Dwyane Wade Should Take Back Seat to Chris Bosh for Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade used to lead the Miami Heat by example, helping the franchise fill the win column by leaving overstuffed stat lines next to his name.

During the past four seasons, though, he led by sacrifice, giving former teammate LeBron James control of everything from the biggest box scores to the key to the city. While James has bolted back to Ohio, the challenge for Wade hasn’t changed.

Miami still needs him to be in a giving mood; only versatile big man Chris Bosh will now be the one grabbing the wheel.

Bosh may not actually be a better player than Wade, but that has never been the motivation for the latter to give up control of the spotlight. During their first full season together, Wade and James sat on a nearly even plane. Both averaged more than 25 points (25.5 and 26.7, respectively) and six rebounds (6.4 and 7.5), and both hit at least half of their field-goal attempts (50.0 and 51.0).

Wade and James dominated together, and the Heat followed their lead to 58 wins and an NBA Finals appearance. As good as it was, Wade knew it could be better.

Despite clearly possessing superstar credentials of his own, he willingly signed off on a sidekick role that would ultimately better structure the franchise.

“Are we going to be good if me and him are both scoring 27 a night?” Wade said in 2012, per ESPN.com’s Israel Gutierrez. “Yeah, we’re gonna be good, but it would be too much, ‘OK, it’s your turn, now it’s your turn.’ I wanted to give him the opportunity where he didn’t have to think about that.”

With James at the controls and Wade filling in where needed, Miami claimed consecutive NBA championships in 2012 and 2013.

That ceiling no longer exists in South Beach. Optimistic projections pit the Heat as one of several teams battling for the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed behind James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and the Derrick Rose-led Chicago Bulls.

Still, the blueprint to reach those expectations—or perhaps even surpass them—is the same as it was with a world title on the line: Wade needs to reprise his Robin role and let Bosh take over as Miami’s new Batman.

Bosh is younger than Wade (30 to 32), more durable (20 games missed the past three seasons to 58) and more expensive ($20.6 million to $15 million). All signs point to Bosh leading this team between the lines, including coach Erik Spoelstra‘s plan to take full advantage of his center’s deep bag of offensive tricks.

“What C.B. understands is he has a lot of responsibilities,” Spoelstra told reporters, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman, earlier this month. “And if we’re just talking offensive, he has a lot to do for us, in terms of facilitating, in terms of scoring, in terms of spacing the floor, and doing that from different areas on the court.”

It’s been a while since Bosh held center stage at this level.

He was the Toronto Raptors‘ focal point the first seven seasons of his career. During his final five years north of the border, he put up 22.8 points on 50.0 percent shooting and 9.9 rebounds a night. Back then, he would bully his defender on the low block, shred nets from the mid-range or explode to the basket off face-up looks from the elbow.

Heat fans rarely saw that part of Bosh’s arsenal.

With the slashing and post games of James and Wade, Miami didn’t need—or even want—Bosh to be a force around the basket. Instead, the Heat carved him a finesse role that played up his shooting touch on the perimeter.

Bosh attempted 168 threes during his entire tenure with Toronto. He launched 218 last season alone and connected on 74 of them (33.9 percent).

With James out, the Heat can’t afford to leave Bosh in a specialist’s role. They need to get him back on the low block and allow him to show he can still carry the burden as a No. 1 option.

But it’s not as simple as rediscovering his old Raptors form. What the Heat really need is an amalgamation of the interior force from back then with today’s perimeter threat, a superb scorer capable of putting up points from anywhere on the floor.

Blending those two styles together won’t be easy, but Bosh told Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling that he’s ready to embrace the challenge:

I really want to do it for the city of Miami—to show my evolution and my growth, and display a different level of my talent. It’s not easy; I went from [about] 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] in Toronto to 16 and 7 last season.

I’m a much better player than I was in Toronto, and I’ll be able to give Miami a lot more. I’m excited to really test out what I’ve done over these years, as far as leadership is concerned, as far as what’s on the court is concerned, and really put it out there.

