They have, at times, referred to themselves as the Little 12, a reference to serving as the remainder of a Miami Heat roster that features stars in its top three slots. Their composition has changed over the past three seasons, with only Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, James Jones, Mike Miller and Dexter Pittman still around from 2010-11, and 18 other players – at one time or another – filling out the other six spots.
Most have understood the arrangement. As extras, they are responsible for complementing and supplementing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, a trio that, while commanding more than 60 percent of the team’s total salary, will generally take more than 60 percent of the shots.
In that context, expectations of their offensive output should be modest, even on the nights when one of the marquee players is missing, as was the case due to Bosh’s flu on Wednesday. In his absence, the extras supported Wade and James with 51 of the team’s 114 points to beat the Rockets by six. Still, Erik Spoelstra praised much of their other work, from Shane Battier’s “impactful minutes on both ends” to Udonis Haslem’s “great job on the glass,” to the “spark off the bench” from Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis.
It should be noted, however, that strong play from several corners has been an exception, not a norm, this season. Members of the supporting cast have had their moments, from Ray Allen’s four late game-deciding jumpers to Mario Chalmers’s 10 3-pointers in Sacramento, and even to recent addition Chris Andersen’s Eurostep and finish in Brooklyn.
Still, at this stage of the season, consistency has remained elusive for virtually everyone to the point where it’s impossible to even identify the Heat’s fourth-best player in 2012-13 entering Friday night’s home game (8 p.m., ESPN) against the Los Angeles Clippers. While Spoelstra has insisted that his rotation has been less variable than that of many other teams, the inconsistency in player performance may help explain why the coach continues to tinker with in-game lineup combinations. Or perhaps, as some might suggest, it’s actually vice versa, with that tinkering preventing players from getting completely comfortable.