NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Bosh delivers when it matters for Miami — Throughout his time on the Miami Heat, Chris Bosh has always seemed to be the one member of Miami’s “Big Three” who gets to be the butt of jokes most often. While LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are revered among Heat fans and respected among NBA fans for their accomplishments and play, Bosh often draws the short straw on both of those topics for many. But as our Steve Aschburner points out, Bosh was the man of the hour in Game 2 last night and took another step toward silencing his many doubters:
When LeBron James wasn’t talking about cramps in the two days before Game 2 of The 2014 Finals, he was explaining why he considers himself the “easiest target in sports.” (Short answer: Nonstop media coverage and inflated expectations since he’s been 15 years old.)That led to a natural follow-up question Sunday night for Chris Bosh, James’ teammate with the Miami Heat. After all Bosh, even in flattering coverage, ranks third among the Heat’s Big 3. In the snarkier accounts, or Shaq‘s occasional wise-guy remarks, he’s the Fredo of this particular Corleone crew behind James and Dwyane Wade.
“I’m probably the second [easiest target],” Bosh said after Miami’s 98-96 victory to even the best-of-seven championship series at 1-1. The 6-foot-11 forward scored 18 points and, despite his meager rebound total of three, was active enough defensively that he and Rashard Lewis outscored Spurs big men Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter by a combined 32-20. Spot San Antonio Boris Diaw off the bench, along with the Heat’s Chris Andersen, and Miami still had the edge, 35-27.
Then there was Bosh late. He took a pass from James in the right corner for a 3-pointer with 1:18 left, turning a 1-point lead into a 2-point advantage. On Miami’s last offensive possession, it was Bosh who drove inside, drawing the defense and dishing to Wade for a dagger layup to make it 98-93 with 9.4 seconds left.
And sure enough, Bosh was talking about validation afterward. Because after years as Toronto’s cornerstone and go-to guy, he is and remains third on this team. He’s the butt of social media jokes, a source of frustration for the Heat fans with paper-thin loyalty and just sensitive enough to process all the noise.
“I think validating yourself is a constant process,” Bosh said, before adding, “I really let that go a long time ago. I don’t care about those things. I focus on the game and what we’re supposed to do with it. We have a chance to compete for another championship. That’s all that matters to me now.”
It’s gone this way for most of their four seasons together: James shouldering the biggest load, Wade reminding and sometimes surprising people that his knees and game aren’t dead yet, and Bosh coming through at the 11th hour, providing just enough to a) earn his keep or b) push the Heat over the top.
In a sense, Bosh has been resilient just like they have as a group – Miami has lost playoff games but has gone 47 now without losing two in a row. It has fired back from defeats with victories 13 consecutive times. Oh, and they’re 5-0 in series in the Big 3 era after dropping Game 1.
“Everything plays a role in it,” Bosh said, “Yeah, you do have a healthy dose of fear and it makes you focus more, makes you play better, play harder. When your back is against the wall, it’s a very unique feeling.”
“I don’t really care about the criticism,” he said. “If it doesn’t help me, then I don’t listen to it. … Everybody gets criticized, and I understand that. I’m not immune to it. To know that that’s happened before, I’m not the first, I won’t be the last. This team won’t be the first or the last. Each guy gets picked on.
“But I think it makes you stronger as a person and I believe in my craft. I work hard at my game and that’s all that matter.”
No. 2: Parsons wants to stay with Rockets — Reports surfaced a week or so ago that the Houston Rockets were planning to not pick up the option on rising forward Chandler Parsons, thus making him a restricted free agent this summer. While that move may or may not still take place, Parsons doesn’t want to leave the only NBA organization he’s ever known. Adam Wexler with CSNHouston.com has more:
Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was back in Houston on Saturday afternoon supporting a new fragrance at an event at Memorial City Mall. His contract situation with the Rockets remains officially unchanged, as the team has until June 30 to exercise the fourth-year option on his contract.
If they decline the option, which reportedly is their current plan, he would become a restricted free agent this offseason when the new league year begins.
“I’ve worked my whole life to be in the situation,” Parsons said when asked if the situation was unsettling at all. “I think everything will work itself out. I just have to continue to get better. It’s really out of my control, we’re talking a lot back and forth, that’s really up to the guy behind you. So it’s out of my control.”
The support of the organization has been felt by Parsons. Leslie Alexander told Fox26 in October 2013 that the Rockets will at some point work out a long-term deal with Parsons, telling Fox, “We’ll sign Chandler. We always do. Nobody’s ever left. He’s an integral part of the team. We don’t want to let a terrific player go.”
Parsons acknowledged the support of the organization.
“It’s cool. I want to be here. I love Houston,” he said. “It’s a great situation for me, the city, my teammates, (head) coach (Kevin) McHale, Daryl (Morey), (Rockets CEO) Tad (Brown), all of them are great. Of course I want to be here, we’ll see how it works out.”
As he had said when the Rockets lost their playoff series, Parsons maintains he’s not concerned with his restricted or unrestricted free agent status. If the option is declined, then if nothing else it essentially guarantees that he will be seeing a big payday one year sooner than if the option is exercised.
“It’s a weird feeling, but it’s exciting, but nothing has happened yet,” Parsons said. “So just keep working out and just wait till that day.”
No. 3: Van Gundy defends Smith, doesn’t think he should be scapegoat — If you haven’t been paying attention, changes are afoot in Detroit. There’s a new coach (Stan Van Gundy), a new GM (Jeff Bower) and a focus on getting the Pistons out of the muck that has gummed up one of the NBA’s most successful franchises. Van Gundy has attempted to rebuild the relationship between the franchise and young, free-agent big man Greg Monroe and is attempting to do the same with its other misunderstood star, Josh Smith. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press has more on the Van Gundy-Smith relationship:
Stan Van Gundy was holding court after introducing new general manager Jeff Bower, and the topic turned to Pistons forward Josh Smith.
A media member started a question by saying Smith was the walking symbol of all that was wrong with the Pistons’ 29-53 record, and Van Gundy immediately cut him off.
“I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s fair,” the new president of basketball operations and coach said Wednesday, twice for emphasis. “One of the things that happens — and not just to media and fans, it happens on a team — is when things don’t go well, everybody loves a scapegoat. The reason you love a scapegoat is it takes responsibility off of you, so coaches can look for them, too. It takes responsibility off of you.
“It’s not fair or even close or fair to pin last year on Josh or any one other guy. That team, in a lot of ways, did not put into the game what needs to be put into the game to be successful.”
But as the highest-paid player on the Pistons, Smith is going to draw arrows — especially when he is benched multiple times and fans groan when he keeps shooting three-pointers.
However, a new coach offers a new slate. Van Gundy said he traveled to Atlanta last week to have lunch with Smith.
“I thought it was a great conversation. Josh is a smart guy. He knows what it takes to win in this league,” Van Gundy said. “He’s capable of doing all those things. We talked about a lot of things in terms of his game, what he thinks his strengths are, where I see it going and the whole thing, and I came away very encouraged that Josh is enthusiastic about the year and excited to get going.”
No. 4: OKC’s Lamb vows to improve his defense — Thunder swingman Jeremy Lamb is often viewed as the principal piece Oklahoma City got from the Houston Rockets when it traded budding star James Harden there. Lamb spent most of his rookie season in 2012-13 shuttling between the NBA D-League and a spot deep on the Thunder bench. This season, he saw his role improve and his minutes rise as well, but as the playoffs wore on, Lamb’s defense (or lack thereof) led to him being a non-factor in the rotation by the time the playoffs got rolling in OKC. In a chat with The Oklahoman‘s Anthony Slater, though, Lamb insists he’ll improve on his defense for 2014-15:
With a smooth shooting stroke and a frail frame, Jeremy Lamb has never been one to confuse his strengths and weaknesses on a basketball court.
He’s a gifted scorer with a natural feel for the offensive end. But defense? That’s a different story.
“At first,” Lamb admitted of his initial NBA days, “I didn’t care about defense at all.”
In Year 2, Lamb showed a ton of promise. Starting the season in the rotation, he burst through as a reliable bench scorer. At the All-Star break, he was averaging double-figures in 22 minutes per night.
But as his offense slumped late in the year, his playing time diminished. No longer shooting at an efficient enough rate, Thunder coach Scott Brooks couldn’t justify leaving his defense on the court.
The positives on one end no longer outweighed the negatives on the other. Lamb was forced to sit back and watch. And as he did, the 22-year-old started to realize how important it is to be a two-way player.
“Seeing these players that lock you up, then go score on you, that motivates me,” Lamb said, identifying Russell Westbrook as a guy whose defense taught him a ton.
“People really be scared to handle against him,” Lamb said of Westbrook. “Or scared to make a soft pass. They’re always looking over their shoulder, seeing where he’s at. That’s aggravating to the players that he plays against. He’s one of the players that really inspired me to play both ways.”
So Lamb has vowed to come back a better defender. To work out this offseason with an eye on improving his on-ball defense. To get stronger and sturdier.
“I think that’s the biggest thing,” Lamb said of individual defense. “Playing one-on-one, you really help your defense; helping keeping people in front of you.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski — a former assistant at Duke — thinks ex-Blue Devils star Jabari Parker would be a perfect fit with the Bucks … The Draft stock of former Hooisers star Noah Vonleh is apparently on the rise … The Nuggets are reportedly shopping the No. 11 pick in the 2014 Draft … ICYMI yesterday, Ricky Rubio says he’ll try to talk to Kevin Love about staying in Minnesota … Speaking of Mr. Love, he reportedly doesn’t want to go play for the Cavs …