April 20, 2015

Trust Pat Riley ... except when he says he's made peace with LeBron. My new column; plus what should Dolphins target in draft? Poll. Vote now!; also Hot Button Top 10 (updated), 4/20, your pick for NBA title & more

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

1aa1aapril4201) It is MONDAY, APRIL 20. It's 4-20, the unofficial national holiday when marijuana devotees celebrate their love of cannabis by smoking weed ... just like they do every other day of the year, but with a tad more ceremony today. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA playoffs preview and poll, Weighing The Fish (10 games), Dolphins preseason & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

TRUST PAT RILEY ... EXCEPT WHEN HE SAYS HE'S MADE PEACE WITH THE WAY LEBRON LEFT: My column off today's Riley postseason State of the Heat news conference is now posted online and you'd click In Riley We Trust to read it there. We posted it in advance here in its entirety, including an interesting, barely disguised shot at LeBron James, a passage underlined for emphasis below. The photo is by me from the news conference:

1aa1arileyme      Pat Riley just turned 70. His hair has gone a natural silvery gray. He is at a point, in life and career, when a man begins to hear his mortality clock ever louder, to a point that reminders from elsewhere are neither required nor appreciated.

      "People always are trying to make me older than I am," he mused with a small smile Monday in his annual season-ending State of the Heat news conference. "They’re trying to ask me, ‘Why are trying to stay around this game?’ I love the game. I love competition. I love the challenge of building this team again."

      Riley is an NBA lifer in his 46th year in the league, and planning for his 21st season in Miami. He may be a newly minted septuagenarian, but he is convinced he has another championship ring -– at least one more -– in his future.

      Do you doubt him?

      We don’t trust much in South Florida sports or have a lot of faith right now, do we?

      We don’t trust Jeffrey Loria owning the Marlins.

      We have doubts about Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.

      We see Panthers hockey forever trying our patience.

      We feel eroding confidence in Canes football coach Al Golden.

      There isn’t a lot at the top of our sports marquee that has earned our unequivocal trust.

      But Riley has.

      By his tenure and titles, by his track record, the wily Silver Fox has earned every confidence that the injury-marred, playoff-less season just past was a blip, an outlier. In the triumvirate of Riley, owner Micky Arison and coach Erik Spoelstraa, the Heat continue to be the unrivaled model for Miami sports.

      "I challenge myself more than anybody else," he said, "to make sure what happened this year doesn’t happen again."

      Do you doubt he is up to the challenge?

      One year earlier, though in June, after Miami’s loss in the NBA Finals, Riley’s theme had been to pointedly challenge LeBron James to stay, saying, "You have to stay together if you got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it."

      Twenty-two days later James found the door marked ‘Cleveland’ and ran out of it.

      Monday, Riley obviously was alluding to James and the timing and manner of his departure when he referred to having "no more smiling faces with hidden agendas" to deal with this time. Pressed on that he attempted a fast back-track by saying he could have meant "anyone across the board," though it was obvious who he meant.

      I later asked Riley directly if he is at peace with the way James left.

      "Yes, absolutely," he said. "I’m at peace with it."

      I think he was being smarter than he was truthful. In any case Riley is wise to set aside if not bury the LeBron animus, at least publicly, and portray a man not lamenting, but looking forward.

      There is much to look forward to.

      Center Hassan Whiteside, forwards Chris Bosh and Luol Deng and guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic -– that is a starting five you can win with. With good health, and added depth including another 3-point shooter or two, that is a starting five you can contend with.

      "You would like to have seen that team intact for just one game," Riley said. "We didn’t get to see that. It was a real disappointing year in terms of setbacks."

      Riley portrayed being able to re-sign Dragic as a near-certainty.

      "If he doesn’t sign, my ass is going to be in that seat next year and I’ll be writing," he joked, pointing at reporters. "We’re in a very good position to offer him more than anybody else."

      Dragic and Bosh are all-star caliber. So, still, is Wade, who has shown an ability to offset advancing age with efficiency. Whiteside could become a powerhouse, what Riley called "a formidable presence in the offense." Deng is the selfless do-it-all guy every team needs. The return of Josh McRoberts to the rotation will be big. Guys like Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem still fill a valuable role.

      There is little doubt that Miami –- even with all of the injuries and Bosh’s blood clots and the 30 different starting lineups -– still should have made the playoffs but for a late swoon.

      "I told Eric [Spoelstra] to go beat himself up for a week," Riley said, maybe half-kidding. "And if he didn’t want to, I’d help him."

      Riley remains a huge Spoelstra supporter and believer, but also an enormous asset.

      "I’ve been in that trench before," as Riley put it. "I see everything. He knows I see everything."

      The club’s president and architect has seen enough, and accomplished enough, that Heat fans should have little doubt he’ll see this franchise back into the playoffs next season, and soon back into championship contention.

      It is hard to not have doubts about many of our biggest South Florida sports teams right now.

      It is hard to trust and have faith in who is in charge and leading those teams.

      Pat Riley makes it easy.

1aa1adoldraftWHAT POSITION SHOULD DOLPHINS TARGET IN FIRST ROUND?: It's the night of April 30. Dolphins are on the clock at No. 14 in the first round. There are comparably talented and rated players available at the positions Miami has targeted. So, what to do? Wide receiver seems to be the position earmarked for Fins in a lot of early mock drafts and analysis. It's a glamour position -- though also won pretty well-stocked, by my eye. Would cornerback or linebacker be a smarter option? (Yes, guard also is a need, but no OG is seen as 1R-worthy this year). So you tell me. Vote and say why.

Poll result: Warriors, then Spurs your pick for NBA title: Golden State (37.3 percent) and San Antonio (31.6%) dominated third-place Cleveland (15.3%) when we asked who'd win the NBA championship. Hmm. Anti-LeBron bias, perhaps? Atlanta was a distant fourth with 6.2%.

HOT BUTTON APR. 19: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, newly updated. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NBA: No Heat, but NBA playoffs begin anyway: With Dwyane Wade and Miami on outside for first time since 2008, NBA playoffs began this weekend with LeBron James’ Cleveland and Steph Curry’s Golden State the betting co-favorites and both off to 1-0 series leads. Meantime, Miami somehow lost its playoff spot to Boston and Brooklyn even though it was 7-1 against them. "SMH," said Heat fans, shaking their heads.

2, MARLINS: Fish swept by Mets, rough start to season tests optimism: Dee Gordon is way-hot and Giancarlo Stanton set the club record for career homers, but little else has gone right in team's 3-10 after Sunday' loss and sweep by Mets. Miami doesn't play today. The ways things are going, Marlins will lose the off-day.

