunday's notes-column package. It's hoppy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte G2, Arison's guarantee, Heat in Game of Thrones, Bobcat Jesus, Jose Fernandez, Meb Keflezighi, Rubin (Hurricane) Carter & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

Heat not satisfied with McRoberts fine for LeBron mugging: Charlotte's Josh McRoberts was fined $20,000 yesterday by the NBA for a flagrant 2 foul in Game 2 when his forearm struck LeBron James' throat. McMuggerts is lucky; he should have been suspended for Saturday's Game 3 in Charlotte. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra agreed, saying today, "We disagree with this," meaning just a fine. James said today he is "frustrated" by the pounding he takes but won't retaliate. "This isn't the 1980s," he noted.

1aa1aearlmDOLPHINS ICON EARL MORRALL DEAD AT 79: Quarterback Earl Morrall, who had such a big hand in the Dolphins' 1972 Perfect Season, died this morning in Naples, Fla. after years of declining health. Morrall replaced injured starter Bob Griese in '72 and led the team to nine straight victories and two more in the playoffs before being replaced by Griese in the Super Bowl. Morrall was 38 when Don Shula brought him to Miami in '72. He would start only 12 games over five seasons, but his role in Miami's historic 17-0 season was enough to make him a franchise icon and forge a unique legacy. I have a column on Morrall that is newly online -- click on The Perfect Quarterback to read -- and shipping to Saturday's inky pulp editions. 

1aa1adolsked14RANKING DOLPHINS SCHEDULE 1-THROUGH-16 ON GAME WATCHABILITY: I scan the Dolphins' newly released 2014 schedule, weighing the caliber of each opponent and factoring in home/away, and at first glance I come up with a most-likely record of 8-8. Which means another of those 9-7 to 7-9 range, Stealers Wheel/"Stuck In The Middle With You" seasons may be ahead. NOOOOOOO! The Dolphins have turned into Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Just below there's a poll inviting you to name the Dolphins home game you are most looking forward to. First here's my ranking of all 16 games, not chronologically but 1-through-16 based on watchability and anticipation:

1. Sept. 7 vs. Patriots: Start with division power. No soft-opening here!

2. Nov. 23 @ Broncos: Sorry, I meant to say @ Peyton Manning.

3. Dec. 28 vs. Jets: Season-ender could have playoff stakes for Fins.

4. Dec. 1 @ Jets: Bitter rival. Monday night lights. Any questions?

5. Oct. 12 vs. Packers: Joe Philbin's old team. Oh, and Aaron Rodgers.

6. Dec. 14 @ Patriots: Pack the longjohns. Battle for AFC East crown?

7. Sept. 28 @ Raiders: Wembley in London is why it's interesting.

8. Nov. 13 vs. Bills: Will game live up? It's prime-time Thursday.

9. Dec. 21 vs. Vikings: Adrian Peterson's first career game in Miami.

10. Dec. 7 vs. Ravens: Post-Ray Lewis and off 8-8, BAL not what it was.

11. Oct. 19 @ Bears: Storied opponent, and Soldier Field is still special.

12. Sept. 21 vs. Chiefs: Amply fed Andy Reid had KC 11-5 last year.

13. Nov. 2 vs. Chargers: One of those season-altering tossup games.

14. Sept. 14 @ Bills: Pretty rough when highlight is Ralph Wilson tribute.

15. Nov. 9 @ Lions: Winnable roadie. But pack pass defense for trip.

16. Oct. 26 @ Jaguars: Rotten opponent. Awful fans. Sad stadium.

POLL: WHAT DOLPHINS HOME GAME INTERESTS YOU THE MOST?: Life is full of tough choices, Dolfan. It's a fairly attractive home schedule, and you can only pick the one game you are most looking forward to. Games are listed chronologically. Vote and say why:

NBA SHOULD HAVE PENALIZED LEBRON-MUGGER JOSH "JESUS" McROBERTS: That hard forearm to the throat of LeBron James late in last night's 101-97 Heat playoff win merited a suspension or at least a fine of Charlotte's Josh McRoberts, who we noted in a previous blogpost looks like Jesus. Instead he was fined $20K, which to most NBA players is loose change under the sofa cushion. No flagrant foul was called but the NBA reviewed the play today and called it a flagrant 2. The good news for Miami? The only player better than LeBron is LeBron, angry, and that play could  be the spark Miami needs as it heads to Charlotte for two games starting Saturday. The Heat, though up 2-0, has yet to play exceptionally well in the postseason. Click on Do Not Rile the King for my column off last night's win.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (through 2 games): Entering Game 3 Saturday: LeBron James 5 points, Dwyane Wade 4, Chris Bosh 2, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' every game and award points on a 3-2-1 basis).

The annual Miami Corporate Run displaced and greatly inconvenienced thousands of motorists was contested yesterday on downtown streets. I have noticed that runners are prone to making a public display of their obsession, as with competing en masse and also with those bragadocious, I'm-fitter-than-you '26.2' and '13.1' car decals. Anyway, the winner of last evening's race, pictured front right, was a Mr. James Harden, 24, from Houston, Tex.

1aa1afiusandIN RAPT APPRECIATION OF FIU SAND VOLLEYBALL: The FIU sand volleyball team has earned its first trip to the nationals. We mention that here as a gratuitous excuse to show you the team's more-interesting-than-usual team schedule poster. Sand volleyball is like regular volleyball, but on a beach, or sand made to seem like a beach. What's not to like?



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April 23, 2014

G2: Heat 101, Charlotte 97: LeBron's 32 lifts escape to 2-0 series lead; plus Arison's bravado, Heat's Game of Thrones, Jose Fernandez chases 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?


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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