April 18, 2015

NBA playoffs begin! Preview, picks and who-wins poll. Vote now!; plus Record Store Day, Dolphins preseason details, debut of new Marlins blog feature 'Weighing The Fish,' Fins cast as Star Wars 'Greedos,' Mayweather-Pacquiao & more

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


1aa1arecordsstoreday1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 18. Today is national Record Store Day, championing the cause and comeback of vinyl and the indie shops that are its main purveyors. Vinyl sales last year were the highest in 20 years, and growing. Find an indie store near you and explore! 2)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Kiper draft picks for Dolphins/Hurricanes, rooting-for-LeBron poll, Aaron Hernandez verdict, Back in My Day audio, LeBatard vs.Cain Velasquez & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adolphwarsDolphins preseason details: Club announced specific dates and kickoff times today. The schedule: Aug. 13 at Chicago 8 p.m.; Aug. 22 at Carolina 7 p.m.; Aug. 29 vs. Atlanta 7 p.m.; and Sept. 3 vs. Tampa Bay 7 p.m. Pictured right, the Dolphins logo and helmet reimagined with the Rodia Greedos character from Stars Wars by by Mexican artist John Raya. Click on pic for enlarged image.

Mayweather-Pacquiao and Miami: Watch this video and hear Floyd Mayweather confirm that his upcoming May 2 megafight vs. Manny Pacquiao would never have happened if the two hadn't run into each other at a Heat game in Miami on Jan. 27. (Which pretty much makes that the best thing to come of this Heat season).

Click on Awful Decisions And 1.5 Miles for my latest column, on the Aaron Hernandez verdict.

1aa1anbaposNBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW, PICKS FOR ALL EIGHT SERIES: Miami is unqualified for the first time since 2008 and yet the NBA has the temerity to go on with its postseason. Four series begin today and the other four Sunday. Our first-round capsules:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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1-Atlanta vs. 8-Brooklyn:
Game 1 Sunday 5:30 p.m. Hawks 12-1 title odds via Bovada, Nets 250-1. ESPN experts panel likes Hawks, 18-0. Me: Al Horford, Jeff Teague and "faceless" ATL won't be tested much in this round. Pick: Hawks in 5 games.

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2-Cleveland vs. 7-Boston:
Game 1 Sunday 3 p.m. Cavaliers 11-5 for title, Celtics 150-1. ESPN panel picks Cavs, 18-0. Me: LeBron James and company have way too much firepower for the popgun Celtics. Pick: Cavaliers in 4.

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3-Chicago vs. 6-Milwaukee:
Game 1 today/Saturday 7 p.m. Bulls 14-1 for title, Bucks 250-1. ESPN panel likes Bulls, 18-0. Me: Mediocre Milwaukee won't stay in this if Derrick Rose can manage his first healthy playoffs since 2011. Pick: Bulls in 5.

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4-Toronto vs. 5-Washington:
Game 1 today/Saturday 12:30 p.m. Raptors 50-1 for title, Wizards 75-1. ESPN panel likes Raptors, 13-5. Me: See a Longshot Bowl upset by D.C. gang led by guards John Wall, Bradley Beal. Pick: Wizards in 7.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1aa1ags1-Golden State vs. 8-New Orleans: Game 1 today/Saturday 3:30 p.m. Warriors 2-1 for title, Pelicans 150-1. Me: Steph Curry vs. Anthony Davis fills a marquee pretty good. But did I mention GS is 39-2 at home? Pick: Warriors in 5.

1aa1ahou2-Houston vs. 7-Dallas: Game 1 today/Saturday 9:30 p.m. Rockets 16-1 for title, Mavericks 40-1. ESPN panel likes Rockets, 16-3. Me: A motivated James Harden and a healthy Dwight Harden will be too much for Mavs. Pick: Rockets in 6.

1aa1alac3-L.A. Clippers vs. 6-San Antonio: Game 1 Sunday 10:30 p.m. Spurs 15-4 for title, Clippers 16-1. ESPN panel likes Spurs, 16-3. Me: Feeling an upset by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and rebounding machine DeAndre Jordan. Pick: Clippers in 7.

1aa1amem4-Portland vs. 5-Memphis: Game 1 Sunday 8 p.m. Grizzlies 28-1 for title, TrailBlazers 50-1. ESPN panel likes Grizzlies, 19-0. Me: Yes on The Griz but Portland is being underestimated and will push this series hard. Pick: Grizzles in 6.   

POLL: WHICH TEAM IS YOUR PICK TO BE NBA CHAMP?: Las Vegas sets odds to reflect its estimation of public perception and then moves the line if needed to reflect actual betting trends. Based on that there is no clear favorite in the NBA playoffs that 1aa1acurryjamesstart today/Saturday -- but there are three teams clearly out front. Cleveland and Golden State, generally seen as co-favorites, and San Antonio, are those teams. The fourth-best odds show a sharp drop to Atlanta and Chicago. So Mr. Vegas is feeling a LeBron James vs. Steph Curry final but also showing much respect for the playoff-tested oldies of Tim Duncan. Curry and James are pictured. Not much love for the beast-of-the-East Hawks, who could attract lots of wagering action as the under-regarded, disrespected 'dog. Who would you anoint as the favorite as the playoffs begin? Not who you hope wins but who'd bet actually will. In the poll I list the seven teams with the best odds, plus an "other" category covering the longshots. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Very little rooting interest for you in Miami, LeBron: With the Heat out of it, we asked if you would now be rooting for LeBron James to win the NBA title, and it was 58.0 percent "no" vs. only 15.2% "yes. The other 26.8% said they no longer care who wins.

NEW BLOG FEATURE: WEIGHING THE FISH (10 GAMES): We throw the occasional bell 'n whistle into 1aa1adeegordon
1aa1afishweighthe blog, and today we debut a new feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- will be a once-every-10-games ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Nine qualify for our first ranking. WTF is cumulative and factors six offensive categories. It serves as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best season or, in this case, who's off to the best start and who most needs to pick it up. Early leader Dee Gordon is pictured. Weighing The Fish after 10 games (at 3-7):

Player                          WTF#

Dee Gordon                   86.8

Giancarlo Stanton         74.8

Michael Morse              60.5

Adeiny Hechevarria     57.8

Martin Prado                 54.6

Christian Yelich           52.8

Ichiro Suzuki                44.4

Marcell Ozuna              39.7

Jarrod Saltalamacchia  34.9

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

April 16, 2015

Kiper's latest mock draft: Dolphins, Hurricanes picks in top 3 rounds; plus does Miami now root for LeBron to win NBA title? (poll); also sporties in 'Time 100,' Aaron Hernandez, 'Back In My Day' audio, 4 on Marlins Mount Rushmore & more

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

1aa1abadmonkey1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 16. Just got around to Carl Hiassen's Bad Monkey. More of the madcap-with-a-heart style he mines so well. Fast read. Recommended. By the way, ever notice you never see Hiassen and Tim Dorsey in the same room at the same time? Hmm. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat eliminated, Marlins Mount Rushmore poll, Dolphins draft, Jordan Spieth, Lexi Thompson topless, Rubio/Clinton & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

I love the local sports media wondering how incoming University of Miami president Julio Frenk feels about the football program, as if Al Golden's future might be high among his priorities. Funny.

Dan LeBatard picks a fight with UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez: This was during Tuesday's radio show on South Beach. Watch our video on Vine or Twitter.

Handy Man: The new 'Back In My Day': Had some fun on-air this week with a well-received new "Back In My Day," about America's disappearing Handy Man work ethic:

Handy Man

So, Heat fans are supposed to be thrilled their team was lousy enough to keep a draft pick?

Sporties among 'Time 100': Time's annual (unranked) list of the world's 100 most influential people is out, and the three sports figures on it are NBA commissioner Adam Silver, U.S. soccer icon Abby Wambach and, inexplicably, a Brazilian surfer named Gabriel Medina. Don't recall seeing the news reports. When exactly did the Medina family buy Time?

KIPER'S DOLPHINS, HURRICANES PICKS FOR TOP THREE ROUNDS: This is glorified guessing like anybody's mock draft; still, he's Mel Bleepin' Kiper! Junior! He's got the rep and the platform (ESPN) to 1aa1aagholor 1aa1aereckfgive what he says gravitas, so here we go. Kiper today has the Dolphins selecting Southern Cal receiver Nelson Agholor 14th overall in the first round, and Miami-Ohio defensive back Quinten Rollins in the second round. Miami has no third-round pick. Agholor is pictured left. Kiper sees a bounty for UM, with five Canes in the top three rounds: offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (pictured right, 1st round, 29th overall to Colts); receiver Phillip Dorsett (1st round, 31st overall to Saints); linebacker Denzel Perryman (2nd round to Texans); tight end Clive Walford (2nd round to Packers); and running back Duke Johnson (3rd round to Lions). One other area school lands in his first three rounds: FAU corner D'Juon Smith (3rd round to Rams).

WITH HEAT ELIMINATED, IS MIAMI NOW ROOTING FOR (OR AGAINST) LEBRON?: Last night's win at Philadelphia ends the Heat season, thankfully, mercifully. The growing 1aa1acavslebroninevitability had happened the game before when Indiana won, eliminating Miami from playoff contention. Now Heat fans, for the first time since 2008, must adopt a rooting interest for the coming NBA playoffs. Most times it'd be who-cares-who-wins-if-it-isn't-Miami. But does the LeBron James Factor make this year different? I still think South Florida has mixed feelings about LeBron. This poll may verify or refute that notion. I wonder if Heat fans are now rooting for -- or against -- James to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA championship? Do you root for a feelgood homecoming story? Or for a traitor to get his comeuppance? Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.


1aa1aaaronhernandezAARON HERNANDEZ GUILTY OF MURDER:
So said a jury yesterday, and now the former New England tight end's life is effectively over. Pictured, the new uniform for which Hernandez will be fitted. I found this funny. (Nice touch: the Nike swoosh). I do not find the situation or the crime funny, of course. But the picture properly mocks an entitled punk who had so much and threw it all away. Sympathy for the victims, not the murderer. Click on Awful Decisions And 1.5 Miles for today's latest column by me on the Hernandez verdict.

DOLPHINS SIGN EX-CANE WR: The Dolphins signed receiver LaRon Byrd, the ex-Miami Hurricane. He has good size at 6-4 and 220 but still must prove himself NFL-worthy after spending three season mostly injured or as a practice-squadder with the Cardinals, Cowboys, Browns or Fins.

A DIFFERENT, DIMINISHED NFL DRAFT: The NFL Draft will seem different and feel smaller on its first round the night of April 30. It will be in Chicago after having been held in New York every year since 1965 (meaning inconvenienced Jets fans will have to travel to boo their team's pick). Also, neither Jameis Winston nor Marcus Mariota -- the QBs who are the stars of this draft -- will attend. NFL this week annnounced its 26 draft attendees, and the biggest names probably are running backs Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. A possible Dolphins pick at No. 14, UCF receiver Breshad Perriman, also will attend.

Poll result: Marlins Mount Rushmore: Conine, Lowell, Beckett, Stanton: We offered the eight finalists in

1aa1astanton 1aa1abeckett

1aa1alowell 1aa1aconinean ongoing MLB.com vote, and your top vote-getter was Jeff Conine, his Mr. Marlin nickname justified with 22.5 percent of the vote. Also making your mountain: Mike Lowell at 15.1%, Josh Beckett at 14.6% and Giancarlo Stanton at 14.3%. (Then it was Livan Hernandez aat 11.0%, Gary Sheffield at 10.9%, Charles Johnson at 6.2% and underloved Luis Castillo at 5.5%).

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April 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 11, 2015

Heat lose again, playoff hopes on life support; plus is LeBron intentionally hurting Heat? (poll), Fins' Brandon Albert in boxing gym (video), Marlins off the schneid, NBA/Cuba verdict & more

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

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1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 11. Pictured right, coffee cup sentiment applying to current Heat playoff situation. 2) Mike Pouncey signs multi-year extension with Dolphins making him NFL's highest-paid center. Hope deal includes a babysitter to keep him out of trouble in the clubs. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA/Heat/Cuba poll, Heat playoff update, Marlins 0-3, Kiper on Dolphins draft, MLB Stanton video & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Aside to my media brethren: Please tap the brakes on applying words like "disaster" to a lost game. One of the lessons of 9/11, at least for me, was to remind there are actual disasters, and that a huge loss in sports, no matter how big the blown lead or important the game, is not one. 

PLAYOFF CHASE: HEAT LOSE AGAIN, HOPES NEXT TO GONE: First Miami blows a 19-point lead in a crushing home loss to Bulls Thursday, then watches Friday as all three teams it is chasing win, and then loses at home tonight to Toronto 107-104. Heat have now lost nine of past 12 games at a time when wins were most essential. Miami must now win its final two games and pray. Four teams are jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. (Playoff-likelihood percents below are not yet updated with tonight's Heat loss). How it looks from here entering Sunday's NBA action:

7. Boston: 37-42, W3. Playoff likelihood: 82.3% (up 16.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Sunday vs. CLE, then vs. TOR, @ MIL. Note: In driver's seat, with tiebreaker over Nets.

8. Brooklyn: 37-42, W1. Playoff likelihood: 81.2% (up 14.9). Next: Sunday @ MIL, then vs. CHI, vs. ORL. Note: Last two games being at home helps the cause.

9. Indiana: 36-43, W4. Playoff likelihood: 22.5% (down 10.2). Next: Sunday vs. OKC, then vs. WAS, @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat, which is huge.

