HEAT Veterans Appreciate Rookie Norris Cole
There are two running themes throughout the Miami HEAT locker room when players discuss the team’s rookie, Norris Cole. He is mature and the much more experienced and well-known players greatly appreciate what he brings to the team already, only four games into his NBA career.
“He’s good,” Chris Bosh told HOOPSWORLD. “He can play some ball. We recognize that he’s talented and we assumed that he was going to come in here and help us out. This short training camp that we did have, he did a very good job because he picks things up like a sponge. He just listens, he executes in the heat of the moment and that’s what you need out of your players. He’s doing a fantastic job, but of course there’s going to be ups and downs of a rookie year, but that’s how it is.”
While Cole may have come into the NBA as an unheralded player, he received a lot of media attention after an amazing fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics in only his second game. On a team which features LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Cole was the catalyst to the team’s win in that game, even garnering chants of “MVP” from the crowd as he shot free throws.
“It’s a great confidence booster to know that I can impact the game and impact the team,” Cole told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s a great feeling, but I also know that’s only one game. In the NBA if you want to be good, you have to continuously do it over multiple games. Be consistently good and not just on the offensive end, but on the defensive end as well. I feel like that’s where I’m getting better, learning our system and getting better every day.”
NBA fans may have been surprised by Cole’s performance so far, but his teammates expected it. They see the rookie every day behind the scenes and know what he’s all about. They also know exactly why he’s been able to be such a great addition so quickly to a team that was only two wins away from a NBA title last season.
“Four years of college basketball,” Wade told HOOPSWORLD. “He’s a very mature kid. He works hard, came in and tried to learn our system. He’s tough. It’s going to be an up and down year for him, but we love him. He’s a diamond in the rough and we know he’s only going to get better and better. He’s going to turn a lot of heads as he continues to develop.”
“He’s very mature for his age and there’s not too many times you get 23-year old rookie in the NBA,” added LeBron James to HOOPSWORLD. “They’re usually 20, 21 or sometimes 19, but he’s 23-years old. He’s above what you would call a rookie in our league and he wants to be good. He wants to be great. He works hard, he’s always in the gym after practice, he watches film and he listens, so hopefully, he continues to do that, which he will because he wants to be good. We got a good one.”
Yet, don’t think a player who is already getting attention on this level and with these teammates is ready to rest on his laurels. It may be wonderful to have the recent attention, but the spotlight will shine somewhere else quickly if Cole doesn’t continue to contribute and improve.
“Whoever worked with him on his high school level, AAU and on the collegiate level, you have to give them a lot of credit because they did a great job of teaching him the game,” Juwan Howard told HOOPSWORLD. “You have to praise him for trusting them, believing in them and listening because he’s stepped right in like he truly belongs. A guy like that you not only want to root for, but want to help because he listens, he’s humble and I say the sky’s the limit for him.”
Without ego, Cole is absorbing all of the lessons the veterans on the Miami HEAT provide, knowing that even if he chose to believe he had arrived, his teammates would remind him of the ultimate goal. The NBA title eluded this team last year and if they are to obtain the trophy this year, Cole will be a big part of the team’s success.
“I’m taking strides and getting better every game,” Cole told HOOPSWORLD. “That’s my goal: to get better every game. As a team, that’s also our goal, to continuously get better. I feel like we’re moving in the right direction. I came into training camp with an open mind, knowing that I didn’t have all the answers, knowing that I had to get better. I knew going in that I had to get better. I didn’t walk in thinking that I had already arrived.”
With all the offensive firepower already on the HEAT roster, one of the areas where Cole can continue to make a major impact for his team is on the defensive end of the court. That is a role he embraces and, again, his veteran teammates believe it is a role the rookie can be quite successful in filling.
“He’s received some great coaching at Cleveland State,” Shane Battier told HOOPSWORLD. “You can see that he understands defensive schemes and that’s very rare for a rookie point guard to pick up, but he has a natural instinct about it. He’s a fighter. He’s undersized, he fights and that’s half of defense in itself. He doesn’t have much fear out there and we’re on a big stage. Everything that we do is scrutinized and the bright lights haven’t made him squint at all and that’s impressive for a young guy. He has a very bright future in this league.”
“I believe I’m a solid defender, but it’s not about just being a good defender,” Cole added to HOOPSWORLD. “It’s about doing it within the scheme of our team. I believe one-on-one I can sit down and guard anybody, but in this game of basketball you have flat-screens, pick-and-rolls, flare-screens and you have drop-downs. I’m trying to be the best team defender I can be.”
It is remarkable for a rookie to come into a team with a team full of players like the Miami HEAT have and not feel intimidated. While Cole may never admit to being a bit starry-eyed when training camp began, his teammates could see it slightly. They reminded him it’s just basketball, something he’s been doing his entire life and let him know they believe in him.
“We kind of knocked that out right off the bat. I’m sure he’s had his moments where he was looking like, ‘Oh, wow.’ I mean, we all have them when we first come in, but once you get the business, it’s just the usual thing. We took him under our wing and we’re showing him how it is to be in the league as long as he stays disciplined. He’ll be a very good basketball player in this league.”
Cole has already learned many lessons in his incredibly brief NBA career to this point from his teammates. There will be many more to learn, but he’s ready. As of now, there is one lesson which sticks out and may be the most important to his future success in the NBA.
“How to be professional,” Cole told HOOPSWORLD. “They’re under scrutiny every night, but they go out and perform, they still take care of their bodies, they still carry themselves in a professional manner and that’s the biggest thing. That’s how you last in this league by being professional, taking care of your body and doing what’s expected of you every night.”
Surprisingly, a lot is expected of this rookie and, to this point, he is doing what is expected of him under the big microscope hovering over the Miami HEAT. There is no reason to believe he won’t continue to do so.