Rage Against the Machine: The Chris Bosh Fight

Chris Bosh wasn’t supposed to be here. Conventional wisdom had Bosh in year three of his max deal, a veteran fixture and NBA champion complaining about the grind of training camp two-a-days. But here he is on the outside of his professional life, his face pushed against the glass like a stranger, trying to maintain some level of optimism in the face of a strategy to exile him from Miami for good. As dramas go, it is not the sleep on it and everything will be better kind. No. This is about money so digging in is required.

Bosh has everything to lose if the Heat have their wish and permanently brand him as an unable to perform player; the Heat have nothing to lose. Bosh will forfeit money, his career, his place in the NBA ecosystem. The Heat will forfeit absolutely nothing. In fact they gain the ability to sign a max player next summer because salary cap dollars will be restored.

Expectedly, Bosh the competitor is not going to quietly watch as his career is flushed down the drain because Pat Riley and the Miami Heat doctors say so, motivated by money.

This is a divorce. And like all divorces the assets have to be divided. But unlike most divorces, there is no mediator to have the final say. It is Bosh and the NBAPA on one side, and the Heat and their doctors on the other. Both warring parties have to go through this long and protracted trial, and because of the desperation that always accompanies irreconcilable difference, in this case the Heat wanting their money back, and Bosh wanting his career, both are trying to sway the jury.

If it is not sympathy Bosh is angling for by his public comments critical of Pat Riley and the Heat, then it is empathy. He has an illness. His employer is trying to use that illness to kick him out the door for financial reasons. There is no greater cruelty or discrimination than that. And yet, the NBA is a collective of healthy bodied men; if you are not healthy, you are not part of the league.That is the unwritten contract.

History reminds us Chris Bosh is the reason the Heat won championship number three. But that was then. Time his passed. That marriage has long eroded and no one is burdened by nostalgia. The drama now has entered the business realm of eroding friendships. Past moments of glory are left in some aged scrapbook with the title 2013. There are no loyalties, no friends, no affections any more.

To be sure, Bosh’s behavior is an anomaly. It’s abnormal behavior to take on Pat Riley, the ultimate street fighter. But Bosh, in his own right, has toughness and skill. He is trying to save his career and even though the likelihood of Bosh playing again is a longshot-no NBA team will clear him to play while he is on blood thinners- (thin blood can precipitate massive bleeding to death), the fight is still important.

Recently, the Heat have established a pattern of dealing with the Big Three that is counterintuitive. It began when an edgy Riley challenge LeBron James to have “guts” and come back to Miami, in essence challenging his integrity. Riley followed that it up by lowballing Dwayne Wade. He didn’t give Wade the courtesy of negotiating with him face to face. And now Riley has determined Bosh’s career is over. His conclusion became public when he spread it around the league that Bosh was damaged goods. It was a knife to the Chris Bosh heart.¬†What is clear now that wasn’t clear when the Big Three signed their groundbreaking deals with the Heat is that the organization gets failing grades for interpersonal communication. The Big Three all had beef with Pat Riley’s style of no respect once they were out the door.

No one wants their career taken away so it is normal that Bosh is fighting even if the fight is an uphill one. But this is the bottom line. The Heat made a deal and now are having buyer’s remorse. The more than $70 million the Heat owe Bosh is what this acrimony is all about. Bosh wants the stipulations spelled out in his contract adhered to and he wants to earn it in the familiar way that has marked his career. The Heat want to prove that Bosh is unable to perform and then get some of that money back so they can turn the page and hopefully make a run at Blake Griffin next summer.

Like all divorces, money makes everyone stubborn and vindictive.

“My career is not done”. Bosh was defiant on his video blog, and frankly, he has every right to be bitter. This is no longer about wins and losses, 3-point shots, rebounding, and being an Eastern Conference contender. Peel away the layers. It is about perception. Bosh has to create the impression to future employers that he can still play. The Heat need to divest Bosh’s salary from the books by saying he is damaged for life. Who is going to win this blinking contest?

The Heat bungled the Dwyane Wade free agency, letting their franchise player walk because of money. It’s clear that gratitude isn’t part of their moral code. Money makes their decisions and it’s hard to blame them for not wanting to pay a player who cannot play.

Even if Bosh somehow crosses this medical hurdle, the value in a trade- all bridges are burned at this point- would give the Heat pieces but not Chris Bosh talent. So the only option they have is to torch the Chris Bosh Miami Heat house down until nothing is left but singed embers. It’s morally questionable but it saves the franchise money. Conceptually, it’s a pretty easy hand to play for the Heat upper management.

Still, it’s hard to reconcile then and now, that the last great Miami Heat moment was the Chris Bosh rebound that led to the Ray Allen three that led to Game 7 and back-to-back titles for the Miami Heat. Riley was happy then. Bosh was happy then. The Heat had achieved iconic status as they were on the precipice of a dynasty, the cream of the NBA crop. But the hedonistic glory was short and very, very sweet. Inevitable, there was a crash.

This is a new game now with an intricate set of rules. The Miami Heat and Chris Bosh are all in on this divorce. It’s messy already, soon to be very ugly.


photo via llananba