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2 posts from June 15, 2013

June 15, 2013

Lessons learned on Bosh, his future and small ball; Dolphins, Marlins, UM/NCAA

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

A week ago, Chris Bosh was so disgusted with his performance that he blurted, only partly in jest: “Shoot, if I was someone else, I’d hate me, too.”

He certainly cannot and should not feel that way now, not after a Game 4 when he became only the second player in the past 25 years (Shaquille O’Neal was the other) to produce at least 20 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks in a road NBA Finals win.

Not after a game when he asserted himself defensively, sprinting repeatedly from the perimeter to the paint with boundless energy. And certainly not after stringing together three consecutive double-figure rebounding games for only the second time since October.

In the past week, several realities were crystallized, or simply re-affirmed, regarding Bosh and Heat small ball. Among them:

### Despite Shane Battier’s offensive struggles this postseason, the Heat has clearly been at its best in this series with one natural power rotation player on the floor.

When only one among Bosh, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony has been on the court, the Heat has outscored the Spurs by 15 points. The rest of the time, Miami has been outscored by 20.

And if you remove Anthony from that mix, Miami has outscored the Spurs by 33 with Bosh, Anderson or Haslem as the lone “big.”

With Miami using exclusively that smaller lineup in Game 4, “I was able to get in the paint a lot more,” Bosh said. “It really opened up my game.” And, as Ray Allen noted, the smaller lineup "gives LeBron and D-Wade room to operate."

One of the great misconceptions is that the Heat is more vulnerable on the boards when it goes small. Not so.

During the season, the Heat was outrebounded by five per 48 minutes when Bosh and Haslem played together with James, Wade and Mario Chalmers.

But Miami outrebounded opponents by 3.5 to 11 boards per 48 minutes with its three most-used “small ball” lineups: the Big Three and some combination of Allen, Battier and Chalmers.

And the Heat and Bosh average more blocked shots with its best small lineups than the bigger ones. It's almost as though Bosh feels an even greater sense of responsibility defensively when Haslem or Andersen isn't alongside him. "When we play with those lineups, he's the last man there," Erik Spoelstra said.

### As long as James is here, the odds are good that Bosh will remain primarily at center longterm, not power forward. Many reasons for that: 1) The Heat knows -- as Spurs center Gregg Popovich said last week and other such as Doug Collins have said repeatedly -- that “they’re at their best” playing small.

2) With no cap space in the Big Three era, Miami will never be in position to add a very good starting center with simply exception money.

3) Bosh, 29, completing his first full year at center, reiterated recently he wants to spend the rest of his career here and is fine playing center as long as Miami wants.

4) Heat assistant David Fizdale said last week: “As he gets older, [center] is what Chris is going to be.”

Fizdale explained it this way: “That’s the progression of all NBA players, any position. Look at Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups. They were point guards their whole career and as they became older, they became two guards. Shane was a three; as he’s gotten older, he’s a 4. As guys get older, the way they stay in the league is they re-invent themselves into the next position up, the slower position, so they can guard that position and still offensively have an effect.

“For at least two or three years, Chris can still split the time at [center and power forward]. But as he gets into his later years, [center] is what you’re going to see more of.”

### Yes, the rebounding lulls during stretches can be exasperating. But we were reminded last week that the soft-spoken, unassuming Bosh not only can adapt his game when needed, but can summon mental and physical toughness in adverse conditions.

His seven blocks are most among all players in this series, and he has outscored and outrebounded Duncan over the past three games. He has launched only one three-pointer since going 0 for 4 on threes in the opener, and every shot he took in Game 4 was inside of 17 feet.

“He’s probably made the biggest sacrifices of the Big Three, to fit in with these guys,” Fizdale said. “He’s in a tough spot because we move him around a lot. Sometimes he gets caught in that in-between: Am I flaring on this play? Am I rolling? And all of a sudden, he’s missed that moment, lost the rhythm of the play. That happens to him sometimes because we ask him to wear so many different hats.”

Bosh conceded in a private moment recently that as much as he wanted to be like James and Wade, “I knew it wasn’t going to be possible, being as good, being an MVP, like them.” He said he thinks “all the time” about how he made the right decision taking less money to come here – “winning is priceless” - and has no desire to be “the man” again on a non-contender.

And what about his critics? The solution, he says, “is not to care. That’s the best remedy. I cared at first, for sure. Why are people doing this to me? Now, who cares? I’m not the first person to get criticized.”

The criticism even comes from his inner circle. His family asks him "all the time" why he's not more aggressive. "My family's rough," he said. "They push me. They're looking for more."

So are Heat fans. He gave them more Thursday. He hopes to repeat it tonight. 

CHATTER

Pacers forward Paul George said “we gave” the Spurs “the blueprint” to beat the Heat. “We wouldn’t mind them sharing a ring with us.” But Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said San Antonio took nothing from that series or, for that matter, the way George defended James. (In fact, Leonard claims he never watched how George guard LeBron.) OK then.

### Who would drive 17 hours to watch a Finals game in person? Ex-UM center Constantin Popa (now a women’s basketball coach), who drove down from Indianapolis. At least the Heat gave him tickets.

### Please see our last post for more Heat notes from Saturday.

### The Dolphins staff has been impressed with the offseason work of cornerback Nolan Carroll (“has been very, very good,” Joe Philbin said) and defensive end Olivier Vernon (“he understands the scheme better and his play speed has improved,” Philbin said).

Vernon, with the first team throughout the offseason program, will be challenged by Dion Jordan and perhaps Jared Odrick (if he moves back to end). The staff likes Vernon's diverse skill set -- he can rush the passer, stop the run and drop back into coverage. 

### Louisiana-Lafayette defensive end Emeka Onyenekwu, a skilled pass rusher, has been among the best of the undrafted rookies in the Dolphins' offseason program.

### A source said UM ended up disputing at least parts of most of the 18 charges the NCAA leveled against Miami. UM internally has discussed how many scholarship cuts it would accept for football and basketball (suffice it to say it's a modest number) but likely would appeal if it exceeds that number.

Meanwhile, Shalala and NCAA president Mark Emmert have discussed the case, but Emmert apparently isn’t getting involved in UM’s discipline. He wasn't at UM's hearings this past week, which isn't unusual.

### Though Sports Illustrated did good work exploring the NCAA enforcement staff’s problems --- fired investigator Abigail Grantstein said superiors told her, in general, to “find a way to prove” any allegations -- this week’s piece printed but provided no concrete evidence to substantiate Nevin Shapiro’s claims that he received inside information from 16 UM players, four coaches and four athletic department staffers (none identified by name), nor did it provide any kind of proof for his very hard-to-believe claim that he won ALL 23 bets he placed on UM games as a result (while often betting against UM).

Nor did SI prove that UM people knew he was seeking information for bets, which Shapiro said was the case. With regards to Shapiro's claims, the NCAA is wisely ignoring the SI story, having already investigated the gambling angle a year ago.

### SI disclosed that like the NCAA, it wired money to Shapiro’s commissary account for pay for his phone calls with them. Shapiro asked to be on SI’s cover; SI compromised by mentioning the story on the front, above a photo of two Detroit Tigers.

### Rich Johanningmeier, who spent 50 hours interviewing Shapiro before retiring last May, told SI: “To us, it’s not relevant if he has an ax to grind. The point is: What are your facts and are they correct? Nevin falls into that category… Is he basically telling a true story? Yes. Is there some embellishment? Yes, too.”... The first time Shapiro met Johanningmeier and since-fired investigator Amin Najjar in prison, he told them: "If you guys aren't ready to make history, don't enter." 

### Whereas the Marlins are open to trading pitcher Ricky Nolasco as soon as they get a very good offer and also would move reliever Ryan Webb, they also have told people they’re reluctant to deal relievers Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn. The Yankees, Orioles and Giants reportedly are among those with interest in Nolasco.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Saturday 7 p.m. update: Wade: Good to see myself back; 15 Heat, Finals notes

We'll post the Sunday buzz later with Heat, Dolphins, Canes and Marlins.

For now, some Heat and NBA Finals chatter from Saturday's availability:

     

Two days after his eruption in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Dwyane Wade said it was good to have the old D-Wade back, and a Spurs player admitted that not many anticipated his 32-point breakout.

“It was good to see myself back on the floor again,” Wade said of his first 30-point game since March 4. “I compare that to the Dwyane Wade my teammates and the organization and Miami fans and fans around the world have become accustomed to, and I had become accustomed to.”

Spurs guard Danny Green, intending no disrespect, said “I don’t think many people expected that” because “he has been favoring [his injured] knee” and also because of the taxing nature of the Indiana series.

“He was cutting, slashing, Euro-stepping, finishing at the rim,” Green said.

Wade said his knee feels better in this series than it did against Indiana. He said he asked Spoelstra to make sure he wasn’t on the bench too long so that his knee wouldn’t stiffen, and Spoelstra accommodated.      

In an interview scheduled to air Sunday night on NBA TV, Wade told Rachel Nichols that it’s difficult playing the Spurs because San Antonio players are “too nice.”

He told NBA TV he must manufacture aggression that is already present when he plays an Eastern Conference rival. He said the Spurs don’t trash-talk, and several Spurs players said the Heat also has kept quiet during games.

### Meanwhile, Bosh said when the Big Three is playing like it did Thursday, “we’re unstoppable. When Dwyane plays like that, his charisma, everyone feeds off it. You get an emotional lift from some guys because you see the energy they’re bringing, and it inspires you to bring more.

“It kind of uplifts you a little bit. You don’t think about small things like getting tired. You just think about the job you’re supposed to do.”

### Bosh said members of his family give him considerable feedback on his performance and sometimes implore him to be more aggressive.

 “Cousins, uncles, aunts – my family is rough,” he said. “They push me. They’re looking for more. ‘You should have done [this].’… My wife asks me [something]. I’m like: ‘I just got done doing media.’”

