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Even when things were going well for the Miami Heat over the past two seasons, one sight was extremely commonplace, that of Dwyane Wade or LeBron James upbraiding teammate Mario Chalmers on the court for all to see.
The Heat's young starting point guard, sometimes called Wario on social media for his occasional momentum-killing mental errors (after Super Mario's alter-ego in Nintendo's Mario games), is like the little brother of the Heat roster. But through the first four games of the season, he has quietly put together some impressive stat lines and avoided the scorn of James, Wade, and Chris Bosh, for now at least.
Averaging 7 assists and 7 points a game, Chalmers has posted double-digit assists in two of four games. He has also reduced his turnovers to 1.5 a game, down from 2.2 a game last season. Through his first four seasons, Chalmers had achieved that feat only three times.
"He's really improved reading the defense, being a playmaker, getting us organized into offense," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Palm Beach Post on Tuesday. "He's made the right plays and guys are making wide-open shots from there."
"He's making great reads," Wade added. "He's making passes this year that I have never seen him make." Wade was so impressed by Chalmers' play of late, he said he had to stop Chalmers in the locker room after a film session not to point out something he was doing wrong, but to give him praise.
"I said, 'I didn’t notice during the game, but you played a hell of a ball game.' He's growing."
Chalmers has one of the more idiosyncratic roles of any point guard in the NBA. Because James and Wade are so adept at handling the ball, Chalmers can spend large stretches of time playing off the ball, something not all point guards are comfortable doing.
Additionally, the presence of James on the team tends to reduce Chalmers' assist numbers, as James will sometimes receive a pass from him and pass once more to another teammate for an open shot. Spoelstra has taken to calling these plays "hockey assists" for Chalmers, referring to the practice in hockey of awarding assists to two passes immediately before a goal is scored.
But Chalmers might not want to get too comfortable with his newly-elevated status. His teammates will eventually get frustrated with him in a game, and they have not forgotten how to snap at Chalmers.
"It'll come,” Bosh told the Post of the on-court rebukes. "We haven't gotten to those points where our backs are against the wall yet. But they'll be coming. And we'll start working on our yells."