May 04, 2016

G1: Heat 102, @ Toronto 96: Reasons Miami is better, will advance; plus LeBron wants Heat next, Bosh ruled out, new Dolphins SB odds, Mavis Staples, 'Back In My Day,' could've-beens, Marlins odds, your verdict on Heat-Raptors & more

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

Dolgasmask1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 5. Watch for a brand new blog posting here later this morning. 2) Sorry Dolfans but a Laremy Tunsil-styled Dolphins logo incorporating a bong gas mask is too funny to not pass along. Tunsil's career may outgrow that infamous draft-night photo, but not soon. Example: This FunnyorDie.com spoof skewers Tunsil. (Warning: Rough language). 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Metrics give Heat 1 in 3 series shot vs. Toronto but I like Miami with poll, Kiper/McShay final thoughts on Dolphins draft, your verdict on Fins draft & more. 4) Click here for my latest Back In My Day. Comes late in podcast, around 1:07 mark. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

SHULA: A RENEWED APPRECIATION: A health scare that hospitalized Don Shula this week at age 86 invites us to reflect and renew our appreciation for the great longtime former Dolphins coach. Click on Shula: A Renewed Appreciation to read my latest column in full.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals, my latest, previewing the Heat-Toronto series. Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, from Sunday's Game 7 victory. Curious Pick, Major Gamble, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick.

Bosh out rest of playoffs: Heat and Chris Bosh releaseed this joint statement late this afternoon: "The Miami Heat  and Chris Bosh announce that Chris will not be playing in the remainder of the 2016 NBA Playoffs. The Heat, Chris, the doctors and medical team have been working together throughout this process and will continue to do so to return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible." No surprise but need to be said given the recent distraction of #BringBoshBack and the NBA Players Association involvement.

LeBron admits he wants Wade, Heat next: Said LeBron James following a Cavs shootaround today, on whether he has thought about facing the Heat in the Eastern finals: "Naturally, of course. That's since I've came back [to Cleveland from Miami]. It'd be great to play against those guys in the postseason. Throughout my whole career, I've always wanted to go against [Dwyane] Wade in a playoff series. We've always talked about it even before we became teammates in '10. It's not been heavy on my mind, but it's crossed my mind throughout my whole career."

Dolphins latest odds: Still no love: No love for Fins in post-draft Super Bowl odds via Bovada today. Miami is 66-1, same as pre-free agency and last in AFC East. Patriots are 7-1 (first overall), Jets 40-1, Bills 50-1. And no Laremy Tunsil among top 10 picks for offensive rookie.

Marlins latest odds: New World Series odds out via Bovada show Marlins the same 50-1 as coming into season despite recent hot streak. One problem? Three favorites to win it all are NL clubs, with Cubs on top at 5-1 and Mets/Nationals (both in Marlins' division) both 10-1. Jose Fernandez is 16-1 for Cy Young (tie, eighth), but Giancarlo Stanton (8 homers) isn't among 14 players listed 20-1 or better for MVP.

G1: HEAT 102, @ TORONTO 96: WE SAW WHY MIAMI IS BETTER TEAM, WILL WIN SERIES: If it's seven games of this, can the heart take it? Miami squandered a late 79-67 lead, went into overtime on Kyle Lowry's desperation half-court 3 at the buzzer, but then prevailed in OT 102-96 last night, fueled by two field goals and a steal by (who else) Dwyane Wade. Reasons Miami is better and will win series: 1) Wade had 24 points and Goran Dragic 26 last night on combined 20-for-41 shooting, seriously outplaying TOR counterparts DeMar DeRozan and Lowry. Lowry, despite the prayer that forced OT, has been awful in the playoffs, shooting 30.6 percent including 3-for-13 last night. That's the worst postseason percentage by any NBA player in a half century, according to Elias Sports Bureau. 2) Miami also hit big with a 52-41 rebounding advantage in Game 1 led by Hassan Whiteside's 17 boards, and that edge should continue. 3) Heat have the perimeter defenders, with Tyler Johnson back and with Rook 1 and Rook 2, to bother the Raptors' game. 4) Erik Spoelstra is a better coach than Dwane Casey. (And by the way, Dwane, our Dwyane is the only one who gets to misspell Dwayne). In sum, a gigantic road win to open the series entering Game 2 Thursday night back in Toronto. ..... Original post: Both teams are coming off watershed series. Toronto is past the first round of the playoffs for only the second time in 21 franchise seasons and the first since 2001. Miami (after missing the playoffs altogether last year) just won its first postseason series since 2006 not involving a man named LeBron James. So the
Heatraptorsquestion now: Who isn't satisfied? Who is hungrier for more? This is the closest of the four conference semifinal series in terms of betting odds and G1the toughest call entering Game 1 tonight at 8 in Toronto. The Raptors understandably are favored, with the better season record, a 3-1 series edge and home-court advantage. But you get the feeling -- by which I mean I get the feeling -- the Raptors are closer to happy-just-to-be-here mode, whereas the Heat are hell-bent-driven for an Eastern finals showdown with LeBron and the Cavs. More pragmatically, I think Miami is a bit deeper, has a tad more offensive pop and enjoys the clear edge in playoff experience. Certainly the Heat come in off a more comfortable Game 7 showing in the last series. Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan may get his points -- he scored 30, 33 and 38 in the Raptors' three season wins over Miami -- but fellow guard Kyle Lowery is lessened by a tender elbow, which could hurt Toronto. The Heat have more go-to options offensively, and one of them, Hassan Whiteside, may be poised for a big series in a favorable matchup if he can stay out of foul trouble. Other key questions: Will we see the vintage Dwyane Wade of old, or the old Wade. Can Goran Dragic consistently be the difference-maker who poured in 25 points in Game 7? Might Joe Johnson be the force he was in helping Brooklyn eliminate Toronto two years ago? Lots of compelling storylines here -- even with Chris Bosh still out and not facing his longtime former team. Miami will need to at least split these two games in Toronto to win the right to come home feeling good about its chances. And tonight might be the night to cherry-pick that road win, with Toronto on a 1-8 in playoff series openers. My series pick: Heat in 6. (Click on Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals for latest column).

1 EX-DOLPHIN. 1 FORMER HEAT PLAYER (THOUGH BOTH BARELY) MAKE LIST YOU DON'T WANT TO BE ON: ESPN unveils a dubious Top 25 all-time athletes in unfulfilled potential -- the "Could-Have-Beens." Click here for the full list. Two with South Florida ties (albeit brief ones) make it. At No. 14 is running back Lawrence Phillips, who appeared in two Dolphins games in 1997, rushing 18 times for 44 yards. And at No. 1 is center Greg Oden, who played in 23 Heat games in 2013-14, averaging 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds.

MAVIS STAPLES, AMERICAN TREASURE, PERFORMS TONIGHT IN BROWARD: Mavis Staples performs tonight/Wednesday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, opening for venerable gospel legends The Blind Boys of Alabama. They could as well have been the opening act for her, such is her stature in music and the phenomenal career renaissance she is enjoying at age 76. I am an unabashed admirer and fan who has followed her career since first becoming familiar with her family group the Staple Singers in the '70s. In fact I write a Twitter fan site for her; click on MavisstaplesMavis_Staples for my tribute site, and on MavisStaples for her official site. I first knew of Mavis as the lead singer for the family group that enjoyed several years of chart popularity with songs such as "I'll Take You There," "Respect Yourself" and "If You're Ready." The music intrigued me partly because I couldn't easily categorize it. It was gospel-flavored pop but with also parts R&B (what they used to call soul music) and funk. There was a grit to it. To my ears, the Detroit sound of Motown always seemed like music recorded in an air-conditioned studio, while the less-polished sound of Memphis and Stax Records (the Staples' label) seemed as if it were recorded in a club, with sweat involved. I only learned later that the Staple Singers were first a gospel group singing in Chicago churches and producing standards such as "Uncloudy Day," long before the mainstream success. The group also was intimately involved in the civil rights movement; group leader Roebuck "Pops" Staples and Martin Luther King were close friends. Pops famously told his family, "If he [King] can preach it, we can sing it," and the result were civil-rights anthems such as "Freedom Highway." The video below is a funk-filled, bass-line-driven song about segregationist days called "Down In Mississippi." Mavis Staples is living history. The decades of diverse music -- from gospel roots to socially conscious music to mainstream success -- led the Staple Singers to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. The Staple Singers were finished by the mid-'80s, Pops passed away in 2000. But Mavis was far from done. She was rediscovered by Prince, a fan, and appeared prominently on his 1990 album, Graffiti Bridge. More recently she won a 2011 Grammy for Best Americana Recording with a solo album, You Are Not Alone, produced by Jeff Tweedy of the group Wilco. He also produced her well-received 2013 followup album, One True Vine. A new album, Livin' On a High Note, features performances by Nick Cave, Neko Case and others. A new documentary film, "Mavis!" premiered Feb. 29 on HBO. She will open on tour for Bob Dylan starting in June. Crossing genres and appealing to all audiences, young and old, has marked her career resurgence. She has played jazz fests and folk festivals, appealing to all. Just last week, she played at the youth-skewed Coachella festival, and spoke a moving tribute to Prince, whom she called "my son." Mavis Staples' concerts are intimate, moving and uplifting. She aims to spread joy, and succeeds. If you have not discovered her music, it isn't too late. If you have never seen her live in concert, do treat yourself Wednesday night.

Click on Broward Center for ticket information about Mavis' Wednesday, May 4 show with The Blind Boys of Alabama.

 

Poll result: Heat will win Raptors series, say 73 percent: We asked the likelihold Miami would advance past Toronto in the series starting tonight and it was 28.8 percent voting 60%-plus, 44.6% voting 50-59%, 15.1% voting 40-49% and 11.5% voting 40% or less. That's 73.4% voting over 50% likelihood vs. 26.6% under. 

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

May 02, 2016

It's Heat-Raptors in second round as Miami routs Charlotte behind Dragic, great D; plus new Hot Button Top 10 (updated): What Miami sports fans are talking about; also, grading Dolphins draft (poll; vote now!), complete history of SoFla Game 7's & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, MAY 2. Happy new  month, all! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): South Florida's Wildest 24 Hours: Heat survive on Wade Heroics, Dolphins draft with Tunsil poll, Marlins' Gordon suspended and UM/Fins draft lists & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, the latest, from Sunday's Game 7 victory. Curious Pick, Major Gamble, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick. Heat Has Bigger Concerns Than #BringBoshBack, off Miami's damaging Game 5 home playoff loss.

Find our grade-Dolphins-draft poll here below our Heat Game 7 preview and the latest Hot Button.

It's Heat vs. Toronto Raptors in second round!: Raptors held on to beat visiting Indiana last night 89-84. Toronto will own home-court advantage over Miami in a second round series that will begin Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Canada, eh? And the Heat's climb to an unlikely spot in the NBA Finals or a more plausible spot in the Eastern finals vs. (presumably) LeBron James and Cleveland just got steeper. Toronto is better than Indiana, point blank, and also owns the home court edge, whereas Miami would have enjoyed that edge over Pacers. Toronto won eight more games during the season than Miami and was 3-1 head to head. To quantify, for what it's worth, ESPN's Basketball Power Index gave Heat a 56 percent chance to advance past Indiana, but only a 32 percent chance vs. Toronto. Raptors oversized shooting guard DeMar DeRozan will be a handful. He scored 30, 33 and 38 vs. Heat in Toronto's three wins this year.

