Bosh learned from the best
Chris Bosh's experience with the Redeem Team has helped him sharpen his game
Bosh got off to a sizzling start, though he's cooled off lately for struggling Toronto
More topics: Brandon Roy's climb to stardom; Luol Deng's disappearance
Many members of last summer's Redeem Team are thriving after their gold-medal success in the Beijing Olympics. LeBron James is, in many quarters, the MVP favorite. Dwyane Wade almost single-handedly is keeping a rebuilding Heat team around .500 with the best statistical season of his career. And Chris Paul is notching career highs in assists, shooting, rebounding and steals.
Perhaps no player, though, has used the Olympics as a springboard to this NBA season better than Chris Bosh, who opened by averaging 26.4 points (on 54 percent shooting) and 10.2 rebounds in November. Though he has cooled off in December amid the Raptors' struggles and coaching change (his season averages are 23.3 points and 10.0 rebounds), that eye-opening first month has helped put Bosh on the cusp of superstardom.
"I tried to take different things from everybody," Bosh said of his experience in China. "You had LeBron accepting a leadership role, and he was fairly vocal with it. Kobe Bryant, perhaps the best scorer in the league, made the sacrifice [to focus on] defense and was an inspiration in how much he worked on his technique and his game. And Carmelo Anthony, there's a reason he's such a good shooter -- he [practices] shooting countless numbers of times."
That Bosh had the opportunity to learn so much speaks not only to his powers of observation but also to the time he had to watch his teammates in action. Though fourth in the league in minutes this season, he was relegated to second-team status in China, a role the sixth-year forward believes has made him a better player.
"I got to experience how basketball is played through the eyes of a seventh or an eighth man, someone who has to be the energy guy," Bosh said recently in a telephone interview. "And I could have settled just for playing limited minutes, but I wanted to find a way to play, and I found a role that fit me that could help out the team.
"Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] told me, 'You have a chance to be a very vital part to this team.' He didn't say how. I guess he thought I had it figured out already, but I didn't. So it was kind of a process of elimination: I tried to do one thing and if the coaches didn't say anything, it was like, OK, that doesn't work. But if I really focused on defense, that's when everybody would say you're doing really well. So I really started playing defense better, rebounding the ball, running the floor and getting guys open."
So instead of being the go-to player on offense as he is with Toronto, Bosh dedicated himself to plugging the defensive gap that Team USA has long had in stopping pick-and-roll plays. He also led the Americans in rebounding at 6.1 per game (in only 17.3 minutes).
"Chris really bought into the system and style they played," said Raptors interim coach Jay Triano, who coached the Canadian Olympic team in 2000. "And when you get rewarded with a gold medal and the accolades of being an Olympic champion, you look back at what made you successful. I think he learned if you're going to win games like they did, you have to be a good defensive player. We always knew he could score and rebound, but now he's taken his game to another level."
His Raptors teammates, however, are having trouble keeping up. Toronto (10-17), which fired Sam Mitchell after an 8-9 start, had lost five in a row and 10 of 12 heading into Monday's game against the Clippers. The Raptors are struggling not only to meet expectations after trading for Jermaine O'Neal in the offseason but also to remain an appealing option for Bosh when he becomes a free agent in the summer bonanza of 2010.
For his part, Bosh hasn't offered strong hints of what he wants.
"It's all about being comfortable," Bosh said. "That's always tough to gauge, what makes you happy in the future and what's going to make you comfortable. Right now, I'm fine where I am. It's hard to say what it's going to be in a year and a half. But that [last] deal was made to keep my options open and to make the best business decision I can."
That decision will generate a lot of sleepless nights in Toronto unless the Raptors can take the sort of step their Olympic hero did on that gold-medal platform in China.
Brandon Roy's star turn. Will we look back on the last week and a half as the time the third-year Portland guard became an NBA superstar? In averaging 36.4 points (on 52.3 percent shooting) over the last five games, Roy demonstrated he can be more than the most talented cog in the Blazers' attack. Indeed, he showed he can be the attack all by himself, a lot like those guys named LeBron and Dwyane.
Ignoring the family on Christmas. The NBA offers five nationally televised games on the holiday, 13 hours of hoops bliss. Good matchups abound, starting with the Hornets at the Magic (noon ET, ESPN), continuing with Spurs-Suns (2:30 p.m., ABC) and peaking with Celtics-Lakers (5 p.m. ABC). Wizards-Cavaliers (8 p.m., TNT) and Mavericks-Blazers (10:30, TNT) round out the schedule.
Louis Williams' turnaround. With a bit more playing time under new coach Tony DiLeo, Williams is again showing why he can be one of the game's most explosive players. In four games since Mo Cheeks' firing, Williams has averaged 20.8 points in 27.5 minutes. If Cheeks had enjoyed that sort of production from the 22-year-old guard out of South Gwinnett High School in Georgia, he might still have a job.
Peace in Golden State. If you had any question as to why the Warriors have been such a pushover on defense and selfish on offense, perhaps the fractured state of the front office offers a hint. After weeks of talk that Chris Mullin was losing a power struggle with team president Robert Rowell, ESPN reported that Mullin and coach Don Nelson aren't even on speaking terms and that Nelson is actively trying to trade some of the players Mullin acquired. If the guys making the big decisions can't agree on anything, how are the guys on the floor supposed to play nice?
Luol Deng's production. On the heels of signing a six-year, $71 million deal in the offseason, Deng is averaging only 13.8 points (on 44 percent shooting) and a career-low 4.9 rebounds. The fifth-year forward's offensive output is his lowest since his rookie season.
Carlos Boozer's relationship with Larry Miller. The Jazz owner was upset after Boozer -- at a time when the oft-injured power forward is nursing a quad injury -- made public his intention to opt out of his contract after the season. "It's one of the top 10 stupidest things I've heard an NBA player do in 20 years," Miller said. Of Boozer's injury history, Miller added, "We've covered for him and protected him, justifiably."