The Heat’s 27th franchise season and first since the sudden and rather inelegant departure of LeBron James begins this Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards in the downtown bayside arena.
Yes, everything is downsized now and the team that reached four consecutive NBA Finals, winning two, has fallen off the championship marquee. The epicenter of basketball and, really, of American sports, has detoured from South Beach to just north of Akron, Ohio.
But there are positives, of course, to LeBron leaving, such as … uh … hang on, give me a minute.
More time, please.
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Umm, ahh …
OK here’s a positive! Oft-criticized Heat fans may now arrive late to games and leave early with impunity, because the hectoring national media is no longer watching.
Another plus: The regular season takes on added importance now with wins harder to come by and most games a struggle. (Try to pretend that’s exciting and a good thing, yes?)
Also looking forward to those new “I’ve Been Bitten By Deng Fever” Heat T-shirts.
Meanwhile, up in Cleveland, a Nike-sponsored 10-story mural of LeBron is going up near the Cavaliers’ arena, because Nike and LeBron are such about subtlety and understatement.
James switched back to his No.23 jersey based on a fan vote and is now going back on social media to let fans decide if he should resume his pregame chalk toss.
Here’s another idea.
Let fans decide if LeBron should go [bleep] himself, but confine the voting to Miami.
▪ The Panthers are off until returning home Thursday. Cats hockey games, for the first time since the old Miami Arena days, are now airing in Spanish, too. Now people can not listen in two languages.
▪ Every NFL team has now lost at least one game. “Nobody’s perfect,” said the smirking ’72 Dolphins. “Oops. Except us!”
▪ Been a few days since an NFL player was arrested or suspended. I’m worried. Is everything OK?
▪ The Cowboys released openly gay Michael Sam. Apparently 6-1 Dallas was really bothered by all that “distraction” he caused.
▪ Sentences I Never Imagined Writing (one in a series): “Royals catcher Salvador Perez wears Victoria’s Secret perfume for good luck.”
▪ Manager Joe Maddon quit the Tampa Bay Rays one week after his GM left to run the L.A. Dodgers. The national group, People Who Believe Don Mattingly’s Job is Safe, is meeting tonight at the Waffle House. Corner booth.
▪ The Junior World Judo Championships end Sunday in Fort Lauderdale. Judo is somewhat akin to what you have seen in UFC, only not nearly as ridiculously violent and, therefore, not nearly as popular.
▪ Seattle TV station KOMO, airing a report on Peyton Manning breaking the TD-pass record, mistakenly showed a photo of Gary Payton. Other than the football/basketball, black/white, first name/last name and spelling differences, the report was accurate.
▪ The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released Tuesday, with at least a dozen one-loss teams all clamoring to be included in the top four. Remember when we naively thought a playoff would end all the arguing and debate. How cute were we!
▪ That reminds me. No date set yet for Jameis Winston’s student conduct-code hearing at FSU. Small suggestion: Might want to do it while he’s still a student.
▪ QB change for Gators, Treon Harris replacing Jeff Driskel. Not sure yet who will be replacing coach Will Muschamp.
▪ North Carolina football is being investigated for academic fraud, including bogus classes. Should have raised suspicions when players received a passing grade if they could spell “UNC.”
▪ A back ailment will put Lakers guard Steve Nash out for the year. Hmm. Steve is 40. Let’s change out for the year to out for the career, shall we?
▪ NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup culminating next month at Homestead is down to eight finalists. Kevin Harvick called the new format “the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Imagine what drivers who didn’t make the cut think of it!
▪ Orlando breaks ground on a $110 million MLS stadium while Miami breaks promises to help David Beckham bring a team here. Might have to reconsider which town should be called Mickey Mouse.
▪ The president of the Russian tennis federation was fined and suspended for suggesting that Serena and Venus Williams were men. Apparently inspired, the PGA of America president referred to golfer Ian Poulter as “a little girl.”
▪ First it was Clippers owner Donald Sterling ousted after racial comments, then Hawks owner Bruce Levenson. Thank goodness Heat owner Micky Arison survived, “Stay white, Miami!”
▪ Scripps National Spelling Bee was won by a child of Indian descent for eighth consecutive year. Dear American kids: Here’s a thought. Put down the video game, quit texting and crack open a book.
▪ Parting thought: NBA owners rejected proposed changes in the draft lottery system that would have helped prevent teams from “tanking” to better their draft position. Tanking became an issue when losing teams’ late-season starting lineups began to include arena ushers and players’ moms.
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.
Today: Heat opening-night starters. Miami’s 27th season opener is at home Wednesday night. Players in club history who have made the most opening-night starts:
1995-96, ’98-99, ’01
Note: Players with four opening-night starts are Brian Grant, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. Eight others have three opening-night starts.
What South Florida sports fans are talking about
Miami seeks to avoid “trap” in Jacksonville: The funny thing about 1-6 Jaguars being a “trap” game Sunday is the false presumption Miami is good enough to take any opponent lightly. In a state context, the Dolphins ARE better than Jacksonville or Tampa Bay, but that’s faint praise. It’s like being the best candidate in the Florida governor’s race.
Duke of Gables reigns in huge win in Blackburg: Duke Johnson ran for 249 yards, and UM’s defense played great in big 30-6 win at Virginia Tech on Thursday night. Al Golden’s team has now won two in a row and is playing the best it has all year. Canes fans used to complaining about something or firing somebody are feeling seriously deprived.
Post-LeBron era tips off Wednesday at home: Feeling down, Heat fans? Jilted? Here’s a reminder how lucky you’ve had it: This is the 12th consecutive season that Miami’s roster will have included some combination of Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal or LeBron James. A Heat fan’s biggest challenge: Feeling sorry for himself without appearing spoiled.
Royals-Giants World Series on to Game 5: The 110th Fall Classic wraps up its three-game midsection in San Francisco with Game 5 Sunday night. A Miami lawyer known as “Marlins Man,” Laurence Leavy, 58, has been ubiquitous on TV behind home plate in bright orange team jersey. It’s closest Marlins have come to being in the World Series since 2003.
Eyes of futbol world on “El Clasico” in Spain: In the most anticipated match since the summer World Cup, the globe’s two greatest players faced off Saturday when Lionel Messi’s Barcelona visited Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid in a Spanish league match. Soccer agnostics, if this one didn’t pique your interest, there probably is no hope for you.