Greg Cote’s Hot Button Top 10: Pressure now on Panthers, death of amateurism, Messi, French, Indy 500

GREG COTE’S HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (MAY 26): WHAT IN SPORTS HAS GRABBED US THIS WEEK: Our Sunday Hot Button Top 10 had been blog-only but when our blog retired it moved, re-imagined, to online-only. HB10 means what’s on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective and accentuating stuff that’s big, weird, damnable, funny or otherwise worth needling as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. Welcome to the 61st edition of your Sunday sports-potpourri notes column, the new HB10:

1. PANTHERS: Game 2 loss shifts pressure onto Florida in NHL East finals: Panthers’ 2-1 Game 2 loss to Rangers at Madison Square Garden ended Florida’s surreal 11-game win streak in playoff overtimes. It also did this: Shifted the pressure onto Florida with the series 1-1 entering Sunday’s 3 p.m. home matinee. The Cats must now sweep two at home today and Tuesday to maintain series control. A home split for a 2-2 series would tilt the clear edge to New York, with two of the remaining three games, including Game 7, at MSG.

2. NCAA: Seismic new agreement effectively ends amateurism in college sports: The NCAA and its Power 5 conferences -- including the ACC and Miami Hurricanes -- agreed to allow schools to directly pay players for the first time in the more than 100-year history of college sports. The multi-billion-dollar agreement will settle three pending federal antitrust cases as the NCAA prepares to pay more than $2.7 billion in damages over 10 years to past and current athletes. Also agreed to: A revenue-sharing plan enabling each school to share about $20 million per year with its athletes. The revenue stream via Name, Image & Likeness rules will continue, but these new NCAA-wide actions make it official: Amateurism is dead.

3. INTER MIAMI: Sans Messi, Herons still extend unbeaten streak to 10: Saturday night’s 2-1 win in Vancouver extended to 10 Inter Miami’s club-record unbeaten streak, even though top stars Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets all skipped the trip for rest (not injury). Because Messi was a late scratch, Vancouver offered disappointed fans 50 percent off all food and drinks. A run of seven wins and three draws have followed IM’s last league loss on March 23. Miami leads the MLS East in a tight race with Cincinnati, but will be without a handful of players including Messi this summer during the U.S.-hosted Copa America. Tournament begins June 20 through the July 14 championship match at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

4. AUTO RACING: Larson latest to attempt rare Indy/Coca-Cola Double: NASCAR driver Kyle Larson will be busy Sunday. He’ll race in the IndyCar Series jewel, the 108th Indianapolis 500, then jet 428 miles to Charlotte and run in his own league’s Coca-Cola 600. Larson will be only fifth driver to attempt the double and first in 10 years. Only Tony Stewart, in 2001, finished all 1,100 miles, ending top-10 in both. Controversy shadows Indy. Team Penske has won 19 times and swept the top three qualifying spots, but suspended team president Tim Cindric and three others this month for ties to a cheating scandal. Indy favorites are pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin and defending champ Josef Newgarden, along with Will Power and Larson. Coke faves are Larson at 19-4 and Denny Hamlin at 6-1. Larson’s attempt at double-history won’t be cheered by all. He was suspended from NASCAR for much of 2020 for using racial slurs.

5. TENNIS: Alcaraz, Swiatek betting favorites as French Open begins: The tennis season’s second major begins its two-week run in Paris today/Sunday. Reigning French champion Iga Swiatek is a huge betting favorite on the women’s side, ahead of Aryna Sabalenka, who won the recent Australian Open. The men’s half figures more competitive, with Carlos Alcaraz a narrow bet-pick over reigning champ Novak Djokovic and Aussie winner Jannik Sinner. The men’s now-former Big 3 of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer has accounted for at least one men’s major title for 21 straight years, 2003-23. With Federer now retired and Nadal’s career ebbing, can Djokovic keep the streak alive? Nadal is playing Roland Garros but has a tough draw in what will be his final French.

6. CRICKET: South Florida among hosts for T20 World Cup: U.S. and West Indies are hosting the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup (a shortened version of the sport vs. standard 50 overs) -- with Broward County Cricket Stadium in Lauderhill among host venues. With matches also in Dallas and New York, it’s the first time the U.S. has hosted major international cricket. Event runs June 1-29, with the final being held in Barbados. New York gets the classic India-Pakistan mega-rivalry on June 9. Matches in Lauderhill June 11-17 will be Nepal-Sri Lanka, U.S.-Ireland, India-U.S. and Ireland-Pakistan. Twenty nations including defending champ England are competing.

7. BASEBALL: Miami wins main-host status again in World Baseball Classic: It’s a lost season for the Marlins (though they’ve been better lately), but the city and stadium will again be the primary host for the 2026 WBC, the sixth installment of the event. Marlins Park became the first venue to host games in all three rounds in 2023 and will again in March of ‘26 -- including the championship game again. WBC game also will be played in Texas, in Tokyo and in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Teams including the U.S., Dominican Republic and Japan should again be expected. WBC filled the park in Little Havana with fans and excitement in ‘23. (If only the Marlins could do the same...)

8. HEAT: D.Wade still an all-star in retirement with latest initiative: Dwyane Wade in 14-plus NBA seasons in Miami helped the Heat win three championships, made the Hall of Fame and is beloved here forever. But he moved from Miami to L.A. last year. “We’ve done so many great things here it wasn’t easy to leave,” Wade said this week. “But the community wasn’t here for Zaya, so the community wasn’t here for us.” Wade’s daughter, Zaya, about to turn 17, came out as transgender in 2020 in the midst of anti-trans legislation in Florida. Trans kids suffer bullying and suicide rates in high numbers, yet Ron DeSantis’ dystopian state created laws to marginalize them. Now, Wade has founded, and funded, Translatable, an online community to support transgender children and their families. Good for you, Dwyane.

9. WNBA: It’s official. Really rough start for Caitlin Clark: Struggles out the gate for the rookie year of the WNBA’s top draft pick. You’re not in Iowa anymore, Caitlin. Her Indiana Fever are 1-6 after Saturday’s loss to Las Vegas. Through seven games Clark is 18h in scoring at 15.4 per game but shooting only 31.6 from 3-range and leading the league in turnovers at 5.3 per game. Although she did have the clinching, dagger-3 in Indy’s first win Friday over the L.A. Sparks.

10. SOCCER: Atalanta stuns world. Can Dortmund do same vs. Real Madrid?: Italian Serie A club Atalanta stunningly won the Europa League crown last week on a hat trick by Ademola Lookman and 3-0 win that ended the historic, record-setting 51-match unbeaten streak of Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen. Might that foretell a similar stunner in the Champions League final this coming Saturday at Wembley? Real Madrid is the 14-time winner, just clinched a record 36th La Liga crown and is the clear betting fave. In the Atalanta/Cinderella role is Borussia Dortmund, in fifth place in the Bundesliga with its lone Champions League trophy back in 1997.

Other most recent stuff from me: Stan Van Gundy reveals cause of wife’s unexpected death // Panthers got the expected form Rangers in Game 2. Now East finals gets good as it heads south // Panthers crush N.Y. Rangers 3-0 in Game 1 as magic of MSG takes another hit // Jim Otto, RIP: ‘Mr. Raider’ made his name first as a Miami Hurricane // Greg Cote’s Poll Dance: Re-signing Tagovailoa // Previous HB10 // ‘Live it. Enjoy it!’: Florida Panthers eliminate Boston, reach NHL East finals again // New Dolphin Odell Beckham Jr. has the name & fame. Does he still have the game? // Eliminated, now what? Miami Heat must change. Jimmy Butler cannot be best player if another NBA title is the aim // New season, same problem: Miami Marlins’ way-too-low spending unfair to players, insult to fans // And my latest podcast: