April 30, 2017

Grade the Dolphins' 2017 draft: Poll. Vote now!; plus the new Hot Button Top 10, list of state players drafted, your verdict on Harris pick, HB Daily (Sun), Happy birthday Willie (with new song) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SUNDAY, April 30. It's been NFL Draft Week in America! 2) Man, this is so Marlins. Come home from a long road trip and take an immediate crap. 3) Happen to know any Dolfans? Delight them. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins draft Harris No. 1 with poll, Day 2 picks, my Mock Draft with results, The List (Fins draft), Neil Diamond concert review & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

ZachtMy Sunday column on Dolphins draft: Two decades later, Zach Thomas, reminds us why the late rounds of a draft are so important. Click on The Kid From Pampa to read. Also, click on Right Pick For Right Reasons for my earlier column on Dolphins first-round choice Charles Harris.

DolphinsGRADE THE DOLPHINS' 2017 DRAFT: NEW POLL. VOTE NOW!: I know, I know. Instant grading is a strange thing. It probably takes three years to fully, fairly and accurately say how a team's draft fared. But who's got the patience for that!? I invite your grade simply from an initial-impression perspective, based on where the Dolphins were picking, what you think their needs were and who they drafted. A complete list of the newest Dolphins is below. Now tell Mike Tannenbaum, Chris Grier and Adam Gase how you think they did the past three days. Vote now and check back often to monitor evolving results:


HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (APRIL 30): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS/NFL DRAFT: Mizzou's Harris leads Fins' defense-first draft: Missouri sack-man Charles Harris, whose spin move makes offensive tackles dizzy, went No. 1 in Miami's defense-heavy draft as the annual meat market wrapped up Saturday. As for the pass rusher's Fins future? Is closer to Cam Wake than to Dion Jordan too much to ask? 

2. MARLINS: Fish reeling as sale talk accelerates: Fish have lost four in a row as they host Pirates Sunday afternoon in midst of five-game homestand as pending sale of team continues to override season. The Jeb Bush/Derek Jeter group is reported frontrunner, but that's if Jeb proves much better at raising capital than at running for president.

3. NBA: Playoffs' 1st and 2nd rounds overlap Sunday: First round ends Sunday with a Jazz-Clippers Game 7 just after the second round (conference semifinals) begins with Wizards-Celtics Game 1. I know the postseason is long as it is, but, can't one round end before the other begins?

4. HURRICANES: Nine Canes including Kaaya go in draft: UM's nine NFL Draft picks were the most of any state school, with tight end David Njoku the only first-rounder. Quarterback Brad Kaaya eventually was taken in the sixth (of seven) rounds. YSSB: Ya Shoulda Stayed, Brad!  

5. NASCAR: Junior announces this is final season: Dale Earnhardt Jr. said 2017 will be his final year of auto racing after battling a concussion most of last season. That means Homestead will be his last race. Dear NASCAR: Finagle the rules to make sure he's in the four-man finals contending for his only season title. Thank you.

6. HORSE RACING: We're six days from Kentucky Derby: Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown season starts next Saturday at Churchill Downs, with Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming among the favorites. Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola owns the horse. Hope it runs better than his hockey team did this season.

7. HEAT: No playoffs, but Miami still in the headlines: ESPN The Magazine had a big profile of Heat prez Pat Riley, a reminder that Riley out of the playoffs is still more interesting than any front-office executive in them. Meanwhile Heat's Dion Waiters said every playoff team should be thankful it isn't facing Miami. And believe it or not, he was serious!

8. NHL: Conference semifinals underway: It's down to the final eight in the skate for Lord Stanley's Cup and, with the Panthers not in it, I cannot bring myself to feign the interest to say much more.

9. PANTHERS: Cats not thrilled with lottery outcome: Florida Panthers finished 10th in the NHL Draft lottery for June's draft, two spots lower than their percentage. GM Dale Tallon said they're looking for a big-time scorer. Get in line, pal.  

10. TENNIS: Sharapova returns from doping ban: WTA star Maria Sharapova reached the semifinals before losing in a tournament in Germany that marked her return to tennis after a 15-month ba. Timing is good. With her career nemesis Serena Williams on maternity leave, Maria might actually have a shot.  

Missing the HB10 cut: Chelsea at Everton in a huge EPL match today. Who's with me!? ..... This week's Cubs-Red Sox series is a likely World Series preview, according to Cubs and Red Sox fans ..... Canes baseball goes for a sweep at Boston College today. Alsa, the phrase "too little, too late" comes to mind ..... Aaron Hernandez is still dead. Whoa! Too soon?

AsiataDOLPHINS DAY 3 DRAFT IS BEEFY WITH TWO DT'S, OG BEFORE CLOSING WITH WR: Miami began its Day 3 draft by taking Utah guard Isaac Asiata 164th overall after a minor trade-up. Asiata is pictured looking mean, which is good. He's 6-3 and 323 pounds and has had weight issues but is draft's sixth-rated guard and at a need position for Miami. Fins followed that by selecting 310-pound LSU defensive tackle David Godchaux, targeting another position in need of depth. Then they added yet another DT in Oklahoma State's Vincent Taylor, who grades as a better prospect that Godchaux. Miami's fourth and final Day 3 pick was wide receiver Isaiah Ford of Virginia Tech, not a position need, but in the last round, what the heck. Below is an ongoing chart of Fins' final 2017 draft haul: 

Dolphins' final 2017 draft:

Player, School, Pos.                          Round (Overall)  PosRank     OverallRank     Grade 

Charles Harris, Missouri, DE/OLB          1 (22nd)         1 (as OLB)  18                       90
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State, ILB      2 (54th)          7                 78                       76
Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson, CB          3 (97th)         21               138                       63
Isaac Asiata, Utah, OG                               5 (164th)       6                 129                       67  
Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU                        5 (178th)       25               ---                        30
Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State       6 (194th)       15              151                       60
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech               7 (237th)       35               218                      47

Poll result: Solid approval for Harris pick at No.1: We asked your initial reaction to the Dolphins drafting Missouri pass-rusher Charles Harris 22nd overall, and it was 47.9 percent "like it" and 21.9% "love it" -- a combined thumbs-up of 69.8%. That isn't overwhelming approval, but it's solid. The remaining votes were 13.3% "don't like it" and 5.0% "hate it," with the other 11.9% undecided.

COMPLETE FINAL LIST: MIAMI HAS MOST STATE-COLLEGE PLAYERS DRAFTED, WITH KAAYA TO LIONS IN 6TH: It's 27 and counting now, with UM's Brad Kaaya the sixth Hurricane to go, WR Stacy Coley the seventh, and safety Adrian Colbert the eighth:

Miami Hurricanes (9): TE David Njoku 1st round (29th overall) to Browns  /  S Rayshawn Jenkins 4-113 to Chargers  /  CB Corn Elder 5-152 to Panthers  /  OG Danny Isidora 5-180 to Vikings  /  DE Al-Quadin Muhammad 6-196 to Saints  /  QB Brad Kaaya 6-215 to Lions  /  WR Stacy Coley 7-219 to Vikings  /  S Adrian Colbert 7-229 to 49ers  /  FB Marquez Williams 7-240 to Jaguars.

FIU Panthers (1): TE Jonnu Smith 3-100 to Titans.

FAU Owls (1): DE  Trey Hendrickson 3-103 to Saints.

Florida Gators (8): LB Jarrad Davis 1-21 to Lions  /  S Marcus Maye 2-39 to Jets  /  CB Quincy Wilson 2-46 to Colts  /  CB Teez Tabor 2-53 to Lions  /  LB Alex Anzalone 3-76 to Saints  /  OG David Sharpe 4-129 to Raiders  /  DT Caleb Brantley 6-185 to Browns  /  DT Joey Ivey 7-228 to Cowboys.

Florida State Seminoles (4): RB Dalvin Cook 2-41 to Vikings  /  DE DeMarcus Walker 2-51 to Broncos  /  OT Roderick Johnson 5-160 to Browns  /  CB Marquez White 6-216 to Cowboys.

UCF Knights (1): CB Shaquill Griffin 3-90 to Seahawks.

South Florida Bulls (3): RB Marlon Mack 4-143 to Colts  /  WR Rodney Adams 5-170 to Vikings  /  OT Kofi Amichia 6-212 to Packers. 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SUN 4-30-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Pittsburgh at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.: Oy. Fish trying to end 4-game losing skid.

