Greg Cote’s Hot Button Top 10: Florida Panthers, Copa America, Dolphins, cricket, golf & ... eating?

GREG COTE’S HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (JUNE 16): 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 now to the 63rd edition of your Sunday sports-potpourri notes column, the new HB10:

1. PANTHERS: Cats get spanked 8-1 in Edmonton but still up 3-1 in Cup Final: The historical odds still give Florida a 90 percent likelihood of raising its first-ever Stanley Cup with a 3-1 series lead. But does an 8-1 Game 4 spanking in Edmonton give pause to the would-be celebrants in South Florida? All that’s certain today: Game 5 Tuesday night will be the biggest home game in Cats franchise history ... unless there’s a Game 7.

2. NBA: Dallas staves off sweep; Boston can clinch Monday at home: Celtics had a chance to clinch the franchise’s 18th NBA title and first since 2008 in Dallas Friday night but ran from the chance in an embarrassing 122-84 loss. Beginning of a Mavericks Miracle or just the inevitable delayed? Boston and Jayson Tatum can clinch before the home fans in Game 5 Monday and is a 6 1/2-point favorite to do just that.

3. SOCCER: Time for U.S.-hosted Copa America as Argentina, Messi defend crown: It is usually seen as the biggest international soccer tournament after the World Cup, European Championship (just underway) and Champions League, and the U.S. is hosting for only the second time. Copa America runs June 20-July 11 across 10 states, with Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium hosting the championship match along with group-stage games June 23 (Uruguay-Panama) and June 29 (Argentina-Peru). Lionel Messi will be away from Inter Miami for this event; his other group games are June 20 vs. Canada and June 25 vs. Chile. U.S. group games are June 23 (Bolivia), June 27 (Panama) and July 1 (Uruguay). Argentina is the betting pick ahead of Brazil and Uruguay.

4. INTER MIAMI: Messi announces career will end in Miami, MLS: Lionel Messi, 36, said this week Miami would be his “last club” and MLS the last stop in his playing career, and admitted, “There’s not a lot of time left.” Messi’s Miami contract runs through next season, with a mutual option for 2026. Messi and Argentina are major players in the upcoming Copa America (see item #3), with the Paris Olympics on the horizon. It is widely believed the 2026 World Cup tri-hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico will be his record-setting sixth and his international swansong, but he said, “I’m not there to set any record. It’s a great thing to hold records and continue seeking accomplishments, but I wouldn’t be at a World Cup just to say that I’ve been in six of them.”

5. CRICKET: It seem U.S. has at last arrived on this sport’s world stage: The U.S. and West Indies are hosting the ICC men’s T20 World Cup, qualifying the U.S. team to participate for the first time in the prestigious event. Lauderhill is one of the host venues. Its first game -- U.S. vs. Ireland on Friday -- was abandoned due to a flooded field, but that meant the Americans advanced to the Super 8s, which in turn qualifies the U.S. for the ‘26 T20 World Cup. Team USA’s massive upset of Pakistan caught the world’s attention last week. It’s all gravy from here as the U.S. next faces South Africa Wednesday in Antigua. No matter what happens from here, this has been a landmark showing -- an arrival -- for U.S. cricket.

6. DOLPHINS: Jags’ deal with Lawrence amps pressure on Miami to extend Tua: Miami keeps signing older players looking for a career rebirth (Odell Beckham, Calais Campbell) while letting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa -- “antsy” for a new deal -- twist in the wind. The Jacksonville Jaguars just lavished a five-year, $275 million extension ($200M guaranteed) for Trevor Lawrence, equaling Joe Burrow as highest-paid QB in NFL history. Time to invite Tua into that $50 million-per-year club. Your move, Dolphins. (Actually, been your move for a while...)

7. GOLF: Scheffler barely makes cut, Tiger out, DeChambeau leads as U.S. Open wraps: American Bryson DeChambeau holds a 3-shot lead at minus-7 entering Sunday’s final round of the 124th US. Open at Pinehurst. Notably, Rory McIlroy is in the hunt at three strokes back. Tournament favorite Scottie Scheffler barely made the cut amid temper tantrums and is plus-6. Tiger Woods missed the cut.

8. NFL: The selfish gall of Aaron Rodgers knows no limits: So Aaron Rodgers, 40, joins the New York Jets last season, takes four snaps, then the fifth snap is his Achilles tendon and he’s out for the year. So he’ll be back in ‘24 with something to prove ... right? Nah. Skips the Jets’ mandatory week of minicamp last week to be elsewhere doing something besides football. NYJ calls it an “unexcused absence” meriting a fine. More than that, it’s the optics. What a lousy teammate! What an oddball diva! Jets fans might still be sold on Rodgers (maybe), but he invites the rest of the country to root against him.

9. UFL: Let’s all root for the Son of Bum, Wade Phillips: The UFL, child of the USFL/XFL merger, stages its championship game today/Sunday. I won’t watch but if I did it’d be to root for the San Antonio Brahmas because of coach Wade Phillips. The Son of Bum, Wade, who turns 77 next week, will try to win his first-ever championship as a head coach at any level in his 55 years in football. His Brahmas face the Birmingham Stallions in St. Louis. Phillips’ only Super Bowl ring was as Denver defensive coordinator in the 2015 season. Go Son of Bum!

10. EATING: Joey Chestnut banned, Netflix in, and Hot Dog War is on!: Controversy rocks competitive eating! Joey Chestnut, 16-time winner of the Nathan’s July 4 hot dog-eating contest including eight years in a row, was banned from next month’s gastronomic gala after agreeing to a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods in violation of his Nathan’s contract. (Impossible Foods recently introduced a plant-based dog, the latest evidence the world is going to hell.) Now, into the breach steps content-whore Netflix, which plans to live-stream a Labor Day dog-off between Chestnut and fellow eating legend Takeru Kobayashi entitled, Unfinished Beef. God bless America!

Other most recent stuff from me: Panthers get crushed 8-1 in Edmonton but still in charge with 3-1 Final lead as they head home // Florida Panthers, up 3-0 in Final, will win Stanley Cup unless Edmonton parties like it’s 1942 // Lionel Messi is hero/savior in MLS, but Caitlin Clark is resented in WNBA. Here’s why // Stanley Cup in sight for Panthers with 2-0 Final lead and Barkov back from dirty-hit injury // Previous HB10 // Bob 1, McJesus 0 as Panthers, Bobrovsky blank Edmonton, McDavid in Final Game 1 // Dolphins, quit nickel & diming and pay Tua the major money NFL QB market demands // Connor McDavid is overrated, other thoughts, picks for Panthers-Oilers, NBA Finals // MLB finally adding Josh Gibson, Negro Leagues an ‘historic moment’ too long in coming // New Dolphin Odell Beckham Jr. has the name & fame. Does he still have the game? // Miami Heat must change. Jimmy Butler cannot be best player if another NBA title is the aim // And my latest podcast: