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19 posts from June 2014

June 29, 2014

LeBron demands max $$. Will Big 3 all be back with Heat? Poll. Vote!; plus U.S. soccer, more World Cup KOs (update II), Hot Button Top 10 & more

1aa1anapier1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 30. Heat rolls its brand new 2014 Shabazz Napier onto showroom floor at introductory news conference today. Wonder if he got Dan Marino's blessing to wear that So Fla-sacred number? Notably today, Pat Riley did not quote from any quarter-century-old James Ingram songs. 2) UM football players and Sebastian the Ibis have been out thanking fans who renewed their season tickets. Cute video resulted. Click here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Wade, Haslem join Heat Opt-Out Club, World Cup knockout round begins, Dolphins stadium, Panthers draft & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1alebronmaxFree agency update: LeBron reportedly to demand max money: ESPN reports today (not a surprise) that when free agency begins a minute past midnight Monday James will demand the maximum salary of $22.1 million per year from any team that wants him including the Heat. If true, that does not necessarily suggest his re-signing with Miami is in jeopardy, though the Conclusion Jumpers already are out in force. What it does suggest is that the burden would now be on Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to accept deeper cuts with James out of the bargain business.   

1aa1arobinhood1aa1a3musketeersPOST OPT-OUTS, VOTE WHETHER YOU THINK HEAT'S BIG 3 WILL ALL BE BACK WITH MIAMI: Chris Bosh as expected joined Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and charter Opt-Out Club member LeBron James. So all of the Heat's main guys have now opted out of their Miami conracts and become free agents. In a column -- click All For One to read -- I explore why this is good for the Heat. The literary images here also help explain it. If this poll feels like deja vu, it should. We ran the same question just two weeks ago (June 18). But that was before all the opt-outs. I thought it might be interesting to reprise the question and compare results. Have the opts-outs made you more confident or less that the Big 3 will all re-up with Miami? Vote now and say why.

THE STATE OF THE STATES: I write an unabashedly positive column on the state of U.S. soccer -- both the national team and the support for it. I feel both have turned a corner in this World Cup. The
1aa1aussoccerU.S. team, playing Belgium Tuesday in the round of 16, no longer is the little underdog cowering to the skills of Europe and South America. Likewise American soccer fans no longer are a cult or niche. Team and fandom both have grown up. Yes, support for U.S. soccer in a World Cup is largely patriotism-driven. Yes, I too have heard the jokes about how we'll be glad when the World Cup is over so we can start ignoring soccer again. Nevertheless, a once "foreign" sport is fully in the American mainstream now. Click on TEAM USA to read the full column.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! WORLD CUP ROUND OF 16: KNOCKOUT ROUND CONTINUES: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier group-play results. We're on to the round of 16 now, with two knockout games each day for four straight days, Saturday through Tuesday.


 The French have had a redeeming World Cup after a nightmare four years earlier but would have disappointed if they didn't advance here to the quarters. A goal in the 79th minute and another in extra time took care of that. Nigeria's offensive struggles continued after it managed only three goals in three group matches. My pick was: France, 2-1. 

GERMANY def. ALGERIA, 2-1 (OT): The Germans carry Europe's banner in terms of being the best non-South American bet for the crown, but didn't always look it here. Algeria from my view looked to be in over its head here, especially on the defensive end, but I underestimatecd the underdogs. My pick was: Germany, 4-1.

To follow: Tuesday--Argentina vs. Switzerland; United States vs. Belgium.

World Cup goal scoring through today's games: 54 matches, 150 goals, 2.78 per.


1aa1anetherlandsNETHERLANDS (def. Mexico, 2-1): You could argue the country that old-timers still call Holland was the most impressive of any in group play, going 3-0 and leading all flags with 10 goals. But the favored Dutch barely escaped to survive here, equalizing late and then winning on a penalty kick in extra time. A heartbreak for Mexico's El Tri. My pick was: Netherlands, 2-1 (bull's-eye).

1aa1acostaricaCOSTA RICA (def. GREECE, 1-1 [5-3 PKs]): Can two Cinderellas attend one (foot)ball? Costa Rica is the darling of this Cup after winning a pedigreed group that contained three former champions. But lightly regarded Greece was only team to advance with a negative goal differential. Costa Rica remains the Cinderalla standing by prevailingf despite playing a man down for a third of the match. My pick was: Costa Rica, 3-0. 

1aa1abrazilBRAZIL (def. Chile, 1-1 [3-2 PKs]): A date with host and favorite Brazil was a most dubious bracket reward for Chile, but the underdogs played valiantly through overtime before falling in penalty kicks. Brazilian fans were not entirely thrilled with their guys' play in the qualifying stage and should not have been today, with relief the emotion here far more than elation. My pick was: Brazil, 3-1.

1aa1acolombiaCOLOMBIA (def. Uruguay, 2-0): Colombia looked very good in qualifying (3-0, with 9-2 goals differential) and continued its strong run today. Uruguay was rocked by suspension of star Luis Suarez in the biting incident, effectively Mike Tyson-ing its chances. My pick was: Colombia, 2-0 (bull's-eye).

QUARTERFINAL BRACKET: Brazil vs. Colombia July 4; France vs. Germany/Algeria July 4; Netherlands vs. Costa Rica July 5; Argentina/Switzerland vs. United States/Belgium July 5.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is a 1aa1ahotbuttonnew Sunday feature of the blog (debuting last week) because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on summer hiatus, set to return in August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. World Cup: Knockout round: Brazil barely survived, Uruguay's Luis Suarez was suspended for biting and the U.S. reached round of 16, the knockout stage, and faces Belgium on Tuesday. Once again, America, on my count: "Let's gooooo States!"

2. Heat: LeBron leads Opt-Out Club: LeBron, Wade and Haslem all have opted out of their contracts and Bosh is expected to follow suit, all good news for Miami. Opting out is in!

3. NBA Draft: Heat land Napier: Miami's draft-night trade for UConn point guard Shabazz Napier made admirer LeBron James very happy. Isn't that the whole idea heading into free agency?

4. Marlins: Slowly fading: Good news: Giancarolo Stanton will be in Home Run Derby. Bad news: Slumping Fish are now in third place in NL East and four games back as playoff hopes run away.

5. Panthers: Cats draft defenseman No. 1: Aaron Ekblad, 18, a 6-4, 216-pounder from Ontario, is the latest in NHL Panthers' stockpile of young talent. Potential is good. Winning is better.

6. Dolphins: Pouncey's surgery: Center Mike Pouncey had hip surgery and will miss start of season. For O-line, apparently the Incognito-Martin Jinx continues.

