The Heat visit the Hawks for a Southeast showdown. Our 3-on-3 crew sets the table.
1. Fact or Fiction: LeBron is legitimately inspired by Kevin Durant.
Kevin Arnovitz: Fact, though I'm not sure he's inspired so much as pushed or motivated. Basketball is a hypercompetitive business, and LeBron James doesn't want to lose the distinction of being the best player on the planet any more than any other top dog wants to lose standing in his or her field.
Israel Gutierrez: Fact. Durant is the only real threat to LeBron's throne, and once Durant is able to surpass LeBron for either MVPs or championships, good luck getting it back from him. LeBron can be motivated by championships and wanting to be the G.O.A.T. But if that ever seems too far in the distance, all he has to do is look at what Durant's doing and try to do better.
Michael Wallace: Fact. Only because he's searching for something, anything, to fire a spark into a season that's been physically and mentally draining already for the four-time MVP and two-time defending champions. All the true greats reach for motivation at times, whether it's legitimate or imagined. Michael Jordan used perceived slights. Magic Johnson used Larry Bird's stats from the previous night's game to drive him.
2. Fact or Fiction: Ray Allen's struggles are a real concern.
Arnovitz: Faction. They're a real concern, sure, because the Heat need production from that position, especially with Dwyane Wade's sitting approximately every fourth game. But I'm not ready to say this is the beginning of the end for Allen. It's probably not a coincidence that his worst shooting week as a member of the Heat came while playing more minutes than he has in recent memory.
Gutierrez: Fiction. If it appeared Allen's legs were shot, then there should be concern because his shot relies so much on lift. But Allen has been dunking more than he has in years and doing so with apparent ease. I would call this a midseason slump that any shooter can go through. Even Kyle Korver is just 14-of-43 (32.6 percent) from 3 in his last eight games (46.3 percent for the season).
Wallace: Fiction. Sure, it's a slump, perhaps one of the worst Allen has been in during the month of January. The reason why the concern is minimized a bit is because he's not hesitating to keep firing them off. And he's still getting decent looks. But the fact that the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history has had only a handful fall this month is stunning in itself.
3. Fact or Fiction: Greg Oden should be in the nightly rotation right now.
Arnovitz: Fact, for two reasons. One, Chris Andersen's knees, back and whatever else need as much relief as possible before the postseason. Two, Oden's confidence and conditioning need to be bolstered as much as possible before the playoffs, since he's an important insurance policy. Since the Heat look increasingly like they're locked into the No. 2 seed in the East, why not give Oden a go?
Gutierrez: Fiction. At least based on what we know. The only people who can say for certain he should be in the rotation are the ones with in-depth knowledge of his knee situation. If he were capable, he'd be in. Otherwise, there remains plenty of time to get him acclimated to regular minutes. If March rolls around and he's still not in there often, then there should be some concerns.
Wallace: Fiction. Not at least until his troublesome knees can prove over the course of a couple of weeks that the swelling will be at a minimum. Oden, however, should get a handful of minutes each game against teams that have low-post centers, just so he could get some conditioning and regain his confidence and rhythm in small doses at a time.