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.
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