Sitting on the edge of my seat in late June of 2011, I anxiously awaited the Miami Heat’s moves in the NBA Draft. Just a few week’s removed from a heartbreaking -but humbling- defeat to the Dallas Mavericks in six games, the bitter taste of defeat was still fresh.
By the end of a night filled with many trades, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded the player Chicago drafted earlier that night, Norris Cole of Cleveland State University, to the Heat.
I was ecstatic!
This kid, who I had witnessed dominate my Butler Bulldogs for most of his collegiate career (Cleveland State is in the Horizon League, Butler’s conference at the time), was a steal for the Heat.
For the last two years the numbers have supported that: Cole has averaged 6 ppg 2 apg and 41% FG during the regular season.
This year however, Cole has been criticized for mental lapses at times or careless turnovers in less than opportune situations.
While he did have a career high in total turnovers (170) he was still at his average of 1.5 per game, his assists per game were above average at three, and he saw an uptick from 19.9 minutes per game to 24.6 minutes per game.
In addition, Cole has increased his steal total (77, up by as much as 20 this season compared to last), assist total (248, up 74 from 2012-2013) and point total (524, up 82 from last season), since the start of his career.
Still, the main thing to look at before kicking Norris to the curb is his performance in the postseason.
Last year, Spo called upon Cole in the form of an 11.0 increase in minutes per game compared to the 2011-2012 postseason.
He returned the favor by scoring 129 points, recording 42 assists, 39 rebounds and 15 steals, and displaying shooting percentages of 48% from the field and a scorching 53% from downtown.
Despite the fact that there are some instances where Cole drives me crazy, and that I’ve been very impressed with Toney Douglas’ performance over the final stretches of the regular season, Norris answered the call last year and was a pivotal force on that second unit.
Regardless of if Mario Chalmers plays tonight, next season will more than likely bring about life possibly without Chalmers, (I’ll save that issue for another article).
That being said, early on many have pointed to Cole being that successor, (unless of course a better player is brought in).
If that is the case, then this postseason is his audition for that role, and we need to extend this chance for the Cole Train to prove himself.
Whether it will be a smooth trip to the championship destination or a catastrophic derailing remains to be seen.