2. NBA playoffs, 1 p.m.: Jazz-Clippers Game 7, then Wizards-Celtics open 2nd round.

3. Chicago at Boston, 8 p.m.: Cubs-Red Sox from Fenway in prime time.

4. NHL playoffs, 3 p.m.: Nashville, Edmonton host 2nd-round Game 3s.

5. Hurricanes at Boston College, 1 p.m.: UM baseball closes 3-game series.

Select other recent columns: Home Run For Miami, the latest, on Bush/Jeter group reaching agreement to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose, on controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. Everyone's Shouting Defense, But..., on Dolphins and first round. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILLIE NELSON!: The country music icon turned 84 Saturday and still going strong, touring, making new music. Here's a new song from him. Enjoy!

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 29, 2017

What do you think of Dolphins taking Missouri DE Charles Harris in 1st round? Poll. Last chance to vote!; plus Fins stick with D in 2nd round, Cote slays Kiper/McShay in Mock Draft; also, Neil Diamond concert review, Hot Button Daily (Sat) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, April 29. It's NFL Draft Week in America! 2) Happen to know any Dolfans? Delight them. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins pre-draft poll, updated NHL odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Cote slays the Mock giants!: ESPN draftniks Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both scored four bull's-eyes in their Mock first rounds -- exact player to exact team. Kiper correctly had Garrett to Browns, Fournette/Jags, McCaffrey/Panthers and Davis/Lions. McShay had Garrett, Fournette, McCaffrey and Davis to Titans. The Herald's Mock Man Greg Cote -- hey, that's me! --doubled both experts with eight (!) first-round bull's-eyes. I correctly had Garrett, Fournette, McCaffrey, Adams to Jets, Harris/Dolphins, Bolles/Broncos, Charlton/Cowboys and Watt/Steelers.

MY TAKE ON HARRIS PICK: OH YEAH!: [Click on Right Pick For Right Reasons for my full column on Miami's choice of Charles Harris]. I correctly had Miami selecting the Mizzou pass rusher 22nd overall in my Mock Draft (see below), so naturally I am somewhat predisposed to think the Dolphins did the right thing and made a great selection. But it's true. They could have taken Canes tight end David Njoku or Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp, but this first round should have focused on defense, and did. They could have then chosen Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, a highly graded defender whose stock had dropped, but he had off-field issues that led to that tumble. In Harris the Dolphins get a quality talen, an outside-linebacker or end who brings a fierce pass rush -- a role of need. Read the column linked above for my full take. Now, how the Dolphins did in the first round Thursday night is up to you. Here's your poll. Vote now!

 

POLL RESULT: DOLFANS DREAMING OF REUBEN FOSTER: We asked which potential Dolphins first-round draft pick among seven listed would you most hope Miami selects, and Alabama LB Reuben Foster dominated 53.8 percent. Western Kentucky OG Forrest Lamp also had sizable support with 23.8%, followed by Florida LB Jarrad Davis with 12.1%. Then it was Ohio State CB Gareon Conley 4.5%, Michigan State DT Malik McDowell 3.4%, Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey 1.4% and Washington CB Kevin King 1.1%.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS PICKS IN NO. 22 RANGE: Miami is slotted to select 22nd overall tonight. Dolphins first-draft picks in the 20 to 24 range, chronologically:

Year    Pick    What happened

1971    22      Traded to Baltimore as compensation for Don Shula

1975    23      Drafted Tampa OT Darryl Carlton

1978    24      Traded to San Francisco for RB Delvin Williams

1979    24      Drafted Michigan OT Jon Giesler

1980    21      Drafted Alabama CB Don McNeal

1982    24      Drafted Southern Cal OG Roy Foster

1991    23      Drafted Miami WR Randal Hill

1994    24      Drafted Mississippi DT Tim Bowens

1996    20      Drafted Baylor DE Daryl Gardener

1999    24      Traded to San Francisco in trade-down

2000    23      Traded to Carolina in 1998 trade-up

2004    20      Traded to Minnesota in trade-up

2017    22      Drafted Missouri DE Charles Harris

REVIEW: THE STRANGE EXPERIENCE OF A NEIL DIAMOND CONCERT: I like seeing great music acts I've not seen before, and counted Neil Diamond in that category, so my wife and I attended Ndiamondhis nearly sold-out show at the Panthers' arena in Sunrise Wednesday night. He'd been on my personal radar since his iconic Hot August Night double-album in 1972, and I was eager to see him. He played just over 2 hours, with the canon of songs to carry it. He is not a great singer in a classic sense, but at 76 his voice remains strong. I was most struck by the manner of his performance. He is very theatrical, from opening note to the hand gestures that close a song. There is melodrama to a Diamond concert. HIs lyrics and delivery can be a bit  overwrought, sometimes bordering on schmaltzy. He knows how to milk a crowd, how to strike an emotional chord. He engaged the audience. Appropriately, for a 50th anniversary tour, the childhood photos and videos shown behind him were interesting, and enhancing. He's still that kid born and raised in Brooklyn. (Which is funny, considering his best-known and most-loved hit, Sweet Caroline, became the anthem of the Boston Red Sox). There were times you rolled your eyes at the over-the-top drama of his performance, and yet his adoring audience ate it up. His style ages well, plays well to his older demographic. (Put it this way: I felt young in that crowd). The guitar he plays mostly is an ornament. His main instrument is a microphone, and a connection to his crowd. Diamond is a gifted songwriter, a poetic lyricist, a showman, a real pro. He's a Hall of Famer with unequivocal cause.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 4-29-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Pittsburgh at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.: Fish try to snap 3-game losing skid.

2. NFL draft, noon: Day 3 wraps it up with rounds 4 through 7.

3. NHL playoffs, 3 p.m.: Ottawa, Washington host 2nd-round Game 2s.

4. Hurricanes at Boston College, 1:30 p.m.: UM baseball in 2nd of 3-game set.

[NBA playoffs have the day off].

Select other recent columns: Home Run For Miami, the latest, on Bush/Jeter group reaching agreement to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose, on controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. Everyone's Shouting Defense, But..., on Dolphins and first round. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 26, 2017

Dolphins pre-draft poll: Which of these 7 possible 1st-round Miami selections would please you most? Last day to vote!; plus new Marlins-sale column, Pat Riley/Dion Waiters, updated NHL forecast, Hot Button Daily (Wed) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, April 26. It's NFL Draft Week! WOOO! 2) Wright Thompson has an excellent piece on Pat Riley in the new ESPNTheMag. Read it here. Also there's a braggadocious Players Tribune piece penned by Heat's Dion Waiters. Find it here. 3) Happen to know any Dolfans? Delight them. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Latest column: On Bush/Jeter agreement to buy Marlins: A cloud lifted over Miami and the Marlins with Tuesday's reports that Jeffrey Loria had reached an agreement to sell the Fish for $1.3 billion to the Je Bush/Derek Jeter group. Click on Home Run For Miami to read my latest column. 

ICYMI, our Sunday column on Jose Fernandez statue controversy: Many are against the Marlins building a statue to honor Fernandez since toxicology reports indicated he was impaired in the boat crash that killed himself and two others. I too am uneasy over the idea, and yet I see the potential for a greater good because the statue will be a constant reminder not only of his life, but of how it ended. Click on The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose to read.

DOLPHINS PRE-DRAFT POLL: WHICH OF SEVEN POSSIBLE MIAMI FIRST-ROUND PICKS AT 22ND OVERALL WOULD PLEASE YOU MOST?: My 26th annual official Miami Herald mock draft Dolclockcomes Dolphinsout very soon. I don't want to tip my hand (quite yet) on how the first round will play out for the Dolphins Thursday night (even though I have an idea). Instead, I invite you to have your say first. The seven players in this poll are not arbitrary. They are players who met both of two criteria: 1) They are at one of Miami's top-five position needs -- linebacker, guard, cornerback, safety or defensive tackle. 2) They are within range of the 22nd pick by being within five in either direction, 17th to 27th, according to the mock drafts of either Mel Kiper or Todd McShay of ESPN. In other words, these are guys who both should interest Miami in terms of need and who also could be available. I was tempted to add one more -- Canes tight end David Njoku -- but did not. I think he'll be gone, it isn't a dire position need, plus I didn't want a UM guy in there disproportionately glomming votes. I also do not include a "somebody else" category because I want to reel the vote in to what's most realistic. Photo at right: Dolphins on the clock. GET IT!?! Now take a dip in our poll, vote and check back often to watch a consensus magically form. It don't cost nuthin'.

