It’s not often when somebody snatches a game away from Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, much less a lightly regarded rookie who doesn’t even start. That changed last night in Miami, and maybe we just saw the emergence of an extra advantage this season for the Heat, as if they needed that.
At the very least, Norris Cole made himself a rookie to watch. Actually, he’s the rookie of the moment, thanks to his nine points in the final three minutes, which saved Miami from am embarrassing collapse and produced a 115-107 win over the Celtics. At the end, fans gave him the MVP chant as he shot free throws, which had to make Joel Anthony jealous.
Here at Hang Time, we won’t get into crystal-balling and declare Cole, who finished with 20 points, an outright steal just yet. We might need another five minutes for that. Seriously, the kid’s got guts and a swagger that enabled him to wave off LeBron and Wade in a tight game, against a quality opponent. You don’t see that DNA in many rookies, especially someone who was the seventh point guard taken in the draft.
Here’s coach Erik Spoelstra:
“(He has) earned their respect, even though it’s only been a short period of time because he’s all about the team. We just want to encourage him … and keep his mind free.”
Translation: Wade and Bron trust the guy, maybe more than Mario Chalmers, and we just hope he doesn’t get the big head over this.
LeBron said if this were football, Cole would get the game ball. Here’s more from LeBron:
Cole said: “It was a blast, man. You grow up wishing for moments like that.”
Cole was terrific at Cleveland State, where he nearly averaged 22 points in his final season, along with six rebounds and five assists. He just happened to land in a draft swollen with point guards, led by Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker and Brandon Knight, guys who played at bigger schools and faced tougher competition. But from the first day of camp, Cole showed Pat Riley that he belonged, and was the revelation of the Heat’s short training camp. He’s got decent quickness, a tight enough dribble and will pull up from 20 feet, as the Celtics learned.
If he keeps this up, Spoelstra has options. He can keep Chalmers in the starting position and use Cole as an energizer off the bench, or make the switch. Either way, Miami apparently has another asset, which is a stroke of good fortune for a team that can’t add another high-priced talent for obvious reason. And the point guard position is in far better hands than last season, when Chalmers and an old Mike Bibby was all Miami had. LeBron and Wade had to assume some of the ball-handling chores, and if Cole’s the real deal then their load gets lighter.
What does this do for the Heat in the big picture? Well, they’re off to an impressive 2-0 start, accomplished over the Mavericks and Celtics. Jim Litke of The Associated Press is impressed.
One thing, though: What’s up with the new pregame video introduction in Miami? And why is Wade looking like the captain from the Love Boat? You be the judge.