Trust Pat Riley ... except when he says he's made peace with LeBron. My new column; plus what should Dolphins target in draft? Poll. Vote now!; also Hot Button Top 10 (updated), 4/20, your pick for NBA title & more
GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 20. It's 4-20, the unofficial national holiday when marijuana devotees celebrate their love of cannabis by smoking weed ... just like they do every other day of the year, but with a tad more ceremony today. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA playoffs preview and poll, Weighing The Fish (10 games), Dolphins preseason & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.
TRUST PAT RILEY ... EXCEPT WHEN HE SAYS HE'S MADE PEACE WITH THE WAY LEBRON LEFT: My column off today's Riley postseason State of the Heat news conference is now posted online and you'd click In Riley We Trust to read it there. We posted it in advance here in its entirety, including an interesting, barely disguised shot at LeBron James, a passage underlined for emphasis below. The photo is by me from the news conference:
Pat Riley just turned 70. His hair has gone a natural silvery gray. He is at a point, in life and career, when a man begins to hear his mortality clock ever louder, to a point that reminders from elsewhere are neither required nor appreciated.
"People always are trying to make me older than I am," he mused with a small smile Monday in his annual season-ending State of the Heat news conference. "They’re trying to ask me, ‘Why are trying to stay around this game?’ I love the game. I love competition. I love the challenge of building this team again."
Riley is an NBA lifer in his 46th year in the league, and planning for his 21st season in Miami. He may be a newly minted septuagenarian, but he is convinced he has another championship ring -– at least one more -– in his future.
Do you doubt him?
We don’t trust much in South Florida sports or have a lot of faith right now, do we?
We don’t trust Jeffrey Loria owning the Marlins.
We have doubts about Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.
We see Panthers hockey forever trying our patience.
We feel eroding confidence in Canes football coach Al Golden.
There isn’t a lot at the top of our sports marquee that has earned our unequivocal trust.
But Riley has.
By his tenure and titles, by his track record, the wily Silver Fox has earned every confidence that the injury-marred, playoff-less season just past was a blip, an outlier. In the triumvirate of Riley, owner Micky Arison and coach Erik Spoelstraa, the Heat continue to be the unrivaled model for Miami sports.
"I challenge myself more than anybody else," he said, "to make sure what happened this year doesn’t happen again."
Do you doubt he is up to the challenge?
One year earlier, though in June, after Miami’s loss in the NBA Finals, Riley’s theme had been to pointedly challenge LeBron James to stay, saying, "You have to stay together if you got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it."
Twenty-two days later James found the door marked ‘Cleveland’ and ran out of it.
Monday, Riley obviously was alluding to James and the timing and manner of his departure when he referred to having "no more smiling faces with hidden agendas" to deal with this time. Pressed on that he attempted a fast back-track by saying he could have meant "anyone across the board," though it was obvious who he meant.
I later asked Riley directly if he is at peace with the way James left.
"Yes, absolutely," he said. "I’m at peace with it."
I think he was being smarter than he was truthful. In any case Riley is wise to set aside if not bury the LeBron animus, at least publicly, and portray a man not lamenting, but looking forward.
There is much to look forward to.
Center Hassan Whiteside, forwards Chris Bosh and Luol Deng and guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic -– that is a starting five you can win with. With good health, and added depth including another 3-point shooter or two, that is a starting five you can contend with.
"You would like to have seen that team intact for just one game," Riley said. "We didn’t get to see that. It was a real disappointing year in terms of setbacks."
Riley portrayed being able to re-sign Dragic as a near-certainty.
"If he doesn’t sign, my ass is going to be in that seat next year and I’ll be writing," he joked, pointing at reporters. "We’re in a very good position to offer him more than anybody else."
Dragic and Bosh are all-star caliber. So, still, is Wade, who has shown an ability to offset advancing age with efficiency. Whiteside could become a powerhouse, what Riley called "a formidable presence in the offense." Deng is the selfless do-it-all guy every team needs. The return of Josh McRoberts to the rotation will be big. Guys like Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem still fill a valuable role.
There is little doubt that Miami –- even with all of the injuries and Bosh’s blood clots and the 30 different starting lineups -– still should have made the playoffs but for a late swoon.
"I told Eric [Spoelstra] to go beat himself up for a week," Riley said, maybe half-kidding. "And if he didn’t want to, I’d help him."
Riley remains a huge Spoelstra supporter and believer, but also an enormous asset.
"I’ve been in that trench before," as Riley put it. "I see everything. He knows I see everything."
The club’s president and architect has seen enough, and accomplished enough, that Heat fans should have little doubt he’ll see this franchise back into the playoffs next season, and soon back into championship contention.
It is hard to not have doubts about many of our biggest South Florida sports teams right now.
It is hard to trust and have faith in who is in charge and leading those teams.
Pat Riley makes it easy.
WHAT POSITION SHOULD DOLPHINS TARGET IN FIRST ROUND?: It's the night of April 30. Dolphins are on the clock at No. 14 in the first round. There are comparably talented and rated players available at the positions Miami has targeted. So, what to do? Wide receiver seems to be the position earmarked for Fins in a lot of early mock drafts and analysis. It's a glamour position -- though also won pretty well-stocked, by my eye. Would cornerback or linebacker be a smarter option? (Yes, guard also is a need, but no OG is seen as 1R-worthy this year). So you tell me. Vote and say why.
Poll result: Warriors, then Spurs your pick for NBA title: Golden State (37.3 percent) and San Antonio (31.6%) dominated third-place Cleveland (15.3%) when we asked who'd win the NBA championship. Hmm. Anti-LeBron bias, perhaps? Atlanta was a distant fourth with 6.2%.
HOT BUTTON APR. 19: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, newly updated. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:
1. NBA: No Heat, but NBA playoffs begin anyway: With Dwyane Wade and Miami on outside for first time since 2008, NBA playoffs began this weekend with LeBron James’ Cleveland and Steph Curry’s Golden State the betting co-favorites and both off to 1-0 series leads. Meantime, Miami somehow lost its playoff spot to Boston and Brooklyn even though it was 7-1 against them. "SMH," said Heat fans, shaking their heads.
2, MARLINS: Fish swept by Mets, rough start to season tests optimism: Dee Gordon is way-hot and Giancarlo Stanton set the club record for career homers, but little else has gone right in team's 3-10 after Sunday' loss and sweep by Mets. Miami doesn't play today. The ways things are going, Marlins will lose the off-day.
3. DOLPHINS: Fins ponder options as NFL Draft nears: Countdown is 10 days now until first round, with speculation growing that Miami likely will take a receiver or cornerback 14th overall. Then again, there also looms the anticlimactic possibility of a trade down.
4. LEGAL SYSTEM: Ex-Patriot Hernandez guilty of murder: Aaron Hernandez will serve life in prison, after jurors said they were “shocked” defense lawyer James Sultan admitted Hernandez witnessed the murder even though no testimony or evidence had placed him at the scene. Opposing defenses were seldom a problem for Hernandez, but apparently his own defense was.
5. NHL: Stanley Cup playoffs start without Cats (again): The hockey postseason is underway, and many experts see the New York Rangers as favorites to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. That was one year after a team from Canada last won it all, a now-22-year drought for the birthplace of hockey. Modified national anthem to play at arenas during playoffs: Oh No, Canada.
6. BOSTON MARATHON: Iconic race is Monday, two years later: The 119th running will be today for the race struck by the 2013 terrorist bombing that killed three and wounded 264. The sentencing for convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins Tuesday. Is it too late to invent a sentence worse than death?
7. POLITICS: NBA visits Cuba this week: NBA will conduct a developmental camp in Cuba this Thursday through Sunday. That's against the Heat's wishes, on the face of it, although Micky Arison's Carnival cruise line would benefit greatly from an open port and tourism in Cuba.
8. GOLF: Next Tiger? Spieth wins Masters, electrifies sport: Jordan Spieth, 21, impressively won the Masters and immediately I saw a poll asking whether Spieth would shatter the record by surpassing 20 career major wins. Tap brakes, please. Talking 20 majors after No. 1 is like mentioning the Cy Young Award on Opening Day after the pitcher retires the side in the top of the first.
9. PANTHERS: Florida slotted for 11th pick: NHL draft lottery determined the Panthers will select 11th in the draft they will host in Sunrise on June 26, after the league rejected Florida's proposal that, this year only, the draft host gets the overall No.1 pick.
10. FIU: Golden Panthers wrap spring practice: FIU, seeking its first winning season since 2011, drew a couple of hundred fans for its Spring Game, which was only about 99,000 fewer than Ohio State.
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