LeBron James carried the Heat through the NBA Finals last season, playing so well I thought he made a compelling case for Finals MVP despite the Spurs’ five-game rout.
On the flip side, Miami lost because its other players struggled – namely Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers, via Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:
"Yeah, that’s the worst thing, because you never know," Chalmers said. "Everybody in my ear, talking about ‘We need you, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ And then when it comes to the game, I didn’t feel involved. Like, you all talk about how y’all need me, but y’all didn’t put me in position to do anything. In previous years, if I was in that position, I would make sure I would go get the ball, I would put myself in position to score. I felt like this year, we all just took too much of a back seat in the Finals."
"I didn’t think I’d be back," Chalmers said. "I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest. That’s how I felt like my playoff performance was, that they didn’t want me back, they wanted to go another direction. So that was in my mind, too, but I was, like, if it happens, it happens."
There’s no easy solution to those dilemmas. I tend to believe it’s on the role players to make it work, especially because LeBron is usually so good about trying to find his teammates. No, the Heat didn’t do everything possible to get Chalmers going, but considering that would have taken the ball out of LeBron’s hands, they couldn’t afford to do so.
No matter what the “right” way to handle Chalmers’ slump would have been, Miami clearly didn’t find him irredeemable. The Heat gave him a new contract this summer, and the point guard insists he’s back on track. Skolnick:
He says confidence is no longer an issue.
"Fresh season," Chalmers said. "Fresh start. Got a fresh team. You know, everybody [is] forgetting about us right now. That’s when we shine, when people forget about us."
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are the Heat’s two most important pieces, but with LeBron in Cleveland, Chalmers will have a much bigger role, as well. They’ll need him to step up if they want to return to the playoffs with a real chance of advancing.
This time, Chalmers will have more opportunities to drive the car – just as he wanted last June.