Despite being NBA Champions and despite the fact that they only got better this summer, the Miami Heat are still looked at as a team with a flaw. They’re not big enough. The team’s only true centers are Joel Anthony, who many have said has hands like bricks, and Dexter Pittman, who is Dexter Pittman. That fact isn’t lost on Heat President Pat Riley, but it also doesn’t concern him. Riley said used a comparison between San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh (H/T to the Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman).
“”We signed Chris, basically, in my mind, fully in my mind, not in the back of my mind, he was probably going to be our center in critical situations,” Riley said on the Joe Rose Show. “And, so, Chris Bosh is a power forward, he’s a Tim Duncan-type player, but when you watch the San Antonio Spurs play, Tim is in the middle. That’s all there is to it.”
I think the fairest way to describe that comparison is “interesting.” The initial reaction is that Riley just made a silly comparison between the greatest power forward ever and a guy who is currently maybe a top five power forward in the league. So in that sense, yes, it’s silly to compare Duncan and Bosh. However, Riley has the utmost respect for Duncan and once told the San Antonio Express News he could see Duncan playing and being effective, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar until he’s 40. So to say he was somehow downplaying Duncan’s greatness or putting Bosh on a Duncan level pedestal.
Not to put words in one of the greatest coaches of all time’s mouth, but Riley probably meant the Heat are asking Bosh to play the Duncan role, particularly on defense. If you go back to the NBA Finals, Bosh willingly played the center role and protected the rim against Oklahoma City almost as well as Duncan did. And the direction the league is going, you really only need one big on the court at one time to rim protect. Ironically, the Spurs and Heat have a similar problem which is they both lack a reliable back up when Duncan and Bosh respectively go to the bench (though Joel Anthony is an excellent defender despite being undersized). It also helps to have the guy who is probably the best defender in the league playing small forward.
In conclusion, Pat Riley’s comment looks silly out of context. In context he’s saying his team wouldn’t mind another big guy, but they don’t need one because they just won the NBA Championship in five games.