Tuning it out, turning it up
A focused Bosh ignores critics
MIAMI — The first enemy was the television. Once Chris Bosh decided to come to Miami and team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, they were on it every day.
“I turned the TV off,’’ Bosh said. “I don’t watch too much TV.’’
He said he has watched 90 percent of the playoff games, “but sports shows and stuff like that, I’ve learned not to watch.’’
He’s always a few clicks away from finding a pundit who needs a punching bag, and everyone has gotten in a few licks on the Heat this season.
The decision to pull the plug came pretty quickly.
“First week,’’ Bosh said.
The one time Bosh decided to test the waters was right after a loss to Chicago in March when coach Erik Spoelstra let it slip that a few players were crying in the locker room afterward.
That started such a “real men don’t cry’’ storm that Bosh went right back into a vacuum again.
There’s no question that of the three stars Miami has assembled, James is the most vilified, but Bosh is possibly the most ridiculed.
He has been demoted in the public eye. By February, the joke was that the Heat’s Big Three were more like “Two and a Half Men.’’ Bulls Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen told Slam magazine he didn’t think Bosh was half the player James was.
From the outside looking in, James and Wade seemed to form their own clique, practically inseparable doing interviews together, laughing and joking. Bosh appeared almost alienated.
There’s an odd-man-out perception, but it’s more a matter of Bosh figuring out how he fits in, which he admits hasn’t been easy.
“It was extremely tough,’’ Bosh said. “It’s been a difficult year, but with that said, it’s supposed to be like that. Nothing’s supposed to be easy. We’re all going to go through frustrations and stuff like that. But you have to learn from it and get better.’’
Asked about the scrutiny Bosh gets, Spoelstra said, “Only Chris?’’
“We’ve been through five months of it,’’ said Spoelstra, who dealt with speculation that he’d be fired not even a month into the season. “Every one of us have been one of the story lines at least once. That’s been a bonding effect for all of us. We’re in this together. It’s not like, ‘This guy’s been picked on, but I haven’t.’
“All of us have been under it and it’s helped us come together, really, as a band of brothers. We’ve all learned how to deal with it, manage it, and be able to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not real.’’
As a team, the Heat have become numb to it all. But Bosh has adjusted in his own way. In March, he had to demand the ball more, and since then, he’s been more aggressive and more productive.
“The more I played, the more I began to see what my role was and I’m able to execute it a lot better,’’ he said.
But there’s still some validating for Bosh to do, not to the outsiders, but to his teammates. James and Wade both have been to the Finals. Before the Heat beat the 76ers, Bosh hadn’t gotten out of the first round.
Wade said he’s curious to see how Bosh responds, especially in this series against the Celtics, when he’ll have to deal with Kevin Garnett, one of Bosh’s biggest antagonists going back to his days in Toronto.
“I look forward to seeing how he grows in this series,’’ Wade said. “This is his first time in the second round of the playoffs and it’s against one of the toughest teams in the league.
“What better matchup to have than to have it against KG, one of the guys I’m sure he’s looked up to in his life and now one of the guys he wants to take down. What better matchup?’’
Internally, the most telling moments for Bosh in Miami’s first-round series came in Game 5, when he hit the floor to smother loose balls and save possessions.
“What it shows you is a guy who’s never been out of the first round, who understands the moment, and will do whatever it takes to help us win,’’ Spoelstra said.
In this series, he’ll be measured against a player willing to get just as dirty. He’s been nostril-to-nostril with Garnett enough times to know that if Garnett can find a mental edge, he’ll take it.
“That other guy, No. 5 on Boston, he’s going to do that,’’ Wade said. “He’s going to do all the little things. That’s what makes him great. It’s not because he puts the ball in the basket. It’s because he does little things like that. Chris obviously is a guy we look to as a leader, and to do things like that would help us.’’
Bosh knows there’s no false advertising with the Celtics or Garnett.
“They play hard, they play to win, and they play to win by any means necessary,’’ he said. “They frustrate a lot of people, but you have to stay in the game and really not let all those past times affect you.’’
Bosh already has been called the X factor by the Celtics. Wade and James are givens, they say, but when Bosh plays well, so do the Heat.
Bosh said he’s been thinking about the shots he’ll take, the role he’ll play in the series.
“It’s not about what happens on the court if you miss or make a shot, it’s how you stay in it,’’ he said. “If you have a bad game or you have a bad quarter, can you bounce back. If you miss 15 shots in a row and you’re open in the fourth quarter can you knock it down? I’ve been thinking about that.’’
If anything, though, he’s learned this season to tune things out.
“It’s going to be very interesting,’’ Bosh said. “It only gets harder from here on out. Your will is going to be tested, your composure’s going to be tested. I’m mentally prepared for it.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.