MIAMI -- Starting center Chris Bosh is on the verge of returning to the Miami Heat’s lineup after missing his seventh consecutive game Thursday to recover from a strained left calf.
Bosh said Thursday he was disappointed that he wasn't healthy enough to play in the Christmas Day 101-91 win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers but was advised to take more time to recover. The Heat’s plan is to test Bosh in a full practice session before he’s cleared to play in a game.
The Heat’s next two games are Saturday against Memphis and Monday against Orlando. With coach Erik Spoelstra giving the team the day off Friday, Miami's next practice opportunity isn't expected until Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to practicing and going at a good pace on it,” Bosh said. “I thought I would be back, but it really didn't work out like that. It’s just something I have to cope with. To play on your home court, Christmas in a big-time game, I just hate missing it. But you can’t do anything about it.”
Bosh has been sidelined since he sustained the injury in a Dec. 12 victory in Utah. He played through the discomfort during that game and finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes. But Bosh said the pain grew worse the next few days, and the Heat decided to hold him out indefinitely.
About two hours before Thursday’s game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there was no definitive update on Bosh’s status but that the 12-year veteran had been gradually intensifying his work with the training staff the past few days. Bosh participated in some shooting drills after Wednesday’s practice.
The Heat have struggled recently without Bosh, who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder when he got injured. Bosh has averaged 21.6 points and 8.2 rebounds in 23 games during the most productive start of his five seasons with the Heat.
Seeing the Heat struggle without him has been difficult, especially after Bosh sat on the bench and watched his team squander a 23-point lead in Tuesday’s home loss to Philadelphia.
“It’s very tough -- that’s the hardest thing to do is watch on the bench,” Bosh said. “We’re still trying to figure this thing out and bring everything together. I think in that last game, everything kind of came to a head a little bit. It just went south. It’s not much I can do. I just stand by. I try to do something, clap it up, tell guys something and just be a part of the game in some way.”
Bosh took matters a step further Thursday when he addressed fans at center court after pregame introductions with a holiday greeting. His being on the verge of a return is the most encouraging development in weeks for the injury-riddled Heat, who have already lost forward Josh McRoberts for the season to knee surgery and were without star guard Dwyane Wade for seven games last month.
Sitting out Thursday meant Bosh could only watch the emotionally charged environment that saw James return to Miami for the first time since his surprising departure in free agency this past summer to rejoin the Cavaliers. Although Wade has spent the days leading up to the game detailing the depths of his friendship with James, Bosh suggested that some of his comments in the offseason about James were mischaracterized.
Before the Heat’s preseason game in October against Cleveland in Brazil, Bosh told reporters he had not spoken with James since July. Bosh also said, as a competitor, he wouldn't go out of his way to be on friendly terms during the preseason trip with his former teammate.
On Thursday, Bosh said there was no bitterness between the two after a four-year run that saw the Heat win two championships and advance to four straight NBA Finals. Bosh was one of several Heat players James hugged and embraced after the game and exchanged a few pleasantries.
“I haven’t said anything about him personally,” Bosh said. “He’s a good guy. We've been through a lot, and we've played on other teams before. That’s just how it is. It was taken out of proportion. It’s not fair to anybody. It’s not fair to him and his family. It’s not fair to me and mine. But it’s just the nature of the business. But at the time, I guess that’s just how it was going. I’m a competitor. I’m trying to win.”