(Yahoo!) The Cleveland Cavaliers instantly won the NBA's offseason when they convinced LeBron James to return from South Beach. Adding Kevin Love a month later resembled something akin to piling on. Alongside James and holdover point guard Kyrie Irving, Love gives the Cavs the most talented trio of stars in basketball. While it's clear that they need to figure out how to play together, they're clearly title contenders.
Yet a former member of a LeBron-led Big Three has issued a warning to one of those new teammates. According to Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh, Love should prepare for several frustrating seasons next to James. Playing next to a guy like LeBron requires recalibrating expectations of your own opportunities. From Ethan Skolnick for Bleacher Report:
"Yeah, it's a lot more difficult taking a step back, because you're used to doing something a certain way and getting looks a certain way," Bosh told Bleacher Report recently. "And then it's like, well, no, for the benefit of the team, you have to get it here.
"So even if you do like the left block, the volume of the left block is going to be different. Now you have to make those moves count. So with me, it was like a chess game. I'm doing this move and thinking about the next move and trying to stay five moves ahead. You're not getting it as much. If you got one or two a game, it's a lot different." [...]
"Exactly," Bosh said. "You just get your entree and that's it. It's like, wait a minute, I need my appetizer and my dessert and my drink, what are you doing? And my bread basket. What is going on? I'm hungry! It’s a lot different. But if you can get through it, good things can happen. But it never gets easy. Even up until my last year of doing it, it never gets easier." [...]
"It's going to be very difficult for him," Bosh said of Love's new task. "Even if I was in his corner and I was able to tell him what to expect and what to do, it still doesn't make any difference. You still have to go through things, you still have to figure out things on your own. It's extremely difficult and extremely frustrating. He's going to have to deal with that."
Love has spoken about a need to sacrifice many of his numbers for team success in Cleveland, so it's not as if he's not aware that there will be an adjustment period. But Bosh is talking about a much deeper change in his approach to the sport, not a simple acknowledgement that playing with superior teammates requires changing expectations of production. Rather, Bosh is saying that it's a change in instincts, a reformulation of what it means to apply one's skills. That difference was apparent in Bosh's play with LeBron during their four years in Miami. He wasn't so much a diminished star as a suped-up role player.
At the same time, Bosh's comments to Skolnick sometimes read as if he is assuming that Love will have to play in a similar way for the Cavaliers as he did for the Heat. It's not entirely clear that will be the case, if only because 1) David Blatt is not the same coach as Erik Spoelstra and might come up with a totally different offensive system and 2) Bosh had to play with LeBron and Dwyane Wade when both were at relatively similar levels of prestige. The second point is perhaps the most crucial, because Love isn't a clear third like Bosh was in 2010. The mere fact that Bosh and Love are both power forwards doesn't necessarily mean that they'll face the same challenges.
Regardless of how accurate Bosh's warning turns out to be, his comments are useful for how they explain his circumstances in Miami. They also might help explain why he chose to re-sign with the Heat when the Houston Rockets appeared to afford him a better chance at winning more championships. In Houston, Bosh would have faced a similar challenge playing with James Harden and Dwight Howard. With Wade diminished, Bosh will be the first option once again with the Heat. Yes, the Heat are also paying him much more money. But it's possible that Bosh simply wanted to stop repressing his basketball instincts after four years of filling a role.