LeBron James,  Dwayne Wade, Joel Anthony, Chris Bosh, Carlos Arroyo

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.

Kevin Hart, Draymond Green get in All-Star Saturday three-point shootout

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TORONTO — This is going to come up in the Golden State locker room.

Right before Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry put on a three-point shooting exhibition, actor/comedian/self-promotor Kevin Hart came out and challenged Draymond Green to a shooting contest. Green was ready to go. They did the three-point shooting contest, and Green put up a total of 12 (which would have been dead last in the actual three-point contest, for the record).

Then Hart stepped up — and tied him with 12 points.

Steve Kerr, if you’re ever looking for a lineup to go REALLY small….

Other All-Stars pay tribute to Kobe Bryant’s legacy

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TORONTO — This is Kobe Bryant‘s weekend.

In what will be his final All-Star Game, he has been an absolute rock star in Toronto — huge ovations, huge crowds (of fans and media), and cameras trained on him everywhere he goes. The weekend has been a celebration of one of the game’s all-time greats and a storied career.

Over the course of the weekend, nearly every other All-Star has been asked about Kobe and the impact he’s had both on the game and on the players, personally. For many of them, this is personal, the younger NBA players grew up idolizing him. Here are a sampling of their responses.

James Harden (Houston Rockets):
“He’s been my idol growing up, my basketball idol. Like I said, just watching him play meant everything to me. So this is his last year, and he’s going to retire, and there’s going to be no more Kobe Bryant playing basketball, it’s kind of sad. It’s kind of sad about that, but at some point he had to go.”

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors):
“He’s the Michael Jordan of our era. He’s the most competitive player we’ve played against, and the thing he’s done throughout his career and the things he’s done to change the game, to motivate the players is unbelievable.”

Chris Bosh (Miami Heat):
“Kobe, this is his weekend. I know he probably would never say that or admit that, but, yeah, he’s one of the iconic players of this — greatest iconic players this league has ever had. He’s had such an imprint on our childhood. I know he had an imprint on my childhood. And then I was in that mix where I was a kid, and then I was trying to figure it out in the NBA, and next thing you know you’re competing against him. So, it’s been crazy.”

DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors):
“I grew up watching the Lakers. I grew up watching him his whole career and getting a chance to have a relationship with him and kind of, you know, patterned my game after him so to speak, so definitely speaks volumes.”

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder):
“Me growing up in Los Angeles and being able to see Kobe, obviously he’s one of the greatest players to play the game. It was a true honor to be able to learn from him. It’s a great experience to be able to learn different things from him, not just on the floor but off the floor as well and very different experiences.”

Tyrone Lue (Coach, Cleveland Cavaliers):
“When I first got there (playing for the Lakers) he was still young. He was Kobe, but he hadn’t been a starter yet. And that third year of his career, that was my first year, Rick Fox went down, and he stepped in and took a starting role. But just seeing the film he watched all the time, the players he was talking about, the Oscar Robertsons, Michael Jordans, the Magics, he knew from day one who he wanted to be like. He knew that to be the best, you had to work hard. That’s what he did every single day. Not one day did I see him take off.”

Paul George (Indiana Pacers):
“He was just fearless. He’s a champion. To get to where you want to get to, you have to put the work in. His work ethic is one thing that he has. That’s the reason why he’s so great.”

Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks):
“The only thing I can remember is him always beating us when I was at Utah in the playoffs. We always had to try to overcome the Lakers and Kobe Bryant and just could never do it.”

John Wall (Washington Wizards):
“Basically, the Michael Jordan of our era is what I see with all of his dedication to the game, his competitive drive. He’s one of those guys that always wants the ball in a tough situation. No matter the circumstances, he believes in himself, no matter what.”

Aaron Gordon (Orlando Magic):
“I watched Kobe growing up and watched him in the All-Star Game. The impact he’s had on my basketball game and in my life and so many other people, it’s really big. It’s astronomical. That’s Kobe. That’s the man.”

Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors):
“He’s meant so much to the game. Growing up in the era that I did, Kobe was that guy. So to play in an All-Star Game with him, I mean, that’s special. I grew up a Kobe fan, so it’s something that’s really special.”

C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers):
“He’s had a huge impact (on me). Obviously for us, he was the Michael Jordan of our era, a guy we watched. He emulated Michael. He had a lot of the same fadeaways, sticking out his tongue, winning championships. Just a sense of self to understand exactly what it takes to be successful. So for us, he was a guy I looked up to. His work ethic, his understanding and he knew how to bounce back from losses and shooting air balls in the playoffs as a rookie to hitting game winners.”

Watch it again: Epic dunk contest duel between Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon

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TORONTO — I am always hesitant to say a player/team/situation is one of the best of ever because the history of the NBA is filled with greats. We tend to overstate how good something current can be.  That said…

That was one of the best dunk contests ever.

Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show for the ages. Gordon had the best dunks of the night (in my opinion), but LaVine is consistently amazing, every dunk he does is flat out ridiculous.

Officially, LaVine won. In reality, we all won. Enjoy watching it one more time.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.