Chalmers is Proving He Belongs
Mario Chalmers remembers sitting in front of the television on draft night, hearing name after name, point guard after point guard being called.
First it was Derrick Rose, who went No. 1 overall to the Chicago Bulls. Chalmers Kansas Jayhawks defeated Roses Memphis Tigers in the 2008 NCAA National Championship Game. He was named the Final Fours Most Outstanding Player over Rose and, oh yeah, made the famed play known as The Shot, the miracle three-point shot with 2.1 seconds remaining that sent the game into overtime and immortalized him forever in NCAA Tournament lore.
Then it was O.J. Mayo, picked third overall by Minnesota and then later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He outplayed Mayo in an early-season victory against USC. Then Russell Westbrook (Seattle, 4th pick). Then D.J. Augustin, selected ninth overall by Charlotte, whom Chalmers held to 8-of-31 shooting in two matchups against Texas. Then Jerryd Bayless (Indiana, 11th pick). Then Indiana-Purdues George Hill (San Antonio, 26th pick).
The first round had come and gone, and Chalmers, the three-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection, was still sitting on the board. It wasnt until four picks into the second round that the Minnesota Timberwolves had selected the early-entry candidate.
It was a little disappointing, Chalmers admitted.
Then the HEAT made its move.
Miami acquired Chalmers from Minnesota for two second-round picks and cash considerations. HEAT President Pat Rileys eyes lit up when he knew he had a realistic chance to grab a player with lottery-type attributes.
We rated him very high, Riley said. He is another of what we call a perfect fit for us. Hes a defender. Hes a combination guard. He can shoot the three. He had more steals in his career than he had turnovers. He doesnt make a lot of mistakes.
When he got the news that he would be calling Miami his new home and playing with superstar Dwyane Wade and No. 2 draft pick Michael Beasley, Chalmers felt like destiny was on his side.
I was a little shocked, he said At the same time, Im just happy to be in the situation. If I had it to do all over again, Id do the same thing. Im just going in with a great mindset and Ill be ready to play.
The HEAT seems to be the perfect fit for Chalmers. With only one point guard under contract, he has the ability to come in as a rookie and compete for playing time. And the way hes playing at the Orlando Pro Summer League, hes making a lot of GMs around the NBA regret passing him up.
In his three games, Chalmers is averaging 17.7 points, 7.0 assists and 2.7 steals through the HEATs first three games
In the first game against the Chicago Bulls, he outplayed his counterpart Rose on both sides of the ball, holding the top draft pick to only 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting and four assists. He also helped force Rose into five turnovers and led all players with four steals.
In the second game versus the Nets, he was even more spectacular, scoring 19 points and nine assists, getting it done on both sides of the ball. He drew defenders in with hard drives to the basket and kicked it out to a teammate for an open shot. He also showed his basketball IQ, knowing when to get his teammates involved and when to take over.
In game three versus the Pacers, Chalmers got to the basket at will and got to the free throw line. And when he got there, he made them count, going a perfect 17-for-17.
Despite being 6-1, he has a long wingspan and creates havoc on the defensive end. He had four steals in the day one win against Chicago. In the second game, Chalmers recorded three steals, two of which were pick-pocket steals, taking the ball right out of the hands of Nets players Jaycee Carroll and Yuta Tabuse.
HEAT Assistant Coach Keith Askins, who is also serving as head coach in summer league, is taking notice.
Hes a very skilled basketball player, he said. Hes making the most of his opportunity. If you read the paper, thats one of the positions that were looking at. Everyday, hes making a first impression. When youre trying to make it in this league, everyday is a new day and a first impression.
They are high compliments coming from a coach who was known for his defensive prowess during his nine-year NBA career with the HEAT.
I take a lot of pride in my defense, Chalmers said. I think that starts with my mom. Growing up, she always instilled in me defense and my dad always instilled offense. I just tried to use them both and that's why Im the player I am today.
Its easy to see that Chalmers is playing like he has something to prove. And coming from Alaska, where best known basketball products are Utah Jazz All-Star Carlos Boozer and ex-Duke Blue Devil Trajan Langdon, Chalmers had to fight the fight of proving to other people that Alaskans have skills on the court, too.
If he keeps playing like he has in summer league, you can add his name to that list of made-it-big hoopsters from the Last Frontier State.
A lot of people hear you come from Alaska, so they think you cant be that good, he said. Theyd say the only thing up there is cold weather and snow. I had to fight that. So I always had a little chip.
Chalmers carried that chip to the University of Kansas, where he helped lead the Jayhawks to a national championship in his third season. Now, hes bringing it to the HEAT.
I definitely have a chip on my shoulder, he said. I'm just thankful that the HEAT gave me this opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.