The Miami Heat is a team built on making sacrifices.
Whether it was Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem taking less money in order to make room for the contracts of two All-Stars or LeBron James turning down being the primary option in Cleveland to become a nationally criticized pariah in Miami, it seems that every member of this roster has made an adjustment that represented a decrease in the individual spirit and a larger commitment put into the dynamic of being a collective unit.
When it comes to Chris Bosh, however, no other Heat player can compare in terms of sacrifices and adjustments. While Wade and James as ball-handlers could boast heavy possession of the ball, Bosh found himself as a third-wheel; searching for an identity, attempting to create a rhythm, and trying to find a way to integrate himself in an offense where two players were putting up nearly 25 points per game.
Bosh’s latest adjustment has been his move to center, in order to fulfill the Heat’s need to play small-ball. The 6’10″ power forward has been a staunch opponent against playing at the center position ever since his days in Toronto, even though he can boast a definitive speed advantage that allows him to blow-by slow-footed centers. In fact, that speed, as well as his ability to shoot from the perimeter, is what led to him becoming the Heat’s newest center in a big man carousel.
Coach Erik Spoelstra was so impressed with how Bosh dragged Kendrick Perkins out of the paint, rendering him nearly useless, in the NBA Finals that he decided to implement him as the team’s newest center at a position that has featured the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Joel Anthony, and, gulp, Juwan Howard.
The Heat recognized that they weren’t going to find a competent center in free agency due to the ridiculously pricy demand. Instead, they utilized what they had and the man who wanted nothing to do with being an NBA center had become a legitimate center. The fact that the league is currently running so low on centers that they replaced the center position in All-Star voting with another forward spot leads one to believe that an All-Star power forward shouldn’t have a great deal of trouble.
So far, so good. Although he’s averaging 17.7 points per–the lowest since his second year–he is shooting a career-high 55 percent from the field and averaging his most amount of blocks per since 2007. For the first time in his tenure with the Heat, Bosh had a 40-point game in a 119-116 win over a Denver Nuggets team that featured a trio of centers who could only beg for mercy in their attempts to guard Bosh out to 20 feet while trying to defend his drive at the same time.
Bosh has had seven other games of 20 or more points.
While he has had seen a great amount of success scoring on big men, he has had a great deal of trouble attempting to make his influence felt on the boards. In 25 games, Bosh has recorded 10 or more rebounds only eight times; an 18-rebound outing against Milwaukee being one of the few bright spots. There have been only two instances this year where Bosh recorded 10 or more boards in consecutive games.
He hasn’t come close since a 13-rebound outing against Golden State on December 12th. In fact, Bosh hasn’t recorded more than seven rebounds in the past five games. In two of those games, Bosh recorded a mere three rebounds, including against a Charlotte Bobcats frontcourt that featured the likes of Hakim Warrick and Bismack Biyombo dominating the paint in terms of grabbing caroms.
Perhaps the most jarring game was the Heat’s travesty of a rebounding performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although Miami somehow managed to pull out a victory, the Heat were outrebounded by 29; giving up 18 rebounds alone to Kevin Love, who was outrebounding the entire Heat team 12-10 at the half. Bosh had three rebounds, dominated by the athletic Andrei Kirilenko, the height of Nikola Pekovic, and the timing of Love.
Three rebounds just won’t do for a starting center. Those are Andrea Bargnani numbers, and this isn’t Toronto anymore. It’s no secret that Bosh prefers playing power forward to center, but it gives no excuse for someone of his stature to have three rebounds on three occasions this season, as well as a two-rebound outing against Brooklyn while his assignment in Andray Blatche had eight rebounds
Bosh has finished with five or less rebounds eight times, which might be one of the most disappointing stats ever seen by a player his size. Meanwhile, LeBron James–a small forward standing at 6’8″–has recorded five or less rebounds in only three games while grabbing ten or more boards in 11 games. Against the same Charlotte team Bosh had three rebounds against, James had a game-high 12.
Chris is currently grabbing a near career-low of 7.6 rebounds per, only a few percentage points away from matching his lowest output of 7.4 in his rookie season. While one would assume that Bosh’s numbers would skyrocket without much help from his teammates–similar to how he averaged a career-high 10.8 boards per in his final season with Toronto–it has been the exact opposite. His rebounding numbers are dropping at a significant rate; 8.3 in his first season, 7.9 in his second and the 7.6 he’s grabbing this year thus far.
However, the 2.1 offensive boards he’s grabbing are the highest in his Heat tenure.
He has to be the central authority when it comes to grabbing rebounds. As entertaining as it is to see LeBron James fill up stat columns, he also needs to preserve himself for the postseason when games actually begin to matter. We saw what James was capable of in Bosh’s absence, but it’s not something that needs to happen over the course of an 82-game season, especially when Chris is on the court and healthy.
LeBron is already responsible for the facilitating load that comes with scoring and passing. Somebody has to be directly responsible for grabbing rebounds and that person has to be Bosh. The Heat aren’t about to begin giving minutes to Josh Harrellson and they’re not planning on signing Kenyon Martin in the future, which is why the team is investing a lot of faith in Bosh being their center and primary rebounder.
The Heat rank near dead-last in rebounding, averaging 38.7 and only .1 ahead of Boston Celtics for last place overall.
But they will manage, because they’re the Miami Heat and have gone through far more adversity than just being an awful rebounding team. However, it doesn’t exempt Chris Bosh from living up to his responsibility of being this team’s lone threat in the post on offense, as well as one of the few threats on the boards and on defense. Until then, the Heat will continue to play at a significant disadvantage when they face teams with quality rebounding threats.