May 06, 2016

The ultimate Miami sports question: Greatest career ... Marino or Wade? New poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins sign Tunsil, history of Heat overtime playoff games & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, MAY 6. Dolphins signed top draft pick Laremy Tunsil today. That's fast for a top pick and a good sign. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat fall in Game 2 OT to even Toronto series, sitting Bosh smart beyond health reasons, Miami in '17 NFL Mock Draft, Jose & Giancarlo Show, re-appreciation of Shula, disrespecting Richt, Dolphins cheerleaders & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Shula: A Renewed Appreciation, the latest, on his health scare at 86 inviting us to take stock of the coaching legend. Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals, previewing Heat-Toronto series. Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, from Sunday's Game 7 victory.

Dandwyane MarinowadeTHE ULTIMATE MIAMI SPORTS QUESTION: MARINO OR WADE?: Who has had the greatest career in the history of South Florida professional team sports? Is it quarterback Dan Marino with his record-setting 17-year Dolphins run from 1983-99? Or is it guard Dwyane Wade with his championship-winning 13-year (and counting) run for the Heat from 2003 to right now? For me it's clearly one of those two, but our poll also includes a "someone else" category -- although I'd like to hear the argument for anyone but Marino or Wade, who are listed alphabetically in the poll. We ran a similar poll last summer so we'll be interested to see how the results differ. The question is bigger than whether football or basketball is your favorite sport. The question also is broader than just statistical greatness or titles won. Maybe it's which athlete and person is held more dearly in our collective hearts. Maybe it's who is more beloved in South Florida. By however you define "greatest career," cast your vote and say why. Then check back often for continually evolving results.

THE LIST: HEAT PLAYOFF OVERTIME GAMES: This week marked only second time in franchise history the Heat has played two overtime games in same playoff series, and the first time OTs have been in back to back games. Quirky fact: Dwyane Wade has played in 10 of 11 all-time overtime games but been team's leading scorer only once. The history of Heat overtime playoff games, chronologically: 

Date        Result             Opponent      Round            Heat leading scorer

5-12-00   W 77-76         @Knicks       Conf semis     Mourning 23

4-28-05   W 108-105*    @Nets          First round      O'Neal 25

6-18-06   W 101-100     Mavericks     Finals             Wade 43

5-9-11     W 98-90        @Celtics       Conf semis      James 35

5-24-11   W 101-93      Bulls             Conf finals      James 35

5-30-12   W 115-111    Celtics          Conf finals      James 34

6-3-12     L 93-91        @Celtics       Conf finals       James 29

5-22-13   W 103-102    Pacers          Conf finals       James 30

6-18-13   W 103-100    Spurs           Finals               James 32

5-3-16     W 102-96      @Raptors     Conf semis       Dragic 26

5-5-16     L 96-92         @Raptors     Conf semis       Dragic 20 

*-2005 game vs. Nets was double-overtime; all others single OT.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 03, 2016

Toronto favored? No way, eh. Nothing will stop a Miami-LeBron Eastern finals; plus your call Heat-Raptors (new poll; vote now!), Kiper/McShay's final word on Dolphins draft & more

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

Ichiro1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 3. Ichiro's legendary status in Japan and the way he gives the Marlins a large footprint there is a major reason beyond baseball why he is in Miami. At right, an adoring fan's artwork. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dragic leads to Heat to next round vs. Toronto, Hot Button Top 10, grading Dolphins draft with poll, your verdict on Tunsil pick, history of South Florida Game 7s & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and simulcasting on Fusion TV and ESPNU.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals, my latest, previewing the Heat-Toronto series. Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, from Sunday's Game 7 victory. Curious Pick, Major Gamble, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick.

Coming later today: A new blogpost featuring our Heat-Raptors Game 1 preview and the incomparable Mavis Staples.

HeatraptorsMETRICS GIVE HEAT ONLY 1 IN 3 CHANCE TO BEAT TORONTO BUT THE METRICS ARE LIARS! NEXT STOP, LEBRON: Sure, the Toronto Raptors are a higher seed, had a better record, beat Miami 3-1 head to head this season, are an overall series favorite -- at 5-8 odds to Miami's 7-5, via Bovada today -- and are a 4.5-point favorite in Tuesday night's Game 1 in Toronto. ESPN's updated Basketball Power Index metric puts it at Toronto 66 percent vs. Miami's 34% in terms of likelihood of winning this second-round series and reaching the NBA's Eastern finals. The most likely outcomes, according to the BPI: Raptors in 5 -- 21%; Raptors in 7 -- 21%; Heat in 6 -- 15%; Raptors in 6 -- 15%; Heat in 7 -- 10%; Raptors in 4 -- 8%; Heat in 5 -- 6%; and Heat in 4 -- 3%. The same BPI has Cleveland a 68 percent favorite over Atlanta and San Antonio (up 1-0) an 84 percent favorite over Oklahoma City. No prediction is offered for Golden State-Portland (Warriors lead 1-0) because Steph Curry remains out and BPI does not factor injuries, but you'd figure GS would be a favorite of at least mid-'80s. Curious if you think the BPI is disrespecting Miami with that 34% shot or if that sounds about right. I think it's crazy. I think the series should be about even, only because of Raptors' home-court edge. I actually like Miami to win it, based on greater depth, more offensive pop and most importantly, more playoff experience. Then again, part of that may be wishful thinking, I admit. Click on Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals for my latest column. Now it's your turn. Take a dip in our poll and, as always, we encourage a dispassionate vote -- not who you hope wins, but who you'd bet would if given a hundred bucks to place straight-up on either team. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

