Chris Bosh might be a Christmas bust.
As the calendar flips closer to the Heat’s most anticipated game of the regular season, it’s becoming more likely with everything passing day that the Heat’s best player will be watching from the bench.
The Heat (12-15) plays LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day at AmericanAirlines Arena, and Bosh could be a scratch because of a strained calf. He missed practice on Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s 6 p.m. game against the Boston Celtics (10-14).
Bosh is scheduled to miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday after injuring his leg on Dec.12 in Salt Lake City during a game against the Utah Jazz. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Bosh has improved, but his only participation Saturday was adding some vocal support from the sidelines during practice drills.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Coupled with the loss of forward Josh McRoberts for the season, this current seven-game homestand, which was once viewed as the perfect time for the Heat to shore up its team chemistry and defensive cohesion, has instead devolved into a mad scramble just to salvage some winnable games.
“Until C.B. is back, everything is on the board,” Spoelstra said. “I’d like to find some consistency, but with C.B. and Josh out that’s not realistic.”
The Heat has lost five consecutive games at home and is 0-2 since its last victory, a short-handed and improbable 95-91 win in Brooklyn against a Nets team that appears to have given up on the season already.
In other words, the Heat’s season is in such a tenuous state at the moment that the Christmas special against the Cavaliers has gone from being the most important game of the season to a salvage operation. The Heat is currently starting Chris Andersen, which is not only a first for Spoelstra since Andersen has been in Miami, but also something of an unprecedented milestone for the veteran power forward.
This is his 13th season in the NBA, and Andersen has never been a full-time starter. Sunday would be his third game in a row in the starting lineup, a career first. He had seven points, five rebounds and a blocked shot on Friday against the Wizards.
Like most things, Andersen’s perspective on starting basketball games is … different.
“It’s like any other start,” he said. “You go to put your cup of noodles into the microwave, what do you press? Start.”
“You go to get in your car, what do you do?” Andersen said. “Start it up … Bro, I’m a vet. I also have a Vette.”
Naturally, because his persona demands it, Andersen has feigned indifference publicly to the change in his role, but his game against Washington was one of his most active of the season. If he can stay healthy, he might remain in the starting lineup even when Bosh returns.
The Heat’s defense has needed a rim protector for some time in the starting lineup, and Andersen, might be the unconventional answer to the riddle for now. Also, his answers during one-on-one interviews are riddles.
Behind Andersen in rotation against the Wizards was 7-foot newcomer Hassan Whiteside, and it appears Whiteside has earned some more playing time for now. He disrupted the Wizards’ offense with his defensive prowess in the second half and finished with six points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 16 minutes.
“You send everything to him,” point guard Mario Chalmers said. “He’s a shot blocker now. He’s a big target, so it’s hard for defenses to get around him or get over him. It helps our defense out and our rebounding.”
Not to put any added pressure on the Whiteside, Chalmers then conjured up the names of former Heat greats when describing the young shot blocker’s role.
“It’s kind of how they used to treat Zo and Shaq when they had them back in the day,” Chalmers said, in reference to Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal.