He is the point guard on the Best Basketball Team In The World. And if you need the condensed version on how Mario Chalmers life has changed since he left Kansas, this is a pretty good place to start.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
On Wednesday night, Chalmers sat inside a locker room at the Sprint Center and slowly pulled the laces through a pair of black high-tops. This is the NBA, of course, so there are probably people that could be doing this for him. But even in his Kansas days, Chalmers was the sort of person who could make do with an economy of words and conversations. So why not avoid the fuss and do it yourself?
The rest of his surroundings are decidedly more high-maintenance. All around the Sprint Center, there were signs that the Miami Heat the NBAs most spectacular big-top circus had arrived in town.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stood in a hallway and answered not one, not two, but three questions about LeBron James maturation process. Somewhere in the building, All-Star guard Dwyane Wade readied for his second preseason game in two nights. And then there was newly acquired guard Ray Allen, who began the night on the bench, a pretty good symbol for the amount of talent thats collected in South Beach.
But sitting in the middle of the room, was the 26-year-old point guard known around these parts as little brother.
I got a lot of people coming tonight, Chalmers says.
Its been more than four years since Chalmers finished off his career at Kansas with an NCAA Championship, more than four years since his game-tying three-pointer against Memphis and probably more than four years since hes had to buy a drink in Lawrence.
But Chalmers has other things on his mind this year. Last June, he started at point guard for the Heat as James and Wade helped the franchise claim a pressure-releasing NBA championship. Chalmers finished with 25 points in the Heats crucial game-four victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. And if there was any question whether Chalmers was capable of starting on a championship team, those doubts appeared to evaporate in the euphoria of a title celebration.
Hes proven himself as a championship point guard, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says. Its always about consistency with him. Hes at his best in the biggest moments; hes never shied away from them. We all know that. Thats why we love him so much.
Chalmers was in the starting lineup on Wednesday night as the Heat lost 101-94 to the Washington Wizards at the Sprint Center. Chalmers finished with eight points and five assists in 20 minutes.
He played well, said James, who added 13 points in 29 minutes. He shot the ball well. Of course, conditioningwise, hes not there yet. But he hasnt played. Hes gonna continue to get better.
But heres one problem with playing on the best team in basketball: There are a lot of good players around. The Heat acquired Allen in the offseason, proving more competition at the guard spot. And Chalmers may have to continue to prove himself to garner the minutes he enjoyed during the Heats championship run.
Just keep going out there, proving myself, Chalmers says, when asked about his next step. (I need to) show that I can lead a team.
Chalmers says this quickly and quietly. But inside the Heats locker room, Chalmers confidence can be the source of amazement and amusement.
He actually thinks hes the best player on this team, Wade said in the NBA Finals run, and thats a gift and a curse.
But this, of course, is Chalmers. And the qualities that allowed him to knock down a three-pointer in the most pressurized moment of his life are the same ones that can make a point guard think they should be taking the big shot not LeBron James.
I dont have many gray hairs, Spoelstra says, but the few ones that I have, probably came from Mario.
Hes grown tremendously. We knew right away that he was a gamer. In those big moments, that he would be there for you.
These days, Chalmers says he still keeps up with most of his former Kansas teammates. And every once in a while, hell exchange in-season texts with KU assistant Joe Dooley. But in five days, the Heat will begin the regular season and Chalmers will assume his role on the NBAs most-watched serial. That means keeping LeBron happy, deferring to Wade and finding a way to play alongside Allen.
No, its not easy being a point guard on the Miami Heat. But if all goes as planned, a repeat title would be worth the hassle.
I think we got a good chance, Chalmers said. If everybody stays healthy, we come in with the same mindset we had last year, we should have a good chance.