NHL ROUND OF EIGHT FORECAST: The four NHL conference semifinal series begin Wednesday, and based on predictions by ESPN's 11-person hockey experts panel, we might expect three pretty clear-cut matchups and a tossup. The forecast is Rangers over Senators by a 10-1 margin, and a pair of 8-3 margins for Ducks over Oilers and Predators over Blues. The big one figures as Washington-Pittsburgh, with Capitals over Penguins by only a 6-5 experts margin. However betting odds via Bovada disagree on two of the series. Bovada has Anaheim-Edmonton even going in, and St. Louis a narrow pick over Nashville.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 4-26-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.: After Tuesday rainout, Fish 'n Phils play first of two.

2. NBA playoffs, 6 p.m.: Two 1st-round Game 5s, with WAS-ATL, CHI-BOS both tied 2-2.

3. NHL playoffs, 8 p.m.: St. Louis, Anaheim host as conference semifinals begin with two Game 1s.

4. N.Y. Yankees at Boston, 7 p.m.: Baseball's best rivalry renews at Fenway.

5. FIU at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: After 8-7 win Tuesday, UM baseball hosts city rival.

Select other recent columns: Everyone's Shouting Defense, But..., on Dolphins and first round. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 24, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Dolphins' draft, LeBron, Fish, Canes, Hernandez, Heat, Messi, Serena; plus our Jose statue column, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, April 24. Welcome to NFL Draft Week! 2) Did you mark national Record Store Day by visiting your local indie shop on Saturday and buying a couple of LPs? Guess what: Those stores are open year-round! 3) Know any Dolfans? Buy them joy. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins not ruling out offense for first draft pick, Fins' 2017 schedule with notes, Canes-Noles, on Aaron Hernandez, your verdicts on Jose statue and Sherman trade & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Sunday column: On Jose Fernandez statue controversy: Many are against the Marlins building a statue to honor Fernandez since toxicology reports indicated he was negligent and impaired in the boat crash that killed himself and two others. I too am uneasy over the idea. And, yet, I see the potential for a greater good because the statue will be a constant reminder not only of his life, but how it ended. Click on The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose to read.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS/NFL DRAFT: Finally, it's Draft Week in Miami!: Newly released league schedule finds Miami back on the NFL map with four prime-time games (amazing what ending your playoff drought can do), but bigger news is this week's NFL Draft Thursday through Saturday. The most likely result for the Fins' No. 1 pick? That, no matter who it is, most Dolfans were sort of hoping for the other guy instead.

2. NBA: LeBron leads first-round sweep: The NBA playoffs' first round dragged on moved along with four more games Sunday and one team, Cleveland, became the first to advance with a sweep of Indiana. The Cavaliers had overcome a 26-point deficit in Game 3, and LeBron James averaged nearly a triple-double in the series. Selfishly, his excellence is making it very difficult on his haters. Damn you, LeBron!

3. MARLINS: Fish win second straight in nine-game road swing: Marlins are six games (3-3) into season's second longest road trip and fighting to hang with the Nationals in the NL East race as they head to Philadelphia. The goal: To still be a playoff contender when hosting All-Star Game later this summer. And dare say beyond?

4. HURRICANES: Football, baseball share campus spotlight: UM's football spring practice wrapped up for Mark Richt with Saturday's scrimmage (still with no clear starter at quarterback), while Jim Morris' baseball Canes -– trying to save their season -– split two games in home series with rival Florida State before Sunday's finale was rained out.

5. AARON HERNANDEZ: Ex-football star kills self: More cheers than tears met the news the ex-Patriot and convicted murderer hanged himself in prison. But does that say more about him or us? A tragedy, a shame, a waste. Everybody lost. Man, I'm starting to depress myself.

6. HEAT: Exit meetings wrap up the strangest of seasons: Pat Riley said he'd like to work this offseason to keep this Heat team together. Hopefully he meant team that went 30-11 in the season's second half, and not the one that was 11-30 at the turn.

7. NHL: Playoffs' first round is complete: Ottawa and Washington winning Sunday completed the first round in the long hunt for the Stanley Cup, with eight teams advancing to the second round starting Wednesday. Ottawa made it two Canadian teams still alive as that country girds for not winning the Cup yet again.

8. SOCCER: El Clasico renews sport's best rivalry: Arsenal beat Manchester City and will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final, but the bigger match in some ways Sunday was Barcelona riding the brilliance of Lionel Messi for a 3-2 win over Real Madrid in a renewal of soccer's greatest club rivalry. Teams play in Miami this July 29 and already you can't buy a ticket without taking out a second mortgage.

9. SERENA WILLIAMS: Tennis star pregnant with first child: Serena, engaged to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, revealed she is 20 weeks pregnant and will take several months off from tennis. "Thank God!" said the other women who can never beat her.

10. NASCAR: Bristol hosts washed out Sunday race: Bleak weather conditioned postpone it til Monday. Sorry, gearheads. 

Missing the HB10 cut: Headline on ESPN.com today: 'FAU wraps up successful spring, Kiffin says.' And you wondered why Lane Kiffin was a great hire? Because ESPN is paying attention to FAU Owls spring practice ..... Saturday was Record Store Day. Colleague David J. Neal: "What's next, Rotary Phone Day?" ..... Sailing's 35th America's Cup begins in one month. It's a wind-wind situation. Sorry. 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 4-24-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. NBA playoffs, 7 p.m.: One 1st-round Game 5 and two 4s, with Golden State in position to advance.

2. NASCAR race, 1 p.m.: Sunday's rained-out race in Bristol, Tenn., postponed 'til today.

Select other recent columns: Everyone's Shouting Defense, But..., on Dolphins and first round. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 22, 2017

Dolphins will consider offense for 1st-round pick. Here's why; plus Fins' 2017 season schedule with notes; also, Canes-Noles, defeats for Fernandez statue and Sherman trade, on Aaron Hernandez, Record Store Day, Hot Button Daily (Sat) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Recordstore1) It is SATURDAY, April 22. The major holidays just keep comin'. A few days ago it was National High-Five Day. Then it was 420, or "Weed Day" (as if stoners only fire it up annually). Now, today, is National Record Store Day, the 10th annual celebration of the indie record store and the return of vinyl in the music industry. Swing by your local indie shop and check out the wax LPs both vintage and new! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them joy. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jose Fernandez statue and Richard Sherman trade polls, death of Aaron Hernandez & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Does Aaron Hernandez deserve an attempt at empathy?: He was his own final victim, for a promising life thrown away. Is there any room for empathy in regarding the former NFL player who died in his prison cell? I explore in this column: Click on An American Tragedy to read.

DdrAFTLATEST COLUMN: WHY YOU SHOULDN'T DISCOUNT OFFENSE FOR DOLPHINS' FIRST-ROUND PICK: They did it one year ago for Laremy Tunsil and they could do it again in next Thursday's NFL Draft first round. Don't be surprised if Miami goes for offense with 22nd overall pick -- Hurricanes tight end David Njoku, perhaps? -- if their top-graded available player is on that side of the scrimmage line. Click on Everyone's Shouting Defense, But... for my latest column, newly online and shipping to Friday's inky pulp editions.
 