KIPER, MCSHAY'S FINAL WORD ON DOLPHINS DRAFT: From Espn.com today. Mel Kiper Jr.'s overall analysis: "Bizarre circumstances, great player. Let's just go with that for the short version of how the Dolphins ended up with arguably the single-best prospect in the draft all the way down at No. 13. Laremy Tunsil has so many natural gifts for the tackle position, it's just now a Melkipermatter of where he plays. Left side? Right side? Either way, if he's on the field, Miami gets better. Not many people know Xavien Howard, but that's not much of a reach in Round 2 -- he was going to go there. From there, this was all about getting Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase more weapons. Kenyan Drake is Reggie Bush-lite, Leonte Carroo is a productive threat who can make catches down the field, and Jakeem Grant is a jitterbug who is electric in space if you can get him the ball. Thomas Duarte is one to watch, a hybrid wideout-tight end split who could develop. The Dolphins didn't do much for their defense, but they sure as heck tried to help their QB and ended up with a major steal early in the process. Todd McShay's favorite pick: "The Dolphins got the No. 2 player on my board with the 13th pick. Tunsil's draft-day slide was partially the result of a video that surfaced on his Twitter account right before the draft started, showing him smoking from a bong. I understand the risks, but it's one I would've taken at the same point in the draft. The Dolphins need to better protect QB Ryan Tannehill, and they landed the best pass-blocker in this class. RB Kenyan Drake is a good complement for Jay Ajayi, and WRs Leonte Carroo and Thomas Duarte are both underrated pass-catchers."

Poll result: (Fairly) strong overall approval of Dolphins draft: We asked in the previous blogpost how you'd grade how the Dolphins did in the 2016 draft (you may still vote) and it was 49.2 percent "B," 26.6% "C," 15.4% "A" and 8.8% "D." (We were too nice to offer an "F" option). That's 64.6% above average or better vs. 35.4% average or below. I call that strong but not quite overwhelming approval.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 02, 2016

It's Heat-Raptors in second round as Miami routs Charlotte behind Dragic, great D; plus new Hot Button Top 10 (updated): 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 MONDAY, MAY 2. 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: Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, the latest, from Sunday's Game 7 victory. 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.

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 last night 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. (presumably) LeBron James 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 oversized 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 Toronto in the second round starting Tuesday night in Canada 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 (UPDATED): 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 set the four second-round pairings: Three matchups had been set: Spurs-Thunder, Warriors-Trail Blazers and Cavaliers-Hawks. The fourth materialized Sunday with Game 7 wins by Heat and Raptors. There is nothing better in sports than a Game 7, by the way. But only if your team wins.  

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 five 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 30, 2016

Wild Ride: Dwyane Wade's season-saving heroics, Laremy Tunsil's selection, Dee Gordon suspension equal wildest 24 hours in Miami sports history; plus Dolphins' Day 2-3 draft, history of Fins OLs and UM DBs in 1st round & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 30. Fare thee well, April! 2) Ray Lewis' son, Ray Anthony Lewis III, briefly a Miami Hurricane, has been charged with criminal sexual misconduct in South Carolina. Story here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins draft Laremy Tunsil No. 1 with poll, live-mocking my Mock Draft with results, Fins' sad track record in first round, Marlins best team in town, your Bosh vs. Heat verdict & 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: Curious Pick, Major Gamble, the latest, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick last night. 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 be thinking for their top draft pick.

SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS' WILDEST 24 HOURS EVER?: I think we've just experienced Miami sports' most dramatic 24 hours ever in the stuff I hit on in this blogpost. I think I'd nominate the 24 hours from late Thursday night through late last night. We had the Marlins finish a road sweep of the Dodgers on a Giancarlo Stanton homer followed immediately by the 80-suspension of Dee Gordon. We had the Dolphins creating the most buzz in the entire NFL Draft first round in selecting tackle Laremy Tunsil despite that infamous gas-mask-bong video. And we had Dwyane Wade sinking two late 3's (a shot he'd last made in December) in a must-win that kept the Heat season alive. Wild ride. Thank you, again, sports.

G6: HEAT 97, CHARLOTTE 90: WADE'S LATE HEROICS LIFT MIAMI, FORCE GAME 7: Not yet. The Heat aren't done yet. There will be a Game 7 Sunday at 1 p.m. back in Miami after last night's 97-90 Miami win in Charlotte evened this first-round playoff series 3-3. Dwyane Wade led Miami with 23 points with 10 in the telling fourth quarter -- including two 3-point baskets. Wade had last hit a 3 in December. What wonderful late heroics by the Heat's all-time great. D-Wade took it upon himself to save this game, and series, and keep the season alive. ..... Original post: The Heat never have blown a 2-0 playoff series lead and lost. Thirteen times they have led 2-0 and 13 times Heathornetsthey have advanced. That historic franchise streak is at risk tonight in Charlotte with Miami trailing 3-2 and the Hornets a 2-point favorite. A Charlotte streak could end, too. The franchise last won a playoff series 14 years ago. That and the underdog role in this series has the Hornets playing with a "a huge chip on our shoulder," as G6Kemba Walker put it. Miami is stunned to find itself in this predicament after winning the first two games at home by a combined 44 points, seemingly in control. Charlotte's defense has limited Miami to 38.6 percent shooting in the three games since. And the Heat's own defense has struggled stopping Hornets guards Walker and Jeremy Lin. Charlotte's 3-point shooting also came alive in the last game. Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: "Nobody said this was going to be easy. Nobody's giving out free tickets to the second round. You do have to earn it. It's our first real test when our backs are against the wall. These are the games you remember." Miami tonight will need more of the vintage Wade who scored 25 in Game 5, but Wade needs more help. Calling Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, especially. Because only the season depends on it. It will end tonight for the Heat, or survive for a Game 7 on Sunday back in Miami.

