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Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann By Dylan Barmmer It is his turn now. As Chris Bosh heads into his fifth season with the HEAT, the versatile, intelligent and passionate 30-year-old veteran does so with 11 full NBA seasons, nine NBA All-Star Game selections and four NBA Finals appearances under his belt. Bosh also enters the 2014-15 NBA season as something else as his role expands beyond what it was before. Of course, Bosh has always been extremely valuable to the HEAT. During his first four seasons with the club, Bosh did a little bit of everything. And it all added up to a lot of everything for the HEAT, who reached unprecedented heights during that four-season stretch. Bosh averaged at least 16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in each of those four seasons. He shot at least 48.7 percent or better from the field, and 79.8 percent or better from the free throw line. All told, Bosh averaged 17.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 81.3 percent from the line in 287 regular-season games over the past four seasons. He started each one of those 287 games, logging at least 32.0 minutes per game and missing just 25 games over that four-season stretch. Most importantly, Bosh helped the HEAT reach the NBA Finals in each of those four seasons – and was a key component of the HEAT’s back-to-back NBA Champion teams in 2012 and 2013. During that stunning four-season stretch, the HEAT claimed the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference titles each season and compiled an amazing 224-88 regular-season record – which translates to a sizzling 71.8 winning percentage. Bosh came up big in the HEAT’s playoff runs too, playing in 78 games (including 74 starts) and averaging 14.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 assists and 0.8 steals while shooting 48.1 percent from the field (including 40.6 percent from 3-point range) and 79.0 percent from the line. His crucial rebound-and-assist in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals set up Ray Allen’s now-legendary corner three-pointer that proved pivotal in forcing a Game 7, which the HEAT won to claim the franchise’s third NBA title. While Bosh accomplished all of this and more, he also did much of his playing, scoring, rebounding, defending and leading in the long shadows of franchise face Dwyane Wade and global icon LeBron James – who won the NBA MVP Award in two of his four seasons in a HEAT uniform. With the ultra-athletic James and Wade frequently facilitating and executing the HEAT offense and often anchoring the team’s defense with their incredible quickness, Bosh was often required to play a more complimentary and underappreciated role within the framework of the team. Many times, this role led to limited offensive touches, which in turn often led to modest scoring statistics. The 6-foot-11, 235-pound Bosh almost always impacted the game on both ends, however, using his rare blend of size, length, quickness, intelligence, power and savvy to do everything from finish rim-rattling dunks to drill corner three-pointers on offense and pull down gritty rebounds and rack up game-turning steals on defense. During the past two seasons, Bosh also worked extremely hard to develop his long-range shooting touch, evolving his game to the point where he drained a career-high 74 three-pointers in 79 games last season – before canning 30 three-pointers in just 20 playoff games as the HEAT again reached the NBA Finals. The versatile and cerebral Bosh also started at both center and power forward during his first four seasons in a HEAT uniform, never hesitating to do anything and everything HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff asked of him. Many athletes talk about things like service and sacrifice for the greater good of the team, but few elite-level NBA players demonstrate these traits like Bosh. This season, with the departure of James to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, Bosh will get the opportunity to move to the forefront of the team’s offense. It remains to be seen just how the ever-innovative Spoelstra will utilize the always-versatile Bosh, but the veteran HEAT coach sounds excited about all the possibilities that await him and his team on the eve of a new era in HEAT basketball. “He probably has the toughest responsibilities in terms of doing everything,” said Spoelstra after a recent practice. “Being an anchor for us defensively, having to guard multiple positions and then offensively, yes, we are running some offense through him where he has to generate offense for us. But he is arguably our best facilitator also to get other people involved, and he has to strike that balance. And he also has to space the floor for us. He does all those things. It takes a highly intelligent player and a highly versatile player to be able to manage all those responsibilities and he makes that look easy.” In preseason play, Bosh has looked aggressive, assertive, hungry and motivated while serving as the focal point of the HEAT offense and the anchor of the defense. Bosh led the HEAT in scoring in four of the first five preseason games he appeared in, and also finished with a team high in rebounds in four of those five games. His aggressive play also translated to trips to the free-throw line, and his sweet stroke from there resulted in Bosh scoring 24 points on 24-of-32 shooting from the line. “He’s aggressive,” said Spoelstra. “I just like the way Dwyane and CB have been aggressive, getting to the free-throw line, getting into the paint. They’re both in attack mode, but they’re picking their spots. They’re so unselfish. It helps