Like a sprinter and shirtless, LeBron James pumped his arms and legs up and down the court of Portland’s Rose Garden on Wednesday.
Originally, James thought the Heat was going to have an easy off day in Portland. That was not the case after a being blasted inside by the Pacers and losing by double figures. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra put his players through a “mouthpiece and pads” type of practice, but afterward James still had enough energy for some wind sprints.
“That’s four,” James yelled at teammates Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and James Jones as if he was a coach. “Eleven more.”
After the running, James got with Mario Chalmers and others to work on free throws. Finally, after burning through what seemed like a few thousand calories after practice, James strolled over to reporters dripping with sweat. In recent days, the Heat has positioned itself for a few transactions that might shore up the rebounding deficiency. James isn’t counting on it, and he practiced that way on Wednesday.
“This is who we have,” James said. “Ain’t nobody outside. Who’s out there? If there was somebody out there, he would have been picked up. As a collective group, we’ve got to figure it out.”
Indirectly, James’ matter-of-fact attitude isn’t exactly an endorsement for NBA veteran Chris Andersen, 34, who worked out with the Heat on Tuesday.
The Heat did sign rookie Jarvis Varnado to a 10-day contract on Wednesday, but Varnado isn’t expected to contribute immediately. Varnado, drafted by the Heat in 2010, was released by the Celtics on Monday. Agent Merle Scott said the Heat also agreed to re-sign center Josh Harrellson to a 10-day contract. The signings give the Heat the maximum 15 players, which would suggest the Heat is not yet ready to sign Andersen.
“I’m just looking to bring some energy and defense to the team,” said Varnado, who holds the NCAA career record for blocks.
James called the Heat’s rebounding numbers the team’s “kryptonite.” Without defensive rebounds, the Heat cannot start a fastbreak. Without a fastbreak, the Heat loses half of its identity. Miami has one fast-break point against the Pacers and was outrebounded 55-36. Indiana had 22 offensive rebounds.
Chris Bosh says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help improve the Heat’s rebounding numbers. Apparently, that includes coming off the bench.
Speaking figuratively, more than anything, Bosh said he wouldn’t object to coming off the bench or just sitting to “learn some more” if that would help the team. The Heat has been outrebounded by 39 in its past two losses and much of the blame has fallen on Bosh. This month, Bosh is averaging 5.8 rebounds per game.
“Just saying how much invested into it I am,” Bosh said, smiling sarcastically. “We want the best rebounders out there on the court and to say that I’m lacking on my job and it’s not me, if I’m not a good rebounder out there, if I’m not what this team needs, then maybe I need to sit and learn some more or maybe someone needs to play some more. That’s just a figure of speech.”
Bosh’s odd comments come one day after he suggested the Heat’s system should be changed to create more rebounding opportunities.
“We get placed in a system and we try to play to the system to the best of our abilities,” Bosh said after the Heat’s loss to Indiana. “Some days, it’s good. Some days, it’s bad. Most days it has been bad for us on the boards. I don’t think it’s about effort. We’re trying our best.”
Bosh said in Indianapolis that perhaps playing a more traditional lineup would help.
“We played more conventional basketball the first year and last year,” Bosh said. “This is different.”
Bosh didn’t back away from those comments on Wednesday in Portland.
“I know I can rebound the basketball,” Bosh said. “I know we all can. We need to be put in the best position to do that.”
Jokingly, Bosh was asked if he wanted to be traded.
“Hell no. You crazy? Not getting rid of me that easy,” he said.
“Defend the title, baby. That’s what it’s about.”