[Note: Main Dolphins draft blog is in post directly below this. Look for our new Heat-Celtics post topping the blog today beginning at 1:30 p.m. sharp. Twitter.com/gregcote].
GRADE THE DOLPHINS' DRAFT: Interesting six-man draft for Miami, bookended by Mike Pouncey and a cornerback who did time for murder before ultimately being acquitted. OY! I know, I know. "You can't fairly judge any team's draft for at least two years. Dummy!" I get it. The thing is, I'm writing a daily blog here, not an encyclopedia. We're at Internet-speed, not waiting for carrier pigeons. This grade isn't science, it's simply a first impression by Dolfans, the aggregate response to a few questions I'd ask you to consider:
Based on what you know or have read/heard do you like the players drafted? Do they target the right needs? Were players bypassed who should have been taken? What overall feeling do you take out of the draft?
My own thoughts: Mike Pouncey was a solid, safe pick but might have been had later with a trade-down. Hated to see other teams -- Bengals with Andy Dalton and especially rival Patriots with Ryan Mallett -- take the calculated shots on big upside with available QBs. Miami should have, even later with a guy like Ricky Stanzi. RB Mark Ingram also seemed a higher-impact 1R pick for Miami. Thought 2R pick Daniel Thomas fits but was maybe was a reach with the trade-up. Liked Edmond Gates and that speed a lot in 4R. Charles Clay in 6R brings receiving element to blocking role. The last-round guys -- Frank Kearse and acquitted murderer Jimmy Wilson -- are a crapshoot. My overall gut-reaction grade might be a B or C, leaning B. (For what it's worth, draft god Mel Kiper Jr. graded Miami a B-plus on needs, a C on value and an overall B-minus). Now what are your thoughts?
Here's the poll. Vote now, and say why in a comment. I know there are no plus/minus grades. Hey, I pay you to make the tough decisions! A synopsis of Miami's 2011 draft is included just below the poll:
2011 DOLPHINS DRAFT
1st round (15th overall): Florida C/G Mike Pouncey -- Should help interior blocking line immediately.
2nd round (62nd): Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas (after trade-up) -- Fits in Wildcat, but is he up to being a featured back?
4th round (111th): Abilene Christian WR Edmond Gates -- Speed alone gives him a tantalizing upside.
6th round (174th): Tulsa FB Charles Clay (after trade-up) -- A productive receiver in a typical block-first role.
7th round (231st): Alabama A&M DT Frank Kearse -- Wide-load guy supposedly looked great before scouts at school's pro day.
7th round (235th): Montana CB Jimmy Wilson -- Whatever his talent, his past including a murder charge and an acquittal, will be the story.
[Note: Our HEAT PLAYOFF blog is in post directly below this. And just below that is our JIM MANDICH TRIBUTE that still welcomes your remembrances. The family has announced a fans-welcome public memorial for Mandich will be held Wednesday May 4 at 7 p.m. at stadium. Twitter.com/gregcote].
GET READY TO GRADE THE DOLPHINS DRAFT! Poll below is on the first-round pick ONLY. In the post directly above we offer a new poll inviting you to give the entire Dolphins' draft an overall grade. Vote now!
DOLPHINS GO CONSERVATIVE, DRAFT OL POUNCEY IN FIRST ROUND: Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey fills an interior line need, but not what I'd have called a most pressing need. You know I advocated a QB and TCU's Andy Dalton was there for the taking. So was Alabama RB Mark Ingram. I see Pouncey as a safe/solid pick, but not one that targeted the impact Miami needed. Click on Safe, Not Exciting for my column on Miami's 1R decision. Your gut reaction to the Pouncey pick is invited. Remember: This poll is on the selection of Pouncey only, not factoring in later rounds. Vote now!
DRAFT DAY 2: DOLPHS TRADE UP INTO 2R for RB, 5 CANES TAKEN: Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas (pictured left) became a Dolphin with the 62nd pick (2R) after a trade-up with Washington that sent Miami's 79th pick (3R) to the Skins along with Miami's picks at 146th and 217th. Definitely a position of need. Thomas had consecutive 1,000-yard years for K-State but needs developing and had 11 fumbles. On the plus side, he has experience in a Wildcat-style offense. This pick means the Dolphins have only four later-round picks remaining. Gone in the second round was QB Andy Dalton (to the Bengals early), a guy I would have loved for Miami, even in the first round. Also gone, to the rival Patriots: QB Ryan Mallett, another guy I thought would have been great for the Dolphins. Also, the Miami Hurricanes, shut out of Round 1, finally get some love with two 2R picks: G Orlando Franklin, 46th overall to Denver, and CB Brandon Harris, 60th to Houston. And UM'ers gone in the third: Canes WR Leonard Hankerson, 79th to Washington; CB Demarcus van Dyke, 81st to Oakland, and DE Allen Bailey, 86th to Kansas City.
DRAFT DAY 3: DOLPHINS GET SPEED-WR IN 4TH, FB IN 6TH: Miami drafts Abilene Christian WR Edmond Gates (pictured right) in 4th round (111th overall), a productive (66-1,182-13 TDs) small-school wideout with very good speed: 4.37. Only 6-feet, but I like the speed part. Also that he returns kicks, too. In the 6th round (174th overall) Miami gets Tulsa FB Charles Clay (left), after a slight trade-up. Clay's claim is that he isn't just a blocker but a very good receiver too in more of a hybrid FB/TE role. In the 7th round (231st overall) Miami gets Alabama A&M DT Frank Kearse, and (235th overall) Montana CB Jimmy Wilson. Wilson had been arrested in the shooting death of an aunt's boyfriend and did time in jail before a second jury acquitted him. We won't have heard of all the names picked today, but this is diamond-in-the-rough day, when great-drafting teams separate themselves. Consider that across the years Dolphins drafted in the fourth round and later have included Zach Thomas, Ed Newman, Jake Scott and Mark Clayton. Also picked today so far: UM's sixth, seventh and eighth draftees: LB Colin McCarthy, 4R-109th to Tennessee; TE Richard Gordon, 6R-181st to Oakland, and K/P Matt Bosher, 6R-192nd to Atlanta. And one from FIU: CB Anthony Gaitor, 7R-222nd to Tampa Bay.
MY MOCK RESULT WORTHY OF MOCKING: The results are in. Unfortunately. My 20th annual Mock Draft showed 81 percent (26 of 32) on first-round players overall, meaning guys I projected as 1R picks were selected. That's pretty good. But I was only 13% (4 of 32) on direct hits, meaning exact player to exact team. That's pretty bad. I should be embarrassed, which is why I am showing a picture of myself from back when I wore gigantic glasses. My bull's-eyes were Cam Newton/Panthers, A.J. Green/Bengals, Tyron Smith/Cowboys and Muhammad Wilkerson/Stinkin' Jets. I missed big, of course, on the Dolphins, gambling on their interest in Andy Dalton. Caveat: In the pick I mentioned Mike Pouncey as a likely alternative.
Original pre-draft Thursday post: TIME TO BE BOLD. QUARTERBACK!: I know you all would rather talk about the Royal Wedding, but let's talk Dolphins draft shall we? You know by now I think Miami
will try to trade down from 15th in tonight's first round and that they are -- and should be -- strongly considering a quarterback. I wrote earlier in the week the ideal scenario would be to trade-down to late in tonight's first round and then select Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, pictured right. (Click on Me Mallett for that column). The 6-7 Mallett is a bit of a dice roll but has enormous upside, the strongest arm in the draft and first-round talent but for flimsy "character" issues such as drug rumors despite his having never failed a drug test. In Thursday's 20th annual Mock Draft by me, I predict the Dolphins will bypass Mallett and instead draft Texas Christian QB Andy Dalton, pictured left, with their top pick. (Click on Me Mocking for the entire first round -- and thanks for making my mock draft the most-read thing on all of MiamiHerald.com today. I'm grateful).
You want the safer bets? Yes it is probably more likely that conservative Miami drafts Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey. He is the predictable, default pick for MIA in most mock drafts, which tend to be lemmings aping other mocks. Alabama running back Mark Ingram (right) also would not surprise tonight. Both would fill needs.
But I'd love to see Miami swing for the fence with a quarterback. As for the notion Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are this draft's only 1R-quality QBs? Nonsense. Plain wrong. In his final mock draft, for example, ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. -- who studies this stuff more than anybody in this market, me included -- has Jake Locker going 12th to Minnesota and Dalton (my pick for Miami) going 25th to Seattle. A trade-down into the 20s is where I see Miami getting Dalton, although even taking him 15th would be smart, calculated. Heck, thoroughly respected Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has five QBs going in the first round, including Dalton 12th to the Vikings. Sports Illustrated's Peter King -- as good and tapped-in at covering the NFL as anyone -- joins me in liking Dalton in the first round to Miami and raves up his potential. I admit Dalton is less a gamble than Mallett, maybe more NFL-ready.
Pouncey or Ingram? Yeah, OK. They'd be fine. But Miami has a chance to be bold here. So does general manager Jeff Ireland in his first draft out from under Tuna Parcells' domineering wing. Mallett is a guy Brandon Marshall predicts will be an all-pro and could prove to be the steal of the draft. Dalton, safer, is a guy Peter King puts in the mold of Drew Brees and says could be just as good.
Go for it, Dolphins. Time to be bold!
THE LIST: BEST DOLPHIN PICKS IN EACH ROUND: Our top five Miami picks all-time, by round:
1ST -- 1. QB Dan Marino 1983 / 2. FB Larry Csonka 1968 / 3. QB Bob Griese 1967 / 4. OT Richmond Webb 1990 / 5. DE Bill Stanfill 1969. (Note: OT Jake Long 2008 has chance to crack list).
2ND -- 1. C Dwight Stephenson 1980 / 2. WR Mark Duper 1982 / 3. DT Bob Baumhower 1977 / 4. LB John Offerdahl 1986 / 5. CB Sam Madison 1997. (Note: Sorry, Jim Mandich fans. Close).
3RD -- 1. DE Jason Taylor 1997 / 2. S Dick Anderson 1968 / 3. RB Mercury Morris 1969 / 4. WR Nat Moore 74 / 5. RB Tony Nathan 1979.
4TH -- 1. OT Eric Laakso 1978 / 2. C Jeff Dellenbach 1985 / 3. RB Troy Stradford 1987 / 4. CB Gerald Small 1978 / 5. TE Randy McMichael 2002. (Note: Historically Miami's weakest round by far).
[Our JIM MANDICH TRIBUTE may be found in the blog post directly below this, and we continue to invite your remembrances. The family has announced a fans-welcome public memorial for Mandich will be held Wednesday May 4 at 7 p.m. at the stadium. Note: Watch for our new post on Dolphins/NFL Draft beginning at 3 p.m. today. Twitter.com/gregcote].
Advisory: Our Heat-Celtics/Second Round blog will appear in a separate post beginning Sunday.
G5: HEAT 97, SIXERS 91 (MIAMI WINS SERIES, 4-1): The series was not as lopsided as 4-1 seems, and neither was this deciding game. It was 92-91 with 16.8 seconds left. Click on Breakfast Finished, Lunch Next for my column off the game. Miami struggled to win in all but one game in this series. Should that make a Heat fan nervous going forward? I explore in the column. Game 5 Heat Player of the Game: Must go with Mario Chalmers with his six 3's and big 20 points off the bench. Miami needed every one of those downtowners. Original post: I grow bored with this series. Five games is enough. One more game -- meaning another Miami loss and a trip back north -- will bring out the hysteria and angst that are never far away, merely dormant. And none of us wants that, right? Go away, Sixers. Boston, please.
G4: SIXERS 86, HEAT 82 (MIAMI LEADS 3-1): Miami led by four late but blew it to send the series to a Game 5 in Miami on Wednesday night. Please please can we not obsess over LeBron James taking the final shot instead of Dwyane Wade? (Trending on Twitter: the word "LeBrick." I didn't realize people in Cleveland knew how to use computers). This game wasn't lost on that one missed shot but on the Heat giving up the game's final 10 points. Don't think the series got more dramatic, though, really. Just longer. Turn the Panic Spigot to the left , please. Game 4 Heat Player of the Game: Give it to LeBron with 31 points (although that late miss was big). No, there should be no panic in Miami needing five games in this series, although it means next-round-opponent Boston -- sweeping a better opponent in the Knicks -- will be more rested than the Heat. Original post: OK, Jesus came back from the dead. But don't get your hopes up, Philadelphia. You know what this lopsided first-round NBA playoff series has been like in terms of challenge and drama? Like the Dolphins playing a boring exhibition game against Tampa in early August. Like the Marlins playing a split-squad spring training game in March. This series has had less intrigue than most of the Heat's regular season games, thanks to Philadelphia's inability to compete. Well, the real playoffs are close, with Boston and then Chicago likely on-deck. Let's get this perfunctory necessity out of the way so the real action can begin! Sweep, please.
G3: HEAT 100, SIXERS 94 (MIAMI LEADS 3-0): Big game by Dwyane Wade as predicted and Heat now in total charge of opening series to a degree you wonder why Philly doesn't just forfeit the fourth game in a cost-cutting measure. C'mon, right? Seriously. Heat trailed 52-50 at half but you couldn't imagine any Miami fan was real worried. Heat were down 9-0 early but thereafter sailed without much problem. Game 3 Heat Player of the Game: Wade, with 32 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists. Monstah! Original post: Though Miami is a 4 1/2-point favorite, the Sixers' playoff bow at home tonight is probably the one game (if any) that many expect Philly to take. I like Heat to make it 3-nil, and part of that is how great this team is on the road. Click on Shhhh! for today's column by me on what the Heat tends to do to hostile crowds on the road. Also expecting a bigger game offensively from Dwyane Wade tonight, more of a featured role.
G2: HEAT 94, SIXERS 73 (MIAMI LEADS 2-0): LeBron James 29 points and Chris Bosh 21, with Dwayne Wade fighting through a migraine to add 14. But it was massive defense that fueled the rout. Philly has no chance. Zero. Nada. Click on Wade Spices Dull Series for my column off the game. Game 2 Heat Player of the Game: LeBron James (with a nod to Joel "M-V-P!" Anthony. Original pregame post: Dwyane Wade has sporadic migraine issues, couldn't practice yesterday, skipped today's shootaround but is in tonight's starting lineup for Game 2 after being listed as "probable." Axocet and Bupap are brand names of drugs used to treat migraines. Then again, I'm not a doctor (though I occasionally play one in the paper). For all I know, the main ingredient in those drugs, butalbital, could be on the NBA's banned list and cause the entire franchise to collapse. Or maybe butalbital's side effects include drowsiness and a proneness to turnovers. At any rate, all of South Florida hopes Dwyane feels better. "Probable" almost always means athletes play, so it was a safe bet. Could Miami have won at home without him if necessary? Probable.
Sunday factoids: Dwyane Wade, who battled occasional migraine problems this season, missed today's practice with a headache. Should be OK for Game 2 Monday ..... Heat is 7-3 all-time in playoff series in which it won Game 1. Miami had lost four straight playoff series openers, dating to the 2006 Finals, before Saturday's win.
G1: HEAT 97, SIXERS 89 (MIAMI LEADS 1-0): Heat survive more than dominate in Game 1, shaking off a bad first quarter and holding on to win, 97-89. Click on This Proves It for my column off the opener. This proves Philly has no shot in this series. Because Miami didn't play well, got subpar offensive games from both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and still won by eight. Game 1 Heat Player of the Game: Chris Bosh. Original pregame post: I'll be columnizing from the bayside arena, a Witness, you might say. (Sorry, Cleveland). Click on Judgment Day for my preview-section column on how every ounce of turmoil and testing over the past 10 months has shaped who this team is and how ready it is for what's next. I give the Sixers next to zero shot in this series and think Miami could sweep, although five games is the safe pick. Philly has depth and athleticism and all those things they say about nice little teams that lack the sheer talent to play with the big boys. Knicks here would have made a more exciting series. Yes. Absolutely. But it won't feel like that Saturday. The launch of "White Hot" and what this whole thing was about -- the Big 3 on a playoff run -- will have the gym rockin'.
JIM MANDICH PASSES AWAY AT 62: I was sad to hear the news last night. I am sure many of you were, too. Thoughts and sympathy to his wife, three sons and extended family. Mandich, "Mad Dog," was a major, meaningful figure in South Florida sports for decades, from the moment he was a second-round Dolphins draft pick in 1970, a tight end out of his beloved "Mee-chigan," arriving with long hair and hippie beads around his neck. He succumbed to cancer. I hate the phrase "lost a battle" to cancer. Mandich never lost much of anything he had a fair shot to win, from his days as a Michigan captain and Perfect Season Dolphin to his successful career in the construction business to his years as a beloved fixture on WQAM-560 to his seasons broadcasting Dolphins games. He was an unabashed homer, but somehow gave the phrase a good name. He was a plain-spoken evangelist for the Dolphins, exalting and aching with the team's fortunes. I loved that open passion. If you grew up down here (as I did) and you play word-association with "Miami Dolphins," you think "Shula and Marino" first. Rightfully. Right after that though, you better include Mandich. Truthfully, Jim and I were acquaintances more than close friends. That's my regret now; that's on me. I think I might have turned down an invitation to speak at his Miami Touchdown Club luncheon one too many times. Those luncheons, by the way, quietly raised money for former Dolphins in financial need. Jim always had my respect, mostly for what he did after football. He had a great, distinctive on-air persona, sharp, blunt yet folksy, familiar yet fresh, his humor wry, all delivered with a particular, unmistakably riveting cadence. He was a guy you'd like to sit down and have a "green lizard" with. More important, he was a guy with a generous heart, genuine, a man of integrity -- always.
You want an epitaph for Mandich? Here is my simple suggestion, and I can say I really believe it:
NOBODY LOVED THE DOLPHINS MORE.
Farewell, Jim. You mattered around here. A lot. You will be missed. And your catch-phrase echoes on: "Awwwriiight, Miiii-aaammmiii!"
[Twitter.com/gregcote. Where every 100th new follower is entered into a drawing for a chance to win an invitation to Friday's Royal Wedding, based on available seating and the Queen answering my Tweet].
HEAT-DOLPHINS: WHOSE BIG EVENT TOPS THIS WEEK'S MARQUEE?: If something is arguable, if you and a coworker might find yourself debating it in lieu of actually working, well, then chances are I'm-a foment the discussion with a poll. Dammit. I figure this one is arguable because it involves our two biggest teams and two major events: Heat home playoff game vs. Dolphins draft. I'd be inclined to lean slightly to the Heat game; then again that's one in a series vs. an annual event. You could also argue that the Dolphins' decision in the first round could have a more far-reaching impact than the Heat's result the day before. What interests you more? What if you could only watch one and had to choose? What feels bigger? Is it what the Heat does in Wednesday's game? Or what the Dolphins do in Thursday's first round? No wimpy ties allowed. Cast your vote and say why.
BRANDON MARSHALL STABBED: The first words I heard this morning were "stabbed" and "intensive care." You think the worst. It sounded like Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall, stabbed overnight by his wife (say police) and hospitalized, was fighting for his life. Thankfully, emerging, less dramatic details told us that wasn't so. ESPN's Adam Schefter quotes a source saying, "He's going to be OK." FOX reports Marshall is in "no immediate danger" and that the knife wound to the stomach is not life- or career-threatening. Marshall underwent surgery but was released from the hospital today/Saturday and should, according to his agent, be fully recovered in two or three weeks. So he's alright. That's the main thing, and now that we know that, it seems less callous and more reasonable to ask: Does Marshall deserve Dolfans' sympathy here or their scorn? Do you feel sorry for him in this situation or blame him for once again somehow finding off-field trouble? You know his history of that. This latest situation -- stemming from a domestic dispute that has led to his wife's arrest for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, a felony -- falls in line on a resume that is great on the football side but far less so on the personal end. Why do so many athletes seem to be magnets for off-field turmoil? The Dolphins issued a statement that said nothing. Marshall reportedly initially told police he injured himself falling on a shard of glass. No sale. Meanwhile Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk floats an interesting theory (here) that Miami could cut ties with Marshall to save money and (presumably) future headaches. This strikes me as unlikely. This team has too few offensive weapons as it is. More to come I'm sure.
HURRICANES HIRE LARRANAGA: George Mason coach Jim Larranaga (pictured) is the new men's basketball coach at the University of Miami, replacing departed Frank Haith. Larranaga, 61, achieved his career zenith in 2006 when GMU glass-slippered into the Final Four, but it's unfair to say he's been sliding since. His 2010-11 team went 25-5 and reached the NCAA Tournament's second round. You all know I thought the perfect hire would have been Miami native Frank Martin of Kansas State -- still think that -- but that ship was never given a chance to dock. I'd call Larranaga a solid alternative, a 'B'-grade hire, maybe shading toward B-plus. He's a proven winner, and he is charismatic for a program that needs all of that. The only concern initially: Is a man who has proven himself in the mid-major Colonial Athletic Association ready for the steep climb to winning in the ACC? This is the first major decision for new UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst. How'd he do?
[Click back. Adding more stuff to this post later...]
