April 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

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

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

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

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

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

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Hassan Whiteside           2,458

2. Goran Dragic                 2,186

3. James Johnson              1,628

4. Tyler Johnson                1,529

5. Dion Waiters                 1,077

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 01, 2017

Declared! It's another Super Saturday in South Florida sports as Final Four, Florida Derby, Miami Open lead parade; plus Hot Button Daily (Sat), The List (I and II), your verdict on NBA MVP & more

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

Aprilfool1) It is SATURDAY, April 1. Happy new month, all! Mind The Who's advice today and don't get fooled (again). 2) Jo Konta beats Caroline Wozniacki today in Miami Open women's final. 3) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (75 games), Dolphins' struggle to close gap with Pats, NBA MVP poll, Marlins in fantasy drafts, your verdict on Kaepernick & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"UConn's shocking upset loss in NCAA Final Four is the best thing that could have happened to women's basketball." --Greg Cote

SupersatDECLARED! IT'S ANOTHER SUPER SATURDAY IN SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS!: We don't officially declare a Super Saturday (or Sunday) often. Maybe a few times a Ncaaff Fladerby Miaopenyear? But today qualifies. If you are a Miami sports fan and you can't find something to love today, check your pulse. You may be dead. There's the Final Four of the men's NCAA Tournament, of course, with Miami-native coach Frank Martin leading underdog South Carolina vs. Gonzaga and then Oregon facing North Carolina. There is the annual Florida Derby at Gulfstream, and let's see if Gunnevera is all that in a major prep event for thoroughbred racing's coming Triple Crown season. There is the women's final at the Miami Open, and fast-rising Jo Konta beating Caroline Wozniacki for her first title on Key Biscayne was an interesting finish even though we'd have preferred Venus Williams make it. Also, the Panthers play at Boston, the Marlins host Detroit in Jupiter to wrap up spring training, and Hurricanes baseball continues its ACC home series vs. Wake Forest.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 4-1-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. NCAA Final Four, 6 p.m.: South Carolina-Gonzaga, Oregon-North Carolina in men's FF from Phoenix.

2. Florida Derby, 6:40 p.m.: Gunnevera betting fave in 66th running of major Kentucky Derby prep race.

3. Miami Open, 1 p.m.: It's Caroline Wozniacki vs. little-known Jo Konta for women's championship.

4. Detroit vs. Marlins, noon: Fish's final spring-training game in Jupiter.

5. Panthers at Boston, 1: Playoff-eliminated Cats playing out the string.
 
THE LIST I: FLORIDA SCHOOLS IN NCAA TOURNAMENT: History of the 13 Division 1 schools from state of Florida in men's NCAA Tournament, ranked by number of appearances:
School                            Apps.   Most recent   Best finish
Florida                              20      2017                Champion in 2006, '07
Florida State                    15      2017                Runner-up in 1972
Miami                                9       2017                Sweet 16 in 2000, '13, '16
Jacksonville                     5       1986                Runner-up in 1970    
UCF                                     4       2005                1st round
Florida Gulf Coast            3       2017                Sweet 16 in 2013
South Florida                    3       2012                2nd round in 2012
Florida A&M                      3       2007                1st round
North Florida                    1       2015                1st round
Florida Atlantic                1       2002                1st round
Florida International       1      1995                 1st round
Bethune-Cookman          0       ---                    ---
Stetson                               0       ---                    ---   
 
THE LIST II: FLORIDA DERBY RUNNERS WHO WON KENTUCKY DERBY: Twenty-three horses who have competed in the Florida Derby went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Here are the five most recent, all of whom won at Gulfstream before doing the same at Churchill Downs:
Year    FL/KY Derby-winning horse
2016    Nyquist
2013    Orb
2008    Big Brown
2006    Barbaro
2001    Monarchos
 
Poll result: It's Westbrook (easily) for NBA MVP: We asked who would get your vote to this point for NBA MVP from among six leading contenders, and it was Thunder's Russell Westbrook a runaway winner with 53.0 percent, with Rockets' James Harden a distant second at 20.1%. Then it was Spurs' Kawhi Leonard with 11.0%, Cavs' LeBron James at 10.4%, Celtics' Isaiah Thomas at 3.7% and Warriors' Steph Curry at 1.8%. (Warriors' Kevin Durant got skunked; no votes).
 
Select recent columns: The Long Chase, the latest, on Dolphins' struggle to make up ground on Patriots. Missing Waiters, on Dion Waiters' value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed quarterback. Method to the Madness?, on the bizarre LaVarBall. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing the tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on developments in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, on World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. Also: The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 31, 2017

Updated: The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (75 games); plus Dolphins' struggle to catch Pats; also, NBA MVP poll, where Marlins are going in fantasy drafts, Cats eliminated, your verdict on Kaepernick, Hot Button Daily (Fri) & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, March 31. The Florida Panthers, preseason Stanley Cup dreamers, are officially eliminated from playoff contention. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Colin Kaepernick with poll, ode to Venus Williams with List, Elton John with video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

New column: Dolphins' struggle to make up ground on New England: Miami by most accounts has had a strong offseason in free agency. The Patriots have had a better one. As Robert Kraft brags about Bill Belichick coaching into his 80s and Tom Brady playing another six or seven years, we analyze the state of the Fins' efforts to catch their division nemesis. Click on The Long Chase to read.

THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (75 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 37-38 after last night's win at the New York Knicks, here's The Luddite's 15th installment, with 70-game rank in parentheses.

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (75 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      2,210

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,977

3. James Johnson (3)          1,439

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,386

5. Dion Waiters (5)              1,077

6. Rodney McGruder (7)       790

7. Wayne Ellington (6)          768 

8. Josh Richardson (8)         709

9. Willie Reed (9)                662

10. Luke Babbitt (10)          484

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 179, Udonis Haslem 72.

NbamvpNBA MVP RACE: AND YOUR WINNER IS...: It's an unusually bunched field as the NBA regular season winds down and voting for NBA Most Valuable Player nears. James Harden is generally considered the frontrunner but Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard have strong cases and are joined by the usual suspects like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Steph Curry, along with an interesting longshot in Isaiah Thomas. (Sorry, Heat fans. I know Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are having nice seasons, but let's keep it real here, shall we?) By the way, the NBA MVP trophy is sponsored by a Kia, a tiny economy car not a single NBA player drives. This poll of actual MVP contenders is alphabetical. Vote now...

StantonyelichSTANTON, YELICH TOP-DRAFTED MARLINS IN FANTASY THUS FAR: It isn't a shock, but based on live ESPN.com MLB snake-draft results as of late Monday, RF Giancarlo Stanton leads Miami by ranking 39th overall with an average selection number of 40.7. LF Christian Yelich ranks 45th at 47.0, followed by 2B Dee Gordon at 63rd and 64.7. Other Fish in the overall top 200 are CF Marcell Ozuna 124th, C J.T. Realmuto 154th and reliever A.J. Ramos 159th. (Anecdotally, I have surveyed several friends who have had their drafts already and have found it pretty common for Yelich to also be the top-picked Marlin ahead of Stanton). By position rank, top Marlins are Stanton 4th RF, Yelich 4th LF, Realmuto 5th C, Gordon 8th 2B, Ozuna 10th CF, Ramos 18th RP, Justin Bour 22nd 1B, Martin Prado 22nd 3B and Adeiny Hechavarria 40th SS. Notice any position missing? Yes. And it stands out. Call it the Jose Effect. Miami's top-ranked starting pitcher is 90th among SPs -- Dan Straily, who was 14-8 with the Reds last season. Consensus No. 1 draft pick overall with an average selection spot of 1.4? Angels CF Mike Trout. Top draftees by Miami's NL East rivals: Nationals 1B Bryce Harper, 10th overall; Mets SP Noah Syndergaard, 20th overall; Braves 1B Freddie Freeman, 25th overall; and Phillies CF Odubel Herrara, 137th overall.

Poll result: A big fat "no" to Colin Kaepernick: We asked, just for fun, if you'd prefer to see an available Colin Kaepernick instead of as Matt Moore as the Dolphins' backup quarterback, and it was 57.6 percent "no" vs. 23.6% "yes." The other 18.8% voted "not sure but worth pondering."

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 3-31-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:
1. Miami Open, 1 p.m.: Rafael Nadal, then Roger Federer in night session, play semifinal matches.
2. New York at Heat, 8 p.m.: Miami tries to protect its current 7th seeding.
3. Women's Final Four, 7:30 p.m.: Stanford-South Carolina, Mississippi State-UConn from Dallas.
4. Detroit at Marlins, 7 p.m.: Fish play next-to-last spring game in Jupiter.
5. Wake Forest at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball begins big ACC home series.
 
Select recent columns: The Long Chase, the latest, on Dolphins' struggle to make up ground on Patriots. Missing Waiters, on Dion Waiters' value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed quarterback. Method to the Madness?, on the bizarre LaVar Ball. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing the tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on developments in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. Also: The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), starring ridiculous ASG, Heat plans, Marlins weirdness, sizzling' Cats, Hurricanes, Dolphins; plus is he whale enough? (my Whiteside column), your verdict on Marlins expectations & more

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

Prezday1) It is MONDAY, February 20. It is the federal holiday Presidents Day, which of course can mean only one thing. That's right. "Not My Presidents Day" anti-Trump protests across America. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins open spring training with expectations poll, Kate Upton revealed, ode to the Monopoly thimble & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Heat, Whiteside: My new Sunday column: We're coming into Pat Riley Season: Trading deadline, then draft, then free agency. So, the question hovering over the Miami Heat at the all-star break: Is Hassan Whiteside "whale" enough for Riley? Good enough to be the centerpiece around which Riley can build another champion? Click on Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? to read in full.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (FEBRUARY 19): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NBA: Ridiculous All-Star Games breaks scoring records: The West beat the East 192-182 in NBA's 66th All-Star Game on Sunday night (sans any Heat participants, alas) in New Orleans. That was a record for total points, as was MVP Anthony Davis' ASG-record 52 points. But league's biggest news Sunday was Pelicans acquiring DeMarcus Cousins to pair with Davis in frontcourt. Look out, Warriors?

2. HEAT: And what does Miami have in store post-break?: Heat resume play this coming Friday only two games off playoff pace after winning 14 of last 16 games before the All-Star break. But first, up next: What you got planned for that Feb. 23 (Thursday) trade deadline, Mr. Riley? Anything? Or will you stand Pat?

3. MARLINS: Full spring work underway as sale talk turns weird: Full-squad spring training got underway Friday up in Jupiter as talks to sell the club took a weird turn. I mean, what were the odds that Jeffrey Loria maybe becoming U.S. Ambassador to France might somehow cause the frontrunning buyer to back out?

4. PANTHERS: Sizzling Cats hovering around playoff pace: Florida on Saturday won its fourth straight and seventh of past eight to get on playoff pace but is one point off entering tonight's game in St. Louis. Meanwhile Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,900th career NHL point the day he turned 45. Who else gives middle age a good name like this dude?

5. HURRICANES: Big games in play for UM men, women as regular seasons ebb: Miami's 16th-ranked women's fell at No. 13 Duke on Sunday, now the Canes men play at No. 14 Virginia tonight as last few games of regular season help shape NCAA seeding for both. CBS featured Jim Larranaga Sunday in its "Men Of March" series.

6. UM BASEBALL: Diamond Canes fail to nail down sweep in season-opening series: Jim Morris' guys got clobbered on Sunday but still took two of three from Rutgers in their season-opening home series at the Light. Reaching Omaha the imperative as usual in Morris' next-to-last season.

7. DOLPHINS: Team extends Wake's contract: Cam Wake is 35, but last season proved he ain't done yet, and the Dolphins rewarded him on Saturday with a two-year, $19 million contract extension. Everybody's happy except opposing quarterbacks.

8. NASCAR: Elliott, Dale Jr. on Daytona front row: NASCAR season -- funneling to the title run in Homestead in November -- begins this coming Sunday with the Daytona 500, and qualifying runs yesterday found Chase Elliott winning the pole position and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining him on the front row.

9. TENNIS: Delray Beach Open tennis gets going: Running through next Sunday, it's a second-tier pro event on the men's ATP tour. Low on starpower, but if watching Jack Sock play is your thing, then go for it.

10. BOATING: Miami International Boat Show ends today: Four-day event's 76th edition has drawn thousands to Miami Marine Stadium. But you know that it's like they say: You are never happier than the day you buy a boat … other than the day you finally unload that money-eating monster you hardly used.

Missing the HB10 cut: Unlike his predecessors, President Donald Trump declined to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. Like championship teams eager to visit the White House, it seems like another presidential tradition is dying ..... Nine ex-Hurricanes led by Brad Kaaya have been invited to the March 2-5 pre-draft NFL Scouting Combine. Let the meat market begin! ..... UConn women's team won its 100th straight game (streak is now 101), and it's sort of embarrassing. C'mon, women's basketball. A little parity, please? ..... Urgent reminder: the Sailing World Cup is now less than 100 days away ..... Major League Soccer season is almost upon us as David Beckham marks what feels like the 20th anniversary of his protracted, stalling efforts to see a team in Miami.

Poll result: Mild optimism for Marlins to contend, but not to make playoffs: We asked what you realistically expect of the Miami Marlins this season, and a plurality of 37.6 percent voted "mediocre team never really in the hunt. But another 36.1% voted "contending team that just misses playoffs," while 17.3% voted "the playoffs, finally!" The other 9.0% voted for "post-Jose, a bad season." Overall, that's 53.4% who see a contending team vs. 46.6% who do not.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 2-20-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Panthers at St. Louis, 8 p.m.: Hot Cats, now one point off playoff pace, seek fifth straight win.

2. Hurricanes at Virginia, 7 p.m.: UM men face ranked foes in three of last four games including No. 14 Cavaliers.

3. Delray Beach Open, 11 a.m.: Second-tier men's ATP event continues.

4. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show wraps up at Miami Marine Stadium.

Select recent columns: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?, my new one, surveying Heat at the all-star break. French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, from the start of Marlins spring training. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 08, 2017

Have we just seen greatest 12-month period in American team-sports history? Name most impressive title. Poll. Last day to vote!; plus UM's Njoku to Dolphins?, Patriots' hero through local family's eyes, Heat go for 12th straight, new BIMD & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, February 8. Pats won Super Bowl 34-28; I predicted they'd win 31-23. Not bad. 2) A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): On Shula vs. Belichick, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

You can hate Patriots, but you cannot deny them: Hate Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Even call them cheaters. But do not deny their place in history. Even Miami and Dolfans must appreciate the historic greatness in their own division. That's my new column. Click Give the Devils Their Due to read.

"I can't decide which is more astounding. The Patriots overcoming a 25-point deficit to win the Super Bowl. Or a once 11-30 Heat team going for its 12th straight win tonight. The wonder of sports!" --Greg Cote

Back In My Day: Click on The Death Of Suspense for my latest BIMD video from Tuesday's LeBatard Show

Best2016HAS THIS BEEN THE GREATEST 12-MONTH PERIOD EVER IN AMERICAN SPORTS?: Just posing the question has its pitfalls. I try to avoid hyperbole, and also the prevalent sense that whatever is happening now is (of course) greater than whatever used to be. But, in this case, let this poll remind you how many historic or dramatic championships we've seen the past 12 months. The NHL's Stanley Cup Finals wasn't particularly special, but I'd testify all of our poll finalists were in one way or another. I invite you to vote for your top TWO of the six, and from there we'll anoint the No. 1 major sports championship of the past 12 months. The finalists are listed chronologically. Your challenge? Step back and see this from a neutral, national perspective, ignoring as best you can whether the result was what you preferred. Ready? Take a dip in our poll and vote now!

Remember: Vote for your top two (2)!

CANES' NJOKU STAYING IN MIAMI WITH DOLPHINS?: That's what ESPN's Todd McShay predicts in his new NFL Mock Draft 2.0 out today. He has UM tight end David Njoku (pictured) being Dnjokudrafted by the Dolphins 22nd overall, and writes, "Njoku comes with loads of upside, thanks to rare athleticism for the position and big-play ability, including 16.2 yards per reception. There's not much of a gap between Njoku and Alabama's O.J. Howard for the No. 1 TE ranking. Both Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims are set to be free agents for the Dolphins, so the fit would make sense for Njoku to stay in Miami." My take? Not a crazy idea. Although I think defense would be a better spend for a No. 1 Fins pick, team does need a dynamic, offensive tight end. Other McShay first-round projections from in-state: Gators CB Teez Tabor 14th, Seminoles RB Dalvin Cook 15th, Gators LB Jarrad Davis 24th and Gators CB Quincy Wilson 31st. Still no Brad Kaaya in the first round. (You shoulda stayed, kid).

PATRIOTS' HERO THROUGH A FORT LAUDERDALE FAMILY'S EYES: The New England Patriots' record-setting comeback to win Super Bowl 51 in overtime, when deconstructed, could be seen as Jameswhitea family in Fort Lauderdale living a dream. Tyrone and Lisa Smith were in Houston watching as their son James, the Pats running back, caught 14 passes for 110 yards, scored a crucial two-point conversion and scored three touchdowns -- including the dramatic game-winner in OT. Smith could very easily have been named Super Bowl MVP instead of Tom Brady. Disney thought he was the MVP, so James and his parents did the "I'm going to Disney World" thing on Monday in Orlando (as pictured), the family starring in a parade and treated like kings. James was born in Plantation, South-Florida raised and played at St. Thomas Aquinas High -- local all the way. After the Disney fete James headed north for Tuesday's victory parade in Boston, and Tyrone and Lisa headed south, back to their lives in Fort Lauderdale. "It's been a surreal feeling," father Tyrone told me. "You just don't go into a game expecting that. You hope the team does well and he does a part to contribute. But you don't expect what happened. I had to come back and turn the TV on about 4 o'clock [a.m.] to kind of see again for myself. It was one for the ages. It's a blessing you can't describe." James is remembered as a great kid at St. Thomas. "Never missed a practice," recalled former Aquinas offensive coordinator Bryan Baucom. "A class act." His dad Tyrone is a Miami-Dade police captain. His mom also in in law enforcement, with the state parole department. "This comes around once every blue moon," said the father of what has happened to the family. I asked him how he felt. I could almost see his smile over the phone. "Exhausted!" he said.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-8-17: What events on the Wednesday sports calendar should interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Milwaukee, 8 p.m.: Surging Miami goes for 12th straight victory.

2. Virginia Tech at Hurricanes, 9 p.m.: UM men host big ACC game.

3. Pro beach volleyball, 10:30 a.m.: FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major men's/women's pool matches all day.

