Scenes sometimes seen and often indentified with Heat point guard Mario Chalmers: an older Heat teammate, often Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, haranguing him after a flubbed offensive thrust.
Scene that happened recently and unseen by those outside the Heat: After watching the film from one game, Wade said, “I came in the locker room and told him ‘I didn’t notice during the game, but you played a hell of a ballgame. You made some great reads.’ ”
Chalmers’ 11-assist night Monday against Phoenix, his second such effort of the season, signifies his growth into the position and epitomizes the unselfishness of the multifaceted Heat offense.
“Me having the ball more in my hands, and trying to get on the break more. My teammates are knocking down shots,” Chalmers said. “They’re getting to their spots where they like to get the ball, and we’re doing a good job of moving the ball.”
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As Ray Allen analyzed Tuesday, the Heat’s abundance of shooters, along with a willingness to get everyone involved early, creates space for everyone. Defenses can’t commit too hard in any direction. Wade noticed that Chalmers takes advantage of that spacing.
“He can score, he can go to the basket, he has a good midrange game, he has a great three-ball game,” Allen said. “He’s been great at getting into the gaps, making the extra pass and getting us in the offense. I believe the way he plays, it opens the floor for everybody out there and makes us unpredictable on offense. Defensively, they can’t scout that.”
Chalmers said he has improved in “learning how to pick my spots better, working on my passing, make sure I’m hitting the person on time and on target.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “He’s really improved reading the defense, reading the game, being a playmaker, getting us organized in the offense. The assists are the product of good ball movement and letting the offense generate a good shot for us, not forcing it. Guys are stepping up and making wide open shots.”
Also, Spoelstra noted that Chalmers is involved in “a lot of hockey assists,” a reference to official scoring in hockey giving assists to the two passes preceding a score, not just the first as in basketball.
“Mario was the beneficiary of the assist, but LeBron created a lot of triggers that started the ‘hockey assist’ — to the next one, to the next one — and that’s just as key to have that understanding of the offense, but also the maturity to not try to hunt down the home run play,” Spoelstra said.
Wade and Shane Battier each said separately he thought Chalmers’ confidence — which each quickly noted was rarely low anyway — got a boost from being the point guard on an NBA championship team.
“There’s a lot to say about that,” Wade said. “Especially on this team with a lot of alphas. To be able to take that and be someone we look at as a leader on the floor that needs to get us in our positions. I don’t think he gets enough credit. We get on him a lot.”
Wade chuckled that in his fifth season with Chalmers, his upbraiding has slowed.
But it was James who, when asked if Chalmers’ improvement might get his more noted teammates off his back, pointed out, “We haven’t been on this back yet this year. He’s been playing well. No need to be on it.”