The news on Chris Bosh’s recurrence of blood clots is shocking. He needs to wrestle with life issues first and everything else, including basketball, somewhere down the line.
The Miami Heat, of course, are a basketball team, so that establishes their priority of going on, playing games, building long-term personnel and payroll strategies, with the assumption that Bosh won’t be a significant part of it anymore.
This all falls at the trade deadline, which winds the clock even faster. This team wasn’t going to win an NBA championship this season, however, even if Bosh played every game at a career-best level. It’s a stretch to think that any new, reshuffled lineup would get very far in the playoffs with or without Bosh returning at less than his polished best.
Better just to play out the season for whatever it is worth rather than dangling Justise Winslow or Goran Dragic or even Hassan Whiteside as trade bait for a half-season of veteran help.
Give Pat Riley time to sweep away all the broken pieces of his offseason free-agency plan. Give him the chance to come up with another plan for another year or two in the future, plus the chance to decide if he even wants to try again.
Riley’s got experience, after all, in dealing with an unpredictable health threat striking a cornerstone Heat player. It happened to Alonzo Mourning in 2000, when he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease.
In August of that year Riley made some big changes, collecting Eddie Jones, Anthony Mason and Brian Grant for what he hoped would be a run at the Heat’s first Eastern Conference title. Then a couple of weeks before the season opener Zo made his announcement. Everyone rallied around the great star, hoping Zo would get help on his mysterious health issues and return.
Well, he did, in late March, starting three games and playing in 13 for a 50-win Miami team that climbed all the way to No. 3 in the East’s playoff seedings. Then came a first-round playoff loss to the Charlotte Hornets, and a three-game sweep, no less.
The next season was much better for Zo, almost making you think that he had willed his body back into line. In 74 starts he averaged 15.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, earning one last trip to the All-Star Game. The team, unfortunately, was starting to fall apart. Riley traded away Tim Hardaway, whose skills were diminishing at 34, before the season even began. By the spring everything had become drudgery, with Riley missing the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Of course, you know how well the story ended for Zo, with his glorious return to the Heat following a kidney transplant and with the NBA championship ring he won as Shaquille O’Neal’s backup in 2006. What can’t be forgotten now, though, and what won’t be forgotten by Riley in dealing with Bosh’s situation, is the way the whole franchise waited on him and hoped for a miracle when the kidney issue first arose.
Mourning missed the entire 2002-03 season, left the team when his contract was not renewed and went through a fruitless experiment with the New Jersey Nets before his body finally demanded a reboot with the transplant.
Zo is as tough physically and as stubborn mentally as any athlete who ever has played a professional sport. The Heat believed in him so much that they banked on his recovery longer than logic and medical science suggested was realistic. Zo couldn’t be counted upon any more, no matter how much he and the team wanted it to be otherwise.
Bosh can’t change his stars either. He will be paid, and paid well, by a franchise that doesn’t want to see him go but must accept that he also can’t be counted upon any more for any appreciable length of time.
Shocking to say, sad to think, but there it is. Best wishes now to Bosh, a big man in every way and enough of a believer in Riley that he re-signed with the Heat after LeBron James bolted.
If it turns out he comes back to the team later this season or beyond, I say hallelujah to that, but it won’t ever be the same. It can’t be.
Like Zo was at the time of his mysterious ailment, Bosh has no more real say in delivering on his promises.