Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Random Evidence: With Dolphins off this week, we welcome back Heat, Panthers

By design, dumb luck or just plain neighborliness, the Dolphins are nice enough to be off on a bye week to clear the local pro stage for a proper welcome-back to basketball and hockey. We say a gradual hello again to the Heat and Panthers, both of whose fans have begun a six-day countdown to major events Saturday.

The Panthers open the NHL regular season Thursday at Tampa but the Cats’ 21st home opener and first under new coach Gerard Gallant is Saturday against New Jersey.

The Heat preseason is under way and the first home exhibition is Tuesday against Orlando — but the must-see is Saturday against expatriate LeBron James and Cleveland in Rio de Janeiro, and on ESPN.

We wonder how good the Panthers will be, period, or if at all, after a rough preseason and a long history of not being good enough.

Mostly, we wonder how good the Heat will be, post-LeBron. We know already that the team’s sizzle and sexiness has largely disappeared, at least to the rest of America. Miami has gone from being the NBA’s four-year “it” team to just another team, downsized from a national phenomenon to local one.

The Bulls’ Joakim Noah still thinks the Heat are “Hollywood as hell” … only now he might mean Hollywood, Florida.

▪ Dolphins coach Joe Philbin last week not only declined to say who his starting quarterback is — he wouldn’t even confirm the team was on a bye week.

▪ Florida State, Alabama and Oklahoma still had places in the first College Football Playoff entering the weekend, but Oregon was bumped from the fourth seat. It’s like a game of high-stakes musical chairs.

▪ Saw a headline that LeBron already has mastered new Cavs coach David Blatt’s offense. Figures. The offense may be summarized as, “Give the ball to LeBron!”

▪ In other LeBron news, his latest TV production, Survivor’s Remorse, debuted Saturday on Starz, while another TV show of his, Becoming, starts Oct.26 on Disney XD. James also might continue to play basketball, time permitting.

▪ Bleacher Report reported, on what must have been an exceptionally slow news day, that Dwyane Wade and LeBron plan to remain friends.

▪ The Raiders fired Dennis Allen and named Tony Sparano interim coach. Image-obsessed, faux-tough Raiders fans don’t care about Sparano’s losing record; they just like that he wears sunglasses indoors.

▪ Johnny Manziel says he might offer to counsel Jameis Winston. No, seriously.

▪ Jose Fernandez threw a baseball last week for the first time since surgery, the team extended manager Mike Redmond’s contract and said it would soon offer a long-term deal to Giancarlo Stanton. That’s a better week than any the Marlins had playing this year.

▪ The biggest surprise of the baseball poststeason so far? That they didn’t rename the whole thing in honor of Derek Jeter.

▪ That reminds me. Jeter founded The Players Tribune, a website that allows athletes “to express themselves unfiltered.” Yes, because there used to be no way for athletes to do that other than through their own websites, Twitter, Instagram and, in general, the Internet.

▪ Baseball next spring will experiment with several rules designed to speed up games, including limiting trips to the mound to three per game. Still like my idea: One-pitch at-bats.

▪ Question. How does A’s general manager Billy “Moneyball” Beane get to keep being a genius when this was the 17th consecutive season his team failed to reach the World Series, let alone win?

▪ NASCAR’s new system has reduced the Chase for the Cup field from 16 drivers to 12. If you’re favorite driver is still in it, the new format is great. If not, it needs tweaking.

▪ Europe beat the United States for the eighth time in the past 10 Ryder Cups. Those people act like they invented golf. What? Oh.

▪ Rafael Nadal complained about the type of tennis ball being used in a tournament. Dude, unless the ball was square or made of lead, shut up and play.

▪ Spain is proceeding with a tax-fraud case against soccer superstar Lionel Messi. Legal analysts predict a trial could get Messi.

▪ Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was arrested for DUI, his second such offense. He also has been photographed with a bong. Much more off-field embarrassment and he’ll be ready for the NFL.

▪ UM’s Jim Larrañaga and Florida’s Billy Donovan headlined a basketball coach’s clinic Saturday in Hialeah, telling a rapt audience the key to success was having really great players.

▪ You see that viral video of the Ohio State assistant coach body-slamming the fan who ran onto the field? The fan lost his scholarship. Based on what I saw, the overreacting coach lost his mind.

▪ The 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago, its first time not in New York since 1964. So next spring will be the first time in memory loud booing hasn’t greeted the Jets’ first-round pick.

▪ Wilt Chamberlain is to appear on a new commemorative U.S. postage stamp. Based on his reputation, I am concerned the stamp will depict him making love.

▪ Golf caddie Steve Williams revealed plans to retire, unaware that nobody outside of his immediate family cares.

▪ The NFL awarded host honors for the 2018 Super Bowl to freezing Minnesota. “WHY!?” said an incredulous nation.

▪ Parting thought: Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain, who has a giant beard and appears to weigh 350 pounds, looks like a man who would be apprehended in a heavily armed mountain cabin while writing an end-of-the-world manifesto.

Visit Greg’s Random Evidence of a Cluttered Blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote and also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Hot list

Today: The Panthers’ 21st NHL season opener is Thursday at Tampa Bay. Florida is 10-9-1 in openers. Most all-time goals scored by a Panther in season openers:

Players

Goals

Seasons

Viktor Kozlov

5

1998 (2), 1999, 2001, 2003

Nathan Horton

4

2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Note: Thirteen players are tied with two goals. Kozlov is one of eight Panthers to score twice in an opening game. The others are Mark Parrish (1998), Ray Whitney (1999), Sandis Ozolinsh (2002), Joe Nieuwendyk (2006), Marty Reasoner (2010), Brian Campbell (2012) and Marcel Goc (2013).

WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT:

1. HURRICANES

UM faces big challenge at Georgia Tech: Embattled Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio enjoyed a week’s respite after a win Duke. But Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech threatened to restart the noise unless Canes could stop a GT ground game averaging almost 300 yards. So how’d they do?

2. HEAT

Six days until LeBron. But who’s counting? Miami began its preseason Saturday and makes its home debut Tuesday against Orlando — but the circled date is this Saturday against LeBron James and Cleveland in Rio de Janeiro. How funny would it be if LeBron didn’t play because they were “resting” him?

3. BASEBALL

MLB division series under way: It’s Giants-Nationals and Cardinals-Dodgers in the NL, and Orioles-Tigers and Royals-Angels in the AL. San Fran (2012), St. Louis (2011) and the L.A. Angels (2002) are only World Series winners since the 1980s. Rooting for them is like hoping Donald Trump hits the lottery.

4. PANTHERS

Ice, ice baby! Preseason done; real hockey is next: Florida, which last won an NHL playoff series in 1996, was 0-5 in exhibitions entering Saturday’s preseason finale at Tampa Bay. Now the regular season begins Thursday at Tampa, with the home opener on Saturday against New Jersey … ready or not.

5. DOLPHINS

Rest up on bye, Fins. Tough games ahead: Miami comes off a big win over the Raiders while other AFC East teams struggle. Chorus cues to sing, “Happy days are here again” — but wait. Green Bay is here next and then it’s on to Chicago. Those are actual NFL teams, by the way. Oakland couldn’t even fake it.

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