MIAMI — Chris Bosh’s football career lasted only long enough in grade school for him to take a few hard hits that ultimately knocked sense into him to realize his future was in basketball.
But that didn’t stop the Miami Heat star forward from flashing defensive-back skills entering the weekend as he picked off a pointed question before it could be completed.
“So what’s new, man?” Bosh fired back as he was asked to describe how the Heat have handled yet another turbulent week this season. “We just keep playing. Don’t allow ourselves to make excuses. You have to put those things behind you, because at 7:35 p.m. [on game nights], that ball is going up. You can either get your head in the game and try to win, or you can think about all of that other stuff.”
That other stuff never seems to go away, but the Heat have managed to win their way through it. A week during which Miami traded a key member of its recent championship teams, suspended its top reserve and then played a game while franchise anchor Dwyane Wade tended to an ill son in the hospital ended with the Heat having posted a 3-0 record midway through a pivotal seven-game homestand.
Bosh’s point in heading off the question was that the Heat can’t afford to be distracted right now with questions about, well, distractions that have swarmed Miami fewer than 10 games into the season. Determined to learn from last season’s 37-win, injury-riddled campaign, the Heat believe it’s going to take more than a dose of early-season adversity to knock them off course this time around.
After victories over the Raptors, Lakers and Jazz this week, the Heat get a four-day break to regroup before closing out the opportunistic stretch starting Tuesday against the Timberwolves, with visits from the Kings, Sixers and Knicks also on tap through Nov. 23. Miami’s three-game win streak matches the longest it had all of last season, and the prospect of going undefeated through the homestand isn’t unrealistic against a remaining group of teams that carried a combined 10-24 record into Friday night.
After taking a day off Thursday, the Heat (6-3) resume work looking to regroup after a rocky few days. Reserve swingman Gerald Green is back from suspension and with the team for the first time since Nov. 3, when he missed a home loss to Atlanta with an illness. The following day, police records revealed Green was involved in an altercation at his condo that left him bloody and unconscious.
According to the police report, Green had punched a man and was combative with fire-and-rescue officials before he was ultimately transported to a hospital for treatment for an undisclosed condition. After declining to comment on Green’s status for nearly a week, Heat president Pat Riley announced Tuesday that the ninth-year veteran was suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team.
Green apologized through a statement issued by the team and has missed the past six games, although the suspension covered only Tuesday’s win over the Lakers and Thursday’s victory against the Jazz. Word of Green’s suspension came hours after the Heat traded polarizing point guard Mario Chalmers and James Ennis to Memphis for Beno Udrih and Jarnell Stokes in a move that created playing time for Miami’s younger guards but also saved the team nearly $6 million in potential luxury-tax penalties.
Wade, who thanked well-wishers for their support and prayers in a social-media post late Thursday night, said his hospitalized son was doing better. Wade is expected to practice with the Heat at some point over the weekend and return to the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves.
The issues off the court haven’t disrupted the Heat’s progress on it in recent games. Ranked first in the league in defensive efficiency, Miami is holding opponents to 90.2 points and 40.9 percent shooting.
“Everything we went through last year — I feel this is more consistent [now] and I know we have a good core,” said center Hassan Whiteside, who leads the NBA in blocks (4.0) and is fifth in rebounding (11.7). “We’re just kind of focused on basketball. We have veteran guys who can bring everybody in and get back to playing basketball and not really listen to anything that’s going on outside the locker room.”
The search for stability hasn’t been easy within the locker room, either.
Starting point guard Goran Dragic has been in a funk most of the season after signing a five-year, $85 million contract during free agency to stay with the Heat. Statistically, Dragic is off to his worst start since becoming a full-time starter four years ago and has struggled to find a comfort zone in Miami’s system alongside Wade and Whiteside, players who prefer a structured half-court pace.
But after he finished with 14 points, four assists and four turnovers Thursday against Utah, Dragic said the arrival of his wife and young children this weekend from Europe to live full-time in Miami should help settle some of his overall uneasiness.
“I’m trying,” Dragic said. “It’s a step-by-step process. As long as we’re winning, I’m fine.”
Starting small forward Luol Deng is also coping with a role that continues to evolve in ways he might not have expected. Deng has spent more time at power forward than at any point in his career, and he has often sat for long stretches in the fourth quarter as rookie Justise Winslow’s role has increased. Through nine games, Deng is averaging slightly less playing time than Winslow despite starting ahead of him.
“It’s definitely tough,” Deng said of balancing the benefits of a deep roster with trying to find a consistent rhythm individually. “You’ve just got to play your role, whatever you can do out there, whatever role you’re put in. We have a lot of guys on the team, and I’m working and trying to figure it out. Whatever role I’m given, I’m going to try to play it to a T.”
Bosh said it’s impossible to completely tune out everything that has gone on around the Heat the past two weeks. But Bosh also said he has coped by keeping his focus on trying to maximize the homestand.
“If you’re not prepared, you’ll look back and kick yourself,” Bosh said, alluding to road-heavy stretches looming at the turn of the calendar. “It’s not that I’m looking too far ahead, but January and February, that’s where the men are going to be made. So we have to capitalize right now. I’m watching Golden State and Cleveland, Atlanta, too. They’re setting the pace. We have to have urgency to be right behind them.”