NBA PM: Bosh Sacrificing for Good of HEAT
Chris Bosh is one of the most skilled big men in the league. On most teams, he would be the star and number one option. However, Bosh turned down the opportunity to be the face of a franchise when he joined LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the Miami HEAT in the summer of 2010. Bosh was willing to take $15 million less over the life of his contract, as well as a lesser role than he was accustomed to having.
For the first seven years of Bosh’s career, he was the focal point of the Toronto Raptors. During his final season in Toronto, he averaged 24 points on 16.5 shot attempts per game. In Miami, he’s the third option, averaging just over 18 points on 14 shot attempts. Initially, Bosh had a hard time adjusting in Miami, but he has gotten more comfortable in the last year. Now, he thrives in that role and has no problem deferring to James and Wade, which is why HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra calls Bosh the team’s most important player.
“It’s difficult,” Bosh told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s been difficult, but it’s all for the team and that’s what’s most important. I didn’t quite understand it when I first got here, but I’m starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Things came together for me a lot last year and I’m just trying to improve in that role. I’m trying to do what the team needs me to do night in and night out to be effective.”
Bosh’s sacrifice paid off last season when he hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy. Winning a championship made it all worth it. Now, Miami is focused on defending their title. This team isn’t content with winning one championship so they worked hard over the offseason and are determined to get better this year.
“You have to get better every day otherwise you’re going to stay stagnant,” Bosh said. “If we expect to be the same team as last year, we’re not going to like where we’re going to be at the end of the year. We always have to grow and get better. It’s all about the process of getting better day by day. Then you look around and you’re a pretty decent team at the end of it.”
Not only did Bosh have to adjust to playing with James and Wade, he also had to adjust to playing a new position. Earlier in his career, he was primarily a power forward and he didn’t want to play center. However, Spoelstra occasionally played Bosh at the five last season and made the move permanent this year. Bosh has started every game at center and he has done an excellent job, averaging 20.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks through eight games.
But Bosh isn’t the only one who’s had to make sacrifices in Miami. Former All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, two of the best three-point shooters in league history, took less money to join the HEAT and come off of the bench after years of starting.
“It shows the sacrifice that guys are willing to make just to have a chance to win a championship.” Bosh said. “We have a long way to go and we have a lot of work to do, but that thought process and sacrifice, it’s huge. I think it means everything to this team.”
Miami is currently 6-2, which is the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. However, the HEAT has been involved in more close games than they would like and they’re disappointed with their defense through eight games. They’re allowing teams to score 100.25 points per game, which is seventh-worst in the NBA. Miami was one of the best defensive teams in the league last year, but that hasn’t been the case this season. When asked what Miami needs to improve going forward, Bosh doesn’t hesitate.
“Defense,” Bosh said. “The offense is going to come, but our defense is our staple. We understand that teams are going to have more focus against us, and that’s understandable, but we’re going to have to bring it night in and night out. We’re going to have to keep competing. Eventually, things will turn around for us.”
Expectations remain high in Miami, where anything less than a championship will be considered a disappointment. Bosh understands this and he’ll continue to do anything he can to help the HEAT achieve their goal, even if that means taking less money, sacrificing stats and changing positions for the good of the team.
Sampson Holding Down Fort for McHale
Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale has taken a leave of absence to deal with a family matter. McHale has been away from the team since Saturday and there’s no timetable for his return. In the meantime, Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson is filling in as the team’s head coach and keeping McHale updated.
“I talked to him last night at length and talked with him again today,” Sampson said. “It’s a tough time for his family. He’s struggling with that, but we’re keeping him abreast with everything that is going on here and our thoughts and prayers are certainly with him.”
The Rockets are 1-1 since Sampson took over. Houston beat the Detroit Pistons, 96-82, and barely lost to the Miami HEAT in the final moments, 113-110. The team has looked good and Sampson has done an impressive job holding down the fort.
“I’m just getting adjusted to calling all the shots,” Sampson said. “But, you know, I’ve done this a few times over the years. I think we have a great rapport with this group. We have a very high character team so I think they’ve responded well. We came in yesterday and went through some stuff, came back and had a good shootaround this morning, but it’s a long season. We just want to keep getting better. That’s our creed right now is just show improvement.”
The Rockets are going through an adjustment period as they try to get the new acquisitions James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik acclimated. While the offense is still a work in progress, Sampson has been impressed with his team’s defense.
“The thing we’ve hung our hat on thus far is our defense,” Sampson said. “We haven’t had a good shooting night. I told them yesterday in film anytime you can have a 26-point lead in any game shooting 37 percent, that tells you what we should be focusing on. The shots will start falling because we’re getting open shots, they’re just not going in. You just have to encourage them to shoot it and pretty soon they’ll start going in. Just like missing shots is contagious, so is making them.”
“We play the way we play,” Sampson added. “We’re not set up to be a really good halfcourt team. That’s not what our personnel is so I don’t know if we have a lot of channels on the TV we can turn to. I know Miami does. I know Memphis does. We just played them, we know how good they are. A lot of teams are set up to play both ways. We’re really set up to play in transition. I think our halfcourt game will have to get better as we go along.”
Since erupting for 37 points and 45 points in the first two games of the season, Harden has cooled down. However, Sampson believes the Rockets are better off when Harden is balancing his scoring with his playmaking. Rather than relying on Harden to score 30-plus points, the Rockets need him to make the players around him better.
“The message I’ve been sending to James the last couple of days is that [after] the 45-point game and 37-point game, there’s a human reaction to want to replicate that, but that’s really not who he is,” Sampson said. “When scouting him in Oklahoma City, I always thought he was more dangerous with the pass. That’s what we want him to get back to. He doesn’t need to get 30 and 40 for us to win. He’s going to get 20 most nights. Even on poor shooting nights, he can get 20 because he gets to the free throw line so often. We need him to have five, six, seven assists too. I think that’s his strength. He’s a better basketball player than he is just a pure scorer.”
The Rockets are currently 3-4, but they should continue to get better as the season goes on. Sampson is doing his best to guide Houston’s young core until McHale can return to the sideline.
Martin Enjoying Change of Scenery
Kevin Martin has solidified himself as one of the NBA’s best scorers, but his impressive stats didn’t translate into wins early in his career.
During his first eight seasons in the league, Martin made the playoffs just once, when he was a reserve on the 2005-06 Sacramento Kings team that got bounced in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. Every other year, Martin averaged over 20 points per game, but his team was done playing in April.
Now, after being traded from the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder before the season, Martin finds himself on a contender for the first time in his career and he couldn’t be happier. After playing for lottery team after lottery team, the 29-year-old is finally winning more nights than not and playing on a team with championship aspirations.
“It is great,” Martin said. “It’s been a long time waiting to play on a team like this. It is just a great group of guys from the organization to the players. Opportunities like this, you never know when you are going to get them so you have to take advantage of them.”
Martin is no longer the lone scorer who’s expected to carry the team. In fact, he’s coming off the bench in Oklahoma City, providing a burst of scoring with the second unit much like Harden did for the last three years. Martin has been playing well, averaging 17.1 points in 29.4 minutes, but he has plenty of help from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who are all averaging double figures too.
“Four or five guys should have double figures every night,” Martin said. “There are great offensive players on this team and when we aren’t selfish or turning the ball over, that can happen on a nightly basis.”
That’s a welcome change for Martin, who is ready to compete on the NBA’s biggest stage. He has proven that he can be an elite scorer during the regular season. Now, he’s looking forward to making the first deep postseason run of his nine-year career.
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