ORLANDO -- Heat point guard Norris Cole experienced a wave of emotions on Wednesday.
He learned he would be starting against the Magic when the Heat meet inside Amway Center's visiting locker room before game. A few hours earlier, Cole found out he was left off the NBA's Rising Star Challenge, the rookie-sophomore exhibition game that coincides with All-Star weekend.
I couldn't help but notice during the pregame open-locker-room session that Cole was lost in thought and trying to ignore the media. He was seated with his face towards his locker the entire time. His large, noise-cancelling headphones muffled the sound of the noisy locker room. In hindsight, this was clearly a player preparing mentally for the first start of his NBA career.
Maybe he over thought it a bit.
Cole had nine points, shooting 4 of 8 from the field, in 31 minutes against the Magic. He was a completely different player than the fearless rookie we've come to know. I mean, there were games earlier in the season when Cole would have taken eight shots in eight minutes!
He said afterwards that he's not sure if he'll be starting against the Wizards on Friday but added, "I'll be ready if my number's called."
As for not making the cut for the Rising Stars Challenge, Cole indicated he was disappointed but added, "It's not the end of the world. My job is focus on getting better and help this team win a championship. That's the ultimate goal. It would have been nice to go but I didn't, so, hey, it will give me something to strive for next year."
Cole was up against some tough competition for an invitation to the Rising Stars Challenge. Five rookie guards were selected: Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving, MarShon Brooks, Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight. Heck, even the great Jimmer Fredette was passed over!