Chris Bosh’s name is still written in red ink on the Miami Heat’s shooting drill “Leaderboard” inside the practice gym. But Bosh was absent from the team’s first post-All-Star-break workout Wednesday and he will not be traveling to Friday’s game in Atlanta.
The Heat’s linchpin is missing, which renders the infrastructure of the roster unstable. The Heat’s brainiac anchor is gone, which changes the franchise’s ingrained style of play into a game of improv.
Bosh is out indefinitely with a clot in his left leg that he is treating with blood-thinning medication. Although no one wanted to confirm the diagnosis — as Dwyane Wade said, “none of us are doctors” — a sad feeling of déjà vu permeated the place. Balls bounced with a hollow sound. Smiles were forced. There was a lot of optimistic talk about the remainder of the season, but uncertainty hung over the entire enterprise.
A year ago, Bosh was hospitalized with blood clots that had moved into his lung and was sidelined for the final 30 games of the season. The Heat finished 15-15 without him and didn’t make the playoffs. Another lost season looms if Bosh cannot return.
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Wade, one of Bosh’s closest friends, gave the most hopeful account based on his conversations with Bosh.
“It’s not a health scare like it was last year,” Wade said. “He’s feeling good. He has a positive outlook.
“A lot of people are speculating. We’re very good friends. He shared things. His spirits are very high. I love CB the teammate but I care about CB the person more. This is a totally different situation this time.”
Bosh may reveal details soon, once he has finished consulting with doctors. But if he is on blood thinners again, medical experts say he would have to avoid contact to reduce the risk of trauma-related bleeding, and that treatment could last for three to six months. Bosh had to play it safe from February through most of the summer last year.
Without Bosh, the Heat will have to scramble in the short term, which includes Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. The timing couldn’t be worse for team president Pat Riley, who is already wrestling with decisions on the future of center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic, and their fit with the Heat.
Riley, 70, said he’s “getting too old to win down the road.” The same could be said for Wade, 34, and Bosh, almost 32, who are now chasing former teammate LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers.
No doubt Riley was at Bruce Springsteen’s concert in Sunrise on Tuesday night, soaking up energy from the tireless 66-year-old Boss, who seamlessly switched from one guitar to another nonstop for 3 hours and 20 minutes — like a back-and-forth marathon NBA fast break with no timeouts. Riley is an avid fan.
But is Riley ready to do some serious rock and rolling with this Heat roster? Suddenly Bosh — in the second year of a five-year $118 million contract — is in a state of limbo. Is early retirement in the back of Bosh’s mind or is he determined to pursue a third NBA title in Miami? How is Riley supposed to interpret what might or might not happen with Bosh’s health?
Riley the wheeler-dealer is crunching some tough numbers, including a payroll that was fifth-highest in the NBA before shedding Chris Andersen’s salary in a Tuesday trade, and the loss of three future first-round draft picks in past trades. Riley is eyeing the upcoming bonanza free agent summer, when Kevin Durant becomes available, just as he boldly went after James and Bosh in 2010.
Miami is 29-24 and the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but only 2 ½ games ahead of the eighth seed. Riley’s got to weigh the present — presumably without Bosh — and the future.
The players have to keep playing and rely on that resiliency that coach Erik Spoelstra likes to reference.
“We don’t have a choice,” Udonis Haslem said. “It’s very intense. It’s going to be fun. If you like to compete it’s the ideal situation to be in. I’ll figure out a way to make an impact. It can’t be one guy who can fill those shoes. It’s got to be multiple guys.”
Wade, who is looking rejuvenated this season as he adapts his game to the half court, seemed stunned that Bosh was stricken again, especially considering that Bosh was the only Heat player to play in all 53 games so far this season. But Wade has seen comebacks before, including that of Alonzo Mourning, who recovered from kidney disease to help the Heat win its 2006 title.
How many setbacks can the Heat take, Wade was asked.
“I guess you take as many as you get,” was his answer. “That’s the nature of life.”