We’ve seen it in Miami’s revolving door rotation. But Erik Spoelstra is hardly to blame, as he has to balance rhythm and consistency with effective play in highly-specific roles. If you’re a three-point shooter and you’re not making threes, what’s your value? None. So it’s highly pressurized, playing alongside superstars. If you play well, it’s outlying and momentary, waived off with a flick of the wrist. Thanks, that was a nice, albeit unexpected boost. But can you do it again? Eh. We hope so.
Mario Chalmers is the first Miami player to break that mold – not only in his game, but by refusing to bite his tongue. Each time Chalmers didn’t pass or didn’t cut or didn’t make a play to LeBron’s liking in Game 7, James flew into a rage. I imagined LeBron declaring, “I got this, can’t you see?” The typical role player would have slinked away, nodded his head and waited for the verbal beating to end. Chalmers went in a different direction, though, jawing right back at James. We’re in an age where superstars reign supreme – buy into the team, the superstar tyranny, or good luck finding your next contract. So this on-court back and forth, Chalmers’ undermining of the status quo hierarchy, was surprising. But that element that Chalmers brings is invaluable. It’s that x-factor without statistical value. That, at any point, he’ll be the one to unsettle the offensive routine, that he won’t simply defer to his more talented teammates. He upsets Miami’s predictability, that they’ll always rely on their stars to rule the kingdom, and the proletariat will happily remain subservient.
Erik Spoelstra tried to take advantage of this expectation in Game 4, as Sebastian Pruiti so intelligently points out over at Grantland. In the waning moments with LeBron fouled out, it was Mario Chalmers who got the call for the game-winning three. But of course, as Pruiti astutely notes, Wade sabotaged the designed play for his own prejudiced creativity. But what did we do? We congratulated Wade for his creativity to make something out of nothing and blamed Spoelstra for not concocting something better.
This is what makes Chalmers so impressive. Time and time again he’s proven his worth and remains psychologically undeterred in the face of outright rejection. He’s openly reprimanded for his failures and hardly praised for his intangible value – that he’s a threat and defenses must pay attention to him.
Will Chalmers play a big role in the Finals?
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