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Heat take care of business 119-107 in Washington, with ante about to be raised

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 17:24

WASHINGTON — Little was asked and little was required for the Miami Heat over these past two games against the Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards.

Now the calculus changes to higher math than that required in Sunday night’s 119-107 victory over the Wizards at Capital One Arena or Friday night’s 60-point annihilation of the Trail Blazers at Kaseya Center.

Against opponents that now stand at 19-55 (Blazers) and 14-61 (Wizards), it didn’t require Erik Spoelstra or his players to conjure their best.

But next up are four consecutive games against opponents with winning records, starting Tuesday against the New York Knicks at Kaseya Center and continuing against the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers.

“We can’t worry about the next four,” center Bam Adebayo said. “We got to worry about the next one and then we move on.”

So make it mission accomplished against the Blazers and Wizards, and victories in six of the last nine for the Heat (41-33), while going Sunday without Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin.

Terry Rozier, who left briefly in the third period with a sore left knee, led the Heat with 27 points. The Heat also got 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists from Adebayo, 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists from Jimmy Butler and 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists from Nikola Jovic. There also were 10 points from Haywood Highsmith.

“Every game is not going to be easy, like we showed tonight,” Rozier said. “But we feel like we can make our push and we will make our push.”

The Wizards, playing out the string on the way to more lottery balls. were without Bilal Coulibaly, Richaun Holmes, Tyus Jones, Kyle Kuzma, Isaiah Livers, Eugene Omoruyi and Landry Shamet.

Spoelstra said it was a test simply to survive.

“Teams that are out of the playoff running,” he said, “you can play fast and free and you don’t really have the pressure and context that all the teams that are jockeying positions feel. So they can be super ignitable.”

Five Degrees of Heat from Sunday night’s game:

1. Closing time: It was tied 29-29 at the end of the first period, with the Heat then taking a 66-59 lead into halftime, their largest lead of the game to that stage.

The Heat then pushed their lead to 17 in the third period and went into the fourth up 95-80.

Butler and Duncan Robinson then returned after a Heat timeout with 6:42 to play, with Spoelstrs forced to call another timeout as the Wizards closed within 107-97 with 4:17 to play.

A pair of Butler baskets that included a three-point play then helped push the Heat’s lead back to 15, settling matters.

“In the second half when we were able to get some consecutive defensive stops and push it to a double-digit lead,” Spoelstra said, “that was the first time we were able to really create some separation and keep it there. That was encouraging to see.”

2. Early energy: Rozier was just about the Heat’s only early energy, with 20 points by the intermission.

Rozier was up to 8 of 13 from the field at that stage, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers. The rest of the Heat were 3 of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Rozier did all of that without a turnover in the first half.

“Terry is getting a lot more comfortable,” Spoelstra said. “He really is pure, he wants to help, he wants to contribute, he wants to make things better and easier with the group.”

It was a mostly lethargic start otherwise for the Heat, with Butler attempting only four first-half shots.

Rozier then went to the Heat locker room with 6:02 left in the third period, replaced by Delon Wright, who promptly drained a 3-pointer on his first shot of the night. Rozier was back on the Heat bench and back in the game before the close of that third period.

“Everything was good and he was cleared,” Spoelstra said.

Rozier said he will be ready for Tuesday night.

“I’m going to get treatment, regardless,” he said. “That’s just being a professional and taking care of your body. But it’s just a little discomfort. I’m good.”

Rozier also tied his career high with four steals, closing 11 of 19 from the field, 5 of 11 on 3-pointers.

3. Robinson returns: Robinson was back after missing the previous five games with a back ailment, returning to the starting lineup.

Out since March 20, Robinson showed the rust early, well short on his first two 3-point attempts, as part of an 0-for-7 Heat start on 3-pointers.

Those two 3-point attempts were Robinson’s only shots in the first half.

Robinson then converted his first two 3-pointers of the second half, leading the Wizards to call time with the Heat up 72-59.

“Always nice to see them go through. Good to get a couple to go,” Robinson said.

It had Spoelstra heartened, as well.

“I think he caught a little bit more of a rhythm in the second half,” Spoelstra said, “not just with the shooting, just where to go and where the actions are and all those things. You can see what he adds. The two back-to-back threes immediately put it to double-digits and that’s what he’s fully capable of.”

Robinson closed 2 of 7 from the field, with each attempt from beyond the arc, in 28 minutes.

“It was an issue that had kind of built up over time a little bit,” Robinson said of the back issue. “So trying to be smart about managing it.

4. Still no Love: On the active roster for the second consecutive game, Kevin Love remained out of the mix, with Thomas Bryant again getting the minutes at center behind Adebayo.

Love still has not played since bruising his right heel in the Feb. 27 loss in Portland. He was in uniform and warmed up before the game.

“I have every intention of getting him back into the mix,” Spoelstra said. “These are fluid decisions when guys are in, out and then we’re trying to keep some level of continuity.

“I’m fully aware of how important K-Love is to us and he’s been great about it. I think with another day of work, he’ll be ready on Tuesday.”

Also out of the mix was guard Patty Mills, who had started the previous five games with Robinson out.

Love and Mills were the only available Heat players not to see action.

5. Martin’s night off: Martin is expected back Tuesday night. He was listed as being out with ankle discomfort, but has been dealing with several ailments, including knee soreness and a splinted thumb.

“He’s been dealing with a few nagging injuries,” Spoelstra said. “They weren’t getting better. We think he’ll feel a lot better with this extended stretch and the two days we had before the last game.”

By sitting Sunday, Martin will have played in only one game over a six-day span if he returns Tuesday.

Australian Open champ Jannik Sinner routs Grigor Dimitrov for Miami Open title

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 15:35

By MARC BERMAN (Associated Press)

MIAMI GARDENS — Jannik Sinner’s strong 2024 continued as he won the Miami Open with 6-3, 6-1 victory over 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Sunday.

In a flawless display on a 79-degree afternoon, Sinner, the 2024 Australian Open champion, moved to 22-1 on the year in winning the Miami Open for the first time. Sinner had been runner-up twice in 2021 and 2023.

In his second straight Miami Open finals appearance (Sinner lost last year to Daniil Medvedev), the 22-year-old played with an abundance of confidence despite the crowd cheering on the underdog from Bulgaria. Sinner ended it in 1 hour, 13 minutes with a backhand winner.

“This was my third time in the final and I figured this would be the lucky one,″ Sinner said. “I’m really happy I can hold the big trophy.″

Chants of “Gri-gor’’ resounded the entire match inside the home stadium of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Dimitrov had created a buzz this week with upsets of top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the quarterfinals and No. 3 seed Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.

Sinner, who was never broken and faced just one break point, was undeterred by the pro-Dimitrov crowd and could be an early favorite for the upcoming French Open.

The men’s tour swings in April to the clay-court season in Europe finished off by the French at Roland Garros which begins on May 20.

Sinner won his first major at the Australian Open, then captured the title Rotterdam, and was a finalist in Indian Wells. His only loss in 2024 was in the Indian Wells final to Alcaraz.