G7: HEAT 106, CHARLOTTE 73: DRAGIC's 25, BIG D CARRY MIAMI CONVINGINGLY TO NEXT ROUND: Convincing. That's the word for a 106-73 Game 6 home win. Miami awaits Toronto in the second round starting Tuesday night in Canada after Sunday's huge Game 7 win fueled by Goran Dragic's 25 points (in three quarters) and defense that limited the Hornets to 32 percent shooting. Click on Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat for my column from today's big win. ..... Original post: Game 7s are always fun. Today's 1 p.m. matinee downtown is far from the biggest G7 Miami has seen; only the first round, remember. Still promises drama, though, as Heat try to keep perfect their franchise record (13-for-13) of advancing in the playoffs when they've had a 2-0 series lead. It was Dwyane Wade
G7 Miachasaving Miami in Game 6 in Charlotte, his 23 points including two late 3's ... by a man who hadn't hit a 3 since December. "Dwyane feels most alive when the competition is at its highest and games feel like this," explains coach Erik Spoelstra. "You need to have veteran players that understand [playoff pressure] and can manage all the emotions and bring out their best." Miami's edge over young Charlotte in that category is why Heat is a 6.5-point favorite today. One key for Miami today could be the health of rookie Josh Richardson, who is questionable with a shoulder strain. He often leads team in minutes off the bench and can be a shut-down defender. His would be a big absence. Miami also figures to need someone besides Wade to step up offensively today. His 34-year-old bones are bound to be tired after playing at night, traveling and then playing at 1. Still hard to imagine the Heat not holding court today and advancing to meet the winner of tonight's Pacers-at-Raptors Game 7.

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, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami advances to second round behind Dragic's big Game 7: The Heat faced first-round playoff elimination on the road Friday in a last-gasp Game 6, but Dwyane Wade saved the day and season with late heroics to lift Miami. Today in Game 7 vs. Charlotte here it was Goran Dragic's turn and he delivered with 25 points. You're never sure who's going to lift the Heat ... one reason they're where they are.

2. DOLPHINS: Gamblin' Fins are talk of first round after taking Laremy Tunsil: Dolphins did not shy away from risk, or offense, in their three-day draft. I think it’s the unpredictability of sports that we love the most, right? For example: The Dolphins’ first-round pick being pictured on draft-night inhaling marijuana smoke from a bong while wearing a gas mask -- who could have predicted that! 

3. MARLINS: Big win streak offset by Gordon's 80-game suspension for PEDs: Fish, who are back home Tuesday, had won seven in a row on the road before losing today but the news of the week was popular batting and steals champ Dee Gordon being suspended for half a season in midst of club feeling better about itself than it has all year. Weird. Gordon out for PEDs while team's winning streak was on steroids.

4. NFL: The 81st NFL Draft wraps up in Chicago: Three days, seven rounds, 253 players, and if you paid much attention beyond your favorite team's selection in the first round, please have yourself evaluated by a mental-health professional. Somewhere, the first 2017 Mock Draft is now out. Oh how I wish I were kidding.

5. NBA: Two Sunday Game 7s set the four second-round pairings: Three matchups had been set: Spurs-Thunder, Warriors-Trail Blazers and Cavaliers-Hawks. The fourth materialized Sunday with Game 7 wins by Heat and Raptors. There is nothing better in sports than a Game 7, by the way. But only if your team wins.  

6. TOM BRADY: Appeals court upholds Brady suspension, a break for Miami: Patriots already were only team without a first-round draft pick, forfeited because of Deflategate. Then a court upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, so Miami won’t face the star QB in Week 2. It's a strange, unfamiliar feeling for Pats fans. It’s called "losing."

7. NHL: Hockey playoffs down to final eight into second round: Florida Panthers were unexpectedly among teams eliminated in the first round, but the NHL's eight surviving teams forge into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, otherwise known as “Mourning in Canada.”

8. HORSES: Countdown five days until thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown season: The 142nd Kentucky Derby starts it off next Saturday at Churchill Downs. Admit it, though. It was a lot more fun wondering if some horse would finally end the long Triple Crown drought than wondering if some horse will win it a second straight year.

9. RUNNING: Latest MIami Corporate Run draws more than 26,000 runners: Thursday's two winners? Two people who should have been at work. Doesn't it seem like there are an awful lot of these corporate runs? If all these employees would spend less time running and more time working, their companies might be more profitable. 

10. SPORTS TV: ESPN losing more of its on-air talent: Exodus may be too strong a word but now Skip Bayless (for FOX) and Mike Tirico (for NBC) are the latest to leave ESPN. Bottom line? How can Bayless being heard by far fewer people possibly be a bad thing for America?

Missing the cut: Floyd Mayweather Jr. hints at coming out of retirement. The national group, People Surprised By That, is meeting tonight, corner phone booth ..... Hurricanes and Gators will open 2019 football season with nuetral-site game in Orlando. So you're down to 40 months to plan that tailgate party ..... Marlins reveal plan to boost attendance, announce postgame concert every game by Beyonce ..... Dolphins' two best defensive players, Ndamukong Suh and Reshad Jones, both skipped the team's three-day voluntary veterans camp. Which passed for controversy until that gas-mask bong ..... Bernice Brunson has begun spring practice at Miami Jackson as the state's first female high-school head football coach. From this point forward, equal rights will mean she gets second-guessed and booed and eventually fired just like the men ..... UM baseball falls from 1 to 3 in polls ..... I just had the sweetest dream. I dreamed that, somehow, Udonis Haslem found himself alone in a dark alley for 10 minutes with the Charlotte Hornets' Purple Shirt Guy fan ..... That reminds me. The #BringBoshBack social-media hashtag needs an update: #BringBoshBackEventually ..... The Cubs have ace pitcher Jake Arrieta and the majors' best record. Still, betting that for every Cubs fans thinking this is finally the year, there are a hundred thinking they've thought that before ..... The Indianapolis 500 (coming up May 29) has named an official poet laureate. OK, what rhymes with carbeurator? ..... Johnny Manziel was indicted. My question: What with all that partying, how does he find the time for domestic assault?

HOW'D THE DOLPHINS DO? GRADING MIAMI's 2016 DRAFT: Is this poll wildly premature? Of course! But think of it this way: Somewhere, somebody is already putting together a 2017 Mock DolgradeDraft. The world moves fast. What can I say? So. You've heard or read all the opinions of the media blowhards, local and national. You've seen all the data spewed Dollogorat-a-tat-tat by the Mel Kipers. You've mulled over all of the instant grades the analysts have given. You've heard the Dolphins -- and 31 other teams -- rave about how wonderfully the past three days worked out and how they loovvve their draft. And you've listened to your neighbors and friends -- every one of them an expert, no doubt. My opinion? Maybe a B. For me, a little too much bust-potential on Tunsil. And three WRs for a team strong at that position? But now it's your turn. How'd the Dolphins do? Again, I know. Can't really know for a year or three. But I'm writing a daily blog here, not a set of encyclopedias, so this can't wait. I'm curious your gut feeling on the entirety of the Miami draft. Were the "need" positions properly addressed? Was there too much emphasis on offense with six of eight picks including three wide receivers? Were there players available at 13 in the first round you'd have rather seen drafted? Consider all eight Dolphins picks (listed here below the poll) and render an overall gut-feeling grade. Vote and then check back often to monitor evolving results.

Dolphins 2016 Draft:

1r (13) -- Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

2r (38) -- Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor

3r (73) -- Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama

3r (86) -- Leonte Caroo, WR, Rutgers

6r (186) -- Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas tech

6r (204) -- Jordan Lucas, S, Penn State

7r (231) -- Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky

7r (250) -- Thomas Duarte, WR, UCLA

Poll result: Dolfans really like the Tunsil pick in first round: The gas-mask bong did not dissuade you. We asked how you felt about Miami drafting Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil 13th overall, and it was 54.7 percent "love it" and 23.8% "like" -- a favorable rating of more than 78%. Naysayers were 8.6% "don't like" and 6.2% "hate," with the remaining 6.7% undecided.

THE LIST: SOUTH FLORIDA GAME 7'S: The Panthers were one win shy of getting to one this season, but the Heat weren't. Sunday will be the 13th Game 7 in Miami's sports history, the 10th at home and the ninth by the Heat. The history of playoff Game 7's by the Heat, Panthers and Marlins: 

HEAT

First round          May 1, 2016 at home          Won 106-73 vs Hornets

NBA Finals          June 20, 2013 at home       Won 95-88 vs Spurs

East finals           June 3, 2013 at home         Won 99-76 vs Pacers

East finals           June 9, 2012 at home         Won 101-88 vs Celtics

First round           May 3, 2009 in Atlanta       Lost 91-78 vs Hawks

East finals           June 6, 2005 at home         Lost 88-82 vs Pistons

First round          May 4, 2004 at home         Won 85-77 vs Hornets

East semis           May 21, 2000 at home       Lost 83-82 vs Knicks

East semis           May 18, 1997 at home       Won 101-90 vs Knicks

PANTHERS

First round          Apr. 26, 2012 at home         Lost 3-2 vs Devils

East finals           June 1, 1996 in Pittsburgh   Won 3-1 vs Penguins

MARLINS

NLCS                  Oct. 15, 2003 in Chicago     Won 9-6 vs Cubs

World Series        Oct. 26, 1997 at home        Won 3-2 vs Indians

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 30, 2016

Wild Ride: Dwyane Wade's season-saving heroics, Laremy Tunsil's selection, Dee Gordon suspension equal wildest 24 hours in Miami sports history; plus Dolphins' Day 2-3 draft, history of Fins OLs and UM DBs in 1st round & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 30. Fare thee well, April! 2) Ray Lewis' son, Ray Anthony Lewis III, briefly a Miami Hurricane, has been charged with criminal sexual misconduct in South Carolina. Story here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins draft Laremy Tunsil No. 1 with poll, live-mocking my Mock Draft with results, Fins' sad track record in first round, Marlins best team in town, your Bosh vs. Heat verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Curious Pick, Major Gamble, the latest, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick last night. Heat Has Bigger Concerns Than #BringBoshBack, off Miami's damaging Game 5 home playoff loss. Keep It Simple, Dolphins: 2 Names, on what Fins should be thinking for their top draft pick.

SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS' WILDEST 24 HOURS EVER?: I think we've just experienced Miami sports' most dramatic 24 hours ever in the stuff I hit on in this blogpost. I think I'd nominate the 24 hours from late Thursday night through late last night. We had the Marlins finish a road sweep of the Dodgers on a Giancarlo Stanton homer followed immediately by the 80-suspension of Dee Gordon. We had the Dolphins creating the most buzz in the entire NFL Draft first round in selecting tackle Laremy Tunsil despite that infamous gas-mask-bong video. And we had Dwyane Wade sinking two late 3's (a shot he'd last made in December) in a must-win that kept the Heat season alive. Wild ride. Thank you, again, sports.

G6: HEAT 97, CHARLOTTE 90: WADE'S LATE HEROICS LIFT MIAMI, FORCE GAME 7: Not yet. The Heat aren't done yet. There will be a Game 7 Sunday at 1 p.m. back in Miami after last night's 97-90 Miami win in Charlotte evened this first-round playoff series 3-3. Dwyane Wade led Miami with 23 points with 10 in the telling fourth quarter -- including two 3-point baskets. Wade had last hit a 3 in December. What wonderful late heroics by the Heat's all-time great. D-Wade took it upon himself to save this game, and series, and keep the season alive. ..... Original post: The Heat never have blown a 2-0 playoff series lead and lost. Thirteen times they have led 2-0 and 13 times Heathornetsthey have advanced. That historic franchise streak is at risk tonight in Charlotte with Miami trailing 3-2 and the Hornets a 2-point favorite. A Charlotte streak could end, too. The franchise last won a playoff series 14 years ago. That and the underdog role in this series has the Hornets playing with a "a huge chip on our shoulder," as G6Kemba Walker put it. Miami is stunned to find itself in this predicament after winning the first two games at home by a combined 44 points, seemingly in control. Charlotte's defense has limited Miami to 38.6 percent shooting in the three games since. And the Heat's own defense has struggled stopping Hornets guards Walker and Jeremy Lin. Charlotte's 3-point shooting also came alive in the last game. Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "Nobody said this was going to be easy. Nobody's giving out free tickets to the second round. You do have to earn it. It's our first real test when our backs are against the wall. These are the games you remember." Miami tonight will need more of the vintage Wade who scored 25 in Game 5, but Wade needs more help. Calling Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, especially. Because only the season depends on it. It will end tonight for the Heat, or survive for a Game 7 on Sunday back in Miami.

AFTERSHOCK: LAREMY TUNSIL HAS DOLPHINS IN SPOTLIGHT: I don't step back from my column; click on Curious Pick, Major Gamble to read in full. Many in the national media are swooning over Miami's unexpected windfall. So are many Dolfans (see poll below). I'm more skeptical, acknowledging Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil is a great talent but also admitting his off- Tunsil
Gasmaskfield issues and injury history make his Bust Potential bigger than most. Also, Miami has just spent its top pick on a tackle (not a position of urgent need) with plans to try to make him a guard. Hmm. He'll be the world's biggest, least-experienced guard. Weird. I haven't even gotten to the gas mask yet. Let's talk about the off-field baggage. The domestic assault charge (later dropped) against his stepfather, who is suing him. The seven-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits. The admission he took cash from an Ole Miss coach. And of course the hacked Twitter account that last night exposed the image shown of Tunsil smoking pot through a gas-mask bong. A bleepin' GAS-MASK BONG! "Years ago," Tunsil said of the photo. Well, two years ago, it turns out. Somebody did Tunsil dirty with that hack job. I feel bad his big draft night was enveloped in controversy. But it is him in the photo. So, who is Miami getting here? The great talent who will eventually be Ryan Tannehill's blindside protector for many years? Or a guy who needs a gas-mask because he can't get enough smoke -- a guy whose risk may outweigh his potential? Even with those doubts I would give Miami high marks for the totality of their first round, because it must include cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, who arrived from Philly when Miami first traded down from 8th to 13th. In effect, the Dolphins just got three starters in the first round. But! It also is fair to note Maxwell is coming off a terrible season, Alonso must reverse his decline since his excellent rookie season, and Tunsil arrives with character questions. So: If, if, if. If Maxwell bounces back and is starter-caliber. If Alonso shows the rookie we saw was no fluke. If Tunsil proves everybody wrong and is the steal of the draft. If all three happen Miami just had an A-plus first round. If.

And ... weird got weirder: Top Dolphins draft pick Laremy Tunsil could not attend his 3:30 introductory press conference yesterday because (it was said) he suffered an "allergic reaction" of undetermined origin at the team's Davie facility. Allergic to questions about gas masks, maybe, because he did speak about 70 minutes later, seemed fine, but would not address any controversies, saying he was there only "to talk about the Miami Dolphins."

And there's this...: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Ravens, picking 6th, passed on Tunsil because of that gas-mask-bong video. That's Baltimore, a smarter, better-drafting, more successful team than Miami in the past 15 years. I'm just sayin'. Something to mull over for you folks so critical of me for being too critical of Miami's 1R choice.

Dolphins' Day 2 draft:

2nd round (38th overall) -- Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor: Smart position-need pick, 6-foot, 200 pounds, big, physical corner, good against the run, 9 interceptions past two seasons. Miami traded up 4 spots (giving up a 4th round pick) to select Howard, suggesting a lot of love and the hope he'll start as a rookie opposite Byron Maxwell. 

3rd round (73rd overall) -- Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama: Needed a running back. Got one. Would have preferred fellow 'Bama RB Derrick Henry, but he went 45th overall. Like that Miami targeted and hit on its two main position needs on Day 2.

3rd round (86th overall) -- Leonte Caroo, WR, Rutgers: Miami traded up into round for this added third rounder at large cost, giving up two Day 3 picks. Dolphins tried to trade up to select LB Myles Jack. I'm more interested in what they did do on Day 2. Trading up twice comes with a cost in lost Day 3 picks and reduced depth via rounds 3 through 7 today.

Dolphins' Day 3 draft:

4th round -- No pick.

5th round -- No pick.

6th round (186th overall) -- Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech. Traded up 10 spots to get him, givgin up one of three 7th-round picks to do so. That's four out of five picks so far designed to make Ryan Tannehill's life easier.

6th round (204th overall) -Jordan Lucas, S, Penn State.

7th round (223rd overall) -- Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky. Local kid, born and raised in Davie.

7th round (231st overall) -- Thomas Duarte. WR, UCLA. Finis!

SAY IT AIN'T SO, DEE: BOMBSHELL ROCKS MARLINS: It was 1:17 a.m. in the East on Friday morning. The Marlins had just wo a fifth straight game by completing a four-game road sweep of the DeegordonL.A. Dodgers on a win by Jose Fernandez fueled by Giancarlo Stanton's seventh home run. The Fish were riding a season high. That's when the news broke that star second baseman Dee Gordon (pictured) had tested positive for testosterone and another PED and was suspended immediately for 80 games without pay by MLB. (Full story here). The gut reaction? "Him, of all people?" Second reaction: "If he's dirty, is anybody clean!?" This rocks the stereotype of PED use; this rocks the faith. Gordon is a waif of a man, the opposite of the power hitter looking for artificial muscles through illegal juice. Gordon also is the Good Guy personified, of the (formerly) perfect image, a great, smiling face of the franchise and of the too-few African Americans in baseball. A role model. All that. And all that takes a hit now as Gordon sits humiliated until after the all-star break, his earliest return set at July 29. Gordon called it an innocent mistake in a statement Friday, saying, in part: "Though I did not do so knowingly, I have been informed that test results showed I ingested something that contained prohibited substances. I made a mistake and I accept the consequences." Of course the shocker of a suspension has a pragmatic effect, too. Gordon is the reigning NL batting champion and stolen base leader. Though he was hitting only .266 so far this year, he's tough to replace. Derek Dietrich will be the likely new regular at second base. Who'll replace Gordon as leadoff hitter is dicier. With no great candidate it could be Martin Prado, who does not have classic leadoff speed but gets on base, a plus for that role. Meanwhile, what a bone-rattling disappointment! Say it ain't so, Dee. [Update: Dietrich at second, Ichiro leading off tonight at Milwaukee].

THE LIST: HURRICANES FIRST-ROUND DEFENSIVE BACKS: Of 61 Miami Hurricanes selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since the first in 1956, 13 have been defensive backs. The 13th happened last night with Artie Burns, who is pictured on the phone with the Steelers at his draft party held at The Betsy hotel on South Beach. UM's 13 1R DBs, in reverse chronology, with asterisks indicating players still active, and with NFL career grades at right my own relative to draft slot:

Player                            Year (No.) / Team                NFL Starts/Pro Bowls/Grade

ArtieburnsArtie Burns-*                   2016 (25th) / Steelers          TBD

Kenny Phillips-*               2008 (31st) / Giants             59/0/C

Brandon Meriweather-*    2007 (24th) / Patriots          112/2/B

Kelly Jennings                 2006 (31st) / Seahawks        91/0/C-

Antrel Rolle-*                  2005 (8th) / Cardinals         155/3/B+

Sean Taylor                     2004 (5th) / Redskins           55/2/A

Philip Buchanon               2002 (17th) / Raiders          122/0/B-

Ed Reed                          2002 (24th) / Ravens           174/9/A+

Mike Rumph                    2002 (27th) / 49ers              43/0/D

Duane Starks                   1998 (10th) / Ravens           97/0/C

Darryl Williams                1992 (28th) / Bengals          156/1/B

Bennie Blades                  1988 (3rd) / Lions               136/1/B-

Burgess Owens                 1973 (13th) / Jets               137/0/C+

THE LIST: DOLPHINS FIRST-ROUND OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: The Dolphins have drafted an offensive lineman in the first round 11 times, the 11th last night. Miami's 11 1R OLs, in reverse chronology, with asterisks indicating active players, and with NFL career grades at right my own relative to draft slot:

Player                             Year (No.) / College            NFL Starts/Pro Bowls/Grade

Laremy Tunsil-*                2016 (13th) / Ole Miss         TBD

Ja'Wuan James-*              2014 (19th) / Tennessee       23/0/Inc.

Mike Pouncey-*                 2011 (15th) / Florida           72/3/B

Jake Long-*                     2008 (1st) / Michigan           100/4/B-

Vernon Carey                   2004 (19th) / Miami             121/0/C+

Billy Milner                      1995 (25th) / Houston          30/0/F

Richmond Webb               1990 (9th) / Texas A&M        184/7/A

Roy Foster                       1982 (24th) / USC                 127/2/B

Jon Giesler                      1979 (24th) / Michigan         105/0/B-

Darryl Carlton                  1975 (23rd) / Tampa            36/0/F

Doug Crusan                     1968 (27th) / Indiana          82/0/C

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

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April 28, 2016

DOLPHINS DRAFT OT TUNSIL #1. Like the pick? New poll. Vote now!; plus mocking my Mock Draft, live, pick by pick (Final); also, Miami's sad recent 1st-round history quantified, surging Marlins, your Bosh verdict & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 28. Heat an early 1.5-point underdog in Game 6 at Charlotte Friday. 2) Click here for Rolling Stone review (and videos) of Beyonce's world-tour opening concert last night at Marlins Park. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat home loss makes it 3-2 series hole, Miami Herald NFL Mock Draft and video, Dolphins defenders skip voluntary, verdict on Heat fans' confidence & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Heat Has Bigger Concerns Than #BringBoshBack, the latest, off last night's damaging Game 5 home playoff loss. Keep It Simple, Dolphins: 2 Names, on Miami's best-case scenario for its No. 1 draft pick. Calling Jaromir Jagr, on Panthers' need for Jagr to end his playoff goals drought entering Game 6.