As tough as the road ahead might be for Bosh, Wade’s could be far more difficult.

After having missed an average of 19 games the past three seasons, he can’t possibly know how his body will cooperate going forward. The Heat don’t have the depth to put him on a carefully managed maintenance plan like they did last season, so he’ll have to squeeze whatever he can out of his creaky knees.

“My focus is that every day, whether I’m feeling amazing or not, I want to come up here and practice and be available for my teammates,” he told Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick. “Give them what I’m able to give them that day, and so forth. That’s the mindset I have.”

Miami might appreciate his effort, but it obviously needs something a tad more reliable to play the role of franchise face.

It’s imperative that Wade realizes this, as well. The Heat will gladly take what he can give, but they really just need to him to find his niche spot on the team’s new pecking order. It’s going to be an adjustment and probably not the most comfortable one, but to his credit, he is trying to find his place.

“I’m still finding my way with this team and this offense,” he said, per Winderman (via ProBasketballTalk’s Kurt Helin). “So I’m still trying to see where I fit in. I know I can get a shot any time I want, but it’s about the quality of it more so than anything.”

Wade has been selective in the preseason (9.8 field-goal attempts in 23.6 minutes) but not all that efficient (40.8 percent shooting from the field). While exhibition stats aren’t the easiest to trust, these may well reflect the struggles Wade will have in reinventing himself for the good of this franchise again.

“It took Dwyane Wade about a season and a half to really figure out how to play next to LeBron James,” Helin wrote. “Now it’s taking some time to adjust to LeBron not being around.”

It’s not just about losing James, it’s also the additions of guys like Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Shabazz Napier and James Ennis. There are plenty of moving parts, and Wade must figure out how to fit a puzzle of which he used to be the centerpiece.

That job belongs to Bosh now, and he seems more than capable of handling it. As long as Wade respects that fact and properly assesses himself, Miami should still enter this campaign as it has the last several—strengthened by one of the better superstar sidekicks in the business.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Blake Griffin, Chris Paul in sketch comedy series

The two Clippers stars and the famed comedian talk about their new show.

      
 

 

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New Jersey Governer Chris Christie Signs Law Designed to Legalize Sports Betting

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law on Friday that lays the groundwork for the legalization of sports betting in the state, per Brent Johnson of NJ.com: 

The Republican governor made the move only one day after the state Assembly gave final legislative passage to the measure (S2460), which strikes provisions from New Jersey’s law books that ban sports wagering.

It’s the latest step in the Christie administration’s years-long effort to make sports betting legal in the state and help revitalize Atlantic City, which has been hit by financial woes in recent years.

In a prepared statement, Christie said:

As I’ve said all along, I am a strong proponent of legalized sports wagering in New Jersey. But given earlier decisions by federal courts, it was critical that we follow a correct and appropriate path to curtail new court challenges and expensive litigation. I believe we have found that path in this bipartisan legislative effort.

Over the past few years, Christie’s faced an uphill battle to get sports betting legalized in New Jersey. In August 2012, the four major American sports leagues and the NCAA filed suit against the state to prevent it from allowing sports betting in New Jersey casinos.

Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern was a particularly harsh critic of Christie’s push.

“The one thing I’m certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it’s doing and doesn’t care because all it’s interested in is making a buck or two, and they don’t care that it’s at our potential loss,” Stern said in December 2012, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

Over time, attitudes have changed, especially inside the NBA.

Adam Silver, Stern’s successor, said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in September that he can see the momentum behind the legalization of sports betting, and neither he nor the league will stand in the way.

“It’s inevitable that, if all these states are broke, that there will be legalized sports betting in more states than Nevada and we will ultimately participate in that,” Silver commented, per Mason Levinson and Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com.

Sports betting isn’t yet officially legal in New Jersey. According to Johnson, a federal judge will have to sign off on Christie’s lifting of the regulations on sports gambling. There’s also the lawsuit filed by U.S. sports leagues in appeals court.

New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak believes that the appeals judge will allow the state to continue with its motion.

“I think that their case is moot now that we have this bill passed following the direction of the Third Circuit court,” he said.

Casinos are expected to wait on the final ruling from the appeals court, but Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, will open up sports betting on Oct. 26.

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Florida suspends Chris Walker for first 2 games

The sophomore has been suspended for the 1st 2 games of the season for violating team rules

      
 

 

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Chris Webber part of group interested in buying Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks haven’t been in the news for many good things lately, but a former NBA star is hoping to change that. Five-time All-Star Chris Webber is part a potential ownership group — dubbed “The Webber Group” — that is interested in buying the Hawks. Webber announced the news via his Twitter account Thursday morning.
http://t.co/gQDnrpdngf— Chris Webber (@realchriswebber) October 16, 2014
The franchise has come under heavy fire in recent months after audio surfaced of general manager Danny Ferry reading a racist scouting report about then-free-agent Luol Deng. Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson also drew criticism for a racist email he sent Ferry two years ago, prompting him to sell his interest in the team on Sept. 7. Webber, 41, retired from the NBA just six years ago in 2008. He never played for the Hawks during his 15-year career but has owned a home in Atlanta for the past decade, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Webber’s group is one of many interested in purchasing

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Chris Walker Suspended 2 Games: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Florida forward Chris Walker has been suspended for the Gators’ first two games of the 2014-15 regular season and a preseason exhibition for a violation of team rules, head coach Billy Donovan announced at media day Wednesday.

Donovan did not disclose why Walker was suspended, per a report by The Associated Press (via ESPN). Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army pointed out that a three-game suspension is typically doled out to a player who failed a second drug test, though it is unclear if that applies to Walker.

The highly regarded sophomore will miss an exhibition against Barry University on Nov. 6 along with opening games against William & Mary and Miami. 

“It’ll be tough, but I can get through it,” Walker said, per Kevin Brockway of GatorSports.com.

Along with Walker’s suspension, Donovan announced freshman Brandone Francis has been ruled academically ineligible and will not play this season. A 4-star recruit and No. 32 player overall in the Class of 2014, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, Francis’ absence leaves Donovan without an expected contributor due to NCAA eligibility issues for the second straight season.

The one last year, of course, was Walker, who missed the Gators’ first 20 games of 2013-14 after receiving impermissible benefits and dealing with academic issues.

Viewed as a potential NBA lottery pick upon arriving in Gainesville, Walker’s 20-game absence left him behind the eight ball on a team competing for a national championship. Walker averaged just 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.8 minutes per game for the Gators, getting 10 minutes of playing time in only a single game.

With a bevy of veterans from last season’s team playing professionally or out of eligibility, Walker enters his sophomore season with high expectations. He’s still viewed as a potential lottery pick, though not nearly the lock he was a year ago. His expected ascent is also being baked into Florida’s preseason expectations, with most pundits having the Gators as a top-10 unit. 

“I think the biggest thing, his biggest challenge this year, is going to be his ability to manage expectations,” Donovan said in The Associated Press report. “You hear all these expectations, and people look at the fact that he’s gotten physically strong and everything else. He has such a long way to go in terms of being reliable, accountable and disciplined. Those would be the three things I would say I don’t have a real good grasp on right now, but we’re going to find out.”

Walker is expected to help anchor the middle of the defense upon his return. A lanky 6’10″ forward with an explosive leaping ability, he should give the Gators a shot-blocking presence and be an open-court menace in the rare opportunities Donovan allows his team to run.

Walker will return when the Gators play Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 21.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Q&A: Chris Kaman dreams of hunting lions

Chris Kaman dreams of hunting lions and explains why you should never bring a gun on a boat in Mexico

      
 

 

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Miami Heat News: Heat Cut Reggie Williams and Chris Johnson

The first casualties are in, and they’re not all that surprising. The Miami Heat cut veteran Reggie Williams and center Chris Johnson on Monday.
The cuts mean the Heat are down to 18 players with just five preseason games left. The team needs to trim its roster to a maximum of 15 players by October 27, just two days before its season opener versus the Washington Wizards.
Williams was expected to compete with Shannon Brown for the backup shooting guard spot behind Dwyane Wade, but he never established himself during training camp or the preseason. In the three games he was on the Heat’s roster, he didn’t receive a single minute of playing time. Considering the Heat’s lack of depth at the swingman positions, it was shocking that the veteran guard couldn’t even receive playing time in coach Erik Spoelstra’s lineups.
The five-year vet was signed by Miami on August 12. He’s a career 37 percent shooter from beyond the arc and had spent stints with three different teams prior to signing wi…

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Trail Blazers’ Chris Kaman Stars in Reality Web Series ‘Exploring Kaman’

Chris Kaman may be known as the man who lies down on his team’s bench during games, but the Portland Trail Blazers big man has a pretty active life outside of basketball.

The 32-year-old is starring in a reality web series called Exploring Kaman. The trailer for the web series shows that Kaman does some crazy things in his free time.

Exploring Kaman will premiere on Oct. 17.

[Exploring Kaman]

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Chris Bosh, Miami Heat Face Uphill Climb to Escape LeBron James’ Shadow

Life is drastically different for the Miami Heat, the defunct dynasty-seeker now headlined by Chris Bosh that—despite deft survival methods—faces an uphill climb out of the shadowy pit LeBron James‘ exit consigned them to.

Few teams, if any, could have reacted to James’ departure as skillfully and, most impressively, as swiftly. Four years removed from his first free-agent decision, the Cleveland Cavaliers were still in disarray, pining after postseason contention and earning only consecutive lottery appearances. The Heat, meanwhile, have pieced together a playoff hopeful merely weeks after a destiny-dooming loss.

But the hole James’ absence creates looms large.

Reflexive roster repairs and confidence-carting speeches haven’t created a new normal. They are only ingredients to what Miami must hope is a recipe for an instant escape from its lingering past.

 

Already Feeling the Heat

Insisting anything to the contrary is futile. 

Not even the Heat themselves, the recent standard for story-squashing, can avoid recognizing the ubiquitous hold James’ new digs has on their present-day standing. This is different. And like Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick points out, the difference between this brand of hardship and everything else the Heat have faced is obvious:

Erik Spoelstra is not particularly prone to emote from the podium or allow himself to get sucked into what he derisively describes as “storylines.” He’s more likely to insist something doesn’t matter, even when everyone with eyes and ears and sense knows it does, than to allow the slightest hint that it is affecting him or his team. That made it notable for the Miami Heat coach to acknowledge that this Saturday’s exhibition against the Cleveland Cavaliers was more than the typical preseason affair.

This isn’t to say Erik Spoelstra and the Heat haven’t tried to downplay the significance of the task at hand.

Attempts to whitewash this new, James-less reality are quite common. Spoelstra himself alleged at media day that it took “less than 10 minutes” for the Heat to come to terms with James’ return home. Bosh, the third fiddle turned primary offensive option, has also done his part.

Or rather, he’s tried.

“No,” he replied when asked if he’s talked with James since the latter signed in Cleveland, via ESPN.com.

“I’m in the mode where I’m trying to lead my team, help these guys out around here,” he would add. ”If guys aren’t in this locker room, I don’t have much time for them—if any.”

That instantly became breaking news. There was no escaping it. The bond shared between Bosh, James and Dwyane Wade has been idealized—and perhaps mythologized—over the last four years. That Bosh and James haven’t talked shop in months must mean something.

Anything.

Even if it doesn’t.

Roughly three months into their new era, this was the Heat’s first real taste of James’ power.

It wasn’t in their decision to extend the 30-year-old Bosh a max contract spanning five seasons. It wasn’t in their ability to quickly retool the roster with sound additions like Luol Deng. It didn’t even come during media day, when different versions of the same question, pertaining to the same player, were posed again and again.

No, it was Bosh’s response ahead of the Heat’s preseason matchup against the Cavaliers and the rapid overreaction it incited. This is what life without James will be like. The repetitive questions, the swelling storylines, the constant wonder, the incessant doubt—they’re all situational staples that won’t soon disappear.

