Miami still figuring out how to use Chris Bosh

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Every fanbase seems to pick someone on the team to be their whipping boy — the guy whose fault it is, even when it isn’t. Someone to be the lightning rod of fan wrath.

In Miami, it seems to have become Chris Bosh. And with the now national Heat fan base, he has taken incoming fire from all directions in the last few days, as the Heat have dared show they are still figuring it all out. Jason Whitlock was the most over the top, but his voice speaks for a lot of people. I think his conclusions are wrong, but he speaks for a lot of people.

I’ve compared Bosh to Pau Gasol before because I think it’s apt — not directly in terms of game, they are different in style and Gasol is far more polished; but in terms of situation. These are not guys who can carry teams on their own to titles, but if used right can be key cogs in getting the rings. They are very good second options. Or for Bosh, third option. But we then can’t get mad at them for not acting like option number one.

First, Bosh is not soft. Nor is Gasol. What they are not are classic bangers — you cannot match them up on a true, old-school center and expect them to act like Patrick Ewing. Same is true with physical power forwards. What you need to make either of them their best is a real center next to them — Gasol is freed up to do a lot when Andrew Bynum is along side to rebound and do the dirty work. Bynum is the banger, the guy who blocks shots. (Odom has been doing some of that lately.)

Miami has nobody like that. Not Joel Anthony, not Big Z. So Bosh is asked to do things that are not really in his wheelhouse, then he gets called out for not doing them well. What he needs is not to be asked to do them so much, but that is not the Heat’s roster right now.

That said, Gasol learned to stand his ground better, and Bosh needs to. Right now he is too tentative.

Secondly, the Heat have yet to figure out how to use him on offense. It’s something you could see at the end of the loss to the Jazz, as Zach at The Point Forward explains perfectly:

Bosh did not attempt a shot or draw a foul after the 5:11 mark of the fourth quarter Tuesday night despite being on the floor for that entire stretch — and being matched with slow-footed Kyrylo Fesenko, who clearly could not guard him. The Heat isolated for Bosh on back-to-back possessions a little more than four minutes into the fourth, and he blew by Fesenko both times, drawing two shooting fouls. He made 2-of-4 free throws, and then scored two minutes later on a gorgeous pick-and-roll with LeBron James.

After that? He acted the part of a classic big man role player. He screened for James. He set up a screen-and-dribble hand-off for James. He screened for Dwyane Wade on most of Wade’s drives in overtime. He acted as a decoy on Wade’s game-tying three-pointer with 17 seconds left in the game.

A $110 million decoy: That’s what Bosh was for the last 10 minutes of the game.

That is not all on Bosh — he’s a big, one of the ball handlers needs to call his number than get him the ball. If he has the mismatch, exploit it. Problem is, James and Dwyane Wade are walking mismatches, so they see that and call their own numbers all the time.

The Heat paid Bosh big-time money but we all knew he was option number three in the offense from the start. And that is not going to mean huge numbers on this team. His teammates need to do a better job of recognizing when he has the mismatch and to get him the ball in spots he can succeed. Still, at the end of the game you’d rather have James and Wade making the plays. They are better at it.

So Bosh is what he is. The third wheel. Not somebody you trade, somebody you need to learn to use better. But still the third wheel.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”