Mario Chalmers believes he is one of the top 10 point guards in the league, even if people doubt it.
By CHRIS TOMASSON FS Florida
MIAMI — Who doesn’t belong on the following list?
Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams,
Mario Chalmers, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash and Stephen Curry.
If you guessed Chalmers, you’re undoubtedly with more than 99 percent who have a pulse. But Chalmers doesn’t care if you picked him as the odd man out. He believes he belongs in a listing of the top point guards in the NBA.
“I’d say top 10,’’ the Miami Heat fifth-year man said of where he ranks. “I’m not in the lower part (of the top 10), I’m in the middle part. I just have confidence in myself. I think I can compete with the best of them.’’
All of this is coming from a guy averaging 7.7 points and 3.4 assists. But Chalmers doesn’t care how many snickers are heard about where he believes he ranks among point guards.
“That’s how I feel no matter what people say or what people think,’’ Chalmers said.
When asked if he could be the most confident player in the NBA who hasn’t made an All-Star Game, Chalmers agreed. If there any doubts about his bravado, just read his arms.
“He’s got ‘Mister Clutch’ tattooed on him, so he’s one confident guy,’’ Heat forward LeBron James said. “He’s always been a confident guy, and that’s why we love him.’’
The “Mister’’ is tattooed on his left bicep and the “Clutch’’ on his right one. Chalmers got it done in cursive writing after being drafted in the second round by the Miami Heat in June 2008.
One wonders why it took him so long to hit the tattoo parlor. He was drafted nearly three months after his miraculous 3-pointer forced overtime for Kansas in an eventual 75-68 win over Memphis in the NCAA title game. He was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“With the writing and the outline, I couldn’t find anybody in Lawrence (Kansas) who did it the way I liked it,’’ Chalmers said. “But I found it (in Miami). I got a reference from (Heat forward) Udonis Haslem.’’
The Heat have four players bound for the Hall of Fame in James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ray Allen. They have another who at least has a Hall of Fame ego.
When asked why he exudes such confidence, Chalmers doesn’t hesitate. Coming out of Anchorage, Alaska, he figured he couldn’t be just another face in the crowd.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder for being from Alaska,’’ Chalmers said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t make it. A lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now, and that has kept me going.’’
Actually, what Chalmers is doing now isn’t as good as what he used to do. Chalmers last season averaged 9.8 points and 3.5 assists, shot 44.8 percent and had a player efficiency rating of 12.9.
This season, while shooting 41.0 percent, Chalmers' player efficiency rating has fallen to 11.8. Asked about his decline, Chalmers attributed it to being banged up.
“I look at it like the first part of the season, I battled a lot of injuries, the finger injury, the thigh injury, shoulder injury,’’ said Chalmers, who hasn’t missed any of Miami’s 41 games although he missed the first six preseason games with the thigh injury before playing in the final two. “I feel that I’m just getting healthy now, and I feel like I’ve got to go from there.’’
Flashes of brilliance have been seen at times from Chalmers. He scored 34 points earlier this month at Sacramento, drilling 10 of 13 from 3-point range. He had 20 points on Christmas Day against Oklahoma City, hitting 4 of 6 from long range.
But there have been too many nights when Chalmers’ shot isn’t falling. He’s had two games this month of 1-for-7 shooting and another in which he went 1-for-6.
“He’s got a short memory,’’ Heat forward Shane Battier quipped about Chalmers, who has hoisted 144 3-point attempts for a 39.6 percentage, rarely hesitating to shoot.
It isn’t always pretty what Chalmers puts up in the box score. But Erik Spoesltra said it it’s often not fair to judge Chalmers by his stats, with Spoelstra having liked the “energy’’ he’s had lately.
Chalmers said his scoring and assist totals aren’t going to be impressive on the Heat considering all the star players around him. He said James (7.1 assists average) and Wade (4.6) handling the ball so much hampers his assist totals.
At Kansas, Chalmers’ stats also weren’t that impressive, although he is second in school history in steals. Chalmers averaged a pedestrian 12.2 points and 3.8 assists, including highs of 12.8 and 4.3 as a junior before he bolted to the NBA.
But look who will be having his jersey retired at Kansas during halftime of the Feb. 16 game against Texas. Chalmers will have his No. 15 raised to the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse, even it might not be a popular decision.
In a poll conducted by the Topeka Capital-Journal, 71 percent of respondents believed Chalmers’ overall Jayhawks career does not warrant his jersey being retired. The other 29 percent believed his miracle shot makes him worthy.
“Hey, my jersey is going up there,’’ Chalmers said while shrugging off results of the poll. “So no matter what people think, I’m up there.’’
By the same token, Chalmers doesn’t care about those who doubt he’s one of the best point guards in the NBA. There will be an opening on the All-Star East squad with Rondo out for the season due to a torn ACL. Perhaps Chalmers is anticipating a call.