Posted Mar 16 2011 9:49AM
MIAMI -- It was a moment that explained Chris Bosh's style, when he caught a pass and found himself right under the basket against the Spurs on Monday night. Normally, a 6-foot-11 player in this situation would spike the ball through the hoop, sending tremors through the arena, along with a warning.
But Bosh did as Bosh does and went for the lay-in instead.
He missed. Both the shot, and a chance to chip away at a reputation.
He scored 30 points against the Spurs, his second 30-point night all season, and most telling is how Bosh got those points: all free throws and jumpers. Not a single dunk. That's almost hard for a power forward to do, although it did explain how Bosh isn't your typical player at that position.
More than any of the Big Three, Bosh is often cited -- if not outright dismissed -- for not being someone what he should be, namely, a rim-chewing, paint-scrubbing inside force. Calling him a finesse forward is actually being kind; others just flat out say he's gentler than your grandmother's touch. This is mainly confined to media-types and fans, although Wednesday night will bring Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant, who broke rank when he fumed about Bosh being a "fake tough guy" following a tense loss to Miami two months ago.
Yesterday, Bosh said: "All that stuff is squared away. He made some comments after that game, probably when he was upset. That's no big deal. We talked about it."
His teammates are supportive, but when they worry publicly about their inability to score inside points, as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade repeated recently, it sure sounds like they're sending an indirect plea for Bosh to move a few feet closer to the basket.
It's a request that's both fair and unfair, asking Bosh, the only big man on the roster who doesn't treat the ball as a live grenade, to change his entire mindset when it comes to offense. That's quite a sacrifice for a player who never really played any meaningful games in his NBA career until now.
Has any current All-Star ever dealt with those demands? To be who he is not? Not LeBron, who has the same responsibilities and freedom as he did in Cleveland. Same for Wade. And is it even possible to make such change after playing a certain way for seven years? Old habits don't break easily. It's not simple to stray from a comfort zone. Bosh will not morph into Moses Malone overnight, or ever, and you wonder if he's doing himself more harm than good by even making the attempt.
"Trying to change has hurt me more than anything else," Bosh said. "I've spent so much time worrying about fitting in and worrying about too many other things instead of just playing basketball.
"People are always going to tell you what you can't do. People have been doing that my whole life. If I would've listened to them I wouldn't be here playing in the NBA. It started when I started playing basketball and it won't stop until I'm done. It's all about what I believe in. And I believe I can be a good player on a team that can win a championship."
He is that, a good player; whether Miami is championship-ready is more of a debate. Bosh will likely finish the season averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a game, numbers that any team would gladly take at the 4-spot. But those are numbers viewed skeptically by the basketball world because of the manner in which they're compiled. Meaning, Bosh isn't getting those points or rebounds in heavy traffic.
The plain truth is Bosh will never be that type of player, no matter how often LeBron says the obvious: "Our biggest thing is getting paint points, because it opens up our perimeter, opens it up for everybody. But we don't have any post-up bigs. Chris is our only option."
The Heat's best option in the post isn't on the roster, not yet anyway. He'll have to arrive this summer or next. He isn't Udonis Haslem, still on the mend, who's a clean-up guy, not someone who hears his number called on a play. And let's not get started on everyone else who passes for a center on the Heat. Until further notice, it's all about Bosh ... except Bosh is merely masquerading as an inside force. Not that he's fake, to borrow a Durant-ism. He's just filling the role out of necessity. There's a difference.
There is a bigger issue: After being barely noticed for years in Toronto, where the Raptors were never a contender, Bosh is feeling a burden for the first time. How he holds up in the stretch run and especially against Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah -- should he meet any or all in the postseason -- will reveal much. Right now, nobody knows how Bosh will respond; even he doesn't know.
"I'm just trying to get better and do what I can to help this team," he said. "That's where I'm at now."
In a perfect Miami Heat world, someone like Kendrick Perkins would've found his way to Miami at the trade deadline. Instead, on Wednesday night and for the rest of this season, at least, it will be Chris Bosh, still trying to be himself and someone else.
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