A year ago, while the Heat was battling the Indiana Pacers, Chris Bosh was instead battling pain and frustration, pushing through an abdominal injury that sidelined him for nine playoff games before a Game 5 return in the Eastern Conference finals.
Not only was walking and simply getting up from a chair enormously uncomfortable initially, but he also was so angry about the Game 1 injury against Indiana that I felt like destroying the whole [locker room]. I had so much rage.
These playoffs have been a joyride, by comparison.
Through two rounds, Bosh has been not only ambulatory, but impactful, disruptive defensively and a pain to guard for opponents. Hes swishing three-pointers at a percentage that ranked fourth among players who entered Saturday still alive in the postseason.
The man who once wanted no part of playing center continues to embrace it and thrive outplaying Chicagos Joakim Noah, ranking among the playoff leaders in blocked shots, and raising his rebounding numbers from the regular season, when he averaged a career-low 6.8.
All the while, he causes fits for opposing teams by drawing centers out to the perimeter, then sinking silky jumpers over their outstretched arms.
He is our most important player for a reason, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Weve said that for three seasons. He allows everything to work on both ends of the court.
Noah is the more intimidating presence at the rim, but it was Bosh who had nearly three times as many blocks as Noah (11 to 4) in the Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Their rebounding numbers were close: 9.3 for Noah, 8.6 for Bosh. And Bosh predictably outscored Noah, 13.6 points per game to 9.8.
More challenges now await: Indianas Roy Hibbert in the Eastern Conference finals, and possibly Memphis Marc Gasol in the NBA Finals.
No matter who wins, Indiana or New York, the Eastern Conference finals is going to be a very tough series, Bosh said last week. Were up for the challenge.
Bosh said this is the best he has played defensively in his life, a byproduct of the Heat culture and not wanting to let teammates down.
Hes always been very heady [defensively], Spoelstra said. When we recruited him hard, most of our film study was from USA Basketball. Seeing him covering ground and seeing him protecting the rim, we thought we had a perfect fit with our culture and our defensive system.
Bosh has repeatedly reinvented himself on this team, first agreeing to play center instead of power forward, then taking his game away from the basket and posting up far less than in the past.
Everybody says they want to win, but its all about what theyre willing to sacrifice, Bosh said. My situation is totally different. I rarely get play calls [now]. Before, I was getting about 20 touches a game, just off play calls.
Just having to master a different role and a different situation has been extremely difficult for me. Ive kind of embraced that challenge. It continues to challenge me. I try to rise to the top no matter what I do.
Bosh said even this year, his role changed again with the addition of Ray Allen. He said he is always searching for ways he can be effective I dont think Ill ever get comfortable until Im on vacation.