It went all the way to the wire to be decided, but Erik Spoelstra will be joining LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Houston as the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars.
With Sunday as the deadline, coaches with the best records in each conference were tabbed to coach the All-Star teams on Feb.17. The Heat led the Knicks by a half a game on Sunday, making Spoelstra an All-Star head coach for the first time in his career. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars.
“First and foremost, we’re happy we have the No. 1 spot in a very competitive Eastern Conference,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve been talking about a championship hangover and things of that nature. …We’re starting to play better basketball in the last three or four weeks, so it is an honor to the staff and a big-time credit to the players.”
Spoelstra’s entire coaching staff will be joining him in Houston. Spoelstra was an assistant in 2005 when Stan Van Gundy was the head coach of the East All-Stars.
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Spoelstra will not have many responsibilities during All-Star weekend, but it is his job to name a replacement starter for Rajon Rondo, the Celtics guard who recently tore a knee ligament and is out for the season. Spoelstra didn’t come out and say he was going to use his authority to start Bosh, but he offered a big hint.
“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,” he said with a smile.
Bosh, an eight-time All-Star, has started two All-Star Games in his career. The last time three players from the same team started in an All-Star Game was in 1990 when Magic Johnson, James Worthy and A.C. Green represented the Lakers.
“It’s a heck of an honor and this has been a special year,” Spoelstra said.
The Heat reserved a room in the upper floor of upscale sports bar Real Sports on Sunday in Toronto to watch the Super Bowl. Real Sports is located across the street from Air Canada Centre. Originally, the Heat was scheduled to fly back to Miami immediately following Sunday’s game.
Spoelstra broke the news to the team after the game, although the plan was already in the works. The team entered the restaurant through the kitchen.
“Coach came in and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to stay and watch the game,’ ” James Jones said.
Last week, Jones jokingly asked The Miami Herald to write a story pleading with Heat owner Micky Arison to install Wi-Fi on the team’s plane.
“We got a big victory tonight and then rather than travel in the air we’ll be watching the football game and get home in time [Monday] for our game against the Bobcats, so I think we’re just going to have fun tonight and enjoy this victory,” Jones said. “It has been a long road trip, so hopefully we’ll get back to Miami and regroup and start a nice little home stretch.”
The Carolina Hurricanes also watched the Super Bowl at Real Sports, which is owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Raptors.
Heat forward/center Chris Andersen played 13 minutes, his most action with the Heat since signing with the team. Andersen is on his second 10-day contract with the Heat, but is expected to sign with the team for the remainder of the season when it expires.
“The legs are sore and tired, but that’s just the hump I’ve got to get across to get where I need to be at,” Andersen said. “The strength is there, but I think I need to work a little bit on my foot speed because when I jump out and jump these guards, I need to be a little quicker.
“But I’m getting there and I’m feeling a little more optimistic about my legs.”
The Heat reassigned center Dexter Pittman to the D-League on Sunday.