4. North Carolina State at Florida State, 7 p.m.: Seminoles men are ranked No. 14.

5. Chicago at Golden State, 10: 30 p.m.: Dwyane Wade at NBA's best team, that's why.

Select recent columns: Give the Devils Their Due, the latest, on Belichick and Brady. Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, previewing the Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 06, 2017

Pats' monstrous Super Bowl rally tops updated Hot Button Top 10, also starring surging Heat, Jason Taylor, Canes; plus, debate "greatest," but not "winningest." Belichick will never surpass Shula for most career victories & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, February 6. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jason Taylor gets into Canton, predicting football Hall of Fame class, week's final Super Bowl With a Smirk & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

A Super Bowl to save a season: This has been a bad season for the NFL in general, but Falcons vs. Patriots in Super Bowl 51 is matchup capable of being spectacular and saving the season. Click on Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue to read my Sunday column previewing the game.

Patriots 31, Falcons 23: Click on Super Bowl Gem for my full prediction capsule on today's Super Bowl. (I got the score pretty close, If I do say so).

'GREATEST COACH' DEBATE MAY BE LOSING CAUSE, BUT SHULA HAS TWO DISTINCTIONS THAT REMAIN HIS ALONE: "Bill Belichick closing in on Don Shula!" somehow became a Donbillmanufactured subplot to this Super Bowl from a Miami perspective. I get it. It's easy. But it's also a false narrative, for two reasons. 1) "Greatest coach ever," alas, is a train that may have already left the station for Shula. The Dolphins' icon was 2-4 in Super Bowls. Belichick just won his fifth. I don't know that there are a lot of NFL scholars and historians who would not already give the greatest-ever nod to New England's guy. But! 2) The two great distinctions that will always keep Shula's name in the greatest-ever argument -- most career victories and only Perfect Season -- seem safely his. I laugh at the suggestion Belichick is a real threat to Shula's career mark of 347 overall victories. He would have to win at his current pace and still be coaching at age 72 to have a shot, and maintaining that current pace will be tougher indeed when Tom Brady (finally) retires presumably after one or two more years. The likelihood of Belichick winning and coaching long enough to surpass 347 wins seems roughly as likely as the odds another team will equal Miami's 1972 Perfect Season. Could happen, but wouldn't bet on it. History might already see Belichick as "greater," but the distinctions of "winningest" and perfection are safely with Shula.

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

Hotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: Monstrous rally grows Patriots dynasty: Awful game much of the way, but Patriots made a thriller of Super Bowl 51, rallying from 21-0 and 28-3 holes to win in overtime, 34-28. Massive choke by the Falcons? Maybe. But Tom Brady had a little to do with that, no?

2. HEAT: Surging Miami seeks 11th straight tonight: Heat crushed visiting Philadelphia 125-102 Saturday night behind Hassan Whiteside's 30 points and 20 rebounds to win a 10th straight and now begins a four-game road trip tonight at Minnesota. Might disappoint lottery-minded fans, but eighth seed and playoffs are no longer out of reach for the way-hot Heat.

3. HURRICANES: UM football claims signing-day bounty: Miami loaded up on National Signing Day with a 24-man bounty that ESPN ranked as the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation. "We nailed it!" said Mark Richt … then again, so did every other college coach in America on signing day.

4. HALL OF FAME: Dolphins' Taylor among new inductees: LaDainian Tomlinson was a lock. Nobody else was. But ex-Dolphins great Jason Taylor was among the seven who got in, along with Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Kenny Easley and Morten Andersen. Congrats, J.T. Now what about Zach Thomas.

5. PANTHERS: Barkov, Huberdeau back on the ice: Florida has reinforcements as it chases a playoff spot as young stars Sasha Barkov (out previous 15 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (out all out season) returned from injuries Friday to spark Cat's third straight win. That's two fewer excuses for Cats to miss the playoffs.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women outshining men: UM men were only 3-5 since Jan. 1 before winning Friday, but Canes women are 17-5 and ranked 16th entering Monday game at No. 6 Florida State. Coach Katie Meier got her 300th career win. Adding a few more in March would be nice.

7. SOCCER: U.S. men beat Jamaica in friendly: After a scoreless draw vs. Serbia in Bruce Arena's debut as coach, the U.S. men beat Jamaica 1-0 Saturday night in Chattanooga. Now, it's what's next on the team's calendar that matters and will judge Arena: World Cup qualifying.

8. GOLF: Comeback short-lived, Tiger out again: He's out a year and a half with various back ailments, he comes back, and he can't finish the tournament, withdrawing with back spasms. Hate to say, but it may be time for Tiger Woods to call it quits.

9. BARKLEY-LEBRON: Basketball beef gets personal: Broadcaster Charles Barkley called LeBron James "whiny." LeBron shot back with a litany of bad stuff Chuck has done in the past. C'mon, kids. Play nice!