AFTERSHOCK: LAREMY TUNSIL HAS DOLPHINS IN SPOTLIGHT: I don't step back from my column; click on Curious Pick, Major Gamble to read in full. Many in the national media are swooning over Miami's unexpected windfall. So are many Dolfans (see poll below). I'm more skeptical, acknowledging Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil is a great talent but also admitting his off- Tunsil
Gasmaskfield issues and injury history make his Bust Potential bigger than most. Also, Miami has just spent its top pick on a tackle (not a position of urgent need) with plans to try to make him a guard. Hmm. He'll be the world's biggest, least-experienced guard. Weird. I haven't even gotten to the gas mask yet. Let's talk about the off-field baggage. The domestic assault charge (later dropped) against his stepfather, who is suing him. The seven-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits. The admission he took cash from an Ole Miss coach. And of course the hacked Twitter account that last night exposed the image shown of Tunsil smoking pot through a gas-mask bong. A bleepin' GAS-MASK BONG! "Years ago," Tunsil said of the photo. Well, two years ago, it turns out. Somebody did Tunsil dirty with that hack job. I feel bad his big draft night was enveloped in controversy. But it is him in the photo. So, who is Miami getting here? The great talent who will eventually be Ryan Tannehill's blindside protector for many years? Or a guy who needs a gas-mask because he can't get enough smoke -- a guy whose risk may outweigh his potential? Even with those doubts I would give Miami high marks for the totality of their first round, because it must include cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso, who arrived from Philly when Miami first traded down from 8th to 13th. In effect, the Dolphins just got three starters in the first round. But! It also is fair to note Maxwell is coming off a terrible season, Alonso must reverse his decline since his excellent rookie season, and Tunsil arrives with character questions. So: If, if, if. If Maxwell bounces back and is starter-caliber. If Alonso shows the rookie we saw was no fluke. If Tunsil proves everybody wrong and is the steal of the draft. If all three happen Miami just had an A-plus first round. If.

And ... weird got weirder: Top Dolphins draft pick Laremy Tunsil could not attend his 3:30 introductory press conference yesterday because (it was said) he suffered an "allergic reaction" of undetermined origin at the team's Davie facility. Allergic to questions about gas masks, maybe, because he did speak about 70 minutes later, seemed fine, but would not address any controversies, saying he was there only "to talk about the Miami Dolphins."

And there's this...: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Ravens, picking 6th, passed on Tunsil because of that gas-mask-bong video. That's Baltimore, a smarter, better-drafting, more successful team than Miami in the past 15 years. I'm just sayin'. Something to mull over for you folks so critical of me for being too critical of Miami's 1R choice.

Dolphins' Day 2 draft:

2nd round (38th overall) -- Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor: Smart position-need pick, 6-foot, 200 pounds, big, physical corner, good against the run, 9 interceptions past two seasons. Miami traded up 4 spots (giving up a 4th round pick) to select Howard, suggesting a lot of love and the hope he'll start as a rookie opposite Byron Maxwell. 

3rd round (73rd overall) -- Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama: Needed a running back. Got one. Would have preferred fellow 'Bama RB Derrick Henry, but he went 45th overall. Like that Miami targeted and hit on its two main position needs on Day 2.

3rd round (86th overall) -- Leonte Caroo, WR, Rutgers: Miami traded up into round for this added third rounder at large cost, giving up two Day 3 picks. Dolphins tried to trade up to select LB Myles Jack. I'm more interested in what they did do on Day 2. Trading up twice comes with a cost in lost Day 3 picks and reduced depth via rounds 3 through 7 today.

Dolphins' Day 3 draft:

4th round -- No pick.

5th round -- No pick.

6th round (186th overall) -- Jakeem Grant, WR, Texas Tech. Traded up 10 spots to get him, givgin up one of three 7th-round picks to do so. That's four out of five picks so far designed to make Ryan Tannehill's life easier.

6th round (204th overall) -Jordan Lucas, S, Penn State.

7th round (223rd overall) -- Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky. Local kid, born and raised in Davie.

7th round (231st overall) -- Thomas Duarte. WR, UCLA. Finis!