10. Miami: 35-45, L2. Playoff likelihood: 14.2% (down 21.3). Next: Monday vs. ORL, then @ PHI. Note: Heat own tiebreaker over Celtics and Nets, but would need 2-0 finish -- and much help -- for any chance. Clearest path to playoffs: Miami ends 2-0, and either Boston or Brooklyn lose all three remaining games.

IS LEBRON JAMES INTENTIONALLY TRYING TO SABOTAGE HEAT? Reports were Cleveland's LeBron James would sit out the two games this week against a Boston team that Miami is desperately chasing

1aa1alebronjamesfor a final East playoff spot. Well, James played last night but sat out fourth quarter in a home loss to Celtics -- and new reports are that he will sit out Sunday's game vs. Boston. He has every right; the Cavaliers have clinched the No. 2 seed. But suspicion is raised, especially if he sits out Sunday's rematch. It is not far-fetched, given the way LeBron departed Miami and left things with Pat Riley, that LBJ might time his rest to hurt the Heat by benefiting Boston. James would scoff at the idea and the truth may never be known, but I wonder how Heat fans feel? Clearly Miami is responsible for its own playoff standing, and losses like last night's make the Heat its own worst enemy. But facts are facts. Miami could really use Boston to lose both or at least one of the next two games, the Cavs are 2-9 without LeBron, and the timing of the King's "rest" could be a coffin nail for the franchise he left. Intentional? You tell me:

Poll result: Most favor Heat involvement in Cuba, but strong dissent, too: We asked how Heat should react to NBA's initiatives in Cuba, and 57.1 percent said "embrace it," while 36.5% said "avoid it" and 6.4% were undecided. The favorable number was running in the 70s but fell noticeably when it was first reported (in this column by me) that the Heat objected angrily and would not participate.

MARLINS OFF THE SCHNEID: [Update: Marlins blow 8-1 lead but hang on to beat Tampa Bay 10-9 in 10 innings for first win, getting the offensive bust-out they needed]. Original post: OK, 0-3 is 0.0185 percent of the season. I get that. Of course 0-3, at home, vs. a supposedly inferior division rival, when you score a grand total of three runs, makes 1aa1abbopeningweekit a bit worse. So does this: Ten straight road games -- tied for the longest trip of the season -- follow the three-game home series vs. Tampa Bay that begins tonight. Pressure shouldn't find any team this soon. Heck, you have to go back a whole year (2014 Angels) to find a team that began 0-3 and still made the playoffs. Pressure is lurking, though. It's waiting around the corner. That's why a strong showing vs. the Rays and an offensive breakout is important.

FINS' BRANDON ALBERT TRAINING IN BOXING GYM: Interesting video here by Herald's Charles Trainor Jr. of Dolphins left tackle Brandon Albert doing offseason work at Matt Baiamonte's boxing gym in Wynwood:

 

IF GREG COTE WERE IN CHARGE OF ROAD SIGNS: The spot-on, realistic-looking road signs pictured at 1aa1akardashianright, in red, have mysteriously begun popping up all over the Los Angeles area. Not sure who is behind the comic genius, but I love it. Imagine a culture where the faux-famous like the Kardashian family -- famous only for being famous -- were not welcomed everywhere as royalty but rather shunned as sad examples of the embarrassment of celebrity worship.

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April 02, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

1aa1adolcheer2
1aa1adolcheer
URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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March 17, 2015

March Madness Haiku Challenge! Got 17 syllables? Enter here, enter now!; plus Wade leads Heat past LeBron, Canes men miss on NCAAs, latest Hot Button Top 10, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

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

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.


1aa1adaypatrick1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) I don't know if new Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills will be better than departed Mike Wallace. But I know this. Stills immediately immediately leads all of South Florida sports in hair. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mike Wallace traded with poll, NFL biggest-moves poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Marlins in fantasy, Canes hoops & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Wade's 32 lifts Miami in Return of LeBron II: [Click on The LeBron Effect for my column from last night's game] LeBron last night made his second return to Miami since jilting leaving the Heat to return to Cleveland, but the story was Dwyane Wade, with 32 points, leading an exhilirating 106-92 Heat win. Playing LeBron brings out the best in Wade and the Heat. "None of our guys had to look at a calendar to know who we were playing," as coach Erik Spoelstra put it.

NCAA Tournament odds: Kentucky of course is a near even-money favorite at 6-5, according to Bovada today. Then it's Arizona at 15-2, Wisconsin 17-2, Duke 9-1 and Villanova and Virginia both 10-1.

Me on podcast: I was invited to discuss Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and the Marlins on the Cooper and Rupert podcast out of Los Angeles. Click here to listen. I'm on for 12 minutes starting at 35:00.

The Dolphins, for what's worth...: ...will select Louisville receiver DeVante Parker 14th overall in the first round, according to the latest CBSSports.com mock draft. MY comment: Signing Kenny Stills makes a first-round WR unlikely.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering today/Tuesday: A daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 30-36 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 16 games left (next Wednesday vs. Portland). Heat playoff likelihood: 48.3% (up 17.2) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-38 (L1), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 13 games left (next tonight vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.3% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 10TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: Because, really, what captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient Japanese short-form poetry!? You know what a haiku is. It's a 17-syllable poem. (Not 16 and not 18!) Ideally it's in 1aa1ahaiku5-7-5 structure but we're loose with that. Our three rules are simple: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, we'll consider it a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries in the blog's 'Comments' section below OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com, and you may enter as many haikus as you wish. 3. We'll accept entries starting Monday at 8 a.m. and ending Wednesday at 6 p.m., with the winner to be announced on Thursday. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of March * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the 1aa1adickievdouble entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Prizes, you ask? The winner's grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a sports book publishers send me that I don't read? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, get your creative minds revved up. Remember, the entry window opens at 8 a.m. Monday.

DENIED!: HURRICANES MEN PASSED OVER FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT INVITE; UM WOMEN GET IN: The expert bracketologists had judged Miami likely to be on the wrong side of the bubble coming into Selection Sunday, and for Jim Larranaga's 21-12 Hurricanes the experts unfortunately were right. Miami was denied an at-large bid to the men's NCAA Tournament. It would have been a pleasant surprise more than a shock if UM made it, but the Canes were hurt by a mediocre RPI number and a 1-7 record vs. ranked teams. Now, instead of an eighth NCAA appearance, most recently 2013, Miami will settle for its 11th appearance in the NIT, most recently 2012. No. 2-seeded Miami will host North Carolina Central Tuesday at 7 p.m. Larranaga and UM fans can complain a little but not too much. Since starting the season 8-0 Miami was barely above .500 the rest of the way. Better news: Tonight, Katie Meier's UM women as expected were invited to their NCAAs.

Poll result: Mixed but lukewarm reviews for Wallace's Dolphins term: We asked if you thought Mike Wallace's two seasons with Miami were a success, pretty good,  barely OK or a failure, and it was 38.3 percent barely OK, 37.3% pretty good, 17.8% failure and 6.6% success. 

Poll result: Suh, Graham top NFL's biggest moves: We asked what have been NFL's biggest recent free-agency deals or trades and the top three among 12 choices were Ndamukong Suh to Dolphins with 34.4 percent, Jimmy Graham to Seahawks with 24.6% and Darrelle Revis to Jets with 11.1%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins sign Ndamukong Suh, trade Mike Wallace: What a week in Finland! Starts with team signing DT Ndamukong Suh. Ends with Miami trading WR Mike Wallace and signing WR Kenny Stills and TE Jordan Cameron. Of course the big news was Suh. A terrific talent but one who often shows a propensity for unsportsmanlike conduct that has some calling him the league’s dirtiest player. But enough about the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside!

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Bubble burst. Canes denied NCAA: March Madness began with last night's Selection Sunday show setting the men’s NCAA Tournament field, with the women’s side coming today. As expected the Canes men narrowly missed and aettle for the NIT; the UM women might sneak in. The alternative, the NIT, should be called the NOT because it ain’t the NCAA.

3. HEAT: LeBron visits tonight as playoff chase continues: The Heat today are ninth in the East and just off playoff pace while awaiting a Monday visit by LeBron James’ Cavaliers — his second time back (first was Christmas) since leaving. Heat president Pat Riley said last week it remains “shocking to me that it happened.” C’mon, Pat. This is a “No Dwelling Zone.”

4. PANTHERS: Big loss has Cats running out of time to make postseason: Panthers lost to Rangers last night to end three-game win streak but remain six points from the final playoff seed with 13 games to play. The good news: Florida still has three games left against Boston, who it is chasing. The bad news: Even winning all three might not be enough.

5. AUTO RACING: Prost wins inaugural Miami ePrix: Nicolas Prost won as the first race of electric cars hummed through downtown Miami streets Saturday in one of 10 stops in the circuit's first season. It was really weird to see cars going that fast with no roar of engines. But no weirder than the only American in the race being a driver named Scott Speed.

6. MARLINS: Fish off to strong spring start: With spring training about one-third done, the Marlins sat atop the Grapefruit League standings with an 8-3 record after beating Detroit yesterday. Can we start the playoffs now?

7. NFL: Flurry of free agency moves, trades: With Miami doing its part, Jimmy Graham, Darrelle Revis, and DeMarco Murray were among the latest wave of NFL players to switch uniforms in the most active offseason in memory.
 
8. BASEBALL: MLB hints at future games in Cuba: New commissioner Rob Manfred expressed openness to playing exhibitions in Cuba if U.S. relations continue to warm. Hey don't blame me, Miami hard-liners. Unlike Ozzie, I don't like Fidel and never have!
 
9. TENNIS: Miami Open gears for next week's start: As Serena Williams ended her Indian Wells boycott, pro tennis shifts to Key Biscayne next week. This year's Miami Open will include a swimwear fashion show, pro beach volleyball tournament and “Taste of the Open” event with celebrity chefs. Reportedly there also will be tennis matches, time permitting.
 
10. BASKETBALL: NBA, NCAA agree to discourage early entries: The NBA and NCAA have agreed on a plan to discourage players from leaving school early for the pros. You knew it had gone too far when middle-school kids started sitting out NBA games because of acne.

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February 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 19, 2015

How do you feel about Heat's trade for Goran Dragic? Poll. Vote now!; plus ominous Bosh news (updated), athlete-media relationship poll (it's close!), sign-spinners, Mount Rushmore/QBs result & more

1aa1asheep1) It is FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20. I'm holed up at Random Evidence Laboratories today pulling from nonexistence the Sunday notes-column package. 2) Thursday was the Chinese New Year, year of the sheep. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mount Rushmore of QBs poll, Westminster dog show, Tiger verdict, false racism, Lesley Gore & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1aboshcOn Dragic trade, Bosh medical update: A strange Thursday night-into-Friday to be a Heat fan. You are elated (most likely) over the Goran Dragic trade but also holding your breath over Chris Bosh's medical situation. Click on Riley Wins Again for my latest column. It's on the big trade but touches on Bosh, too. Bosh is hospitalized for tests and, as I was first to report last night via Twitter, initial concerns centered on the lungs and a possible blood clot. We await official word from the club today but now have heard there are believed to be clots in both lungs. We wish Bosh the best and hope for the most positive news possible but fear the news may instead be that Bosh will miss the reminder of this NBA season.

1aa1adragicHEAT ACQUIRE GORAN DRAGIC FOR PICKS, PLAYERS: The Heat on Thursday acquired elite point guard Goran Dragic (and his brother Zoran) from Phoenix while giving up reserves Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams and Justin Hamilton and two first-round draft picks. I love the deal and you'd click on Riley Wins Again to read my latest column. But enough of me. Your opinion of the trade is welcomed here. Vote in the poll below and say why you feel as you do in the Comments section.

SHOULD PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES BE REQUIRED TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA?: That wasn't even a question, once. They did and that was that. But the relationship is becoming more and more adversarial

1aa1amediaml 1aa1amediakdand there may be no turning back. We have seen the actions of Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, grudgingly making himself available to avoid fines but hardly cooperating. More recently we have seen the Thunder's Kevin Durant express frustration with the media and his obligations. Many players, especially superstars, can get their message out via personal websites or social media and feel they don't need the mainstream/traditional media. Predictably, as a member of the latter, I don't feel it is too much of an obligation or burden for leagues and teams to expect that players would make themselves available to the reporters who cover them regularly. I think a mutually respectful, working relationship continues to benefit both sides. You may agree, or not. Let's find out. Take a dip in our poll and say why in the Comments section.

Poll result: It's Montana, Brady, Marino and Unitas on your QBs Mount Rushmore: We gave you 12 choices and four votes, and your mountain-worthy quartet were Joe Montana with 20.2 percent, Tom Brady with 16.7%, Dan Marino with 16.3% and Johnny Unitas with 12.3%. Great response, and solid results! Close but no mountain to Peyton Manning with 9.9%. (The maximum percentage was 25, so that means Montana, if everyone cast all four votes, was named on 80.8% of all ballots).

 

SIGN-SPINNERS UNIONIZE, SEEKS PAY HIKE, BENEFITS

        Faked-up News Network (FUNN) -- Sign-spinners have begun to flex their muscle. The Laborers International Union of North America has agreed to represent the estimated 60,000 American street-corner 1aa1asignspinnersworkers whose job is to hold, point and spin mostly arrow-shaped signs that aim to direct motorists to local stores but have the opposite effect as annoyed drivers barrel past shaking their heads at the aesthetic blight on their communities. "These beacons of business are doing essential work for chump pay," explained LIUNA communications laision Veronica Forkenplatter. "While it is true most of our spinners are inebriated homeless folks posing a traffic hazard or disinterested college kids listening to ear-buds or on cell phones, many of our other spinners are former Broadway dancers or other defrocked entertainers looking for a creative outlet. In fact we are trying to confirm -- there is national-spokesman potential in this -- that Joel Grey is currently soft-shoe spinning in New York at age 82."

