June 08, 2018

In search of Dolphins' elusive Grand Plan. My new column; plus how Trump hijacked NFL anthem protest cause, The List (NBA Finals sweeps), LeBron Summer Sweepstakes & more


1) It's FRIDAY, JUNE 8. Happy to be on this morning talking Miami sports with my old buddy Dan Sileo on 97.3 The Fan in San Diego. 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the perfect anytime-gift: our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your LeBron vs. Michael poll verdict, Dolphins Beef-O-Meter, 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

GaseIN SEARCH OF THE DOLPHINS' GRAND PLAN (OR TO SEE IF THERE IS ONE): I have coined it, "The Dolphins Disconnect" -- the gulf between the optimism you hear from Adam Gase (pictured) and his team and the consistently low expectations on the outside. The latest indication: ESPN's annual NFL offseason grades for each team, out this week. Miami is given a C-minus, ranking 30th of the 32 teams. (Detroit and Carolina are the only lower-graded teams, each with a D, while elsewhere in the AFC East, the Patriots get an A-minus, the the Jets a B and the Bills a C). I tackle the state of the Dolphins in my latest column. To read, click In Search of the Dolphins' Elusive Grand Plan.

SignHOW TRUMP'S AWFUL (YET BRILLIANT) SUBTERFUGE HIJACKED NFL PROTEST CAUSE: Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins held signs such as the one pictured -- YOU AREN'T LISTENING -- in response to media questions yesterday about Don Trump uninviting his team from a White House visit. It is the perfect sign of frustration to illustrate my most recent column, on how President Trump's awful yet calculated and politically self-serving subterfuge -- lying -- has brilliantly (for him) hijacked the NFL's anthem protest cause to wrongly make it about the flag and patriotism. As myself,  Jenkins and others will remind, the cause is about police shootings of unarmed black men. It is about racism, profiling and social injustice. It is about trying to open eyes and make America better. It is not about what Trump says it is as he unfairly paints protesting players as un-American ingrates who should be fired from the league -- almost as if First Amendment rights such as freedom of expression did not exist. To read my column, click on Uninvited Eagles Latest Pawns In Trump's Subterfuge.

LebLEBRON WON'T WIN JUNE. BUT HE'LL WIN JULY: A 3-0 NBA Finals series hole entering tonight's Game 4 all but verifies LeBron James won't be winning the championship. The question is, who'll be winning LeBron James a few weeks later, in free agency? In this week's column, I list what I consider to be the four favorites in order. Is the Miami Heat one of them? To read the column, click Handicapping the LeBron Summer SweepstakesOther most recent columns: When Sports Stopped Being All Fun & GamesThe King, Indeed: LeBron Tops Michael / NFL Hiding Problem And Hoping It Goes Away / Tannehill's Defining Season / A Solution To Jeter's Impatience / Heading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris / Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan / Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money.

THE LIST: NBA FINALS SWEEPS: This is the 72nd NBA Finals. With Golden State now leading Cleveland 3-0, it could be only the ninth Finals to end in a sweep. The eight 4-0 shutouts in league history:

Year    Result                                                                           Winning coach, Finals MVP

1959   Boston Celtics def. Minneapolis Lakers               Red Auerbach, Elgin Baylor

1971   Milwaukee Bucks def. Baltimore Bullets              Larry Costello, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

1975   Golden State Warriors def. Washington Bullets  Al Attles, Rick Barry

1983   Philadelphia 76ers def. Los Angeles Lakers        Billy Cunningham, Moses Malone

1989   Detroit Pistons def. Los Angeles Lakers              Chuck Daly, Joe Dumars

1995   Houston Rockets def. Orlando Magic                   Rudy Tomjanovich, Hakeem Olajuwon

2002   Los Angeles Lakers def. New Jersey Nets          Phil Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal

2007   San Antonio Spurs def. Cleveland Cavaliers      Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker

Notes: No Finals MVP was named in 1959; Baylor was series' leading scorer. Losing Lakers coach in 1983 and '89 was current Heat president Pat Riley.

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye. (For all of our most recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

May 18, 2017

NBA Draft projections for Heat at 14th include a tantalizing risk: My latest column; plus R.I.P. Chris Cornell, Csonka's open letter on plight of teammates, the NBA Finals matchup you want (poll), hip-hop Jimmy-J, Hot Button Daily (Thu) & more


1) It is THURSDAY, May 18. R.I.P., Chris Cornell. See video at bottom of this post. 2) Latest Back in My Day video: Click on BIMD: Gas Jockeys to watch. 3) Know any Dolfans? Thrill them with our book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Sunday column, HB Daily & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Newest column: The Heat, the draft and Harry Giles: Click on Big Risk For Big Upside to see how a top-five talent could fall to Miami at 14th, and why the Heat, with proper assurances, should pounce if the get the chance.

HarrygilesMOCK-DRAFT FORECASTS FOR HEAT WITH 14TH OVERALL PICK: The June 22 NBA Draft looms after last night's lottery saw no miracle for the Heat, who'll select 14th overall. Miami had a 0.5 chance at the No.1 pick and 1.8% to get in the top three. Instead the Heat will pick mid-round as the odds forecast, and ESPN.com's post-lottery mock draft predicts Miami will end up with Duke freshman forward Harry Giles (pictured right). Sayeth the mock: "It might be a few weeks before we know what NBA doctors think of Giles' knee. If he's red-flagged medically, he could drop up to 10 spots on our board, depending on the diagnosis. However, if doctors are satisfied that his knees are Johncollinsin good shape, the Heat will get a steal at No. 14. Many scouts feel Giles has the most raw talent of any player in the draft. And the Heat can afford to bring him along slowly, getting him fully healthy and explosive again before unleashing a Hassan Whiteside-Giles frontcourt from hell." My take: See my column, linked above. Always like the Duke pedigree, agree on the big upside, and power forward should be a pretty obvious target priority for Miami. Giles is a red-flag risk because of two ACL knee surgeries. But if Miami had medical assurances this would be a tantalizing, dynamic risk-pick if the opportunity arose. (ESPN has only one state player-college player going in its mock first round: Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac to Minnesota seventh overall). Another mock draft, by CBS Sports today, has Giles and his knees falling to 20th and Miami at 14 taking Wake Forest forward John Collins (pictured left). A third mock, by Sports Illustrated, has Heat selecting Indiana forward OG Anunoby. Well, at least everybody agrees it'll be a forward.

LARRY CSONKA SPEAKS OF HIS TEAMMATES' HEALTH STRUGGLES: In his blog at LarryCsonka.com, under the headline, My Teammates Battles (and we forgive him the missing apostrophe), the great former Dolphins running back speaks of the brain-injury issues affecting Nick Buoniconti and Jim Kiick, a plight that inspired this column by me. The photo shown, of Zonk with Kiick, is from Csonka's article, which we reprint here fully:

"Last Tuesday, my teammate, Nick Buoniconti, went public regarding his current health challenges in an article with Sports Illustrated online.  Subsequently, stories have been published on my running mate, Jim Kiick, as well. I usually see my teammates at the Dolphins alumni event each year so I was aware of some issues with both men.  However, I wasn’t aware of the extensive Zonkproblems both have been dealing with, especially with Nick.  Learning this, of course, saddens me a great deal. I’ve seen Jim the past few years at games.  In fact, I was at a game last fall with both Jim and Mercury [Morris] and had a great visit. I always ask how his health is and how he’s doing with the rest of his life.  We might discuss typical health issues a lot of us experience at our age but he always assures me that he’s, basically, doing fine in all aspects. When Jim and Mercury Morris joined me in Alaska a few years ago to tape an episode for NFL Films, "A Football Life," I noticed Jim was grumpier than usual and worrying more about small details. That wasn’t like the Jim Kiick I knew and played along side of. When I asked him about it, he joked and said he liked being a grumpy old man! As the media has written, Jim is in an assisted living facility in South Florida. I’m glad he’s there. He needs part-time care. However, he’s not as bad off, at this point, as the media has depicted.  At times he requires more attention than others but I know he and Mercury visit, go out for subs and hang out fairly often without any issues. Jim can still function in that capacity and enjoy life with his friends. What the future holds?  We don’t know. Jim has been diagnosed with dementia/early onset Alzheimer’s and suspected CTE. After a multitude of testing, Nick’s exact diagnosis is still ongoing. Each are dealing with different challenges. Football was a much more dangerous sport when we played than it is today. Unfortunately, many of us from that era are now paying the price. I’ve been lucky so far and count my blessings daily. However, I realize I have some of the same risk factors as others who played on the gridiron. I continue to exercise, eat right and take supplements for good brain health. I have several aches and pains but I, basically, feel good and try to maintain a positive outlook on my future. I believe football is a safer game now.  On one hand, I don’t like how new rules have changed the game I knew and played but if the changes truly make the game safer, then it’s worth it! I’ve always maintained (and sometimes with great controversy) kids shouldn’t play tackle football until junior high for a few reasons. In many cases, they are not well coached and, more importantly, not properly equipped. A child running around on a Pop Warner field with a sloppy helmet isn’t cute to me … it’s an outrage! Also, recent research points to young brains being at the highest risk of lasting effects from trauma. Young, developing brains cannot withstand that kind of hit without some repercussions sometime in their life (according to research I’ve read). Jim and Nick are great friends of mine.  Even though we only occasionally see each other, I think of them and my other teammates often. We shared a unique bond for an extraordinary period of time in our lives and still share in the historic success of our team. I hope better times come for both of them and I look forward to another visit this fall."


WHAT IS THE NBA FINALS MATCHUP YOU'RE MOST HOPING TO SEE?: San Antonio and Golden State are one game into their NBA Western finals, with the Warriors up 1-0 after what was (depending on your view) either than epic comeback by the Warriors or an epic choke by the Spurs. Now, we get a Boston-Cleveland Eastern finals after the Celtics Game 7 home win over Washington last night. That presents four possible combinations of NBA Finals we might see. I prefer a Warriors-Cavaliers rematch (click LeBron And Steph To the Rescue for my column why). You may or may not agree. Take a dip in our poll and say which NBA Finals you prefer to see:

Foxhiphop FoxhiphopFOX-TV NFL CREW DRESSES UP AS HIP-HOP POSSE FOR NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER: Yes, that's right, LeBron. I said posse. Sue me. The network's Charissa Thompson tweeted this out for some damned reason. Is it Halloween already? It continues a trend of younger-demographic-seeking sports entities pandering to hip-hip fans. We have seen it with Stephen A. SMith in promos on ESPN and with others. Ordinarily the prize for most-ridiculous in a pandering Fox photo shoot such as this would by default go to Terry Bradshaw -- every time. But I must give the dubious 'honor' here to Jimmy Johnson, our own esteemed former Canes and Dolphins coach. At far right you see the group photo. To the left I have isolated the shot of Jimmy looking like a Harry Caray impersonator auditioning for an old white Run DMC cover act.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / THU 5-18-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at L.A. Dodgers, 10 p.m.: The 1-8 homestand sucked. Maybe 6-game roadie will bring luck.

2. Virginia Tech at Hurricanes, noon: UM baseball 3-game set ends regular season, precedes ACC tourney.

3. NHL playoffs, 8 p.m.: Nashville up 2-1 and home vs. Anaheim in Game 4 of Western finals.

[Note: NBA playoffs are off today].

Select recent other columns: NFL's Moral Obligation: League must do more for brain-injury sufferers like Buoniconti and Kiick. LeBron And Steph To the Rescue: How a third straight Warriors-Cavs Finals will save a lopsided postseason. The Dolphins' Eight Ifs: Explaining dichotomy of opinion on Fins. On The Team's Terms, Not His: What it would take for a Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. Not In Our Stadium: N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa: Why Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons: Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami: Bush/Jeter group as frontrunner to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose: Controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy: Suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall: Tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph: strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?: A curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback: My oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.


Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote