The Inbounds: Chris Bosh and being what you’re not your way

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Chris Bosh has accepted that he has to play center for the Miami Heat. He doesn’t want to, it’s not what he has preferred, not from the moment he signed up for the Triad in South Beach. He likes his finesse game, feels that he’s better as a four, likes the freedom of power forward, and generally has turned his nose up at the idea of being the center. But last year, the Heat won the title with Bosh at center. Kind of.

Bosh played what you would call center because he was the fifth player on the floor and the tallest. He was the primary defender on the biggest player, and his game focused more on inside play. At the same time, though, Bosh was nailing threes and being used as the outlet valve on the drive-and-kick. Bosh tried to bulk up this summer, and then eventually abandoned that plan, and slimmed down even more. The compromise is clear. He’ll play center, but he’ll play it his way.

Bosh wants to be faster than the opposing center, and that’s something that he can rely on the rest of the offense to justify. The Heat rely on team defense to create turnovers and stops, then translate those to transition opportunities using their freakish athleticism. So though Bosh will be matched up against the biggest opponent a lot of the time, he’ll have help from swiping guards and forwards, and as we saw last season, LeBron James will even take some of the work, as he guarded Dwight Howard for stretches. Bosh gets the best of both worlds. He gets to get the pressure of playing five off his back while still essentially playing the four.

That’s kind of the secret to the Heat. Smallball is playing players smaller than traditionally accepted at various positions. What the Heat do is remove the five entirely. They don’t have a shot-blocker/rim-protector (who can catch, hi there Joel Anthony), so they just eliminated it. Their positional flexibility and athletic superiority gifts them the luxury of simply scrapping the positions all together. Their small forward plays point-center and their shooting guard plays point-forward. Their power forward plays power forward and calls it center, and their point guard plays shooting guard.

Say hello my old friend Mr. McCraig, with a leg for an arm, and an arm for a leg!”

Bosh gets to shoot threes, run the floor, play in the pick-and-pop. His compromise is crashing the glass and finishing on putbacks. Bosh’s struggles in out-boxing bigger opponents isn’t a major concern here, because the Heat are going to shoot a high percentage anyway. And his length makes up for his lack of bulk.

That may be what speaks the most to the changes in the NBA. It’s not about size, it’s not about bulk, it’s all about length. Anthony Davis is rail thin and will still be effective. Bosh is scrawny-strong, and can just reach over guys to finish plays. It’s maximizing the resources you have instead of trying to translate a player’s skill into a body type where his skills may not be so comfortable.

At its core, the combination of James, Wade , and Bosh was never perfect. You look at the new-look Lakers, and dynamic distributing point guard with efficient shooting stroke, plus high-usage sh0t-making shooting guard with exceptional skill plus dominant center with hyper-athleticism makes sense. That’s a combination that intuitively makes sense. Distributor plus scorer plus finisher. Passer plus shooter plus rebounder. That’s before you add Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, but the effect is the same. The Heat, on the other hand, had a creating, scoring, all-around small forward, a scoring, gambling shooting guard, and a finesse power forward. The fit’s not obvious.

But the Heat made it work by having a translation of their skills. There’s not a lot of sacrifice that goes on with the stars in Miami, outside of Wade learning to play without the ball more. Bosh is doing what he’s always done, just in different times and in a different flow. The sacrifice comes at the defensive end and in pursuit of the team concept, which is strong and well-executed.

This may not be a career year for Bosh, and in truth, joining Miami hurt his personal star power more than anything. He’s the Ned of the 3 Amigos, the George Harrison to James and Wade’s John and Paul. But it affords him continued success, a smaller role in a bigger position, and the ability to win consistently. He’ll be as big a part of the Heat’s success as he’s ever been, and will continue to fit better into the offense. You can call him center, but he’s not genuinely a center. He’s just Chris Bosh, just as no position fits James. That may be the most impressive thing about the Heat. They never fit their guys into new roles, they just created a different team around individual identities.

And they’re still winning, like a Bosh.

Report: Lakers asked LaVar Ball to pull back on criticism of Luke Walton

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There’s so much transparent marketing happening with LaVar Ball that it’s often not worth the server space to type up what he says and post it. The father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is so breathlessly unexciting in his pitch for relevance in comparison to the actual happenings of the NBA, the irony of which is not unnoticed here.

Still, Mr. Ball has infrequently stepped out from his professional Uncle At a Barbeque cosplay to criticize the Lakers and coach Luke Walton. Mr. Ball has made it clear he thinks Lonzo should play more often, and in fourth quarters. That hasn’t been productive for either side, and it appears that the team has asked Mr. Ball to pull back on openly criticizing Walton.

According to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the team and Mr. Ball met to discuss their relationship in November.

Via ESPN:

The meeting, which took place within the past few weeks, was called by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.

LaVar Ball confirmed the meeting took place, telling ESPN, “It was the best thing, man. Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down. It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.

“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization. Because if everybody winning, we good.”

“I’m going to say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it,” Ball said. “And they said, ‘LaVar, come and talk to us first.’ So that’s fine too.

“But I am going to say, to plant a seed, ‘Let’s look for this now.’ They may not want to hear that, but it’s going to be successful if you listen to what I’m saying on that fact that I know what it takes for my son to run like this.”

Mr. Ball’s influence on his son is unique, but the team is far more than an avenue for Lonzo to play basketball. Indeed, Lonzo is not even one the best two or three players on the Lakers. The organization needs to function at a professional level and doesn’t need Mr. Ball to achieve that. Sidestepping any Whataboutism in the face of sketchy NBA decisionmaking — Phil Jackson, the Bulls front office, any Billy King trade, Isiah Thomas, etc. — it’s not immediately clear that Mr. Ball agrees.

It’s got to be a hassle for Walton to have to deal with this type of thing. The team started enforcing an existing rule a rule recently that stops members of the media from congregating in the same area where NBA friends and family are after a game, but it’s unlikely that will stop reporters from ambulance-chasing Ball any time soon.

Lonzo has remained in LA, which is exactly what Mr. Ball wanted when his son went to UCLA. The younger Ball has struggled a bit, but he’s part of an energetic young core that’s on the up in a tough conference. Lonzo is even leading the team in assists. But Mr. Ball persists in stepping where he’s unqualified, presumably as a means to continue his guerilla marketing campaign (or perhaps motivated by it). LaVar doesn’t realize his work is done — Lonzo is a Laker — and he should let 16 championship trophies in the No. 2 TV market in the country take it from here.

Instead, Mr. Ball produces the most boring and uninspiring stories week after week. This is the league where major free agents break their legs in the first five minutes of play with their new team, where MVPs sign with the best team of all-time after they’ve already won a championship, and where the best player of all-time gives you a crucial chasedown block in Game 7 of the Finals. Nothing Mr. Ball can do will ever be interesting in the grand scheme of the NBA.

Meanwhile, the Lakers and the New York Knicks actually played a pretty wild OT game on Tuesday. If only that were what we could all concentrate on.

Watch the Knicks and Lakers make every shot for 2 straight minutes of game clock

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Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers was a good one, with the teams going-back-and-forth all night. In an OT game that came down to the wire, a sequence in the third quarter was perhaps indicative of the kind of contest it was in Madison Square Garden.

Starting with a little more than six minutes to go in the third the teams traded eight consecutive baskets while MSG rose to an accompanying fever pitch.

The whole sequence was pretty hilarious, and lent to that feeling you get sometimes while watching competitive NBA games of complete exhilaration.

Via Twitter:

The gap spanned from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s missed 3-pointer with 6:21 left to Brook Lopez‘s missed shot with 3:51 to go.

New York wound up winning in OT, 113-109.

Joel Embiid says he thinks people are about to start hating him

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Philadelphia 76ers have been the Twitter darlings of the NBA for the past few years. Thanks to former general manager Sam Hinkie and the tanking process, guys like Joel Embiid have become even more admired now that the team is in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Of course, players like Embiid are part of the generation that is always online, and the fact that they play in the NBA doesn’t keep them from participating in social media with their contemporaries. Embiid has a great Twitter feed, and is often out on it trying to get dates from the likes of Rihanna while trolling other NBA stars on Instagram.

Of course, as we’ve seen with players in the past, good fortune does not always shine forever. Indeed, conscious of this fact, Embiid as much to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne during a recent interview.

Via ESPN:

People love you at the beginning,” Embiid explains. “But at some point they’re gonna start hating you. LeBron. Russell Westbrook. All the superstars. Even Steph. He’s so likable. He does nothing wrong, but some people still hate him. It just comes with the nature of it. I’ve seen it.

“I feel like I’m about to go through it. I think it’s coming. People always want something new.”

The ups and downs of how NBA fandom changes the perception of certain players is fascinating, and some even try to directly manipulate that. And indeed, while Embiid is certainly hilarious on social media, the best thing to keep fans at bay will be him staying on the floor and playing games for the Sixers.

Let’s hope that keeps happening and nobody turns on him anytime soon.

Gregg Popovich says he was ‘guilty of over-coaching’ LaMarcus Aldridge

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LaMarcus Aldridge has been much better for the San Antonio Spurs this season. This comes after a tumultuous offseason in which it became clear that Aldridge was unhappy with his time in Texas.

That information came to light over the summer, and indeed both Aldridge and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sat down to have a discussion to work out their differences in preparation for the upcoming season.

The results have been stupendous, with Aldridge playing better than ever in San Antonio despite the team lacking star Kawhi Leonard. Aldridge is averaging career highs in points per-100 possessions, which makes sense given his career-high 119 offensive rating.

Apparently part of Popovich’s change in dealing with Aldridge was how he coached him. Popovich told NBA.com recently that he made the mistake of over coaching Aldridge, saying that the veteran didn’t need as much guidance as young star players did when they came to him in the past.

Via NBA.com:

“We broke bread a few times, talked about it, laughed about it, discussed what we thought needed to happen, and frankly 95 percent of it fell on me because I made an error in trying to change him too much. That might sound odd, but he’d been in the league nine years and there’s one way he plays on the offensive end and feels comfortable with. I tried to turn him into Jack Sikma, told him I was going to teach you how to play on the elbow, go on the wing, face up. It was confusing for him. It really didn’t fit his style of play. I was guilty of over coaching in a sense.

“We came to an agreement on what had to happen. Well, on defense, I told him ‘I’m going to get on you like I do everyone else. But on offense, I don’t even want to talk to you. When they double you, kick it. Other than that, you be LaMarcus Aldridge.’ You see the result right now. He’s happy, confident and kicking everybody’s butt.”

Now that everything is sorted for the Spurs, we just have to watch out for them as they gain momentum heading into 2018. Leonard made his debut for the season on Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks, and as a publication time he had nine points in 10 minutes.

God help us if Gregg Popovich has finally found a way to make the mercurial LaMarcus Aldridge happy and pair him with a fully healthy Leonard.