MIAMI — Andrew Bynum would not have been of much assistance.
This needs to be established early, not only in light of Tuesday's discourse, but in light of Anthony Davis lighting AmericanAirlines Arena afire during the evening's first half.
An immobile, largely indifferent big man, trying to impede one of the NBA's most elastic, electric young forces?
That qualifies as quite an improbability.
And, as it turned out, Chris Bosh, Chris Andersen and Miami's defensive schemes handled Davis more than adequately as the contest progressed, until the Heat ultimately prevailed. So adequately, in fact, that Erik Spoelstra took the occasion to call Bosh "an elite, elite defender in this league" who is "having as good a defensive year as a big has had recently."
Still, it's unlikely that the Bynum backers will be satisfied that the latest Heat win—107-88 against the Pelicans—settles anything. They're focused solely on the Indiana Pacers and their monstrous Mount (Roy) Hibbert, who somehow has morphed in the minds of many into a mix of Shaquille O'Neal, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and, for good measure, Manute Bol.
Hibbert was why Heat fans were in a frenzy Tuesday, as they awaited an announcement that Roger Mason Jr. had been released, prior to his contractual guarantee, to make way for Bynum—who had just been traded to the Chicago Bulls and waived.
That announcement never came.
Mason stayed. Bynum remained without a clear destination.
The Heat could revisit it, if they eat a contract or find a taker on Joel Anthony's $3.8 million player option for next season. But it's better if they don't. Start here: Bynum doesn't fit the Heat's current gym rat culture, as was outlined in this piece. He's not the type of player that the organization claims it wants.
But it's more than merely that.
Signing Bynum would be a contradiction and reversal for the Heat in other ways.
First, the Heat are telling Greg Oden to take his time, even protecting him from the press so he doesn't feel anyone else's expectations. Signing Bynum would send a signal that Oden—fragile emotionally as well as physically—isn't coming along quickly enough. That would bring counterproductive pressure.
Second, the Heat, under Spoelstra, have fully embraced the small ball, stretch-the-floor style on offense, and the show-hard-and-play-on-a-string style on defense.
Yes, Pat Riley teams used to love to pound opponents in the paint. But he's not coaching this team.
And it's hard to see how Bynum fits into what Spoelstra has implemented, based on how he looked this season for Cleveland, shooting 41.9 percent and posting the worst plus-minus per game (minus-5.3) on a bad Cavaliers squad.
Will Oden fit? No one can possibly know, though if his knees hold up, he has the potential to make more of an impact (as a backline defender and pick-and-dive player) with lower usage and disruption to Miami's flow.
And if he doesn't, Miami can move forward anyway.
Yes, they can even scale the insur(Mount)able Hibbert.
They can do so if they, as Spoelstra so often says, "get to their game."
That means playing with better pace, whipping the ball side to side, keeping composure when Hibbert gets away with "verticality," finding someone to keep David West occupied (maybe that's even Michael Beasley if he keeps competing defensively) and mostly, getting the best of Bosh on both ends—so he establishes his unique advantages on the Pacers.
The latter will require some flexibility from Spoelstra, not only to call Bosh's number more often, but also to occasionally flip his position. Recently, the Heat coach has paired him more often with Andersen, and the results have been increasingly promising.
"Yeah, it looks good, doesn't it?" Bosh said, laughing. "We should do it more often."
Tuesday, Spoelstra did it twice, once for a short stretch, and once for a longer one.
Miami outscored the Pelicans, 28-10, during that time. Bosh made a three-pointer on a pass from Andersen, who is underrated in that area. Andersen made two layups on passes from Bosh, part of a 7-for-7 outing. That makes the Heat plus-43 in 60 minutes (over 11 games) when the two big men play together.
"It probably wouldn't be as effective now if C.B. hasn't had the evolution that he's had," Spoelstra said. "He knows how to play on the perimeter now. He knows how to play with another big that doesn't compromise our spacing, and he can still get to the rim. Those guys are developing a nice chemistry. So depending on who we play, depending on the game, I have no problem going to that lineup."
Some will cite this as evidence that Miami would be better off playing conventionally, with the likes of Oden or Bynum manning the middle. But again, focus on that phrase from Spoelstra: Andersen doesn't "compromise the spacing."
Andersen fits both the offensive and defensive systems better than a stiff big. He's springy enough to finish at the rim, agile enough to blitz pick-and-rolls and low maintenance in terms of his touches. In short, he gets out of the way.
Dwyane Wade likes the two-Chris look.
"You can get a little bit more comfortable when you have two bigger guys, when it comes to rebounding the ball," Wade said. "It allows Chris (Bosh) to step out on the floor and be more comfortable to shoot more jumpers. And you got Bird, who can make plays as well, he can finish very well. So we like it. We really enjoy that lineup closing out games."
If it continues to progress, will that close the book on Bynum?
Not while he's still out there.
Even if he doesn't fit in here.
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