5 Reasons Chris Bosh Needs to Step Up in 2013-14
During the summer, Chris Bosh likes to get away from basketball.
Far, far away.
The summer of 2013 included more than just a family trip to Spain, Italy and Monaco—during which he posted a Twitter photo of 15-month-old son Jackson lounging by a mountain-framed lake in sunglasses and a diaper.
Bosh went as far as Mumbai, India, to promote the NBA to fans who surprised him with their awareness of his accomplishments, including the offensive rebound that led to Ray Allen's miracle three-pointer.
The summer will end soon enough, however.
And the Miami Heat will need Bosh to get back to work.
Bosh has received three NBA Finals appearances and won two NBA championships since joining the Heat in 2010.
That alone has made him worth the freight, even though he has sometimes frustrated fans by drifting, as represented by his declining rebounding numbers (from 10.8 to 8.3 to 7.9 to a career low 6.8) and some shrinkage in scoring in big spots, such as when he failed to score in Game 7.
This season, the Heat will need more from him than before due to a variety of factors.
They need their most skilled big man—in height if not girth—to play big.
They need him to earn all of the $19.1 million he will collect next season.
They need his best from the start of the season to the finish if they hope to finish first again and give him something to celebrate next summer.
All information for this piece was collected through the course of the author's coverage of the Heat for The Palm Beach Post.
5. An Aging Supporting Cast
Chris Bosh is part of an exclusive club.
He's one of the few Miami Heat players still in his 20s.
That won't last long since he turns 30 on March 24, 2014—roughly around the time that the Heat's pre-playoff maintenance program should start.
For now, he's joined by LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and the newly acquired, still-rehabilitating Greg Oden.
Everyone else in or on the fridge of the Heat's rotation is older.
We'll get to Dwyane Wade a bit later.
But, with the Heat's role players—from Shane Battier to Ray Allen to Udonis Haslem to Chris Andersen—all 33 or older and more prone to physical breakdowns, it's clear that Miami will need even more from those still in their athletic prime.
That should be Bosh.
It will be harder to overcome an entire month with only one double-digit rebound game (as was the case for Bosh in March) or two such games (as was the case for him in January).
It will be more challenging to compensate for his slippage in scoring, especially when he isn't attacking and picking up fouls on opponents.
Bosh played 74 games last season. Miami needs a similar number this season and for his other numbers to increase as the numbers of others decline.
4. LeBron James Deserves More of a Break
LeBron James has not-so-humbly acknowledged this much:
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, no team can pay what he's worth. So it's probably unfair to compare his annual on-court earnings to that of any of his teammates.
But this may strike you: James will make $19,067,500 next season. Chris Bosh will make exactly the same amount.
The ball is in James' hands most of the time and in Dwyane Wade's on many other occasions, with Bosh only getting in certain sets—and at his teammates' discretion. So long as that continues—and of course it will—Bosh will not post statistics anywhere near as gaudy as his two costars.
Still, as even he has admitted over the course of the past three years, he can do more to demand touches from those teammates and be even more aggressive when those opportunities come.
Last spring, when Bosh was failing to score at least 15 points in nine of the Heat's final 11 postseason games, James seemed to tire of the questions about whether teammates could get Bosh more chances in the paint.
James made it clear that if Bosh gets down there and asks for a pass he'll get it.
So, hopefully, he has gotten the point.
Miami doesn't need him to step in front of James as the Heat's primary star.
But he needs to take a step closer, so that James doesn't feel so alone, especially if Wade's continuing injury issues force him to step aside to the sideline.
3. Dwyane Wade's Status Is Increasingly Iffy
Dwyane Wade was dealing with his own difficulties during the 2013 postseason—significant enough that Miami Heat guard would eventually require the draining of his left knee while undergoing round-the-clock maintenance of his right.
Still, he saw Chris Bosh suffering in another sense: with his confidence and rhythm.
So, late in the Eastern Conference Finals, he chose to pay a visit to a neighbor.
As he explained prior to Game 2 of the NBA Finals:
Well, we're brothers. We spend more time together than anything. So there's times where you need to hear something different. There's times where you have to take your mind away from the game and just look at other things and see how blessed that you are. So you know, just going over Chris' house, hanging out. He's playing video games and I was just watching at first. Just chitchatting about whatever. Sometimes that lets you know how important you are to another person, how important you are to the success of the team. So just showing brotherhood.
Wade continued to say that he believed that Bosh became more assertive thereafter but emphasized that Bosh's contributions went beyond his point total.
"Because you're not going to get those opportunities that you normally will get somewhere else," Wade said.
That was true—Bosh was quite good defensively for long stretches of the playoffs—and it will remain true next season.
But it is also true that Bosh gets more opportunities when Wade isn't available or playing like himself.
Unfortunately for the Heat, that is a potential reality that always requires preparation. Wade told reporters recently that he underwent shock therapy for his left knee similar to treatment he undertook back in 2007. His basketball activities just resumed and, as we have seen the past few years, could be interrupted at any time.
Bosh's scoring has soared without Wade.
It may need to do the same even when Wade is out there but at less than his best.
2. The East's Big Men Are Getting Better
Since he was anointed a center contrary to his preference, Bosh's strategy, encouraged by the Miami Heat's schemes, has been to pull opposing monsters outside.
As one of the better long-range shooters in the game for a man of any size that made some sense. It also served, at times, to unclog the lane for the Heat's drivers, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
In the 2013 postseason, however, it became evident that Bosh's outward drift to the three-point line was curtailing his own aggression and effectiveness. From the 2011-12 regular season to the 2012 playoffs, to the 2012-13 regular season to the 2013 playoffs, here is the arc of Bosh's percentage shots taken in the paint: 44.2 percent to 47.8 percent, to 38.2 percent to 33.3 percent.
That is going the wrong direction.
No, as Bosh has noted, it doesn't make sense for Bosh to spend his 36 minutes trying to battle bruisers, not when he brings other skills that offer him clear advantages.
But he needs to mix it up a bit more.
That means more drives.
That means more post-ups, which requires his coach, Erik Spoelstra, and his teammates, particularly James and Wade, to assist in getting him those opportunities.
That means making other centers think a bit more.
Because while it would be crazy to think that we're in a golden era of centers, it is undeniable that the position is showing improvement. The three most likely Eastern Conference challengers—Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets—all have a solid, growing player at the spot, all capable of giving the Heat some problems.
Bosh must find ways to present a more consistently diverse threat of his own.
1. For His Own Future, with a Decision Pending
This is a case when it is better to be in the background.
At times, Chris Bosh has struggled to adjust to being the third wheel with the Miami Heat, which was inevitable considering that he plays with the world's best player (LeBron James) and someone (Dwyane Wade) who has, with Dan Marino, become one of South Florida's two favorite adopted sporting sons.
Still, this season, Bosh will surely appreciate that it will be James and then Wade who are asked most often about what they decide the following summer.
Those two players and Bosh all have opt-out clauses, which will allow them to bypass the final two years on their contracts and become free agents. Even if they opt out, they could return, though it will certainly set off a five-alarm fire if James so much as entertains the possibility of another playing location.
There's no question that James will receive the maximum amount of money wherever he is, unless he chooses to take less so a team can add other talent—a sacrifice he isn't all that likely to make again.
Wade's worth is a little less clear due to his age (nearly 33 by the start of the 2014-15 season) and his lingering health issues, though Pat Riley could consider past performance in the compensation process and avoid a messy breakup.
He's the real wild card.
Is he a max player at this stage?
Erik Spoelstra calls him the Heat's "most important player" because his floor-spreading, ball-moving presence allows many of the Heat's schemes to work. But, if Bosh opts out, will the Heat decide that they can get the same production at his price by signing two players? And will other teams still value him as they did in 2010, before he sacrificed statistics to win titles?
In light of those questions, it's clear that Bosh can help more than the Heat with a strong season.
He can help himself.
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