SAY IT AIN'T SO, DEE: BOMBSHELL ROCKS MARLINS: It was 1:17 a.m. in the East on Friday morning. The Marlins had just wo a fifth straight game by completing a four-game road sweep of the DeegordonL.A. Dodgers on a win by Jose Fernandez fueled by Giancarlo Stanton's seventh home run. The Fish were riding a season high. That's when the news broke that star second baseman Dee Gordon (pictured) had tested positive for testosterone and another PED and was suspended immediately for 80 games without pay by MLB. (Full story here). The gut reaction? "Him, of all people?" Second reaction: "If he's dirty, is anybody clean!?" This rocks the stereotype of PED use; this rocks the faith. Gordon is a waif of a man, the opposite of the power hitter looking for artificial muscles through illegal juice. Gordon also is the Good Guy personified, of the (formerly) perfect image, a great, smiling face of the franchise and of the too-few African Americans in baseball. A role model. All that. And all that takes a hit now as Gordon sits humiliated until after the all-star break, his earliest return set at July 29. Gordon called it an innocent mistake in a statement Friday, saying, in part: "Though I did not do so knowingly, I have been informed that test results showed I ingested something that contained prohibited substances. I made a mistake and I accept the consequences." Of course the shocker of a suspension has a pragmatic effect, too. Gordon is the reigning NL batting champion and stolen base leader. Though he was hitting only .266 so far this year, he's tough to replace. Derek Dietrich will be the likely new regular at second base. Who'll replace Gordon as leadoff hitter is dicier. With no great candidate it could be Martin Prado, who does not have classic leadoff speed but gets on base, a plus for that role. Meanwhile, what a bone-rattling disappointment! Say it ain't so, Dee. [Update: Dietrich at second, Ichiro leading off tonight at Milwaukee].

THE LIST: HURRICANES FIRST-ROUND DEFENSIVE BACKS: Of 61 Miami Hurricanes selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since the first in 1956, 13 have been defensive backs. The 13th happened last night with Artie Burns, who is pictured on the phone with the Steelers at his draft party held at The Betsy hotel on South Beach. UM's 13 1R DBs, in reverse chronology, with asterisks indicating players still active, and with NFL career grades at right my own relative to draft slot:

Player                            Year (No.) / Team                NFL Starts/Pro Bowls/Grade

ArtieburnsArtie Burns-*                   2016 (25th) / Steelers          TBD

Kenny Phillips-*               2008 (31st) / Giants             59/0/C

Brandon Meriweather-*    2007 (24th) / Patriots          112/2/B

Kelly Jennings                 2006 (31st) / Seahawks        91/0/C-

Antrel Rolle-*                  2005 (8th) / Cardinals         155/3/B+

Sean Taylor                     2004 (5th) / Redskins           55/2/A

Philip Buchanon               2002 (17th) / Raiders          122/0/B-

Ed Reed                          2002 (24th) / Ravens           174/9/A+

Mike Rumph                    2002 (27th) / 49ers              43/0/D

Duane Starks                   1998 (10th) / Ravens           97/0/C

Darryl Williams                1992 (28th) / Bengals          156/1/B

Bennie Blades                  1988 (3rd) / Lions               136/1/B-

Burgess Owens                 1973 (13th) / Jets               137/0/C+

THE LIST: DOLPHINS FIRST-ROUND OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: The Dolphins have drafted an offensive lineman in the first round 11 times, the 11th last night. Miami's 11 1R OLs, in reverse chronology, with asterisks indicating active players, and with NFL career grades at right my own relative to draft slot:

Player                             Year (No.) / College            NFL Starts/Pro Bowls/Grade

Laremy Tunsil-*                2016 (13th) / Ole Miss         TBD

Ja'Wuan James-*              2014 (19th) / Tennessee       23/0/Inc.

Mike Pouncey-*                 2011 (15th) / Florida           72/3/B

Jake Long-*                     2008 (1st) / Michigan           100/4/B-

Vernon Carey                   2004 (19th) / Miami             121/0/C+

Billy Milner                      1995 (25th) / Houston          30/0/F

Richmond Webb               1990 (9th) / Texas A&M        184/7/A

Roy Foster                       1982 (24th) / USC                 127/2/B

Jon Giesler                      1979 (24th) / Michigan         105/0/B-

Darryl Carlton                  1975 (23rd) / Tampa            36/0/F

Doug Crusan                     1968 (27th) / Indiana          82/0/C

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 28, 2016

The Chris Bosh Conundrum: Who's right? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat on brink of playoff elimination, Miami Herald NFL Mock Draft (with Dolphins' surprise at 13) & more

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

Meshow1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 28. Thanks again to ESPN Radio for re-branding their national show to better reflect my impact every Tuesday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hornets tie Heat series 2-2 with will-Miami-advance poll, court favors Dolphins in Brady ruling, how Panthers fans should feel after elimination, Hot Button Top 10 & 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: Heat Have Bigger Concerns Now Than #BringBoshBack, the latest, off last night's Game 5 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 as it entered Game 6.

BoshTHE CHRIS BOSH CONUNDRUM: WHO'S RIGHT?: A good deal of my column off last night's Heat Game 5 home loss (click here) is on sidelined Chris Bosh foisting himself suddenly into playoffs with his (and his wife's) #BringBoshBack social-media effort that has caught Heat management off guard. Bottom line: Bosh, out since Feb. 9 with a recurrence of his blood clot issues, has been cleared to play by a personal doctor and says he is ready now, while the club doctors have not yet cleared him. Curious what Heat fans think. Hence, this poll! Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results. Vote soon, though. We'll call a winner in a couple of hours as we pivot to a new blogpost on tonight's NFL Draft.

G5: CHARLOTTE 90, HEAT 88: CRUCIAL HOME LOSS HAS MIAMI DOWN 3-2, FACING ELIMINATION: Dwyane Wade's 25 points weren't enough Wednesday night in a 90-88 Heat home loss -- the third straight Miami loss in this first-round series. Charlotte regained its 3-point touch with a dozen 3's including the go-ahead points by Courtney Lee with 25 second left. Click on Heat Have Bigger Concerns Now Than #BringBoshBack for my column from last night's game. ..... Original post: With both teams 2-0 at home in this series, the onus is on Miami tonight at 8 to again protect its home court by the bay. Clearly, the loser of this game will be in trouble in the series with Game 6 back up in Charlotte. Miami has shot 58 percent in two home wins vs. only 36 percent in two road Heathornetslosses. The Hornets are expected to have Nic Batum back available tonight from an ankle sprain but otherwise may be at a disadvantage, at least historically. The G5Heat are 13-2 in their past 15 playoff home games, the only losses both to San Antonio in the 2014 Finals. And Miami is on a 19-2 run vs. Charlotte in the 305. The Hornets have not won a road playoff game, anywhere, since 2002, losing nine in a row in the meantime. For those streaks to continue Miami will need much better defense in the paint tonight against the slashing runs of Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin, who combined for 55 points in Game 4. Hassan Whiteside needs to raise his game. Also expect a bounce-back night from Dwyane Wade. Watch out, though, if Charlotte finds its touch on 3-point shots. Hornets were fourth in league in 3's during the season but have clanked in only 23.9 percent in the first round. Fouls also may be a factor tonight. CHA has taken 122 free throws to MIA's 94 through four games. "We've probably fouled more in these four games than we have in the last four weeks," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "Give them credit. They're aggressive." Meantime the post-LeBron, no-Bosh Heat still have some drawing power as a TV attraction, apparently. NBA TV's coverage of Heat-Hornets Game 4 drew 662,000 viewers, the network's most-seen playoff telecast since 2014. Its four-game playoffs average this month is 471,000 viewers.

25TH ANNUAL OFFICIAL MIAMI HERALD MOCK DRAFT: SURPRISE! DOLPHINS SELECT HOUSTON CB WILLIAM JACKSON IN FIRST ROUND: Our 2016 NFL Mock Draft is now online and shipping to Thursday's inky pulp editions, including Super Bonus Draft Facts as always. Click on Mockin' It '16 to read the entire first-round mock draft it in full. We cut to the chase here with our synopsis on Miami's pick:

William jackson13. MIAMI DOLPHINS: WILLIAM JACKSON, CB, HOUSTON — I sort of doubt Miami will stay at 13. I can see them trying to trade up into the 7-8 range to select the RB Ezekiel Elliott — a bold move of the headline-grabbing type that is part of the Mike Tannenbaum canon. But I also can see them anticlimactically trading down because, after Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves no DB is worth this high a pick and likely could be gotten lower. That includes Jackson (pictured) or Ohio State’s Eli Apple, both of whom might be labeled a “reach” taken this high. If the Fins do stay at 13, though — and assuming Elliott, Myles 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 here. But Jackson is older, more mature and more ready now than the riskier Apple. Jackson looks a safer bet for the Dolphins, and Miami cannot afford a first-round misfire.

GREG COTE'S 2016 NFL DRAFT VIDEO: Today I am holed up hammering out my 25th annual Official Miami Herald Mock Draft. The first-round prognostications should be online this afternoon before shipping to Thursday's inky pulp editions. Meantime click below (or on Mock 'n Roll) for my NFL Draft preview video:

 
TWO THOUGHTS ON DOLPHINS' VETERAN MINICAMP: Today is Day 2 of Miami's three-day voluntary veterans minicamp, and the news thus far is that four defensive players -- Reshad Jones, ReshadjonesNdamukong Suh, Mario Williams and Koa Misi --were absent from Day 1 practice. It was known Williams (personal issues) and Misi (illness) would be missing, but the absences of Jones (pictured) and Suh -- arguably the defense's two best players -- were unexcused and notable. Two thoughts: 1) It's a VOLUNTARY minicamp. And it's APRIL. You can't call something voluntary and then be mad not everyone volunteers. Jones is pouting and holding his breath for a new contract. Suh has done pretty well for himself preparing for seasons how he sees fit. If they're still AWOL when mandatory minicamps begin in June, then we have an issue. 2) There is, however, something noble in the concept of "leading by example." Jones is the highest-paid strong safety in the NFL at $28 million over four years, yet wants more. Suh is making a whopping $114 million over six years. For that kind of money, though it isn't mandatory, it sure would be nice if they "volunteered" to be with their teammates.   
 
Poll result: Optimism for Heat advance, but also doubts: We asked what you think is the likelihood the Miami Heat (series tied 2-2 entering tonight) will advance past the Charlotte Hornets in the first round, and results were wildly mixed. A plurality of 25.6 percent said 80% or better, 17.4% said 70-79% and 20.3% said 60-69%. But more than one-third of all voters said only 50-59% (19.8%) or less than 50% (16.9%).
 
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Twitter @gregcote

April 26, 2016

With Heat-Hornets now tied 2-2, what do you think is likelihood Miami will advance? New poll. Vote now!; plus Radio Tuesday, court rules for Dolphins in latest Brady decision, how Panthers fans should feel, latest Hot Button Top 10 & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 26. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat lose Game 3 at Charlotte, calling on (and out) Jaromir Jagr, UM suspends Mark Walton, Dolphins draft-priority verdict & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back-in studio today for the regular Tuesday gig with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and simulcasting on Fusion TV (I  think) and ESPNU.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Keep It Simple, Dolphins: 2 Names, the latest, on Miami's two clear choices for their No. 1 draft pick. Calling Jaromir Jagr, on Panthers' need for Jagr to end his playoff goals drought entering Game 6. And For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East, off Heat's Game 2 win.

G4: CHARLOTTE 89, HEAT 85: WITH SERIES NOW 2-2 HEADING BACK TO MIAMI, WHAT'S YOUR CONFIDENCE MIAMI WILL ADVANCE?: Heat lose last night in Charlotte 89-85, squaring series at 2-2 heading back to Miami for Game 5 Wednesday night. And pressure swings to Miami for first time in series. Finally, though, a taut, competitive game. Heat shot only 39.5 percent last night and nobody scored more than 16 points, with Dwyane Wade netting only 12 (though he did have 10 assists). Big story, though, was Miami's lack of defense against Hornets speed-demons Kemba Walker (32 points) and Jeremy Lin (21). Miami was clear favorite and higher seed (3 to 6) entering this first-round series, though both teams had same regular-season record. That favorite's role was underlined after first two games. But now? Who really is the better team is a question back in play. Somebody will have the answer Wednesday night back in in the 305. Meantime, weigh in on our poll immediately below. ..... Original post: The Heat has felt zero pressure in this series, remembering that Miami was in control from the Miachastart in catapulting to a 2-0 series lead, and the Game 3 road loss was sort of expected. But tonight? Should Miami lose again to make the series 2-2 in this 7 p.m. G4tipoff, it will return to the 305 for Wednesday's Game 5 with the pressure on it for the first time. Them's the stakes tonight. A commanding 3-1 series lead vs. a little bit of uh oh. Heat must do better offensively tonight, not necessarily the Showtime East blitzkrieg of the first two games, but certainly better than the 34 percent night in G3. And defensively, Miami must find an answer in the low post for (all of all people) Frank Kaminsky. That'll mean Hassan Whiteside (who should play despite a bruised thigh) staying out of foul trouble and playing smart, which are not always automatic things. Heat must play more tenacious D all-round than the version that forced only four Charlotte turnovers the other night. Miami has lost six of its past eight road games overall. Another one tonight and this series gets too interesting fast.

BradyFEDERAL APPEALS COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF DOLPHINS WITH TOM BRADY DECISION: A federal appeals court today ruled that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady must serve his four-game "Deflategate" suspension after all, sweet noise to the Dolphins (at New England in Week 2)and three other teams. The ruling overturned a lower-court ruling and sided with the NFL, a victory for Roger Goodell over the NFL Players Association. The ruling was not on Brady's guilt or innocence on the matter of deflated footballs -- but rather that Goodell acted within his broad commissioner's powers in meting out the punishment. The matter still may not be over as the NFLPA said it would review options. Even if today's decision is upheld and Brady does miss the first four games with Jimmy Garoppolo starting instead, the Patriots at home still would be favored over Miami, likely by four or five points instead of eight or nine, according to an oddsmaker pal. (NE also still would still be favored at home over Houston and Buffalo but likely would now be a slight road underdog in the opener at Arizona). Brady is pictured at right, estimating how much greater Miami's likelihood of winning would be without him playing.

G6: N.Y. ISLANDERS 2, PANTHERS 1 (2OT): HOW CATS FANS SHOULD BE FEELING TODAY AFTER EARLY ELIMINATION: Disappointment, naturally, is the go-to emotion for Panthers fans today. Understandable. The team was division champion with the best regular season in franchise history. They were first-round favorites to a degree nine of nine on ESPN's experts panel predicted Florida would advance past the Islanders. Instead the drought goes: nothing past the first round since 1996. But once the hurt of last night fades it should be replaced with a good feeling about this season overall and optimism moving forward. The Cats have such a terrific young core -- thinking Barkov, Ekblad, Bjugstad, Gudbranson, Huberdeau -- that the future should be bright, and built to last.There are questions, such as whether Roberto Luongo has another season in him as the answer in goal. But the team is in good hands with GM Dale Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant ..... Postgame post: Jonathan Huberdeau's first period goal was all the Cats could get tonight's 2-1 Game 6 loss in Brooklyn that eliminated the Panthers in the first round. Roberto Luongo with a stalwart effort, just not enough on the attack. Disappointing ending. Panthers were division champions and favorites in this round. And the wait for the first series advance since 1996 goes on. ..... Original post: Somebody's two-decades-old misery is about to end, either tonight in Brooklyn or in a Game 7 Tuesday back in Sunrise. The Panthers, down 3-2 and facing a must-win tonight starting at 7, last advanced beyond the first round of the NHL playoffs in Year of the Rat 1996. The Islanders, who can G6 Panthersgame6do so tonight, top that, having last advanced in '93. Both teams have players not yet born when their fans last cheered a first-round series win. Every game in this super-close series has been a one-goal margin if you discount a last-second empty netter. Key to Florida's survival tonight? Panthers must solve Isles goaltender Michael Greiss, who might be the first star of the series through. And part of doing that is to get Jaromir Jagr going. His unfathomable 36-game playoff goalless streak must end -- and oh wouldn't tonight before the perfect time for that. Power-play situations will also be noteworthy tonight for sure. NYI is 5-for-18 on those in this series and Florida only 2-for-12; that's three goals difference deriving from officiating calls in a series this close. Cats could also use a gem of a game from Roberto Luongo. He's been strong (1.66 GAA) since allowing five in the series opener. But he also is 2-9 in his last 11 playoff starts dating to 2011.

