Monday, May 23, 2011

Finally, Bosh Regains Stardom After Feeling the Heat

He was staring into the stands, gazing at the crowd and literally stuck out his tongue -- the kind of behavior that elevates fear as Chris Bosh has finally awakened. His eyes were possessed, his body language indicated much poise in his game, wearing hideous facial expressions and likely intimidating Chicago inside the downtown venue located on the edge of Biscayne Bay.

And this is a good thing, too, since he was called a “bust” and ridiculed for playing like a worthless wuss, not the fierce aggressor as advertised when the Miami Heat signed Bosh last summer to join forces with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. In this particular game, Bosh trotted the court with much bitterness and antipathy that the seas of white in the stands stood in delight and applauded as he walked near courtside.

But where he was credited, when Miami pleasantly hosted its first game at home in the Eastern Conference Finals putting on a spectacle for the folks in South Beach; Bosh emerged at last and dazzled as the superstar of the night. The very qualities that make Bosh a dominant force are his mental state and consistency along with his ability to score in every facet because of his phenomenal heroics, which fueled the raucous crowd that is madly obsessed with the Heat, in a town where the vast majority profoundly adores football.

In sports, we tend to overlook the underachievers -- for instance -- a player like Bosh. He was absent for much of the postseason and often discontent with his role. For one thing, it often engendered much uncertainty and for a while there, he never suited the Heat's offensive scheme and instead turned into an absolute waste. For one thing, on the positive side, he reestablished himself exposing the kind of characteristics that was expected of him when he daringly decided to migrate to Miami and assemble the greatest trio in sports (lineup of stars fans usually admire -- fueled by the idea of one franchise building a unique team with the deepest star power).

Before he even asserted himself into the offense, the Heat weren't known as the Miami Thrice or the Three Amigos and instead it was the greatest tandem in the postseason with James and Wade. He has had a peculiar season with his new team but decisively came to life at the right possible time, where he located his swagger and seemed more aggressive than ever before in the Eastern Conference finals, to lead the Heat to a pivotal 96-85 win Sunday for a 2-1 series lead.

"He put his imprint on the game right from the beginning, and that helped give us some relief and also keep them honest with some of their coverages," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

At this point, nobody knows if Bosh has fully revitalized, which still remains a mystery, even if he reveled in his resurgence and reached his full potential following his awesome performance on the court to amaze thousands of fans. So for Bosh, the forward who traveled to South Beach and joined the Heat for championship aspirations, he was clearly the best player on the floor and regained his status as a well-known superstar in the NBA.

By definition, as you probably know, he is anything but flawless on many nights and among the Big Three he is the least noticeable of stars. Of all things that he qualifies as a derided star rather than a peerless star for the Heat's profound roster, but on Sunday night he certainly played like he was the biggest star all season and electrified the populace and the bayside all over South Florida. For much of the night -- all night rather -- Bosh made all the noise the Heat wanted to hear, accentuated on the notion that he was the storyline and ended all the indiscretions in his inability to contribute and convert on shot attempts.

We saw numerous hints that he never had the firepower or toughness to deliver earlier in the season as a member of the Heat, despite countless moments in his impressive NBA career -- which began in the North of the border when he was the star player for Toronto. But once he scored 32 points, which came on an empathetic dunk, he fiercely pounded both fist onto his chest, scowled and shouted to the heavens and, more importantly, observed the attention when he elevated stardom. The emergence was clearly the way for Bosh to advertise that he's one of basketball's marquee players, illustrating that he's worthy and blends in perfectly with a championship-caliber roster when in all he solidified his popularity, especially shortly after boosting the decibels louder than ever on his vicious dunk.

"I just wanted to make some type of imprint on this series," Bosh said.

Because Bosh couldn't seem to pose as a factor, shoot, pester opponents with his effective post presence or defend to expose the basic fundamentals in basketball and never survived in previous series as undersized players pushed and shoved him around, not intimidated by his laziness, apathy or attrition, he was vilified and least appreciated in a town where the expectations were immense for a player of his size. Yet, by some means, it's seemingly jarring that he finished with 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting in the best postseason performance of his career.

And the best part is, he awakened to bolster the Heat as the team survived without much from James or Wade on a night the workable tandem in previous games were quiet, not as competent as Bosh to give Miami an assuring lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 on Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena. The truth is, when he came in as a high-profile free agent with James last summer, he faced agonizing scrutiny more than any other player deemed as the irrelevant player of the trio in Miami.

What matters most is that Bosh may have risen and accepted his role as a reliable scorer on a very talented team in the NBA, justifying his acquisition when he finally made his presence felt as one of the tallest, lanky forwards in basketball. The likelihood of questioning his relevance, diligence, heart or even toughness, no longer matters as long as Bosh continues the recent consistency and validates how beneficial he was in delivering the knockout to dismantle the Bulls.

“I'm human, I really don't care for it,'' Bosh said. "There's always going to be somebody throwing rocks. But I know I'm a good ballplayer.''

Then there was the arrival of Carlos Boozer, scoring 26 points and grabbing 17 rebounds -- an incredible performance which may have inspired and increasingly built upon Bosh's self-assurance. Whatever it was, Bosh was brilliant and unstoppable, a backup plan seemingly as Wade wilted uncharacteristically and as James distributed the ball unselfishly to create opportunities, dishing to Bosh on limitless possessions since he was the hottest star on the floor. Not even Bulls Forward Joakim Noah was capable of slowing down Bosh.

Suddenly, James and Wade sees a level of trust in Bosh even thought he has never advanced past the first round until this season and has struggled in adjusting to the stronger demands in contention for a title. At the beginning of the game, he missed his first three attempts, but then he hit 13-of-15 shots to finish with 34 points on 18 shots as Wade and James were held to a combined 12-of-30 from the field.

You saw Bosh score 30 points in a Game 1 loss. In Game 2, he had an egregious night, a horror night with a mere 10 points in 42 minutes, despite that Miami beat the Bulls in Chicago. He could have been tired of hearing all the nonsense about his irrelevancy, tired of hearing that he wasn't an essential of the Big Three, until he hit uncontested shots and weaved his way into the paint.

For Bosh, no doubt, it's a whole new story. After his sudden breakthrough, he's an integral fragment of the Big Three.