3. DOLPHINS: Fins ponder options as NFL Draft nears: Countdown is 10 days now until first round, with speculation growing that Miami likely will take a receiver or cornerback 14th overall. Then again, there also looms the anticlimactic possibility of a trade down.

4. LEGAL SYSTEM: Ex-Patriot Hernandez guilty of murder: Aaron Hernandez will serve life in prison, after jurors said they were “shocked” defense lawyer James Sultan admitted Hernandez witnessed the murder even though no testimony or evidence had placed him at the scene. Opposing defenses were seldom a problem for Hernandez, but apparently his own defense was.

5. NHL: Stanley Cup playoffs start without Cats (again): The hockey postseason is underway, and many experts see the New York Rangers as favorites to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. That was one year after a team from Canada last won it all, a now-22-year drought for the birthplace of hockey. Modified national anthem to play at arenas during playoffs: Oh No, Canada.

6. BOSTON MARATHON: Iconic race is Monday, two years later: The 119th running will be today for the race struck by the 2013 terrorist bombing that killed three and wounded 264. The sentencing for convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins Tuesday. Is it too late to invent a sentence worse than death?

7. POLITICS: NBA visits Cuba this week: NBA will conduct a developmental camp in Cuba this Thursday through Sunday. That's against the Heat's wishes, on the face of it, although Micky Arison's Carnival cruise line would benefit greatly from an open port and tourism in Cuba.

8. GOLF: Next Tiger? Spieth wins Masters, electrifies sport: Jordan Spieth, 21, impressively won the Masters and immediately I saw a poll asking whether Spieth would shatter the record by surpassing 20 career major wins. Tap brakes, please. Talking 20 majors after No. 1 is like mentioning the Cy Young Award on Opening Day after the pitcher retires the side in the top of the first.

9. PANTHERS: Florida slotted for 11th pick: NHL draft lottery determined the Panthers will select 11th in the draft they will host in Sunrise on June 26, after the league rejected Florida's proposal that, this year only, the draft host gets the overall No.1 pick.

10. FIU: Golden Panthers wrap spring practice: FIU, seeking its first winning season since 2011, drew a couple of hundred fans for its Spring Game, which was only about 99,000 fewer than Ohio State.

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April 14, 2015

It's official. It's over. Heat eliminated from playoff chase by Indy win; plus who should be on Marlins' all-time "Mount Rushmore"? Poll. Vote now!; also Dolphins draft, Jordan Spieth, Lexi Thompson topless, presidential politics, God & more

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

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Will have a new 'Back In My Day' segment if I can dream one up. Ears welcome.

1aa1abosh1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 14. Chris Bosh is shown flanked by Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade and their significant others during Bosh's recent 31st birthday party. Click on image to see it larger. 2) Rolling Stones fan? Mick and the boys are playing Orlando Citrus Bowl on June 12. 3) Heard Howard Stern's great 90 minutes with Madonna. Stern doesn't get enough credit for being an adroit interviewer. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Heat playoff chase, LeBron-sabotage verdict &more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins draft: ESPN and Football Outsiders offers "draft guides" for all 32 NFL teams and you'd find Miami's here. They call cornerback the Fins' greatest need and suggest a trade-down from No. 14 to acquire additional picks is very possible to likely.

Richie incognito seems to be fitting in well with the Bills. Although several players complain that a large teammate they're afraid to identify keeps stealing their lunch money. --Greg Cote

PLAYOFF CHASE: DONE. HEAT ELIMINATED: Heat's 100-93 win over Orlando in home finale last night kept Miami alive, but Heat were eliminated from playoff race tonight by Indiana's 99-95 double-overtime home win over Washington. (Click on You Know How This Ends, Right? for my column from the Heat arena. I wrote that it remained hugely likely Miami would miss the playoffs but that it hardly matters. What does is a brighter future next season with a healthy Chris Bosh, a full year of Goran Dragic and a developing Hassan Whiteside. The frustration here wasn't missing the playoffs but how they were missed: with a late-season collapse that somehow kept Miami from being one of the top eight teams in a really bad conference). Anyway, Boston clinched the No. 7 East and now it's Brooklyn or Indiana for No. 8 as Miami will watch the postseason on TV for first time since 2008.

WHO SHOULD BE ON MARLINS' FRANCHISE "MOUNT RUSHMORE"?: The time-worn "Mount Rushmore" gimmick, the concept that local radio man Marc Hochman is convinced he invented despite it being applied to myriad top-four lists throughout history, is now being done for every team at MLB.com. (Find 1aa1afishmountthe ballot here). Fans are invited to name the "Franchise Four" from eight finalists plus an other/write-in category, with results to be announced during the July All-Star break. The Marlins' final eight presented in our poll is interesting. For me Josh Beckett and Livan Hernandez are dubious picks apparently included because both were World Series MVPs. Not sure about Charles Johnson, either, because of the offensive deficiencies. Obvious omissions? Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez. Maybe Dontrelle Willis? Oh, and some guy named Ricky Nolasco happens to be No. 1 in Marlins all-time starts, innings, strikeouts and victories, that's all. So don't blame me. Our poll is based on the MLB list. Also I have excluded an "other" category because it would be a wasted vote. Let's play the hand we are dealt. By whatever criteria you wish, vote for the top four (4) and say why.

Figuring four-vote ballot results: Any one player's maximum vote would be 25 percent of the total if everyone cast the maximum four votes. Multiply a player's total times four for an idea of the overall percentage of ballots on which that player is being included.

GOLF'S GREAT DAY: Jordan Spieth (pictured) won The Masters on Sunday, but golf and the PGA Tour won, too. 1aa1ajspiethSpieth, 21, seems the real deal, the first young American who could truly be up to the "next Tiger" stuff. Meanwhile young Rory McIlroy (world No. 1 and fourth place Sunday) won't concede anything to Spieth. Golf also benefits from old-timer Phil Mickelson's big Masters and from the fact Tiger Woods also had an encouraging tournament. This is straight out of the PGA Tour's dreams: McIlroy and the American Spieth leading a new vanguard while guys like Mickelson and Woods remains relevant. Quick aside: Spieth is an old-looking 21 thanks largely to the Prince William hairline that will have Jordan endorsing implants by 25.

U.S Open odds: Via Bovada today, Rory McIlroy is an early 11-2 favorite to win golf's next major, the U.S. Open, followed by Jordan Spieth at 7-1 and Tiger Woods at 14-1.

1aa1alexitLEXI THOMPSON OH MY!: Coral Springs-born rising LPGA star Lexi Thompson, 20, poses topless (sort of) on the cover of the current Golf Digest magazine, a towel covering most of what is otherwise uncovered. What's amazing is not that this is daring or groundbreaking (it's neither), but that it is generating a lot of attention. For media and athletes alike, what once was bold is now blase'. Bumper sticker: Honk If You've Appeared Nekkid On a Magazine Cover.

 

 

RUBIO, CLINTON: TWO THOUGHTS ON PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: Miami's own Marco Rubio announced his presidential candidacy last evening at Freedom Tower. I had two suggestions: Hidden, oscillating 1aa1ahillrubfans to counter Rubio's tendency to sweat like Richard NIxon in a 1960 debate. And no water bottles within 100 feet of him! More seriously, Rubio has an outside nomination shot in a muddled Republican field bereft of a clear frontrunner, although he must overcome the notion that, at 43, it's too soon for him. Damning poll numbers also suggest his support has eroded since he sort of peaked as an "it" guy in 2013. On the Democrat side there is a clear, now-declared frontrunner, but I'll be very interested to see if Hillary Clinton's age -- she'd be 68 on election day -- will emerge as a factor or be a subject considered off-limits.

1aa1abumperCOMBATIVE, COMPETITIVE CHRISTIANS: Pictured is a bumper sticker I saw on an older car while visiting my mother in Vero Beach on Sunday. The message -- I Love God More Than You Do -- struck me as comical, although I don't think it was intended to be.

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April 12, 2015

All but done. Heat playoff chances now 1.7%; plus the new Hot Button Top 10 with Heat, zombie Marlins, Masters, Fins, Cuba, Cats, Canes, FIU & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 13. Random Evidence, the Sunday notes column, took the day off but will return next week. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's plunging playoff fortunes, LeBron sabotaging Heat poll, Branden Albert boxing, NBA/Cuba verdict, Marlins off schneid, Kardashian-Free Zone & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Historical SadFact: With the Heat facing elimination today from contention for the NBA playoffs, this would be only the fifth time in 21 shared seasons that both Heat and NHL Panthers sat out the postseason. Previous occurrences were in 2008, 2003, 2002 and 1995.

PLAYOFF CHASE: MIAMI (ALL BUT) ELIMINATED: The latest home 1aa1adwadeloss, 107-104 to Toronto, was Miami's ninth in the past 12 games and pushed Heat to very edge of elimination from NBA playoff race. Dwyane Wade (pictured), who scored 30, displays an expression fitting the frustration of how Miami has blown it the past few weeks. Heat must now win its final two games and hope Brooklyn and Indiana both end 0-2, after Boston beat the LeBron-less Cavs yesterday to (all but) eliminate the Heat. Four teams were jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. Playoff-likelihood percents are updated to reflect yesterday's developments. How it looks entering Monday's NBA action:

7. Boston: 38-42, W4. Playoff likelihood: 98.3% (up 10.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Tuesday vs. TOR, Wednesday @ MIL. Note: All but clinched.

8. Brooklyn: 37-43, L1. Playoff likelihood: 76.4% (down 12.5). Next: Tonight vs. CHI, Wednesday vs. ORL. Note: Last two games being at home helps cause.

9. Indiana: 37-43, W5. Playoff likelihood: 23.6 (up 2.8). Next: Tonight vs. WAS, Wednesday @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat.

10. Miami: 35-45, L2. Playoff likelihood: 1.7% (down 1.1). Next: Tonight vs. ORL, Wednesday @ PHI. Note: Heat makes playoffs only if it finishes 2-0 and Brooklyn and Indiana both finish 0-2.

HOT BUTTON APR. 12: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Miami playoff hopes now all but over: To make the playoffs now, Miami must finish 2-0 (starting tonight vs. Orlando in home finale) and hope Brooklyn and Indiana both end 0-2. That could happen. Yes, and I could hit the Lotto on the way to my blind date with Olivia Munn.

2. MARLINS: Fish staggering at 1-5 start: Team finally won Friday on a "Zombie Night" promotion as many fans arrived dressed as the living dead -- emulating their team's bats during the punchless five losses including yesterday's. More ominous yet: Henderson Alvarez may be out as Fish begin 10-game road trip.

3. GOLF: The Masters under Spieth's spell: Jordan Spieth, 21, became the second-youngest Masters winner (after Tiger Woods in 1997) in dominating Augusta. Tiger was a big story for playing credibly, which tells you how far his career has sunk.

4. DOLPHINS: Pouncey signs long-term deal: No rest. Team signs center Mike Pouncey long-term, auditions but doesn't sign WRs Wes Welker, Greg Jennings and Michael Crabtree, and prepares (17 days and counting) for the NFL Draft.

5. NBA: League to hold camp in Cuba: League blindsided and angered Heat by unilaterally announcing an April 23-26 developmental camp in Cuba. A heads-up might have been logical and nice for the one franchise affected by any relationship with the island.

6. PANTHERS: Hockey season quietly expires: Much improvement and lots to like under first-year coach Gerard Gallant, team MVP Roberto Luongo and late-arrival JaromirJagr in season that ended with Saturday win over Jersey. Bottom line, though: For 17th time in 21 franchise seasons, no playoffs.

7. HURRICANES: 10 more inducted in UM sports hall: I don't wanna say its inducts too many people each year, but if it were a country, the UM Sports Hall of Fame would be the 43rd most populous nation on Earth.

8. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Duke men, UConn women reign: Now if we can just get the two champions to play each other for the ultimate crown. Sure, it'd be ridiculous. But you'd watch, wouldn't you?

9. TENNIS: Novak, Serena win Miami Open: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams won titles on Key Biscayne last weekend. Or, given tennis' predictability ... did that go without saying?

10. FIU BASKETBALL: FIU hires new hoops coach: FIU introduced former Maryland assistant Marlin Chinn as head coach of its women's team. Which makes him the newest Miami Marlin, right?

Poll result: Most don't think LeBron is intentionally hurting Heat: We asked if you thought LeBron James resting or sitting out two straight games vs. Celtics might be to intentionally hurt Miami's playoff chances, and it was 51.4 percent no, 38.1% yes and 10.5% maybe/undecided.

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April 09, 2015

Blew it! Heat waste huge lead, put playoff hopes in grave peril; plus Heat, NBA at odds over Cuba (with poll); also Kiper's latest draft guess for Dolphins, Fins preseason schedule, MLB video starring Stanton, The Masters & more

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


1aa1awesw1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 9. Happy birthday, Mom! 2) Wes Welker (pictured), almost 34 and addled by concussions, visited the Dolphins. Gawd. He doesn't need to be signed. He needs to be told to retire. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Day poll, Heat swoon, Duke-Wisconsin pick, well-dressed animals & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

NBA blindsides, angers Heat with new Cuba initiative: My latest column, online and shipped to Thursday's paper. Click on Unilateral Decision to read.

