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Bob Ryan

Three big reasons to be afraid

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / July 11, 2010

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Regarding this LeBron thing: May we talk a little basketball?

Good.

But first, may we attempt to put the Thursday night developments in perspective one more time?

1. “The Decision.’’ You perhaps think the hourlong program was an embarrassing mess that did not reflect well on anyone, be it LeBron James, Jim Gray, or ESPN.

And your point is?

The instant we heard that James’s decision would be announced in that type of format, on that network, who didn’t know it would be a horror show? My information is that it was actually Gray’s idea, that he pitched it to LeBron right-hand man Maverick Carter and things went from there. ESPN is in the business of 24/7/365 sports programming, so its interest comes in the no-brainer category. Since it only takes a second or two, depending on one’s speech pattern, to say “I’m going to Miami,’’ we knew we would be teased to the point of nausea awaiting the news we had tuned in for. And we were. Next question.

LeBron was a colossal loser, absolutely. The very idea of the show was preposterous, and the fact he was not talked out of doing this by some clear-thinking elder is scary. He comes off as a narcissist’s narcissist, and perhaps we should wonder if we should caution Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to be careful about what exactly they’re wishing for.

2. The Rant. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert went publicly nuclear, denouncing the nature of James’s departure as a “cowardly betrayal’’ while claiming that LeBron had tanked it not only in Game 5 of the Boston series, but in Games 2, 4, and 6 as well. He said they’d been “covering up’’ for LeBron. Fascinating. Now there is no doubt that if Gilbert’s charge is true that neither LeBron nor his agent, Leon Rose, had the common decency to explain why he was leaving Cleveland in a face-to-face manner befitting an adult, said act is despicable.

But it’s not as if Gilbert didn’t benefit financially from having LeBron around. I’m sure Mr. Gilbert feels better now that he has vented in such a spectacular, vitriolic manner, but it was at the expense of his dignity.

Keep in mind also that the Cavaliers never had a “right’’ to LeBron’s services just because he hailed from Akron. They won a lottery. He could just as easily have been a Clipper. So enough of the Ohio guilt-trip approach. Having LeBron for seven years was a blissful bonus for all concerned.

Now, the basketball.

Vegas is shaking. Well-known oddsmaker Jimmy Shapiro reports that the Heat have been installed as favorites to be parading next June. The Heat are listed at 7-6, followed by the Lakers at 11-4, the Magic at 10-1, the Celtics at 12-1, and the Bulls at 15-1 The new-look Cavs are 60-1. (Notice how the balance of power has been shifted from West to East).

One more thing on this business: The Miami over/under for Ws is 65.

How handy that we have a nice comparison team in the 2007-08 Celtics. The Heat are surely comforting themselves with the knowledge that Boston’s “Big Three’’ came together quickly enough to become immediate champions.

That trio, however, was composed quite differently than this one. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen were inherently complementary. Allen’s best work is done off the ball. Pierce’s best work is done with it. Garnett is a natural facilitator who can also hit an open 15-footer or post up, as the need arises. Playing smoothly together was never going to be an issue. In addition, Garnett’s primary value was quarterbacking a defense that ranks with the best the league has ever seen.

Both James and Wade need the ball, or at least they always have. Oh, sure, they can say they proved how well they can play together on Team USA, but that is an entirely different circumstance. It’s one thing to subjugate yourself for a couple of weeks for a very specific common goal, and it’s another to sacrifice a large part of your game (i.e. your identity) for 82 games, plus a two-month playoff grind.

Bosh, if he’s smart, will be happy to be a pilot fish, living off the other two to the tune of 15-18 points per game. He’ll also need to rebound.

No, the issue is Wade v. LeBron. Remember, LeBron is coming into D-Wade’s house. D-Wade already has the master bedroom and control of the clicker. LeBron’s the one asking, “Hey, where do you keep the towels?’’ “The glasses are in which cabinet?’’ “How does this shower thingy work?’’ He will have to make some mental adjustments.

They play a similar game, except that LeBron is taller, stronger, a better rebounder, and more inherently flamboyant. Wade is a more reliable shooter. So this will work best, as my old friend Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated has pointed out, if LeBron is willing to forgo being the total-center-of-attention LeBron we’ve all come to know and reinvent himself as the 21st century Magic Johnson.

This, he could easily do. Picture him going coast to coast all night long, dishing and dealing and finishing. Picture him scoring 18-20 ppg while trying to lead the league in assists. Why can’t he do that?

Wade would have to become more of a catch-and-shoot guy, but a catch-and-shoot guy who can break you down in a heartbeat if he sees an opening. But he’ll have to accept the idea that LeBron will have the basketball 75 percent of the time.

Bosh doesn’t have to change a thing.

Pat Riley made one good move already, seeking out Mike Miller as his resident safety valve guy. I’ve always liked Miller, if only because how could you not like an NBA figure who actually played high school ball in the Corn Palace? But on Friday, I looked him up and was somewhat startled to learn he is a career 40 percent 3-point shooter who shot 48 percent on threes this past season and whose worst year was 34 percent. Dying and finding himself in heaven isn’t too strong a description of his circumstance if he finds himself on this team. Remember that in Michael’s heyday two very big Chicago playoff games were won when he dished off to the likes of John Paxson and Steve Kerr.

That would be four down and three to go. One player Riley must find is a plowhorse, whether it’s a center or power forward. Bosh can rebound, but it’s because he’s 6 feet 10 inches. He’s no banger. Riley needs someone to do the dirty work.

One thing the Heat do not need is a quality point guard. They’ve got LeBron and Wade. All they need is a guard who can get the ball past midcourt without tripping over himself, and perhaps guard somebody. I’m guessing incumbent Mario (Got to check my ring size) Chalmers can do that.

My first instinct was to say this team might have to wait a year before starting an official NBA reign of terror. Then Riley tapped Miller. If he finds that plowhorse and if he lands a swingman type — Tony Allen would fit nicely, but don’t tell Danny Ainge I said so — they’ll be ready to go.

So, yes, I think the league has reason to be afraid.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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