7. Wimbledon: Williams sisters both out: ESPN The Mag's annual 'Body' issue is out July 11 and Venus Williams is among athletes artfully naked. Based on her and sister Serena's early Wimbledon exits, their game has been exposed, too.

8. Tiger Woods: Fizzles in return: Tiger missed the cut but said he was encouraged in first PGA Tour event following three months out after back surgery. That's a low threshold for encouragement. 

9. Michelle Wie: Wins first major: Former child-phenom wins Women's U.S. Open, at 24. And speaking of child phenoms...

10. Recruiting: Canes target 9-year-old: Seriously. UM women's basketball team is recruiting Orlando phenom Jaden Newman, 9. What would an improper inducement be? A Happy Meal?

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June 28, 2014

Wade opts out, Bosh next as stage set for return of Heat's Big 3; plus Brazil survives in World Cup, Dolphins stadium, Aaron Ekblad & more

1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): U.S. advances in World Cup, Heat make draft trade for Shabazz Napier, LeBron free agency odds, Big 3 lunch bugged, Panthers' big week and more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

WADE, HASLEM JOIN HEAT'S OPT-OUT CLUB, BOSH TO FOLLOW: LeBron James made public his verdict before he had to, now the deadline clock was ticking for dos and tres of Heat's Big 3. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh needed to reveal 1aa1aboshwadeby midnight Monday whether they would opt-out of their contracts and become free agents -- as James did -- or opt-in to remain with Miami at full salary. They'll beat the clock. Wade revealed his opt-out plans on Saturday, with Bosh expected to soon follow. Udonis Haslem did, too. All were fully expected to follow James' lead and opt out, which is good news for the Heat. The Big 3 all opting-in would have broken the cap-space bank and not allowed Miami to add and re-tool. The Big 3 all opting-out allows Miami to negotiate lesser deals for each in order beef up the roster. Three opt-outs do not guarantee but strongly suggest the Big 3 will cooperate on the financial end and all return. A complication by Wade/Bosh would have been if one opted out but the other did not, but that was never expected.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! WORLD CUP ROUND OF 16: LET THE KNOCKOUTS BEGIN!: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier group-play results. We're on to the round of 16 now, with two knockout games each day for four straight days, today through Tuesday. The eight knockout games start with host Brazil in action and end with the United States. What's not to like?

KNOCKOUT STAGE / ROUND OF 16: BRAZIL (BARELY), COLOMBIA ADVANCE: On the entire continent of South America, the total number of people not watching the World Cup today would not fill a Kia. Eight of the nine South American teams to advance are in play, with the biggest, hottest spotlight on host Brazil kicking off the Knockout Stage.

BRAZIL def. CHILE, 1-1 (3-2 PKs):
A date with host and favorite Brazil was a most dubious bracket reward for Chile, but the underdogs played valiantly through overtime before falling in penalty kicks. Brazilian fans were not entirely thrilled with their guys' play in the qualifying stage and should not have been today, with relief the emotion here far more than elation. My pick was: Brazil, 3-1.

 Colombia looked very good in qualifying (3-0, with 9-2 goals differential) and continued its strong run today. Uruguay was rocked by suspension of star Luis Suarez in the biting incident, effectively Mike Tyson-ing its chances. My pick was: Colombia, 2-0 (bull's-eye).

To follow: Sunday--Mexico vs. Netherlands; Costa Rica vs. Greece. Monday--France vs. Nigeria; Germany vs. Algeria. Tuesday--Argentina vs. Switzerland; United States vs. Belgium.

World Cup goal scoring through group play/entering knockout stage: 48 matches, 136 goals, 2.83 per.

1aa1adolphinsDOLPHINS STADIUM RENOVATIONS UNDERWAY: They began officially this morning, what the club is calling a "modernization" of the stadium. If you don't believe me, here's a photo the Dolphins provided. The multi-year construction project follows funding approval by Miami-Dade commissioners. The renovation will include a shade canopy, all new seats, new video boards and concourse and concession upgrades in a project expected to be completed by the start of the 2016 season.

1aa1aekbladCATS MAKE SAFE, SMART CHOICE WITH EKBLAD: Folks who know hockey more than I say 18-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad, 6-4 and 216 pounds, was the surest thing in last night's NHL Draft. Your Florida Panthers, with the No. 1 pick, were smart to take him. They could have traded down or taken a scorer, but it's hard to say this wasn't a 'need' pick when the Cats ranked next-to-last in goals allowed last season. Besides, Ekblad is a two-way defender who had 23 goals in Ontario last season. The newest Panther is pictured. Young female Cats fans (and maybe some of you guys, too), start your swooning. 

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June 26, 2014

LeBron, 'Melo free-agency betting odds; plus Napier big shot in Heat war for LeBron; U.S. advances, Belgium next; also I bugged Big 3 lunch, Cats & more

1) It is FRIDAY, JUNE 27. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Billboard slams LeBron's loyalty, vote-Giancarlo campaign, U.S. World Cup poll result, Futblog! and more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

"He keeps crying about other teams helping the Heat. Somebody hand poor Bill Simmons a hanky." --Greg Cote

Betting odds on LeBron, 'Melo, rookie of year: From our friends at Bovada today, LeBron James is a prohibitive 1-6 favorite to re-sign with Miami, with his going to Cleveland next at 5-1. Carmelo Anthony is even 1-1 to land in Chicago, then it's 2-1 to re-sign with Knicks, 5-1 Heat and 11-2 Houston. Rookie of the year odds find Jabari Parker (5-1) and Andrew Wiggins (11-2) near co-favorites, with the Heat's Shabazz Napier tied for eighth at 12-1. 

HEAT DRAFT-NIGHT TRADE FOR NAPIER A PLEASE-STAY GIFT TO LEBRON: From across the Miami bow came an undisguised volley in The Battle for LeBron James last night when the Heat's draft-night trade with Charlotte brought point guard 1aa1ashabazzShabazz Napier of UConn. It would not have been any more obvious if at the Heat draft table they'd held up a sign that read, 'This one's for you, 'Bron.' Napier is a favorite of LeBron's, and based on the kid's shirt at right, the feeling is mutual. Said Napier: "For one of the best players in the world to be intrigued by my talent is something so special to me. I appreciate it." Only Napier's lack of height (6-0) kept him from being perhaps a top-10 pick. He finally went 24th to Charlotte, with Miami giving up its 26th and 55th picks in this draft, a 2019 second-rounder and cash considerations to get him. They were smart to. Beyond the considerable LeBron factor, he fits a Heat position need. (Sorry, Mario and Norris). "Shabazz Napier is a winner, he’s a two-time NCAA champion and he’s one of the elite players in college basketball," said Heat potentate Pat Riley. “We feel very fortunate we were able to acquire him and we feel like he fits in extremely well. He has a high motor, high basketball IQ, is a great shooter and has great character." Napier despite his height and position averaged 5.6 rebounds as a senior and was a first-team All-American. He also avearged 40.5 percent from 3-point range as a senior, a welcome number for a Heat team needing to retool its long-range game. This was a smart trade toboth fill a need and to make LeBron happy. And isn't that the whole idea right now as Mr. Opt-Out sashays into free agency? Riley normally doesn't care much about the draft, but he did this time, and all knew why.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! USA ADVANCES IN WORLD CUP DESPITE LOSS. "LET'S GOOOOO STATES!": FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier daily results and group-by-group preview.

World Cup Day 15 / Today 6-26: Match of Day: Germany 1, United States 0 (Group G): The bad news: The United States got dominated pretty thoroughly yesterday by the Germans, 1aa1aletsgostatesespecially in time of possession and ball control. The good news, the only news that matters: Even in losing Team USA advances to the round of 16, the knockout round -- the general measure of a successful World Cup for the States. The Americans'  earlier 2-1 win over Ghana and 2-2 draw with Portugal left the U.S. with four points and big hopes entering this group-play final. Team USA would have advanced with a win or draw, or with a loss if it enjoyed the final goal-differential (tiebreaker) edge over the winner of Ghana-Portugal. And that happened. The U.S. was plus-2 over Ghana and plus-5 over Portugal. That meant astute American fans were rooting for Portugal, which won, because of the greater margin of error. My impartiality, of course, was out the window as always. "U-S-A! U-S-A!" Or, as I and my Twitterers like to say, "Let's Gooooo States!"

Other matches:

Portugal 2, Ghana 1 (Group G): One of these teams could have advanced because of the U.S. loss, but neither did what it needed to. Ghana was minus-2 goals vs. the U.S. so would have had to win by two goals here to knock out the Americans. Portugal was minus-5, too much margin to reaslitically make up even in victory. That's why American fans were rooting for Portugal.

Belgium 1, Korea Republic 0 (Group H), 4 p.m.: Belgium already had clinched advancement but sealed the group win and facingf the U.S. next. South Korea could only advance if Russia had beaten Algeria and the Koreans made up a 1-goal tiebreaker differential to the Russians. Didn't happen.

Algeria 1, Russia 1 (Group H), 4 p.m.: Algeria would advance with a win or a draw so got what it needed. Russia needed a win. Sorry, Putin.

World Cup scoring statistics through today and through group play: 48 matches, 136 goals, 2.83 per.


Saturday 28th: Brazil vs. Chile; Colombia  vs. Uruguay.

Sunday 29th: Mexico vs. Netherlands; Costa Rica vs. Greece.

Monday 30th: France vs. Nigeria; Germany vs. Algeria.

Tuesday 1st: Argentina vs. Switzerland; United States vs. Belgium.

LEBRONMANIA UPDATE: BIG 3 MEET, EAT SALADS!: Security was high at Miami's Soho Beach 1aa1asohobeachhouseHouse this week as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh met -- no, had a summit! -- for lunch. Undisclosed sources reported they all had salad. I managed to bug the table but one of the Big 3 must have put his man-purse on my hidden mic because most of the conversation was useless, muffled garble. But I did make out this one mid-lunch exchange, which sheds exclusive light on the free-agency plans of the Big 3 and thus of the Heat's future:

LeBron: "I dunno, man."

D.Wade: "For real."

Bosh: "Mmm. This tart raspberry vinaigrette marries so well with a mesclun-arugula mix."

Reports of the summit naturally caused a social media firestorm. I love that the three had such high security and guarded their privacy with such care. Dear Big 3: IN the future, if you really want privacy, may I suggest you consider NOT MEETING IN PUBLIC. You ever consider a nice catered lunch at one of your mansions? As opposed to, say, making a midday spectacle on South Beach? The answer to that rhetorical is that they obviously love the spotlight and attention. And, Lord knows, we give it to them.

HOCKEY TALK! BIG WEEK FOR PANTHERS: Everybody's talking about the World Cup or the Heat and 1aa1agallantLeBron so naturally my latest column today is on ... hockey. OK so I don't lead the league in timing. Sue me. Actually my timing isn't bad. This has been huge week for the Panthers, first introducing a new head coach, Gerard Gallant, and now holding the No. 1 pick in tonight's/Friday's NHL draft. Of course both those spotlights are for the wrong reasons, since new coaches and high draft picks both are indicative of losing, an unfortunate Cats pattern for too long. Click on Trying to Turn A Corner for my column on the state of the Panthers, and the onus on general manager Dale Tallon. Gallant is pictured, looking like he wants to beat somebody up. Quick aside: What are the odds that one sports town would have major head coaches named Golden and Gallant? I'm just asking.

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June 25, 2014

Billboard slams LeBron over loyalty; plus stuff the ballot for Giancarlo Stanton!, U.S. World Cup poll result, Futbol! (update II) & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron James opts out, me in belly of USA soccer fanatics, World Cup poll, Futblog!, Mike Pouncey, Venus Williams naked, Heat draft & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1abillboardMORE ON LEBRON, HIS OPT-OUT AND HEAT'S DRAFT PLAN TO KEEP KING HAPPY: It was expected. It should not cause overreaction or panic to ricochet among the Heat faithful. On the other hand, it does signal that the time has begun for Pat Riley and his empire to take off the gloves and fight to keep the franchise's one essential player. Click on The Fight Is On for today's latest column by me. Meantime San Antonio takes a shot at LeBron with the billboard at right. LeBron has a chance to make a loyalty statement of his own by staying in Miami. Thursday's NBA Draft could be a small way to make LeBron happy and keep him. Miami is trying to trade up from 26th to select UConn point guard Shabazz Napier, ESPN's Chad Ford first reported. Doing so would address a Heat need and also please James, who is a big fan of Napier's.

