Could Miami catch Chicago for top spot in East? Maybe. But not likely.

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A few days ago, this seemed impossible. It’s still not likely. Unless you think the Heat can start to find those higher gears we think they have but haven’t seen in a while.

Still, after the Heat came back to beat the Nets Monday night on the strength of LeBron James scoring the final 17 points of the game for Miami, and after the Bulls fell to the Wizards at the same time, suddenly the door to the top spot in the East that Chicago thought it had shut is open a crack.

Miami has six games to play, the Bulls five.

The biggest of those is Thursday — Miami and Chicago face off. The Heat have to find a way to beat the Bulls at home to have a chance. If they do that 2.5 game lead (as of Monday) is 1.5.

The Heat have an easier road the rest of the way. They face Toronto Wednesday, then the Bulls, then the Wizards, the Rockets (who could be desperate or could be demoralized), they have a tough game at Boston, then they finish with the Wizards again.

The Bulls have a gimme against Charlotte, then the Heat on the road, then they have a good Dallas team, a Pacers team that is the three seed in the East and won eight of their last nine, then they finish off with the Cavaliers. A lot of their chances come down to how healthy Derrick Rose is — the Heat, Pacers and Mavericks are all potential losses.

If the Bulls stumble and the Heat get hot….

But do you want to bet on that? Since the All-Star break the Heat have been inconsistent and disinterested. We keep talking about them like a Ferrari with these high gears nobody can match, but if you don’t reach those gears your no faster than a Chevy Tahoe. Even the win Monday over the lowly Nets required a huge game from LeBron James.

On the flip side, while the Bulls lost to the Wizards they have found a way to beat teams all season long without Rose. That includes the Heat in overtime.

But it could happen. We’ll have a better idea Thursday night.

Heat forward James Johnson expected to miss 7 to 10 days

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MIAMI (AP) The Miami Heat will be without starting forward James Johnson for at least two games and probably more after bursitis was found in his right ankle.

Johnson left Miami’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday with ankle pain, and an MRI performed Sunday led to the bursitis diagnosis. Johnson is not traveling with the team for its trip for games at Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday.

The team says Johnson could miss seven to 10 days, which would also mean his status for home games against Dallas on Dec. 22, New Orleans on Dec. 23 and Orlando on Dec. 26 is in some doubt.

Johnson is averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Heat this season.

LeBron James wears one black, one white LeBron 15 shoes with “Equality” on back (VIDEO)

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LeBron James notched his third-straight triple-double on Sunday, this one coming against the Washington Wizards. But before the game, the story was all about how James was voicing a silent protest — in Washington D.C., no less — by wearing a special version of his shoes.

LeBron took to the floor wearing his LeBron 15s, but this player edition had the word “Equality” on the back of them. James wore one black shoe and one white shoe.

James wore the black versions of this shoe in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opener to start the season.

Via Twitter:

LeBron finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 106-99.

Stephen Curry says he’d want in on potential Panthers ownership

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The Carolina Panthers are up for sale. Owner Jerry Richardson said he would sell the team late on Sunday following an announcement by the NFL that Richardson was under investigation for “workplace misconduct”. The NFL’s investigation and Richardson’s decision to sell was preceded by a report from SI saying Richardson had paid out settlements amid sexual harassment and racial slur claims.

Enter Sean Combs and Stephen Curry.

Combs — that’s Diddy, you to and me — has previously voiced his interest in being involved with the NFL, and after seeing that Richardson would be selling the team, jumped at the chance to boost his profile. Combs tweeted that he wanted to buy the team, and that’s when Curry joined in.

Via Twitter:

Naturally, Curry is from Charlotte and went to both high school and eventually college in the area, playing at Davidson. He’s an avid Panthers fan and has been on the sideline for the team publicly many times over the years.

Curry being part of an ownership group for the Panthers would be pretty wild. Perhaps Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan would like to join in? It seems like they would have the liquidity and credit availability between the three of them to get the team.

Then again, the asking price for the Panthers could be north of $2 billion. The last team to be sold was the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for $1.4 billion. In September, Forbes released a valuation for the Panthers that put them at $2.3 billion.

Might need to get a few others involved in this one.

Watch Raptors fans give Vince Carter a standing ovation in Toronto (VIDEO)

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Vince Carter is 40 years old and playing in what could possibly be his final NBA season. The Sacramento Kings guard started his career with the Toronto Raptors, and on Sunday he played what could possibly be his final game at the Air Canada Centre.

And so, when Carter was subbed out late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the folks in Toronto did what came naturally: they cheered.

The whole thing was pretty great to watch, and a real testament to how Carter is viewed by fans in Toronto.

Via Twitter:

Carter scored just four points in 25 minutes for Sacramento, going 2-of-5 from the field while adding three blocks, two assists, a rebound and a steal.

The Raptors got the win over the Kings, 108-93.