Nothin' but Net: Spoelstra's choice should be an easy one

11:29 AM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - NBA rules dictate that the head coach in an All-Star game will replace an injured starter with someone on his roster.

Erik Spoelstra will be the man in the warmish seat. The head coach of the Miami Heat will guide the Eastern Conference All Stars and his only real challenge will come before the jump a week from Sunday.

With Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo out for the season with a torn ACL, the decision is all Spoelstra's as to who replaces him in the starting lineup.

Two of Spoelstra's guys, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, will join Boston's Kevin Garnett and the New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony as winners of the fan vote.

So who does Spoelstra go with?

First, the roster has just two other guards on it - Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers. The rules of the All-Star game dictate two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild- cards for the reserves, which were voted on by the conference coaches.

Since the guards in the East this season have not enjoyed stellar success, Irving and Holiday were the only two to make it.

And Holiday is not who the people want to see. He finished eighth in the fan vote among Eastern guards.

It would seem like an easy choice for Spoelstra. Irving is sixth in the NBA in scoring and is increasingly become one of the faces of the NBA and outside (Grab another Pepsi, Uncle Drew.).

Irving is explosive and tailor-made for All-Star game theatrics. The crowd will eat Irving up with a spoon. He'll dazzle, he'll be fancy and that above- mentioned quartet will love playing with him.

Decisions like these should be easy. The All-Star game is for the fans. The end goal should be what product will Joe Consumer enjoy most of all. That would be Irving.

Problem is, the Heat are looking for some history.

Three members of one team haven't started an All-Star game since the 1990 edition had Magic Johnson, James Worthy and A.C. Green of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Chris Bosh lurks as an Eastern Conference reserve. The fact that three members of the defending champions could start the All-Star game the following season is tempting.

"Look, I've only given this thought for the last nine minutes, but I will tell you this, unequivocally, that my loyalties, first and foremost are always with the Miami Heat," Spoelstra said on Sunday after he earned the job with a win over the Toronto Raptors.

That seems to be a not-so subtle way of letting the world know Bosh will be starting in Houston.

There's a lot of merit to starting Bosh.

The Heat won the title and to the victor go the spoils.

Bosh received the second-most fan votes of a non-starter behind only Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets. Spoelstra can hide behind that statistic in defending his stance that the player the fans most wanted to see in the game in the East, that didn't quite make it, is Bosh.

Plus, loyalty to your team is a good thing. Little maneuvers like that can go a long way in team unity, although it's doubtful Bosh would carry any resentment if Spoelstra passed him over for Irving.

There are a lot of reasons not to start Bosh.

The first being, and this is extremely difficult to quantify, that it looks a tad shady.

To have an opportunity like this is a pretty big charge for Spoelstra. Granted, it's an All-Star game and should be somewhere between world peace and what he'll eat for breakfast that morning on the totem pole of life, but rare is the opportunity to hand-pick a starter in the All-Star game. According to NBA.com, the last time a starter was replaced for injury was in 2007 when Yao Ming couldn't go.

If Spoelstra just pegs Bosh, it'll be the easy way out. He'll take his guy, cite their status as defending champs and loyalty and what not, and that'll be the end of it. It almost reeks of nepotism, but understood nepotism.

And, yes, Rondo is a point guard, so it would make more sense to replace him with a point guard, but James can handle bringing the ball up the floor. In fact, that may bring more fun than Irving doing it.

The problem is, there's a case to be made that Bosh was the weakest of the East reserves. Some said the night the back-ups were announced, that Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets deserved Bosh's spot (commissioner David Stern rectified that dilemma by awarding Rondo's spot on the team to Lopez).

If the weakest (and I don't think Bosh is the weakest with averages of 17.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg), gets tapped to be a starter, how could anyone look at that and feel that the game's best interests were being met?

Again, it's an All-Star game and no one will open an FBI investigation if Spoelstra picks his own guy, but there's a genuine opportunity to do what's right by the fans.

Yes, Bosh got more votes than Irving did, so maybe fans do really want Bosh in that game. But since the polls closed, Irving has averaged 26.7 ppg, has three games over 30 points, one over 40 and some game-winners mixed about.

This is all much ado about nothing, but Spoelstra should remember which master he's serving in Houston. He is the head coach of the Miami Heat, but on that Sunday evening, he's the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and that game was created for the fans.

The fans would be better served with a dynamic future face of the NBA, than a jump-shooting big man.

Do the right thing, Erik, and start Uncle Drew.

The Sports Network

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