10. BASEBALL: It's just about here, folks: Miami Marlins hold their annual stadium FanFest next Saturday and Sunday, the precursor to when players negin to report for spring training. Ready or not, almost time to play ball!

Missing the HB10 cut: The 2017 FIVB world beach volleyball tours opens with the Fort Lauderdale Major beginning Tuesday, a five-star men's and women's event featuring Kerry Walsh Jennings and a bunch of people I've never heard of ..... Falcons QB Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP Saturday night. Correctly had a feeling Tom Brady would be lifting the more coveted hardware Sunday ..... Five days until Kevin Durant makes his first return to Oklahoma City. Thunder fans already are practicing their booing in preparation ..... The Winter X Games have been going on. The question is, WHY!?

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-6-17: What events on the Monday, Feb. 6 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Minnesota, 8 p.m.: Good shot at 11th straight win tonight at Timberwolves.

2. Hurricanes at Florida State, 7 p.m.: No. 16 UM women visit No. 6 Seminoles.

3. Um, pretty much nothing. Light post-Super Bowl Monday.

Select recent columns: Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, the latest, previewing today's Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 03, 2017

Me and Dwyane Wade, Twitter and wine; plus our Falcons-Patriots prediction, the new Super Bowl With a Smirk & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, February 3. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes' recruiting bounty, latest Super Bowl With a Smirk, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games), your Barkley-LeBron beef verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

ME AND DWYANE WADE, TWITTER AND WINE: I love Twitter. I do. One of the reasons why metastasized yesterday with my Tweet shown below and Dwyane Wade's response right below it. What I Tweeted was admittedly snarky. Dwyane didn't like it. His NBA prime was defined by greatness. He still is very good, but very good isn't great. From a basketball standpoint, I'll defend that Tweet all day. But from a personal standpoint? The Tweet was a bit mean-spirited, which I don't like to be. I felt bad I may have hurt Wade's feelings, so after his Tweet I Tweeted: "Love @DwyaneWade & always been big supporter as he knows. Just havin' a lil' fun. Very nice wine btw. Blend, but w/ mouthfeel of smooth cab." And of course I got beat up for that because it was seen as a retreat from my initial Tweet. Bottom line? I do not regret the initial Tweet but I do regret that Wade -- whom I like and respect very much -- took it as a cheap shot at sort of a fragile point in his career. Postscript: The wine really was pretty good. God bless Twitter.     

OUR OFFICIAL SUPER BOWL PREDICTION (SORRY, ROGER GOODELL): Sunday’s game in Houston marks only the sixth time in 51 Super Bowls that the matchup has been the team that led the NFL in scoring (Falcons) vs. the team that allowed the fewest points (Patriots). A key difference is, New England is as mighty on offense as it is stingy on D, while Atlanta’s defense, though Sbnebetter than it was, cannot claim to be the equal of what Matt Ryan gets done. As a writer, I think I subconsciously root not for a particular team but for the best story to tell. Here, Super Bowl LI wins no matter the result. Either Atlanta reigns as champion for the first time in its 51-year history. Or we get a trophy presentation that might be even more riveting than the game if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is handing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to a New England franchise he socked so hard over Deflategate — a franchise feeling it was wronged. So "best story" is a tie here. But "best team" is not. As mentioned, Bill Belichick has a complete team that can beat you with or without the ball, while the big-scoring but more lopsided Falcons have a young, somewhat unreliable defense that savvy old Tom Brady will find a way to pick apart. Intangibles also tend to come into play on this biggest stage, and the contrast there greatly favors New England as well. The been-there/won-that Patriots have built a modern dynasty on this stage, while Atlanta — its only other Super Bowl appearance in 1998 and last in the playoffs in 2012 — cannot know they’ll be ready for this. The game might swing importantly very early. Atlanta has scored a touchdown on its first possession in eight games in a row. Keeping that streak alive will give the Birds instant confidence, but if it ends there could be a fast feeling of "uh oh." Ryan is used to leading. He isn’t used to trailing. And certainly not against Belichick and Brady. In a Super Bowl. I think he’ll have that feeling on Sunday. And I think I’m looking forward to the awkward drama of the postgame trophy presentation a lot more than Roger Goodell is. My pick: New England 31, Atlanta 23. Click on Super Bowl Gem for the full predictions capsule.

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK: PATRIOTS TRADEMARK FRAUDULENCE, GAGA'S SHOE, MORTARS, FAKE MERCHANDISE: Super Bowl With a Smirk is back with our fourth of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

Smirk Sb51OK, this is war! The New England Patriots, who have never had a perfect season, have somehow won a trademark on the phrase "Perfect Season."

It's an outrage -- the most egregious "alternative fact" yet. It would be like Greg Cote trademarking the phrase "Pulitzer Winner."

Smirk today is calling upon Don Shula and the 1972 Miami Dolphins -- the only team that did have a perfect season -- to foment into an angry if aging mob and picket outside Sunday's Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl in Houston.

The Patriots were undefeated and untied before losing the Super Bowl nine years ago. They deserve a trademark on "Almost Perfect Season." Or perhaps on "Almost Perfect Cheaters."

Instead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December granted the Patriots-owning Kraft Group legal rights to the phrases "Perfect Season" and "19-0," ESPN's Darren Rovell reports.

XaverianIt took eight years for the Kraft Group's petition to finally be approved. The loophole the Pats used to justify deserving Perfect Season was to license the phrase to a Massachusetts high-school football association to commemorate Xaverian High's 24 straight wins.

The Dolphins once filed to trademark "17-0" and "Perfectville" but eventually gave up the fight.

Now New England legally owns what Miami earned on the field, but, galling and absurd as that is, we all know better, and about this I'm not Smirking:

Perfect Season belongs to only one team in NFL history, and it sure ain't the Patriots.

(*) Lady Gaga met the media Thursday in Houston, and declined to pick a winning team, saying, "I'm going to write it down and put it in my shoe." Gaga is headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show Sponsored by Smirk's Second-Favorite Cola.

(*) National-anthem singer Luke Bryan also met the media. The Falcons fan from Leesburg, Ga., blatantly did the limbo to compliment the Patriots so as not to hurt his sales in the Northeast.

Madden17(*) Spoiler alert! The Patriots will beat the Falcons 27-24 on Sunday. Book it. Bank it. Because EA Sports' Madden 17 video game played it and says it. The Madden game is 9-4 on previous SB picks, which strikes Smirk as decent, not great.

(*) The group MVPindex took umbrage at Smirk's Wednesday suggestion they might have been drunk when ranking Julian Edelman's social media impact greater than Tom Brady's. Based on criteria including how many times followers engage with a post, "Edelman does it better," said spokesperson Amber Moore. "So we aren't drunk."

(*) Stadium security precautions will be tight Sunday. Prohibited items that fans may not carry in include umbrellas, lasers, signs and 60-millimeter hand-held mortars.

(*) Two notable Houstonians, former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara, ages 92 and 91, will conduct the pregame coin toss. There's a joke there somewhere, but some things are out of bounds even for Smirk.

(*) Counterfeit merchandise update: If that pricey Super Bowl jacket you bought has no logos whatsoever and looks eerily like a 1980s Members Only jacket, it might not be official Super Bowl apparel.

Odouls(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Make your Super Bowl party alcohol-free this year. It'll save you the bother of having to host a Super Bowl party next year.

Click Smirk I, Smirk II and Smirk III for this week's previous Smirks.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-3-17: What events on the Friday, Feb. 3 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Anaheim at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Cats chasing eighth seed and playoffs.

2. U.S. soccer vs. Jamaica, 7 p.m.: Last friendly before men's World Cup qualifying.

3. Might be time to retire this short-lived new blog feature after a second straight slowwwww day in sports.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 02, 2017

Canes, Richt score big with recruits. The names that jump out; plus The Luddite's MVP Standings for red-hot Heat through 50 games, latest Super Bowl With a Smirk (Goodell sacked), Hot Button Daily, your Barkley-LeBron beef verdict & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, February 2. I'm back at Friday Page World Headquarters for the last time this season working up my Super Bowl pick. Anybody got a coin? 2) A new Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Barkley-LeBron beef poll, Super Bowl With a Smirk second edition, updated betting odds, new Back In My Day video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

RICHT SCORES BIG WITH CANES RECRUITING, AND ONE NAME JUMPS OUT: Miami scored the nation's 12th-ranked recruiting class (according to ESPN) this week in the first full shot for Mark JeffthomasRicht after last year's late arrival and scramble, and he wasn't lying yesterday in saying, "We nailed it." UM's 24 recruits  (11 are from South Florida) include 13 four-star rated guys, and 10 from the ESPN 300. The name that jumps out, for me, is fleet receiver Jeff Thomas (pictured), who had not been committed to UM and was a huge late get, favoring the Canes over A-list suitors including Alabama. Thomas will pair with Ahmmon Richards to form a dynamic wideout set for whomever emerges this spring as Brad Kaaya's replacement at quarterback. And that should be a great competition with four legit contenders. I also like that The U really beefed up its offensive line, including behemoth 6-6, 375-pound Navaughn Donaldson from Miami Central. He is bigger than my refrigerator. UM's defensive line looks to be pretty great with the notable addition of pass rusher D.J. Johnson. UM still seems a bit thin to me at running back, but in the overall I really like this incoming class and the job Richt and company did. With 14 of 22 starters returning and a near-Top 10 class arriving for a team that finished 9-4 with an impressive bowl win, this is a program on the upswing. Florida State and Clemson remain gigantic hurdles for UM in the ACC; still, Miami should be an improved team with a steady polls presence in 2017.

LATEST 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK': GOODELL SACKED, SMOKING WITH DITKA, RYAN LEAF, UNCLE MORT: Smirk returns with our third of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game:

Smirk Sb51NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual pre-Super Bowl "state of the league" news conference in Houston on Wednesday, and, really, it seemed to go fabulously well for him.

There was not a single uncomfortable question put to him, with the exception of the Chargers bolting San Diego, the Raiders trying to move to Vegas, lower TV ratings, the refugee travel ban, concussions and brain injuries, the broad perception of diminished quality of play — oh, almost forgot! — and the likelihood that Sunday night he’ll be forced to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after dodging the Patriots for two years over Deflategate.

Quarterbacks under constant sack siege face less pressure. By the end of the 75-minute grilling Goodell’s wingtips were covered by a rising puddle of his own sweat.

At one point, as yet another Deflategate-related question whizzed at him like shrapnel, Goodell said he has "no doubt" that if he were to attend a Patriots game in Foxborough he would be "welcomed."

Whatever he said next could not be detected above the massive roar of braying laughter that could be heard 1,600 miles away in New England.

(*) In college football, Wednesday was National Signing Day, when teams collect their latest bounty. In the NFL it was National Sighing Day, the dead middle of Super Bowl Week, when fans already are tired of the buildup but resigned to more of it.

Stubhub(*) You could spend up to $112,000 on a single Super Bowl ticket on StubHub on Wednesday. If Smirk is spending that much for one seat, there had better been an envelope stuffed with about $111,500 waiting on that seat.

(*) The NFL announced Wednesday that the Patriots and Raiders would play a regular-season game in Mexico next season if they can manage to scale Trump’s wall.

Ditkacigar(*) Celebrity parties are as big a part of Super Bowl Week as the game itself, according to party planners, and Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski co-host one Thursday: "Cigars With the Stars." Sounds like fun, other than the choking cigar smoke and the dreadful possibility of inadvertently having to converse with either Ditka or Jaworski.

(*) NFL security officials are warning about counterfeit tickets. If, for example, the ticket you bought seems extraordinarily small and reads, "AMC Theaters/La La Land/Admit One," it might not be a bonafide Super Bowl ticket.

(*) A group called MVPIndex ranks most valuable NFL players on social media and says Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rank 10th, 14th and 20th overall, while the top Falcon, Julio Jones, is 47th. Hmm. Edelman ahead of Brady? Are you drunk, MVPIndex?

(*) Friday is the 26th annual NFL Foundation/NFL Legends Super Bowl Golf Tournament. One of the team captain "legends" is Ryan Leaf. Oh, how I wish I were making that up.

(*) In an NFL initiative, Houston Habitat For Humanity rebuilt a home Wednesday despite derisive heckling from members of bitter rival group Rebuilding Together. OK, I made up that second part.

Gaga(*) Super Bowl halftime performer Lady Gaga said in a revealing interview that she would not reveal much about her planned show. People are betting on which song she’ll sing first. Smirk could not care less but is hoping for a wardrobe malfunction.

(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Have those plastic zip ties and duct tape ready again just in case Uncle Mort gets belligerently sloppy-drunk before kickoff like last year.

Click Smirk I and Smirk II for this week's previous Smirks.

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (50 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 20-30 on nine straight wins after last night's over Atlanta, here's The Luddite's 10th installment, with 45-game rank in parentheses. Dragic, by the way, has narrowed his deficit to Whiteside from 216 points to 129 in past five games. 

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,402

2. Goran Dragic (2)            1,273

3. Tyler Johnson (3)             893

4. James Johnson (4)           891

5. Dion Waiters (5)              691

6. Rodney McGruder (7)     493

7. Josh Richardson (6)         483

8. Willie Reed (8)               444

9. Wayne Ellington (10)     439

10. Justise Winslow (9)       355

Others: Luke Babbitt 295, Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 231, Udonis Haslem 64, Okaro White 53.

Poll result: LeBron most to blame in Barkley beef: We asked who's most wrong and it was 65.4 percent for LeBron James' personal-attack response and 13.2% for Charles Barkley calling LeBron whiny. Another 14.3% said neither because both had a point, and 7.1% said both are equally to blame.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-2-17: What events on the Thursday, Feb. 2 sports calendar (a very light day) interest South Florida fans most:

1. Golden State at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.: Warriors pounded Clips by 46 last week.

2. Missouri at Florida, 7 p.m.: Gators men's team is ranked No. 24.

3. Hurricanes at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.: UM women take their No. 16 ranking on road.

4. Phoenix Open, all day: First round of PGA Tour event.

5. "This Was the XFL", 9 p.m.: ESPN's debuts latest 30 For 30 doc.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote