Heat Start Far From Perfect
There are concerns — real issues — in Miami.
Is Bosh even softer than we thought? — We always suspected there was something weak about Chris Bosh. That he would shy away at the first sign of danger. That he wasn’t a guy you could count on in the trenches. That playing in Toronto wasn’t the only thing he and Vince Carter had in common. (Zing.) But is the Heat’s third fiddle even softer than we thought? I don’t just mean physically, either, although Paul Millsap certainly wouldn’t argue with you if you said Bosh was physically soft.
What’s going on in Bosh’s head? Here’s what he told reporters this past weekend: “We have a system but at the same time when the games happening so fast, sometimes I get lost. I don’t know whether to cut, whether to go, whether to get back. Playing with those talented two guys, it gets real fast.”
Does that sound like a superstar to you? Someone who deserves $110 million? Someone who should be mentioned in the same breath as James and Wade? I didn’t think so. It sounds more like a guy who considers himself in over his head, even on his own team.
Sadly enough, Bosh reminds me of myself. (I think this is the only time I’ll ever be embarrassed to compare my own game to an NBA star’s game.) I was always great when I was my team’s best player. Free to make plays without restriction, I would dominate games. I was more talented than a lot of my opponents, and I was skilled, so when I was assertive good things happened.
Put me on the same team as a few players a little more talented than I was, though, and I’d stop being myself. (Start being myself?) My aggression would fly out the window. Hesitancy would seep in. Even the things I normally did well (shooting, dime-throwing) became ugly. I wasn’t mentally strong enough to realize, “Hey, I’m as good as these guys. I deserve to have the ball, and when I get it I need to have confidence to make a damn play.”
That’s Bosh right now. He doesn’t even want to make plays when he touches the ball. He doesn’t want his to get in the way of James’ and Wade’s greatness. In Bosh’s mind, he’s nothing more than the team’s third-best player. And that’s right, he is. But he can’t pigeonhole himself into that role. He can’t take away his own play-making skills, which is what he’s doing right now by being so damn hesitant.
On top of that, Bosh has the emotional weight of the world on his thin shoulders. We’ve already established that Bosh’s mental strength is less than stellar. At this point, few could dispute that notion. Now this weak man has millions of people calling him soft. He has Jason Whitlock calling him out on Fox Sports, saying the Heat should already trade Bosh, that they’d be better off with Anderson Varejao. I can’t go on Twitter without seeing someone in my timeline spout some version of “Bosh is soft!”, so I can imagine Bosh sees at least some of the same Tweets.
He was weak in the first place. Imagine how the constant scrutiny must feel. Bosh has never dealt with anything like this. He has always been the overlooked star in a small market. Suddenly he’s widely considered an underachieving, overpaid, overrated scapegoat on one of the most-talked about NBA teams in history. The Heat’s Big Three have already been reclassified as Two and a Half Men. Bosh hears the grumbles. He notices the scrutiny. How can he not? The question is, is he strong enough to deal with it?
Bosh still has the time and the talent to figure all this out, of course. But he hasn’t yet exhibited the capacity.
What about the other two starters? — I’m going to say this first: I’m not too worried about Arroyo, even though he is an embarrassment to all starting NBA point guards. I firmly believe that by the time the Playoffs roll around, Arroyo will barely have a role. James will play a lot of point guard, and the fivesome of James-Wade-Miller-Bosh-Haslem will play most of the minutes. Arroyo should be nothing but an afterthought coming off the bench.
Which leaves the center position as the team’s biggest worry. When I look at Joel Anthony, I see a player who I (6-2, 200 pounds, without a speck of athletic ability) could probably beat 1-on-1. I’m barely kidding. On a nightly basis, Anthony is overmatched against every single center he faces. I think about who Anthony could see in the Playoffs, and I have to chuckle. Best of luck with Dwight Howard, Shaq, Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Andrew Bogut, Joel. Best of luck.
And if Anthony isn’t playing center, Udonis Haslem is. All 6-8 of him. I love Haslem’s game, he’s all grit, but he’s just not tall enough or long enough to defend certain players. Looking at every NBA champion all the way back to ‘94-95, each champ besides the 2006 Heat had at least two legitimately lengthy big men. The Lakers had either Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, or Shaq and rotating Center X (Samaki Walker, Horace Grant and AC Green in different years). The Celtics had Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett. The Spurs had Tim Duncan and rotating Center Y (Rasho Nesterovic, Fabricio Oberto and David Robinson in different years). The Pistons had Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
Only the 2006 Heat, which started Haslem alongside Shaq, didn’t have two lengthy starters. And they had Shaq! And Haslem, the undersized one, was a power forward for that team. Now he might be expected to be the crunch-time center? Yikes. Relying on smaller players in the frontcourt has never been a recipe to win a championship. Never.
Which brings me back to my point: Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony, to put it politely, suck. Udonis Haslem isn’t fit to play center for a contender. Neither is Bosh. Problems, all of them.
Are the Heat going to improve as the season wears on? Absolutely. They are too talented not to. But it can’t be ignored: The Heat have issues, and some of those issues might be more important than a lot of people predicted.
Even with their deficiencies the Heat will be a team to reckon with, a true contender. But ever since LeBron put on his checkered shirt and Decided to take his talents to South Beach, simply contending won’t be enough. Fair or not, this team must win a championship or be considered a failure.
Maybe James said it best.
“If you don’t know the game, it is easy to look at what is on paper and say this team should do this and do this right away,” James told reporters. “If you know the game, you know it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Yet that’s the burden James, Wade and Bosh agreed to when they decided to become teammates in Miami. Building a champion isn’t easy. But with that much star talent on one team, we certainly expect it to be.
Jay King also writes for the Boston Celtics blog Celtics Town. He is a recent graduate of Skidmore College, where he played basketball for three years before he reached his athletic mortality, realizing his heart far outweighed his athletic ability.