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By SCIENTIST SPO
Mario Chalmers is looking to get his confidence back. (USATSI)
The ballad of Mario Chalmers has been a fascinating one. He was the guy who hit the big shot that helped beat Derrick Rose in the NCAA title game back in 2008. He had a promising couple of years as a point guard playing with one ball-dominant guard in Dwyane Wade, before having his role completely changed when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat. His confidence has often been unwavering, a signal to his coaching staff and his teammates that he can take the criticism in the tensest of moments. It wouldn't stop him from taking and making that big shot.
However, that confidence wasn't there during the final days of the LeBron era in Miami. Chalmers, like many of his teammates during the drubbing the Spurs put on them, didn't have the same fight we were used to seeing. As Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report tells us, Chalmers says he couldn't figure it out and that everybody on the Heat took a back seat in that series.
Chalmers was really bad in the Finals, but so was everybody on his team. It's hard to single him out as the problem, even if that's what we're used to seeing. The criticism didn't fuel him to overcome because the Spurs never let that moment of confidence building arrive for Miami. They just obliterated them game after game once it headed to Miami for Games 3 and 4. The spot-up point guard was so bad that he told Skolnick, "I didn't even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest."
"You know, for the first time in my career, I felt like I wasn't...yeah, my confidence wasn't there," Chalmers said. "Going through that whole San Antonio series, I just felt like in the playoffs I kept getting worse and worse every round. I just couldn't figure it out."
Even as others—coaches, teammates, family, friends, reporters—had all the answers.
"Yeah, that's the worst thing, because you never know," Chalmers said. "Everybody in my ear, talking about 'We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.' And then when it comes to the game, I didn't feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y'all need me, but y'all didn't put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals."
With the change in personnel following LeBron's return to Cleveland, the opportunity for Chalmers to return to the confident shot-maker we used to know. He re-signed with the Heat on a two-year, $8.3 million contract and will be asked to do much more this season than we saw in the past.
This will be a team banking on Bosh and Wade proving they can be a top scoring duo while Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, and Chalmers show proper play-making and support. After what we saw in the Finals, it can't get much worse for Chalmers.
Chalmers did not bluntly state it, but his explanation of players taking a back seat could be translated as many on the team allowing James to carry the team.
As such, it serves as a warning to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the upcoming season. Without a doubt, James is probably the best athlete and overall player currently in the NBA. Overall, he can do everything from scoring, rebounding, setting his teammates up and playing a pivotal role on the defensive end. With that, much like other greats from the past and currently, it can be difficult to not take advantage of the fact that he can do everything. It was exemplified during this year’s playoffs when James put up record numbers of 27.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.8 apg and 1.8 spg.
The problem, arguably, for the Heat during the Finals was the lack of depth. At times, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade assisted James. Occasionally, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen helped. Unfortunately for the Heat, it was far and few between, unlike their rival Spurs, who made a concerted effort in having everyone involved.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers, it is quite possible there might be a similarity to James’ Heat. Certainly he has younger second and third options in Kevin Love (26.1 ppg, 12.5 and 12.5rpg) and Kyrie Irving (20.7 ppg, 5.8 apg and 3.7 rpg and 1.4 spg). Dion Waiters had an excellent season last year, averaging 15.9 ppg. Anderson Varejao, the only player remaining from the Cavaliers from James’ previous tenure in Cleveland, was solid by averaging 8.4 ppg and 9.7 rpg.
It is beyond the starting lineup that questions start to arise. Marion, who was picked up during the offseason, is still a solid defender, but his production continues to be on a steep decline. Mike Miller and James Jones are favorites of James, but it remains a question mark whether they can consistently contribute to the squad. Beyond that, there is not a whole lot of depth on Cleveland, which should raise concern amongst Cavaliers’ fans.
Much like the Heat from last season, it will be tough for Cleveland to vie for a championship without the depth that the Chris Quinn coached Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and even the Washington Wizards have.
Depth aside, the real question coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers this season is whether or not the team will gel. Kevin Love has put up great statistics over the last number of years. However, he has yet to make the playoffs, and it remains to be seen whether or not he can play when the pressure is on. Kyrie Irving is used to being the number one option. While he is a great player, he is not the true point guard that James, Love, and the rest of the squad needs. While Waiters had a great season last year, his role will be considerably demoted, which could cause a lack of motivation and cause him to “take a back seat” like Chalmers and the Heat did during the Finals.
Most certainly, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be the most talked about team this coming season. Between having the top player in the game and one of the top offensive players and rebounders in the league, anything less than a trip to the Finals will be looked upon as a failure. The Cleveland Cavaliers receive a quality lineup, but between the past history of many LeBron James’ squads and a warning from his former teammate, Mario Chalmers, victory is far from guaranteed.