MIAMI — Chris Bosh is still listed on the official Miami Heat roster as simply a forward. Coach Erik Spoelstra still treads lightly when discussing Bosh’s position.
But it’s OK. Bosh doesn’t need to be treated delicately. He admits he’s a center.
“I made my peace with it,” Bosh said.
Bosh has embraced it enough that he recently told FOX Sports Florida he wants to be listed on the NBA All-Star ballot at center. He now regards power forward as his old position.
There was a time when the 6-foot-11 Bosh wanted nothing to do with being known as a center. But then came last season.
With the Heat not having a strong traditional center and Spoelstra wanting to play small ball, he often used Bosh in the pivot. When Miami had fallen behind 1-0 in the NBA Finals to Oklahoma City, he took it to another level. He started Bosh at center, and the Heat won the final four games to claim the championship.
“I went ahead and embraced it, and we messed around and won a championship,” said Bosh, who had missed nine games during the playoffs with an abdominal strain before coming back as mostly a center for the final eight. “So I really messed myself over in that regard.”
If Bosh ever has any more reservations about playing center, he soon needs only to glance at his finger. Bosh will receive his championship ring before facing Boston in the Oct. 30 regular-season opener, when he is expected again to start at center.
“It’s for the best of the team,” said Bosh, who opened at the spot and had 22 points and six rebounds in just 23 minutes in Miami’s 92-79 loss at Atlanta in Sunday’s preseason opener. “I realized it last year. It’s going to happen anyway whether I like it or not. I might as well stop fighting it. After coach kept putting me in there, he must have seen there must be some kind of advantage.”
In a league with so few quality true centers, Spoelstra likes the quickness and outside shooting ability Bosh can provide at the spot. But Spoelstra is still very careful when he’s asked Bosh’s position.
Spoestra talks about his players being positionless. But NBA rules do require box scores to list a center, two forwards and two guards as the starters.
“I don’t want (Bosh) burdened by thinking about the conventional box of a center,” Spoelstra said. “Offensively, he could be playing on the perimeter. He could be playing beyond the three-point line… He could be doing a lot of things he’s always done. So why do you have to call him a center? He might not even be guarding a center?”
At least Spoelstra doesn’t want Bosh, who shot 1-of-2 from three-point range against the Hawks, looking like a typical center. Bosh is listed at 235 pounds, 15 less than starting small forward LeBron James.
Bosh and Spoelstra talked last June after Miami’s championship parade. It was determined Bosh should come back this season at his usual weight.
“I’m not trying to bulk up,” Bosh said. “(Spoelstra wants Bosh) to play fast. You can’t play fast and add pounds. That just doesn’t make any sense for me. My advantage is quickness over fives, and I’m aware of that. I’m not going to bang just because I’m a center. It doesn’t mean I’m going to have that mind frame like I’m (Shaquille O’Neal)… I know that guys are going to outweigh me but that doesn’t mean much to me.”
It sure doesn’t.
The NBA’s two best true centers are Dwight Howard of the Lakers and Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum. Howard might be 6-11, 265 pounds and Bynum 7-foot, 285 pounds, but Bosh seems unconcerned.
“I’ve played them before,” Bosh said. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen. Yeah, they do have a weight advantage, but that’s only in your mind. And, you know, if teams feel they have an advantage, tell them to dump it down there if they can… If they say, ‘Bosh can’t play the five, we have the advantage,’ tell them to dump it down there and we’ll see what happens.”
It didn’t work for the Thunder in the NBA Finals even though 6-10 center Kendrick Perkins outweighed Bosh by 45 pounds. True, Perkins isn’t known for his offense. But he was a paranormal on that side of the ball in the final four games of the NBA Finals, shooting 7-of-19 while averaging 5.0 points.
“We needed (Bosh at center) if we were going to be as good as we could be,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
When the Finals were over and Bosh was dousing teammates with champagne in the locker room, he no longer could deny it. He was a center.