[Bulletin: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland held his annual pre-Draft news conference Thursday and imparted no information of any real value. Note: Heat-Sixers first-round series post off last night's Game 3 victory by Miami may be found in blog post directly above this. Also, join us on Twitter].
*-KING PROCLAIMS DOLPHINS TO GO QUARTERBACK IN FIRST ROUND: I don't mean LeBron "The King" James, I mean Peter King of Sports Illustrated. The asterisk in the headline means it's King saying it, not me. In his mock draft in the SI issue that hits newsstands tomorrow/Wednesday, King projects the Dolphins next week will (and should) draft Texas Christian QB Andy Dalton (pictured) at 15th overall. That's different. Haven't seen much Dalton-to-Miami in the 2.8 million mock drafts I have absorbed. Nor is he a consensus 1R pick. By contrast, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. & His Titanic Hair are sticking with Alabama RB Mark Ingram for Miami, and projecting Dalton early second round (35th overall) to Cincy. Mock drafts are a silly exercise by nature but at least when confined to the first round and done by someone of King's or Kiper's stature and earned respect they represent guesswork that is usually reasonable and somewhat educated. As opposed to, say, a seven-round mock draft. Really? Woo-hoo! Here's one from footballdialogue.blogspot.com and -- so that you don't have to watch the actual draft on April 28-30 -- here, says that site, will be the Dolphins' eight selections: 1R--Ingram; 3R--Missouri C Tim Barnes; 4R--Michigan OG Stephen Schilling; 5R--South Carolina FS Chris Culliver; 6R--Texas Christian WR Jeremy Kerley; 7R--Pitt FB Henry Hynoski; 7R--Portland State TE Julius Thomas; 7R--Idaho QB Nathan Enderle. My take, pending my official mock draft next week, is that Ingram at No. 1 makes some sense based on need if he's healthy and that's been a common mock-pick for Miami, but less so lately. Ingram's arthritic-knee speculation (he says the knee's fine) makes me doubt more and more that MIA will go in that direction. Florida G/C Mike Pouncey would fit a position need. Rolling dice on Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett would be pretty enticing, too. Brandon Marshall Tweeted that he thinks Mallett will be an all-pro QB. (Wonder how Chad Henne liked that Tweet?) Though they should go offense first, a pass rusher is possible if they don't. Most likely, I think: A trade-down into the lower first round or maybe even into the early second to get Mallett or Dalton or Pouncey or Ingram in the 20s or early 30s -- and also add a second-round pick. Who are you liking for Miami right now -- realistically -- if the pick stays at 15th? Take a dip in our poll and say why.
NICE BOOKENDS FOR DOLPHINS' 2011 REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE: NFL released its season schedule with fanfare this evening, funny because 1) the lockout makes everything moot at the moment, and 2) opponents were previously known so only the order is new. Notable: Miami opens and closes big, starting Sept. 12 at home vs. Patriots on Monday night, and ending Jan. 1 at home vs. the Stinkin' Jets. Also notable: Thanksgiving Day at Dallas, and the only prime-timer besides the opener: Oct. 17 at Jets. Digesting the '11 schedule based on last season, I'm seeing the usual 7-9 wins as the early range.
JOSH JOHNSON DESERVES HEAT-ESQUE WORSHIP: Marlins ace is now 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA. Nobody can hit him. Just out the gate, yes, but he's the early Cy Young fave. Harder to appreciate a guy who basically works once a week, but J.J. right now is performing at a LeBron/Dwyane level in terms of overall dominance. Oh and by the way, I caught some reader s--- and got a few nasty emails when I wrote off the opener that the Marlins -- though built for a big run next year -- can contend for a playoff spot now. I was right. I am right. They are 10-6, and that's with their two most exciting hitters (Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton) both struggling early. Pitching, including the pen, makes the M's for real.
GAMBLING ON ONLINE POKER: Interesting article in The Herald here headlined 'Odds Aren't Looking Good For Online Poker Players.' My oldest son and his crowd have been into online poker for awhile and it always seemed a bit shady to me. Doesn't mean I'm right. I'm just saying. I'm old school where money is involved. I like a face to face transaction. But here was the allure of online poker, via a friend of my son's who wins (won) big: Players who go to actual tournaments, at the Hard Rock or Dania Jai-Alai or wherever, tend to be real players. The rank amateurs are embarrassed to go. But the anonymity of online poker attracts the suckers as easy prey for the guys who know what they're doing.
MOTOR CITY MUSIC CHALLENGE: Recently it was national Record Store Day. I love old vinyl. Have hundreds of old LPs in my game room. Have not found a record store I like better than Grimey's New And Pre-Loved Records in Nashville. Anyway, Esquire's annual songwriting challenge this year used Detroit as an inspiration and the five musicians invited to participate included friend Brendan Benson (pictured). Click here for the result.
KOBE HOGS CLOSER TITLE: Sports Illustrated' latest poll shows that 74 percent of 166 NBA players answered Laker Kobe Bryant when asked, "Who do you want shooting with the game on the line?" A distant tie for second at 3 percent: OKC's Kevin Durant and Heatnik Dwyane Wade.
NICK SABAN, LARGER THAN LIFE: Alabama has unveiled a statue of perpetually clapping football coach Nick Saban, furthering my belief that the statue -- once reserved for historical figures of great magnitude -- has been devalued. The funny thing is, the statue is 9 feet tall. Saban, in real life, is roughly 4-6. I call on Dolfans to maraud chanting into Tuscaloosa with torches and pitchforks and dramatically topple the Saban statue as if he were Saddam Hussein.
NEWBORN PUPPIES!: Click here for newborn Shiba Inu puppies streamed live on the web. Mom is very photogenic but, can't we get a little privacy!?
THE LIST: DOLPHINS FIRST-ROUND PRO BOWL'ERS: This alone should verify what a spotty drafting history Miami has had. The franchise's five most recent first-round picks to make a Pro Bowl:
OT Jake Long 2008
RB Ronnie Brown 2005
DT Tim Bowens 1994
OT Richmond Webb 1990
QB Dan Marino 1983
Note: I was surprised, but, no, neither WR O.J. McDuffie (1993) or CB Troy Vincent (1992) ever made a Pro Bowl.
Click back. Adding more stuff to this new blogpost later...
[Twitter.com/gregcote. I'm the Eddie House of journalism. Just when you think I'm lousy, I surprise you and do something good].
Heat-Sixers Game 1 blog will publish here in a separate post beginning at 2 p.m. sharp!
HEAT GOT BEST-POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUP: I've been listening to misguided fans and greedy media griping how they wish Miami was playing the Knicks in the NBA playoffs' first round instead of the 76ers. Baloney. From a media view at least it's arguable, I guess. We want drama wherever we can find it. (Although this whole season has been that, so what's wrong with a little break?) But from a fan view, don't you want an easier series? Maybe a sweep? Less stress? More rest before round two? That's why you play 82 games. Duh. That's the point of a higher seed. And that's Philly. Players say automatically who they play doesn't matter, but I guarantee you a nice calm, dull four or five-game rout of Philly is preferred to the wilder ride a Knicks series might have been. Then again I'm occasionally wrong. Tell me if I am or not. Take a dip in our poll. (Team MVP poll below this one...).
LEBRON WINS KING-O-METER. NOW YOU NAME THE MVP: Here are final season results for our unpopular King-O-Meter, measuring which of Miami's would-be kings has had the better season based on a cumulative system using 10 statistical categories. I say unpopular because many e-mailers think it's divisive. Anyway, LeBron James wins our 2010-11 Heat King title over Dwyane Wade by 4,804.88 points to 4,174.00. (Wade missed six games to James' three, not enough to have bridged the difference). James led in games led, 43-38, including the last nine straight. (Total adds to 81 because both missed the finale). In 70-plus-point games, sort of a standard for extra good, James led, 17-13. Season high for either was James' 107.24 in Game 49 at Orlando. Wade's best was 92.10 in Game 72 vs. Philadelphia. So I say James was the regular-season team MVP. Do you? Vote.
BOO, STEIGERWALD! YOU ARE RATIONALIZING A HEINOUS CRIME: John Steigerwald, a columnist for a small suburban Pittsburgh newspaper, has caused a firestorm by suggesting that Bryan Stow -- the Giants fan who got severely beaten after the Dodgers' opener in L.A. and remains in critical condition -- brought it on himself by wearing a Giants jersey to the game. Read the column here if you have the stomach. It is wrong on so many levels. The logic is about the same as blaming a rape victim because she wore a short skirt.
KEVIN NA'S MELTDOWN: Kevin Na (right) shot a 16 on a par 4 at yesterday's Texas Open, the worst par 4 score in PGA Tour history. Click here to watch the video. John Daly maintains the all-time worst hole on record, an 18 on a par 5 in 1998. It is unfathomable to me that any professional golfer has had a worse hole than I ever had, because I stink and do mental cartwheels and handsprings when lucking the occasional par.
SUMMARY OF BARRY BONDS TRIAL: Three years and millions of wasted dollars for a jury to dumbfoundingly conclude that Barry Bonds somehow obstructed justice without lying. That's quite a trick. Among Bonds, the prosecuting attorney and the jurors, there isn't a single soul in this mess who should be feeling proud or the least bit pleased right now.
AMERICAN IDOL AND FAT GIRLS: Oops I know "fat girls" is prejorative. My bad. Seam-stretching? Metabolistically challenged? Ashley Kauffman, 19, pictured, is making the rounds (Good Morning America earlier today) talking about how she was separated from her friends in the American Idol audience and told she was too heavy to sit in the front row. OMG! WWST!? (What Would [Ruben] Studdard Think). Idol denies this happened. Of course, anyone who has watched the show and how it packages pretty should believe the girl. Dear American Idol: This poor girl is barely heavy at all. Please restrict your blatant weight discrimination to the morbidly obese like the rest of us do.
MAYOR LUTHER "UNCLE LUKE" CAMPBELL?: Is it OK to admit the thought both terrifies and intrigues me? I see it as a possibility, especially with 11 people running post-recall for Miami-Dade mayor, when 15-18 percent of the vote might be enough and name-recognition will matter. Bottom line? It's nuts. Nuts! We'd be a national laughingstock. It would further cement Miami's well-earned reputation as an insane asylum politically. And yet, politically, is the election progression from actors to pro wrestlers to rappers really that outlandish? I think Luke has an outside shot. Seriously. And I like that if only because it delivers the [bleep]in' motherlode to colleagues Carl Hiassen and Leonard Pitts.
Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost later...
THE LIST: HEAT PLAYOFF OPPONENTS: Miami's first-round series vs. Philadelphia starting Saturday will be the Heat's first playoff meeting with the 76ers. Miami's top five most common playoff opponents:
Opponent Playoff Games (Series; Most Recent)
New York 24 (4; 2000)
Chicago 21 (4; 2007)
Detroit 16 (3; 2006)
Atlanta 12 (2; 2009)
New Jersey 9 (2; 2006)
Others, all 1 series: New Orleans 7 games; Dallas 6; Indiana 6; Boston 5; Orlando 5; Washington 4; Charlotte 3.
[Live Chat Wednesday! It's today 1-2 p.m. Click on CHAT to join us live then or to post questions early. Also join us at Twitter.com/gregcote. Happy to announce I have been invited to the upcoming Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. OK not really. I lied].
CANES PLUMB WISCONSIN FOR NEW A.D.: University of Miami has hired as its new athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who held the deputy AD position at Wisconsin. Initial thought: Eichorst, pictured, appears to be nearly as white as the guy he replaces, Kirby Hocutt. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Board of Trustees athletic advisory chief Paul DiMare ostensibly led the search, but this hiring bears President Donna Shalala's fingerprints. Eichorst was the No. 2 man to Barry Alvarez, a good friend of Shalala's from her tenure at Wisconsin. Also interesting: One of Eichorst's accounts at UW was overseeing men's basketball. He'll have a say on Miami's pending hire, and a ton of Canes fans are hoping he'll be the last-minute champion who brings Frank Martin back to Miami.
MARTIN LOBBIES (QUIETLY) FOR CANES JOB; UM TURNS DEAF EAR: Successful, proven, winning Kansas State coach Frank Martin, the Miami native of Cuban heritage -- the perfect UM hire to replace Frank Haith -- is all but begging for a homecoming, but the Canes aren't calling. UM seemed to favor Harvard's Tommy Amaker but he said Tuesday he's staying in the Ivy League. Martin (pictured) is better. Martin told the Associated Press that Miami hasn't called, but that he'd be willing to listen if they did. Knowing money might be an issue, he went as far as to reveal his salary is $1.1 million, not the $1.55 he has seen reported. In other words, even the money is negotiable. UM has "character" concerns with Martin but should not. It isn't too late. Hire this guy! Click on My Favorite Martin for the newest column by me on this, online now and shipping to Tuesday's pulp edition. (And thanks for making it today's most-read sports column...) Then again my preference for Martin might not be shared. Take a dip in our poll.
HEAT TITLE LIKELIHOOD PUT AT 13.4%. BUT WHO'S COUNTING?: Tonight Heat win at Atlanta, 98-90, to clinch No. 2 seed in conference. Got close in the fourth, but unlikely hero James Jones bucketed seven straight points. Good signs lately. Big game by the bench in Sunday's win over Boston, bow bench-man Jones sparking things. Original post: ESPN.com nerds with a computer and too much free time figured it that the Bulls have a leading 26.6 percent probability of winning the NBA championship as of right now, then it's Miami at 13.4. Rounding out the top five: Nuggets 11.4, Lakers 10.9, Spurs 9.5. Heat catch a break with Boston's inopportune slump, and likely lucking to draw 76ers instead of Knicks as a first-round foe. Miami 3-0 in season vs. Philly and should sweep series or take five games at most.
DOLPHINS' PRESEASON: Announced today: @ Atlanta, home Carolina, @ Tampa, home Dallas.
RELIGION AND SPORTS A WEIRD MIX:USA Today trend piece says more and more leagues, led by MLB, are incorporating religion into their theme nights. For example, the Oakland A's on May 17 will debut a "Jewish Heritage Night." Am told the Marlins will also have a religious-themed night later this season. I don't feel strongly about this and am certainly not anti-religion, I just think it's a bit weird to bring religion so overtly to the ballpark. I thought we had particular places for that called churches, synagogues and mosques.
WILLIAMS SISTERS + FASHION = HEAVEN: Pictured left is a photo Serena Williams just posted on her Twitter account. A hot-pink full body stocking. What I love about Serena and Venus' fashion sense is the subtlety, the nuanced understatement.
THE MASTERS: THE THREE LESSONS: 1) Charl Schwartzel has a funny name. 2) Rory McIlroy might never live down Sunday. 3) Though his winless drought goes on, write off Tiger Woods at your own peril. Eldrick has major wins left in him.
NFL LOCKOUT, MADDEN VIDEO NEWS: Judge orders NFL and players to mediation in Minneapolis beginning Thursday. Geez wake me when this ponderous thing is over. In other ridiculous football news, the four finalists to grace the cover of Madden NFL '12 are Peyton Hillis, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick. Logic rules out Hillis (not yet prominent enough) and Vick (lingering doggy baggage), and A.P. is coming of a so-so-for-him year. Rodgers a no-brainer pick.
PARADE OF DUMB STATUES CONTINUES: Remember when statues were reserved for historical figures of great import? The statue has been devalued by increasing overuse. Latest example: Gators unveil Tim Tebow statue (pictured) outside Florida Field. Are you [bleep]ing kidding me!? Do not be outdone, UM! When next covering a Canes football game I expect to be greeted by a bronze Vinny Testaverde!
IS THERE A TRIPLE CROWN FAVORITE HORSE? NEIGH: Most track denizens pegged the upcoming Kentucky Derby (and by extension Triple Crown) favorite as Uncle Mo, but he took an unexpected crap in the weekend's Wood Memorial prep race. So I say again what I wrote off the Florida Derby: Dialed In is as close to a KY-Derby fave as anything on four legs, bred for distance and with Nick Zito training.
AK-47 NEWS: I saw this headline and I'm thinking, "So that's what Evan Longoria has been doing while on the DL..."
WELCOME, LADY GAGA: Madonna 2.0 plays the Sunrise arena tonight and Miami Wednesday. I like Lady Gaga, see much talent behind the facade. But I don't like her enough that I wouldn't pass along an embarrassing video of her falling off a piano during a recent concert in Houston. Click here.
THE LIST: LOCAL PLAYOFF SEASONS: With the Heat's playoff run about to begin, the playoff track record of our four pro franchises:
Team PO Pct. (Seasons/Playoff Apps.)
Heat 65.2 (23/15; most recently 2011)
Dolphins 48.9 (45/22; most recently 2008)
Panthers 18.2 (17/3; most recently 2000)
Marlins 11.1 (18/2; most recently 2003)
Click back. Adding more stuff to this new post later...
GAME OF THE YEAR: HEAT ROUT CELTICS: Heat win by 23 at home in a rout of Boston. Small picture: It gives Miami a big edge in winning the overall No. 2 seed in the conference. Bigger picture: It's a statement game that establishes Miami's ability to beat the Celtics and, by extension win the east and reach the NBA Finals. The second-quarter skirmish, set off by Jermaine O'Neal's flagrant foul on LeBron James, underlines that this has become a nasty (and therefore great) rivalry. Delicious! Original post: The No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference is in play, but even more important for Miami, the Heat -- 0-3 against Boston this season -- must prove it can beat its nemesis with the playoffs upcoming and these the two biggest Eastern claimants to reach The Finals. Heat also must resign itself to doing playoff battle with this roster, as it looks more and more as if Udonis Haslem won't be back in time to help much. Prediction: Heat by 6.
DEBOER OUT AS PANTHERS COACH: The Panthers relieved Pete DeBoer of coaching duties this/Sunday morning after three seasons as head coach. It's hard to argue the decision. His tenure showed some upswing but, bottom line, extended Florida's embarrassing NHL-record playoff drought to 10 seasons. GM Dale Tallon has accrued enough trust to back the notion he'll find somebody better.
GLORIA, GLORIA, GLORIA: We briefly mentioned the arrest of LeBron James' mother, Gloria, in the previous post, but here is a new photo of her snapped as cops led her away. She is charged with simple assault for allegedly striking a valet around 4:30 a.m. Thursday outside the Fountainebleau. Click here for a TMZ.com video interview with the valet, Sorel Rockefeller. And click here to access the Miami Beach PD booking video (scroll to 'Gloria James Booking Video'). James also is charged with disorderly intoxication. (Kids, if you plan to be drunk in public, please at least be orderly about it). Gloria had LeBron when she was 16 and is only 43 herself. I envision a new documentary, "NBA MOTHERS GONE WILD!" James reportedly sent a Heat employee to bail Ma out. Remember the good old days when teams just had to worry about their players getting in trouble with the law? Now the cone of concern extends to players' families. (Trend!) I think coverage of this story is justified because it involves LeBron and because it is a legitimate distraction for the Heat as the playoffs near. Am I wrong? Take a dip in our poll and weigh in.
MY NEXT READ: AFFIRMED: Friend Lou Sahadi has written a new book, Affirmed (pictured), about the last horse to win the Triple Crown. I don't read many sports books, maybe one in 10 of all those sent to me, but this one I look forward to reading.
PIMPIN' WITH THE PANTHERS: Your Florida Panthers (10 straight seasons out of the NHL playoffs) continue to be much better at making money than scoring goals. The latest: They sold naming rights to the rink (the ice itself) to Lexus. That's right. It's now "the Lexus rink at BankAtlantic Center" -- something I will never, ever again refer to in print. You ever notice that Lexus and lemon both start with 'le'?
SPEAKING OF SELLING...: Nike Jordan Brand will introduce a new Dwyane Wade sneaker line called Fly Wade in May, billing it as the lightest shoe Nike has yet turned out. No, I do not expect the company to send me a free pair just because of this mention, nor would I accept such an unethical gratuity. (Size 10 1/2, please).
GREATEST SONGS OF THE '60S: This is a new list from Rolling Stone. 10. "God Only Knows," Beach Boys; 9. "All Along the Watchtower," Jimi Hendrix Experience; 8. "Whole Lotta Love," Led Zeppelin; 7. "Hey Jude," Beatles; 6. "Light My Fire," Doors; 5. "My Generation," Who; 4. "Gimme Shelter," Rolling Stones; 3. "Satisfaction," Rolling Stones; 2. "A Day In the Life," Beatles; and 1. "Like A Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan. Can't argue much. Think 5 and 2 are a bit over-ranked but love all these songs. The start of "Gimme Shelter," leading to where Charlie Watts kicks in big, is among the greatest song openings ever.
SLIM PICKINGS FROM LEMMING: Recruiting guru Tom Lemming lists for CBSSports.com his national top 100 college prospects for 2012, and only three Dade-Broward guys make it , and none in the upper half. They are: 58. WR Avery Johnson of Pompano Beach Ely; 65. DB Deon Bush of Miami Columbus; and 77. DL Jelani Hamilton of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Click back. Adding more stuff to this latest post later...