The most prominently placed photo in the Heat’s “Hall of Champions” is not The Shot.
Yes, Ray Allen’s iconic three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals is emphatically displayed inside the corridor of memories connecting the court at AmericanAirlines Arena to the locker room, but prime real estate in the passageway — the Boardwalk and Park Place of Heat respect — has been given to Chris Bosh’s rebound.
Bosh might be the most underappreciated basketball player on Planet Earth, but not in Miami. In South Florida, Bosh is respected, and The Rebound is revered accordingly.
The photo is displayed just to the left of the double doors that lead directly to the Heat’s locker room. That The Rebound is the last and most obvious thing visitors see as they turn the corner into the inner sanctum is a clear statement of the Heat’s core values.
Pace is great and space is nice but, in the words of Pat Riley: “No rebounds; no ring.”
It was in that very same hallway, of course, where Bosh so famously collapsed after the 2011 NBA Finals.
No amount of glue and wallpaper is ever going to hide that memory, and that’s just the way Bosh wants it. He never wants to be far away from what it feels like to lose it all, especially this season, which is the most important of his career.
“Getting to the Finals and losing, we understand that it’s a process,” Bosh said. “We don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We learned that the first year. This season is different from last season, and we take that approach.
“We have to put last season behind us, step up to the drawing board and redo this thing all over again.”
It’s only the preseason, but Bosh appears to already be sketching the outline of a masterpiece. Through six games, he has played near flawless basketball in preparation for the Heat’s run at history. He leads the team in points per game (17.0), field-goal percentage (.613) and rebounds per game (4.8) and he is the only player of the team’s so-called Big 3 to not miss a game for rest.
Don’t expect Bosh’s first break of the preseason to come on Wednesday in New Orleans. With the road game against the Pelicans being the penultimate game of the exhibition calendar, the Heat might use it as a dress rehearsal for opening night. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are expected to play together in New Orleans for the first time since Oct. 10, the second game of the preseason in Detroit.
Wade has been inactive for every other preseason game, but on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena he was paired with Chris Bosh against the San Antonio Spurs while James watched from the bench. Without James in the lineup, the Heat defeated the Spurs by 25 points. Wade provided the game’s highlights, but it was Bosh who kept the gears of the Heat’s offense and defense perfectly oiled.
“He’s at a very, very comfortable level right now with whatever role — whether it’s the five or the four — and he’s shooting the ball extremely well,” James said. “He’s very comfortable in being the point man in a lot of our offenses and our offense kind of goes through him.”
The Heat doesn’t draw up many plays for Bosh, which makes James’ point even more profound.
Against the Spurs, Bosh spaced the floor at times, but also initiated precise pick-and-rolls with Wade. Defensively, Bosh helped hold Spurs power forward Tim Duncan to nine points.
It has been that way with Bosh throughout the preseason and, in some ways, this preamble to the regular season has served as a declaration for the Heat’s versatile big man. He grabbed the most important rebound in Heat history in Game 6, and now he’s ready to take more.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday that “more experience” in the Heat’s system has allowed Bosh to play more instinctually.
“I think that’s what everyone is seeing right now,” Spoelstra said. “He’s able to do what he’s done so well for us in the past, which is facilitate and allow things to work, but also be aggressive and make teams have to guard him.”
Spoelstra has always been quick to heap praise on Bosh, and this preseason has been no different. Since 2011, the Heat’s coach has called Bosh the team’s “most important player,” but now Spoelstra has elevated his praise of Bosh to a different level. Like James, Spoelstra has been referring to Bosh as a “one-through-five” type of player.
“His game has evolved in so many different areas,” Spoelstra said. “Arguably, he has to evolve in more areas than any other player, and that’s on both sides of the floor. But we’ve put him on every spot on the court. For a center, that’s dynamic.”
This and that
• The Heat waived Jarvis Varnado, Charlie Westbrook and Larry Drew on Monday, leaving 17 players on the roster. The team can carry a maximum of 15 players into the regular season.
• Bosh was not at practice Monday. He had a court appearance in Orlando involving a child custody case.
• Wade’s self-produced mini-documentary chronicling his injuries throughout the 2013 postseason was released Monday.
• Rashard Lewis was not with the team Monday. He has been away attending to personal matters since last week.