5 Reasons the Miami Heat Need More from Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh made himself taller with his Barry White impression Sunday. So now he'll grab some boards? (Photo by Ethan Skolnick)
On the evening of Jan. 21, Chris Bosh sounded sweet and soulful.
On the court, he needs to start getting rough and tumble.
Bosh won the 2013 Battioke, Shane Battier's annual karaoke contest featuring Heat players and executives, for his rendition of Barry White's "My First, My Last, My Everything."
While Bosh isn't quite the Heat's everything, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has repeatedly called him Miami's most important player. That's largely because, night after night, he knows what he is getting from LeBron James in every area. Bosh's effort and energy are a bit more variable, especially when it comes to one of his primary assignments: rebounding.
Offensive consistency has been one of Bosh's strengths throughout his nine-year career, as noted again by this season's similar statistics whether home or road, whether after no days rest or two, whether at the start of the season or the end. And he is shooting a career-high percentage, with exceptional proficiency from deep.
Even so, his inability to clean the glass is not something the Heat can sweep under the, well, wig.
Bosh hasn't had a double-digit-rebound outing since Dec. 29, and in the 10 games since, he has grabbed more than six only once. Sometimes, he looks like an outfielder watching a fly ball soar over his head rather than reaching up to try to snatch it.
That has played a role in Miami ranking last in the league in total rebounds, and not much higher in most of the other rebounding categories.
"I'm my own toughest critic," Bosh said Tuesday. "I realize that I need to do better."
That was a change in tune from much of what he has said of late.
*All quotes for this piece were collected through the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for The Palm Beach Post.
5. Enough Burden Already on LeBron James
Already averaging a career high in rebounds, it's too much to expect LeBron James to do more.
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What else can one man do?
LeBron James handles the ball.
He sets up teammates.
He guards five positions.
He leaps over tall centers in a single bound.
And yet, he does have some human characteristics; as evidence, the man actually missed practice Tuesday with what the team characterized as "a cold."
If you've watched the Heat this season, you know something for sure:
He's been a better defensive rebounder than Chris Bosh.
That's not really in question, not with James averaging 6.4 per 36 minutes while Bosh averages 5.5.
That's not really how it should be, not even with James outweighing Bosh. The latter is two inches taller and tends to play closer to the basket, even in a Heat defensive scheme that requires everybody to help.
The issue isn't whether James can do more. He probably can, since he does just about anything he desires on the court. The issue is whether it should be necessary.
If James is required to crash the defensive boards on most possessions, that means either he will be required to bring the ball up (sapping energy) or that he can't streak out ahead in transition.
Either way, it's counterproductive.
The counter to it? A better Bosh.
4. There's No Calvary Coming
The Birdman has landed in Miami, but he's a part-time player at best.
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If the colorful tattoo covering his neck didn't give it away, Chris Andersen made it clear upon nesting in Miami that he doesn't mind his moniker.
"They're taking a chance with me and I'm here to give them everything I've got, defensively, diving on the floor, blocking shots, you know, the usual that a Birdman does and what Birdman brings," Andersen said.
And yes, over the course of his career, Andersen has proved that he will crash the boards; he's averaged 10.5 per 36 minutes, compared to 8.9 for Chris Bosh.
Andersen also happens to be 34 years old and hasn't played in an NBA game in nearly 10 months. Miami has added three veterans after the start of the past two seasons, and it would be a stretch to call the Heat tenures of Mike Bibby, Erick Dampier or Ronny Turiaf any sort of significant success.
In fact, you could argue that Bibby's presence actually hurt the Heat's cause in 2010-11.
So maybe Andersen gives the Heat something in limited minutes.
Still, that won't be a substitute for Bosh giving the Heat more during the 35 or so that he plays.
Simply, no other big man on the roster can do half of the things that Bosh can. And it's not likely that Miami, with its unattractive assets, will be able to add another player close to Bosh's caliber to the frontcourt this season.
Even if Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are all at their absolute best, it's still about the guy who plays the most. That's still Bosh. On another team with more muscle up front, he might be able to drift without causing serious damage.
Not on this one.
3. He's Proved He Can Provide It
That's how you pull down a rebound.
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Chris Bosh planned to bulk up this offseason.
The Heat told him to stop.
Even while shifting him to center full-time, Miami wanted him lithe and lean, quick and sharp, as it embarked upon a full-season experiment of the small-ball alignment that worked so well during the playoffs.
So, sometimes, it might not seem fair, as he's often asked to play more of a perimeter role than the average center, to expect him to rebound like the best of them.
But here's the thing:
And he has.
Bosh has averaged double-digit rebounds in the NBA on three occasions, albeit when he was with the Toronto Raptors and expected to do just about everything. And he has shown, even in Miami, that he can corral plenty of caroms when he's committed, relying on speed and spring rather than brute strength.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks' smallish, but active, front line, Bosh has had rebounding outputs of 16 and 18 this season.
That's why it's so striking when he allows the Orlando Magic's Nic Vucevic to pull down 16 before he grabs a single one.
Bosh has shown frustration as the focus has fallen squarely on him, even suggesting that maybe he just needs to take rebounds away from teammates.
In truth, he just needs to take a bit more pride in it, night after night.
2. His Salary Demands It
Miami's top-heavy roster means it can't afford slippage from its stars.
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A simple scan of the salary chart tells the story.
Three players (Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade) are allotted more than $52 million for this season.
That's $30 million more than everyone else on the roster.
That is one reason why Bosh catches flak when he suggests, even half-seriously, that he would be willing to come off the bench:
I’m just showing how much invested I am into it. We want the best rebounders out there on the court. To say, if I’m lacking on my job, and if it’s not me, and if I’m not a good rebounder out there, if I’m not what this team needs, then maybe I need to sit and learn some more, or maybe somebody else needs to play more. That’s just a figure of speech, you know what I mean.
That's not something he can say, not with the roster constructed as it is.
Even with so many of the Heat players sacrificing to be part of a contender, taking less than was available on the open market, Miami's overall rotation remains limited by the size of the contracts at the top of the roster.
And as those contracts rise next season, and the luxury-tax consequences are more punitive, the Heat may get even thinner.
Bosh is a paid like a max player. That doesn't mean he needs to be perfect, or average 12 rebounds every night. It just means he must do something commensurate with his mammoth share.
1. Indiana and Chicago Could Stand in the Way
Chris Bosh needs to consistently challenge Chicago's bigs.
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Miami eliminated the Indiana Pacers in six games last spring, and did so with less than two total quarters of Chris Bosh.
Yet Bosh's abdominal-related absence, at a time when his matchup with the towering Roy Hibbert was supposed to be a pivotal one in the second-round series, created some anxious moments...and the Heat survived only because LeBron James and Dwyane Wade dominated the final three contests.
After a slow start, and even while missing Danny Granger, the Pacers have pushed toward the top of the East playoff picture, benefiting from David West's better play (further removed from a knee injury) and Paul George's two-way emergence.
And, in an 87-77 win against Miami on Jan. 8, they out-rebounded the Heat by 19, with George, West and Hibbert combining for 36...and Bosh recording just five.
Such numbers will make it difficult for the Heat to dispatch Indiana this time around, especially after Granger returns.
The same is true when it comes to the Heat and the Chicago Bulls, especially if Chicago gets Derrick Rose back at anything close to his previous form. Miami has traditionally struggled to keep the Bulls off the boards, and that was true again on Jan. 4, when the rebounding margin was 48-28 in Chicago's favor, and the Bulls won by seven.
Bosh's rebounding number?
"It's killing us. I'm out of recommendations. I'm trying to figure it out myself. It's not the first time we've been out-rebounded by 20. Who says that and is in first place in the East? We just have to keep fighting."
He needs to break through.
Or else the offseason break could start earlier than expected.