Heat's season turns upside down following Chris Bosh's diagnosis
Just days after Chris Bosh participated in All-Star Weekend in New York City, the Heat announced their All-Star forward would miss the rest of the season due to blood clots on his lung. In an official statement released on Saturday, the Heat said Bosh was "resting comfortably" at a hospital, that he is "OK" and that his "prognosis is good."
The shocking diagnosis comes exactly one week after Bosh won the Shooting Stars competition with teammates Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash. Bosh celebrated his third straight title in the event by giddily climbing on Wilkins' back and promising to, "pop a couple bottles of champagne ... and mess up the locker room, trash it real nice." Bosh scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds for the Eastern Conference in Sunday's All-Star Game before departing to Haiti for a brief vacation earlier this week, according to the Miami Herald. He first checked into a hospital on Wednesday.
The official prognosis comes on the heels of the tragic death of former Blazers forward Jerome Kersey earlier this week. The 52-year-old Kersey reportedly had a blood clot in his leg that eventually clogged his lungs.
"Man, my heart [is] real heavy right now thinking about Chris Bosh," former teammate LeBron James wrote on Twitter. "Especially after hearing about Kersey the other day. My prayers are out for you and your family, my brother! Here for you throughout this if needed. ... Wish I could be there by your side this very moment to tell a joke or something homie. Just to get your mind off what you're going through!"
Needless to say, Bosh's status turns Miami's season upside down yet again. On Thursday, Heat fans and observers were speculating that the trade deadline addition of Goran Dragic and the emergence of surprise center Hassan Whiteside might be enough to carry Miami to a deep playoff run. Now, Bosh's frightening situation and James' offseason departure leaves Dwyane Wade as the sole active member of Miami's "Big 3" as the stretch run to the playoffs approaches.
The most important thing here is that Bosh was diagnosed in time and he is receiving the treatment he requires. Everything else is a distant second. Still, there's no getting around the fact that losing Bosh is a crippling blow to the Heat, who have dealt with injury issues to Wade (a hamstring injury kept him out of the All-Star Game) and Josh McRoberts (season-ending knee surgery) this season and who just traded away multiple rotation players (Danny Granger, Norris Cole and Shawne Williams) to obtain Dragic. Miami enters Sunday's action with a 23-30 record and the East's No. 7 seed. However, the Heat are just a half-game up on the No. 8 Hornets, one game up on the No. 9 Nets, two games up on the Pistons and Pacers and 2.5 games up on the Celtics. With five teams in play for the East's final two spots, the Heat's first lottery trip since 2008 isn't out of the question.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra lacks an obvious solution for replacing Bosh's two-way contributions. Bosh averaged 21.2 points, 7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game this season. While Dragic's arrival should help carry some of the weight on offense, the frontcourt pickings are really slim when it comes to filling Bosh's team-high 35.4 minutes per game. Winning consistently with the likes of Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen and/or late-season pickups is a tall order. Indeed, Miami is 4-5 without Bosh this season, but that includes just one win over a current playoff team (its victory over Cleveland on Christmas). Although Spoelstra can certainly lean more heavily on Whiteside, who has played 30-plus minutes just twice this season, life is bound to be more difficult for the out-of-nowhere gem without Bosh in the lineup as a stabilizing force and lead dog.
Given Miami's five-year, $118 million investment in Bosh last summer, the Heat are surely more concerned about long-term strategy than short-term questions. The bang-bang timing between Dragic's arrival and the loss of Bosh is regrettable because the two should form a natural duo, but it does give Dragic the chance to be fully unleashed down the stretch of the season. An All-NBA Third Team selection last year, Dragic no longer needs to battle with former teammates Eric Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas and Markieff Morris for shots and touches. Instead, Spoelstra will lean heavily on Dragic's pace and play-making; that should be a boon for the Slovenian point guard, given that he will be eligible to re-sign with the Heat this summer for up to nine figures over five years. In the meantime, the Heat's coaching staff can use the next few months to reconstruct things around the Dragic/Wade backcourt partnership without the pressure of serious playoff expectations. Whiteside, who has drawn national headlines for blocking everything in sight and posting massive rebounding numbers, should also enjoy a greater opportunity to flex his muscles on offense.
Spoelstra often said during the "Big 3" era that Bosh was the Heat's "most important" player, the critical X-factor during their back-to-back championship runs. Over the next two months, due to the most unfortunate of circumstances, observers will get to see precisely how valuable Bosh has been to this franchise. Even taking Dragic's exciting acquisition into account, merely staying afloat in a tight playoff race without Bosh would count as a serious accomplishment.