Sunday, November 14, 2010

For The Heat, Admitting A Mistake Isn't Panicking

It’s just not working in Miami.

For Chris Bosh.

With the Miami Superfriends barely better than .500 after 10 games, we’re on the cusp of an avalanche of stories (probably from Adrian Wojnarowski alone!) proclaiming the failure of Pat Riley’s “just add water” dynasty. After just three weeks of meaningful games, any reports of the out-and-out failure of the Wade-LeBron era in Miami will be premature and greatly exaggerated.

However, one statement that can be made with a considerable amount of confidence is this: Chris Bosh has no place on this team.

It’s not that Bosh is not a talented player, he was just a “bad hire.”

How Chris Bosh managed to get himself grouped with Wade and LeBron as one of the summer of 2010’s Tier-1 free agents will forever be a mystery. A 2nd-team All-NBA selection, five All-Star selections and career scoring and rebounding averages of 20 & 9 are very nice, but other than the year in which he was drafted, what exactly does Bosh have in common with his superstar draft classmates?

In seven seasons in Toronto, Bosh had NO team success to speak of (211-320 regular season record; 3-8 in the playoffs), was not any kind of statistical wonder, and did not earn a reputation for dominating games. His age and relative durability (he’s missed 12-15 games four times, but hasn’t suffered any serious injuries) made him the cream of this summer’s big man crop, but to consistently mention his name alongside Lebron’s and Wade’s was patently absurd. And yet it happened.

Again and again.

Unlike his elite teammates, Bosh would have been a gigantic disappointment to any team that signed him as its centerpiece. His years in Toronto showed that the ceiling for a Chris Bosh-led team is not terribly high. As a second option, Bosh is more appropriately cast, but by no means guarantees contention. As the third option on a star-studded team, it was presumed that Bosh would be among the NBA’s best.

It’s become clear, however, that for all of his physical talent, Bosh is simply not ready to assume a prominent role on high-profile contender. Not only has Bosh put up some rather pedestrian stats (14.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg) playing alongside Wade and James, he’s failed to make any discernable impact on the floor and has admitted to feeling “a little lost out there.”

The first seven seasons of his career and the beginning of his time in Miami have combined to reveal that, simply put, Bosh is a poor fit for this team. With each passing game, he strengthens the argument he’s a classic “looter in a riot” and is at his best when he’s able to play his games away from the spotlight. In recent weeks, Bosh has demonstrated that he a) lacks either the ability or the desire to make anyone else better and b) is more likely to disappear than to step up in a meaningful game.

On the surface, teaming Bosh with a pair of elite perimeter players makes sense, but the Heat, as presently constructed, lack the attitude and pedigree to elevate him to a championship level. Even if he’s only being asked to be the third option, Bosh looks like he needs an authoritative coach and clear-cut champion alpha dog (think Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson) to define his role. For the time being, and perhaps the foreseeable future, these things are lacking in Miami.

Although he’s got some all-important championship experience, Wade has failed to lead the Heat past the first round in each of the team’s last three postseason appearances. As great as he was in the 2006 postseason, it’s worth noting that Wade delivered his title-winning performance while playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal, one of the seven greatest centers in NBA history and a proven championship lynchpin, and with Pat Riley, one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, at the helm.

Meanwhile, with the exception of his heroic 2007 conference finals performance, LeBron James has done little to establish himself as the steadying force on a championship team. Not only is he the face of back-to-back 60-win playoff underachievers, anecdotal evidence suggests that he threw in the towel on the Cavaliers' 2010 postseason. Whether or not this is true, the accusation is pretty damning.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas… how often are any of these guys accused of quitting?

Finally, there’s coach Erik Spoelstra, who’s undoubtedly one of the NBA’s better young coaches, but lacks the seniority and championship cache to dictate “how things are going to work” to veteran stars. Additionally, the specter of Pat Riley looking over his shoulder which, between Stan Van Gundy’s forced exit in 2006 and the ominous image of him taking notes on Thursday night, limits Spoelstra’s ability to really exert much control over this team.

Given the shortcomings in Bosh’s competitive DNA and his talented-but-limited support system in Miami, something drastic will have to be done for the Heat to get the most out of their investment in the big man. At the moment, Bosh is an $18.3M/year bit player whose star is quickly fading. Barring a miraculous turnaround in his demeanor and performance, Bosh is on his way to becoming an ill-fitting, nine-figure albatross for the Heat.

Assuming they’re not planning to give Spoelstra his walking papers- given James’ and Wade’s desire to have him as their coach, it would not be advisable- and install the authoritative micro-manager Riley as their coach, the Heat would do well to test the trade market for Chris Bosh before he’s lost more of his trade value.

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