Heat considering starting lineup changes, but options limited

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It is way too early to panic in Miami. If you thought it was as simple as just rolling out the basketball, well, you’re one of those people that thinks Phil Jackson has just been lucky. Eleven times.

It was going to take time to figure out how to activate both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at the same time, with one playing off the ball (something neither has done much of since junior high, at best). It was going to take time to figure out how to best use Chris Bosh in the offense. To see where the other parts fit in.

But right now, the parts aren’t fitting. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is open to the idea of making lineup changes — putting in new starters — he told ESPN’s Heat Index.

“I’ll evaluate it all,” Spoelstra said after Friday’s practice at American Airlines Arena. “I’m trying to keep it consistent. But when you’re not having success, it makes you re-evaluate and you might have to make some changes. We’ll see. You’re always allowed to make changes if needed.”

The problem is — what changes can he really make?

Ira Winderman broke it down at the Sun Sentinel and the options are limited Wade, LeBron and Bosh will start. No matter what. (And if you are thinking of suggesting Bosh should come off the bench, I would suggest you need to start taking your meds again, you’re going crazy.) So the only moves are really at point guard and the center spot.

You could start Mario Chalmers at the point and give Carlos Arroyo a rest, under the theory that Chalmers is a better defender and three point shooter. But so far this season Arroyo has shot better — Chalmers has shot nothing but threes this season and has hit 28.6 percent of them. Not good. Arroyo has taken less but has hit half of them.

Basically, you don’t get a big improvement there. You could start James Jones — who has been the best three-point shooter on the team — but then you are asking Wade to cover the Rajon Rondos and Deron Williams. He can’t hang with them and risks foul trouble.

At the center spot, you could start Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who ha probably been the best of the Heat centers so far. But then you lose his punch off the bench and at age 35 with a dozen years under him he can’t play big minutes anyway.

So how about Jamaal Magloire at the five spot? He’s taller than Joel Anthony, he’s more physical if someone is the post. But again there is no offense to speak of from him, so you’re just getting a bigger but slower center. Is that an upgrade? Start Udonis Haslem and slide Bosh to the five, but as Boston showed that could lead to a softer Heat defense.

The real upgrade will come sometime around Christmas or the first part of next year when Mike Miller and his shooting return. Then you may well see the Big 3, Miller and somebody at center.

Until then, the Heat will have to get by with what they have now. And figure out how to make it fit together.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.