Chris Bosh tried. You can’t say he didn’t.
Bosh tried to bulk up. Gave it is all, truly. But you can’t turn an apple into an orange, you can’t change a thoroughbred into an elephant and you can’t morph Chris Bosh into Alonzo Mourning.
“It’s been like that for three years,” Bosh said on Saturday about the long-term plan to bulk him up and tweak his game. “After about three years I said forget it and just be myself. I’m never going to be big and just bulky like that.
“I’m strong but it’s a wiry strong and it’s two totally different things.”
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The muscles are there, but, as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on media day, “He’s long; he’s strong.”
And, most importantly, fast.
Spoelstra’s “position-less” basketball is founded in the belief that the use of speed to create mismatches is just as good in today’s NBA as having hulking giants in the middle of the lane. That philosophy is just fine with Bosh, who feels his natural skills are tailor-made for the concept as the team’s center.
“They need me to be fast against other [centers],” Bosh said. “That’s my advantage. We want to make teams match up to us and that’s how it’s going to be here.”
So, the plan to load Bosh’s body down with extra weight is officially over.
“I’ve put all that to the side and just focused on my game,” Bosh said.
Still, the question remains: How is he going to match up against the game’s traditional centers? Things slow down in the playoffs. Games grind to a halt and half-court basketball takes over. What then? Is he worried about banging inside with Philadelphia’s new center, Andrew Bynum, and the Lakers’ new tent pole, Dwight Howard?
“Not even those two,” Bosh said. “I’ve played them before. It’s nothing I haven’t seen. Yeah, they do have a weight advantage but that’s only in your mind.”
Bring it on, says Bosh.
“If teams feel like they have an advantage, tell them to dump it down there if they can,” Bosh said. “That’s my answer to everything. If they say, ‘Bosh can’t play the five. We have an advantage,’ and people think that, then tell them to dump it down there and we’ll see what happens.”
What will happen?
“I’ll play defense, get the rebound and we’ll go,” he said.
Bosh doesn’t plan on having his back to the basket that often. He worked on his post moves Sunday, the third day of the Heat’s training camp, but he also worked on his outside shooting. He’s still going to be stepping out to the three- point line from time to time.
Let Howard and Bynum try to guard him there. Spoelstra’s vision for Bosh has helped him accept the fact that he’s now the team’s star center rather than its power forward. Bosh resisted for a time, but you can’t argue with success. He played center during the 2012 playoffs “and we won a championship.”
“I went ahead and stopped fighting it,” Bosh said. “Like they say, don’t fight it, just invite it. Once I stopped doing that, things became better for me.
“Once you accept playing a position, then you learn how to play that position well. You can’t just be, ‘Well, I’m stuck here until someone subs in and I can move over.’ We have advantages, so we have to make sure we take those.”
It seems Bosh came to peace with a lot of things over the offseason. That tends to happen when you win a championship. He’s not going to worry about his statistics as much this season and he says he’s not concerned about what fans think of him either.
If people don’t respect his game, so be it. He’d like to start at center in the All-Star game — knows he’s good enough — but starters are determined by the vote of fans. No need in stressing about that.
“I do my best not to get caught up in that because the more you fight for the respect the less you’re going to get it,” Bosh said. “That was last year. I don’t want to be like, ‘Ahh! I want respect!’ and I’m getting my ass handed to me every night.”
Both publicly and privately, Bosh is entering this season without any individual statistical goals. He wanted to average more than 10 rebounds a game last season and he finished at 7.9.
“I was talking too much last year,” Bosh said. “Every time I set a goal I never make it. I don’t even want to set private statistics.”
Bosh joked that he was “shooting for the stars” last season but “didn’t even land in the clouds.”
But the clouds aren’t so bad. That’s where champions celebrate.