In December of 2011, Heat fans saw the emergence of Norris Cole. In a game against the Boston Celtics Cole dropped 21 on a strong defensive squad, giving Miami a needed boost to win the game along with hope that they’d found a hidden gem in the draft, bolstering the roster almost by accident. He didn’t average anything near that 21 the rest of the season but Norris was a great piece off the bench and ultimately helped the Heat win a title.
So plainly fans (and probably the team) were excited for the new season because Norris was going to make a leap and be more than just a surprising rookie, or at least gain some consistency. After all, the evolution of his haircut has been unprecedented, and this would be another year in a comfortable place with players and coaches who know how he can be successful.
Instead what we have through 15 games is a guy playing less 19.4 per game last year, 18.8 this year), scoring less (6.8 last year, 4.5 this), and shooting worse percentages (34% from the field, he shot 39% in 2011). He’s actually dishing out more assists, 4.6 per game this year compared to 3.8 last year, but one could easily attribute that to playing less minutes and being on the floor with players he’s not comfortable with yet. With LeBron running the floor more often than not when Norris is on the floor, that’s likely to take away from his numbers as well.
Other than that though, we’ve seen nothing new, all the same kind of shot attempts and strange miscues that were so endearing last year. Norris Cole is a lot of fun to watch – he obviously cherishes every moment he’s on the floor, especially when he’s running with LeBron and the boys, but he just seems like he should be so much… more. He made a huge three-pointer to boost the Heat over the Denver Nuggets, but he was 2-for-14 on the night prior to that. Last season the Heat were worse off whenever he was on the floor (that’s why he’s a backup), scoring 112 per 100 possessions with him on the bench compared to 102 when he played. This year it’s much closer, just a .3 point difference, though they’re turning it over 17% of the time when he’s playing and only 13 when he’s not. He’s a reckless player, it’s what we like about him, but in the end it doesn’t lead to championships.
Maybe we’re expecting more out of Cole than we should. After all, he was a 28th pick, and in the NBA that’s rarely an impact player. Maybe we got all we could out of him last year and that’s it. He’s 24 now, and his percentages weren’t that grand in college wither, 43% from the field and 34 from distance, you can’t expect a guy to suddenly increase his shooting by 20 points and turn into a poor man’s Allen Iverson. A poor man’s Brandon Jennings though, that would be cool.
In the end of it all, what Norris needs to be is a great defender and not turn the ball over. Being on a team with the best player in the world could have a bit of a Jordan on Scotty effect. He’s not going to see more than 20 minutes a night and less than that in the playoffs (unless Mario Chalmers keeps turning the ball over) and there’s a mirror image of him in Terrel Harris. But he’s got a swagger and an attitude we want to see succeed. He’s just got to be, well, better.