Marlins now 0-3, suffer Sleeping Bat Syndrome: Visiting Braves sweep Marlins with last night's 2-0 game, meaning Miami scored three runs in three games. The bright side? Two solid pitching performances. The dim side? Everything else. Nightmare start to the season for Miami. (Click on Another Oddball Opening Day for my column from Game 1). Perspective helps, of course. Still only three games of 162. Still, a fast buzzkill on all that hope and optimism. Up to Fish to win it back.

PLAYOFF CHASE: HEAT SUFFER CRUSHING LOSS TO BULLS: Miami blew a 19-point lead at home tonight to Chicago and lost 89-78 -- a crushing defeat that seriously imperils playoff hopes. Dwyane Wade (4-20, 9 points) was awful. An embarrassing 33-8 third quarter ruined the Heat's chances. Four teams are jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. How it looks from here afgter tonight's huge Heat loss (note playoff-likelihood percentages are not yet updated to reflect Miami's latest loss. Expect the Heat's number to plummet):

7. Boston: 36-41, W2. Playoff likelihood: 59.3% (up 21.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Friday @ CLE, then vs. CLE, vs. TOR and @ MIL. Note: Tough closing schedule with two straight vs. LeBron.

8. Brooklyn: 36-42, L1. Playoff likelihood: 58.7 (down 16.3). Next: Friday vs. WAS, then @ MIL, vs. CHI and vs. ORL. Note: Three remaining home games boost Nets' chances.

9. Indiana: 36-43, W4. Playoff likelihood: 30.4 (down 0.9). Next: Friday @ DET, then vs. OKC, vs. WAS and @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat, which is potentially big.

10. Miami: 35-44, L1. Playoff likelihood: 51.7 (down 3.2). Next: Saturday vs. TOR, then vs. ORL and @ PHI. Note: Heat own tiebreaker over Celtics and Nets, but may need 3-0 finish from here to make it.

NEW POLL: HEAT FACE DILEMMA WITH NBA'S CUBA INITIATIVE. WHAT TO DO?: [Link to my latest column is above]. For 29 of 30 NBA franchises and markets, this is not an issue. For 29 teams and their fans, U.S.-Cuba relations is a 1aa1acuba2subject closer to who-cares than hot-button. For one team only, the Miami Heat, it's important. The dilemma is that being involved in the league's evolving, warming relationship with Cuba might prove smart in the long-term from a business standpoint, but might prove costly in the short-term from a public relations standpoint. After all, many, especially older, Miami Cuban exiles still want nothing to do with a Castro-led Cuba and feel passionately. They objected when President Barack Obama in December announced steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba -- which led to the NBA this week announcing it would hold a four-game camp in Cuba April 23-26. Many Miami fans might feel betrayed if their team involved itself in any way on the island. Curious how you'd steer the Heat's involvement in the NBA's gradual reach into Cuba? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

KIPER'S LATEST DRAFT GUESS PREDICTION FOR DOLPHINS: Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 4.0 newly out on ESPN.com now has Miami selecting Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton (6-2, 339; pictured) 14th overall. Saying Kiper: 

1aa1adannys"The Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh, but the depth chart for the interior of their defensive line is basically "Suh and that's about it." Shelton is a different kind of player than Suh, with a far more limited ability to rush the passer, but if they're on the field at the same time it could free Suh up to be the kind of disruptor the Dolphins are paying for, which is what took place in Detroit, where the Lions had a good rotation along the interior. Shelton isn't just insurance for Suh, he's a nice complement. He's not as disruptive as sack and TFL totals indicate, but he can eat up double-teams at the point of attack and make others around him better. He has great awareness and will occasionally simply discard blocks and make the tackle himself." My thought: A possibility, but doubt Fins go for a DT.

Dolphins preseason schedule: Via the NFL today, it's Dolphins at Chicago Aug. 13-17, at Carolina Aug. 20-24, vs. Atlanta Aug. 27-30 and vs. Tampa Bay Sept. 3-4.

THE GROWING STARDOM OF GIANCARLO STANTON, CONTINUED: Money = fame in America, and so Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' $325 Million Man, is a bigger star than ever before he hits his first home run this season. The latest example: This new MLB video starring Stanton, set to what sounds like a rapid heartbeat. Good stuff:

 

Poll result: Most believe Marlins are a playoff team: We asked in the previous blogpost (you may still vote) and 69.1 percent said, yes, the Marlins will be a playoff team this year, while 30.9% said no. The yes vote was running nearer the 75-80 range early but dipped after the Opening Day loss.

Big Opening Night on TV for baseball: ESPN2's Opening Night game Sunday (Cardinals-Cubs) drew 3.35 million viewers, a 47 percent increase over last year. It was biggest audience for ESPN or ESPN2 Opening Night since 2008, and best for any regular-season game since Yanks-Red Sox Aug. 7, 2011.

'16 NCAA odds: Bovada sets North Carolina as the favorite at 6-1 for next year's men's NCAA Tournament title, followed by Kentucky 8-1, Maryland and Virginia both 12-1, and champ Duke and Kansas both 16-1. Miami Hurricanes are 40-1 (tied for 19th), ahead of Florida and FSU, both 50-1.

Masters odds: Rory McIlroy is favored to win The Masters this week at 11-2 odds, via Bovada, followed by Jordan Spieth at 8-1, Bubba Watson at 10-1 and Jason Day at 14-1. Tiger Woods? He's tied for 11th at 33-1. Check out WalletHub.com for an interesting, fact-stuffed Masters By The Numbers.

Burger-King wedding: Joel Burger is marrying Ashley King. This is a blog. So you know it's the truth. Story here.

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April 02, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 names; you pick top 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (w/ video), Marlins, Fins cheerleaders & more

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

It's Radio Thursday!: My usual Tuesday gig was delayed to Thursday this week so I'll be in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 2. Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four polls, Heat/Panthers playoff update, ageless wonders Wade and Jagr, Dolphins draft, Larranaga at NIT, Bieber roast & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By Pointless, Premature Guesswork On What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat holding on, Cats needing miracle. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-40 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th and 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 74.5% (down 2.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-42 (L1), 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next tonight vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

TOP 20 ATHLETES OF PAST 20 YEARS: PUTTING ESPN'S LIST IN RIGHT ORDER: ESPN.com marks its 1aa1atop20 1aa1atop20grath20th anniversary this week not only with a needless website redesign but also by ranking the Top 20 athletes of 1995-2015. All sports, and not just American athletes. You can read the story and see the list here. But I am interested in how your order might differ from ESPN's. In this poll -- the longest one we've ever had in this blog -- I list all 20 athletes, but alphabetically, not in ESPN's order, so as not to prejudice the jury. Please step back to take an historic view. Consider how the athlete dominated his or her sport and stands in its all-time estimation. Vote for your top five (5) and check back often for evolving results as we put a Miami spin on ESPN's order.

Deciphering the vote: In this poll, 20 percent would be a perfect-score vote if everyone voted for the maximum five athletes. Any total over 20% would indicate some are voting for only that person. Multiply an athlete's vote total by five for fair estimation of percentage of ballots that are including that athlete.

CANES-STANFORD FOR N.I.T. TITLE! BUT...: Jim Larranaga's Miami men face Stanford tonight 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple in the semis. It's nice the Canes reached the final, win or lose. They have made the most of being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. But let's tap the brakes on what this means. Larranaga said a couple of days ago: "I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship." Hmm. Well... Really? The problem with the NIT is it's so clearly the "other" postseason tournament, the one you are relegated to if you don't get invited to the one you want. It would be great if UM won. An accomplishment, yes. But one worthy of "national champion" talk and a parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. This week's blown-lead 3-2 loss at Boston was a season killer for the Florida Panthers (see Playoff Chase above). The Cats are now six points off pace for the final playoff spot with five games left, their chances now negligible. Florida probably must finish on a 5-0 run (all at home, starting tonight) and then hope Boston and Ottawa both crash to even have a small chance. Otherwise this would make it the 17th non-playoff year in 21 franchise seasons. Hasn't been a terrible season by any means. Just not good enough.

Poll result: Kentucky, Duke the Final Four picks: We asked for your Final Four predictions, and you went Kentucky by 67.3 percent over Wisconsin and Duke by 67.5% over Michigan State. Thought both favorites, especially UK, might draw a larger margin.

EX-DOLPHIN RICKY WILLIAMS EMBARKS ON SINGING CAREER: Ever on a mystical journey of self-enlightment, Ricky Williams' latest life detour has led him to a recording studio. Williams, 37, is now barely recognizable after gaining about 85 pounds (see below) since his playing career after being diagnosed with acute munchieitis. And he again is wearing his hair in dreadlocks as he embarks on a musical career. Williams formed a duo he calls P.M. Dawn, explaining that the name stands for Post Miami, "and represents the dawn of a new morning on the beachhead of my life." The duo was signed to Gee Street, a boutique subsidiary of Def Jam Records, and has been recording at Noegnud Studios in northern California. "I don't sing the songs. The songs sing me," said Williams in a recent interview in Vibe. The sound is trippy, R&Bish with a hip-hop flavor. "Williams' sultry, breathy vocals score a touchdown!" raves Billboard in a new review. Williams' first single is called "Looking Through Patient Eyes." The video for it below begins with an introspective Williams seen walking on a beach, his eyes enigmatically covered by a dark lace veil:

 

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MARLINS: The good news? In an ESPN The Magazine survey of MLB 1aa1abb25players, the Marlins finished first with 25 percent to the question, "Which team will be the 2014 Royals?" -- meaning the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs. The bad news? The Washington Nationals, Miami's NL East roadblock, finished first with 30 percent to the question, "Who will win the World Series?" Update: Marlins are unchanged at 33-1 to win World Series (tied for 16th) in latest Bovada odds. However, the over/under on Miami wins has inched up from 81.5 to 82.5.

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URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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March 10, 2015

Dirty Town: Suh, Whiteside make Miami new bad boy of sports, but situations are opposite. Is Hassan jeopardizing his Heat future? Poll. Vote!; plus Canes/FIU hoops, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), analyzing Marlins future, Twitter & more

1aa1aangusyoung1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11. Thanks to the Tony Kornheiser Show for having us on the radio this morning to talk Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and more. Always great being on with Tony! 2) Click on Rock The Blues Away to see and hear AC/DC's latest video. Love it when guys even older than me still rock hard! 3) Click on Bosh Back Home for my column earlier this week on Chris Bosh. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins land Suh with poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Dolphins announce 4 p.m. news conference today to make official the Ndamukong Suh signing.

1aa1agatorgolfUm, I think I'll just take a double bogey and move on...: This is not a doctored or fake photo. That is an actual, giant alligator on a green at Myakka Pines Golf Club this week in Englewood, Fla., just north of Palm Beach on the state's west coast. Fore!

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Wednesday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even at 9th, 28-35 (L1), 1/2 game from 8th with 19 games left (next tonight vs. Brooklyn). Heat playoff likelihood: 28.5% (down 1.4) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 6 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (down 0.3) per sportsclubstats.com.

DIRTY TOWN: SUH, WHITESIDE PUT THE 'BAD BOY' IN MIAMI SPORTS: Dirty Town. A spanking new Dolphin, Ndamukong Suh, and a Heat player we'd never heard of before this season, Hassan Whiteside, combine to suddenly position Miami, for better or ill, as sports' new face of dirty play. It is interesting to me how the two teams (and perhaps their fan bases) view each player so differently, and how the two situations are so different. Some thoughts...

On Suh: He bothers quarterbacks and stops the run better than any defensive tackle in the NFL, but he


1aa1andamalso is unquestionably the most controversial player in the league for his on-field actions. His league fines for "player safety violations" approach $500,000 in five seasons. Last year alone he had 10 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. He might  "accidentally" step on your ankle. But is anybody worried? Nah. Not at all. The Fins know what they are getting in Suh, 28, and will happily take the tradeoff: The occasional dumb, needless penalty in exchange for overall excellence. The same Dolfans who once saw Suh as a villain now happily welcome him to town as the guy bringing their team needed bravado and "toughness."

On Whiteside: It's the opposite. Heat management is very concerned that Whiteside's immaturity and temper -- the reasons an athletic 7-footer was unwanted around the NBA and 1aa1ahassanavailable in the first place

-- may prove unmanageable and jeopardize his future here. (The poll below indicates how concerned Heat fans are, or aren't). Monday night the 25-year-old was ejected for the second time in five games and is suspended by the NBA from tonight's game. Whiteside has the potential to be a 15-point, 15-rebound guy, a dunking, shot-blocking savant who defends the rim like a lion defending her cubs. He could be a huge and hugely popular part of this team moving forward. But Miami needs to get his head straight. Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade -- if this excellent leadership and support system can't do it, then Hassan may be hopeless. The dumb fouls and ejections, the unreliability, shouldn't and won't be tolerated indefinitely.

Bottom line: We have here two guys clearly share anger management issues. But one, Suh, is so exceptional at what he does that the dark side is accepted as simply a part of his football DNA. The other, Whiteside, full of potential but still short on proof, is not so established that his behavior is accepted as a part of his game. The Dolphins' message to Suh: "Keep doin' what you do, big fella." The Heat's message to Whiteside: "Grow up. Fast."

Poll result: Most love Suh signing, but reservations, too: We asked how you felt about the Dolphins landing Ndamukong Suh and 54.3 percent said "great." Another 26.4% were pleased but think Miami is overspending. The other 19.3% were not pleased because the cost might short-change roster elsewhere.

CANES BASKETBALL BEGINS POSTSEASON: Miami's men's team faces Virginia Tech tonight at 9 in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Should be a low-stress waltz. UM was 2-0 vs. Hokies this 1aa1ajimlseason by a combined 45-point margin. Canes if they win tonight would then face tough Notre Dame in second round Thursday. This week will determine whether the men of Jim Larranaga (pictured) will earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Upset loss tonight and there's no shot. Win tonight and then upset Notre Dame and an invite is all but assured. The anxious in-between will come if Miami wins tonight but then loses a close one to the Irish. That's what would turn Selection Sunday into a nail-biter for Canes fans.

FIU wins tourney opener: FIU's men opened play in the Conference USA Tournament today and beat Texas-San Antonio, 57-54, in Birmingham, Ala., led by Dennis Mavin's 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Not expected, considering G-Panthers had lost to UTSA by 11 in only regular season meeting. 

MARLINS' FUTURE: ESPN's periodic "futures rankings" are newly out for baseball, and the Marlins (surprisingly and disappointingly) are ranked only 23rd of 30 teams and fourth of five in the NL East in terms of how each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years based on five categories. (Story and 1aa1ajustinnicrankings here). Despite the unimpressive ranking, the accompanying synopsis is fairly upbeat: The overview (by Buster Olney) -- "Think about the ages of the players who form the core of this team: Giancarlo Stanton is 25, Marcell Ozuna is 24, Christian Yelich 23, Jose Fernandez 22 and Jarred Cosart is 24. This might be just the beginning of something that lasts." The dilemma (by Jim Bowden) -- "The Marlins need to find long-term answers at both first and third base. Perhaps at least one of those players could be a left-handed power hitter to better balance out their lineup." Impact prospect (by Keith Law) -- Lefty Justin Nicolino [pictured] doesn't miss bats, but he's one of the most efficient pitchers in all of baseball, throwing strikes and generating ground balls. He'll probably be a midseason call-up when the Marlins need a starter." 

THE SMALL DELIGHTS OF TWITTER: I like Twitter (@gregcote) and make a point of trying to click on as many new followers as possible because I'm curious about the backstory, the location, et cetera. I appreciate you all and am ceaselessly flattered. I also enjoy it when, 1aa1atwitter

1aa1ahaggardevery once in a while, a new follower will randomly jump out at me as I scan the daily list -- a notable name or perhaps the symbol for a verified account will catch my eye. Very recent examples of that, willy nilly: @SeriouslySusan is Susan Bennett, a voiceover artist who is the voice of Siri; and @kidfromkidnplay is Christopher Reid, half of the 1980s/early '90s hip-hop duo. And this new follower popped in Monday night, while I was at the Heat game: @merlehaggard. As a fan of old-school and outlaw country, I must tell you what a cheap thrill it was to see that Merle, a musical hero, follows little ol' me. Thank you, Mr. Haggard, and thanks to you all!

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March 08, 2015

Dolphins land Ndamukong Suh. What say you? New poll. Vote now!; plus Fins in trouble over contract leak?, Bosh's special delivery, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 9. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heat extend Michael Beasley with another 10-day contract. No surprise. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Exciting-times poll, Mike Wallace verdict, new betting odds & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

What a Sunday for Miami sports!: Dustin Johnson punctuates his golf comeback with a stirring victory at Doral as the news is breaking across South Florida about the Dolphins landing prized free agent Ndamukong Suh. The days don't get much better than this for local sports. Click on Dolphins 'n Doral to read my column combining both events.

#GetWellCB DeliveriesBosh's special delivery: Heat star Chris Bosh is to address the media this evening prior to the Heat's home game vs. Boston. It will be Bosh's first availability since last month when his season was ended by blood clots in his lung, for which is undergoing continuing treatment with a full recovery expected. Pictured: Earlier today, about 35 Heat staffers delivered 10,000 get-well messages from fans to Bosh's home.

Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Monday:  A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending down at 9th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 20 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 38.2% (down 1.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 4 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.7% (down 1.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

A MAN NAMED SUH!: DOLPHINS REPORTEDLY LAND FORMER LIONS DEFENSIVE TACKLE: It had been looking like Miami was the frontrunner for Ndamukong Suh. Sunday it began to look all but 1aa1ansuhofficial as ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the Fins had landed the NFL's top free agent with a six-year, $114 million offer including $60 million guaranteed. The good: Miami gets the league's premier DT and second-most impactful defender overall after  Houston's J.J. Watt. Suh is in his prime at 28 and instantly and hugely upgrades both Miami's run defense and pass rush. It is a bold, major move by owner Stephen Ross and the franchise. The not so good: The enormous expenditure may short-change the club and its roster elsewhere. Also, Suh is a notoriously dirty player who has incurred some $421,000 in league fines (and two games' suspension) in his five seasons. When you factor in all of it -- Suh's talent, his reputation and the money it is costing -- what do you think of the reported soon-to-be signing? Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Fins being investigated for Suh contract leak?: This story suggests Miami and other NFL teams may be investigated for leaking contract information to the media prior to Tuesday's first day that teams may sign free agents.

Suh, Whiteside top most-excited-about vote: We asked what about Miami sports excites you most at the moment, and of five choice it was the Dolphins' pursuit of Ndamukong Suh leading with 38.6 percent and Hassan Whiteside's Heat emergence with 28.4%. Then came optimism for Marlins season at 18.5%, UM's pursuit of men's NCAA tournament bid at 11.2% and Panthers chasing NHL playoff spot at 3.4%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 8: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins reportedly land Ndamukong Suh: Miami was seen as a front-runner to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunay that the deal ($114 million over six years with $60 million guaranteed) is done barring a last-minute glitch. Suh is the ex-Lion known for his sacking, run-stopping excellence but also his dirty play and league fines. Admit it: You hate Suh. But you’d love him on your team.

2. HEAT: Miami hanging on to edge of playoff contention: Heat can regain the No. 8 seed with a win over visiting Boston tonight. Why am I smiling? Before season, on a hunch, I bet big that players leading Heat's stretch run would include Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Tyler Johnson and Bill-turned-Henry Walker.

3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men seek big showing in ACC tourney: UM ended its regular season 20-11, but now Jim Larrañaga’s Canes need a big ACC tournament starting Wednesday -- at least one win and likelier two -- to get into the NCAA Tournament. Teenage girls and bubble teams know it: It’s tough waiting to see if you’ll be asked to the Big Dance.

4. PANTHERS: Cats now four back in playoff chase: Newly acquired future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr has added a spark, but Florida (off until Thursday) has now dropped four points off the No. 8 seed even after the 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders. Injuries have left team thin at goaltender. I don’t wanna say Cats are desperate, but if you own a stick and a glove, you might be starting next game.

5. GOLF: Johnson survives Championship Sunday at Doral: Dustin Johnson, in only his fifth tournament back from last year's six-month PGA Tour leave for personal issues, survived J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson to win the World Golf Championships event on Doral’s Blue Monster. A $1.57 million check, a new baby son, going home to Paulina Gretzsky ... life is good for Dustin.

6. MARLINS: Spring training games begin amid high hopes: The team not only spent big to keep Giancarlo Stanton and bolster the roster but also will have a private team jet and personal chef for players this season. This is making it tough now for me to make fun of owner Jeffrey Loria for being cheap. Damn him ruining my hobby!

7. NFL: Big moves of interest to Miami: Bills acquiring RB LeSean McCoy and Jets trading for WR Brandon Marshall put heat on Dolphins in AFC East. Meanwhile it was a rough week in the NFL for old ex-Canes as the Patriots released Vince Wilfork and Colts cut Reggie Wayne. Perpetually disgruntled UM football fans blamed Al Golden.

8. SAILING: Miami Sailing Week ends on Biscayne Bay: The 88th Bacardi Miami Sailing Week wrapped up, a weeklong sun-splashed regatta held this time each year expressly to make folks in the snow-buried Northeast feel even more jealous of us than usual.

9. AUTO RACING: Streets ready for Miami ePrix: They’ve set up barricades downtown for this coming Saturday’s “Miami ePrix,” in which world’s fastest electric race cars will be humming down Biscayne Boulevard. Miamians have a phrase to describe that kind of crazy speed, chaos and danger on the road: "I-95."

10. SOCCER: MLS begins its 20th season: Major League Soccer is back in action as David Beckham continues to search for a stadium site for his prospective Miami franchise. Dead-ends so far on all his preferred locations. Poor Dave may end up settling for a warehouse district in Hialeah.

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What excites you most today about Miami sports (poll, vote now); also updated Heat/Panthers playoff trends, verdict on Mike Wallace & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heading down to Doral for today's golf finale. Rain, rain stay away. 3) Saw Elton John at the sold-out AAA Friday night. He never ceases to amaze with his talent, professionalism and ability to still be relevant and a major draw 45 years after "Your Song." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Do Dolfans like Mike Wallace poll, Austin and a horse's head, Heat-Lakers, playoff odds, Spoelstra sings Billie Jean, Suh redux & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

UPDATED: Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Sunday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending up at 8th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 20 games left (next Monday vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 39.9% (+5.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 2 points off pace with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.5% (+1.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

Good golfer, better story: Isn't often I write a column about an athlete involving multiple brain surgeries and porn. Click on J.B. Holmes for my latest, on Doral's leader entering today's final round.

EXCITING TIME FOR MIAMI SPORTS ON ALL FRONTS: Swivel your head in any direction around here and see something exciting. Out at Doral the best golfers in the world are playing. The best in tennis are 1aa1aexcitedabout to descend on Key Biscayne. The Florida Derby will soon hit Gulfstream Park. Spring training has sprung. And we haven't even gotten to our local teams yet. Anticipation and excitement for the Marlins is very high. The Dolphins seem the favorite land the NFL's biggest free agent and best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Whiteside continues as an emerging force for the Heat. The Panthers are thick in the hunt to make the NHL playoffs. And UM men's basketball is on the bubble fighting to make the NCAA Tournament. A crowded sports plate full of a lot to like. So what involving our biggest local teams has you the most excited at the moment. Tough poll, I know, because many of you would check three or four answers if you could. But life isn't fair. What interests or excites you the most right now? Vote and say why.

Poll result: "Like" factor on Mike Wallace mixed but largely favorable: We asked your overall impression of the Dolphins receiver and your decision was 46.5 percent favorable vs. 28.6% unfavorable. The other 24.9% answered "mixed or undecided," an unusualy high number for the not-sure crowd.

UPDATED BETTING FAVORITES IN FOUR SPORTS: Courtesy Bovada, Cleveland is now the NBA title favorite at 11-5, with Golden State next at 15-4. In the wide-open NHL it's Chicago 15-2 followed by Anaheim and Nashville at 9-1. MLB clear pick is Washington at 7-1, with L.A. Dodgers next at 17-2. In MLS, it's L.A. Galaxy out front at 10-3. (The Miami team with the shortest odds is Marlins at 33-1. Panthers are 66-1, Heat 200-1).

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March 01, 2015

The Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Fins cuts, Beasley back, Jaromir Jagr, Stanton, Canes, golf, 14 seconds; plus ode to Doral, optimism verdict & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on the Ticket Miami, 4-7 (with webcam simulcast) on ESPN Radio. Ears (and daring eyes) welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 3. Technical issues prevent us from publishing a new blogpost as we'd planned today. Hope to get it fixed and do so on Wednesday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): In/Out door revolving, Big 5 optimism poll, Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

An ode to Doral: Today's latest column by me is an unabashed appreciation of Doral's place in PGA Tour history -- and ours. Click on The Blue Monster Endures to read in full. 

HOT BUTTON MAR. 1: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins cut Brian Hartline in salary-cap move: Hartline and fellow receiver Brandon Gibson (and now CB Cortland Finnegan) were suddenly lopped off the roster in a salary-cap move. That might increase the likelihood of the team keeping Mike Wallace, which Dolfans can decide is good news or bad.

2. HEAT: Beasley back as Miami remains on anxious edge of contention: Trading for Goran Dragic but losing Chris Bosh to blood clots is not looking like a positive give and take for Heat, whose two straight losses before last night's win over Phoenix have team fighting to stay on playoff pace. Signs of desperation: Bringing back Michael Beasley on a 10-day contract.

3. PANTHERS: Cats sign Jaromir Jagr for stretch run: This would be very exciting if it was, say, 2005. In 2015 Jagr is 43 and skating near retirement. Still, maybe it'll be the shot Cats need to make up what now is a mere two-point deficit to Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

4. MARLINS: Two days from real start of spring schedule in Jupiter: After a couple of tuneups vs. FIU and UM the Marlins begin spring ball vs. MLB competition on Thursday up in Jupiter. Giancarlo Stanton, who appears on latest SI in body paint, got hit by a pitch on the hip by Henderson Alvarez. Cannot confirm the dugout emptied and teammates charged the mound to say, "Don't do that again!"

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men scrambling for NCAA Tournament invite: Jim Larranaga's guys are 18-11 and may need to sweep their final two regular-season games and then show well in the ACC tourney to make the Big Dance.

6. GOLF: Harrington wins Honda; Doral on deck: With Doral waiting on deck, Padraig Harrington won the Honda Classic in a Monday playoff up in Palm Beach. As golf haters like to say, the only thing worse than watching four days of golf is watching five days of golf.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Canes continue spring practice: As Canes work toward their March 28 Spring Game, disgruntled Al Golden detractors pessimistic about the coming season inquire about banner-pulling small-plane rental costs just to be on the safe side.

8. NASCAR: Ho-hum Daytona 500 begins season: Sorry, but Joey Logano winning under a caution flag last week was nobody's dream start for the NASCAR season. Well, except maybe Joey Logano's.

9. UFC: Ronda Rousey wins fight in 14 seconds: This is the dilemma for fans of mixed marial arts and boxing. Part of you wants your fighter to win easily. But the cheap part of you wants to get your money's worth, too.

10. CRICKET: New Zealand first to 4-0 in World Cup: That's right. The Cricket World Cup!

Poll result: Marlins, Heat inspiring most optimism: We asked which of our Big 5 teams is inspiring the most optimism in fans for its direction and immediate future, and the Marlins were out front with 42.9 percent followed by the Heat at 25.6%. Trailing were the Dolphins at 13.3%, UM football at 12.5% and Panthers at 5.7%.

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February 27, 2015

In-out door spinning: On Hartline, Jagr, Beasley; plus what Miami team inspiring most optimism? (poll; vote!); also Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 1. Happy new month! 2) Our Sunday Random Evidence notes column and our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 are taking today off. 3) Click here to watch a Boston-area man roll the last three strikes in a perfect 900 series in bowling. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN analytics ranking of local teams, get-well-Bosh campaign, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, Oscars review & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. 4) Here is the latest 'Back In My Day' segment from the Dan LeBatard Show: Back_in_my_Day-_Baseball's_Rule_Changes-_2-24-15 (2)

"Will the last ESPN on-air personality to not be suspended please turn out the lights?" --Greg Cote

HARTLINE OUT, BEASLEY, JAGR IN. HUH? WHA!?: OK I leave for a long weekend's holiday in Austin, Tex. and all hell breaks loose back in South Florida. Man I can't leave you people alone for a minute! Just since I left early Thursday, the Heat bring back Michael Beasley with a 10-day contract, the Panthers acquire aging star Jaromir Jar, and the Dolphins release receiver Brian Hartline (and also Brandon Gibson). Quick thoughts on each: Heat/Beasley -- Makes sense. With Chris Bosh out the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts out all year, Miami needed power-forward help, and Beasley is still young enough and with enough upside to risk a trial run. Panthers/Jagr -- Well, Jaromir is 43 now. Can he still provide the scoring punch Florida needs to lock down a playoff spot? As when the Marlins signed Ichiro, this signing is exciting for the remaining big-name value but may not have huge impact. Dolphins/Hartline -- It's a clear salary purge to erase a one-time prominent WR of diminishing results. The question now is if eliminating Hartline and Gibson means it'll be more likely that Mike Wallace stays. (I doubt it). Interesting times for all of these teams. And getting more interesting all the time.

WHAT MIAMI TEAM HAS MOST EARNED YOUR OPTIMISM?: Blind hope is one thing, but I'm talking here
about optimism rooted in reason. What is the local Big 5 team most headed the right way? Current or 1aa1aoptimismmost recent won-lost record should be factored, but maybe not as much as the overall direction -- the sense of how well the team is positioned to win big and soon. This is not asking your favorite team or sport. It's asking who among Dolphins, Heat, UM football, Marlins and Panthers fans should feel the most optimistic right now? Purposely I did not include a "none of them!" option in the poll, because like the guy to the right staring up at you says, if you can't find optimism somewhere, you're dead. This, I know, is a tough poll question that may scare away discourage many potential voters because the answer can't be quantified and because it's hard to compare different sports. Plus, you may think it's a close call between a couple of teams. Nevertheless! You are challenged: Take a dip in our poll and drop a Comment saying why you feel as you do.

1aa1agiancarlosiSTANTON'S BURGEONING STAR-POWER AFFIRMED ... IN BODY PAINT: Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton adorns the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, and SI say it's the first time any athlete has been on its cover in body paint. (Um, don't some things go without saying?) This is the latest indication of Stanton's burgeoning journey from local star en route to national superstar. A $325 million contract will start that process, along with the expectation of 40-plus home runs. Being built like somebody sculpted in marble doesn't hurt. And the human interest angle -- coming back from an awful, face-smashing beaning -- just adds another layer.

On Marlins' two top prospects: One you may see soon, the other will take awhile. The Marlins 1aa1ajtrealplace righty pitcher Tyler Kolek (ranked No. 34) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (No. 72) among ESPN's Top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Kolek, who just turned 19, will need a few years to marinate and refine, although he's a 6-6, 270-pound behemoth with a mid-90s fastball and the club thinks he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Realmuto (pictured) turns 24 in March and has a chance this spring that he's ready to stick with the big club.

1aa1albjmcdHE'S LOVIN' IT! (OR SO HE CLAIMS): In a Tuesday interview about diet and fitness LeBron James seemed to briefly forget that McDonald's pays him millions to pimp its products. He said, "I ate McDonald's my first couple of years in the NBA. I didn't stretch, I didn't ice. It didn't matter. I was 18, I could do whatever I wanted to." Nice recovery, though. When later asked how often he eats McDonald's nowadays he said, "Every day! Every day, every day, every day, every day, every day. I just had it this morning!"

BETTING PUBLIC HAS LITTLE FAITH IN TIGER TURNAROUND: It was the opposite once. The wagering 1aa1atwoodspublic loved Tiger Woods. Back in his reign, as a major neared, people actually debated if Tiger vs. the field was a decent bet. I remember the conversations. Now? New odds from our friends at Bovada have Tiger winning zero majors this year as a prohibitive 1-7 likelihood, and he's now a 14-1 longshot to surpass Jack Nicklaus' career majors record. The bright side? If you see Tiger with a big comeback left in him, it's a buyer's market.

NEWS STORY / MY COMMENT: News story: Three British teens arrive in Syria to join terrorists. My comment: Oh, how unfathomably idiotic!

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