POLL ON DOLPHINS FIRST-ROUND PICK: Find it right here, immediately below:  

DOLPHINS DRAFT OLE MISS TACKLE LAREMY TUNSIL NO. 1: Some had him going as early as third overall but off-field and injury issues had him plummeting Thursday night. But Miami got him 13th overall. Smart steal? Huge risk? Maybe both? For me it's both a curious pick and a major gamble -- curious because tackle is one of the last positions at which Miami needed immediately help, and this should be a franchise drafting for now, not later. Click on Curious Pick, Major Gamble for my column on the pick. Now it's your turn to weigh in:

NfldraftDRAFT NIGHT IN AMERICA! MOCKING MY NFL MOCK DRAFT, LIVE, PICK BY PICK: Click on Mockin' It '16 for my full, unabridged 2016 Official Miami Herald NFL Mock Draft, including full capsules for each selection and Super Bonus Draft Facts, too. Here you see the entire first round, condensed except for the full capsule on Dolphins prediction. Follow along tonight as we score our results, pick by pick, with three symbols: Bulls-eye is the optimum: Exact player to exact team. Green check mark is middle ground: Means I had the player selected in my first round but not going to the right team. Red 'X' is a big loss: Means I did not have the player selected in my first round. I did pretty well a year ago, with 26 of 32 first-round picks correct overall and nine bull’s-eyes -- including the Dolphins taking DeVante Parker. How will I do this year? I'm wondering, too. Throughout the night we'll be updating what actually happens vs. what I had in my Mock, live, with commentary, so join us starting at 8...

Greg Cote's 25th annual Miami Herald NFL Mock Draft:

Bullseye1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal / The pick: Goff / The big news as 81st NFL Draft begins? "Cote Mock Off to Perfect Start!" #1972 Can we quit now, please? Mock Score: 1-for-1, 1 Bull's-eye. 

Bullseye2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State / The pick: Wentz / Little to zero doubt here. No surprises yet. QBs 1-2. Goodell booed. Mock score: 2-for-2, 2 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark3. San Diego Chargers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss / The pick: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State / I had Bosa going 5th. Bolts go for D. St. Thomas Aquinas happier than Philip Rivers. Mock score: 3-for-3, 2 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark4. Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State / The pick: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State / I had Elliott, of the crop-top shirt, going 8th. This is draft's first loss for Dolphins. Would have loved him, but couldn't trade up this high. Mock score: 4-for-4, 2 Bull's-eyes. 

Checkmark5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State / The pick: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State / I had Ramsey, a CB-safety hybrid, going 4th. #CloseDon'tCount Mock score: 5-for-5, 2 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark6. Baltimore Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon / The pick: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame / I had Stanley going 7th. #CloseDon'tCount (And Laremy Tunsil continues to slide). Mock score: 6-for-6, 2 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark7. San Francisco 49ers: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame / The pick: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon / I had Buckner going 6th. #CloseDon'tCount. (Getting tired of that hashtag). Mock score: 7-for-7, 2 Bull's-eyes. 

Checkmark8. Cleveland Browns: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State / TRADE: Tennessee moves up to 8th. The pick: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State / I had Conklin going 15th. Tunsil continues in freefall. Mock score: 8-for-8, 2 Bull's-eyes. 

Checkmark9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida / TRADE: Chicago moves up to 9th. The pick: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia / I had Floyd going 12th. Mock score: 9-for-9, 2 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark10. New York Giants: Myles Jack, ILB, UCLA / The pick: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State / Invest big in "The Big Apple" tabloid headlines. A reach. I had Apple going way down at 28th. Miami had some interest. Mock score: 10-for-10, 2 Bull's-eyes. 

Bullseye11. Chicago Bears: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson / TRADE: Tampa Bay moves down to 11th. The pick: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida / I had Hargreaves going 9th, but to Tampa, so that's an Exacto. Miami had a big interest. Mock score: 11-for-11, 3 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark12. New Orleans Saints: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia / The pick: Sheldon Rankins, DE, Louisville / I had Rankins going 19th. You knew they'd go D. Dolphins on the clock! Mock score: 12-for-12, 3 Bull's-eyes. 

Checkmark13. MIAMI DOLPHINS: WILLIAM JACKSON, CB, HOUSTON / The pick: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss / I had Tunsil going 3rd but he fell precipitously fell with off-field and injury issues. A major risk. Mock score: 13-for-13, 3 Bull's-eyes / Original post: I doubt Miami will stay at 13. I see them trying to trade up into the 7-8 range to select the RB Elliott he he gets past Dallas picking 4th — a bold move of the headline-grabbing type that is part of the Mike Tannenbaum canon. But I also can see the Fins anticlimactically trading down because, after Ramsey and Hargreaves no DB is worth this high a pick and likely could be gotten lower. That includes Jackson or Ohio State’s Eli Apple, both of whom might be labeled a “reach” taken this high. If Miami does stay at 13, though — and assuming Elliott, Jack and Hargreaves are all off the board -- then grabbing the best available corner here would make sense as an urgent need. Apple may well be rated slightly higher by Miami and might be a safer mock pick for me than Jackson here. But Jackson is older, more mature and more ready now than the riskier Apple. Jackson looks a safer bet for the Dolphins (if not for me), and Miami cannot afford a first-round misfire.

Checkmark14. Oakland Raiders: Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama / The pick: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia / I had Joseph going 16th. #MoreCloseDon'tCount. Mock score: 14-for-14, 3 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark15. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State / TRADE: Cleveland moves down to 15th. The pick: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor / I had Coleman going 24th. Mock score: 15-for-15, 3 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark16. Detroit Lions: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia / The pick: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State / I had Taylor going 18th. #MoreCloseYadaYadaYada Mock score: 16-for-16, 3 Bull's-eyes.

  Xmark17. Atlanta Falcons: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State / The pick: Keanu Neal, S, Florida / My first flat-out miss. Did not have Neal in my first round. Mock score: 16-for-17, 3 Bull's-eyes. 

Checkmark18. Indianapolis Colts: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State / The pick: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama / I had Kelly going 26th. Mock score: 17-for-18, 3 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark19. Buffalo Bills: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville / The pick: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson / I had Lawson going 11th. Mock score: 18-for-19, 3 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark20. New York Jets: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis / The pick: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State / I had Lee going 17th. Mock score: 19-for-20, 3 Bull's-eyes.

Xmark21. Washington Redskins: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama / TRADE: Houston moves up to 21st. The pick: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame / I did not have Fuller in my first round. Mock score: 19-for-21, 3 Bull's-eyes.
Checkmark22. Houston Texans: Josh Doctson, WR, Texas Christian / TRADE: Washington moves down to 22nd. The pick: Josh Doctson, WR, Texas Christian
/ I had Doctson going in this exact spot, but to a different team. Mock score: 20-for-22, 3 Bull's-eyes. 

Bullseye23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss / The pick: Treadwell / Bingo! Exactos too rare this year. Mock score: 21-for-23, 4 Bull's-eyes.

Checkmark24. Cincinnati Bengals: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor / The pick: William Jackson, CB, Houston / I had Jackson going 13th, to Miami. Still think he'd have been a better pick than Tunsil. Mock score: 22-for-24, 4 Bull's-eyes.

Bullseye25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami / The pick: Burns / Bingo again! Doubly ice to get the Cane right. Mock score: 23-for-25, 5 Bull's-eyes. 

  Checkmark26. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama / TRADE: Denver moves up to 26th. The pick: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis / I had Lynch going 20th. Mock score: 24-for-26, 5 Bull's-eyes.

Xmark27. Green Bay Packers: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama / The pick: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA / I did not have Clark in my first round. Mock score: 24-for-27, 5 Bull's-eyes. 

Xmark28. Kansas City Chiefs: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State / TRADE: San Francisco moved up to 28th. The pick: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford / I did not have Garnett in my first round. Mock score: 24-for-28, 5 Bull's-eyes.

[New England Patriots: Forfeited 29th overall pick]

Xmark30. Arizona Cardinals: Vonn Bell, S/CB, Ohio State / The pick: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss / I did not have Nkemdiche in my first round. Probably round's biggest risk along with Miami's Tunsil. Mock score: 24-for-29, 5 Bull's-eyes.

Xmark31. Carolina Panthers: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State / The pick: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech / I did not have Butler in my first round. #EndingWithAWhimperHere Mock score: 24-for-30, 5 Bull's-eyes. 

Xmark32. Denver Broncos: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas / TRADE: Seattle moved down to 32nd. The pick: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M / I did not have Ifedi in my first round. #CrappedMyPantsLateInRound Final Mock score: 24-for-31, 5 Bull's-eyes. 

DionjordanJUST TO CONFIRM: DOLPHINS NOT VERY GOOD LATELY IN FIRST ROUND: ESPN used Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value (AV) metric, which is sort of the football equivalent of baseball's WAR (Wins Over Replacement), to rank NFL teams on their first-round draft success over the past 10 years. And Miami checks in a sub-mediocre 22nd of 32 teams with a minus-0.8 score. Ryan Tannehill is called the best pick since 2006, and of course Dion Jordan (pictured) is the worst. ESPN's Dolphins synopsis: "Six of Miami's 10 first-round picks in the last decade failed to meet draft expectations, but their most questionable selection was Jordan. Despite a solid defensive line, Miami moved up nine spots from 12th to third to pick Jordan, who has since been suspended twice for violating the league's substance abuse policy." Top three-rated teams overall: Carolina plus-11.5, Houston plus-7.7 and Baltimore plus-6.8. Elsewhere in the AFC East, New England is 4th overall at plus-6.4, the Stinkin' Jets are 9th at plus-3.0 and Buffalo is 30th at minus-4.2.

BillyIMAGINE THAT: MARLINS BEST TEAM IN TOWN TODAY: The Panthers and Heat were supposed to own South Florida sports' spring-into-summer with long playoff runs. Hmm. The Panthers unexpectedly were eliminated in the first round by the underdog New York Islanders. Now, after last night's dispiriting home loss, Miami's third straight in the series, the favored, sinking Heat suddenly face first-round elimination in Game 6 Friday in Charlotte. A huge double disappointment looms. Meanwhile? The overlooked, slow-starting Marlins have quietly won four games in a row, tied for the third-best current streak in MLB. I say quietly because they're on the west coast, so only adamant Fish-heads and wide-eyed insomniacs are watching the games. Still, at least somebody is winning around here. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody's Doin' the Fish!

Poll result: Mixed views, and close, but more Heat fans side with Bosh than with team: We asked who's right in the disagreement between Chris Bosh saying he's ready to play now and the team saying no (you may still vote), and it was 42.4 percent siding with Bosh and 35.2% with the team. The other 22.4% were undecided or called the issue too complicated to take sides.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 21, 2016

History! Heat, Panthers win playoff games on same day for first time ever; plus R.I.P. Prince, 'White Ho,' Josh Norman, bigot Schilling fired, Marlins' awful start, NBA jersey ads (what Heat's might look like) & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 21. Seen leaving the Heat arena late last night ... what happens (pictured) when a letter in 'White Hot' mysteriously disappears. 2) Attention Miami Dolphins: Star Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is unexpectedly a free-agent now. Reportedly the 49ers are a frontrunner, though. 3) Hope you had a happy 4-20, National Weed Day. Yeah, like pot smokers need an annual holiday to enjoy their herb? 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Youth will served and serve back (Heat's rookie reliance), Luol Deng's good work off-court, bad golf joke & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

PrincePrince dead at 57: Oh my. David Bowie, now Prince. All artists are unique, if the word is taken literally, but few stood out as more so than Prince. What a talent. What a shame to lose him so soon. I had a chance to be in his company (briefly) a few days before he performed at halftime of the February 2007 Super Bowl here. How small of stature, but with an aura and mystique -- and sound -- that filled the biggest rooms. Prince was genre-bending and to a degree gender-bending, an exceptional guitarist with a magnetic stage presence. I am already missing every song he might have written but now won't. R.I.P. 

"Nobody in the sports world had a better Wednesday than Harriet Tubman." --Greg Cote

HISTORY!: Last night was the first time ever the Heat and Panthers both won a playoff game the same day.

The makeup of MLB Opening Day rosters: In case you wondered, it was 59.1 percent White (plus 0.3 from a year earlier); 28.5% Latino (minus 0.8); 8.3% African-American or Black (no change); and 1.7% Asian (plus 0.5). The totals add to 97.6%. Our source, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, does not explain who the 2.4% are.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East, the new one, off last night's Heat win. Rook 1, Rook 2, on Heat's refreshing, uncommon reliance on rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. This Is the Upside, off Heat's impressive Game 1 win.

G2: HEATS HANDLES CHARLOTTE 115-103 FOR 2-0 SERIES LEAD AS WADE, OFFENSE STAR: Dwyane Wade 28 points and eight assists last night led the 115-103 downtown win over the Hornets. Plenty of help, though. Four others in double figures including Hassan Whiteside with 17 points and 13 rebounds on 8-for-8 shooting. Miami did not hit 115-plus points in consecutive games all season but has done it to open the playoffs. Click on For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East for my column off the Game 2 win. ..... Original post: Heat has won five straight over Charlotte in postseason dating to 2014, and the Hornets' 123-91 loss Dwadein Game 1 here offered little indication that streak will end tonight in Game 2. Of course, a leveling and a tighter came is certain. Miami was  near perfect to start the playoffs' first round, personified by Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside shooting a combined 20-for-24. That won't happen again, and neither will Charlotte's shell-shocked, deer-in-headlights effort. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford is right in saying, "Whether you lose by 30 or one, it's 1-0." So is Heat coach Erik Spoelstra in saying, "We will see a response from [the Hornets]." Key for Miami will be to continue to defend Charlotte's 3-point shot and control the boards. It also figures to be a night when Miami needs more offense from Dwyane Wade (pictured) than the quiet 16 he gave in the opener. Miami has won 10 consecutive first-round games overall and 15 of past 16 at home vs. Charlotte, so I'd bet on Heat winning again tonight, though narrowly. Miami can put the hammer down with a 2-0 series lead tonight, or find itself 1-1 heading for two straight in Charlotte. This is the beauty of a best-of-seven. Every result changes the entire narrative. Historically, though, here is the significance of tonight's result for Miami. In its playoff history, the Heat is 13-0 in a series its leads 2-0, but 10-8 in a series that is 1-1. And that sounds about right as a frame for tonight: Miami either puts this thing away, or invites anxiety moving forward.  

JagrG4: PANTHERS 2, N.Y. ISLANDERS 1: HUGE CATS WIN EVENS SERIES: Goals by Teddy Purcell and Alex Petrovic and big goaltending by Roberto Luongo forged last night's 2-1 road win that has the playoff series 2-2 heading back to Sunrise for Game 5 Friday night. ..... Original post: I still think Florida's roster is superior to the Isles', but NYI's 2-1 series lead says otherwise. Florida blew a 3-1 lead in Game 3 thanks in part to some sketchy officiating; now we see the response in the crucial Game 4 tonight in Brooklyn. Cats either will bounce home feeling good at 2-2, or wallow desperately in a 3-1 hole. Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993 and Panthers since '96, so something's gotta give. Troubling for the Panthers is that goalie Roberto Luongo has given up nine goals in the two losses. He admitted he was "exhausted" after three playoff games in four nights. Cats will need better net-minding tonight from their main guy or from Al Montoya to get back in this series. They'll also need their frontline scorers to get going, starting with Jaromir Jagr (pictured), who has not tallied a point in the three games. He also has not scored a goal in 34 straight playoff games, an almost unfathomable streak whose end tonight would be hugely well-timed.

SAD I: WHY DOES CURT SCHILLING STILL HAVE JOB AT ESPN? HE DOESN'T ANYMORE: Update: ESPN canned Schilling late yesterday. Good for ESPN. Original post: Full transparency: I work for The Worldwide Leader parttime as a once-a-week studio co-host for ESPN Radio on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, as many of you know. Those checks from Disney are a welcome stipend to my day job with the Miami Herald. So because of my role with ESPN, minor though Curtschilling Curtschillingit is, I hesitated to write this and will tread carefully. I love free speech. I also know that employers have a right to expect those they pay to represent the company in a way that does not unduly offend customers. I'm not sure, if I owned the Buffalo Bills, how I'd feel about Rex Ryan introducing Donald Trump at a New York rally last week. I'd feel the same if he had introduced Hillary Clinton, although it is fair to say some of Trump's views are more controversial and polarizing, and yet now the face of an NFL team is on board with all of those views (on Muslims, on Mexicans) by association. The matter of Curt Schilling, the ESPN baseball analyst, is far more disturbing. He previously was suspended by ESPN and later demoted from Sunday Night Baseball after posting a meme that compared extremist Muslims to Nazis. Schilling, 49, also has said Clinton should be "buried under a jail." Now the latest: Schilling has shared on his Facebook page the cartoon pictured, with the comment, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don't care what they are, who they sleep with, men's room was designed for the penis, women's not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic." The cartoon feeds the bigoted hysteria that surrounds the transgender bathroom issue that is news in several states, notably North Carolina, by suggesting it will mean predators attacking your daughters. Actually I think the cartoon might mean to lampoon the hysteria and mock the intolerant and small-minded like Schilling. In any case, Yahoo Sports reports an ESPN spokesman as saying, "We are taking this matter very seriously and are in the process of reviewing it." Schilling has responded to the outcry by blaming the media and those offended, writing on his website, "You know how I know you ‘offended’ people are full of crap? Because I’m not even close to any of the things you so desperately want me to be, so you can whine. You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for tolerance and acceptance while you refuse to do and be either. YOU’RE the ones making it the issue." Schilling notes the things he shares on Facebook or Twitter are his own opinions and have nothing to do with his employer, but this of course is where he is plainly wrong. His description now does not begin with "former pitcher," it begins with "ESPN Baseball analyst." That's the issue here. Schilling has every right to have whatever opinions he wishes and to share them. The thing is, ESPN also has every right to not want its on-air stars volunteering themselves into needless public controversies with stances not in line with what represents Disney or ESPN. Curt Schilling's name should conjure one word first: Baseball. Instead it has come to conjure another: Bigotry.

DonmattinglySAD II: ON MARLINS' NIGHTMARE START: We're an unlucky 13 games into The Longest Season and already the requisite wisecrack has started circulating. Surely anyone who follows the Marlins has said or heard some variation of this: "Has Loria fired Mattingly yet?" It speaks to both owner Jeffrey Loria's notorious impatience and to the the club's disappointing start under new manager Don Mattingly (pictured). "Nightmare" start might not be hyperbole. The 4-9 record is third-worst in MLB. The 1-7 home record is the worst. Five of eight position starters are batting .244 or under. The bullpen has been an Amtrak derailment. (Speaking of which: Why, Lord, is Chris Narveson still in the big leagues?) [UPDATE: Marlins today/Thursday demoted Narveson to the minors] Now the Marlins face one more at home today against the rotation-strong Washington Nationals and then set out on a daunting, season-long 10-game road trip. There is the potential for things to get really ugly. Loria wanted a fast start under Mattingly. The opposite has left the Fish buried on the local landscape under the Heat and Panthers' playoff runs and Dolphins draft talk. And any attention the Marlins are getting is mostly negative. As for that crack about "has Loria fired Mattingly yet," the way things have started -- and knowing this owner -- it might seem less and less like a preposterous joke as summer rolls in.

HeatadsjerseySAD III: IMAGINING HEAT'S AD JERSEY: I have fought my quiet fight against the encroachment of advertising in sports for years. Long-time and particularly observant readers know that I, for example, never refer in my columns to stadium and arena names that include a corporate sponsor. I'll make it a generic ""Heat's downtown bayside arena" rather than mention the airline in the official name. It's just my little line in the sand. Well, now advertising is coming to the front of NBA jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season, a business-smart but otherwise sad development. Stadium names being whorred out for revenue is bad enough, but now jersey fronts? What's next, franchise names? The Burger King Miami Dolphins? How about player names? "And now batting, brought to you by Pepsi-Cola ... Giancarlo Stanton!" ESPN.com today (click here) imagines what various NBA jerseys would look like in the ad age and logically has the Heat sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines, Heat owner Micky Arison's other company, headquartered in Doral. Bright side: As shown, the corporate logo is affixed to the jersey in a way somewhat less garish and intrusive than it could be, I suppose. It's still sad. I mean, it's one thing to pay good money to buy a Heat T-shirt because you support the team or the player whose number and name are on it. But now you're also a walking billboard for Carnival or some other company, like it or not. As for the notion the sponsor's name on the merchandise might result in a reduced cost? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! You are kidding, right?

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April 19, 2016

Youth will be served. And serve back: Heat's refreshing reliance on its 2 rookies; plus Marlins finally win home game, Radio Tuesday, Deng's great work off-court, bad golf joke & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 19. Jose Fernandez ends career-worst one-game home losing streak as Marlins finally win at home. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's huge Game 1, Panthers give one away, Hot Button Top 10, Whiteside/Jagr win Heat/Panthers MVPs & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my regular Tuesday co-host gig with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Miami on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and simulcasting on ESPNU and Fusion TV.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Rook 1, Rook 2, today's latest on Heat's refreshing, uncommon reliance on rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Rchardson. This Is the Upside, off last night's hugely impressive Heat Game 1 win. Luongo Saves Day, And Maybe Season, off Friday night's necessary Panthers Game 2 win.

