Erik Spoelstra has an easy and rational decision to make that will still create controversy.
Spoelstra, who clinched his first trip to the All-Star Game when the Miami Heat won in Toronto on Sunday, will get to decide who replaces Rajon Rondo in the East's starting lineup. All signs point to Spoelstra selecting his own player, Chris Bosh, to start alongside Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who were voted in as starters. But choosing Bosh, who plays center, over first-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, who is having an impressive season for the Cleveland Cavaliers and plays the same point-guard position as Rondo, is going to cause an interesting debate. Irving is sixth in the league in scoring at 24 points a game, has two game-winning shots this season, and is the only player in the Eastern Conference besides James who is averaging 20 points and five assists a game.
But Irving's position and merits aren't really at the core of the issue.
Spoelstra hasn't announced the choice yet, at least formally. But the writing is on the wall. Last week, five days before Spoelstra even clinched the spot, Heat owner Micky Arison tweeted about the history the Heat could make with Bosh in as the starter.
When asked about it on Sunday, Spoelstra said: "I will tell you this, unequivocally, that my loyalties, first and foremost, are always with the Miami Heat."
You see, there is already some wrangling going on ahead of James' free agency that is scheduled for July 2014. One of the teams expected to have cap space and an interest in making a pitch to steal James away -- at the peak of irony -- is the Cavs. Their greatest recruiting tool will be the 20-year-old Irving, who has a bright future, a friendship with James and a deal with Nike.
There's an uncountable number of variables between now and next summer that make projecting James' choice even more complex than back in 2010. But it is not too early to think about it.
So this question leaps out: Is there any way the Heat may not want to have James and Irving sharing the court and spotlight together?
Don't expect Spoelstra to even entertain the question. Of course it has crossed both his and Heat president Pat Riley's minds. Don't think they weren't plotting their recruitment of James back in 2009; in fact, Riley and the Arison family enacted a long-term plan aimed at getting James' attention for years before they gave their free-agent pitch on July 2, 2010. It was an effective plan.
To a certain extent, they'll likely have to recruit James again in 18 months. Their strongest asset is to point to the rafters, where James has already hung one banner with the plan to add more. Frankly, though, it's an easy issue for Spoelstra to dodge because he has a number of legitimate reasons to promote Bosh instead of Irving.
The move would give the Heat the history Arison was excited about -- the first time three players from the same team would start together in an All-Star Game since 1990 when the Los Angeles Lakers were repped by Magic Johnson, James Worthy and A.C. Green.
Also, Spoelstra owes Bosh a nod after moving him to the center position full time this season, a role Bosh took begrudgingly but without much public complaint. Plus, it would create a bit of intrigue as James would start at a fourth different position in an All-Star Game. He was at shooting guard in 2005, power forward in '06 and small forward for the past five years. Moving Bosh in for Rondo would mean James becomes the East's de facto point guard.
Above all that, the Heat had the East's best record at the Feb. 3 deadline for picking the coach. They're also the defending champs. They've earned the spoils. Spoelstra doesn't really have to explain himself at all.
In 2010, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl could've picked his own guard, Chauncey Billups, to start for the injured Kobe Bryant. Instead he went with Dirk Nowitzki, in no small part because the game was in Dallas.
In 2007, Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni started Nowitzki in Yao's spot even though his own star, Amar'e Stoudemire, could've filled in.
In 2006, Detroit Pistons coach Flip Saunders could've put Rasheed Wallace in the starting lineup for a hurt Jermaine O'Neal but chose Vince Carter. The Pistons had four All-Stars that season and Saunders decided to bring them all into the game together instead.
Spoelstra can do whatever he wants with his position and have a clear conscience doing it. Taking care of his own players first will probably do him the most good with his team and his fan base. Even his owner, it seems.
But as we all learned the last time James was heading toward free agency, the plotting starts early. So do the conspiracy theories.