Dimitrov, 10 years older than Sinner at 32, will vault into the top 10 rankings for the first time since 2018 while Sinner also hits a milestone, moving from No. 3 to 2 — highest ranking of his young career.

Dimitrov won the first eight points on his serve, holding at love in each game. Then the Bulgarian got broken at 2-2 when he tried to get too fancy.

Amidst a long rally, Dimitrov hit a drop shot into the net. Thereafter, he advanced to the net twice only to get beaten by two deft passing shots by Sinner. While Dimitrov has a decent net game, Sinner is perhaps the best passer in tennis.

At 3-5, Dimitrov got broken again with Sinner at his best. He set up a double-set point with an inside-out forehand return that clipped the far sideline for a winner. Dimitrov saved the first set point before Sinner closed it out with another passing shot — this time with a backhand down the line.

His chances in the second set were wiped out when he got broken at 2-1. Sinner kept the ball deep on the final two rallies of the game and Dimitrov flubbed shots into the net. At 4-1, Dimitrov got broken again when he flubbed an easy volley long.

The American women made a clean sweep. On Saturday, Danielle Collins won the women’s singles title. In women’s doubles Sunday, Americans Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands rallied from a set down to top Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) and Erin Routliffe (New Zealand) 4-6, 7-6 (5), 11-9 in a third-set match tiebreaker.

The American men didn’t fare well in Miami without anyone advancing in singles to the round of 16.


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

Pirates win in 10 innings; Marlins one loss from worst winless start in franchise history

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 14:11

MIAMI — Oneil Cruz raced home on Jason Delay’s bunt in the 10th inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 9-7 on Sunday for a four-game sweep of their season-opening series.

The Marlins were sent to their third 0-4 start in franchise history (joining the 1995 and 2001 teams). The franchise has never started a season 0-5. Their worst start with one win came in 1998 when, after taking the season opener, the Marlins lost their next 11 games. In 1998, the Marlins went a franchise-worst 54-108, while the team finished 67-76 in 1995 and 76-86 in 2001.

Cruz opened the 10th on second as a pinch runner for Rowdy Tellez. He advanced to third when reliever Tanner Scott (0-1) committed an error on Alika Williams’ sacrifice attempt.

Delay then sent another bunt toward first and Cruz beat first baseman Jake Burger’s throw to the plate. Ke’Bryan Hayes reached on a two-out infield single and Michael A. Taylor gave Pittsburgh a 9-7 lead with a bases-loaded walk.

“Alika got a bunt down in a situation where you normally don’t bunt,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “Not too many teams are able to deploy a weapon like we were able to with Oneil being there and we wanted to get him to third.”

Miami had runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom half. But Hunter Stratton retired Burger, Bryan De La Cruz and Jazz Chisholm Jr. for his first career save.

“I just tried to keep everything the same,” Stratton said. “Just kept it simple.”

Pittsburgh’s bullpen allowed two runs over 20 1/3 innings in the series.

Miami trailed 7-6 before Nick Gordon connected for a pinch-hit homer against Pirates closer David Bednar (1-0) in the ninth inning.

Tellez hit a three-run drive for the Pirates, who last opened the season with a four-game sweep on the road in 1903.

“Confidence is huge in baseball,” Delay said. “We’re feeling good right now and we’re going to try to ride it some more.”

Chisholm hit a grand slam and Avisaíl García also went deep for Miami.

In the top of the eighth, two spectators ran into center field and attempted to take a picture with Chisholm before they were detained and removed by stadium security.

Miami was the last big league team without a homer before Chisholm’s drive capped a five-run first against Bailey Falter.

Pittsburgh responded with three runs in the second, highlighted by Williams’ two-run triple.

Hayes added an RBI single in the fourth, but García made it 6-4 when he hit a solo drive to center in the bottom half.

Tellez struck out in his first three at-bats, but he delivered a big blow in the seventh. His three-run drive off Vladimir Gutierrez lifted the Pirates to a 7-6 lead.

“Frustrating first three at-bats but you never want to give up at-bats,” Tellez said. “Going into that one, faced (Gutierrez) before, kind of knew everything in his repertoire.”

Marlins starter Trevor Rogers completed five innings of four-run ball in his first appearance since April 19, 2023. Rogers, who missed most of last season with a left biceps strain, allowed seven hits, walked four and struck out six.

Falter was lifted after four innings. The left-hander gave up six runs and five hits.


Before the game, the Pirates activated RHP Roansy Contreras from the paternity list and optioned LHP José Hernández to Triple-A Indianapolis. Pittsburgh also outrighted OF Canaan Smith-Njigba to Indianapolis and announced C Ali Sánchez refused an outright assignment to Indianapolis, electing to become a free agent.


Pirates: RHP Colin Holderman (illness) allowed three runs and two hits while recording two outs during a rehab outing with Indianapolis on Friday.

Marlins: RHP Edward Cabrera (right shoulder impingement) made a rehab start with Triple-A Jacksonville Sunday.


Pirates: LHP Marco Gonzales will make his Pittsburgh debut when he starts the opener of a three-game series at Washington on Monday. The Nationals will start LHP MacKenzie Gore.

Marlins: RHP Max Meyer will start the opener of a three-game home set against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. The Angels will go with RHP Chase Silseth.

Crews at Baltimore bridge collapse continue meticulous work of removing twisted steel and concrete

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 10:00


BALTIMORE (AP) — As divers assisted crews with the complicated and meticulous operation of removing the steel and concrete from the fallen Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, some near the site took time on Easter Sunday to reflect on the six workers presumed to have plunged to their deaths.

As cranes periodically swung into place and workers measured and cut the steel to prepare to lift sections of twisted steel, Rev. Ako Walker held a Mass in Spanish at Sacred Heart of Jesus, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) up the Patapsco River from the collapse.

“Yes we can rebuild a bridge, but we have to look at the way in which migrant workers are treated and how best we can improve their situation as they come to the United States of America,” Walker said of the men who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and were patching potholes.

Dive teams were in the river Sunday surveying parts of the bridge underwater and checking on the ship to ensure it can be safely floated away once the wreckage is lifted. Workers in lifts used torches earlier to cut parts of the twisted steel superstructure above water.

The bridge fell early Tuesday as the crew of the cargo ship Dali lost power and control. They called in a mayday, which allowed just enough time for police to stop vehicles from getting on the bridge, but not enough time to get a crew of eight workers off the structure.

Two workers survived, two bodies were found in a submerged pickup and four more men are presumed dead. Weather conditions and the tangled debris underwater have made it too dangerous for divers to search for their bodies.

Each part of the bridge removed from the water will be lifted onto a barge and floated downstream to the Tradepoint Atlantic logistics center, where it will be inspected, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Everything the salvage crews do affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

It can also alter the course of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, which Moore said is important to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“We need to have answers on what happened. We need to know who should be accountable for this. And we need to make sure we’re holding them accountable,” Moore said Sunday on CNN.

The crew of the Dali, which is as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, remains onboard the ship. The vessel is tangled in 3,000 to 4,000 tons of debris. Most of its containers remain intact, but some were torn open or knocked away by the falling debris.

The Dali is managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. Danish shipping giant Maersk charted Dali, which was on its way out of port when it hit the bridge’s support column.

Along with clearing the shipping channel to reopen the port, officials are trying to figure out how to rebuild the major bridge, which was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore and was a vital link to the city’s centuries of maritime culture.

It took five years to build the original bridge. President Joe Biden’s administration has promised to pay the full cost to rebuild and state and federal transportation officials said they will work as quickly as possible.

But exactly how long the new bridge will take can’t be figured out now. Engineers haven’t been able to assess the condition of the ramps and smaller bridges leading to the collapsed structure to get the full scope of what must be done.

Congress is expected to consider aid packages to help people who lose jobs or businesses because of the prolonged closure of the Port of Baltimore. The port handles more cars and farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

“This matters to folks in rural North Carolina, in Kansas, and Iowa. This matters to the global economy. And it should not be something that has anything or any conversation around party. We are talking about an American tragedy to an American city,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

On Monday the Small Business Administration will open a center in Dundalk, Maryland, to help small businesses get loans to help them with losses caused by the disruption of the bridge collapse.

The workers weren’t parishioners at Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose pews were packed Sunday for mass. But its pastor, Walker, reached out to the families because as he said the Latino community in Baltimore is large in number but closely connected.

He said in an interview before mass that they were good men working not just for their families in the U.S. but also for relatives in their countries.

Walker hopes their stories encourage people to embrace migrant workers who want to improve their lives and grow their communities.

“We have to be bridges for one another even in this most difficult situations. Our lives must be small bridges of mercy of hope of togetherness and of building communities,” Walker said.


Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

Energy, effort please Gus Malzahn in UCF’s first spring scrimmage

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 09:00

UCF players got their first taste of live tackling as the Knights hosted their first scrimmage of spring camp on Saturday.

For many returning players, it was the first time they’ve let loose on a field since UCF’s 30-17 loss in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 22.

“After a couple of months away, it felt good to get back to it,” said redshirt junior defensive end Malachi Lawrence. “The contact and the hitting get your adrenaline going again.”

Coach Gus Malzahn said the team ran nearly 100 plays during its roughly two-hour scrimmage under partly sunny skies at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Much of the emphasis on the offensive side was on the vertical passing game while on the defensive side it came down to stopping the run.

“We rotated everybody. … Everybody got a chance to play and we did all three groups [first, second and third teams],” said Malzahn. “It was just a good overall evaluation scrimmage.”

Quarterback KJ Jefferson was making his first appearance in the Bounce House after transferring from Arkansas. The fifth-year senior enjoyed showcasing his talents, even in a controlled setting.

UCF trustees approve proposed expansion of football stadium

“It’s live football now, so we can see who can make guys miss, get the ball into our playmakers’ hands and make plays,” said Jefferson, who was under non-contact status. “We want to see who can make guys miss and who can turn a 5-yard gain into a 60-yard gain.”

Added Malzahn: “KJ has excellent command of the offense. The game is slow for him and he knows — there’s nothing like getting out there, getting the coaches on the sidelines and being out there taking charge of an offense. He did an excellent job of moving and directing the offense.”

Receiver Xavier Townsend witnessed great energy.

“That’s what makes a scrimmage fun,” he said. “Nobody wants to go out there when energy is dead.”

The running backs, particularly the backups, also showcased themselves. RJ Harvey, who rushed for 1,416 yards last season, was limited as coaches wanted to avoid wear and tear on the fifth-year starter.

“Johnny [Richardson] is a real running back, and Myles [Montgomery] is a very physical guy, and he’s real competitive. He made a couple of excellent runs,” Malzahn said. “Kam Ingram got some excellent work today with the 2’s [second team] and even got in with the 1’s [first team]. He’s been coming along.”

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The defense’s primary focus has been stopping the run. Last season, the unit finished last in the Big 12 in run defense. It’s been paying off, and Malzahn was impressed with them Saturday.

“They disrupted the run game quite a bit with their movement and blitzes,” he said. “There were three or four sacks.”

Said Lawrence: “[We’re] doing our job and not trying to do anybody else’s job. We did a good job of stopping the run.”

UCF will host another scrimmage Saturday before hosting its annual spring game April 12.

Malzahn said the first half will be a scrimmage and the second half will have skills challenges and fan events.

Jefferson hopes to use the scrimmage to become comfortable with a new offense, building trust in his line and the pass protections.

“There are pros and cons of a scrimmage for a quarterback, but overall, it was a good turnout and I enjoyed it,” said Jefferson.

Tim Harris relishes return to UCF as offensive coordinator

He’s also excited about playing in front of a real crowd such as the one he could see in a few weeks.

“Coach Malzahn has told me there’s always a good turnout for the spring game, so I’m looking forward to it,” Jefferson said. “It’s a teaser of how it could feel on game day.”

Matt Murschel can be reached at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com

Gravity of Adebayo 3-pointers still being cultivated in Heat lab; Duncan Robinson returns

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 06:34

WASHINGTON — The law of gravity hasn’t necessarily caught up with Bam Adebayo. But Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there could come a time when the pull of his center’s 3-pointers becomes a weighty proposition for opponents.

With Adebayo having converted at least one 3-pointer in seven of eight appearances going into Sunday night’s matchup against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena, Spoelstra said he could envision a time when Adebayo at the arc gains the complete attention of opposing offenses.

Just not now.

“Probably not this year,” Spoelstra said, with two weeks remaining in the regular season. “I think it would be a cool thing to explore, for sure. I think it’ll take some time before schemes change from other teams.

“Teams are always going to, right now, play off of him, just because of all the other things it can create — the passing angles, the drives, the aggressiveness, all that stuff. But we’re probably going to look back at this four, five years from now and not even remember that these were those kind of discussions.”

To Spoelstra, it is just another element added to a growing Adebayo arsenal.

“And that’s the exciting thing about Bam,” Spoelstra said. “Every single year, he just continues to add, and that’s a credit to his work ethic, and having the right environment, where he can explore new things within the context of the team.”

Guard Terry Rozier joked that Adebayo is starting to steal some of the thunder with his deep launches.

“Taking away my attempts,” Rozier said with a laugh. “Nah, I think we all want him to shoot it. He’s shooting it super confident and I think it’s only going to keep getting better.

“And it’ll make guys have to play him honest. It’ll be even tougher to guard, when you play him out there. So I think it’s going to be a huge help for our offense and we want him to shoot that.”

Rozier, acquired from the Charlotte Hornets in January, said the Adebayo experience has been as expected, of a polished player still growing, including in this first season as Heat captain.

“He’s giving 100 percent energy every night and a guy you look to the right, you look to the left, that’s going to work with you every night and just make you feel good and you just feed off of him,” Rozier said. “So we are glad to have a guy like that, that’s leading us.”

Robinson returns

Duncan Robinson returned Sunday for the Heat after missing the previous five games with back pain diagnosed as left-facet syndrome.

In addition, after leaving Friday night’s victory over the Trail Blazers with a bruised right knee and being placed on the Heat injury report, forward Nikola Jovic also was cleared to return Sunday.

Singular focus

Spoelstra said the Heat’s ongoing injury report cannot be allowed to take focus away from the mission of the moment.

The Heat went into Sunday’s game without Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin.

“This far into the season, we know what our identity is,” Spoelstra said. “That has nothing to do with who’s available, who’s not available. It’s about getting to that identity more consistently. When we do that, we put ourselves in a much better position to win basketball games.”

Coming up short

Despite sending center Orlando Robinson and two-way players Alondes Williams and Cole Swider to the G League in an effort to assist the Sioux Falls Skyforce in their bid for the Western Conference championship of that league, the Heat’s affiliate came up short with a pair of losses to the Sacramento Kings’ affiliate.

The second-place finish still gives the Skyforce a first-round playoff bye.

Robinson closed with 21 points and 14 rebounds in Saturday’s 101-91 loss to the Stockton Kings on the final night of regular-season play in the G League. Swider added 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The Skyforce next play in a single-elimination Western Conference semifinal game either Thursday or Friday.

Robinson, Swider and Williams rejoined the Heat in time for Sunday’s game against the Wizards.

Florida needs immigrants — even Florida government says so | Opinion

Sun, 03/31/2024 - 05:00

Florida state reports say that immigrants are not only not a burden on the state, they are essential for its economic well-being.

If you find that confusing considering the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from most state officials and the barrage of nativist legislation from the Florida Legislature, I don’t blame you. “Florida: An Economic Overview,” a report released in January by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, outlines how, even as DeSantis signs more bills cracking down on immigration, more immigrants are needed as young people leave the state and death rates exceed birth rates.

A few snippets:

  • “Going forward, Florida’s annual participation rate is expected to decline steadily from the 59.3% expected for FY 2023-24 to 56.9% in FY 2032-33, as the last of the Baby Boomers reach retirement age (age 65) in FY 2030-31.
  • “Population aged 65 and over is forecast to represent at least 24.6% of the total population in 2030, compared with 21.2% in 2020 and 17.3% in 2010.  In 2000, Florida’s prime working-age population (ages 25-54) represented 41.5% of the total population. With the aging Baby Boom generation, this population represented 36.8% of Florida’s total population in 2020 and is anticipated to represent 36.3% by 2030.”
  • “Population growth is the state’s primary engine of economic growth, fueling both employment and income growth … In the three years since the 2020 Census, Florida’s strong migration trends have continued, increasing its population by almost 1.1 million net new residents. This number takes account of both people leaving the state and losses in natural increase (more deaths than births).”
  • “In the past, Florida’s population growth has largely been from net migration. Going forward, this will produce all of Florida’s population growth, as the natural increase is anticipated to remain negative with deaths outnumbering births.”

This is not a report conducted by an advocacy group, nonprofit organization, political action committee, or any other outfit with an agenda. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research can hardly be accused of being some sort of partisan outfit. They are merely pointing out the obvious: We have an increasingly aging population on or near the age of retirement and a growing trend of young people of working age packing their bags for more affordable places. You add to that death rates overtaking birth rates, and there’s only one solution to address a declining population and all the economic malaise, like acute worker shortages, that comes with it — increased migration to the state.

Thomas Kennedy is a former undocumented immigrant from Argentina.

But this is not the only Florida report contradicting state officials on immigration. The Florida Legislature passed one of the harshest state-level anti-immigrant laws seen in this country last year in Senate Bill 1718. One of the provisions within that bill was a mandate for health care providers that accept Medicaid dollars to ask about the immigration status of patients, and while patients themselves were not required to answer, it instituted a climate of fear and intimidation. Undocumented people are now steering clear of hospitals and clinics, worried that they’ll be arrested or deported. As Politico noted in a recent article, fewer pregnant migrant women are seeking treatment, even in emergencies.

The Florida Legislature also allocated $558,000 so the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration could hire four people to put together a report showing that undocumented people were a burden due to uncompensated health care costs.

Unfortunately for their preconceived notions, the report showed exactly the opposite. It found that people who self-reported their undocumented status made up less than 1% of all hospital admissions and emergency room visits. The report also says that “high levels of uncompensated care are more associated with rural county status than illegal immigration percentages. There also did not appear to be a correlation between total profitability and illegal immigration percentages. All the counties that had negative profit margins had below average illegal immigration ratios.”

This report was apparently so contradictory to what state officials assert in terms of uncompensated costs related to undocumented people that they actually tried to hide it by sloppily messing with the data. The AHCA’s new dashboard does not include some of the caveats to the information provided in a mandatory report on the same subject that was given to legislators weeks earlier. When asked about it, AHCA refused to explain the differences.

So, according to research carried out by the state government, the anti-immigrant rhetoric by state officials is a bunch of nonsense. Is it any wonder that after the passage of Senate Bill 1718, which also contained measures restricting the ability of undocumented people to work, already existing worker shortages worsened to the point that lawmakers who voted for the bill lied about the impact of the law while meeting with a Latino evangelical congregation? State Rep. Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach, claimed that the bill was “100 percent meant to scare” immigrants and begged the crowd to “urgently” convince “your people” to not leave Florida since folks in the agriculture industry were angry that their workforce was leaving the state.

And so there you have it, anti-immigrant lawmakers and state officials twisting themselves into a pretzel to avoid the reality that immigration is good.

Thomas Kennedy is a former undocumented immigrant from Argentina. He has worked with organizations like the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Immigration Hub and as an aide in the Florida Legislature. You can find him on Twitter and Threads: @tomaskenn.

Curlin Florida Derby | PHOTOS

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 20:13

Suarez scores fifth goal for Inter Miami in draw with New York City

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 19:57

FORT LAUDERDALE — Luis Suárez scored his fifth goal of the season for Inter Miami and Alonso Martínez scored the first of his career for New York City FC as the clubs played to a 1-1 draw on Saturday night.

Suárez staked Inter Miami to a 1-0 lead just 15 minutes into the match, scoring on a header with an assist from Julian Gressel off a set piece. Suárez has also assisted on three goals as he continues to carry the scoring load with superstar teammate Lionel Messi out for the past three weeks with a muscle injury. Suárez is tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy’s Dejan Joveljic and one behind Lewis Morgan of the New York Red Bulls for the early goals lead.

NYCFC pulled even by halftime when Martínez took a pass from Keaton Parks in the 34th minute and right footed a shot from the right side of the box to the center of the net. Martínez was making his first start and fifth appearance for NYCFC over the past two seasons.

Drake Callender totaled two saves for Inter Miami (3-2-2). Matt Freese saved five shots for NYCFC (1-4-1).

Inter Miami is hoping Messi will return Wednesday for a CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal series against Monterrey.

New York City returns home to play Atlanta United on Saturday. Inter Miami will host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday with Messi’s status for that one also up in the air.


Report: Man dead, driver arrested following Fort Lauderdale hit-and-run

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 19:27

CBSnews.com reported Saturday evening that a man was dead and another person arrested after a hit-and-run in Broward County in the early-morning hours.

Fort Lauderdale Police arrested 48-year-old Max Fleury and charged him with failing to stop for an accident involving death, driving with a suspended license and operating a vehicle without a license. He is also under investigation for DUI, FLPD noted.

Around 12:29 a.m., FLPD responded to a vehicle vs. pedestrian accident along the 900 block of West Sunrise Boulevard. Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue transported the victim — who was on a bike at the time of the crash — to Broward Health Medical Center, where he died.

To read the full report, click here for cbsnews.com

Fierceness rolls to Florida Derby win at Gulfstream, looking very much like Kentucky Derby favorite | Photos

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 18:06

HALLANDALE BEACH — Fierceness rolled to a dominant win in the Florida Derby on Saturday, almost certainly setting himself up as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

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He went wire-to-wire on the lead, steadily opening up the margin until the field got to the turn toward home at Gulfstream Park. And from there, it was over, with a Florida Derby-record 13 1/2-length rout as jockey John Velazquez got Fierceness — the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion last year — through the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 48.22 seconds.

It was the third win in five starts for Fierceness, who pushed his career earnings to about $1.7 million. Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher both extended their records of Florida Derby dominance; no jockey has more wins in that race than Velazquez’s six, and Pletcher won the race for a record eighth time.

Fierceness returned $4.20, $3.20 and $2.80. A pair of long shots also hit the board; 25-1 shot Catalytic finished second and paid $12.20 and $8; 21-1 shot Grand Mo the First was third and returned $6.40.

The win gave Fierceness 136 points in the Race to the Kentucky Derby standings, more than ensuring he’ll qualify for the May 4 race at Churchill Downs. It was big for Catalytic and Grand Mo the First as well; their finishes on Saturday should be enough to get them in the field for the Triple Crown opener.

“We’re going to go to Kentucky as the Kentucky Derby favorite,” owner Mike Repole said. “I’ve been there before.”

It was the fastest Florida Derby final time since Velazquez and Pletcher teamed up for a win with Always Dreaming in 2017; that horse went on to win the Kentucky Derby.

And Repole expects Fierceness, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by six lengths and prevailed in even more dominant fashion Saturday, to do the same.

“The fastest horse I’ve ever owned,” Repole said.

The Florida Derby — the second-biggest race each year at Gulfstream Park, topped now only by the Pegasus World Cup Invitational — has long been one of the most important, and most telling, races on the Triple Crown prep trail.

There are 21 Florida Derby winners who have gone on to win at least one race in the Triple Crown series; 15 of them won the Kentucky Derby, 10 won the Preakness and six won the Belmont Stakes.


AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

UF freshman QB DJ Lagway experiences 1st Gators’ scrimmage: ‘He did a lot of good today’

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 16:12

GAINESVILLE — Florida true freshman quarterback DJ Lagway’s first spring scrimmage was a milestone and a measuring stick for the 18-year-old, along with the rest of the Gators.

Only Lagway, the nation’s No. 1 QB recruit in 2024, arrived with a good bit more fanfare and fascination than the vast majority of his new teammates. While his role is yet to be determined, he is sure to have one in 2024 alongside veteran incumbent Graham Mertz.

Playing primarily with the second-team offense Saturday in the Swamp, Lagway showcased his athletic ability but also made clear the learning curve ahead.

“He did a lot of good today,” Gators coach Billy Napier said after the closed scrimmage. “He made some plays with his feet; played with the 2s most of the day. I think that’s where he’s at.”

Florida true freshman quarterback DJ Lagway throws the football during Gators’ spring practice March 19 at the Sanders football practice fields in Gainesville. (UF’s University Athletic Association Communications/Molly Kaiser)

Lagway has impressed coaches and teammates with his ability to pick up the offense. It’s no surprise it has not always translated to the field.

“The big next step for him is the game-management piece,” Napier said.

The 6-foot-3, 238-pound Texan can no longer overwhelm his competition with size and raw ability, but it has not stopped him from trying.

Napier said he at one point Saturday asked Lagway whether he’d grown up playing Texas Hold ‘Em, given that  the Gators’ quarterback of the future needed to occasionally fold ’em rather than go all-in.

“You got to learn how to play the next hand,” Napier said. “Play the next play, managing the situation thinking of your decision-making relative to the game and the team within that setting. He’s done a really good job in a practice setting, but today was new for him.”

UF veteran quarterback Graham Mertz (right) and true freshman signal caller DJ Lagway work side by side during Gators spring practice March 19 at the Sanders football practice fields in Gainesville. (UF’s University Athletic Association Communications/Nicole Scharff)

Time and natural talent are on Lagway’s side.

Meanwhile, Mertz continues to be a valuable resource as Lagway learns the ropes.

“Graham has earned the respect of his teammates with the way he prepares,” Napier said. “This guy lives in the building, very process-oriented. He’s maximizing all parts of his day, and he’s an example. Think about good teams; typically the quarterback sets the pace.

“He’s done that.”

Mertz, 23 and in his sixth year in college, has his own areas to improve in Year 2 with the Gators following a 5-7 season.

During his time at Wisconsin (2019-22), Mertz developed a bad habit of forcing the action. He transferred after the 2022 season with a respectable 19-13 record as a starter but also 38 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.

Mertz cleaned up his act in 2023 at Florida, throwing 20 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while completing a SEC-leading 72.9% of his passes.

The next step is to develop a balance between efficiency and aggressiveness. After all, the Gators’ 14 passes of 30 yards or longer were fewer than any team in the SEC but Mississippi State (13).

UF starting quarterback Graham Mertz, shown March 7 during spring practices, is back for his second season with the Gators. (UF’s University Athletic Association Communications/Molly Kaiser)

“He proved that he could play clean ball last year,” Napier said. “Now it’s about trying to improve the calculated risk:  let’s try to be aggressive and manage the game and eliminate careless play. But let’s try to go create more explosive plays and distribute the ball, be the point guard and push the ball down the court.”

Napier and his staff aim to find the right buttons to push with every player on the roster during the final seven of 15 spring practices, culminating with the April 13 Orange and Blue game.

“The next two weeks are going to be critical,” Napier said. “We’ve got to get really specific about the areas where we need to improve. We’ll present plans to the players individually, the position groups, the units and the entire team.”

Defense won the day Saturday.

Napier said the offense committed two turnovers in the red zone. He also noted a few disappointing penalties.

Improved tackling in a secondary and the play of South Carolina transfer linebacker Grayson “Pup” Howard stood out.

“But overall, it was back-and-forth,” Napier said. “There were bright spots on both sides.”

Edgar Thompson can be reached at egthompson@orlandosentinel.com

Pirates’ Jared Jones strikes out 10 to win major league debut as Marlins careen to 0-3

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 16:05

MIAMI — Jared Jones struck out 10 over 5 2/3 innings to win his major league debut and lead the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Miami Marlins 9-3 on Saturday.

A 22-year-old right-hander taken by Pittsburgh with the 44th pick in the 2020 amateur draft, Jones allowed three runs, three hits and two walks. He threw 62 of 89 pitches for strikes, including 22 swings and misses. His fastball topped at 99.9 mph and averaged 97.1 mph.

He credited catcher Henry Davis.

“Felt really good. I just wanted the pitches anywhere close where he would catch them and my nerves settled in right there,” Jones said. “Executing the pitches and the spot they needed to be, that was huge.”

Jones (1-0) made the opening-day roster after throwing 16 1/3 scoreless innings in six spring training outings. He kept Miami hitless until Jake Burger’s two-out RBI double in the fourth.

“We should be excited, but it’s also one start,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I think the excitement is this a guy we drafted. This is a guy we developed. And we’ve talked about organizationally, we’re going to have to build our depth from within and this is one of the guys that was a part of that.”

Connor Joe doubled twice, singled and drove in two runs for the Pirates, who had 16 hits against starter Ryan Weathers (0-1) and four relievers.

Pittsburgh also scored seven after two out and had batters reach in eight innings. Ke’Bryan Hayes and Oneil Cruz beat out double play grounders that would have ended innings but instead resulted in runs.

“The more you get guys on base the more you’re getting to the top of the lineup and the harder it is for a starter,” Hayes said. “We just have to stay with it and not try to do too much. Just keep the same mentality of trying to hit the ball hard.”

Miami’s Luis Arraez singled in the seventh, ending an 0-for-13 start for the defending NL batting champion.

Edward Olivares gave the Pirates an early lead with his RBI single off Weathers in the third. Joe’s run-scoring double and Hayes’ RBI single in the fourth made it 3-0.

Ahead 5-3, the Pirates scored four runs in the seventh helped by Bryan Reynolds’ two-run double.

Pittsburgh All-Star closer David Bednar, who had been dealing with a lat issue during spring training, made his season debut with a perfect ninth that finished a five-hitter.

Weathers gave up three runs, seven hits and two walks in four innings. Marlins starters haven’t pitched into the sixth inning in the first three games of the series.

“We’ve had some long innings on the other side. When you’re having 30-pitch innings, it’s tough to come in and provide offense,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said.

Before the game, the Marlins recognized Schumaker for earning 2023 NL Manager of the Year last season in his first season running a big league dugout.


Marlins: RHP Edward Cabrera (right shoulder impingement) is to make a rehab start with Triple-A Jacksonville Sunday. … LHP Braxton Garrett (left shoulder soreness) will have a bullpen session on Sunday after throwing two innings in an extended spring training game Thursday.


LHP Bailey Falter will start the series final for the Pirates on Sunday while the Marlins will go with LHP Trevor Rogers.

Minnesota State stuns Nova Southeastern in final second, claims both D-II championships

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 15:37

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Kyrese Willingham buried a 3-pointer with a second remaining and Minnesota State beat Nova Southeastern 88-85 to win its first Division II championship at the Ford Center on Saturday.

Minnesota State (35-2) became just the third school in any division to win both the men’s and women’s championships in the same season. The women beat Texas Women’s University 89-73 on Friday. Connecticut accomplished the feat twice at the Division I level, doing so in 2004 and 2014. Central Missouri State won both D-II titles in 1984.

Willingham’s winning shot came after the Mavericks blew a 13-point lead in the final 10 minutes.

Dylan Peeters had 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting to lead the Mavericks, who won their final 16 games of the season. Justin Eagins totaled 17 points and six rebounds. Kyreese and older brother Malik Willingham as well as reserve Harrison Braudis each scored 12. Kyreese added five rebounds and three steals, while Malik finished with five assists and five steals. Elijah Hazekamp pitched in with nine points and eight rebounds.

MJ Iraldi scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half for defending-champion Nova Southeastern (32-3), which won its first championship last season with a 111-101 victory over West Liberty. Shane Hunter totaled 19 points and 10 rebounds. Isaiah Fuller scored 12 and Ryker Cisarik added 11 points and six rebounds. The loss snapped a 20-game win streak for the Sharks.

Iraldi and Fuller had three-point plays as Nova Southeastern jumped out to 12-2 lead. Minnesota State battled back and two straight baskets from Kyreese Willingham and Peeters turned a 19-9 deficit into a 26-25 lead for the Mavericks with 7:10 remaining in the first half.

There were seven lead changes and three ties from there until Trey Doomes hit a turnaround jumper in the paint to give the Sharks a 40-38 advantage at halftime.

Minnesota State came out firing in the second half, using 3-pointers from Hazekamp and Eagins to forge a 10-0 run that took 76 seconds. Another Hazekamp 3-pointer gave the Mavericks their biggest lead at 56-43 with 16:43 remaining.

Iraldi and Hunter had two baskets apiece in a 13-0 run and the Sharks pulled even at 71 with 6:55 to go. A Malik Willingham layup off a steal by his brother ended the run but another Iraldi layup knotted the score. Peeters scored for the Mavericks, but Iraldi answered with a 3-pointer and the Sharks took their first lead of the second half 76-75 with 4:50 left.

Nova Southeastern took its last lead at 81-80 on an Iraldi 3-pointer with 2:37 remaining. Eagins hit a 3-pointer and Kyreese Willingham had a layup off a steal and assist from his brother and Minnesota State led 85-81. Hunter and Iraldi had back-to-back layups to tie the game with 1:15 to go.


Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here ___ AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

One injured, one in custody after shooting in Pompano Beach, deputies say

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 15:00

One person was hospitalized and another is in custody after a Saturday afternoon shooting in Pompano Beach deputies say.

Around 2 p.m., Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the 1900 block of Northwest 16th Street, spokesperson Miranda Grossman said in an email. There, they found one person who had been shot. The victim was transported to a local hospital.

The area appears to have several businesses including a masonry, a paving contractor and a plumber, though most were closed Saturday.

Another person is in custody, Grossman said. She did not say whether that person is facing criminal charges or identify either of the people involved.

BSO’s Violent Crimes detectives are investigating.

Danielle Collins wins Miami Open on her final try, topping Elena Rybakina in straight sets

Sat, 03/30/2024 - 14:53

By MARC BERMAN (Associated Press)

MIAMI GARDENS — Danielle Collins had the perfect send-off at her final Miami Open, beating Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday to capture the title in her home state before an adoring crowd that included Andre Agassi and Martina Navratilova.

The 30-year-old Collins announced at the Australian Open that this season would be her last because she’s suffering from endometriosis, a painful ailment that affects the uterus.

“I’m really ready to hold that trophy,” said a teary-eyed Collins, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg. “It was a battle. To the fans, I’ve played a lot of tennis, a few finals, and nothing close to this. In my home state, to come out here in front of thousands of my best friends pushing me to get over this hurdle, I was getting very emotional. It was an incredible environment. I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Ranked No. 53 and unseeded, Collins was animated throughout the two-hour match against the fourth-ranked Rybakina, pumping her fist and staring up at the crowd that featured a big American flag early in the third row. It was too much for the ragged Rybakina, who hit several backhands long.

On her fourth match point, Collins hit a backhand crosscourt winner, then bent over for 10 seconds without moving, seemingly in disbelief.

It was the third career title and first since San Jose in 2021 for Collins, who became the lowest-ranked women’s champion at Miami. She leaves with $1.1 million in prize money and will move up to 22nd in the rankings.

Collins also won NCAA singles titles at Virginia in 2014 and 2016.

In winning the first set in an hour, Collins survived four break points at 3-3. She closed out that game and faced another break-point crisis at 5-5. She won three straight points — a backhand winner, a service winner and a forehand passing shot — as the crowd thundered.

Rybakina saved two break points while trying to serve her way into a tiebreaker. Collins finally seized the set as the Kazakh player nervously poked a backhand deep on the third set point.

Rybakina left the court for five minutes in between sets and Collins got off to a fast start with an early break. Rybakina broke back but then squandered three break points at 3-3, hitting two straight backhands long, giving Collins the momentum.

Collins broke at 4-4 as Rybakina hit a swinging volley into the net, then pounded another backhand long on break point.

Sunday’s men’s final pits Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner against tournament surprise Grigor Dimitrov.

Following his wins over Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev, Dimitrov will vault into the top 10 for the first time since 2018.

The Bulgarian also has a prominent fan in the stands in retired legend Serena Williams, who watched Friday’s semifinals. They became pals a while ago when Williams was on the tour. A tournament official said Williams and her sister, Venus, used to call Dimitrov their “little brother.’’

“She’s amazing,” Dimitrov said late Saturday after his three-set win over Zverev. “We stay in touch. We nearly speak on a daily basis. She said, ‘I’m gonna come watch.’ I was like, ‘OK.’ It’s always very humbling to have such a supporter in your corner, and I think just before the match she came, we had a little chat. It’s friendship, man.”

In the men’s doubles final Saturday, top-seeded Rohan Bopanna and Matt Ebden beat Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek, 6-7, 6-3 (6), with the title decided on a 10-point tiebreaker.


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

Pirates pound Puk in first major league start, get more solid pitching to send Marlins to 0-2

Fri, 03/29/2024 - 19:14

By ALANIS THAMES (AP Sports Writer)

MIAMI — Ke’Bryan Hayes had a single and an RBI double, and the Pittsburgh Pirates used another solid pitching outing to beat the Marlins 7-2 on Friday night.

Michael A. Taylor and Connor Joe also doubled for the Pirates, who beat the Marlins in front of 13,636 people at loanDepot park — a sharp decline in attendance from the crowd of 32,564 on opening day. Marlins games have typically been among the fewest-attended in MLB for years, but Thursday’s opening-day home crowd was Miami’s largest since 2016.

Starter Martín Pérez held the Marlins to one run through four innings, allowing six hits with two strikeouts and three walks in his Pirates debut.

Pérez, a 36-year-old left-hander, signed an $8 million, one-year deal with Pittsburgh after winning the World Series with Texas last November.

“I always say, they’re not perfect,” Pérez said of his pitches. “They’re going to miss. … I know it’s going to be a long season, and we just have to continue to pound the zone.”

Ryder Ryan (1-0) replaced Pérez in the fifth and pitched 1 2/3 innings of one-hit ball with two strikeouts. Josh Flemming limited Miami to one hit in the seventh and eighth before giving up back-to-back singles starting the ninth. He then retired Jonah Bride on a popout, and Christian Bethancourt and reigning NL batting champion Luis Arraez on groundouts.

Jake Burger drove in Miami’s first run with a single in the third that scored Arraez, who remains hitless in the series. Burger had his second straight multihit game, but the Marlins have been hurt by grounding into seven double plays this season.

“Any time we go out there we know the defense behind us is going to make plays,” Flemming said. “I think whenever we go out there we know who we are as pitchers. For me, I know I’m gonna get a lot of ground balls. And that’s what I’m looking for any time a guy gets on first base, I’m looking for a ground ball to try and get that double play.”

Miami’s A.J. Puk (0-1) struggled in his first big league start, giving up three hits, four runs and six walks in two innings. Puk went 7-5 in 58 relief appearances last season but was moved to the rotation because of injuries.

“I think there were some grip issues or something going on. I’ll have to talk to him,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “He’s usually a really good command guy. Doesn’t really walk too many people. It wasn’t borderline — it was pretty erratic. So we’ve got to see what happened and work on whatever he was not feeling. He wasn’t feeling right, obviously, so we’ve got some work to do.”

Puk walked three of his first four batters in the second around a single, forcing in the game’s first run with a free pass to Jared Triolo. Bryan Hoeing replaced Puk and gave up two hits and a run with four strikeouts over four innings.


Pirates: RHP Colin Holderman, on the 15-day IL with an illness, began a rehab assignment Friday night with Triple-A Indianapolis and allowed three runs, two hits and a walk in two-third of an inning against Louisville. He threw 24 pitches.


RHP Jared Jones will start for the Pirates on Saturday, while the Marlins will throw LHP Ryan Weathers.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL

Winderman’s view: Rout of Blazers allows Highsmith to again state his case

Fri, 03/29/2024 - 19:13

MIAMI — Observations and other notes of interest from Friday night’s 152-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers:

– This wing thing is getting interesting.

– For reasons beyond the question of what happens when Tyler Herro returns.

– Because Haywood Highsmith is on the rise.

– As Jamie Jaquez Jr. levels off.

– And as Caleb Martin remains somewhat uneven amid a variety of ailments.

– The suggestion of Highsmith over Jaquez in the playoff rotation would have seemed folly earlier this season.

– But Highsmith continues to change that calculus.

– Yes, he’s more limited than Jaquez.

– More of a 3-and-D.

– But if the 3s are falling like this?

– It could leave Erik Spoelstra with some interesting choices.

– Beyond how a Herro return will impact the rotation.

– Potentially even beyond whether Martin starts in the postseason at power forward over Nikola Jovic.

– Highsmith has put his name into the mix.

– No longer to be discounted.

– With Jimmy Butler back from his one-game absence due to illness, the Heat opened with Butler, Bam Adebayo, Jovic, Terry Rozier and Patty Mills.

– It was Mills’ fifth start with the Heat.

– As he continues as a placeholder for sidelined Herro and Duncan Robinson.

– Martin, whose status had been in question prior to the game due to ankle soreness, was first off the Heat bench.

– Jaquez followed.

– From there, it was Thomas Bryant as the Heat’s first big man off the bench.

– And not Kevin Love, who had been cleared earlier in the day to return from his heel bruise.

– Spoelstra said that with Love missing time the previous two days for a personal reason, the veteran big man might not be rushed back into a rotation role.

– As for Love being available, Spoelstra said, “I think it also has been important for our team to develop other connectors. We like to say that we need leadership at all levels. And it may look different for other guys. It might be smaller pockets of opportunity to lead, depending on who the player is.”

– Spoelstra added, “While Kevin was out, Thomas really stepped up and provided really quality minutes, and that’s been really encouraging to see. Niko also has developed into more opportunities, not only starting in the frontcourt with Bam, but playing some of these games as out reserve five for pockets of the game. And that’s been good for us, as well.”

– On Love, Spoelstra said, “He makes our best players better, because of experience and spacing. As we know he’s a fantastic rebounder. But that experience is something that has really helped our group.”

– Highsmith then entered to make it nine deep for the Heat.

– With Delon Wright making it 10 deep.

– Of what matters most at the moment, Spoelstra said pregame, “This far into the season, we know what our identity is. That has nothing to do with who’s available, who’s not available. It’s about getting to that identity more consistently. When we do that, we put ourselves in a much better position to win basketball games.”

– Butler’s third defensive rebound was the 3,000th of his career.

Heat bludgeon Blazers 142-82 in most lopsided victory in franchise’s 36 seasons

Fri, 03/29/2024 - 19:10

MIAMI — The Portland Trail Blazers spent the 2023 offseason acting as if the Miami Heat didn’t exist, at least when it came to soliciting trade offers for since-dealt guard Damian Lillard.

Friday night at Kaseya Center, the Blazers could not deny the reality of the Heat very much taking care of business, with Erik Spoelstra’s team pounding Portland 142-82 — the most lopsided victory in the Heat’s 36 seasons.

“There was a professionalism  from our part and an energy and an intentionality,” Spoelstra said. “And that’s what we’re aiming for right now.

“Hopefully that becomes more who you are.”

Pushing their lead into the 40s by the early stages of the third period and later to a franchise-record 60, the Heat closed out an uneven 2-2 homestand that included losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden Warriors and blowout victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Blazers.

Ultimately, it was a net neutral night for the Heat, with the Indiana Pacers’ home victory over the Los Angeles Lakers keeping the Heat at No. 7 in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The magnitude of the rout left the Heat somewhat coming up short.

Center Bam Adebayo, for example, was pulled one assist shy of a triple-double when he was subbed out with 59 seconds left in the third quarter. He closed with 21 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Forward Jimmy Butler, back after a one-game absence, closed with eight points, only the second time this season he failed to score in double digits and the first time in a game he wasn’t injured (the other time was when he went out on Dec. 30 at Utah with a toe injury after scoring eight points in 24 minutes.

The Heat also got 22 points from Rozier, who shot 6 of 10 on 3-pointers, as well as 26 from Thomas Bryant and 20 from Haywood Highsmith.

“To win big like this, it feels good for the group,” Rozier said.

The previous franchise record for margin of victory had been 43 over the Los Angeles Clippers in 1994. Included in the victory were a franchise-record 41 assists.

Asked if he had ever been part of something so lopsided, Rozier said, “Maybe middle school. But at this level? Nah.”

About the only downside was starting power forward Nikola Jovic leaving in the third period with a knee contusion.

The Heat again were without Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. The Blazers were without Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Jerami Grant, Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams.

“Everything started all getting bad at the same time,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said.

Next up for the Heat is a Sunday road game against the Washington Wizards, before a challenging stretch against the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and Pacers.

“This is good momentum for us,” Bryant understated.

Five Degrees of Heat from Friday night’s game:

1. Game flow: The Heat led 29-19 at the end of the first period and 74-40 at halftime, the Heat’s highest-scoring first half of the season. The Heat’s 24 assists in the first half were the most in a first half in the Heat’s 36 seasons.

The Heat then went into the fourth quarter up 107-63, opening the period with an all-reserve unit of Jaime Jaquez Jr., Bryant, Highsmith, Delon Wright and Jamal Cain.

“That was encouraging to be able to see us sustain that,” Spoelstra said.

2. Adebayo attack: Even with Butler back after missing Tuesday night’s loss to the Warriors due to illness, Adebayo seized control for the Heat, up to 18 points, six rebounds and five assists by halftime, dominating his matchup against Deandre Ayton.

Adebayo also drained a second-quarter 3-pointer, making it at least one conversion in seven of his last eight appearances. He then made it 2 for 2, with a third-period conversion, as well. The lone shutout in that streak was when he sat out the fourth quarter of Sunday’s blowout victory over the Cavaliers.

Spoelstra said he gave Adebayo one final possession to try to get his 10th assist, with Patty Mills not cooperating on the scoring end.

“I told him you got one crack at it,” Spoelstra said. “Ultimately, we’re not playing for stats. And the way our season has gone, with all the injuries and missed games, I also have to be responsible as the head coach.”

3. Pass first: Still showing signs of the illness that kept him out Tuesday, Butler played in pass-first mode, with seven assists in his 15 first-half minutes, attempting just two shots.

Butler had five assists in the second period, when he did not attempt a shot in his 6:48.

Butler closed 2 of 4 from the field, including a 3-pointer, with eight assists and four rebounds in 24:50.

That the Heat could accomplish what they did without heavy lifting from Butler was particularly encouraging.

“I think we all want to build off of this,” Rozier said.

4. Haywood Makesmith: After going a perfect 7 of 7 on 3-pointers the previous two games, Highsmith’s streak ended when he missed his first 3-point attempt Friday. He promptly converted his next five.

Highsmith closed 7 of 9 from the field, including 5 of 6 on 3-pointers.

“It’s just me locking in and zoning in,all that work I put in over the summer,” Highsmith said. “I just was feeling it I guess.”

He said the focus was there after losing to the Warriors.

“We definitely wanted to come in here and bounce back off a loss,” he said.

5. No Love, yet: Available for the first time since Ayton fell on him in the teams’ Feb. 27 meeting in Portland, Kevin Love nonetheless missed his 15th consecutive game.

With Love having been away from the team this week due to personal reasons, Spoelstra said pregame it was unlikely Love would immediately fully return to his previous rotation role. Love was the lone available Heat player not to see action Friday.

Instead, Bryant continued at backup center, closing his initial nine-minute stint in place of Adebayo with 10 points and three rebounds. Bryant then kept going from there.

Lionel Messi will miss Miami’s game against NYCFC, could return for Champions Cup quarter

Fri, 03/29/2024 - 18:14

FORT LAUDERDALE — Lionel Messi’s hamstring injury will keep him sidelined for Inter Miami’s home game against New York City FC on Saturday, but he could return for the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal first leg against Mexico’s Monterrey on April 3.

After missing Saturday, Messi will have played in nine of 19 MLS matches since joining Miami last summer.

“He is working with the physios,” Miami coach Javier Morales said Friday, “but he won’t be available because we are doing all we can to get him ready for next Wednesday. There is a possibility he will play in that game — that is what we are working for.”

Messi has not played for Miami since March 13, when he left a 3-1 win over Nashville just a few minutes into the second half because of discomfort in his right hamstring.

The 36-year-old also missed Argentina’s exhibitions this month against El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Miami has won all five matches that Messi has played in this season but has lost two of three without him, including a 4-0 defeat at New York last Saturday.


AP MLS: https://apnews.com/hub/major-league-soccer

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