Despite the departure, announced last week, of Heat big gun Pat Riley as coach, there is some good news. The Heat may make the playoffs. If it performs anywhere near its preseason level, posting a 5-2 record, it should avoid a third straight trip to the draft lottery.The brightest spot for the squad early on has been Lamar Odom. The new acquisition raised eyebrows with his 31-point, 14-rebound, 5-assist performance in a 99-98 preseason squeaker over San Antonio.
Odom picks up the slack for sidelined stars Caron Butler and Dwayne Wade, who enter the regular season hobbled. Wade has a sprained ankle, and Butler's knee is on the mend following minor surgery.
The first chance you'll have to see the team in person is Friday, for the 7:30 p.m. season home opener against Detroit at American Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Tickets cost $10 to $180. Call 786-777-HOOP. -- Russ Evans
Croquet's biggest event makes its American debut
The "Croquet World Series for the MacRobertson Shield" comes to the United States for the first time Saturday at the National Croquet Center (700 Florida Mango Rd., West Palm Beach). The competition, first played in 1925, is the Olympics of croquet. Top players come together every three or four years to vie for the MacRobertson Shield, which is a bit like earning tennis' Davis Cup Shield.
As many as 18 players swing their mallets on nine courts at the same time when the games are "doubles." Single players also compete. A game can take from one to three hours.
Although box seats are for sale, you can get free seats around the facility's perimeter. Call 561-478-2300. -- Sue Lynn
More than just a dog walk
For those of you in the crowd with four-legged roommates of the canine persuasion, Snyder Park (3299 SW Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale) is where you want to be this Saturday. Snyder's Bark Park opens at 10 a.m., and it's full of fun doggy stuff for you and your buddy. Spot can play off leash, frolic for Frisbees, socialize with other hounds, beagles, and terriers, and even swim in the park's freshwater lake.
Proof of current vaccination must be presented prior to entering the park. But your dog has had the proper shots, right? Otherwise, what sort of parent are you? Entrance fees are $2 for adults, $1.50 for seniors and children 12 and under. Call 954-828-DOGS. -- Russ Evans