YOUTH WILL BE SERVED. AND SERVE BACK: THE HEAT'S REVOLUTIONARY (FOR THE HEAT) THINKING ON ROOK 1, ROOK 2: There have been many benchmark delights in this successful Miami Heat season, from the top on down. We have seen Pat Riley’s resilience and determination to not use LeBron James’ departure as a crutch or excuse. After one aberrant season on the playoff sideline he has the Heat retooled and thinking big again. We have seen maybe Erik Spoelstra’s best coaching job, weathering the loss of Chris Bosh, changing the offense, tinkering with the pace, incorporating new faces young and old into the rotation. We have seen the full blossom of Hassan Whiteside, who finished third in NBA defensive player of the voting Monday but Rookieshas been as good as anybody the second half of the season and earned the large summer payday that’s coming. We have seen the career of Dwyane Wade, the South Florida treasure now 34 and still an all-star, continue to adapt and to age with graceful brilliance. But none of those things is as surprising as this: The Miami Heat (of all teams), relying on rookies and trusting youth. This is not the Riley Way, or hasn’t been. Signing old warhorses like Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson -- those were classic signature moves for the veteran-loving club president. It is the youth makeover that has been different, and given this team and season a feeling of fresh air, a feeling of future. Top rookie Justise Winslow and second-round pick Josh Richardson (pictured left to right) have been a revelation, with defense-first impact that has earned both a major role. We saw that during the season, when their combined average of 49.9 minutes per game was second in the NBA to Denver among teams with two rookies playing the most. We sure saw it again Sunday in Game 1 of the playoffs, in the rout of Charlotte, when the two combined for 62 minutes – playing off the bench, but playing starters’ time. Richardson, a 6-6 shooting guard, led everybody with 35 minutes, and had five rebounds, three assists, a pair of 3-point baskets and eight points. "I bring a bulldog mentality,” he said. “Play every possession as hard as I can." Winslow, a 6-6 small forward, played 27 minutes Sunday with eight points on 4-for-6 shooting, and four rebounds. "Learning something new every day," he described his rookie year. "Everybody can play [in the NBA], but you realize the elite guys are on a different level mentally. They see things before it happens. Seeing that first-hand has been cool." Include Whiteside at 26 and Tyler Johnson at 23 and Miami has its brightest nucleus of young players in many years. Wade, in his 13th Miami season, is enjoying a mentor’s role that has invigorated him. Sunday, Winslow mimicked Wade’s Euro-step move for a basket, pointed at the Heat bench in acknowledgment, and Wade literally danced with delight. Of course everything is fun when you are winning a playoff game by 32 points. But the whole season has been fun for Wade, finally seeing a next-gen commitment from his franchise. There is a passing-of-the-torch feeling at play. As Winslow said Monday of his mentor Wade: "He knows his time is winding down and that I can have a very bright future in this league." Wade in turn calls Winslow "a student of the game," says, "I love that rookie!" The experience has been different for Wade. "Yeah it’s not very often since I’ve been here that we’ve had a lot of rookies who can come in and do this," the Heat's all-time great said Monday, after practice. "They’ve meant a lot. Justise came in with that NBA body and we knew right away he could play, [as] a very good defender defending other team’s best player. And Josh Richardson, surprising everyone the second half of the season with his ability to shoot and defend as well. Josh came along slowly and then -- out of nowhere!" The Heat’s only NBA All-Rookie first teamer since Wade in 2004 has been Michael Beasley in ’09, and it’s fair to say he flamed out. As a non-starter Winslow might not make the all-rookie first team to be announced in May, but you get the sense he and Richardson are built to last. Though Winslow just turned 20 and Richardson is only 22, they are the anti-Johnny Manziels. Mature. Serious about the game. Winslow has the bloodlines. His father played at Houston on the famed Hakeem Olajuwon/Clyde Drexler teams and had a long pro career mostly overseas. The son came NBA-ready out of Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke factory. Richardson, a former Tennessee Vol, also is of sound stock. His father is a retired Oklahoma City firefighter and his mother a former Air Force lieutenant colonel who now is an ordained Baptist minister. Both rookies are comfortable in a role that doesn’t always lend itself to the kind of offense that attracts all-rookie votes. Unselfishness defines both. They’ve bought in. "You saw that with Golden State last year," as Winslow said. "Guys accepting their roles." They have had the luxury to tune their defensive games because, "They don’t have the burden to score ‘X’ amount points," as Spoelstra said. "They’ve embraced every challenge that was given to them. They’ve played with great defensive energy. They focus on making winning plays." Added Wade: "Our young guys, they’re not scared of the moment. We need them to not play like rookies, and the special ones at this time of year do not." Imagine! Rookies playing a major role … in the playoffs … for the Miami Heat. Such an uncommon and nourishing sight for this franchise and its fans.

DengLUOL DENG'S GOOD WORK EXTENDS BEYOND COURT: He scored 31 in Game 1 the other night. He's doing even better off the court. We've mentioned Luol Deng's good works in this area before. Here's an update: The Luol Deng Foundation is battling a humanitarian crisis that now impacts millions in his native country of South Sudan. Deng has created a crowd funding campaign with a goal of $100,000 to be donated to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in support of the group's emergency response aimed primarily at attacking malnutrition. Deng will match the first $50,000 in funds raised. The campaign will run through the end of April. "South Sudan is my home and I am humbled to be in a position to help those suffering from lack of access to basic needs, especially the children facing severe acute malnutrition," said Deng. "I hope to raise awareness of their plight and inspire others to support the millions of South Sudanese people who are in urgent need of lifesaving assistance." To learn more or to donate, visit www.crowdrise.com/luoldeng.

JesusgolfGOLF JOKE!: Moses and Jesus are playing golf, and come upon a water hole. Jesus hit his ball right into the water, walks out to get it and hits again. Moses tells him he should use a different club. Jesus answers, "Tiger Woods uses this club and so shall I." He hits the ball into the water four more times in a row, and as he is walking out to get his ball yet again, someone in the foursome behind him yells, "C'mon! Who's he think he is, Jesus Christ!?" Moses yells back": "Well, he is. The problem is he thinks he’s Tiger Woods."

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April 18, 2016

This is the Heat team that can beat LeBron and Cavs. Miami 'perfect' in 123-91 Game 1 rout of Charlotte; plus Panthers fall in OT, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Hassan Whiteside and Jaromir Jagr named Heat/Panthers season MVPs & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 18. Heat's Hassan Whiteside finishes third in NBA Defensive Plahyer of Year vote; Spurs' Kawhi Leonard wins again. 2) ESPN's mock-draft picks for Dolphins selecting 13th are two Ohio State Buckeyes -- OLB Darron Lee (says Mel Kiper) and RB Ezekiel Elliott (via Todd McShay). So it won't be either, then. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Panthers tie Islanders series, Dolphins schedule, Heat-Hornets, Heat/Panthers MVP polls, history of Miami playoff games, your Warriors vs. Kobe verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

NEW COLUMN: On Heat's refreshing reliance on rookies Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson: Shipping to Tuesday's inky pulp editions but available to you now. Click on Rook 1, Rook 2 to read. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: This Is the Upside, off last night's hugely impressive Heat Game 1 win. Luongo Saves Day, And Maybe Season, off Friday night's necessary Panthers Game 2 win. Now We See About the Panthers, off the series-opening loss.

Cats give one away: The Florida Panthers aren't making it easy on themselves. They lose Game 1 at home. Then, last night, they lost Game 3 in Brooklyn, 4-3 in overtime, after leading 3-1. Florida nows trails their NHL first-round series to the Islanders 2-1, with Game 4 Wednesday night back up there.

G1: HEAT 123, CHARLOTTE 91: DENG, WHITESIDE LEAD 'PERFECT' GAME: As bad as the Heat were in that late collapse in Boston four nights earlier, the Heat were that good Sunday night in starting the playoffs with an impressive home bang. Miami set club playoff records for most points in a game (123) and quarter (41) and most field goals made (49). Goran Dragic called it "a perfect game on both ends." It was almost literally so for Luol Deng (31 points) and Hassan Whiteside (21), who combined for 20-of-24 shooting. Miami wasn't as bad it it looked in Boston last week and can't be as great as it looked Sunday, but we saw how good this team can be. And the team we saw Sunday night can beat anybody in the East, LeBron James and Cleveland included. Game 2 is back here Wednesday night. Click on This Is the Upside for my game column off last night's gem. ..... Original post: When last we saw the Heat on the court, they were Heathornetssundaysuffering a regular season-ending meltdown in Boston akin to Jordan Spieth's in The Masters. No time for a hangover effect now, with the first-round playoffs set to begin as No. 3 seed Miami hosts No. 6 Charlotte this evening in Game 1. Despite the seed disparity both teams were 48-34 in the season and split their series 2-2, so it's understandable that Charlotte is a trendy upset pick with some in the national media. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson will be a challenge, and it's a series where Chris Bosh's absence could be conspicuous after so many weeks of Miami seemingly not missing him. Charlotte has had the third-best record in the league since the all-star break and is 26-9 since Jan. 31. That's impressive. Miami is a narrow betting favorite in this series at 5-8 odds to Charlotte's 8-5, but must prove here that it is capable of playing all the way into the Eastern finals. Miami is one of only five of 122 franchises in the Big Four sports to make the playoffs at least 17 times and win at least three championships in the past 21 seasons, along with Lakers, Spurs, Red Wings and Yankees. The Heat have more playoff seasons than the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers combined since Miami became a four-sport city in 1993. But I see a serious early challenge here for the Heat. So does ESPN, which ranks this series No. 1 of the eight for upset potential, which it estimates at 46 percent. My pick: Heat in 6 games.

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, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Wow! Miami saves its best game of season for playoff opener:  Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets were a trendy pick to upset the No. 3 Heat in this best-of-seven, but the Heat last night said, "I don't think so." And emphatically, in a 123-91 rout in the downtown bayside arena led by Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside's combined 52 points on combined 20-for-24 shooting. If last night was the real Heat, then this team is capable of beating anybody in the East ... including that guy from Cleveland, whatshisname.

2. PANTHERS: Cats give one away in crucial Game 3 loss to Islanders: One game after Roberto Luongo saved the day for Florida, the Panthers last night blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads in a 4-3 overtime Game 3 loss in Brooklyn. Islanders now are up 2-1, with Game 4 back up in New York Wednesday night. Must win? Well, don't they all sort of feel like that in a best-of-seven playoffs?

3. DOLPHINS: Season schedule is out (uh oh) as Fins prepare for draft: Does new Dolphins coach Adam Gase have enemies? Apparently one — the guy who scheduled Miami to open the season at Seattle and at New England. Fins hope they fare better in the April 28-30 NFL Draft than they did with the schedule. I can't wait for the draft ..mainly because it puts a merciful end to the endless speculation of national mocks drafts and local flat-out guessing on what Miami might do.

4. MARLINS: Shh. Don’t tell anybody, but Fish in midst of homestand: Miami is in the midst of seven games in a row at Marlins Park. The question is, with the Heat and Panthers both in the playoffs and Dolphins’ draft soon, will South Florida even notice? The homestand may not be a good thing, considering it has opened with three straight losses to previously winless Braves, making Miami now 0-5 at home this year. Fish's early-season problem is clear. If your arm is loose, report immediately to the bullpen, please.

5. HURRICANES: UM’s spring game ends offseason football practice: Hurricanes’ annual Spring Game, the first under new coach Mark Richt, was Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Green beating Orange 24-7 behind Brad Kaaya's 345 yards passing before some 14,000 fans at Lockhart Stadium. Want a sad fact? Canes baseball is ranked No. 1 in the nation, but more UM fans care about a glorified football practice taking place five months before season starts.

6. NBA: Big end to regular season segues to playoffs: Basketball's regular season ended with Golden State’s record-setting 73rd win and retiring Kobe Bryant’s 60 points in his final game. Top that, first round!

7. NHL: It's No, Canada! as Stanley Cup playoffs begin: Canada invented hockey. You wouldn't know it. A Canadian team hasn't lifted Lord Stanley's Cup since 1993, and now, for the first time since 1970, no Canadian team even made the playoffs.

8. NFL: Rams trade up for No. 1 pick in draft: Good offseason for Los Angeles. First the city gets the Rams back from St. Louis. Now, in first trade involving a top pick since 2004, the team gets the No. 1 draft pick from Tennessee. 

9. GOLF: Fans still abuzz over Spieth's Masters meltdown: It's been a week and golf fans still can't get over Jordan Spieth blowing The Masters and literally handing over the green jacket to Danny Willett. Then again, at least Jordan, who tied for second, had $880,000 to help dry his tears.

10. SAILING: Miamian wins Star-class world title: Miami and Coral Reef Yacht Club hosted the Star-class world sailing championships, which is of apparent tremendous interest to Star-class sailors. No, seriously, it's a big event, and Miamian Augie Diaz parlayed home-wind advantage to victory.

Missing the cut: Sidelined Chris Bosh addressed his Heat teammates and advised them to "savor the playoffs." Had he told them to take the playoffs for granted, now that woulda been newsworthy! ... Tyler Summitt (Pat's son) resigns in disgrace after impregnating one of his basketball players. Um, what were you thinking, Louisiana Tech, hiring a then 22-year-old as a head coach? ... Dolphins are conducting voluntary offseason workouts, meaning all players are expected to "volunteer" ... FIU's spring football game was canceled by bad weather. No, seriously ... A company called U-Glove makes protective disposable gloves to wear when pumping gas. Shouldn't The U demand a cut of the action? ... MLB going high-tech with iPads in dugouts for analytic research during games. Can an iPad pick up a bat or throw a slider? Then I'm not impressed ... Kyle Busch became first NASCAR driver in 25 years to win multiple races on consecutive weekends. America still doesn't like you, Kyle! ... It has come to our attention badminton is a high-school sport, begging the question, Why?

Jagr WhitesidePOLL RESULTS: HASSAN WHITESIDE, JAROMIR JAGR NAMED HEAT AND PANTHERS' REGULAR-SEASON MVPS: It was a fairly close two-man race on the basketball side, but you had Hassan Whiteside (left) as the Heat's 2015-16 season MVP over Dwyane Wade by 51.8 percent to 41.4%, with the other 6.8% voting for "someone else." Mild upset, or no? It was a landslide on the hockey end. Jaromir Jagr (right) at age 44 won with 62.9 percent of the vote, followed by Roberto Luongo (13.8%), Aleksander Barkov (11.1%) and Aaron Ekblad (also 11.1%), with "someone else" at only 1.1%.

THE LIST: HEAT'S MIAMI REIGN: How often the Miami Heat have made the playoffs relative to SoFla's other other big teams:

Team                Seasons    PO years    Pct.

Miami Heat            28        19           .679

Miami Dolphins     50        16           .320

Florida Panthers     22         5            .227

Miami Marlins       23         2            .087

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

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April 11, 2016

The new Hot Button Top 10, starring Heat, Cats, Fish, Masters, Warriors, Kobe, Miami FC, Fins, Pacquiao and Nyquist; plus Dolphins woes quantified, your verdicts on LeBron/Kobe & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should Heat retire LeBron James' number poll, Kiper's latest Dolphins mock draft, Heat and Panthers playoff outlooks, does golf miss Tiger Woods poll, Dolphins preseason schedule, your Rock Hall verdict, mourning Merle Haggard & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent general columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excuses, off Marlins Opening Night. Power and Porcelain, Marlins season preview.

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, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami wins home finale, zeroes in on home court for playoffs: Heat whipped Orlando 118-96 in its home final Sunday but enters last three days of the regular season still unsure where it will finish or who its first-round opponent will be. Simplest scenario: Miami will have home-court advantaged if it finishes 2-0 by winning at Detroit Tuesday and at Boston Wednesday. That Boston game could be winner-take for the home court. Finish delicioso! Meantime Hassan Whiteside says he won’t campaign for the NBA defensive player of year award while casually mentioning he has more blocks than a Toys ‘R Us.

2. PANTHERS: Cats await Islanders in playoff Game 1 Thursday: Cats won their home finale Saturday (my column here) and now face the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series here Thursday night, with Game 2 here Friday night -- an odd postseason back-to-back. Cats dodged a bullet by not getting the tougher first-round draw vs. the Rangers. Either way, this was known: Florida -– unlike the entire country of Canada -– is competing for the Stanley Cup.

3. MARLINS: Fish trying to bounce back from rough early start: Has Jeffrey Loria fired Don Mattingly yet? Kidding, sort of, but an 0-2 start at home including the end of Jose Fernandez’ record 17-game Marlins Park winning streak wasn’t the season launch Miami hoped for, and now Miami is 1-3 in the midst of six straight road games vs. the division-power Nationals and Mets. One (very) early-season certainty: How much Marlins' TV broadcasts are missing Tommy Hutton.

4. GOLF: Spieth's collapse snatches green jacket from his hands: World’s No. 2 golfer and top American Jordan Spieth carried a 5-shot lead into the back nine of The Masters at Augusta on Sunday, then collapsed with a quadruple-boey 7 on the par 3 12th hole, and Danny Willett waltzed past him for the green jacket. Poor Danny. The 2016 Masters will be remembered not as the one he won, but as the one Spieth gave away.

5. NBA: Golden State's pursuit, Kobe's final game hog stage: Simple now for Golden State (72-9). Warriors must win at home vs. Memphis Wednesday night to break the Chicago Bulls' 1996 NBA record of 72 wins. On the Kobe Watch, Lakers are on road tonight, then Kobe Bryant plays his final NBA game at home on Wednesday -- same night Warriors go for the record. Has an NBA regular season ever finished bigger?

6. SOCCER: Miami FC makes inaugural home debut: Expansion team Miami FC tied Tampa Bay 1-1 in its home debut in the NASL Saturday night. More important, the new team drew more than 10,000 fans to FIU Stadium, decidedly more than most FIU football games draw. 

7. DOLPHINS: Ross names successor as draft nears: With the April 28 NFL Draft bearing in, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross named New York real estate mogul and longtime business partner Bruce Beal as the potential successor who'll have first rights to buy franchise when Ross, 75, sells or dies. Super Bowl or bust, Steve. Tick tock.

8. BOXING: Manny Pacquiao wins his (supposed) final fight: He beat Timothy Bradley in a unanimous decision last night in Las Vegas. Pacquiao therafter immediately announced he was retiring, which is boxspeak for, "Anticipation of my eventual comeback will hopefully stoke interest in the PPV bonanza of a Mayweather rematch."

9. HORSE RACING: Nyquist wins Florida Derby as Triple Crown season looms: Nyquist's impressive triumph in the Florida Derby positions the horse as an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Surprising bloodline. Nyquist's sire, Nyquil, was best known for falling asleep in the starting gate.

10. HURRICANES: UM spring football wraps up in five days: Miami's annual intrasquad offense vs. defense Spring Game is this coming Saturday afternoon, April 16, at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. I'm betting big on the Hurricanes to win. And lose.

Missing the cut: Thousands will swarm Miami’s ocean sands Sunday for the finish of the Global Champions Tour of Olympic-style equestrian show jumping. I’m betting on Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, a Qatar royal, because I hear his family just bought Miami Beach, the ocean and the event to assure he’ll win ... R.I.P., former New Orleans Saint Will Smith, shot dead in a road-rage incident ... U.S. women's soccer has filed a lawsuit demanding equal pay to the men. That is so ridiculous. Based on performance, the women should make at least three times more ... Entering Sunday's MLB games only the Baltimore Orioles remain unbeaten. "Good luck with that," sneered the '72 Dolphins ... First time since 1970 no Canadian teams in Stanley Cup playoffs. New national anthem: No Canada! ... This just in. UConn women's basketball has been awarded the next six national championships in a time-saving measure ... Recently (I'm serious) the No. 75-ranked Hurricanes men's tennis team hosted No. 41 North Carolina State. Um, is it possible college tennis might wanna tap the brakes on how many teams it ranks? ... An unnamed MLB scout told us that an anonymously quoted rival scout is full of s--- ... Novak Djokovic won the Miami Open but Serena Williams did not. For once, women's tennis is less predictable ... The 24th-ranked men's tennis player is an American named Jack Sock. He's a shoe-in ... The Lakers' D'Angelo Russell was wired for sound the other game. Not for TV. To secretly record his teammates ... No. 2-ranked UM baseball was snowed out of its series at Notre Dame. Duh. Games shoulda been here like Jim Morris said ... Finally, Ernie Els 7-putted the first green at The Masters. There's a phrase for that in golf: "Greg Cote."

THE LIST: THE DOLPHINS: THE (SAD) COMPANY THEY KEEP: The Dolphins' last winning season (no, .500 doesn't count) was 2008. I wondered how many of the 122 franchises in the Big Four sports have a longer drought, including the current NBA and NHL seasons. Answer: Seven. Longest droughts since last winning season (LWS):

Team                                League    LWS

Oakland Raiders                NFL        2002

St. Louis (now L.A.) Rams  NFL        2003

Edmonton Oilers                NHL       2004

Minnesota Timberwolves    NBA        2005

Sacramento Kings              NBA        2006 

Cleveland Browns              NFL        2007

Jacksonville Jaguars          NFL        2007

Miami Dolphins                 NFL         2008

Note: Marlins' LWS was 2009, longest drought in MLB. Panthers' LWS had been 2000, worst in NHL, but that drought ended this season. 

Poll result: No! Most don't favor Heat retiring LeBron's jersey: We asked, and 58.0 percent of you said no. Much disagreement, though, with 34.6% saying yes and 7.4% undecided.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 07, 2016

End of Jose Fernandez's record home win streak heaps (very) early pressure on Marlins; plus Justise Winslow, UM '17 title odds, R.I.P. Merle Haggard, rat-tastic Panthers, Rock Hall poll (vote now!), your verdicts on 2 polls & more

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

Rats1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 7. Congrats to the Florida Panthers for achieving their second NHL division title in franchise history. Rats! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Night with expectations poll, Villanova wins thriller, '96 Bulls vs. '16 Warriors poll, Monica Lewinsky, Dolphins in Bogota, spring football & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

Disrespect for Heat's Justise Winslow?: A bunch of ESPN talking heads are jabbering here about what NBA rookie has the greatest upside/future/potential and Miami's Justise Winslow is ranked only No. 7 on one list and No. 8 on the other.

UM 2017 title odds in men's hoops: Confetti hasn't even stopped falling at Villanova and already the 2017 men's NCAA Tournament odds are out (via Bovada), with Duke on top at 9-2, then Kentucky 6-1 and 'Nova 8-1. The Miami Hurricanes, depleted by departing seniors, are tied for 18th at 40-1.

My Marlins column off opener: Click on Out Of Excuses to read in full. I write why it is imperative for the Marlins to finally win and matter again.

JoseHOMELAND SECURITY: MARLINS COUNTED ON JOSE'S MIAMI MAGIC AGAIN, LOST, AND NOW FACE EARLY-SEASON PRESSURE [Update: Fernandez was pulled in the 6th inning trailing 3-0 in an eventual 7-3 Marlins loss to Detroit yesterday, meaning his home win streak finally ended. Fernandez struck out 13 in defeat]. Original post: The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson (yes, Jeh) happened to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Marlins Opening Night. Fitting, because the Marlins' own director of Homeland Security, Jose Fernandez, takes the mound for Game 2. The home/away disparity sports is interesting. It tends to be quite pronounced with teams enjoying a home-field (or court, or ice) advantage, but much less so with individuals. A few anecdotal examples below only underline the remarkable home/road career arc of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins' Game 2 starter today. Consider:

Dan Marino passer rating: 87.4 home vs. 85.3 road.

Dwyane Wade scoring average: 24.3 home vs. 23.1 road.

Jaromir Jagr goals per game: 0.49 home vs. 0.43 road.

Giancarlo Stanton home runs per game: 0.2577 home vs. 0.2557 road.

The differences are shades of negligible. Now consider:

Jose Fernandez record and ERA, before Wednesday: 17-0 and 1.40 home vs. 5-9 and 3.78 road.

It isn't that he's terrible on the road by any means; that sub-4 ERA is decent, and his K's-per-inning away are comparable. It is that he is record-setting, all-time-great at home to begin a career. And now the Marlins are counting on him yet again today to deliver that Homeland Security at Marlins Park. You keep counting on the law of averages to kick in, but he keeps winning here. Now Fernandez maintaining his home streak is especially important because Miami lost its season opener last night and because, after today, the Fish face six consecutive road games -- all of them vs. the NL East favorite Nationals or Mets. Marlins need a fast start this season, and that's why they need Jose to stay perfect at home today. If Jose's streak ends, this team will be feeling pressure earlier than any club should.

Poll result: Most expect Marlins to be OK but not a playoff team: We asked your expectations for this Marlins season, and votes came in before and after the Opening Night loss. Most overall, 55.1 percent, voted "average" (around .500, no playoffs). However, more voted "good" (playoff drought finally ends) than "poor" (more disappointment from Fish) by 28.6% to 16.3%.

Poll result: It's M.J. over Steph, easily: Old School won. We asked who win an NBA Finals between Michael Jordan's 72-win 1996 Chicago Bulls and Stephen Curry's current, now-69-win Golden State Warriors, and it was M.J. routing Steph by 61.4 percent to 24.6%. The other 14.0% voted "too close to call."

RockhallROCK HALL: WHICH 2016 INDUCTEE IS MOST (AND LEAST) DESERVING: Music has been and is a huge (Bernie Sanders: Yuuuge) part of my life, and I've followed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ever since visiting it in Cleveland a couple of years ago. The Hall's 31st annual induction ceremony is this Friday in Brooklyn, and the five latest inductees are listed in this poll alphabetically. I'm curious what you think, so I invite you to vote for the one artist you think is most deserving, whether by your own personal preference or by how you judge that artist's importance or place in music history. Vote now and check back often to monitor evolving results.

MERLE HAGGARD, 1937-2016: Merle Haggard died today on his 79th birthday, a huge loss in the country music world. I was (am) a big fan and admirer. I looked forward to seeing him in concert for the first time a few months ago, in Fort Lauderdale, but he canceled days before the show. He had reportedly been in declining health for awhile. We happened to be in Nashville over the past weekend on a small holiday, and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, which has a video that includes Merle, years ago, doing spot-on impersonations of Johnny Cash and other contemporaries. A friend with us asked, "Is he still alive?" I said, "Oh yes. He still tours!" He would pass away four days later. Haggard had many bigger hits, such as Okie From Muskogee and Mama Tried, but below is a song and video that always gets to me, and does especially today. It is called My Favorite Memory. Thank you, Merle Haggard.There will never be another. R.I.P.

 Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 06, 2016

Setting the bar on Marlins' season expectations. Poll. Vote now!; plus Villanova, '96 Bulls vs. '16 Warriors poll, Dolphins in Bogota, Monica Lewinsky the "innovator," spring football league comes to Florida & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6. A slightly belated bowed head for the recent anniversary, of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. The great civil rights leader would have been 87 today had hatred not taken him. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your men's Final Four verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

It's Villanova in a classic finish: It was one for the ages. Kris Jenkins' 3-point basket at the buzzer averted overtime and lifted Villanova to the men's NCAA championship over North Carolina, 77-74. Based on our recent Final Four polls, most thought UNC would win (59.5 percent to Villanova's 28.9%), but more wanted 'Nova to win (38.7% to UNC's 32.4%). I had no rooting interest but was thrilled to see that basketball fans won. Anyone watching won. What a finish.

MARLINS LAUNCH 24TH SEASON WITH HOPES (SOMEWHAT) HIGH DESPITE LOSS ON OPENING DAY NIGHT: [Marlins fall to Detroit last night 8-7 in 11 innings, despite a Giancarlo Stanton home run and three extra-base hits by Dee Gordon. Click on Out Of Excuses for my column off the game] Original post: "If there is a fragile nature to Miami Marlins’ hopes for the 2016 season, it is embodied quite Marlins2016literally in the health of the team’s two biggest stars. One, Giancarlo Stanton, possesses a towering physique that drives baseballs over walls harder and faster than anybody else in the sport. The other, Jose Fernandez, throws fastballs so hard they all but leave a vapor trail and make catcher’s mitts Marlinssmoke. They are two players who rely on pure power, and yet there is a porcelain quality to their bodies, like thoroughbreds pounding a racetrack on legs that seem too slender for all of that weight. Few teams in Major League Baseball are more top-loaded with two young players as dynamic as Stanton, 26, and Fernandez, 23. A Stanton at-bat might be the most must-see minute in all of sports as outfielders can only turn and watch what in pre-technology days we would call a tape-measure home run. A start by Fernandez is served with a side dish of bravado, of infectious, fist-pumping fire. About both, though, there is the question mostly whispered, as if it were taboo. Can they stay healthy?" The preceding is the start to my Marlins season preview column; click on Power & Porcelain to read in full. Hard to judge expectations. Experts and bettors (see below) don't seem to expect much of Miami, but inside the clubhouse the team is genuinely hopeful with new manager Don Mattingly at the wheel, and the Marlins are a trendy they'll-surprise-you pick of some in the media. I'll be at the ballpark columnizing and social media-ing from Opening Day vs. the Detroit Tigers. For now, I invite you to help set the bar on Marlins expectations for 2016. What do you realistically expect of this season? Not what you hope might happen, but what you honestly think will. Take a dip in our poll.

Updated Marlins betting odds: Latest betting odds from Bovada show Marlins at 50-1 to win the World Series, holding steady since the previous odds were out in November. That's tied for 22nd-longest odds. NL East odds are Mets 10-11, Nationals 11-10, Marlins 6-1, Braves 25-1 and Phillies 50-1.x

BullswarriorsTHE ULTIMATE IMAGINARY NBA FINALS: '96 BULLS VS. '16 WARRIORS: What a great week to be a basketball fan! On the college level we get North Carolina vs. Villanova tonight for the men's NCAA championship, then UConn vs. Syracuse Tuesday night for the women's crown. And as the collegians are wrapping up the pros are just getting ready to start -- with the NBA regular season waning and the playoffs about to begin. But first there is the Golden State drama. Will the Warriors, 69-8 entering Tuesday's game, break the '96 Bull's 72-10 mark for most wins in a season? It's likely though hardly a ciunch, considering GS needs to win four of its last five games and two of those are vs. mighty rival San Antonio. Whether the Warriors  break the mark or not, though, our poll question is legit. Who'd win a sevn-game series: Michael Jordan's '96 Bulls or Stephen Curry's 2016 Warriors? There is no way of knowing, which makes the conjecture all the more interesting. Scottie Pippen says his '96 Bulls would not only beat but sweep the Warriors. Charles Barkley says, "That Bulls team would kill this little [Golden State] team." I'm sure many agree. But I'm also sure plenty think these Warriors' sport-changing barrage of 3's would get the best of even those great Bulls. Your opinion goes here.

BE INSPIRED BY ... MONICA LEWINSKY?: There is a conference April 18-19 in Miami (click here for details) that invites you to "be inspired by innovators," and lists a bevy of speakers that Monicaincludes statesman Colin Powell, skateboarding giant Tony Hawk and entertainer Pitbull. But in a Miami Herald ad for the event published today, the three faces out front are those of Powell, Hawk and (are you ready?) ... Monica Lewinsky! That's right, kids. Talk about an innovator! Be inspired by perhaps the only woman in U.S. history to be famous because she once engaged in a sordid-turned-public illicit relationship with an American president. I wonder. Is her talk entitled How I Blew Bill Clinton, or does she choose a somewhat more subtle heading for her address? Lewinsky, now 42, describes herself these days as a "social activist" and "public speaker." Give her credit, I guess. She evidently has managed to make a profitable cottage industry of parlaying the shame and notoriety of her name into some sort of career. God bless America! For me, though, this invites a most difficult question to answer, a real conundrum: Who is more gullible? The event that would pay Monica Lewinsky to speak? Or the people who would pay to hear her? 

BogataDOLPHINS TROT GLOBE IN SEARCH OF TALENTED ... CHEERLEADERS!: You thought the Dolphins were turning over every available stone only in search of talented players? No, sir. Or madam. Your Fins also are trotting the globe looking for talented cheerleaders. The club announced today it has chosen six young women from more than 100 applicants in a tryout in Bogota, Colombia. The NFL's first international cheerleader auditions included previous stops in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. The Dolphins obviously want a more diverse Hispanic flavor to their cheer squad and apparently could not find enough diversity or Hispanic women in South Florida (!). Does it sound like a waste of money for the Dolphins to search abroad when there obviously is ample talent in So Fla? Yes I thought so, too. but then I saw the photo pictured left of Elianis, one of the six finalists from the Bogota audition, and thought to myself, "Why should young women such as this who have longed to lead cheers for a sport they know nothing about be denied their dream!?"

FloridafusionLATEST SPRING FOOTBALL LEAGUE DELAYS LAUNCH: These things are pretty much born to fail, but, for what it's worth, Major League Football, a new professional spring league listing Herm Edwards as a "senior adviser," has announced it will be in the "development" stage this year with plans to begin its inaugural season in March of 2017. MLFB has targeted eight of what it calls "underserved sports markets," and they include an Orlando-based team, the Florida Fusion (logo at right). Other planned league cities are Akron OH, Birmingham AL, Eugene OR, Little Rock AR, Norfolk VA, Salt Lake City UT and San Antonio TX.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote