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.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.