### Not only did LeBron James, Wade and Bosh combine for 75 points in Game 4, but Erik Spoelstra said they graded out best defensively among Heat players.

He said that happened one other time this postseason: the Game 7 win against Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“We don’t see it as a coincidence,” Spoelstra said. “They have to be two-way players for us to win.”

Bosh “has to probably cover the most ground for us defensively” and “has the most responsibility,” Spoelstra said, adding the Spurs in Game 4 ran 70 pick-and-rolls that Bosh had a role in defending.

### Odd to hear Spoelstra use the words “idiot” and “disgusting” in the same news conference. Here’s how it happened:

Of his decision in Game 4 to leave Wade in the game briefly after he picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter – and then reinserting him with 2:35 left in the third – Spoelstra said: “It’s one of those situations you can look like an idiot for doing it. But he was in such a great rhythm, we didn’t want to break up that rhythm.”

Spoelstra also said the “way we competed” in the Game 3 blowout loss was “disgusting” compared to Game 4.

### Chris Andersen declined to talk to the media Saturday, two days after he was listed as a did-not-play/coach’s decision for the first time in the playoffs. With Mike Miller starting, Spoelstra used former starter Udonis Haslem as his only natural power rotation player off the bench.

### After attempting (and missing) just one shot in 21 scoreless minutes in Game 4, Miller said Saturday: “If I get shots next time, I’m going to shoot. Right now, our role is to open up the floor.”

### Wade said of the lineup change: “Whenever Mike is on the court, it’s a plus for us. But I don’t think that had anything to do with the reason we played better.”

PARKER UPDATE

Spurs point guard Tony Parker said Saturday that even though his hamstring injury has improved, it “can tear” at any time and he would not be playing for a while if this weren’t the playoffs.

“If it was the regular season, I would be resting like 10 days,” he said. “But now it’s the NBA Finals. The doctors say it will not change anything if I rest two more days. My hamstring can tear at any time now. If it gets a tear, it’s life.”

Still, Parker said the injury “feels good. I feel like I’m getting stronger with it. My goal is to be close to 100 percent by [Sunday].”

POPOVICH DISMISSIVE, AGAIN

### When the Heat started a small lineup in Game 4 – with Mike Miller replacing Udonis Haslem - Spurs coach Gregg Popovich responded by replacing center Tiago Splitter with guard Gary Neal 47 seconds into the game.

But asked if he might take a different approach with his lineup in Game 5, Popovich was dismissive during his Saturday news conference.

“I’d hate to be trite and say anything is possible,” he said. “Your question demands my triteness.”

Splitter, who opened the game guarding Dwyane Wade, insisted Saturday he feels capable of handling that assignment. But it would be surprising if Popovich puts him in that position again.

Splitter, who’s averaging 22.8 minutes in the playoffs, played just 13 in Game 4 because Popovich countered the Heat’s small lineup by also playing small for most of the game.

“I got blocked three times and those plays were in my head,” Splitter said. “I know I have to play stronger. You can’t blame Pop for my bad game.”

### Several Spurs players spoke Saturday of the enormity of the task of beating the Heat when each member of the Big Three is playing at the top of his game.

“If they’re going to play like that, it’s going to be hard,” Parker said. “Like us, when we’re making our threes, it hard to guard us.”

Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said if the Heat’s Big Three is performing at such a high level, “you’ve got to be close to perfect to beat them. If they’re having an OK game, we can make a few mistakes and mask it.”

### Forward Tim Duncan said Heat defenders were rotating “kind of perfectly” in Game 4 and knew “exactly what we were going to do. So you have to change things up.”

GREEN’S EXPLOITS

### Guard Danny Green, who is averaging 16.5 points in the Finals and has shot 19 for 28 on three-pointers, was heartened by a visit Thursday with Roy Williams, his coach at North Carolina.

Williams, who attended Game 4, “is excited for me, proud of me,” Green said. “He said I can come back with a smile on my face.”

Green has been receiving texts from other NBA players about his breakout series, including fellow North Carolina alum Marvin Williams.

### Green is within three of Ray Allen’s mark for most three-pointers in an NBA Finals. “I don’t think I’m worried about it,” Allen said. “It’s not something you shoot for, no pun intended.”

### LeBron James was asked if he had Green do rookie chores when Green was his rookie teammate with Cleveland in 2009-10.

“I really didn’t have him do much,” James said. But “[Shaquille O’Neal] made him do everything.”

GINOBILI’S STRUGGLES

### Ginobili acknowledged “the team needs me to play much better” but shrugged off Duncan’s comment that he needs to be more “selfish” and stop deferring as much.

“I respond to Pop – not to Mr. Duncan,” Ginobili cracked.

### Ginobili, an impending free agent, said he “sometimes” thinks about retirement but expects to play at least one more season, and that he want to remain in San Antonio.

“I’m going to be 36 – everything is day to day,” he said.