COMPLETE DOLPHINS' 2017 REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE, WITH FOUR PRIME-TIME DATES: All the opponents have been known for months. Never quite got why the exact order was such a big deal, but, anyway, here 'tis. Notable: Four prime-time dates! When you're back in the playoffs, the NFL loves you again. At a quick glance, I see the usual postseason scramble for Miami, with an initial gut feeling in the 9-7 range and a shot at 10-6:
Date            Opponent                Time        Of note
Sept. 10       vs TAMPA BAY           1 pm        Season and home opener; my birthday
Sept. 17       @ L.A. Chargers       4 pm       Old opponent, new city
Sept. 24       @ N.Y. Jets              1  pm       First AFC East game
Oct. 1          vs NEW ORLEANS      9:30 am   "Home" game at Wembley, London
Oct. 8          vs. TENNESSEE         1 pm        Wow. Pretty soft sked to this point
Oct. 15        @ Atlanta                1 pm        Maybe toughest foe, on paper, yet
Oct. 22        vs N.Y. JETS             1 pm        2nd-most anticipated division home game
Oct. 26        @ Baltimore             8:25 pm   Finally some prime-time (Thursday) love
Nov. 5          vs OAKLAND             8:30 pm   Sunday night. At Home. Raiders. Delish!
Nov. 13        @ Carolina               8:30 pm   Monday nighter is 3rd straight in prime time
Nov. 19        Bye
Nov. 26        @ New England        1 pm        For the division lead?
Dec. 3         vs DENVER               1 pm        Recent power now beatable foe
Dec. 11       vs NEW ENGLAND      8:30 pm   4th prime-timer (MNF) is the biggest
Dec. 17       @ Buffalo                 1 pm        Bills twice in last three weeks
Dec. 24       @ Kansas City           1 pm        Christmas Eve in Missouri!
Dec. 31       vs. BUFFALO             1 pm        Playoff spot on the line?
 
UmfsuIT'S BEST LAST CHANCE FOR CANES BASEBALL TO SALVAGE SEASON: UM hosts ACC rival Florida State for three ballgames starting last night at The Light, a 6-3 UM loss. Both teams are in midst of strange seasons. FSU was ranked No. 1 in nation as recently as mid-March but for now is unranked with a 25-15 record. Miami opened the season top-10 but has struggled throughout and is now at 18-20, its record streak of NCAA postseason appearances in dire jeopardy. This weekend series is a yuuuge chance -- maybe the last, best one -- for UM to climb back in the playoff hunt. Miami wins today and Sunday could save the season. If Miami gets swept, fuhgeddaboutit.

POLL RESULTS: LITTLE SUPPORT FOR MARLINS' JOSE STATUE, EVEN LESS FOR DOLPHINS' SHERMAN TRADE: We asked how you feel about the Marlins' erecting a 10-foot statue honoring Jose Fernandez, and it was 66.1 percent against it as "inappropriate," versus only 21.7% who supported it as "appropriate." The other 12.2% were undecided. We also asked if you supported the Dolphins trading their No. 1 draft pick for Richard Sherman (suggested on ESPN.com), and it was 78.4 percent "no" versus 19.2% "yes," with 2.4% undecided.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 4-22-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at San Diego, 4:40 p.m.: Finally, a Fish game that won't keep you up 'til 2 a.m.

2. NBA playoffs, 3 p.m.: Two 1st-round Game 3s and two 4s, but nobody can clinch.

3. NHL playoffs, 3 p.m.: Three 1st-round Game 3s, and Blues, Rangers, Oilers all can clinch.

4. Florida State at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: ACC baseball rivals in second of three-game series.

5. National Record Store Day, all day: Visit an indie shop near you, reacquaint with vinyl!

Select other recent columns: History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Heat Fell Short, But Didn't Fail, off season-ending game. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 17, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 starring Heat, Fish, playoffs, Landry, Jose, Canes; plus my Spoelstra column, our NBA playoff preview/predix, Jose Fernandez documentary, your verdict on whether Heat season was success, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Taxmarch1) It is MONDAY, April 17. Thousands of Americans in Washington, D.C. and 160 other cities across the country including Miami participated in Saturday's Tax March to protest President Donald Trump's historic refusal to release his tax records. I don't care what your politics are or who you voted for. There must be transparency from the highest office in the land, as there has been throughout our history until now. 2) Know any Dolfans? Give them joy. Buy each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Was-Heat-season-a-success poll, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Final Standings, Heat miss playoffs, NBA title odds, Jarvis Landry's big boast, McShay's latest Fins mock, Marlins' start & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My Sunday column: On Erik Spoelstra's season of triumph: Seldom has a .500 record and no playoffs been a season that felt better, but the Heat's year was just that. Click on Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph for my latest Sunday column.

"What a momentous Saturday! It was Jackie Robinson Day in baseball with everybody wearing No. 42. Even bigger, April the giraffe finally had her baby!" --Greg Cote

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Valiant surge for naught as Miami misses playoffs: Seems like it should be illegal -- that a team that went 30-11 in the season's second half failed to make to make playoffs. Miami clearly would be the No. 1 seed in the NBA version of the NIT! Heat ended disappointed, but rarely has finishing a no-playoffs .500 been so worth cheering and felt so close to triumphant. 

2. MARLINS: Fish wrap up first homestand of season: Marlins took three out of four from the rival Mets and now set out on mammoth nine-game roadie. A 7-5 record so far shares the NL East lead and is encouraging. In MLB, barely above .500 keeps you in playoff chase a long time.

3. NBA PLAYOFFS: Cavs' near-loss tops marquee as postseason begins: Cleveland's 109-108 win over Indiana and three by-seed upsets marked the launch of the playoffs with eight Game 1s over the weekend. Can anything stop a third straight Warriors-Cavaliers Finals? Well, the Cavs might, based on their recent performance.

4. DOLPHINS: Draft looms as Landry hones boasting skills: We're 10 days from first round of NFL Draft, but Dolphins star receiver Jarvis Landry's confidence already is in midseason form as he predicted Miami would sweep the New England Patriots. Hmm. If only the doing was as simple as the saying.

5. JOSE FERNANDEZ: Statue, documentary for late Marlins star: Word leaked that club will unveil 10-foot statue of Fernandez. Dear sculptor: If you want it true to life, Jose's bronze likeness better be smiling. Meanwhile a new Univision documentary about his life, JDF16, premiered Saturday. Jeffrey Loria declined to participate. Wait. Is that a bad thing?

6. HURRICANES: UM football nears end of spring practice: Spring practice is the biggest waste of time and money in college sports. But for those who like it, Canes enter the last week of offseason work and wrap it up this coming Saturday. 

7. BASEBALL: MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day: Every player wore Robinson's No. 42 Saturday and the Dodgers unveiled a statue of the man who broke baseball's color barrier -- 70 years to the day after he did it. "Better late than never" seems to apply.

8. PANTHERS: Tallon back in charge as club admits mistake: The Florida Panthers promoted the man they never should have demoted, making Dale Tallon general manager and director of hockey ops again following a disappointing non-playoff year. Move should have come with following official club statement: “Oops.”

9. NHL PLAYOFFS: Two teams jump to 3-0 series leads: Pittsburgh and St. Louis sit pretty with 3-0 series leads as NHL first-round playoffs continue today. Five of 16 teams after the Stanley Cup are Canadian. Will this be the year Canada finally win its first Cup since 1993? Naaah!

10. SOCCER: UEFA quarterfinals open amid bus bombing: Europe's Champions League quarterfinals began rocked by terrorist scare as two bombs targeted the team bus of Germany's Borussia Dortmund, injuring one player. Remember the good old days (not so old) when sports used to be our escape from reality rather than a reminder of it? 

Missing the HB10 cut: Dolphins coach Adam Gase hired Joe Vitt as a "consultant" focusing on special projects. Gase's wife is Vitt's daughter, but that did not factor in the hiring (!) ..... Former Hurricane Adrienne Motley was a third-round pick in the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever. Gotta love a league where 5-9 is not short ..... Ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez was found not guilty of double murder. Although, when one is already serving a life sentence for another murder, I'm guessing the celebration of a subsequent acquittal is somewhat muted ..... Sentences I Never Imagined I'd Read Or Write: "A stuck elevator temporarily kept Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson from discussing low income housing with former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning" ..... NBC Sports.com headline: "[Tony] Romo hasn't filed retirement papers yet (and it doesn't matter)." Um, so then why are you writing about !? ..... Keep waiting for Canes baseball to turn it around and start winning. And waiting. And...

NbaposNO MIAMI HEAT, BUT NBA PLAYOFFS START ANYWAY. A PREVIEW: NBA postseason commenced Saturday and Sunday with eight first-round Game 1s -- including three by-seed upsets, by the Bulls, Bucks and Jazz. Can anybody get in the way of a third consecutive Golden State-Cleveland Finals? (Doesn't seem so). Here is our series-by-series preview and predictions for the opening round, with all betting odds via our friends at Bovada:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

No. 1 Boston (53-29) vs. No. 8 Chicago (41-41) -- Season series tied 2-2. Favorite: Celtics 1-5 odds; Bulls 7-2. Likeliest result: Celtics win 4-1 (2-1 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: Isaiah Thomas 28.5, Jimmy Butler 25. This is the series in which the Miami Heat woulda/shoulda/coulda been facing Boston. Our pick: UPSET! Bulls win 4-3. Dwyane Wade alone has more playoff experience than the entire Celtics roster. Will be only the fifth 8-1 upset since NBA went to current playoff format in 1984.

