Extreme emotions first lifted then flattened the Miami Heat, a team being tortured by bad karma this season.
After Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg engineered the acquisition of point guard Goran Dragic to fill the team’s most pressing need, there was grim news about the health of Chris Bosh. Blood clots in his lungs likely mean Bosh will miss the remainder of the season while he undergoes treatment with blood thinners.
Concern for Bosh overshadowed any celebration over the imminent arrival of the “The Dragon” Dragic. All the congratulatory praise from NBA experts and optimism among the players evaporated late Thursday night.
Bosh had checked into the hospital. The pain he had been feeling in his rib cage, the fatigue he felt during a short, post-All-Star game trip to Haiti with Dwyane Wade and their spouses was indicative of a pulmonary problem. Once it was diagnosed, Bosh’s season appeared to be over. Serena Williams and Andersen Varejao missed months with similar conditions.
The Heat still has 29 games to play, after Friday’s game in New York against the Knicks, so as much as anyone would like for this disappointing season to be over, it won’t be for a while.
Bosh will focus on his recovery. Heat players could find motivation in making his recuperation more pleasant with a second-half surge.
That will be tough without Bosh, the linchpin of the team and its thoughtful leader — its Socrates.
Bosh said he had learned a lot about himself during his struggles this season, the first of the post-LeBron James era, when he was expected to take up much of the slack and reassert the star power he had sacrificed during James’ four-year reign. Bosh chose to stay when James left and signed a $118 million deal, the largest guaranteed contract in the league. The NBA was waiting for the new Bosh to make the Heat his team as Wade aged gracefully. Bosh was determined to apply that self-enlightenment for a stretch run into the playoffs for the Heat, lagging in eighth place in the awful, often unwatchable Eastern Conference.
The timing seemed right. Wade was back for his first game since Jan. 27, strained hamstring healed. Luol Deng was finding consistency. Hassan Whiteside was ready to prove he’s no fluke. And Dragic was going to be the point guard the Heat has yearned for, a facilitator with speed, accuracy and vision who could yank this team back into an energetic tempo.
Shelve that concept. Indefinitely. Dragic will be missing one of his prime targets, one of the main reasons he decided to leave the Phoenix Suns and join the Heat. Bosh ranked 13th in the league in scoring with a 21.1 average. Udonis Haslem will likely move into his power forward slot. Moreover, Wade, Bosh, Deng and Whiteside have played a total of only 44 minutes together. Their chance to jell has ended before it really got going.
The dynamic duo of Bosh and Wade? Scuttled by leg injuries to both that caused them to miss a total of 25 games. The emergence of Whiteside? Diminished now by the absence of Bosh. Early optimism surrounding do-everything big man Josh McRoberts? Crushed by his Dec. 9 knee injury.
The Heat has provided a graphic illustration of the one step forward, two steps back quandary.
Perhaps the Heat is paying interest on the four rich years of LeBron’s golden touch, when Miami turned into NBA Eden with four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and won two championships. The sellouts, parades and spectacle of King James at his very best has been replaced by a sub-.500 team that can’t even keep up with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Riley’s brilliant trade for Dragic loses much of its impact with Bosh on the sideline. The value is undeniable; the Heat gave up Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams, Justin Hamilton and two future first-round draft picks for a true point guard who can stretch the floor, make a high percentage of his shots and get the ball to Wade and Deng on the move and to the bigs where they like it.
Dragic instantly put the Heat in the playoff picture. A starting lineup of Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh and Whiteside was poised for a postseason run.
Instead, the Heat acquired the league’s Most Improved Player only to lose the team’s Most Important Player.