Miami Heat

Chris Bosh embracing new leading role with Miami Heat

<cutline_leadin>Bigger role:</cutline_leadin> Heat center Chris Bosh, left, talks to guard Mario Chalmers during a preseason game. Bosh said — as the Heat’s current franchise player — he talks to his teammates all the time.
<cutline_leadin>Bigger role:</cutline_leadin> Heat center Chris Bosh, left, talks to guard Mario Chalmers during a preseason game. Bosh said — as the Heat’s current franchise player — he talks to his teammates all the time. AP

It’s not that Chris Bosh abhors social interaction, and it’s not that he’s bad at it either. He just would rather be alone most of the time.

His favorite days on the road are the ones when he’s by himself in his hotel room.

He prefers solitary pursuits.

Bosh spends pretty much every pregame with his face in a book, and his favorite hobby is computer programming.

When he went to Brazil this preseason, the Heat’s All-Star center spent more time with his family than his teammates. For example, he and his wife visited Christ the Redeemer at dawn. The team toured the giant statue of Jesus overlooking Rio de Janeiro at dusk.

And then there was the 2010-11 season, that rock-star spectacle when Bosh and LeBron James first joined Dwyane Wade in Miami. It was clear early on how Bosh fit into the Heat’s superstar trio. He didn’t. The Super Friends Tour was a two-person act with James and Wade at the podium every night.

Bosh was comfortable by himself.

A lone wolf

By nature, he is a lone wolf, and one of the more private players in the NBA. By necessity, he needs to be a vocal leader this season and unifier in the locker room. He’s aware of the disconnect, and that’s a good first step.

Is it easy for Bosh, the Heat’s franchise player, to communicate with people?

“Naturally, no,” Bosh said Monday, two days before from the Heat’s season opener. “It’s easier for me — I like spending time by myself.”

Behind the scenes and in the Heat’s locker room, filling the leadership void created by James’ departure to Cleveland is one of the bigger concerns facing the team entering the season.

In addition to doing a little bit of everything during games, James was also a powerful voice off the court for the Heat.

James is a natural-born leader, and while there are still plenty of lieutenants on the Heat’s team this season, a four-star general — someone who is going to lead the team in minutes played, defense, scoring and nightly swagger — hasn’t been commissioned.

Bosh doesn’t need to be James for the Heat to be successful this season, but he knows he needs to discover his own unique way to motivate and inspire.

“It has been a challenge,” Bosh said. “I can’t duplicate what he did. … He was a great leader, he is a great leader; guys following him easily,” Bosh said. “I’m trying to put my own spin on it and bring my own personality to it, and that has been a difficult journey for me, but I’m learning every day.

“I’m trying to make sure I personally talk to guys all the time and just take pointers from other people and see how I can bring all that to the table.”

He’s trying, and his heart seems in it. Maybe that’s enough.

“I force myself to talk every day,” Bosh said. “It’s not easy. It’s something that I always, always work on. My wife pushes me every day to work on that stuff. There is no hiding for me, so I might as well get it over with and talk and be social.”

Perspective is needed, of course.

If Bosh averages 27 points and 12 rebounds per night this season it’s not going to much matter who he does or doesn’t talk to in the locker room.

When the Heat begins the season Wednesday at home game against the Washington Wizards, Bosh will not be the only leader on the team. If he can lead statistically, maybe Wade and Udonis Haslem, the team’s co-captains, can worry about the rest.

Before the first day of training camp, Wade stood in front of his teammates — new and old — and gave an impassioned speech about opportunity and attitude and, inherent in any conversation that early in the process, Life After LeBron.

Wade looked in his teammates eyes. He reassured those who struggled in the 2014 postseason and introduced the newcomers to the Heat’s culture.

“I just wanted them to hear my voice as a leader and one of the faces of this franchise on that first day just to set the tone of it being a different year, and a different opportunity for a lot of guys in this locker room,” Wade said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight.”

Most importantly, Wade and Haslem began preparing everyone for a different type of regular season than the final 82-game set with James.

“We got to work for everything, and I’m fine with that. I’m happy with that,” Haslem said. “I think that builds character, and that’s going to bring us closer together and that’s just going to prepare us for the next journey when we get to the playoffs.”

The Heat coasted through 2013-14 regular season and it wasn’t exactly the healthiest type of six-month joyride.

If James is going to be praised here for a being a great leader, he’s also going to be rightly criticized for retreating into a shell at times last season.

James set a terrible tone defensively most nights as the days and months dragged on until the start of the playoffs.

By the end, the Super Friends pact was sketchier than summer air conditioning in San Antonio.

Filling the void

With James now gone and Wade something of an unknown quantity — “My impact is going to be what my impact is going to be,” Wade said Monday. — it’s on Bosh to lead the franchise. If nothing else, it won’t be boring until April.

After declaring on Monday that he needs to be an animal on the court this season, Bosh was asked a fanciful question: If he were an animal, what animal would he be?

“A werewolf,” Bosh said. “Sometimes it’s good to be the hunter and not the hunted.”

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