The rebounding largely has been consistent. That element remains fundamental: See the ball; get the ball.
The scoring? That has proven somewhat confounding: Get the ball . . . then do what?
For Udonis Haslem, these have proven to be heady times.
“I’m over-thinking it now,” the veteran Miami Heat power forward said, with the Heat up 3-1 on the New York Knicks in this best-of-seven opening-round NBA playoff series, heading into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
To say Haslem has been minimized as a scoring threat in this series would be an understatement. After scoring three points in the series opener, one in Game 2 and two in Game 3, Haslem doubled his series scoring total with six in Sunday’s Game 4 loss.
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For now, he remains somewhat at a loss over how to fit in.
And that is what has been somewhat lost in Erik Spoelstra’s late-season injection of Haslem into the starting lineup. While the Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have developed a chemistry over the past two seasons, only in these past few weeks has Haslem lined up alongside the trio in the starting lineup.
For as much as opponents have given Haslem the space to shoot his trademark 16-foot jumper, there has been that lingering thought in the back of his mind, even as he is locked and loaded, about whether a release would essentially be robbing one of the Big Three of a better scoring attempt.
“I think more so than anything, the problem that I’ve had all this year is just over-thinking,” he said. “As a basketball player, you have to find an area where you’re comfortable but you’re still intense and focused and not too relaxed.”
A relaxed Haslem would fire at will. An intense Haslem is more focused with throwing his body into rebounding position, particularly now that the Heat are playing without a true center in the starting lineup.
“I’ve kind of been back and forth between that area this year, just trying to get comfortable, but still focused and intense,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself too intense and sometimes I find myself too relaxed.”
He shakes his head as he offers he words. He knows he is not himself at the moment, the portrait of controlled confidence he normally exudes as co-captain with Wade.
“It’s just all a part of the game,” he said. “It’s all about being comfortable and being relaxed. Like I said, the key is not to over-think it, so regardless of who’s out there and who I’m playing with, if I’m open, I just got to take my shots.”
He said starting alongside Bosh, which had been the exception until recently, is not an issue.
“Nah, it’s pretty much the same,” he said. “I do the same thing, try not to over-think it. That probably makes it easier for me and him.”
But the reality is nothing has come easy for Haslem this series, with foul trouble limiting his contribution Sunday and Spoelstra electing to play small without him for extended stretches in Game 4.
To a degree, the mere act of starting has been a relearning process, first stepping aside for Michael Beasley in 2009-10, then for Bosh these past two seasons until Spoelstra’s sudden lineup shift last month. Sunday’s start was just the 14th for the ninth-year forward over the past three seasons.
“The most important thing is I just try to make sure I focus in helping us get off to a good start, however I can do it, whether it be rebounding, defending, or whatever I can do,” he said. “I put more of that pressure of myself than I did before. That’s the only major difference.”
That and these recent out-of-character doubts.
“I don’t need no sports psychologist,” he bristled when it was jokingly suggested. “It’s just all a part of the game. I’m not worried. I’ll get this right.”
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