Greg Cote

Heat's crucial Game 5 loss gives team more to worry about than #bringboshback

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts after a play during the first quarter in Game 5 of the first round of the 2016 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., April 27, 2016.
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts after a play during the first quarter in Game 5 of the first round of the 2016 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Charlotte Hornets at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on Wed., April 27, 2016. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Well, this won’t make that #BringBoshBack hashtag go away any time soon.

A Miami Heat victory here in Game 5 would have restored order in this first-round playoff series and maybe rendered that hashtag a curiosity relegated to Internet hibernation. Instead, this damaging 90-88 home loss Wednesday night has Miami on the brink of postseason elimination and can only cast more light and heat on everything that hashtag implies:

Could Chris Bosh be playing right now?

Is the team’s caution on his medical condition prudent or excessive?

Bosh could only sit courtside in a suit Wednesday, inactive as he has been every game since Feb. 9, and watch helplessly as Miami frittered away a lead in the final minute on the 12th of Charlotte’s 3-point shots. A big 25-point night by Dwyane Wade went to waste as Miami is pushed now to the edge of early elimination.

Wade appeared to be fouled while shooting in the closing seconds — “From my vantage point it certainly looked like Dwyane got fouled,” said coach Erik Spoelstra — but no whistle blew in the stunned-silent bayside arena.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra discusses the Miami Heat's 90-88 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on April 27, 2016. The Hornets lead the series 3-2.

Wade was a bit more descriptive about the non-call.

“My wife got to deal with me tonight, no on else,” he said. “I’m gonna be pissed off.”

Miami, loser of three straight in this series, now must find a way to win Friday in Charlotte to force a Game 7 back in Miami on Sunday. The Heat is 13-0 all-time in playoff series it led, 2-0, a perfect streak now in jeopardy.

“Now it gets real,” Spoelstra said.

The loss unfolded amid the backdrop of the most curious issue of Bosh’s availability — something suddenly in the news of his own doing this week.

This is what happens when the Heat Way meets the New Way — when a close-to-the-vest franchise sees its manicured privacy splayed out on social media.

It is the calculated timing of this — out of the shadows and into the light during the NBA playoffs — that has turned the Heat’s ongoing drama with Bosh into a fast-blooming, unexpected little controversy.

We have seen something like this before.

Wade used social media like a carpenter does a tool last summer in lobbying the team for the money he felt he deserved, Wade the loyalist willing to sacrifice became Wade the businessman making clear he wanted what was his.

Dwyane Wade discusses the lack of foul call on a critical fourth quarter play in the Miami Heat's 90-88 loss to the Charlotte Hornets in Game 5 on April 27, 2016.

Now Bosh (and his wife) have suddenly utilized social platforms to apparently exert pressure on the team to let him back on the court — making public a disagreement between player and team that had previously been private, just like the Heat likes it.

Imagine if social media had existed as an outlet in the prime of Larry Bird or even Michael Jordan? Athletes don’t need agents as mouthpieces anymore in order to lobby management. Now they cut out the middle man and go straight to the public in a couple of clicks.

It seems the Bosh/Heat disagreement over his return has been marinating for a while in secrecy and silence.

Bosh wants to play. Now. In this postseason. He thinks he’s ready for his triumphant comeback.

But the Heat continues to tell its highest-paid and ostensibly best player: Not yet. And in effect, not ‘til next season.

A player and his team are at odds over his treatment and recovery from a recurrence of blood clots, the franchise on the prudent side of abundant caution. It has played out mostly in private, but no more.

This is not the way the Heat likes to operate.

This franchise likes to think if itself as all about first class and family.

That is why this — by the standards set by Pat Riley — borders on unseemly.

Consecutive Heat playoff losses in Charlotte apparently led Mr. and Mrs. Bosh this week to circumvent the privacy preferred by the Heat and to use social media to make their case for his getting back on the court – blindsiding Heat management.

Heat officials “don’t understand why they’re doing that,” a club insider told us Wednesday evening.

It certainly didn’t start after Miami leaped to a 2-0 first-round series lead with decisive, high-scoring performances at home. If anything the narrative then was how little Miami seemed to be missing Bosh, who last played Feb. 9 just before the all-star break.

But two straight losses on the road and Twitter suddenly caught the Heat’s eye as Adrienne Bosh, the players’ wife, responded to a comment that Miami suddenly missed her husband by re-Tweeting it with the provocative hashtag, #BringBoshBack.

Soon after, Bosh posted a Snapchat video of himself practicing and sinking shots, with the words, “I still got it,” and that same going-viral hashtag: #BringBoshBack.

Bosh has found a doctor who has cleared him to play. But the Heat’s medical team still has not done so. An issue evidently is whether it is OK for Bosh to go off his blood-thinning medication.

Bosh said back on March 10 (through a personal publicist, not through the team, in his only comment): “I remain positive that I will be able to return this season.” But the club repeats the status quo and refers to Bosh as still “out indefinitely.” And now “this season” could be only one game from ending.

It is the silence that previously enveloped this matter that makes the noise now seem doubly loud.

The club and player both have been wrong to be so secretive about what exactly happened to Bosh and what the treatment and prognosis are. This is not a classic medical-privacy issue. Bosh is a public figure, a basketball superstar who missed half of last season with blood clots and had a recurrence earlier this season. He endorses and appears in TV commercials for a blood-thinning medication – itself an indication of a willingness to be open about his condition.

Better communication privately and more openness publicly on both sides might have helped prevent a situation where the Boshes felt the need to plead their case on social media, creating a perhaps unintended but still ill-timed distraction for a team battling through a tough playoff series.

There should be no question Miami is better with Bosh. The analytics that suggest otherwise do not take into account that he did not enjoy the benefit of playing alongside Joe Johnson or with the improved shooting of Josh Richardson.

There also should be no question that the Heat’s imperative must continue to be the future and long-term health of Chris Bosh — the player, and the man — more than any narrow focus on winning the next basketball game.

Neither playoff stakes nor social-media lobbying should alter that priority.

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.

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