If any Miami Heat player is familiar with controversy, it's Mario Chalmers.
Only three months ago, Miami fans were calling for their point guard to be cut from the team. He looked lost, tired and often defeated against the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Even with LeBron James at his side, Chalmers struggled to physically and mentally get past the exhaustion that had accumulated after four years of NBA Finals runs. And while the role players for Miami weren't necessarily terrible, at times they looked incapable of giving the much needed support to help the stars on the team reach their winning potential. Despite the Finals being touted as an overall team loss, fans searching for accountability looked no further than ‘Rio.
When Chalmers debuted as a rookie, he showed promise as a playmaker and a shooter. Times, of course, were different for Chalmers back then; instinct drove his game and he didn't need to worry about adjusting to Chris Bosh and James' arrival. Basketball for Chalmers was how he liked it - simple action.
When forming an opinion, fans and pundits tend to rely on the principle of recency. Chalmers unfortunately is a role player we like to be overly critical of, almost offering him up as a scapegoat when things go wrong. This often became apparent when his teammates yelled at him, excused by the notion they knew he could take it and flourish with such criticism. Fans tend to forget the clutch shots he's made in big moments because the lasting memory is defeat, followed by the loss of LeBron.
If his social media is anything to go by, it looks like we may see a different ‘Rio this coming season. Chalmers, now 28 years old, can be seen working on making his shooting more reliable, but it's his proclamation of "becoming a jack of all trades" which tells us he's looking at the bigger picture. Already throwing himself into preseason condition, his positive affirmations represent a newfound headspace. The fatigue he felt probably still hangs around, but this offseason isn't the same; it's no longer Groundhog Day. It's already feeling different as this could be Chalmers' season of redemption. No longer is the focus on simply spacing the floor for superstars. Instead, it's shifted to becoming a more complete point guard with expanded responsibilities.
We don't know if this reprised role will lead to Chalmers thriving as a leader. If he comes out early with the nourished mindset from Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, Rio could just be the answer that has been under our noses this whole time. Chalmers (28) and Bosh (30) are in the midst of their respective prime years. With Dwyane Wade's re-conditioned help, Chalmers can be a big part of the team's playmaking post-LeBron. Chalmers should be more involved with the ball now. If he can be effective in this expanded role, he can join Wade in running pick-and-pops with Bosh and Josh McRoberts to help stretch the floor.
Finding a balance between being an initiator and still deferring to the stars in front of him will be the key to how well he re-adjusts to playing a more traditional version of point guard for the Heat. With Norris Cole still developing his game and possibly pushing Chalmers for more minutes, the motivation to prove his worth is still there for Chalmers. Having a capable replacement breathing down his neck should drive him.