IT WILL BE AN INDICTMENT OF SPORTS FANS, BASEBALL AND AMERICA IN GENERAL IF STANTON IS NOT VOTED AN ALL-STAR GAME STARTER: This is a homer cause by me. Literally. I'm a homer for doing it, and I'm mostly doing it because of homers. Fans will elect three NL outfield starters for the all-star game. The 1aa1avotestantonMarlins' Giancarlo Stanton is currently running fourth in voting. This is criminal. Stanton and the three guys ahead of him -- Dodger Yasiel Puig, Pirate Andrew McCutcheon and Brewer Carlos Gomez -- all have around the same batting average. But Stanton leads all of them by a lot in home runs (20), RBIs (58) and OPS (.993). The other three are having nice seasons; Stanton is putting up MVP-caliber numbers. An all-star start should be a no-brainer. (So should a spot in the Home Run Derby, a role he'd like to have, in a competition made for a classic sluggers like him). So I call on Marlins fans (they're out there, trust me) and fair-minded baseball fans in general to click HERE for the MLB all-star ballot and get behind Stanton. He has earned your support. I'm Greg Cote and I approve this message.

Poll result: Passionate following for U.S. World Cup team: We asked how closely you are following the U.S. team in the World Cup and 56.3 percent answered "passionately." Another 31.4% said "casually" and only 12.3% said "not at all." Perhaps some in the latter group are following the event but with other allegiances. To American sports fans stubbornly uninterested, you don't know what you're missing.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! ARGENTINA, NIGERIA, FRANCE, SWISS ADVANCE: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier daily results and for group-by-group preview.

World Cup Day 14 / Today 6-25: Match of Day: Switzerland 3, Honduras 0 (Group E): schedule: The Swiss entered the game unlikely to advance, two goals behind Ecuador in the tiebreaker, but won by three to sneak into the round of 16 as Ecuador suffered a costly draw. Honduras, needing a miracle, was eliminated.

Argentina 3, Nigeria 2 (Group F): Argentina already had qualified but prevailed anyway behind Lionel Messi's two goals. Nigeria played valiantly and was rewarded by advancing despite the loss.

Bosnia & Herzegovina 3, Iran 1 (Group F): Bosnia had already been eliminated but managed a consolation win. Iran saw it slim hopes of advancing expire in defeat.

Ecuador 0, France 0 (Group E): France advances comfortably with the draw, but the draw was a killer for Ecuador and eliminated it. Ecuador enjoyed a two-goal edge over Switzerland in a tiebreaker but the Swiss win erased the need for a tiebreaker.

World Cup scoring statistics through today's games: 44 matches, 129 goals, 2.93 per.

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June 23, 2014

LeBron's Heat opt-out was expected, is not ominous; plus me amid USA soccer nuts, World Cup-interest poll, Pouncey, Venus Williams naked & more

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 24. No radio today. The Dan Le Batard Show is on vacation, so you get a break from me, too. 2) Congrats to Neal Gulkis, new media-relations guy at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Was with Dolphins for many years. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Futbol! World Cup and U.S. draw with Portugal, debut of Sunday Hot Button Top 10, Heat get-a-grip poll result & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

My new column on LeBron's opt-out: Click The Fight Is On for my column on LeBron James' future in the wake of his opting out of his Heat contract today. It's newly online and shipping to Wednesday's inky pulp editions. 

1aa1alebronjLEBRON'S OPT-OUT EXPECTED, NOT AS OMINOUS AS IT SOUNDS: LeBron James' agent informed the Heat this morning that his client will opt out of his Miami contract and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. This is not a surprise; club president Pat Riley called it "fully expected" in a statement released at about 1:15 p.m. This development therefore should not send Heat fans to a high ledge. As for the haters and overreactors, James had every right to do this and it should not be taken as a sign he's leaving. Yes, it could mean he is serious about testing free agency and possibly leaving for another team. But the opt-out could also be more of a procedural thing, a first step toward restructuring his deal for less money in concert with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to remain together. This is a fight Miami can and should win -- as long as Pat Riley convinces LeBron his supporting cast will be stronger than the one that fell short in 2014.  

FUTBLOG! WATCHING U.S.-PORTUGAL IN THE BELLY OF THE INSANITY: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See 1aa1abrazilwcearlier posts for earlier daily results and for group-by-group preview. I watched Sunday evening's 2-2 U.S. draw with Portugal at Mickey Byrnes Irish Pub in downtown 1aa1abyrnesHollywood, in a bar more crowded than anywhere I have been. (Relegated to runnerup: Bourbon Street at the apex of Mardi Gras). The photo at left does not convey the insane population density in the place. Fire codes were surely shattered. Waitresses carrying trays of beer and shots and food could barely navigate through the crush. Check me on Twitter or Vine for several videos from the game/party and for a great sense of the noise and atmosphere. I'd gone at the invitation of my son and some of his friends, not knowing what I was in for. Turns out it was the official watch party of the local chapter of American Outlaws, a U.S. soccer fan group. I mean, I was at ground zero of fanaticism for this team, this game, this sport, this World Cup. The place was a sea of red, white and blue. I and others stood on bench seats for a better view. Beer sprayed in celebration at U.S. goals. Chants erupted throughout the game. Some guys near us recognized me and started serenading my joke chant, "Let's gooooooo States!" (Which I must say was both a cheap thrill and excruciatingly embarrassing at the same time). I'm a lifelong soccer fan and a patriotic guy so this was right in my wheelhouse. I wore a U.S. soccer shirt and U.S. hat I'd bought while covering the 1994 World Cup held here. My voice today is hoarse from all the cheering. There is no wrong way to be a fan. But I must say, if you were watching the game with a couple of buds at your house, you were not getting the full experience. All of us though were denied the ultimate celebration by Portugal's tying goal with 39 seconds left. All of Mickey Byrnes Irish Pub sagged, went numb. Nevertheless, it was inspiring to be there amid the passion, to get a real feel for the grass roots of U.S. soccer fans, and to understand that thousands of watch parties just like this one were going on all over the country.

U.S. scenarios to advance: The U.S. would have clinched a spot in the round of 16 by winning last night but still is in good shape even with the draw. Click on Road to the Sweet 16 for all the scenerios involved. America advances with a win or draw vs. Germany this Thursday. We can also advance with a loss if Portugal-Ghana tie or by winning the goals-differential tiebreaker with the Portugal-Ghana winner. Computer odds for tghe group put Germany's likelihood to advance at 99.7 percent and the U.S. at 75.8%. Ghana is at 19.1% and Portugal 5.4%.

HOW CLOSELY ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE U.S. IN THE WORLD CUP?: This poll result interests me for two reasons. First, this is in no way a soccer blog. For all I know there might be a lot of readers wishing we'd get off this soccer thing and get back to the Dolphins or Heat or something more in their mainstream. Second, soccer in general shows a great divide in interest. Fans tend to be passionately interested, as with the crowd I describe in the top item here, or barely if at all paying attention. Although, the World Cup tends to draw even soccer agnostics into paying at least casual attention. I'm curious where you stand and where our blog readers in general stand on this. Vote and say why.

1aa1acostaricaWorld Cup Day 13 / Today 6-24: Match of Day: C
osta Rica 0, England 0 (Group D): The Brits are the latest big team to be sent packing as -- astonishingly -- Costa Rica's Los Ticos win the group. You wanted a Cinderella, World Cup? You got one.

Uruguay 1, Italy 0 (Group D): Italy the latest big club sent packing, playing with 10 men and yielding a goal in 81st minute. But Uruguayan star Luis Suarez faces possible suspension for biting incident.

Colombia 4, Japan 1 (Group C): Colombian storm into roudn of 16.

Greece 2, Cote d'Ivoire 1 (Group C): Big letdown for Team Cote.

World Cup scoring statistics after today's play: 40 matches, 117 goals, 2.93 per.

1aa1amexfansDay 12 / 6-23: Match of Day: Mexico 3, Croatia 1 (Group A): Credit to Mexico. El Tri needed at least a draw to advance to the round of 16 but left no doubt with a three-goal flurry within 10 minutes. Mexican fans are easy to dislike with their homophobic chants, but I respect that their team was fortunate to even qualify for the World Cup but is now making the most of it. 

Netherlands 2, Chile 0 (Group B): Dutch continue impressive Cup run, win their group.

Spain 3, Australia 0 (Group B): Defending champ  Spain alreday had been eliminated but save a bit of face with this result.

Brazil 4, Cameroon 1 (Group A): OK, Brazil looks like Brazil again.; Croatia vs. Mexico (Group A).

MIKE POUNCEY'S TAILSPIN: The Dolphins center had hip surgery today and is expected to miss at least the first two games of the regular season. The injury is just the latest. Pouncey was a figure in last year's Bullygate mess, embarrassed himself with a related Tweet, and was photographed wearing a hat in support of accused murderer Aaron Hernandez. Above and beyond this injury, I wonder about his decision making. I wonder if he is just coming into the prime of a Pro Bowl-caliber career, or if we have seen his best and can expected a flameout. That may be harsh. Let's find out.

1aa1avenusnakedHEY, LOOK. IT'S VENUS WILLIAMS. AND SHE'S NAKED!: ESPN The Magazine's annual 'Body' issue hits newsstands July 11, and the WorldWide Leader commenced pimping it today by revealing (literally) that tennis star Venus Williams will be among the athletes carefully baring all without actually baring any private parts. Here, in all her artfully displayed splendor, is Venus.


1aa1amichmitchHEAT DRAFT PROJECTIONS: ESPN's NBA draft guru Chad Ford has a two-round projection for this week's open meat market and his picks for the Heat are Michigan power forward Mitch McGary, pictured (1st round, 26th overall) and Arizona State point guard Jahii Carson (2nd round, 55th overall). 

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June 22, 2014

Futblog! USA concedes late goal in 2-2 World Cup draw with Portugal; plus Hot Button Top 10 debut, get-a-grip poll result & more

1) It is  SUNDAY, JUNE 22. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Get-a-Grip Heat poll, fun Marlins, Ricky Williams video, Futbol! World Cup and more. Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! UNITED STATES TRAILS, RALLIES, THEN IS TIED IN FINAL MINUTE VS. PORTUGAL: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier daily results and for group-by-group preview.

Day 11 / 6-22: MATCH OF DAY: U.S.A. 2, Portugal 2 (Group G): The U.S. put itself in strong shape with a 2-1 opening win over Ghana, while Portugal's 4-0 1aa1aussocceropening loss to Germany left it desperate. But the Americans had to match that imperative here to avoid absolutely needing to beat Germany in the next game. A draw is an OK result for the U.S. but a win would have assured an advance into the round of 16. Portugal had to win today. How and how well the Americans replace injured Jozy Altidore would be a key in this match. So would the health of Portugal's sublime Cristiano Ronaldo, who played, but whose left knee was less than fit. Portugal also was without Pepe after his silly/dumb headbutt red-card in the previous match. Americans trailed  1-0 very early, fought back for a 2-1 lead and were tied heartbreakingly in the final 39 seconds of extra time. I'd claim to have been an impartial journalist here, but the U.S. soccer shirt I was wearing might have given me away. "U-S-A! U-S-A!" Or, as I like to say: "Let's gooooooo States!"

Belgium 1, Russia 0 (Group H): Late goal forges a well-deserved win.

Algeria 4, Korea Republic 2 (Group H): Algerians up 4-0 before Koreans fought back.]

World Cup scoring statistics after today's play: 32 matches, 94 goals, 2.94 per.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button 1aa1ahotbuttonmakes its blog debut today as our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on summer hiatus, set to return in August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. World Cup: "U-S-A! U-S-A!": Exhilirating opening 2-1 win over Ghana segues to today's huge match vs. Portugal. On my count, America: "Let's gooooo States!"

2. Heat: LeBron's Decision II: Pat Riley told fans to "get a grip." All that matters is that LeBron James gets a grip on a pen and signs a Miami contract extension.

3. Marlins: Underdogs hanging in: Andrew Heaney's big-league debut and Marcell Ozuna's walk-off throw this week kept the Fish (mostly) fun to watch.

4. NBA Draft: Heat prepare for 26th pick: It's Thursday in Brooklyn, with the big news that Joel Embiid likely will fall from No. 1 spot after surgery on his foot and to remove that second 'i' from his name.

5. Panthers: New coach, draft on deck: Cats hire Montreal assistant Gerald Gallant, assuring a spate of awful headline puns. Draft is this coming Friday in Philly, with Florida picking No. 1 overall and expected to take defender Aaron Ekblad. For an analysis, let's go to Pierre Kiper Jr.

6. Dolphins: Moreno issues lowlight mini-camp: Team staged three-day minicamp, and biggest news out of it was that RB Knowshon Moreno is out of shape and may have degenerative knee problem. Oy.

7. NFL: More pressure on Redskins name: U.S. Patent Office ruled that "Redskins" is disparaging to Native Americans. "No it isn't!" said whitest-man-in-America Dan Snyder.

8. Wimbledon: Tennis' grandest major set to begin: Not sure who'll win it, but I bet the 'over' on breathless TV references to strawberries and cream.

9. Tiger Woods: Star finally makes return: Woods returns to PGA Tour this week with an eye on next month's British Open. Twelve weeks after back surgery, Tiger's back!

10. Clayton Kershaw: No-hitter best game ever?: No hits and perfection but for Dodger teammate Hanley Ramirez's error allowing one runner. Oh, and 15 strikeouts. Clayton K-shaw.

Poll result: We got a grip, Pat. Broad satisfaction with Heat: In the wake of Pat Riley advising fans to "get a grip" we asked how successful you think the first four years of the Big 3 era have been, and 56.6 percent said "unequivocal success," 34.0% said "mostly successful," and 3.7% said "somewhat successful." The rest, the 5.7% to whom Riley was apparently speaking, said "less than what I expected."

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June 20, 2014

Grade the first four years of Heat's Big 3. Poll. Vote now!; plus fun Marlins, catching up with Ricky Williams, Futblog! World Cup & more

1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 21. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Pat Riley 'Get a Grip' and related video, Big 3 free agency poll, Redskins name, Philbin's lack of candor, Canes QBs, Futblog! World Cup & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Panthers hire coach: Montreal Canadiens assistant Gerard Gallant is the new man. Not sure if it's a great hire, but am sure his surname lends itself to a million awful headline puns.

Reader alert on Sunday notes column: Our Sunday notes-column package is on summer hiatus beginning this week, due to return in August. Meantime I'll interperse elements of it into our blog, including a Sunday list of "Things South Florida Sports Fans Are Talking About" starting this weekend.

GOT A GRIP? YOUR VERDICT ON THE HEAT'S FOUR-YEAR BIG 3 RUN: Heat potentate Pat Riley made quite an impact with his annual post-mortem news conference this week; click on Get A Grip for my 1aa1apatrileycolumn off it. His premise in telling everybody to "get a grip," in the context he said it, was to gently admonish any fans who are too upset by the recent NBA Finals loss to San Antonio to see this four-year run of four straight Finals appearances and two championships as anything but an unequivocal success. I thought Riley volunteering that was interesting mostly because it presumes a disappointment or even anger that I'm not sure is out there. I don't hear a lot of Heat fans moaning about underachievement or dissatisfaction. My impression is that most fans are pretty damned satisfied by four shots at the crown and twice taking it. But since I am occasionally wrong, and since Riley sort of brought it up with "get a grip," I want to toss up this poll to get a grip gauge on how fans judge this four-year run of the Big 3. (I purposely didn't include "failure" as a poll option, just to annoy the Heat-hating Twittidiots out there). Vote for the answer you think is most reasonable and say why.

Poll result: Almost 7 in 10 think Heat's Big 3 will be back: We asked, yes or no, will all of the Heat's Big 3 be back in Miami next season (you may still vote), and it was 69.1 percent yes.

MARLINS COMPETING, EXCITING: The Marlins are fun this year. They're one game back in the NL East, hanging in on the playoff chase despite the loss of Jose Fernadez, whose injury was supposed to send the season reeling. Earlier this week young ace Andrew Heaney made a terrific big-league debut. Last night the Fish win on a walk-off throw, a bullet from Marcell Ozuna in the outfield. Team is seldom on the national radar for the right reasons, but they'll be one of the stories of the year -- and Mike Redmond the manager of the year -- if they somehow make the playoffs.

CATCHING UP WITH RICKY WILLIAMS: Former Dolphin Ricky Williams, the free spirit, now  is an assistant coach the the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas. Click HERE for is a well-done video updating you on Williams.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! ARGENTINES, GERMANS TOP TODAY'S CARD: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news and summaries on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil. (See earlier posts for earlier results including the U.S. win, and for group-by-group preview).

Day 10 / Today 6-21: Match of Day: Germany 2, Ghana 2 (Group G): After a scoreless half a four-goal flurry within 20 thrilling minutes. The U.S., in the same group, hoped for a Germany win. Ghana's point puts a bit more pressure on the American to win tomorrow, not draw, and certainly not lose. 

Argentina 1, Iran 0 (Group F): The Argentines, my personal pick to win the World Cup, struggled before finally scoring in the opening moments of extra time on Lionel Messi magic, and advancing.

Nigeria 1, Bosnia & Herzegovina 0 (Group F): And the Bosnians are sent packing.

World Cup scoring statistics after today's play: 29 matches, 83 goals, 2.86 per.

Day 9 / 6-20: Match of Day: Costa Rica 1, Italy 0 (Group D): One of the bigger upsets in the World Cup so far. Costa Rica winning a game like this is partly why I was upset by Jurgen Klinsmann suggesting the U.S. had no chance to win the World Cup. 

France 5, Switzerland 2 (Group E): Glad I had the 'over.'

Ecuador 2, Honduras 1 (Group Group E): Underdog Hondurans scored first but couldn't hold on.

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June 19, 2014

Heat's Pat Riley: "Get a grip!" (w/ video); plus Big 3 poll, odds LeBron leaves, Philbin and honesty, Redskins, Canes' QBs, Futblog! Brits out & more

1) It is THURSDAY, JUNE 19. Thanks to Colin Cowherd for having us on the Herd yesterday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): How-much-faith-in-Dwyane Wade poll, Heat betting faves for '15, final postseason MVP standings, FUTBOL! WorldCup including U.S. win and more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1aredskinsPotentially huge news on Redskins name:
The U.S. Patent Office ruled the nickname Redskins as disparaging and ordered trademark rights canceled. Story here. Could be a significant step in ongoing pressure on NFL and Washington to change the nickname.

PAT RILEY: "GET A GRIP!": Heat president Pat Riley today softly scolded fans and media and even his own players who in any way are disappointed by two NBA championships out of four straight Finals appearances. Click on Get A Grip for my column off today's Riley session, now newly online and shipping to Friday's inky pulp editions. And below is a new, related video with myself (left) and colleagues Barry Jackson and Joe Goodman:


HOW FREE AGENCY AND THE  BIG 3 WILL SHAKE OUT FOR THE HEAT: The next month's insanity over the future of the Heat's Big 3 got off to a proper start with Dwyane Wade's it-spoke-volumes 1aa1ahappybig3 1aa1aapprehensivebig3no-show at the team's post-mortem media session, amid speculation whether he'd be better coming off the bench and a general perception (see poll result below) that he's a falling star. As LeBron James, Chris Bosh and coach Erik Spoelstra were talking and saying as little as possible, a report wafted across the Internet that LeBron had enrolled his two young sons in an Ohio school for the coming year. OH MY GOD! Except it wasn't true. Buckle in, Heat fans. It's going to be a rumor-filled, tea-leaves-reading summer until this thing plays itself out. Will it be an agreeable, smiling Big 3 (left) accepting financial hits for the greater good in Miami? Or will it be an apprehensive Big 3 (right) tired of turning down millions and seriously exploring options? Take a dip in our poll and tell the world what you think will become of the Big 3 in Miami. Come back intact? Or no? Vote and say why.

UCLA forward is Heat's projected draft pick: ESPN's Chad Ford in his eighth (eighth!) mock NBA draft has Miami selecting UCLA power forward Kyle Anderson No. 26 overall next week. I would sooner think the Heat would go for one of three point guards -- UConn's Shabazz Napier, Syracuse's Tyler Ennis or Missouri's Jordan Clarkson -- if any falls to 26th.

Betting odds favor LeBron staying in Miami: Bovada doesn't have a line on our poll question but tells us that LeBron is a 1-3 favorite to re-sign with Miami. Then it's Cavaliers at 7-2, Bulls and Rockets both 13-2 and Lakers a longshot 15-1.

Poll result: Most see Dwyane Wade as in decline: Granted the timing was rough, with poll coming in wake of his two bad games to end Finals. But 62.7 percent said Wade is in decline vs. only 25.4 % who said he's still all-star caliber. Only 3.7% see him as still elite, and 8.2% were undecided.

DEAR JOE PHILBIN: A LITTLE HONESTY, PLEASE?: We've been purposely avoiding the Dolphins lately, because of A) mandatory Heat obsession and B) the fact that the NFL in May and June doesn't matter 1aa1ajoepeven though the teams are sporadically practicing in their OTA's and minicamps. But a Dolphins practice this week caught our attention because of the disparity in how the day's work was viewed by coach Joe Philbin and by quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Philbin: "I really liked the way we started off the mini-camp. I thought the practice had excellent energy." Tannehill: "Today wasn’t our best day. We’ve had much better days as an offense all around, getting lined up, playing fast, throwing the ball, protecting, all around. We just didn’t have our best day today. It was a frustrating day." Two quick thoughts: 1) I like the indication of emotion and public disatisfaction by Tannehill. That shows growth, and leadership. 2) Half his team could be felled by heat stroke and the other half swallowed by a giant sinkhole and Philbin would say the practice went great. Honesty wouldn't kill you, Joe. Maybe your team could use a public kick in the a-- once in a while. If your QB isn't satisfied and says so, that's honest leadership you might consider trying.

CANES FASHION THEMSELVES A QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY: UM coach Al Golden doesn't know who his quarterback is as the season chugs ever nearer. It was senior Ryan Williams, before his knee injury and 1aa1aheapsjsurgery that could have him unavailable for a substantial chunk of  the season. Then the starting baton was taken by redshirt-freshman Kevin Olsen, but he was awful in the Spring Game (7-for-21) and hasn't done much to inspire faith that he's ready. Now in comes transfer Jake Heaps (pictured), who already has graduated (Kansas) and is available immediately. He brings experience, having thrown 896 major-college passes (BYU, Kansas) with 32 TDs and 27 interceptions. I foresee him winning the job from Olsen. But is the job then Williams' whenever he is ready? Lots of uncertainty swirling around at The U with the most important position. On the bright side? None of the Canes' quarterbacks has stolen any crab legs.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! BRITS, COTE IN ACTION TO HIGHLIGHT DAY'S CARD: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news and summaries on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil. (See earlier posts for earlier results including the U.S. win, and for group-by-group preview). England returns to action to top today's card. My personal non-U.S. favorite, Cote d'Ivoire, also is in action.

1aa1aurufansDay 8 / Today 6-19: Match of Day: URUGUAY 2, ENGLAND 1 (Group D): If you're British, you feel broken. England is headed home, failing to get out of group play with today's defeat. Isn't as big a World Cup disappointment or surprise as Spain's similar fate, but close enough.

Colombia 2, Cote d'Ivoire 1 (Group C): Colombians, group favorite, edge the Official Non-U.S. Team of People Named Cote Like Me.

Greece 0, Japan 0 (Group C): May I be honest? A scoreless draw between Greece and Japan is the World Cup nadir for me thus far.

1aa1achilefansDay 7 / 6-18: Match of Day: CHILE 2, SPAIN 0 (Group B): You wouldn't want to be Spain's national coach right now. The defending World Cup champions were eliminated in group play with today's loss sending Spain packing at 0-2 and outscored by 7-1. La Furia Roja are first reigning champs ever to lose its first two matches, and head home as defending chumps.

Netherlands 3, Australia 2 (Group B): Predictable Dutch letdown after big opening win over Spain, but the (much) better team prevailed.

Croatia 4, Cameroon 0 (Group A): Crotians dominant in elimating Cams from the tournament.

Note: ESPN says its World Cup viewership is up 172 percent over 2010 through 17 matches. Impressive. Yell that at whomever you know who's still in the Dark Ages on soccer. 

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June 16, 2014

What's your faith in Dwyane Wade? Poll. Vote now; plus "U-S-A!" winning World Cup debut, Heat betting fave for '15 NBA title, Radio Tuesday & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my 24th national appearance on the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome. 

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 17. R.I.P., Tony Gwynn, the baseball star, taken by cancer at 54. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Spurs. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Game 5, Miami done, FUTBOL! World Cup and more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Links: Click on LeBron Or Bust for my column from San Antonio off season-ending Heat loss. Click on I Believe That We Will Win for a U.S. soccer video that will pump you up if you are breathing.

DO YOU STILL HAVE FAITH IN DWYANE WADE?: No, we are not putting this Finals loss on Dwyane Wade. San Antonio's 4-1 rout of Miami was too decisive and thorough to place it on any one 1aa1adwadeplayer or thing. Pat Riley bears his blame. I mean, how much did Greg Oden and Michael Beasley contribute, exactly? Erik Spoelstra bears his blame, too. The thin roster left him struggling for answers and seemingly out of them. Everybody not named LeBron James bears his blame. But Wade is a natural talking point after averaging only 15.2 points in the Finals including 10 and 11 points on 7-for-25 shooting in the last two games. That's not to mention the casual defense immortalized in a viral video. Heat fans have a right to wonder if Wade, at 32 and beset by health issues, is still an able No. 2 scorer capable of lessening the load on LeBron. If he's still an all-star worth a big contract. Where is Wade on his career timeline moving forward? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

DESPITE YOUR HAND-WRINGING, HEAT IS 2015 CHAMPIONSHIP BETTING FAVORITE: Via our friends at Bovada, Heat a 3-1 early betting favorite for the NBA championship, followed by Spurs and Thunder both 6-1, Clippers 9-1 and Bulls and Pacers both 9-1. In NHL, Chicago Blackhawks top a bunched pack for '15 Stanley Cup at 7-1.

Final Heat Postseason MVP StandingsWe name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Last night: 1. LeBron James, 2. Chris Bosh, 3. Dwyane Wade. Final standings through 20 playoff games: LeBron James 48 points, Dwyane Wade 26, Chris Bosh 23, Ray Allen 8, Rashard Lewis 7, Chris Andersen 3, James Jones 3, Norris Cole 2.

OUR HEAT-SPURS GAME 5 POSTGAME VIDEO: That'll be me on the right and Heat beat writer Joe Goodman on the left holding the world's tiniest microphone:


1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! "U-S-A! U-S-A!" AMERICANS MAKE WINNING WORLD CUP DEBUT: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news/summaries/miscellanea on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil. (See earlier posts for earlier results and for group-by-group preview).

Day 6 / Today 6-17: Match of the Day: BRAZIL 0, MEXICO 0 (Group A): You know how in American football a tie is pretty much unsatisfying to both teams? not so in futbal. They are celebrating this draw in Mexico. They are mourning it in Brazil.

Belgium 2, Algeria 1 (Group H): Algerians led much of match on a penalty-kick goal but group favorite Belgium continued this Cup's run of comeback wins.

Korea Republic 1, Russia 1 (Group H): A better draw for the South Koreans than for Russia, the seen-as-better side.

Day 5 / 6-16: Match of Day: UNITED STATES 2, GHANA 1 (Group G): Ghana was the nemesis that knocked the Americans out of the past two World Cups, and 1aa1aamersoccerthe U.S. win here for three points is a huge step toward advancing out of group play into the round of 16. I'm a sports fan who gets paid for a living to not cheer, but I made no pretense here. I'm an American, and I was rooting for the U.S. side loudly, and proudly. Team USA scored in the very first minute on a left-footed shot just inside the right post by veteran Clint Dempsey. Ghana equalized late after enjoying the better of play and possession, but the U.S. fought back with a bouncing header goal in the 82nd minute by 21-year-old John  Brooks, a substitute. I hate that Jozy Altidore (from Boca Raton) was lost with what seemed like a Cup-ending hamstring strain, but that disappointment was drowned out by by cheering, coast to coast. Thrilling stuff, and a wonderful start to America's World Cup run. "U-S-A!"

Germany 4, Portugal 0 (Group G): The mighty Germans are considered the favorites in the Americans' 'Group of Death' and verified why today.

Iran 0, Nigeria 0: The first draw of the Cup, a better result for Iran than for the Africans.

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June 15, 2014

Finals G5: San Antonio 104, Heat 87: Miami three-peat dream dies. Fast start fizzles as LeBron (31) gets no help again; plus FUTBLOG! & more

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 16. R.I.P., Casey Kasem, 82. His distinctive dulcet tone and 'America's Top 40' were part of the soundtrack of my life. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with (what else) Heat-Spurs. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat Miracle-or-'Melo poll, Futblog! World Cup Days 1-2-3 and more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Click on LeBron Or Bust for my column from San Antonio off last night's season-ending Heat loss.

G5: SAN ANTONIO 104, HEAT 87: TORRID START, LEBRON'S 31 NOT ENOUGH AS THREE-PEAT DREAM ENDS: Miami led 22-6. After that, the Heat was outscored 98-65. What else there to say? Well, plenty. LeBron James scored 31 points and nobody else had more than 13 (Chris Bosh) for the Heat. Dwyane Wade fizzled with 11 on 4-for-12 shooting. Ray Allen, who started in place of slumping Mario Chalmers, was a quiet 1-for-8. It was LeBron or bust. It was bust. Perspective: San Antonio was absolutely terrific and thoroughly deserved to win the championship. And there is no shame in Miami losing -- even the way it did -- after two championships and four straight NBA Finals appearances in the BIg 3 era. Click LeBron Or Bust for my game column from San Antonio. ..... Original post: Chris Bosh after today's shootaround here: "We're not going down. We're going to win this game tonight. Plain and simple, we're going to win this game. I don't care about guarantees. We're just going to win this game." San Antonio's arena will be filled tonight with fans expecting a coronation, and also a de-throning. The Heat 1aa1aheatg5 1aa1a14finalsmust send them home disappointed, and then win Tuesday back in Miami, and then win a Game 7 back in Texas, to forge the miracle it would take for a three-peat championship. Odds could not be longer considering no team in NBA history ever has come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit to win. The question is: Who believes? Do Miami fans? Do Heat players themselves? It will take more than belief, of course. Intangibles like confidence won't be enough unless the Heat comes out with maximum effort and intensity, plays ferocious defense and gets major offense from places beyond LeBron James. Even that might not be enough; the Spurs are that good. But all of that at least gives Miami a shot. We should know in the first quarter, by Miami's motor and desperation, if the Heat came here for Game 5 to win it or to go through the motions in resignation. Bosh's quote alone suggests the former. So does everything we've learned about the Heat in the Big 3 era.

Poll result: Heat fans want a miracle three-peat more than they want 'Melo: We asked in a rare (for us) hypothetical poll if Heat fans who could pick only one would prefer a miracle rally for a three-peat title or adding Carmelo Anthony this summer. The miracle championship won with 65.7 percent, but that means slightly more than one in three voters opted for 'Melo.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings: We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. The standings through 19 playoff games, entering Sunday's Game 5: LeBron James 45 points, Dwyane Wade 25, Chris Bosh 21, Ray Allen 8, Rashard Lewis 7, Chris Andersen 3, James Jones 3, Norris Cole 2.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! ARGENTINA DEBUT, WIN TOPS DAY'S ACTION: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news/summaries/miscellanea on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil. (See earlier post for our group-by-group preview).

Day 4 / Today 6-15: Match of Day: ARGENTINA 2, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA 1 (Group F): The Argentines were gifted an own-goal and a score by national gift Lionel Messi to offset a late goal by Bosnia.

Switzerland 2, Ecuador 1 (Group E): Headed for the first darw of this World Cup, the Swiss scored in stoppage time.

1aa1afranceFrance 3, Honduras 0 (Group E): France, off a miserable World Cup four years ago, started neatly this time. Giving up a penalty-kick goal and playing a man down on a red card was an awful recipe for Honduras, one of the WC's biggest underdogs.

Notes: Rather a light day on the marquee, although the debut of highly regarded Argentina, my choice to win it all, lights up the schedule. ..... France claims a "spy drone" flew over one of its training sessions. FIFA is investigating. Hilarious! ..... See previous post for World Cup Days 1-2-3.

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