Chris Bosh led the Heat in scoring during the preseason. On a team that includes LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, it’s a notable accomplishment.
Bosh couldn’t care less.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bosh said. “To me, it’s an irrelevant statistic.”
Jokingly, Bosh has taken to calling himself the “Mr. Random Guy” of the Heat’s offense. There are no set plays for him. He’s rarely the first option on an offensive set. Yet, Mr. Random averaged 15.8 points per game in eight preseason games. Compared to other forwards, Bosh ranked fourth in the NBA in preseason scoring.
James finished the preseason ranked tied for 14th in scoring (13.7 points per game) among league forwards.
Exhibition numbers mean little, or perhaps nothing, in the grand scheme of a season, but Bosh’s statistical effort during the preseason is anything but irrelevant — or random — when taken in the correct context. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spent the entire training camp drilling his players on the idea of a free-flowing, equal-opportunity offense. That Bosh, Mr. Random Guy, emerged from training camp as the team’s leading scorer means the Heat’s offense is healthy heading into the season opener against the Celtics on Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“He came in ready, and he has been open to what we’re trying to do and how he fits,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s also, arguably, the most versatile big in the league, so he does present some problems for the opponent, and he’ll have to continue to do that for us to be successful.”
More often than not, Bosh is open on the offensive end. The ball found him during the preseason, and Bosh’s skills did the rest. He led the Heat in field-goal percentage (.551) while also leading the team in rebounds (43).
James is the driving force behind Spoelstra’s idea of “positionless basketball,” but Bosh might be the second-most important cog in the wheel. On most nights, Bosh is the quickest big man on the floor, and his consistent jump shot allows him to stretch defenses.
Conventional defensive strategy against the Heat calls for packing the paint to account for Wade and James. Entering his third season with the Heat, Bosh knows where to find the open spots on the periphery. He likes to call those opportunities random, but, when paired with James, the results are more like basketball jazz.
“He’s open,” said James, who led the Heat with 41 assists in the preseason. “We’re playing with a lot more pace and a lot more space for him, and giving him a lot more opportunities to go at his matchup.
“There are going to be a lot of games where he has the speed and the matchup to do whatever he wants out on the perimeter, because of his ability to shoot the ball and also to drive.”
Wade credits Bosh’s big preseason to his work before training camp. Bosh skipped the Olympics to fully heal from the abdominal injury he sustained in the playoffs. Upon his return, he met with Wade and James and vowed to carry more of the load early in the season.
When Bosh first arrived in Miami, the Heat wanted him to pack on muscle mass and bulk up for a life in the paint. Spoelstra scrapped that plan after the playoffs when the Heat used an unconventional lineup to win its second NBA championship. The Heat’s coach instructed Bosh to focus on his natural skill set: speed, quickness and shooting.
“He is really determined to come out in the beginning of the year and start fast,” Wade said of Bosh. “He said, ‘Listen, I know LeBron is coming off the Olympics. I know you’re coming off of surgery. So, I want to hit the ground running.’ He’s worked at it, and hopefully he can.”
Bosh averaged 18.0 points per game last season, but Wade says Bosh is capable of “going for 20-plus a game and probably more effortlessly than” himself and James.
While Bosh has accepted the label of center, offensively he’s more of a hybrid power forward than anything. The position of a traditional center is a dying art in the NBA, so much so that the league has removed the designation from All-Star ballots this season.
Fans will now vote for three “frontcourt players” and two guards rather than two guards, two forwards and a center. Despite the change, Bosh still doesn’t expect to garner any more votes for a starting spot.
“He doesn’t get the respect he deserves,” James said. “I know how important he is, and we know how important he is. He’s an All-Star. He doesn’t need a center or a power forward on the ballot to know that he’s an All-Star. He’s one of the best players we have in this league.”