when your better players are unselfish, other guys can get involved. We just need to keep on working. Other guys are going to find their rhythm playing off of them and understanding how we want to play. It will take some time, but we’re committed to the process.” For his part, Bosh sounds equally excited about his new role on the new-look HEAT. He signed a long-term contract extension to remain with the club this offseason, and his preseason production has him feeling as confident as ever out on the court. “It’s going well,” said Bosh after a recent practice. “I can score the basketball. I know I can do that. I’ve always been able to do that. I’ve worked on my game a lot more in preparation for a lot more touches and I’m very confident. I have no problem with scoring the basketball. It’s just getting my teammates involved, making sure I keep those guys happy too. That’s more of a challenge for me. I can score; I’m not worried about that.” Bosh knows that striking that balance between scoring and facilitating is going to take a lot of hard work on his part. He also knows that Spoelstra and his teammates are going to give him every opportunity to serve as the go-to guy, which will require him to maintain a strong, attacking attitude at all times. “Last year was more when I get it, shoot it every time and it was more of a difficulty in figuring out when to shoot it and when to move it,” said Bosh. “This year, I have to get guys involved, so it’s a bigger responsibility to look for my shot, but put the team first. Of course I have to be aggressive. Coach is going to get me the ball where I need it, and my teammates are going to get me the ball where I need it, but I have to make sure that I’m moving the ball and finding that balance to where I’m getting other guys involved as well. They’re both difficult positions to be in, but you know I’m trying to get better and better every day at it.” Bosh clearly relishes the challenge that awaits him and the HEAT this season. He knows that while he must come out aggressive and stay aggressive, he can’t get too worked up or deviate too much from the natural flow of the game and the framework of the overall team structure and strategy. “I just have to make sure there is a flow to the game at first,” said Bosh. “In the first two, three, four, five minutes, I’ll take easy ones if I get them, but I can’t just be aggressive off the bat. It has to come through the offense and I have to make sure that the ball is moving side to side.” Such a disciplined, measured and studied approach will help not only Bosh, but his teammates – some of whom will be playing extensively together for the first time as part of the HEAT. As a player who has always sacrificed personal glory for the sake of the team, Bosh understands this as well as anybody. “So (at) the start, I’m trying to make sure we have a nice flow to the game, everybody gets in a rhythm,” said Bosh. “That way, if I’m successful in the post (and) they start doubling, guys aren’t touching the ball for the first time when we’re asking them to make a play.”
dbarmmer posted a blog entry in The PULSE BlogBy Dylan Barmmer They're here. Again. And he has helped lead them back here. Again. The HEAT are about to tipoff their fourth consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals, and franchise face and all-time scoring leader Dwyane Wade remains as valuable and vital as ever to the team's deep and productive playoff runs. In fact, you could even argue that Wade has never been better than he is now, in his 10th postseason journey. Or at least, he has never been more efficient than he is now, at age 32. As the stakes have risen for the HEAT during their historic run to a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Wade has steadily improved his production. And he's done so from top to bottom, all across the board. Wade averaged 17.5 points, 3.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 33.3 minutes per game in the HEAT's first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats. He shot 49.1 percent from the field and 70.8 percent from the free throw line, scoring 15 or more points in each of the four games. In the HEAT's five-game series win over the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Wade averaged 18.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 35.0 minutes per game. He shot 50.7 percent from the field and 85.0 percent from the line, scoring 14 or more points in each of the five games and netting 20 or more twice – including a playoff-high 28 in the closeout game. In the HEAT's six-game Eastern Conference Finals triumph over the Indiana Pacers, Wade averaged 19.8 points, 4.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 35.5 minutes per game. He shot 54.5 percent from the field and 85.0 percent from the line, scoring 13 or more points in each of the six games and netting 23 or more in each of the series' first three games. Wade was also at his best from behind the three-point arc in that series, connecting on 6-of-13 shots from long-range for a sizzling 46.2-percent clip. Wade's long-revered defensive prowess was also on full display in the Eastern Conference Finals, as he snared two or more steals in each of the final four games. He also helped hold the Pacers to 93 or fewer points in each of those games, and pulled down 20 rebounds to go with his nine steals during that four-game stretch. The HEAT have posted an exceptional 12-3 record during their 2014 NBA Playoffs run, and Wade has played a pivotal role in that success. The seasoned and savvy shooting guard has started each of those 15 games, staying on the floor for an average of 34.7 minutes – second only to reigning NBA Finals MVP LeBron James on the HEAT roster. He's averaged 18.7 points, 4.3 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 0.3 blocks, and shot 51.9 percent from the field – including 38.9 percent from behind the three-point arc – and 80.0 percent from the line. Wade ranks second to only James in scoring, assists and steals this postseason, and is fourth on the HEAT in both rebounds and blocks. Wade's sparkling 51.9-percent field goal percentage is third-best behind only Chris Andersen and James, his 80.0 percent mark from the line ranks fifth, and his 38.9-percent clip from behind the three-point arc is sixth-best on a deep three-point shooting team. Wade also ranks second to only James in both field goals and free throws attempted and made this postseason, showcasing his seemingly ever-expanding array of offensive moves and shots. From slashing layups and putbacks to lethal midrange bank shots to stepback jumpers to alley-oop dunks, Wade consistently finds ways to create and finish shots, frustrate and deflate defenses and create easy, open opportunities for his teammates. He's even honed and refined the timely three-pointer, using the long-range shot with particularly stunning success in the Eastern Conference Finals. In short, Wade is doing a bit of everything for the HEAT this postseason. And he's doing it as effectively and efficiently as anybody else on the roster. Just like always. Wade opened his 10th playoff run with a bang, scoring 23 points, dishing five assists, grabbing one rebound and snaring one steal in a 99-88 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Easter Sunday. Wade drilled 10-of-16 shots – including 1-of-2 from long-range – and hit 2-of-3 free throws in 34 high-octane minutes to help the HEAT launch their drive for a third consecutive NBA Championship in dominant fashion. Wade was even more dominant in the HEAT's closeout victory over the Brooklyn Nets in the next round, scoring 28 points – on 10-of-18 shooting from the field and a flawless 8-of-8 from the line – dishing three assists and grabbing two rebounds in 37 minutes as the HEAT posted a 96-94 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Wade then continued to score at a high clip as the HEAT began their Eastern Conference Finals with a rematch against the rival Indiana Pacers. He scored 27, 23 and 23 points as the HEAT took a 2-1 lead over the Pacers, and handed out at least four assists in each of those three games. Wade was especially impressive in the HEAT's pivotal 87-83 road win in Game 2, scoring 23 points, dishing five assists, grabbing five rebounds and snaring one steal as the HEAT roared back from a late deficit to knot the series at 1-1. Wade nailed 10-of-16 shots from the field and 3-of-4 free throws in that game, and scored 10 of his 23 points (on flawless 5-of-5 shooting) in the game-turning fourth quarter. As the HEAT gear up for a NBA Finals rematch with the veteran, versatile, deep San Antonio Spurs, Wade continues to author new chapters in a compelling, champion-caliber career. Already a legend in the eyes of HEAT fans, and almost certainly a future NBA Hall of Famer, Wade has now suited up in a HEAT uniform for an incredible 147 playoff games. Wade has started each and every one of those games, averaging 23.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks in 39.0 minutes per game – and shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 77.7 percent from the line over those 147 games. To put that 147-playoff game total in perspective, consider that it's nearly the equivalent of two full NBA regular seasons. That total is so high in large part due to Wade's ability to carry his team when the games matter most, and his HEAT teams have played at least 13 games or more in seven of his 10 postseason appearances, including 21 or more games four times. Of course, three of those four extended postseason runs ended in NBA Championships, and for Wade and the HEAT, a fourth title – and third in three years – is now just four playoff wins away. Wade came up big-time in the 2013 NBA Finals against the Spurs, averaging 19.6 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks in 36.6 minutes per game. Wade hit 47.6 percent of his field goals and 77.3 percent of his free throws in that sensational seven-game series, and scored 23 or more points in three of the final four games. Wade averaged 23.5 points and drilled 41-of-83 (49.4 percent) field goals and 12-of-14 (85.7 percent) free throws over that crucial, final four-game stretch, which saw the HEAT race back from a 3-2 series deficit to hoist the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy once again. He also posted a 25-point, 10-assist game and a 23-point, 10-rebound outing during that run, with the latter helping the HEAT post a 95-88 closeout win in Game 7. In a pivotal Game 4 HEAT victory, Wade scored 32 points, grabbed six rebounds, snared six steals and dished four assists in a game- and series-turning performance that helped the HEAT post a 109-93 road win and knot the series at 2-2. Had the HEAT lost that game, they would have faced a 3-1 series deficit and extremely long odds of defending their title. Wade simply refused to let that happen, hitting 14-of-25 field goals and single-handedly compiling more steals than the entire Spurs team. Just what happens in the 2014 Finals remains to be seen, but HEAT fans, teammates and coaches alike all expect equally efficient, versatile and clutch performances from Wade. After all, it's what he's always done for the HEAT. Especially when the games matter most.
By Dylan Barmmer He's playing a new position. He's giving up 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds per game on the defensive end. He's in just his second season in the HEAT system. But Shane Battier is getting the job done. And then some. Battier has accomplished a lot throughout a professional basketball career that has spanned 12 seasons and three NBA teams, so it really should come as no surprise to HEAT fans that the veteran swingman is finding a way to contribute as the HEAT's 6-foot-8, 220-pound starting power forward -- many ways, to be exact. Through the HEAT's first 11 games of the 2012-13 season, Battier ranks fifth on the HEAT in scoring at 7.5 points per game and is tied with LeBron James for second with 1.0 blocks per game. Not deterred by spending time and energy banging big bodies in the low post, Battier also ranks fifth on the club in 3-point field goal percentage at 47.1% and first in 3-pointers made per game (2.2) through the HEAT's strong 8-3 start. A sharpshooter on a team stocked with snipers, Battier ranks 13th in the entire NBA in 3-point field goal percentage and is tied for eighth in 3-pointers made per game. He's drilled a team-high 24 3-pointers in a team-high 51 attempts, and has hit on a sizzling 15-of-24 attempts (62.5%) over the last four games -- all on the road. Not coincidentally, the HEAT won three of those four games, including the last two without the services of Dwyane Wade, who has been resting a sore foot. Battier picked up his offense dramatically in those two games, scoring a season-high 18 points in a 98-93 win at Denver on Nov. 15 and 12 in a 97-88 victory at Phoenix two nights later. Battier made 10 of 15 shots in those two wins, all coming from long-range. Talk about efficient. Battier's superior conditioning and seemingly endless energy make HEAT fans forget that he's a 34-year-old, 12-year NBA veteran, but the smarts, savvy and clutch play of the former Duke University star serve as ample reminders of his vast experience. There's so many things he does well, and many of those things don't show up in your standard box score. Of course, Battier's value has long transcended standard statistical summation, as evidenced by the New York Times Magazine piece once penned on him by sportswriter Michael Lewis entitled "The No-Stats All-Star." And this year has been no different -- even as Battier's positional assignment has changed, and he's transitioned from a reserve role into a starting spot. The win in Denver serves as an ideal example of Battier's multi-faceted and versatile game. Yes, there were the season-high 18 points on the game-high six hits from long range. But there were also the handful of charging calls he drew, most of them coming at key points in the game and helping to spark or extend pivotal HEAT runs. And there were the numerous other times he recklessly yet strategically launched his sinewy, flexible frame into the teeth of the opposing offense. At times it's almost like Battier is a skilled defensive back in a football game, locking down opponents and relentlessly hunting down the ball every time it's thrown into his airspace. And just like the defensive back often won't get talked about unless he's beaten deep or comes up with a big interception, you often won't hear much mention of Battier unless he hits the deck or drills a timely triple. But Battier's name has been called more and more by both HEAT coach Erik Spoelstra and game announcers lately. And it's increasingly clear that despite the tough positional assignment that has him battling younger behemoths like the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried and L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin, Battier is clearly more comfortable in the HEAT system this season than he was last year, when he joined the team as a free-agent signing just before the start of a frantic, lockout-compressed 66-game season. Of course, Battier emerged as a valuable component of that NBA World Champion HEAT team, averaging 4.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals and nailing 62 3-pointers in 23.1 minutes off the bench in 65 games. He did serve as a starter in 10 games, mostly filling in for Wade at shooting guard, but seeing some time at small forward as well. The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft was even more valuable during the HEAT's playoff run to their second NBA title, averaging 7.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals in 33.4 minutes a game. His value, role and confidence continuing to grow as the season and postseason progressed, Battier ended up starting 16 of 23 postseason games, mostly at the small forward position, and nailing a HEAT-high 42 3-pointers during the title run. Battier was especially prolific during the HEAT's five-game NBA Finals win over Oklahoma City, scoring 9 or more points in four of the five games, including 17 in each of the first two and 11 in the closeout game. He canned a remarkable 15 of 26 shots from long-range (57.7%) and grabbed 4 or more rebounds three times. As usual, Battier's all-around game was strong in many other areas, and he helped limit the extremely explosive, young Thunder to under 100 points in three of the five games. Battier has continued to provide sweet shooting from long-range this season, while somehow managing to mix in spirited defense against men often much larger and longer than him down in the paint. It's been a win-win sort of situation, as the continued evolution of James' own post game, along with Chris Bosh's move to center, allows Battier to sneak and float back outside for good looks at 3-point shots fairly often on the offensive end, and he has continued to drain those shots when they matter most. So you might say Shane Battier is doing for the HEAT what he's always done during his decorated basketball career -- a little bit of everything.