Miami Heat

Heat’s Chris Bosh shedding label of being ‘soft’ player

Miami Heat center Chris Bosh looks on during team practice at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, in preparation for a regular season game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
Miami Heat center Chris Bosh looks on during team practice at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Tuesday, November 11, 2014, in preparation for a regular season game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. El Nuevo Herald

Chris Bosh used to block people out of paint so LeBron James could fly in for a rebound.

Some people don’t want to hear that, especially Bosh’s detractors, but it’s true. Bosh did a lot for the Heat that went unnoticed in his first four years with team, but clearing people out of the lane for others to grab rebounds was one of the most important. It put the ball in the hands of the team’s playmakers, and that led to fast breaks and wide-open shots on the other end of the court.

In other words, Bosh did the dirty work for years, and rightfully so. He was on a team with the best player of his generation.

“He will do whatever it takes to win, and he has proven that time and time again on his résumé,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Bosh after Tuesday’s practice. “He commits as a two-way player, first of all, which is very tough to do in this league.”

Of course, none of that stuff can be easily measured. It meant little to nothing to critics of the team and Bosh at the time, and will only truly be appreciated years from now when the Heat’s accomplishments can be weighed objectively over time.

From a purely individual standpoint, though, that hard-to-quantify defensive strategy decreased Bosh’s rebounding numbers and added to the myth that he was soft. That angered him at first, but he’s an intelligent person so it wasn’t hard to move past unfounded labels.

Bosh isn’t soft. The opposite is true, actually, and he is proving it now in more conventional ways in his new, leading role with the Heat.

Bosh is ranked among the league leaders in rebounds and is averaging a double-double to begin the season. Entering Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, Bosh is averaging 23.6 points (eighth in the league) and 10.3 rebounds per game (tied for 12th).

“I told people I could rebound a long time ago — I told people that,” Bosh said. “Then they’re going to be crazy when, ‘Oh, he can rebound now?’ But I told you I could rebound a long time ago. It’s just because my numbers were down, I told people the math, and they were like, ‘Ah, get out of here.’ So, I’m not going to be logical now.”

Logic dictates that a matchup against Pacers center Roy Hibbert on Wednesday will provide another litmus test for Bosh. He struggled at times against Hibbert during the LeBron years, and now Bosh enters the game with a player efficiency rating of fourth in the league. Player efficiency rating, or PER, is an advanced stat that attempts to measure a player’s overall per-minute impact.

There’s a lot of math involved, but this time it’s making Bosh look good.

Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans leads the league in PER (35.7), according to basketball-reference.com, followed by Golden State’s Steph Curry (29.8), DeMarcus Cousins (28.2) of the Sacramento Kings and Bosh (26.8).

Spoelstra, not one for advanced stats, summed it all up this way: “If [Bosh] takes a break on that side of the floor, we’re not going to win, and he understands that just as well as anybody.”

THIS AND THAT

▪ Chris Andersen has missed five consecutive games with bruised ribs, but participated in the team’s full-contact portion of practice Tuesday. Spoelstra said Andersen would be reevaluated on Wednesday morning, but the backup center is expected to play.

▪ Spoelstra, succinctly describing what Josh McRoberts adds to the team: “He makes our better players better.”

Wednesday: Pacers at Heat

When/where: 7:30 p.m., AmericanAirlines Arena.

TV/radio: Sun Sports and ESPN; WAXY 104.3 FM, 790 AM and WAQI 710 AM (Spanish).

Series: Pacers lead 55-40.

Noteworthy: Heat backup center Chris Andersen is healthy enough to return to action after missing five consecuitve games with bruised ribs. Center Justin Hamilton is doubtful because of a left adductor strain. Danny Granger (hamstring) is available but likely will not play, according to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. For the Pacers, Paul George (fractured right tibia), George Hill (bruised left knee), C.J. Watson (bruised right foot) and David West (sprained right ankle) are out. C.J. Miles (migraines) and Rodney Stuckey (sore left foot) are questionable.

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