While Bosh wants to play games, Heat can't afford another bad Big Three breakup
Health concerns and lack of trust are only intensifying this situation in Miami
Just about everyone's an exhibitionist these days, sharing themselves physically and emotionally on social media, anxious to show the world how they're looking and feeling. And sometimes, it's meant to be get the attention of someone specific, even if the recipient isn't openly identified. A person. The public in general. Or, perhaps, an NBA team.
So when Chris Bosh and his wife Adrienne posted videos on Snapchat and Instagram of the Miami Heat forward on the court -- all while calling himself "a hooper" who was "hooping" -- it started the cycle again, the cycle of fans and media trying to determine whether he was trying to send a message to the team that employs him but has been reluctant to approve his return.
After all, this is the way it's been for a while: subliminal messages followed by rampant speculation, all symptomatic of something that has surprisingly befallen Pat Riley's otherwise stable and admirable Heat regime of late, whether it's been with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or now Bosh:
A breakdown in communication and trust.
That is creating cracks in the Heat's foundation, even if the organization hasn't been at fault for everything that has occurred, and continues to occur.
Just about every dynasty -- and the Heat was at minimum a mini-one -- ends clumsily and angrily, and especially in this era, when egos and economics tend to get so involved.
But few expected the Big Three to have such Big Issues so quickly, after so much success.
James had many reasons for leaving in 2014, some more widely reported than others, but clearly he and Heat executives were not on the same page by the end, not as you'd assume after four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships. The Heat blindly believed he was staying until the last possible moment, ignoring so many contradictory signals.
Wade embodied a #HeatLifer during his 13 seasons but, after a contentious negotiation last summer, he didn't trust Riley enough to take a little less now for a lot more later, when the team had re-secured his Bird Rights. And he felt disrespected in light of all his service to the city and the team. And South Florida sports fans are only starting to feel the sting of him bolting for Chicago. Just wait until the first game is played without him, and Hassan Whiteside gets the last introduction instead.
The third member of the Heat's famed Big Three, and the last one left -- for now.
Well, Wade associates -- some of whom are also Bosh associates -- warned that this would get uglier than the Wade split did, especially since those players remain close enough to continue socializing and working out together, with Wade's conflict revealing and creating more team-player mistrust.
It's been one of the NBA oddities of the past couple of years, an organization that has done so much winning over the past couple of decades, and now keeps finding itself in no-win battles. The Heat really can't afford the optics of another bad breakup, not while maintaining its reputation as one of sports' model organizations. Yet here it is again, even if its intentions are nothing but noble, concerned only about protecting Bosh's health -- essentially protecting him from himself, considering the medical consensus about the dangers of him playing on blood thinners.
Yet some close to Bosh are not convinced that the Heat's motivations are quite so pure. They suspect that the franchise is more concerned about clearing Bosh's salary from the cap, which it can do exactly one year after he last played (on February 9, 2016) provided that he doesn't play more than nine additional games. That would give Riley more room to reload with fresh, younger talent next summer, to make at least one last title run before he -- now 71 -- retires.
What does Bosh think?
Well, it's hard to explicitly know, other than that he desperately wants to play, and that it's not about money, since he will receive the $76 million he's still owed regardless. He wants to play so badly that he has crossed the country to find a doctor to clear him; according to the Miami Herald, one doctor has proposed him taking blood thinners in the morning and getting off them at night, but the Heat are not comfortable with that arrangement.
Bosh hasn't spoken on any of that. Not on his treatment. Not on his frustration. Not on any reports.
He has communicated infrequently and cryptically about his situation since February, in Toronto, where he abruptly withdrew from the All-Star Game due to another calf strain. Bosh downplayed the apparent setback then, saying that "I just wanted to make sure I was taking the necessary precautions and being a good professional," but the details ultimately emerged -- he had suffered another blood clot. This came after his first blood clot ended his 2014-15 season.
Long one of the NBA's most accessible players, Bosh has said nothing definitive about his condition in the months since, entirely avoiding media members with whom he has interacted for years, staring down at a book in the locker room while a Heat official stands guard. And the Heat haven't offered much more detail, as the organization attempts to avoid violating his privacy and creating another controversy.
Even so, it's been obvious since the spring that the sides have not been aligned.
Not with Bosh releasing a statement in March through a publicist rather than the team (and the team refusing to comment on it). Not with Adrienne posting #BringBackBosh on her Twitter account and Bosh associates wearing those T-shirts to playoff games.
Not even after the sides came to an uneasy truce in May, releasing a joint statement that he would not be playing in the remainder of the playoffs and that they were "working together" so they could "return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible."
Not even after Micky Arison, the Heat's managing general partner, mentioned Bosh as one of the Heat's core players in a post on the team's official website, and then tweeted "Looking good CB @chrisbosh look forward to seeing in camp" in response to Bosh's recent video posts.
Until Bosh plays a game on the court, or least until the Heat feel free to say something more definitive about his status -- other than Riley calling it a "a fluid situation" on July 16 -- the other games will continue. The games on social media. The games meant to grab attention. The games that speak to the trouble that teams and players can have, even amid great triumphs, to keep the trust alive.
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