Having a roster spot occupied by a hybrid player-de facto assistant coach is nothing new for the Heat. That was Juwan Howard’s role on the Heat’s two most recent NBA champions.
What’s new this year is who’s occupying the slightly modified role: Dwyane Wade.
“I don’t think he necessarily knew how much he would have to lead and be connected,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This is a different team. He has to be the next level of leadership, to be another assistant coach. He has that experience, that impact with his voice. He’s been great in embracing that. It’s the most leadership that’s required of him since he’s been here.”
Wade said Spoelstra requested over the summer that Wade expand his role.
“[They’ve] given me the go ahead to be another coach, stop practice when I feel the need to, step up and say certain things,” Wade said. “I did it a lot early in the season.
“Once Chris [Bosh] went out, I had to focus on basketball, so I got away from it. But after the Philly game [last Tuesday], I got right back into being a little more of a coach.”
Said Spoelstra: “Days like we had after the Philly game, that practice day. He was extremely involved with us, with the staff in trying to get it corrected and get everybody on the same page.”
After Monday’s morning shootaround, Bosh was asked what he thought his body would need in his first game back after missing eight games with the calf injury.
“Oxygen,” Bosh deadpanned. “Usually after about two days [out with an injury], you notice a difference. I’m not looking to be in impeccable shape. It’ll only take a couple of games to get my game legs under me.”
The other return the 6-11 Bosh wants to make is his offensive positioning.
“Just getting closer to the basket,” he said. “I think I’ve been outside a little bit too much. It’s easier to float around, shoot a couple of threes. But I need to get back to my game, which is 15 feet and in. Putting pressure on a defense. I want to get into the post a lot more. I think I’m a lot deadlier when I’m closer to the basket.”
Though Bosh came into the season saying something similar, he’s drifted back to the perimeter more than he has wanted.
“Old habits die hard,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for four years. That’s what we needed. We needed me to spread the floor. Now, we need me to play on the interior a little more. We don’t have that 6-8, 260-pound point guard.”
Bosh’s return set the Heat’s starting lineup as Wade and Mario Chalmers in the backcourt with Bosh, Luol Deng and Chris Andersen up front.
As for the rotation, Norris Cole came in for Chalmers. Then, Chalmers came in for Wade and Danny Granger for Bosh with 3:53 left in the first quarter. Hassan Whiteside replaced Andersen with 2:52 remaining.
SPEAK NO EVIL
Speaking of that 6-8, 260-pound multi-position weapon, who, of course, is LeBron James — whatever opinions the Heat leaders have on Cleveland’s recent troubles, they’re keeping them to themselves.
“I don’t have any reaction,” Spoelstra said. “Honestly, I don’t.
“Look at my team right now. I have enough on my plate.”
Said Wade: “We’ve lost 17 games. I don’t have time to worry about Cleveland.”