May 01, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (MAY 1): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

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

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

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

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

5. NBA: Two Sunday Game 7s will complete final eight and second-round pairings: Three matchups are set: Spurs-Thunder, Warriors-Trail Blazers and Cavaliers-Hawks. The fourth pairing will be the two winners of today's Game 7s: Heat beating Hornets and awaiting Pacers-Raptors verdict. There is nothing better in sports than a Game 7. But only if your team wins, of course.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolphins 2016 Draft:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PANTHERS

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

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

MARLINS

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[New England Patriots: Forfeited 29th overall pick]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 23, 2016

Humbled! Heat blown out at Charlotte, 96-80, in Game 3!; plus calling on -- and calling out -- Jaromir Jagr to rescue Florida Panthers, Dolfans' clear verdict on draft priority & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 23. Sad Marlins fact du jour: Today only one team in MLB is further out of first place than Miami's 6 1/2 games. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Panthers drop crucial Game 5 in double-OT, Dolphins draft-priority poll, 'Patrick & Zo,' sports' 'most influential,' global murder rates and what they teach us, Prince in Miami & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

Dumbass Athlete: Mark Walton: No I don't enjoy calling a college kid a dumbass, even Miami Hurricanes running back Mark Walton, arrested for DUI and knowingly driving with a suspended license. But, seriously? Mark? You have a new coach who's a hard-liner and you do this!? Ever heard of Uber? Now, predictably, Richt has suspended Walton. Good lord. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Calling Jaromir Jagr, the latest, on Panthers' need for Jagr to end his playoff goals drought after last night's Game 5 loss. For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East, off Heat's Game 2 win. Rook 1, Rook 2, on Heat's refreshing, uncommon reliance on rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson.

G3: CHARLOTTE 96, HEAT 80: WHOLE NEW SERIES? HORNETS HALVE MIAMI SERIES LEAD TO 2-1: Clobbered. Hammered. Humbled. After flying to a 2-0 series lead on great offensive performances at home the Heat fizzled today in Charlotte in a 96-80 loss. Hold off on posting that Crying Michael Jordan meme, Heat fan. Can't use it tonight. Maybe after Game 4 back in N.C. Monday night? It was all Hornets this evening after a competitive first half. Charlotte went on an 18-0 run in the second half and at one time Miami was in a 5-for-44 shooting funk -- a far cry from the make-everything Heat that shot 58 percent the first two games. Luol Deng led Miami with 19 points including 5-for-6 on 3's but got insufficient help. The bench stunk. And Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Joe Johnson shot a combined 14-for-44. A loss today on the road is not a surprise, but the ease of it perhaps is. Heat still in charge in this series, although stakes are raised now for Monday night. ..... Original post: Teams returning home in a 2-0 playoff series hole epitomize desperation, and that is Charlotte today in Game 3 Heathornetsgame3at 5:30 p.m. The Hornets will climb back into the series, or the Heat will put the hammer down. After 238 points in the first two comfy wins, Miami hopes to continue its super-secret strategy: Making every shot. As CHA coach Steve Clifford said, "Sometimes the other team just makes shots. That's what's really going on." Miami has shot 57.6 and 57.9 percent -- the two most accurate performances vs. the Hornets all season. But isn't just that. Charlotte is tanking on more than defense. The Hornets scored 30.4% of their points on three-points shots, third-most in the NBA, during the season. But int two playoff games they are a miserable 7-for-33 on 3's. These are reasons Charlotte's playoff losing streak has now reached 13 games. A lower-scoring Game 3 might be expected. "On the road we have to win defensively," as Dwyane Wade said. Sidelight: The next two at Charlotte will be a homecoming for Hassan Whiteside, who grew up in that area. Erik Spoelstra may need to tamp-down his intensity. Historical note: Miami has never blown a 2-0 playoff series lead. Heat is 13-0 all-time in this position.

CALLING ON -- AND CALLING OUT -- JAROMIR JAGR: After last night's 2-1 double-OT home loss the Panthers trail Islanders 3-2 and face a must-win Game 6 Sunday at 7 p.m. in Brooklyn. Four quick thoughts before I get to my points on Jagr. 1) Enough with the conspiracy theories, Cats fans. "The refs are against us." "The league wants New York to win." Please. Yes NYI had five power plays last night to Florida's one. But the Panthers also had a shoulda-been game-winning penalty shot they squandered. 2) In many ways the Panthers look to be the better team in this series; certainly the more entertaining. Cats are playing well. "Great hockey," coach Gerard Gallant said. It's just that out-of-his-mind Isles goalie Thomas Greiss is playing better thus far. 3) Great, great crowd last night in the Sunrise barn. But those fans who threw rubber rats at the celebrating Islanders players at the end? Not cool. 4) The next round will be really tough even if Florida makes it. Cats will be worn by a long series that already has featured three period of OT, and Tampa Bay will be much more rested. OK now on to my thoughts off Game 5. Click on Calling Jaromir Jagr to read the column in full. The gist of it: JagrWatching Jaromir Jagr perform on ice is a little like watching Dwayne Wade do his thing on the hardwood as we enjoy this rare concurrent playoff run by the Panthers and Heat. With both you are seeing something special, something you want to make a memory of because you know it won’t last. They are two veterans who know as much about their craft as anybody out there. They draw on every ounce and iota of experience to find a way, some way. They are both marvels for their age, except that Jagr (pictured) happens to be 44, which I guess makes him 10 years even more marvelous. That Jagr kick-started the game-tying goal last night mirrors his resolve and fight, because this playoff series has been a struggle for him. He has not scored a goal, and Friday’s assist was only his second. It does not feel entirely fair to say, but the Cats need more from Jagr moving forward. He has done so, so much, and now his team needs more. Jagr is old enough to be several teammates’ father. He could be seven or eight years into a cushy analyst’s job on a Canadian or Czech hockey network by now. Instead he was leading Florida with 66 points scored this season and one off the Cats’ goals lead with 27. He was, for me, the team MVP for the division champions. He needs to be that again now, with the Stanley Cup trophy in play. Jagr has picked a heck of a time to continue a personal postseason slump with a quiet opening series, and he could be running out of time to make some noise. Can Jagr be the difference in this super-even series? History tells us Game 5 winners in a 2-2 series go on to win the series and advance 78.4 percent of the time, the odds weighing now against Florida. The Cats and Isles are so close, though, that Florida does not need a miracle to win two in a row now. It just needs a spark, somebody to step up and show the way. Jagr, anyone? The team leader must lead, and not in some intangible way, but by doing what he has done better than almost everyone to every play this sport: Score goals. The Panthers were 19-1-2 this season in games Jagr scored a goal. He is the Cat-alyst, and now — either in the balance of this series or moving forward — his team will need that regular-season mojo of his to reappear and join the playoffs. It has been missing. Jagr has zero goals in five playoff games. Just twice all season did he have a goal drought this long, only now it matters more. As for that personal postseason slump, inexplicably, astoundingly, Friday marked Jagr’s 36th consecutive playoff game without a goal. More than hour before the puck dropped Friday, the arena still mostly empty, Jagr was the only player skating out on the ice, alone in his thoughts. No player works harder, or knows the game better. His playoff slump is unfathomable. Believe hard now in the law of averages if nothing else, Panthers fans. Jagr and the Cats will need his postseason goals drought to end in the worst way — and in the best way — come Sunday.

Poll result: Dolfans speak, loudly. Prioritize cornerback for No. 1 pick, please!: We asked in the previous blogpost what position the Dolphins should target for their No. 1 draft pick Thursday (you may still vote), and gave you five choices plus "other." It wasn't close. Cornerback dominated with 57.1 percent, with running back a distant second at 16.2%. Trailing were linebacker 10.8%, offensive line 9.8%, defensive end 3.7% and "something else" 2.4%.

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April 21, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team                Seasons    PO years    Pct.

Miami Heat            28        19           .679

Miami Dolphins     50        16           .320

Florida Panthers     22         5            .227

Miami Marlins       23         2            .087

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 16, 2016

Luongo stars, Panthers win 3-1, tie series 1-1; plus Dolphins' brutal schedule, who are Heat and Panthers' MVPs? (last day to vote!), Heat-Hornets, history of home playoffs in Miami & more

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

Jackierobinson1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 16. Jackie Robinson (pictured) made his historic, barrier-breaking MLB debut yesterday in 1947. 2) 73 & 60: the NBA's biggest regular-season night. I guess Golden State's record 73rd win was bigger historically. (You did; see poll result below). But Kobe Bryant popping for 60 in his grand finale hit all the emotional chords. What a night for the NBA. Top that, playoffs! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat collapse but get 3rd seed and Charlotte, Golden State and Kobe on NBA's huge closing night, your Arison/Cuba verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

QUICK THOUGHT ON DOLPHINS' 2016 SCHEDULE? UH OH: The Fins' '16 schedule begins in a way -- at Seattle, at New England -- that makes you think the NFL put Marquis de Sade in charge of the thing and that Marquis doesn't like Adam Gase very much. No team is likelier than Miami for an 0-2 start. I rattled through the schedule game by game, factoring opponent and home/away, and came up with a 6-10 record, with more of what look like sure losses than certain wins. ESPN's guesstimate was 7-9. Numerically Miami has the third-toughest schedule, based on opponents' combined .535 winning percentage last year. Everybody is chattering about the first two games but the last five also seems a brutal stretch: at Baltimore, vs. Arizona, at N.Y. Jets, at Buffalo and vs. New England. Bottom line: Maybe the Dolphins will surprise us. It'd be about time. But, based on a fast digestion of the new schedule, it does not appear an end to the playoff drought is at hand.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Luongo Saves Day, And Maybe Season, off last night's  necessary win. Now We See About the Panthers, off gthe opening loss. Rats & Cats, 20 Years On, as the 2016 Panthers try to reprise the magic of '96. (I don't think I've been writing enough Panthers!)

G2: LUONGO REDEEMS HIMSELF, LEADS 3-1 WIN AS PANTHERS KNOT SERIES 1-1: G2: Roberto Luongo saved 41 of 42 Islanders shots last night in a 3-1 Florida victory tying the playoff series 1-1 as its heads to Brooklyn for the next two games. Reilly Smith scored his third goal in two nights, Nick Bjugstad scored the game-winner, and Dmitry Kulikov had a last-second empty netter. But the story was Luongo's excellence one night after he'd set a club record for most goals allowed in a playoff game. Click on Luongo Saves Day, And Maybe Season for my column off the game centered on Luongo. G1: Florida led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, giving up the equalizer each time, in an eventual 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 1 of their first-round NHL playoff series. Goalkeeper Roberto Luongo was not great but his defense let him down, and now all of the pressure heaps onto the favored Panthersislanders NhlplayoffsPanthers entering Game 2 Friday. I thought Florida in many ways was the better team, especially offensively, but Scoreboard Don't Lie. Click on Now We See About the Panthers for my column from the game. ..... Original post: The Florida Panthers have spent much of their 22-season franchise history playing the underdog. Even in reaching the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals they were the lovable little team nobody expected to get that far. Well, they are the little team no more. At least not in the first round vs. the New York Islanders. The Cats are the clear favorites in this series. They are the division champions with the potent, deep scoring, with the veteran goaltender, and with the perfect blend of savvy experience embodied by Jaromir Jagr still going strong at 44 and by a counterbalance of exciting, blossoming youth. Florida can't even play the "we're due" card this time in search of its first playoff series advance since '96 ... because the Isles haven't won a playoff series since '93! Bigger tests are immediately ahead, such as Tampa Bay (likely) in the next round, but I'd be surprised if the Islanders presented much of a problem. My pick: Panthers in 5 games.

ON HEAT-CHARLOTTE HORNETS: MIAMI GOT LUCKY. OR DID IT?: [Game 1 here Sunday] The Heat ended the NBA regular season with a second half in Boston that made you think Erik Spoelstra's halftime pep talk involved handing out Melatonin to his players as piped-in Yanni music softly played. Yet despite the collapse Miami still somehow managed
 Nbaplayoffsto secure the No. 3 seed, Heathornetswhich brings in Charlotte as the first-round foe and also avoids LeBron and Cleveland until a possible conference-finals meeting. The general narrative is that Miami lucked out ... but, are you sure about that? Miami and Charlotte were 2-2 during the season, the Hornets scoring seven more total points. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson will be a challenge, and it's a series where Chris Bosh's absence could be conspicuous after so many weeks of Miami seemingly not missing him. Charlotte has had the third-best record in the league since the all-star break and are 26-9 since Jan. 31. That's impressive. Miami is a narrow betting favorite in this series, 5-8 odds to Charlotte's 8-5, with both 100-1 longshots to win the NBA title. I see a serious challenge for Miami. So does ESPN, which ranks this series No. 1 of the eight for upset potential, which it estimates at 46 percent. My pick: Heat in 6 games.

WHO WERE HEAT AND PANTHERS' REGULAR-SEASON MVPS?: For the Heat the list is short: Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside (that's alphabetical). Cannot see including anyone else; Chris Bosh just missed too big a chunk of the season. For the Panthers it's more complicated but I narrowed it down to four main contenders, also listed alphabetically. Have your say in both polls, and check back often to monitor evolving results. Which Heater and Panther have meant the most to their team's playoff season?

THE HISTORY OF HOME PLAYOFF GAMES FOR OUR BIG FOUR TEAMS: With the Panthers hosting their first-round opener of the Stanley Cup playoffs tonight vs. the New York Islanders and the Heat hosting their first-round Game 1 vs. the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, we thought a quick review of South Florida home playoff history was in order:

108: Miami Heat: This is the 19th playoff season. Have played 39 postseason series totaling 108 home games. Home playoff record 78-30, .722. Highest stakes/biggest home games: Heat has hosted 16 NBA Finals games, winning championships on its home floor in 2012 and '13.

22: Miami Dolphins: Team has had 16 playoff seasons. Have played 22 postseason home games. Home playoff record 15-7, .682. Highest stakes/biggest home games: Dolphins have hosted six AFC Championship Games, winning in 1971, 1973, 1982 and 1984, and losing in 1985 and 1992. 

22: Florida Panthers: This is fifth playoff season. Are playing in eighth postseason series totaling 22 home games through last night. Home playoff record 11-11, .500. Highest stakes/biggest home games: Panthers hosted two Stanley Cup Finals games in 1996 but were swept, so biggest home game may have been the Game 6 win in conference finals that forced a Game 7 in Pittsburgh. 

18: Miami Marlins: Team has had two playoff seasons. Have played six postseason series totaling 17 home games. Home playoff record 11-6, .647. Highest stakes/biggest home games: Marlins have hosted seven World Series games, winning the championship at home in a dramatic Game 7 on Oct. 26, 1997.

HEAT vs. CHARLOTTE HORNETS:

G1: HOME Sunday 17th 5:30 p.m.

G2: HOME Wednesday 20th 7 p.m.

G3: @ CHA Saturday 23rd 5:30 p.m.

G4: @ CHA Monday 25th time tbd

G5*: HOME Wednesday 27th time tbd

G6*: @ CHA Friday 29th time tbd

G7*: HOME Sunday 1st time tbd

PANTHERS vs. NEW YORK ISLANDERS:

G1: Islanders 5, Panthers 4

G2: Panthers 2, Islanders 1.

G3: @ NYI Sunday 17th 8 p.m.

G4: @ NYI Wednesday 20th 8 p.m.

G5*: HOME Friday 22nd time tbd

G6*: @ NYI Sunday 24th time tbd

G7*: HOME Tuesday 26th time tbd

Poll result: Warriors' record swamps Kobe's finale for night's biggest event: We asked which was bigger to close the NBA regular season -- the Warriors' record 73rd win or Kobe Bryant's final game, and it was Warriors routing Kobe by 72.1 percent to 27.9%. The result surprised me a bit. At the least, shouldn't it have been closer?

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April 13, 2016

Heat collapse but get lucky, keep No. 3 seed, face Charlotte in first round; plus Golden State going for record or Kobe's final game? New poll. Vote now!; also, Rats 'n Cats 20 years later, your verdict on Arison & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Micky Arison in crosshairs over Carnival-Cuba connection with poll, Heat and Panthers' shared blueprint, Donald Trump porn parody & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

Rats & Cats, 20 Years On: An historical bookend? Twenty years ago the Panthers' "Year of the Rat" made South Florida fall in love with hockey. Twenty years later, can the 2016 Cats bring back the love with the franchise's first playoff series advance since '96? Game 1 vs. the Islanders is here Thursday night. My latest column is here right now: Click on Rats & Cats, 20 Years On.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns prior to the new one linked above, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint, on two teams' similar philosophy. Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excusesoff Marlins Opening Night.

IT'S HEAT-CHARLOTTE IN PLAYOFFS' FIRST ROUND. MIAMI COLLAPSES BUT KEEPS NO. 3 SEED: How bizarre. Miami loses at Boston tonight 99-88 with an abysmal second half, but keeps No.3 East seed because Atlanta also lost. So now Heat have home-court advantage and host Charlotte in first round this weekend, with Game 1 Saturday or Sunday. Miami led 60-34 at one point tonight but was outscored on a 21-0 run in Boston. Heat scored a franchise-low 5 points on 2-for-20 shooting in the turd third quarter. I told Erik Spoelstra he shouldn't have played those Yanni records at halftime! Yet Miami comes up smelling like a rose, keeping the No. 3 seed and avoiding LeBron's Cavs until the Eastern finals. The question now: Will tonight's awful collapse have a carryover effect?

Heat-Hornets playoff history: This will be the third playoff series between the two franchises. The results, with each team's series leading scorer:

2014: Miami wins in first round, 4-0. MIA--LeBron James, 30.0. CHA--Kemba Walker, 19.5.

2001: Charlotte wins in first round, 3-0. MIA--Eddie Jones, 19.0 CHA--Jamal Mashburn, 23.7.

IT'S THE SINGLE GREATEST REGULAR SEASON-ENDING NIGHT IN NBA HISTORY: The bones of basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith rest at Lawrence Memorial Park Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas. But let's get a bit more metaphorical than that and imagine Naismith up in Hoops Heavens today and smiling down upon the bounty he created. This is the greatest season-ending day in NBA history. For Warriors and Lakers fans, history is the exact word for it. But Heat fans also are on-edge for a telling finish:

KobeKobe Bryant retires: The Los Angeles Lakers host Utah at 10:30 tonight in an evening sure to be full of love and tears -- Bryant's final game of an elite 20-year career, all with L.A. Love him or hate him, the Black Mamba retires as a five-time champion and third-leading scorer in league history, after only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. ESPN's #NBArank recently judged Bryant No. 12 on its list of greatest players. Words like "superstar" and "all-time great" are overused in sports. Kobe is both. Kobe was both.

GoldenstateGolden States goes for all-time record: Warriors host Memphis tonight at 10:30 having tied the Chicago Bull's 1996 season record of 72 victories, so it's one last chance for Stephen Curry and his reigning champions to own the mark outright. And you know they won't let it slip; GS is a 17-point favorite and it would be absolutely stunning if they did not win. Prediction: Around midnight tonight and just past -- maybe sooner -- the Internet will be overrun by a million versions of that ubiquitous Michael Jordan Crying Meme.

DwadeHeat's winner-take-all finale: [See above for update] Miami at Boston tonight at 8 is, for the Heat, all but winner-take-all for home-court advantage in the playoffs. Miami nails down the No. 3 seed and home-court with a win (or with an Atlanta loss), but otherwise will not have home-court advantage. Miami would be the fifth seed if it and Charlotte lose and Atlanta wins. Miami would be sixth seed if it loses and Charlotte and Atlanta both win. Only one game separates Heat, Hawks, Celtics and Hornets in a scrum for the 3-through-6 seeds that has the brain smoking with tiebreaker permutations. After winning in Detroit last night, winning again tonight at Boston is a tall request. Celtics are 2-0 in series this season. Miami is 8-8 in the second game of back-to-backs but that includes four straight losses.

(Almost forgot: Houston and Utah go down to the final day still battling for the eighth and last playoff spot in the West, but nobody cares).

Which piece of NBA history would you rather see live tonight: Kobe Bryant's final game? Or Golden State's record 73rd win? If you could magically materialize in either arena, where would you rather be?

Poll result: Very mixed feelings over Arison in Carnival/Cuba connection: In the previous blogpost we asked, "Does Carnival offering cruises to Cuba negatively impact how you view Heat (and Carnival) owner Micky Arison?" And when last we checked it was 47.5 percent yes, 48.9% no and 3.6% undecided. You may still vote.

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April 12, 2016

Micky Arison in the crosshairs on Carnival cruises to Cuba: New poll. Vote now!; plus Ronda Rousey loves Dolphins, Heat and Panthers parlay similar blueprint to playoffs, Cats' Stanley Cup odds, Donald Trump porn parody & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 12. Ronda Rousey praises Dolphins. Click here for the video. 2) Thanks to all the listeners, viewers and Tweeters who liked our "Back In My Day" on today's LeBatard Show. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, The List (Dolphins), your verdicts on LeBron/Tiger & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

Panthers' Stanley Cups odds: Out today via Bovada, Florida is tied for eighth at 16-1 odds, better than opponent Islanders' 25-1. Capitals are favorites at 4-1, followed by a knot of five teams at 8-1. Cats Roberto Luongo (30-1) and Jaromir Jagr (35-1) are team's most plausible betting longshots for playoffs MVP. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint, the latest, on two teams' similar philosophy. Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excusesoff Marlins Opening Night.

HEAT OWNER ARISON IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF CARNIVAL, CUBA AND POLITICS: Micky Arison's net worth is $7.7 billion, although it may have risen to $8 billion while you were reading this sentence. He is chairman of Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines, the world's largest. He also is principle owner of the Miami Heat. As such, his two primary interests and business ventures put Arisonhim in the crosshairs of the latest news regarding his cruiseships, Cuba and politics. We first tackled this subject in the blog last July when Carnival first won Carnivalapproval to begin cruises to Cuba. For Arison (pictured) and Carnival it could be great for business. But many South Florida Cubans who fled that island's Castro tyranny (and many of those are Heat fans) are angry over normalized U.S.-Cuba relations and also about Carnival ships docking there. We ran a poll here last July asking if Carnival planning trips to Cuba negatively impacts how you view Arison, and it was 79.9 percent "no" vs. only 16.8% "yes" and 3.3% "undecided. But I wonder if the view has changed now that the Carnival-Cuba startup is soon -- first ships are set to head south in May -- and now that we know this disturbing detail: the still-oppressive Cuban government controls what passengers may be aboard the cruiseships, and they do not include Cuban-born people, which of course includes Cuban exiles living in and around Miami. Carnival has asked the Cuban government to relent on that policy, but, if Carnival wishes to do business in Cuba, it has no choice but to agree to that one huge restriction, even though it is plain discrimination, of course. Imagine Carnival traveling to a country that insisted only white people be aboard the ship? Or banned Muslims? As I wrote last July, I am in favor of normalized U.S.-Cuba relations, which I think ultimately will benefit the Cuban economy and people. But clearly it is wrong for the Cuban government to not allow folks born in Cuba and exiles in Miami to be aboard those Carnival ships, as we discussed on yesterday's Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio. Dan was particularly passionate on the topic. And there protesters outside Carnival headquarters Tuesday. So, nine months after our first poll, let's repeat the question and compare the vote. Check back often to monitor evolving results.

TWO TEAMS, SIMILAR BLUEPRINT AS HEAT, PANTHERS FORGE PLAYOFF PATH: [Panthers Sasha Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, pictured left, and the Heat's Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade, right, personify each team's winning blend of experience and youth -- the blueprint that carries each to the playoffs. Click on Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint for the online version of the my latest column] Appreciate the rarity of this first. The Miami Heat and Florida Panthers are about to both enter the playoffs in the same season for only the fifth time since 1993, when hockey joined basketball down here. And South Florida is one of only five markets to have both its teams reach the 2016 postseason, along with Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and Oakland/San Jose. Even more notable is the similar blueprint the Heat and Panthers have shared to find success, with rosters that blend wise and wizened veterans and raw youth. For the Heat it’s a blueprint that is very different from the company norm, showcasing an unusual reliance on young players by a franchise that, from Pat Barkov Wade WinslowRiley on down, Jagrhas never quite trusted youth. For the Cats it’s a blueprint taken to extremes, bookended by 44-year-old leading scorer Jaromir Jagr and by 10 players not even born when Jagr first entered the NHL, such as rising stars Sasha Barkov, 20, and Aaron Ekblad, 19. Both teams’ uncommonly wide gulf between its oldest and youngest players was reflected perfectly Monday in the Panthers’ dressing room following a midday practice. Nick Bjugstad, the Cats center, is 23 but looks even younger. His hand kept drifting absent-mindedly to his chin and rubbing what was there, which isn’t much. He is trying, the poor kid. The NHL postseason is upon us, the fight for the Stanley Cup beginning, and in hockey, the playoff beard is a near-sacred tradition. A wisp of blond whiskers trying bravely to be a goatee and an even wispier sprout on his alabaster cheeks is all Bjugstad can claim for now. "I keep playing with it – it’s more than I’ve ever had!' he is saying after Monday’s midday practice. "It is what it is. But it’s kind of embarrassing." Elsewhere around the dressing room manly playoff beards are in full bloom. It looks like a casting call for a movie about lumberjacks. A media guy trying to be kind tells Bjugstad most of the full-bearded guys probably started growing their facial hair at least a month ago. "So did I," Nick had to admit. The beard thing is the perfect reflection of what the Panthers see when they look in the mirror: A blend of age and youth, of over-35 veterans like Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Brian Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Willie Mitchell, offset by what is perhaps hockey’s premier core of players under 25. It was a risk that relies on aging players still having enough prime left and youthful guys proving ready. It was a chemistry experiment that has worked but might have blown up in the lab. "Our older guys have been so willing," as general manager Dale Tallon told me Monday. "It could have been a disaster." From the 45-minute jaunt from Sunrise down to Miami, from ice to hardwood, Heat veterans like Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and (even sidelined) Chris Bosh similarly mentor a youthful core led by rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, by second-year man Tyler Johnson and by Hassan Whiteside, who is 26 but still learning. "I’m just passing down knowledge," Wade describes the role that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. "All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped." It is a good time to be a fan of both teams, with each franchise locked in win-now mode but also boasting a blossoming young core that suggests a bridge to a promising future beyond the Hall of Fame-bound old guard led by Jagr and Wade. Both teams share justifiably high playoff hopes as the Panthers face the New York Islanders in the first round with Game 1 here Thursday night, while the Heat enter their final two regular-season games still unsure of their seeding, who’ll they’ll face or whether they’ll have home-court advantage. You’d think the Heat might be in happy-to-be-here mode, after missing the playoffs last year and with Bosh out. Yet there is the sense of a wide-open Eastern Conference, and of a real chance to reach the East finals, maybe head-to-head vs. old friend LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. You’d think the Panthers might really be in happy-to-be here mode. They last made the playoffs in 2012 and last won a playoff series in Year of the Rat 1996. Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant both admitted Monday they did not expect to win a division title this year. But hockey’s Eastern Conference also is wide open. An ESPN experts panel by a 9-0 vote picked the Panthers to advance past the Islanders. Washington was the only East team with an appreciably better record than Florida this season, but the Cats were 2-1 against the Capitals, outscoring them 10-5. The idea of a championship run by either the Panthers or especially the Heat is fanciful and not being discussed much in any sober conversation, but, in only their fifth playoffs at the same time, the idea of either team or both reaching their conference finals is tantalizingly plausible. And who knows? If that happens, by then, Nick Bjugstad’s patchwork of whiskers might even pass for a decent beard.

ThedonaldPERFECT! A DONALD TRUMP PORN PARODY!: How great and absolutely fantastic and terrific is this!? I'm so happy I feel like building a giant wall! Just when you think Larry Flynt might be dead, the Hustler impresario rises to produce something fun, like "The Donald," his new Donald Trump "porn parody" video. The photo at right surely whets your appetite and suggests the cinematic gravitas at play here. Click on Trump Porn Parody to read more. The video goes on sale to the public today/Tuesday, available to everyone including Muslims and Mexicans. Trump is the perfect target. I mean, who is more cocksure? Don't worry. Cocksure is a real word, not a dirty word, and describes Trump quite spot-on.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team                                League    LWS

Oakland Raiders                NFL        2002

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

Edmonton Oilers                NHL       2004

Minnesota Timberwolves    NBA        2005

Sacramento Kings              NBA        2006 

Cleveland Browns              NFL        2007

Jacksonville Jaguars          NFL        2007

Miami Dolphins                 NFL         2008

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 09, 2016

Kiper's latest Dolphins mock pick, and why Fins won't get the "it" guy they covet; plus should Heat retire LeBron's jersey? Poll. Vote!; also, Heat/Panthers playoff outlook, does golf miss Tiger? (poll), your Rock Hall verdict, mourning Merle & more

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

Beerbff1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 9. On yesterday's date in 1974 Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to surpass Babe Ruth. 2) The day before was National Beer Day. Wait. I thought every day was. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jose Fernandez's first home loss has Marlins under early pressure, Rock Hall poll, R.I.P. Merle Haggard, judging Justise Winslow, UM hoops' 2017 title hopes, M.J. vs Steph verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My most recent general columns, ICYMI or in case you thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Out Of Excuses, off Marlins Opening Night. Power and Porcelain, Marlins season preview. Mystifying Offseason, on Dolphins' uneven efforts to improve.

ElliottKIPER'S LATEST DOLPHINS MOCK PICK; WHY FINS LIKELY WON'T GET THE PLAYER THEY COVET MORE: ESPN's Mel Kiper puts forth his NFL Mock Draft 4.0 today and has the Dolphins selecting Ohio State outside linebacker Darren Lee 13th overall. Maybe. But it's another OSU product who is Miami's latest "it" guy. Fins have scheduled a visit with Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott (pictured), who would fill a glaring need and be a Day 1 starter. What a great pick he'd be at 13. One problem. He won't be there. It's a near-certainty Miami would have to trade up to have a shot at  him, and an equal certainty that won't happen. Elliott is especially coveted because he is this draft's only RB stamped 1R-quality. Scouts Inc.'s Top 32 has Elliott slotted No. 5 overall, Kiper's new mock has him going sixth (to Ravens), and Todd McShay's latest Top 32 has him rated fifth. McShay defies his own ratings by having Elliott fall to Miami at 13, but that is unlikely. It would be the kind of dumb luck the Dolphins haven't had much of on draft day since that Marino guy fell to them in '83.

Dolphins preseason schedule: Fins open their 51st season with a quartet of fake preseason games: at Giants Aug. 11-15, at Cowboys Aug. 18-22, home vs. Falcons at 8 p.m. on NBC Thursday Aug. 25, then home vs. Titans Sept. 1-2. Exact dates and times of games other than Atlanta are to be announced. All except Atlanta will air locally on WFOR/CBS4.

LebronheatSHOULD THE HEAT RETIRE LEBRON JAMES' JERSEY NUMBER?: The Heat surprised some by announcing they'd ceremonially retire Shaquille O'Neal's jersey next season. Will they do the same someday for LeBron James? ESPN talking head and unofficial LeBron biographer Brian Windhorst says so -- not reporting it as fact, but merely predicting it. What do you think? The pro side: In his four seasons James played a major role in Miami reaching four NBA Finals and winning two championships. The con side: Four seasons is a little light for retired-jersey status, and LeBron left shabbily, in a way that angered Pat Riley and other Heaters. Your verdict goes here. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

FOR HEAT IT'S AS EASY A-B-C; FOR PANTHERS, THE TUNE IS NEW YORK, NEW YORK: This spring-into summer marks only the fifth time in 22 shared seasons that the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers both will be in the playoffs together. The Heat is in a four-team scrum for the Nos. 3 through 6 seeds in the NBA Eastern Conference and, depending on their finish, they'll face A, B or C -- Atlanta, Boston or Charlotte -- in the first round. Heat will avoid LeBron James and Cleveland until the conference finals if they finish third or sixth, but risk facing the Cavs one round sooner by ending fourth or fifth. In the NHL, the Panthers are the Eastern division winner with the second-most points and thus will face the wild-card team with the most points. That'll be the New York Islanders or New York Rangers. How the Heat and Panthers have fared this season vs. the teams they could face in the postseason:

AbcHeat vs. A-B-C:

3-1 vs. Atlanta, +28 points: L 99-92 Nov / W 100-88 Dec / W 105-87 Jan / W 115-111 Feb.

0-2 vs. Boston, -22 points: L 105-95 Nov / L 101-89 Feb / @ Celtics Apr 13.

2-2 vs. Charlotte, -7 points: W 104-94 Oct / L 99-81 Dec / W 98-95 Feb / L 109-106 Mar.

Latest Bovada betting odds have Celtics 50-1 to win NBA title, Heat 66-1, Hawks 75-1 and Hornets 100-1. Golden State is prohibitive overall pick at 5-7, followed by San Antonio 4-1 and Cleveland 13-4. 

NynyPanthers vs. New York, New York:

2-1 vs. Islanders with Cats leading in goals 10-5: W 3-2, so Nov / W 5-1 Dec / L 3-2 Mar.

1-2 vs. Rangers with goals tied 9-9: L 5-4, ot Nov / W 3-0 Jan / L 4-2 Mar.

Newest betting odds via Bovada have Rangers 18-1 to win NHL title, Panthers 20-1 and Islanders 28-1. Overall faves are Washington 17-4, Los Angeles 7-1 and Chicago 15-2.

DOES GOLF MISS TIGER WOODS?: The Masters has begun in Augusta, with Tiger Woods conspicuously absent as he continues (laboriously) recovering from back and other ailments. Four of his 14 majors have been green jackets but he hasn't won a major of any kind since 2008, and whether he'll win another one is in doubt. The sport he once dominated has seemingly moved on from him. Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth top the marquee now. Can Tiger, now 40, still make a comeback? Do we still care? Tell us what you think in this poll.

Poll result: You said Chicago (the band) is most deserving new Hall inductee: The 31st Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions are Friday, we asked which of the five latest inductees are most deserving, and here was your call: Chicago 39.2 percent, Steve Miller 19.8%, Deep Purple 15.7%, N.W.A. 15.7% and Cheap Trick 9.7%. Personally, none of the five have been that important in my life but the pretty clear vote probably was Chicago in terms of commercial success and N.W.A. for social significance.

STILL BUMMIN' ABOUT MERLE: So let's throw another video of his up in here. It's Haggard's signature hit, with a little help from his friend starting at about the one-minute mark:

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