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February 15, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10, with Marlins, Heat, NBA, Canes, Cats, NFL, cricket, Tiger, LLWS, racing; also, verdict on Loria, thanks Dr. J & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15. Hope the ladies had a wonderful Valentine's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Reconsidering Jeffery Loria poll, D-Wade on '50 Shades,' Ndamukong Suh verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Miami awarded All-Star Game as spring training nears: As an improved Marlins team opens spring training in five days in Jupiter, MLB held a news conference here Friday to make official that Miami would host the 2017 All-Star Game. "We couldn’t be happier,” Marlins fans said. “Well ... unless of course Jeffrey Loria changed his mind about not selling the team."

2. HEAT: Wade sits as Bosh represents Heat in Sunday’s All-Star Game: Dwayne Wade rests his injured hamstring but Chris Bosh will play in tonight's NBA showcase of stars. Miserable New York and Brooklyn, a combined 31-74, are cohosts. Am surprised teams aren’t boycotting the game at Madison Square Garden for fear their players might catch whatever the Knicks have.

3. NBA: LaVine, Curry, Bosh top Saturday's All-Star Game undercard: Miami's Bosh (along with WNBA'er Swin Cash and legend Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars event, Golden State's Stephen Curry won the 3-point contest and Minnesota's 19-year-old Zach LaVine won the Dunk contest. The latter answered the question, "Who the hell is Zach LaVine?"

4. HURRICANES: It’s the nexus of basketball, baseball and football: UM men’s basketball team tries to shake off an ill-timed slump and still make the NCAA Tournament. UM opened baseball season this weekend seeking to end a six-year College World Series drought. Football prepares for spring practice with heat on Al Golden. For all three, cue Queen and David Bowie’s "Under Pressure."

5. PANTHERS: Crunch time as Cats chase rare NHL playoff spot: Florida enters today's game only four points off playoff pace, chasing what would be only the fifth postseason berth in 21 franchise seasons, after 1996, ’97, 2000 and ’12. Not much margin of error from here, though, as each loss puts the Panthers closer to a phrase particularly apt in hockey: Thin ice.

6. NFL: Scouting Combine, major pre-draft event, begins: The weeklong talent show begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. And if you can't get enough of watching fat college linemen timed in the 40-yard dash, the NFL Network will have your all-excess pass.

7. CRICKET: World Cup under way in Australia, New Zealand: Yes, we DO have cricket in this week’s Top 10 as 14 nations are in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The sport is very popular in parts of South Florida among residents from the West Indies. For others inclined to scoff, here’s your challenge: You can make fun of cricket, but wisecracks may not include the word “Jiminy.”

8. GOLF: Tiger Woods taking indefinite "break" from PGA Tour: This is bad news for the tour and for the upcoming Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. There go the TV ratings. Golf fans would rather watch Tiger take a break (or a nap) than watch other guys play golf.

9. YOUTH SPORTS: Chicago team stripped of Little League title: Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team was stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League World Series for its coach using players not from its district. It's another reminder the only problem with youth sports is adults.

10. AUTO RACING: Daytona 500 begins the NASCAR schedule next Sunday: The swansong season for Jeff Gordon, with all its testiminials and ceremonial rocking chair gifts, is about to begin. The Gordon tributes haven’t even started yet and I’m already tired of them.

Poll result: Estimation of Loria improving, but still skews negative: We gave your four choices on how you feel about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and results were: Very positive 25.6 percent, mildly positive 18.4%, mildly negative 25.9% and very negative 30.1. That made it negative over positive overall by 56-44%. [Note: There was a sudden surge in "very positive" votes yesterday, suggesting an organized effort by the Marlins, perhaps. Not enough, alas]. 

THANK YOU, DR. J: Julius Erving said something (click here) that I have thought but never said aloud. In 1aa1adunkmascotfact I've not heard it said or seen it written. "Dr. J" says the NBA All-Star Weekend's Slam-Dunk Contest, once an exciting, huge draw, has lost much of its appeal due to mascots. Yes, mascots. He means mascots (and non-mascot gymnasts) bouncing off mini-trampolines and acrobatically slam-dunking from above the rim as in-game entertainment (as pictured). Mere earth-bound mortals cannot duplicate that. No, not even Michael Jordan. Blake Griffin can sort of jump over the hood of a small car, but he still is not rising as high or majestically as a trampoline allows. The absence of top stars in the Slam-Dunk Contest also hurts (talking to you, LeBron), but Dr. J. is right. No more trampolines in NBA arenas!

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January 25, 2015

Which is the best (or least bad) of sports' Big 4 All-Star Games? New poll. Vote now!; plus new Hot Button Top 10, verdict on D-Wade & more

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 25. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost: Is-Dwyane Wade-still-elite poll, Marlins sign Ichiro, Riley descends from mount, Marino dipped in wax, Bob Dylan & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

OUR LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL-STAR GAMES: The NFL and NHL play their annual all-star games today and the NBA's is soon so this is the right time to ask which of our Big Four sports' all-star games 1aa1anflpb 1aa1amlbasg 1aa1anhlasg 1aa1anbaasgyou think is the best -- or, perhaps, the least awful. They all are flawed, which is why the formats are always tinkered with. We spend a lot of time complaining about the selection process. The games don't draw great TV ratings. Each is decorated with surrounding events (home run derbies, slam-dunk contests) because the All-Star Game itself is not a great sell on its own. Nevertheless, chances are you think one if better than the rest. So which is it and why? Remember, this is not a favorite-sport poll. It is asking specifically which one has the best All-Star Game. Vote now.

Poll result: Mixed views (but doubts) on whether Wade still "elite": We asked in the previous blogpost if Heat star Dwyane Wade, at 33, remains an "elite" player by however you define that (you may still vote), and it was 51.6 percent "no," 40.1% "yes" and 8.3% "undecided."

HOT BUTTON JAN. 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: "Deflategate” dominates buildup to Super Bowl: It’ll be New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in the 49th Super Bowl, but the buildup has become an NFL nightmare with the Pats’ underinflated-footballs controversy. At least attention is diverted away from whether Marshawn Lynch will be fined again for grabbing his crotch. So from either angle, it's all about balls!

2. HEAT: Wade’s streak of All-Star Game starts ends: Forbes surprised many when its rank of best NBA fans had Miami No. 1. That was just before Heat fans allowed Dwyane Wade’s streak of nine All-Star Game starts in a row to end as a late flurry of votes by Toronto fans pushed Kyle Lowry ahead. No word on whether Forbes will now reconfigure its fan rankings.

3. MARLINS: Active offseason continues as Fish add Ichiro: With the Feb. 20 start of spring training looming, the Marlins continued an active and successful offseason by signing 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract as a fourth outfielder. Granted, Ichiro is 41 now and this signing would be more exciting if it were 2005, not ’15. But still!

4. ALL-STAR GAMES: NFL, NHL stars showcased Sunday: Hockey’s All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, and football's Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, have more in common than the fact both are being played Sunday and each has undergone format changes. For example, they are also alike in that the leagues act like they are big deals but fans don’t care all that much.

5. RUNNING: Annual Miami Marathon stampedes from downtown: OK, you got me. Nobody is talking about this except the runners themselves. But there were some 25,000 of those setting off early Sunday in the annual Miami Marathon & Half Marathon starting at 6:15 a.m. Too bad it’s not in South Beach so the runners could stampede over all the drunks leaving SoBe clubs at about that time.

6. DOLPHINS: Ross touts stadium renovations: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pimped a $350 million stadium renovation designed to attract Super Bowls and other biig events. Dear Steve: The only change in the stadium Dolfans care about is a winning team in it.

7. HURRICANES: Former player donates $1.6 million: UM men's basketball won a big game at Syracuse but a bigger story off-the-field was ex-Canes football star Calais Campbell donating $1.6 million to school's athletic department, biggest gift ever by a former UM athlete. Perpetually complaining, dissatified Hurricanes fans said it wasn't enough.

8. BASEBALL: Manfred takes over as MLB commissioner: Rob Manfred is on the job as of Sunday as Bud Selig retires. Selig had a great run other than the Steroids Era happening under his nose. Much as Nixon was a pretty great president other than Watergate. 

9. GOLF: Allenby, Woods in strange controversies: Robert Allenby claimed he was beaten, robbed and dumped in a park six miles from a bar, but his story unraveled. Tiger Woods claimed he lost a front tooth to a swinging TV camera but nobody seemed to believe that, either.

10. FIU: Veteran coach Russo retires: Cindy Russo retired after 36 years as FIU's women's basketball coach. Perspective? That's 10 years longer than that slacker Don Shula coached the Dolphins.

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