1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18. I'm up at Friday Page Headquarters today conjuring the NFL Week 16 predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for my pick on tonight's putrid Titans-Jaguars game. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): 'Tis the season for being average, Miami and Shaq, Philbin/Golden poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Marlins, meatballs & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.
A POX ON NBA FOR PLAYING ON CHRISTMAS!: One week from today LeBron James-at-Heat will be one of five NBA games played on Christmas. The NHL, conspicuously, does not play on Christmas. I hate that the NBA does. I'm not alone. Stan Van Gundy once said, "I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game." Phil Jackson said, "I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day." LeBron James said, "If you ask any player in the league, we'd rather be home with our families. It's not just a regular holiday." I agree. I'm not especially religious; it just seems wrong to play on Christmas. You with me, or are you OK with it? Have a vote!
HEAT ON HISTORIC SKID: OK "historic skid" may be a bit dramatic, but last night's 105-87 home loss to reeling Utah marked the first time since 1990 that Miami has lost four consecutive home games by double digits. Heat is 1-7 overall in its past eight home dates, and fighting just to stay on the eight-team Eastern playoff grid nearly one-third into the season. The good news? Dwyane Wade had 42 points. Wasn't sure he had another 40-point game in him, frankly. The bad news? Everything else. Chris Bosh was out again, Miami couldn't buy a 3-point shot, and the defense was (again) lousy. Injuries haven't helped, but, bottom line: the post-LeBron era has set sail on much rougher seas than imagined. The Christmas game here against LeBron and Cleveland could be ugly.
PANTHERS FIND THEIR PULSE, PACE: It's funny. The Heat is 12-14 and No. 7 in their conference and it's a near-disaster to fans. The Panthers are 13-16 and tied for No. 8 and it's closer to a joyous miracle. That's one team coming down from four straight NBA Finals appearances, and the other dreaming of its first Stanley Cup postseason series victory since 1996. Florida got much attention for its record 20-round shootout win the other night, but Cats have been ascending for awhile; they're over .5000 since a 4-8 start, and 6-4 in past 10 games. (They've also won four of past five home games).
Poll result: Philbin edges Golden in "fire him!" sentiment: In the previous blogpost we asked you to make a choice who you want gone more, and Dolphins coach Joe Philbin edged the Hurricanes' Al Golden for the dubious prize, 52.6 percent to 47.4%.
A NON-CUBAN'S VIEW OF WARMING RELATIONS: [Preemptive strike: "Stay out of politics! STICK TO SPORTS!!!"] I am fascinated by the various reactions to yesterday's news that the U.S. has begun to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. To be clear, I'd guess the vast majority of America doesn't much care either way. To those who do care, I'd imagine (and hope) that most think diplomacy and civil relations in general are a good thing. But in South Florida, among many Cuban-Americans and exiles -- especially older folks -- this amounts to climbing into bed with the enemy and has inspired anger, even outrage. My take: U.S.-Cuba normalized relations were a long-time coming; Raul Castro taking over for brother Fidel obviously hastened the process. I call this "progress." To me an historical analogy is Japan. After the Pearl Harbor bombing it was unimaginable America would ever be on good terms with Japan, but times change, and Japan is now a strong ally. I respect that many Cuban-Americans can't and won't ever forgive Castro, and that is their right. But that outrage is too small in the national scope to steer American foreign policy.
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