Greg Cote’s Hot Button Top 10: Sports’ best week? NFL Draft, start of NBA and NHL playoffs & more

GREG COTE’S HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (APRIL 21): 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. After one week off, welcome to the 56th edition of your Sunday sports-potpourri notes column, the new HB10:

1. NFL: In QB-heavy draft, Miami prepares for first No. 1 pick in three years: Two years ago the Dolphins lost their first-round pick to owner Stephen Ross’ Tom Brady-related tampering. Last year the Fins gave it up in the Tyreek Hill trade. On Thursday night Miami finally will have a No. 1 again, 21st overall. Could be a low-watt choice, though, unless interior-offensive line turns you on? Keep an eye out for versatile Duke blocker Graham Barton. Nationally, Caleb Williams will lead a run of at least four and as many as six !R quarterbacks.

2. HEAT: Butler-less No. 8 Miami claims confidence for opening series vs. Boston: Can Erik Spoelstra coach what would be among the biggest series upsets in NBA history beginning today/Sunday in Beantown? Can Miami summon enough mystical Heat Culture mojo to pull it off with top star Jimmy Butler sitting out injured? No, it says here (and most everywhere else). Heat’s decisive play-in win over Chicago impressed, but Bam Adebayo’s defense, Tyler Herro’s 3’s and Jaime Jacquez as the X Factor won’t be enough vs. Celtics ... right?

3. PANTHERS: Florida among Stanley Cup faves, hosts rival Tampa in Game 1: Florida hosts Game 1 as big first-round series favorite over rival Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon in the Sunrise rink. A survey of betting odds generally has Panthers second-favorite to Carolina to win it all at around +700, with the Lightning second-tier at around +2200. But Cats must dispel the notion of Tampa as a nemesis. Though Florida won two of three meetings this regular season, Tampa Bay has eliminated the Panthers in both previous playoff meetings and both in the first round -- by 4-2 in 2021 and by a 4-0 sweep in 2022.

4. WNBA: Can Miami ride Caitlin Wave to an expansion team?: The WNBA, lifted to new heights by the arrival of a starry draft class led by Caitlin Clark, plans to expand from 12 teams to 16 by 2028. Previously announced: A San Francisco Bay Area team in 2025. Another is expected in ‘26 and possible sites named include Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland (Ore.), Denver, Nashville, Charlotte ... and South Florida. Yes! Many may recall the Miami Sol was in the then-young league in 2000-02 before folding. Miami 2.0 please! The WNBA’s 28th season and Clark’s first with the Indiana Fever tips off May 14.

5. MARLINS: Stinkin’ Fish on pace for 125-loss season: Competing in the Miami market with Heat/Panthers playoff runs Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami, the Miami Marlins have picked the worst possible time to be the worst possible team. Fish are 5-17 after a doubleheader split at Cubs -- on pace to finish 37-125. They are batting .216 as a team with a 4.91 ERA, both 27th in MLB. Will there be patience for an upturn, or might manager Skip Schumaker start feeling heat soon?

6. NFL: Oh those Kelces! Jason invents new way to lose a Super Bowl ring: Retired Eagles center Jason Kelce revealed on the New Heights podcast he does with brother Travis that he lost his Super Bowl ring in a pool of chili. It was in a large inflatable tub of Skyline chili during a competition at their alma mater, U-Cincinnati, where teams of students competed in oddball events. In one, you dug through a vat of chili looking for socks with Super Bowl rings tied to them. (How do you not find that!?) Dear Kelce Bros.: The clownery threatens to make you the NFL’s New Gronkowskis. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

7. SOCCER: England big loser as Champions League reaches semifinals: Betting favorite Manchester City and second fave Arsenal are out -- and England wept. On to the UEFA Champions League semifinals are Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid (the heavyweight matchup) and Paris Saint-Germain vs. Borussia Dortmund. First legs are April 30/May 1 and second legs May 7-8. Entering quarterfinals Bayern and Real both were 7-1 to win it all, with PSG 12-1 and Borussia 33-1.

8. MEDIA: Pat McAfee successfully rids ESPN of his “rat”: ESPN executive Norby Williamson, attacked on-air by host Pat McAfee on his ESPN podcast, has left the building. McAfee called Williamson a “rat” and said he leaked to other media false intel about his show. “There are people actively trying to sabotage us from within ESPN,” McAfee claimed. “I believe Norby Williamson is the guy attempting to sabotage our program.” McAfee was never disciplined for comments that effectively cost Williamson his job. Even as details and the truth here are murky, Williamson leaves besmirched in a mess that serves neither ESPN nor McAfee well.

9. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Just what we (don’t) need. Another consolation tourney!: The 2025 college hoops postseason will debut a new Fox Sports gimmick called College Basketball Crown, a 16-team tournament in Las Vegas. It will feature Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East teams that did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and games will be shoehorned in the week between the big tourney’s Elite Eight and championship game. Dumb. Superfluous. More meaningless games by teams not good enough for March Madness and lowering themselves to grovel for televised crumb-money.

10. FIGHTING: Does bare-knuckle league include white supremacist?: How to sabotage your own business 101: Bad--A new Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship is the first legal, regulated bare-knuckle boxing in the U.S. since the 19th Century. Worse--Winners on its debut card included Montana-based Sam Polk, 42, an Army vet nicknamed Blunt Force Trauma who wears neo-Nazi tattoos and is sponsored by MurderTheMedia, a far-right group founded by a Proud Boys leader imprisoned over the Jan. 6 insurrection. BKFC founder David Feldman said, “We were not aware of Polk’s sponsor or ties. Any fighter who supports white supremacist beliefs are not welcome.” Yet, hmm, Polk remains on BKFC’s website roster as of today.

Other most recent stuff from me:

Miami Heat wins ... or did they? No Butler makes Boston brutal first-round mathup // Pall is cast on Miami Heat postseason as Jimmy Butler injury changes everything // More ‘Playoff Jimmy” and another Heat postseason run too much to ask ... right? // Celebrate Dawn Staley, Caitlin, women’s hoops. Men’s final could not live up // USWNT has championed surge in women’s sports but now confronts bigotry within own team // No Messi (again), 2-1 home loss to Monterrey have Inter Miami in trouble in Champions Cup // New season, same problem: Miami Marlins’ way-too-low spending unfair to players, insult to fans // An appreciation: Hurricanes’ Katie Meier retiring too soon after 19 years of winning & class // Tua’s tough task: Free agency losses hurting Miami Dolphins as brutal AFC gets stronger // Previous HB10 // And my latest podcast: