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Heat's LeBron James sits out with a broken nose as Miami faces the Chicago Bulls at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

Heat's Greg Oden makes first start of the season

MIAMI -- The conversation was simple.

When the Miami Heat arrived for their pregame walkthrough, coach Erik Spoelstra had a message for reserve center Greg Oden: "you're in the starting lineup."

And that's how it played out for Oden, who on Sunday made his first start since Dec. 5, 2009.

"On this team, you've got to be ready," Oden said.

Oden had five points and five rebounds in 12 minutes. The move was made to make up for the absence of LeBron James, who sat because of a broken nose. Oden's starting lineup debut came one game after he did not play against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"I understand it's a league of matchups," Oden said. "It's just going to happen some games that's fit for me to play in and some days it's not."

Spoelstra said the decision was made to combat the Chicago Bulls' frontcourt advantage. Oden held his own during his two brief stretches.

"One of their main strengths is obviously their size, their rebounding, their ability to put pressure on you in the paint. We knew the minutes would be short for (Oden) ... I thought Greg was great. He's an active player for someone that big."

Oden called the experience a confidence boost as he continues to work his way back into playing. He missed the last four seasons because of a series of knee injuries.

"Guys are feeling more comfortable with me out there," Oden said. "It's still something that we can build on but I just think the comfort level and being able to put me in the starting lineup, it showed some confidence in me."

Support for Collins

Heat players showed their support center Jason Collins, who became the NBA's first openly active gay player. On Sunday, Collins was signed by the Brooklyn Nets to a 10-day contract.

Collins had been out of the league since announcing he was gay last April.

"I'm sure he's happy to be back in the NBA," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "I know Jason Collins as a competitor. The only thing I know about him is he fouls very hard and he was always one of the tough veterans. ... Welcome back."

The league also commented on the signing.

"Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. "Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment."

Heat eye Liggins

The Miami Heat are poised to potentially make the first use of their NBA Development League affiliate this season, with an eye toward signing swingman DeAndre Liggins of the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Liggins, a former Orlando Magic draft pick who also has played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is currently playing with the NBDL Skyforce as an unaffiliated player, free to sign with any NBA team.

Liggins recently was selected for the D-League All-Star Game during the NBA's All-Star Weekend.

A source told the Sun Sentinel that the Heat's current plans are to bring Liggins in later this week.

Liggins, 6 feet 6, has appeared in 35 games for the Skyforce this season, averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists. The Heat opened a roster spot with last week's trade of guard Roger Mason Jr. to the Sacramento Kings.

Bosh represents Venezuela

Center Chris Bosh wrote "Venezuela" on his shoes for Sunday's game. His wife, Adrienne, is half-Venezuelan and still has family there. The gesture was made to promote peace and rights for the people in the country, which is dealing with anti-government protests.

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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