No. 2 Cleveland (51-31) vs. No. 7 Indiana (42-40) -- Cavaliers won season series 3-1. Favorite: Cavs 1-11; Pacers 13-2. Likeliest result: Cavs win 4-1 (7-4 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: LeBron James 28, Paul George 25. Our pick: Cavaliers win 4-1. LeBron is king of the first round. Hasn't lost even a single 1R game since 2012.  

No. 3 Toronto (51-31) vs. No. 6 Milwaukee (42-40) -- Raptors won season series 3-1. Favorite: Raptors 1-4; Bucks 3-1. Likeliest result: Raptors win 4-1 (12-5 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: DeMar DeRozan 27.5, Giannis Antetokounmpo 23. Our pick: Raptors win 4-1. A blowout. Raps getting Kyle Lowry back last week makes all the difference.

No. 4 Washington (49-33) vs. No. 5 Atlanta (43-39) -- Wizards won season series 3-1. Favorite: Wizards 5-11; Hawks 9-5. Likeliest result: Wizards win 4-1 (3-1 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: John Wall/Bradley Beal both 23, Paul Millsap/Dennis Schroder both 17.5. Our pick: Wizards win 4-2. Don't think much of Hawks, who have minus point differential, worst of any team in postseason.

Combined average percentile likelihood of team winning series: Based on a combination of ESPN Experts Panel, Basketball Power Index, FiveThirtyEight.com and ESPN fans poll: Cavaliers 78.75%, Raptors 76.25%, Celtics 73.50%, Wizards 72.50%. 

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

No. 1 Golden State (67-15) vs. No. 8 Portland (41-41) -- Warriors won season series 4-0. Favorite: Warriors 1-100; Trail Blazers 22-1. Likeliest result: Warriors win 4-0 (1-1 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: Damian Lillard 28, Steph Curry/Kevin Durant both 26.5. Our pick: Warriors win, 4-0. Shock if Portland comes close, let alone wins. 

No. 2 San Antonio (61-21) vs. No. 7 Memphis (43-39) -- Season series ted 2-2. Favorite: Spurs 1-11; Grizzlies 13-2. Likeliest result: Spurs win 4-1 (8-5 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: Kawhi Leonard 25.5, Mike Conley 19. Our pick: Spurs win 4-1. Don't put much weight on that 2-2 season series. Per ESPN: Teams whose point differential was at least 5.0 per game better than their opponent's (Spurs' is 6.7 points better), are 48-3 in best-of-seven series since 2000.

No. 3 Houston (55-27) vs. No. 6 Oklahoma City (47-35) -- Rockets won season series 3-1. Favorite: Rockets 5-17; Thunder 11-4. Likeliest result: Rockets win 4-1 (11-5 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: Russell Westbrook 33.5, James Harden 29.5. Our pick: Rockets win 4-2. Westbrook vs. Harden makes this the most must-see of all the opening series. And all four season games were very close, so I don't discount OKC's upset shot.  

No. 4 L.A. Clippers (51-31) vs. No. 5 Utah (51-31) -- Clippers won season series 3-1. Favorite: Clippers 5-11; Jazz 9-5. Likeliest result: Clippers win 4-1 or 4-3 (both 3-1 odds). Projected scoring-average leaders: Blake Griffin 22, Gordon Hayward 21.5. Our pick: UPSET! Jazz win 4-3. Clips won home-court on a tiebreaker, but just a weird hunch here.

Combined average percentile likelihood of team winning series: Based on a combination of ESPN Experts Panel, Basketball Power Index, FiveThirtyEight.com and ESPN fans poll: Warriors 96.75%, Spurs 89.50%, Rockets 72.50%, Clippers 51.75%.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 4-17-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. NBA playoffs, 7 p.m.: Two first-round Game 2s, Pacers-Cavs followed by Grizzlies-Spurs.

2. Marlins at Seattle, 10:30 p.m.: Fish open nine-game road trip, season's second-longest.

3. NHL playoffs, 7 p.m.: Four first-round Game 3s, with Nashville and Anaheim both up 2-0.

4. Boston Marathon: Although, unless you're running in it, do you really care?

Jdf16JOSE FERNANDEZ DOCUMENTARY OUT: It was reported this week the Marlins later this season will unveil a permanent 10-foot statue to honor their late pitching ace Jose Fernandez, who died last September along with two others in a boating accident. Saturday, Univision debuted a 46-minute documentary film on Jose titled JDF16. The doc was filmed in Cuba and Florida and shares an intimate look at a young pitcher who risked his life to flee Cuba by boat in search of freedom a career in baseball. It aired on Univision Deportes TV and also is now available online at UnivisionNoticias.com. WATCH THE ENTIRE DOCUMENTARY HERE, with availability in two languages. Version presented is in Spanish with subtitles; simply click the Espanol button to hear the narrative in English. (For a text version of the documentary with photos, click TEXT). 

POLL RESULT: YES, THIS HEAT SEASON WAS A SUCCESS: Most times, perhaps, a .500 record and no playiffs would nt satisfy high-expectation Heat fans. But when that season started 11-30 and ended in a playoff chase? We asked: All things considered, how do you rate this past Miami Heat season? And you voted 83.9 percent "successful" vs. only 16.1% "not a success."

Select recent columns: Heat Must Seek Next Level, the latest, suggesting two players to target. Heat Fell Short, But Didn't Fail, off season-ending game. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Federer and Nadal Deliver, on Miami Open men's final. Always Dreaming, from Florida Derby. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to catch Patriots. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityLoria: The End Of An Error and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 13, 2017

Was this Heat season a success? New poll. Vote now!; plus Luddite's Heat season MVP revealed, Heat miss playoffs, NBA title odds, Landry's big boast, McShay's 3-round Dolphins mock, Marlins' start, Back In My Day video, Hot Button Daily (Fri) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is FRIDAY, April 14. Click on Express Lanes for my latest Back In My Day video rant from this week's LeBatard Show. 2) Know any Dolfans? Why not buy each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins' Opening Night win sandwiched around Heat's biggest games of season, keepin' it Brockmire & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My new column: 'Melo or Hayward for Heat?: Carmelo Anthony (via trade) or Gordon Hayward (in free agency) might be interesting options as the Heat approach the summer. Click on Heat Must Seek Next Level for my latest column.

POLL: WAS THIS HEAT SEASON A SUCCESS?: Weird Miami Heat season to judge, right? BY this franchise's standards, an even .500 record of 41-41 and no playoffs (barely) would not normally constitute success. And yet that record after an 11-30 first half of the season is something close to a sporting miracle, an astounding turnaround. So, in the simplest terms, how would you judge this Heat season. Take a dip in our poll and vote now:

HwhitesideCHAMPION REVEALED! HASSAN WHITESIDE REIGNS IN THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP FINAL 2016-17 STANDINGS: Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we went old-school, stripped it down, combined the Original Big Three statistical categories, and this season offered a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP --and Hassan Whiteside reigns as champion ahead of Goran Dragic in a (fairly) close race. We brought you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami finished at 41-41 after last night's season-ending home win over Washington, here is The Luddite's 16th and final installment.

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Final Standings:

1. Hassan Whiteside           2,458

2. Goran Dragic                 2,186

3. James Johnson              1,628

4. Tyler Johnson                1,529

5. Dion Waiters                 1,077

Second five: Rodney McGruder 876; Wayne Ellington 851; 8. Josh Richardson 845; Willie Reed 733; and Luke Babbitt 500.

Others: Justise Winslow 355; Derrick Williams 234; Josh McRoberts 232; Okaro White 201; and Udonis Haslem 73.

WON AND DONE: HEAT NEEDED SMALL MIRACLE BUT DIDN'T GET ONE, WINNING BUT FALLING SHORT OF PLAYOFFS: [Update: Heat beat Washington 110-102 but narrowly miss playoffs because neither Chicago nor Indiana cooperated and lost. Click on Heat Fell Short But Did Not Fail for my column from the game] Original post: You know the drill by now entering this last day of the NBA regular season. The Miami Heat will make the playoffs only if they beat Washington at home tonight and if either Chicago (home vs. Brooklyn) or Indiana (home vs. Atlanta) loses, with each game starting at 8. Under the best of Spocircumstances, that would be unlikely. ESPN's Basketball Power Index playoff chances entering tonight puts the Bulls at 88.7 percent, Pacers at 83.7% and Heat at just 27.6%. The mighty BPI projects all three will win tonight, which would leave Miami 41-41 but losing a tiebreaker to Dwyane Wade (ouch) and Chicago for the 8th and final East playoff ticket. Plainly, the Heat must win and then get help tonight from either Brooklyn or Atlanta. The problem: 1) Brooklyn is awful even at full strength but announced it will sit out six players tonight including leading scorer Brook Lopez and starting guard Jeremy Lin. So Chicago will be playing a facsimile of an awful team, one that is all but conceding the game to the Bulls. 2) Atlanta secured the fifth seed last night so has zero to play for in the second game of a back-to-back at Indiana. So the Hawks will "rest" five players tonight including leading scorer Paul Millsap with the playoffs starting Saturday, offering little resistance to Indiana. In fairness, the Heat also are catching a break tonight because, with Washington already locked into the fourth seed, the Wizards tonight will "rest" three players including stars John Wall and Bradley Beal. (Just as the Heat also caught a big break Monday when the Cavs "rested" LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Miami). In any case, in a Tweet last night, Heat owner Micky Arison already seemed resigned to putting a positive spin on narrowly missing the playoffs, writing: "#HEATNation forget what other teams are doing ... Let's make [Wednesday] amazing. Win & 30 & 11 for the second half. So proud of this team!" Pictured right: A focused Heat coach Erik Spoelstra tries to mentally will a playoff spot.

NBA title odds: Via sportsbettingdime.com, Warriors a strong NBA championship favorite at 6-5, with Cavaliers 4-1 and Spurs 9-1. Russell Westbrook is even/odds for league MVP, with James Harden close at 3-2. (Bovada has Warriors a prohibitive 5-8 fave, with Cavs 10-3 and Spurs 6-1).

LandryON JARVIS LANDRY'S BIG BOAST: Dolphins star receiver Jarvis Landry, in London this week as part of an NFL promotional tour, predicted Miami would sweep the New England Patriots this season, meaning winning both games. "If you're a competitor, that's the way you should feel, and I don't mind saying it," Landry elaborated. "It's time for a change. I have all the respect in the world for the Patriots, and I respect Tom Brady tremendously. But they're not our big brother anymore." The Dolphins last swept the Pats in 2000, so, um, they sort of are Big Brother until which time the Fins prove -- with actions, not words -- that they are not. Landry credits a reboot on the Dolphins' mindset under second-year coach Adam Gase, saying, "He's flipped the switch with us. New England's won the division 14 of the last 16 years, something like that? It's ridiculous. It's a problem. We cannot let that happen anymore. What I've seen is, when we play that game, sometimes we focus on the guys on the other side of the line instead of just focusing on us. And I want to be part of that change. I want to go into the games against New England expecting to win — that's something we need to do." My take: Good for Landry. Sometimes you need to broadcast your confidence aloud to stamp it as real. And Landry, with 288 catches and two Pro Bowls in three seasons, has earned the right to be vocal and occupy a leadership role. A little bravado looks good on the Miami Dolphins. Now let's see how it fits.

McShay's 3-round Mock picks for Fins, Canes: ESPN's Todd McShay vomited his three-round NFL Mock Draft this week, and has these picks for Dolphins: 1st round (22nd overall)--Ohio State CB Gareon Conley; 2nd (54th)--Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham; 3rd (97th)--San Diego State guard Nico Siragusa. Conley would be a logical, solid pick. I mentioned him prominently in my recent Sunday column; click Dolphins Draft Wish List to read. McShay's other two picks for Dolphins also make some sense, position-wise. He has Hurricanes TE David Njoku going 13th overall (a tad high)to Arizona -- and no other UMers in the first three rounds. So I say it for only the 100th time: Ya shoulda stayed, Brad Kaaya! 

OzunaON MARLINS' START: Nine games (six on the road) and a 4-5 record is a very small sample size, but early signs for the Marlins are somewhat encouraging. The lineup will be above-average in run production, led by an outfield trio (Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna) that could be as good as any in baseball. Ozuna (pictured), supposedly the least of the three, is batting .389 with four homers and MLB-leading 16 RBIs. Health is a big key, though, as thin depth looms as Miami's biggest concern. Pitching also has the potential to be solid, starters to bullpen. The rotation of Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, Tom Koehler, Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley is star-less but could be effective. Chen shows early signs of being the guy Miami thought it was getting, not last year's mess. Conley can be a star. If Straily proves as good as he was last year for the Reds, this could be a solid rotation. The problem? I do not think the Marlins are as good as the Nationals or Mets from their own division. But if Miami can take advantage of the lousy Braves and Phillies, Fish have the potential to be an 85-win team that hangs in the playoff chase. At least that's what it says here. In mid-April.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 4-14-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. N.Y. Mets at Marlins, 7 p.m.: NL East rivals play second of four-game series.

2. NHL playoffs, 7 p.m.: First-round series continue with four Game 2s.

3. Hurricanes at Pitt, 2 p.m.: Win-needy UM baseball plays ACC doubleheader.

Select other recent columns: Heat Fell Short, But Didn't Fail, off Wednesday's season-ending game. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Federer and Nadal Deliver, on Miami Open men's final. Always Dreaming, from Florida Derby. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to catch Patriots. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityLoria: The End Of An Error and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 10, 2017

Heat survive! Playoff hopes still alive with OT win over Cleveland!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Dale Tallon, our Fins draft column, your Marlins next-owner verdict, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, April 10. Passover begins at sundown today for our Jewish friends. And a happy Seder to them! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins next-owner poll, updated Heat playoff odds, your verdict on Romo/Canton & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Panthers re-name Tallon GM: No, seriously. The Florida Panthers this morning announced Dale Tallon had been named general manager and president of hockey operations. In other words, he now has the power he once had before the club demoted him in a move boneheaded beyond description. That move in turn led to the premature coaching change that sacked Gerard Gallant and brought in unqualified Tom Rowe, which in turn led to one of the most disappointing seasons in the NHL. A good move handing control back to Tallon, but what a botched season by this franchise.

My latest column: Dolphins draft: I preview the fast-approaching NFL Draft in my latest Sunday column, and offer 10 names the Dolphins should be interested in for the 22nd overall pick of the first round. Eight of those names are on defense. Click on Dolphins Draft Wish List to read the column.

HugegameHEAT BEAT CAVALIERS IN A CRAZY-BIG GAME: [Update: Heat beat LeBron-less Cavaliers 124-121 in overtime last night to keep playoff hopes alive. Click on Miracle Season a Joy to Behold for my column from the arena] Original post: LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers are tied with Boston atop the NBA East standings with two games to play. Miami is currently the 9th seed because Chicago (with the same record) enjoys the tiebreaker edge for 8th, with Indiana 7th. None of the three played Sunday but all go tonight. ESPN's Basketball Power Index playoff odds give Miami only a 34.4 percent shot, compared to the Bulls' 84.7% and Pacers' 80.9%. Miami must finish with a better record than Chicago and at least the same record as Indiana. Bottom line: Miami should consider tonight a must-win. Heat, which could get Dion Waiters back,  would be eliminated with a loss tonight if Pacers and Bulls both win. Miami catches a big break because LeBron and Kyrie Irving, both with supposed injuries, won't play. Closing schedules for each, UPDATED through Monday night results:

7. Indiana Pacers 41-40: vs. Atlanta .525 Wednesday.

8. Chicago Bulls 40-41: vs. Brooklyn .250 Wednesday.

9. Miami Heat 40-41: vs. Washington .600 Wednesday.

Heat must win Wednesday and hope either Chicago or Indiana lose in order to make the playoffs.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Down to wire on mad scramble for playoffs: Miami sits at 39-41 in 9th place in East and just off playoff pace in a mad scrum with Pacers and Bulls. (More on the Heat playoff picture below HB10). It will come down to each team's final two games -- with Miami's at home vs. Cavaliers tonight and Wizards Wednesday. Man, mediocrity has never been so exciting!?

2. MARLINS: Fish open at home Tuesday amid Jeter talk: Marlins wrapped up a decent 3-3 season-opening road trip Sunday and now it's Opening Night at home Tuesday vs. Braves. Season unfurls amid reports that a group fronted by Derek Jeter is among those interested in buying the Marlins. Yes, please!

3. GOLF: Sergio Garcia in green as The Masters wraps up: Sergio Garcia finally won his elusive first major on Sunday at Augusta, slipping on that sartorially awful green jacket. Speaking of slipping, Masters began with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson's late withdrawal with sore back after he slipped on stairs. Or was he pushed!?!

4. DOLPHINS: Draft preparation shifts into high gear: NFL Draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia, with Dolphins weighing options for 22nd overall pick in first round. Miami's primary goal? To be closer on the sliding draft scale to a Laremy Tunsil gift than to a Dion Jordan gaffe. 

5. PANTHERS: Humane bullet ends disappointing season: Season that began with of Stanley Cup dreams ended out of playoffs with thud Sunday at Washington. Cats ended with two straight wins but at 35-47 overall. It was reported interim coach Tom Rowe would not return, which ranked with Barry Manilow's 'I'm-gay' revelation as week's least-surprising news.

6. TONY ROMO: Cowboys QB retires, gets sweet TV gig: Tony Romo left the NFL and immediately was hired by CBS Sports to replace Phil Simms as main NFL analyst alongside Jim Nantz. The sports media -- the same guys who railed for years about how awful and boring Simms was -- then trumpeted indignantly how unfair it was Simms was losing his job. 

7. HURRICANES: Former players donate big to indoor practice facility: As football spring practice continues on campus, 60 former Miami Hurricanes football players led by current coach Mark Richt donated $1.65 million to the Greg Cote Football Indoor Practice Facility. What. Oh, my bad. It's the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility.

8. SOCCER: U.S. women, UEFA quarterfinals on stage: U.S. women's team walloped Russia 5-1 Sunday in a friendly in Houston, but the big news in international soccer will be UEFA Champions League quarterfinal matches Tuesday and Wednesday. Those won't be friendly.

9. FIU: Football stadium named for major donor: FIU Stadium officially became Riccardo Silva Stadium this week, named after a major athletic donor. People who will now call it Riccardo Silva Stadium: FIU, and Riccardo Silva. People who'll continue to call it FIU Stadium: Everybody else.

10. LAVAR BALL: Idiot-dad at it again with 'white guys' remark: Clown-dad father LaVar Ball now claims his son's UCLA team lost in the NCAA Tournament because of the slowness of "three white guys." Well, at least he didn't name them!

Missing the HB10 cut: Daniel Cormier defended his title belt in UFC 2010 last night in Buffalo, and we cannot even feign enough interest to go on ..... Denver won the NCAA men's ice hockey championship, surprising analysts who were unaware Denver was a college or that there was college hockey ..... Tony Romo will be "Maverick for a day" and sit in uniform on the Dallas bench. Given the Mavs' season, surprised Tony didn't say, "UM, uh, no thanks." ..... And in other news, the U.S. bombed Syria.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 4-10-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Cleveland at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Miami better consider this must-win in playoff race with two games left.

2. Heat rivals, 7 and 8 p.m.: Heat fans rooting against Indiana (7 @ PHI) and Chicago (8 vs. ORL).

3. Duke at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball wraps up ACC home series.

4. Los Angeles at Chicago, 8 p.m.: Dodgers-Cubs on national TV. Why not!?

Poll result: Strong support for Jeter to head next Marlins owners: We asked who you most support as potential next owner of the Miami Marlins, and the Derek Jeter-led investment group dominated with 73.7 percent. The Jeb Bush-led group said to be Citigroup-backed had fair support with 12.8%. Also-rans were the faceless group said to have backing of Goldman Sachs (5.8%), the Kushner family that first had handshake agreement (4.5%), and the hope that Jeffrey Loria changes his mind and keeps team (3.2%).

Select other recent columns: Federer and Nadal Deliver, on Miami Open men's final. Always Dreaming, from Florida Derby. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to catch Patriots. Missing Waiters, on his value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityIs Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?Loria: The End Of An Error, Thank You, Edwin Pope.
 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 04, 2017

Playoffs? Bust? Set bar on Marlins expectations. Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Fish, UNC, Heat, Always Dreaming, Federer, Dion Jordan; also, Radio Tuesday, Florida Derby/Marlins columns, Hot Button Daily (Tue) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, April 4. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday with Final Four/Florida Derby/Miami Open, The List I-II, your NBA MVP verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and with the national show airing on ESPNU/ESPN2.

Florida Derby, Marlins preview columns: It was a double Sunday dose o' me as I weighed in with a column from Saturday's Florida Derby as well as a Marlins season preview column. Click on Always Dreaming for my Derbyizing on the winning horse and its owner, Vinnie Viola, the Florida Panthers owner. Click on Mourning And Celebration for my preview column on a Marlins season unlike any other.

My final bracket update: I finished 5th among some 90 entries in the LeBatard & Friends pool -- not bad -- topped by correctly having North Carolina as my national champion. 

Marlins odMARLINS OPENING DAY POLL: Yesterday began the Marlins' 25th season, and we're gauging how optimistic (or not) South Florida is about the team. Remove the rose-colored glasses and vote what you honestly expect will happen, please, not what you hope will. We ran this exact same poll in the blog in mid-February as spring training unfurled, so we'll be interested to compare results to detect any shifts. Ready? Play ball! Vote now...

THE LIST: MARLINS OPENING DAY STARTERS: Edinson Volquez became the 15th different Marlins Opening Day starting pitcher in the club's 25-year history. The eight pitchers with multiple Opening Day starts for the Fish:

Josh Beckett                  3    2003-05

Josh Johnson                  3    2010-12

Charlie Hough                2    1993-94 

Kevin Brown                   2    1996-97

Alex Fernandez              2    1999-00

Ryan Dempster               2    2001-02 

Dontrelle Willis              2    2006-07

Ricky Nolasco                 2    2009, '13

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. MARLINS: Play ball! Fish open 25th season on road today: MLB Opening Day was Sunday with three games, but Miami plays six straight away starting with Monday's loss at Washington before finally opening at home April 11. This could be the year unpopular owner Jeffrey Loria finally sells the team. Which pretty much already makes it a successful season!

2. NCAA TOURNAMENT: Finally! It's North Carolina: There were 351 teams, from which 68 made the men's NCAA Tournament. Then it was down to 32, then 16 to eight to four to two and now ... the final one. It was North Carolina for the national title last night in the long-awaited crescendo to March (into April) Madness.

3. HEAT: Playoff fight intensifies as Miami winds down season: Heat is down to five games left as it angles for a first-round playoff series vs. Boston or Cleveland. Miami's long climb back staggered with a Sunday home loss to Denver that left Heat hanging onto 8th and last playoff seed. Oy!

4. HORSE RACING: Always Dreaming wins 66th Florida Derby: Gunnevera was the betting favorite Saturday but the Florida Derby belonged to Always Dreaming, owned by Florida Panthers  owner Vinnie Viola. It was nice to see horse racing the star at Gulfstream again for at least a day, not the casino, poker, restaurants etc. Also nice to see that Viola's four-legged athlete runs better than his two-legged guys skate.

5. TENNIS: Federer beats Nadal in Miami Open men's final: Jo Konta beating Caroline Wozniacki wasn't exactly a dream women's final for the Miami Open on Saturday, but Sunday delivered just that on the men's side with Roger Federer beating Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in a heavyweight men's title match.

6. GOLF: The Masters arrives, but Tiger-less once more: Season's first golf major unfurls Thursday at Augusta as an absent Tiger Woods, still beset by back issues, continues one of the most epic slow fades in the history of sports.

7. DOLPHINS: Fins release all-time bust Dion Jordan: The quintessential NFL all-time draft bust might still be Ryan Leaf. But in the Miami division, Dion Jordan's dubious crown was affirmed this week as the Dolphins finally cut the guy they traded up for and never stopped regretting it. 

8. NCAA WOMEN: South Carolina reigns after UConn upset loss stuns women's Final Four: South Carolina beat Mississippi State in the finale Sunday night. But, no matter, dynastic UConn losing in Final Four, after 111 consecutive wins, already made it a refreshing victory for women's college basketball. 

9. PANTHERS: Cats eliminated from playoff chase as disappointing season ebbs: Florida is down to three games left after Monday home loss to Montreal, a going-through-the-motions phase to end a huge letdown of a season. Um how'd that coaching change work out, by the way? Boneheaded. 

10. PRO WRESTLING: Orlando hosts WrestleMania 33: Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton had big wins and The Undertaker lost in his final WWE match to highlight WrestleMania 33. Imagine. Sports' biggest cartoon event in a city that worships Mickey Mouse. Perfect. So right.

Missing the HB10 cut: NFL owners voted 31-1 to OK Oakland Raiders' move to Las Vegas, with Dolphins' Stephen Ross the lone dissenter. Ross has since been so heroically lauded in the media you'd think he'd rescued three nuns from a burning car ..... Hurricanes football held its annual Pro Day for NFL teams to analyze 15 UM players as the draft nears. Only one, TE David Njoku, figures as a first-rounder. And I'll say it again: Ya shoulda stayed, Brad Kaaya ..... When was the last time UM baseball entered April with a losing record? Holy Brad Kelly!

HOT BUTTON DAILY / TUE 4-4-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. FIU at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m.: FIU baseball tops the marquee? Huh!?

2. Yes. Yes it is. It is the single slowest day of the entire sports year.

Select other recent columns: The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to close gap on Patriots. Missing Waiters, on Dion Waiters' value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Method to the Madness?, on bizarre LaVar Ball. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, on World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityIs Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?Loria: The End Of An Error, Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 27, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring NCAA Final Four, Heat stretch run, tennis, Fish, Cats, horses; plus Kaepernick vs. Moore as Dolphins backup QB. Poll. Vote now!; also Elton John, Venus Williams, my bracket, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Eltonthen Eltonnow1) It is MONDAY, March 27. A most happy 70th birthday Saturday to a lifelong favorite of mine, Elton John, pictured then and now. I have been a huge fan since the '70s, augmenting my love of his music with an admiration for his many philanthropic works that set the standard for the music industry. The word is grossly overused in entertainment but it fits this man: Superstar. So happy his milestone birthday found him in a great place and the happiest he has ever been. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Kiper's surprise Mock pick for Dolphins, Team USA wins WBC crown, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (70 games), Sweet 16 title odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My Sunday column: The curious unemployment of Colin Kaepernick: I explore what could be the NFL blackballing of Colin Kaepernick in my latest Sunday column. Click on Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick? to read. Kaepernick threw 16 TDs vs. only four interceptions, topped a 90 rating and was second among NFL QBs in rushing yards last season. He'd make somebody an exciting backup option for the right price -- Dolphins included. Agree. Find a Kaepernick vs. Matt Moore poll here directly below the new Hot Button Top 10.

Bracket update: I stand tied for 14th among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends pool after Sunday's results set the Final Four. I have North Carolina (my national champ) and Oregon both still alive in my FF. Two out of four; not bad. ESPN says only 657 of 18,797,085 brackets correctly predicted all four Final Four teams. That is 0.00003495 percent.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NCAA ELITE EIGHT: Finally! The Final Four is set: It'll be 1-seed Gonzaga vs. 7-South Carolina and 1-North Carolina vs 3-Oregon in next week's Final Four semifinal games of the NCAA men's tourney as March Madness nears its crescendo. Are you still alive in your office pool? Or was that your bracket I saw smoldering in tatters on the side of the road this morning?

2. HEAT: Miami prepares for Pistons as stretch run continues: Loss in Boston Sunday didn't help, but nine games left starting with a huge one Tuesday in Detroit could find Heat rising as high as the fifth playoff seed or missing postseason altogether. Who says NBA regular seasons don't matter?

3. TENNIS: Miami Open reaches midpoint on Key Biscayne: Not as much interest on women's side in a field missing injured Serena Williams, but we'll gladly take a Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer men's final next Sunday (please) as the annual fortnight ends at Crandon Park Tennis Center. Meanwhile Hard Rock Stadium is trying to poach the event from Key Biscayne, which at least beats it leaving altogether. 

4. MARLINS: WBC stars rejoin team as spring winds down: Team USA's Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich rejoined Marlins from World Baseball Classic for final week of spring training. WBC champions to NL East also-rans. Hope Stanton and Yelich didn't get too used to all that winning.

5. PANTHERS: Cats win big but still need miracle on ice: Florida is down to seven games and still seven points off playoff pace even after Saturday's big 7-0 home win over Chicago. As a disappointing season ebbs do you remember how a big offseason had the Cats talking Stanley Cup? Yeah they'd probably rather that you'd forgotten.

6. HORSE RACING: Gulfstream hosts Florida Derby in five days: Gunnavera will try to solidify his status as a Kentucky Derby favorite in next Saturday's major prep race, the annual Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Always nice to see horses take back center stage at a horse track these days, albeit briefly.  

7. NCAA WOMEN: Monday completes Final Four matchups: Stanford and Mississippi State are in. Today, Oregon-UConn and Florida State-South Carolina winners will join them in women's Final Four.

8. NFL/DOLPHINS: Looks like free agency came and went quietly: Um, is that all there is? Dolphins didn't make a big splash, and biggest questions that remain nationally involve the possible landing spots for QBs Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Jimmy Garoppolo. But the draft is getting close!

9. TIGER WOODS: Eldrick still hoping to be ready for The Masters: Year's first major is April 6-9 at Augusta, and Tiger Woods -- his long-awaited comeback from back ailmenbst forever delayed or aborted -- says he wants in. Do we believe him? Do we still care?

10. CANES BASEBALL: UM avoid sweep, at least: Once-ranked Miami now 11-13 after avoiding a sweep by winning Sunday at No. 8 North Carolina. The season he dreamed of is a nightmare thus far for Jim Morris.

Missing the HB10 cut: Sorry, UM football. You don't have the courtesy to open your spring practices to the public, you don't get in the HB10 ..... The Lakers unveiled a 1,200-pound dunking statue of Shaquille O'Neal. So it's about life-sized, then ..... OK UCLA finally lost. Can we all stop interviewing LaVar Ball now please? ..... U.S. men's soccer crushed Honduras, 6-0, reminding us that Jurgen Klinsmann really did need to go ..... Ultra Music Festival ends today in Miami, the only event at which drugs not only are allowed, but are required.

POLL: COLIN KAEPERNICK VS. MATT MOORE AS DOLPHINS BACKUP QB?: Relax, people. It's just for fun...

VenuswTHE UNDERAPPRECIATED WONDER OF VENUS WILLIAMS: [Update: Venus won her opening match in the Miami Open, defeating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4-,6-3, and plays again today] Original post: As Serena Williams skips this Miami Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne with a knee injury, we take the occasion to give the credit that is due to the overshadowed, underappreciated career of older sister Venus Williams. Serena said recently of Venus: "There’s no way I’d be at 23 [Grand Slam titles] without her. There’s no way I’d be at one without her. There’s no way I’d be anything without her. She’s the only reason the Williams sisters exist." Serena says her drive to be better than her big sister is what drove her to greatness. But imagine all of the additional major title Venus might have won if her greatest rival hadn't been her own sister? Click on An Ode to the 'Other' for my column in tribute to Venus.

THE LIST: TOP 5 GREATEST VENUSES OF ALL-TIME: Our own order:

1. Venus (second planet from the sun)

2. Venus Williams (tennis player)

3. Venus de Milo (ancient Greek statue)

4. Venus Flytrap (carnivorous plant)

5. Venus (surprising humane 2006 Peter O'Toole film about aging)

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-27-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:
 
1. NCAA women, 7 p.m.: Oregon-UConn, then FSU-South Carolina compete to get into Final Four.

2. Miami Open, 11 am.: Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Venus Williams among stars in play today.

3. Panthers at Buffalo, 7 p.m.: Cats still alive, but barely, in playoff chase.

4. Marlins vs.N.Y. Mets, 1:05 p.m.: Fish in Jupiter as spring training winds down.

"WHERE TO NOW, ST. PETER?," ELTON JOHN, 1970: Tumbleweed Connection was the first Elton John album that really struck me, with its influences in country and Americana but also rock and even psychedelia. I had no idea then that the music of this man would become a lifelong friend...

Select other recent columns: Method to the Madness?, on the bizarre LaVarBall. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing the tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on developments in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote