Mario Chalmers

Do the Heat need another point guard?

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The Miami Heat may not have the most complete roster in the league in conventional terms, but thus far they’ve indisputably boasted the league’s most effective one. Miami is sitting awfully pretty with an 8-1 record, the NBA’s fifth-ranked offense, and its second best defense.

But even those on top of the world have their problems from time to time, and on Saturday, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel took note of a potential — though strictly hypothetical — issue in South Beach:

As Mario Chalmers was dealing first with a bum shoulder and then foul trouble Saturday in New Jersey, the oddest of realities for such a loaded roster surfaced: What if Chalmers were forced to miss a game or was forced out of a game?

The reaction is to point to Norris Cole and say just go from there. But as a starter, with his one-speed, high-octane-only approach? There is a reason either Chalmers or none of the Heat two point guards have been closing close games.

Compared to the ails of the league-worst Washington Wizards, the injury woes of the Memphis Grizzlies, or the lingering troubles of the Dallas Mavericks, such a concern seems rather minor. But what Miami’s flaws lack in magnitude, they certainly make up for in consequence; as the most talented team in the league and the favorite to win the NBA title, even the most minor rotational issue in Miami could have startling ripple effects on the outcome of the season on a league-wide scale.

Yet even with that in mind, the potential for a serious injury to either Chalmers or Cole should only register as a blip on Miami’s radar. Such season-altering breaks or tweaks often come without warning, but Erik Spoelstra likely sleeps well at night — err, would sleep well at night if he weren’t still spending the deepest hours of the night in the film room — knowing that his point guard rotation is as secure as any in the NBA.

On paper, the Heat do, in fact, have just two nominal point guards. Spoelstra has even made it a point of emphasis this season to have one of them on the floor at all times; according to BasketballValue.com, the Heat have played just seven of their 699 minutes thus far without either Chalmers or Cole in the lineup, a testament to Spo’s steadfast commitment to both spacing the floor and putting as many shot creators on the court as possible. Both of those things are incredibly important for Miami’s half-court offense, but not so much that those two ideals justify filling minutes with subpar talent.

The Heat are in the envious position of having more capable contributors than rotation spots with considerable playing time. Although a hypothetical injury to either Chalmers or Cole would remove one such player from that logjam, Miami would still have the non-injured point, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, James Jones, and even rookie rebounding stud Terrel Harris to plug in between the 1 and the wings. It’s tempting and understandable to think that the Heat could benefit from adding a free agent point guard in order to bolster that rotation, doing so would overestimate the importance of conventional lineup configurations and undervalue the sheer talent Miami has on its roster.

I’ll spare you all the apositional preaching; we know that James and Wade are more capable of initiating Miami’s offense than the Marcus Bankses and Antonio Danielses of the world, and more importantly, they would theoretically allow Spoelstra to put more competent NBA players on the floor. Fit is required, as is a meshing of skill sets. But the objective is still to field a winning team regardless of structure, and the talents of James, Wade, and Miller — even in a physically demanding shortened season, even as Spoelstra is trying to play his best players off the ball more, and even in knowing just how much Miller struggled last season — give Miami a far better basis for quality lineups than a stopgap point guard ever could.

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.

Pelicans shut down Tyreke Evans until after All-Star break

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Tyreke Evans #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on November 6, 2013 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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the Pelicans have dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries so far this season to nearly every key payer on their roster. Tyreke Evans has missed the last five games with a lingering knee issue, and the team says he’s going to sit out their final four games before the All-Star break, as a precaution to make sure he’s healthy for the second half of the season.

From the Pelicans’ official site:

“We’re probably going to hold him out until after the All-Star break,” Alvin Gentry said during pregame at Quicken Loans Arena. “That gives him a situation where he has almost two weeks where he can rehab it and hopefully get it back. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break and we’ll be able to play him for the rest of the stretch (of the schedule).”

Evans initially missed the Jan. 2 game at Dallas due to the injury, then was sidelined again Jan. 18 at Memphis. Against Houston, he only played 16 minutes before being taken out of the game, suffering from the same issue.

“I think it’s just rest,” Gentry said of what it may take for Evans to get past the injury. “It’s one of those situations with tendinitis, where you rest and it feels better. That’s better than having him play two games, then sit out one (and have his status in flux). This may help him be able to play the last part of the season, without sitting out.”

Despite being 18-31, the Pelicans are just six games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Their resting of Evans could be read two ways—it could be gearing up to make a push for the playoffs, as much of a long shot as that may be; or it could be the first in a series of instances of shutting down or resting key players to try to position themselves for a lottery pick, effectively hitting the reset button after a season as ravaged by injuries as the one they’ve had.