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. DOLPHINS: NFL Draft begins Thursday as Miami weighs options: Team should select Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott or Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves with No. 1 pick if it can (see my new column for more on that). But Dolphins were noncommittal in an obfuscating pre-draft news conference, declining to admit there was a draft or if Miami would participate.

2. HEAT: Road killed! Miami prepares for Game 4 tonight after big loss in Charlotte: Heat held a dominant 2-0 series on two home wins marked by terrific offense, but Miami shot a weak 34 percent in Saturday's 96-80 loss at Charlotte. What happened to Showtime East? Miami still in control of series, although another road loss tonight/Monday and things would get a little too interesting.

3. PANTHERS: Cats eliminate after double-overtime loss at Isles: Panthers were on the cliff's edge and fell, in a second straight 2-1 double-overtime loss, this one Sunday night in Brooklyn. A very good season ends in disappointment, with Cats fans denied a Game 7 back in Sunrise.

4. MARLINS: Fish away in midst of season-long 10-game road trip: Miami won 5-4 Sunday to avoid being swept in San Fran in a homecoming for Marlins hitting coach and ex-Giant Barry Bonds. It’s 10 straight games on road for awful-starting Fish, which -- considering Miami’s 2-7 home record -- may be a good thing.

5. HURRICANES: Running back Mark Walton arrested, suspended: Cops pinched Walton for DUI and knowingly driving with a suspended license and was quickly suspended from the team by suffer-no-fools football coach Mark Richt. Could somebody please introduce Mark to the concept of Uber?

6. NBA: Cavaliers, Spurs are first to advance: San Antonio and Cleveland rolled to 4-0 series sweeps Sunday as first teams to advance in NBA playoffs. Spurs have rekindled hopes they can beat Golden State in West. LeBron has served to remind that Cavs are still kings of East. 

7. PRINCE: Iconic singer dies suddenly at 57: I could mention the sports ties, such as his epic Super Bowl halftime performance in a Miami thunderstorm  in February '07. But Prince transcended sports. What a talent. What a loss. R.I.P. 

8. JOSH NORMAN: Redskins sign star free-agent: Former Carolina Panther will get $75 over five years, $50 million of it guaranteed. Crazy money. The funniest thing about Norman's sudden availability? Any suggestion the Dolphins might actually spend that much to sign him. 

9. UM BASEBALL: Canes will tumble from No. 1 ranking after down weekend: Canes, ranked No. 1 for first time in eight years, lost two out of three this past weekend to defending College World Series champion and current 22nd-ranked Virginia. What Cavaliers did last year, UM and coach Jim Morris are trying to do for first time since 2001.

10. NASCAR: Tony Stewart returns, loudly: Stewart made his season debut at Richmond after missing start of year recovering from injuries sustained in an ATV accident, finishing 19th. NASCAR welcomed him back with a $35,000 fine for complaining about sanctioning body not being more stringent on how many lug nuts are attached wheels before cars re-enter track.

Missing the cut: Poker! WPT Tournament of Champions ended Sunday at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood with Farid Yachou of the Netherlands on top. Hey, it beats a real job! ..... Washington and New York Islanders joined Pittsburgh, San Jose and Tampa Bay in clinching their NHL their first-round series. Meanwhile playoff ratings are down in Canada as entire country mourns having zero teams in the hunt ..... Two Ethiopians won the 120th Boston Marathon. Or, did that go without saying? More important than who won, though, the event still means Boston Strong as it proves itself bigger than those terrorist bombings ..... The Dolphins said they'd draft "the best available player," just like every team says, every year ..... Don Mattingly was tossed out of his first Marlins game. By an umpire, at least, not by Jeffrey Loria ..... Cubs' Jake Arrieta threw season's first no-hitter, adding to the burgeoning season hope that of course inevitably will end in Cubs fans' heartache ..... Hassan Whiteside finished a distant third in NBA defensive player of year voting, much to his pouty chagrin ..... Drew Rosenhaus dropped Johnny Manziel. You have reached a new low, athlete, when your agent fires you ..... R.I.P., Pearl Washington, original Heat player, at 52 ..... UFC's Conor McGregor abruptly retires. Wait, no he doesn't. Updates as warranted.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 22, 2016

Panthers lose OT heartbreaker, trail Isles 3-2; plus what should be Dolphins' priority for No. 1 draft pick? New poll. Vote now!; also 'Patrick & Zo,' homicide rates and lesson in them, athletes on 'most influential' list, reliving Prince in Miami & more

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

Passover Tubman1) It is FRIDAY, APRIL 22. A most happy Passover to our Jewish readers and friends. Also, happy Earth Day and thank you, mother! 2) Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Imagine you'd proposed that idea to her before she died in 1913, seven years before women had even won the right to vote! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): History! Heat and Panthers both win in playoffs on same day for first time, R.I.P. Prince, ESPN fires Schilling, Marlins' awful start, NBA jersey ads & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

"The national group, People Who Thought the Dolphins Might Actually Get Josh Norman, is meeting tonight. Waffle House. Corner booth." --Greg Cote

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 latest, off Heat's Game 2 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 victory.

G5: N.Y. ISLANDERS 2, PANTHERS 1 (2OT): CATS NOW TRAIL 3-2 HEADING TO BROOKLYN: Florida loses 2-1 in double-overtime past midnight and now faces elimination in Game 6 Sunday. Click on Cats Need Jagr's Goals Punch for my column from the game. ..... Original post: All four games so far have been one-goal margins if you exclude one last- Catsislessecond empty netter. In Florida's two wins Roberto Luongo has given up two total goals and in the two losses nine goals have whizzed past him, so figure defense and Luongo's performance naturally will be a key tonight starting at 8. But defense-first hasn't really been the Cats' mindset thus far in the postseason as it usually was in G5the regular season. You know how the Miami Heat are going nuts offensively so far in the playoffs? The Panthers are showing a similar aggressiveness. In the NHL there is an analytic rating that measures a team's total of blocked and unblocked shots in one-goal or overtime situations when both teams are full strength. Florida's rating was a minus-99 in the regular season, ranking 18th in the league, the number suggesting a team that tried to protect leads with puck possession rather than push for additional goals. But in the first four playoff games the Cats are an NHL-leading plus-46, signaling push-forward aggressiveness. How important is tonight? Historically in the NHL Game 5 winners of a 2-2 series go on to win the series 78.4 percent of the time. Late tonight, one team will be one win away from its first Stanley Cup series advance in two decades (Panthers' last was 1996, Islanders' '93).

Tannenbaum"DEAR MIKE TANNENBAUM...:" SETTING DOLPHINS' DRAFT PRIORITY: In six days, next Thursday night, your Miami Dolphins make their first-round selection in the NFL Draft, 13th overall barring a trade up or down. That puts Dolphins roster builder Mike Tannenbaum (pictured) in the throes of a huge decision. What to prioritize with so Draftroommany needs? Will you help him, please? I'll have a Dolphins draft column in this Sunday paper's (online Saturday) and of course will have my annual Official Miami Herald Mock Draft in Thursday's paper (online Wednesday). So you'll be getting plenty of my specific thoughts on who the Dolphins should and will select No. 1. Now it's your turn. I invite you to say what you think is Miami's greatest position need and what you think its draft priority should be, assuming a player of comparable talent were available at each position. Say you happen to be in an elevator with Tannebuam. You have 10 seconds to share your thoughts as he pretends to listen. What are you telling him? The poll is alphabetical. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

PatrickzoTRAILER: 'PATRICK & ZO': Sports Illustrated has a new SI Films documentary, Patrick & Zo, newly available on SI.com. The doc explores the kinship and rivalry between menacing defensive giants Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, who both starred at Georgetown University and then faced each other as star centers throughout their NBA careers. (Zo, of course, is the former Miami Heat star and now a club vice president). Click here to see the film's trailer: Patrick & Zo

GLOBAL HOMICIDE RATES, AND THE LESSON IN THEM: I read with interest the latest annual survey of the Mexican Citizens Council for Public Security, which ranks the world's most dangerous large cities (300,000-plus population) based on the number of homicides per 100,000 people. The dubious top three: Caracas, Venezuela with 119.87; San Pedro Sula, Honduras with 111.03; and DangerSan Salvador, El Salvador with 108.54. Four U.S. cities unfortunately make the top 50: St. Louis is 15th with 59.23, Baltimore 19th with 54.98, Detroit 28th with 43.89 and New Orleans 32nd with 41.44. Ten countries account for all of the top 50 most murderous cities: Brazil with an astounding 21, Venezuela 8, Mexico 5, U.S. and South Africa 4 each, Colombia 3, Honduras 2, and 1 each for El Salvador, Guatemala and Jamaica. (Click here for an article that includes the entire top 50). Forty-one of the most homicidal cities are Latin American, thanks largely to Brazil. Zero European cities are on the list. Two quick thoughts: 1) I wonder if President Donald Trump will now move to ban all Brazilians from entering the U.S? 2) Notice that zero Muslim countries are in the top 50. Hmm. That is despite radical terrorists (the most indiscriminate murderers of all) inflicting the most havoc on Muslims in countries where they live and unfairly fomenting broad-brush anti-Muslim hysteria in America and elsewhere thanks to folks like Trump. What the latest statistics suggest is that -- if you erased the scourge of terrorism from the globe -- you'd probably be safer from murder living in Baghdad or Raqqa than you would be in St. Louis or Baltimore. We can take whatever lesson or reminder from this that we wish. Here's one, and I think it's a reminder that we Americans in 2016 could use: Terrorists are murderous people. Muslims are not.

SIX SPORTIES ON TIME'S 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' LIST: Time's 2016 100 Most Influential people list (given as a group, not in order) includes, alphabetically: track star Usain Bolt; the Warriors' Stephen Curry; Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton; former UM football player-turned-actor Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson; UFC star Ronda Rousey; and golfer Jordan Spieth. OK, I guess. Each is very successful is his or her field. The influential part is open to interpretation, I reckon.

GONE TOO SOON, PRINCE: The great musician and performer died suddenly yesterday at 57. Recalling his Super Bowl halftime performance in Miami on Feb. 4, 2007, amid a rainstorm and lightning. The show must go on...:

 

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?

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

Twitter @gregcote

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.

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

Twitter @gregcote

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