 

Regular-Season Demons

Once meaningful games tip off, it’s only going to get worse.

Up to now, it’s been all locker-room dynamics and mindset-measuring. There have been no on-court displays or failures that double as incendiary devices. But there will be. And coping with the tactical repercussions of James’ departure will be equally difficult, if not worse.

James was that integral to the Heat’s dominance. It became more apparent than ever last season when they leaned on him to carry their three-peat hopes.

Removing him from Miami’s lineup is like purging the Golden State Warriors rotation of Stephen Curry then doing nothing and adding no one that replaces him. Curry assisted on 20.6 percent of all Golden State’s made field goals last year; James dropped dimes on 15.5 percent of all Miami’s made baskets. That’s in addition to leading the team in scoring. 

Bosh himself was particularly reliant on James’ playmaking abilities and court presence. More than 80 percent of his converted buckets came off assists. Nearly 30 percent of those shots were assisted by James alone.

And that’s one aspect of James’ tenure the Heat haven’t even started to replace. He was their point guard, their floor general. They don’t have that offensive pilot anymore.

Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole aren’t ball-dominant distributors. They’re specialists. Wade and Josh McRoberts are their two most established playmakers, and rookie Shabazz Napier could see ample time at point guard by necessity.

Unless something changes soon, the Heat’s offense—the one that plummeted by 8.9 points per 100 possessions without James and saw its shooting percentages take a nosedive while he was on the bench—will be overly dependent on individual shot-creating and the inside-out abilities of a new No. 1 option who helped the Toronto Raptors to just two playoff berths over seven years in this exact role.

Counting on Bosh to reprise an act he left in Toronto more than four years ago qualifies as a risky gambit. His offensive versatility cannot be readily dismissed, but it’s fair to question whether the scoring load is one he can carry anymore. He’ll have to re-adapt his game to include post-ups and face-ups in addition to floor-spacing spot-up opportunities.

“The game has evolved to value three-point shooting, and the champions of the past half decade have proven that to be true time and time again,” CBS Sports’ Zach Harper wrote shortly after James left Miami. “Bosh’s evolution has been impressive, but if it can’t continue, the Heat regress into being an outdated sort on offense.”

Should this become a matter of how—not if—Bosh adequately shoulders Miami’s offense, the results will inevitably be pitted against those of years past. The Heat never finished outside the top six in offensive efficiency under James’ watch. Imagine the firestorm that will ensue if they finish outside the top 10 or lay an offensive egg all season.

Some level of regression is to be expected under the circumstances, but because of how much money they invested in sustained success, they—Bosh specifically—need to be successful. 

Cleveland was safeguarded against these expectations out of the gate. The Heat are not. This season isn’t supposed to be easy, but it’s not supposed to be meaningless, either.

The challenge is finding the requisite purpose that at least begins putting James’ exit behind them.

 

Long Road Back

Complicating the Heat’s situation even further is the new-look Cavaliers.

If their performance dwarfs that of the Heat’s—and in all likelihood, it will—it’s yet another reminder of what’s been lost. Worse, it’s one they have no control over.

Wade can remain healthy and appear in 80 regular-season contests for the first time in his career. Bosh could have his best season ever. Deng could look like the player he was in Chicago. Miami could not only make the playoffs but emerge as a genuine Eastern Conference contender.

None of that success—expected or unforeseen—would matter when weighed against the triumph Cleveland is fated to claim.

Nothing the Cavaliers did, nor ever could have done, would have pushed them beyond James’ departure themselves. He was still in Miami, competing for and caging championships, strengthening his legacy, cementing his status as one of the all-time greats.

Only when he returned were they freed from that exclusive hell. And similar latitude doesn’t await the Heat. There is no banking on him to return, no believing their current core exceeds the promise and productivity of Cleveland’s title-gazing foundation.

In the end, that’s what makes it so hard for the Heat to climb out of James’ shadow. 

There is no formula for escaping it, immediately or gradually. There is only hoping that, with time, it fades away on its own.

 

*Stats courtesy of NBA.com unless otherwise cited.

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