SCARY REASONS; SEEDLINGS AND SAPLINGS

July 19, 2010

Bob Ryan wrote in the Boston Globe,                                                                                                   

   “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 hour long 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.”

Chris Erskine wrote in the LA Times about planting seeds in barren soil and facing his 7-year-old son
across the tennis net.

“On a warm July day …
We plant flowers. You’d have a better chance of growing begonias in your bellybutton than in this
particular flower bed out back. I call it Four-Mile Island because it’s a disaster zone like
Three-Mile Island, except 33% worse.
Over the years, I have spent hundreds of dollars in soil enhancers, faith healers and exorcisms, with
very mixed results. The only thing that grows on Four-Mile Island is despair.
“We can help your marriage,” an exorcist once told me, “but we can’t help that awful piece of soil.”
“When can you start?” I answered.
Still, in our backyard, where olive trees throw a dark cape over almost everything, this little flower
bed receives the only sliver of sunlight available. Occasionally, when God gets off his easy chair, we
enjoy some reckless and unstoppable pumpkin vines before they eventually whither into rusty barbed wire.
This year, the little guy is planting seeds from tiny packets his grandma sent him. I rake in some
fresh soil, add some fertilizer, water it well, then turn the little guy loose with the seeds.
Seriously, if this doesn’t work, I’m planting cotton and tobacco, two crops that can grow almost
everywhere. At harvest time, I will make my own underwear. Once I’ve established my own line of
skivvies, I will roll my own cigars.
I will eventually weave seersucker suits and get very, very fat on bourbon-based cocktails. Everybody
needs a goal, and that is now mine.
So yeah, it’s pretty much a can’t-miss summer here at Four-Mile Island.
On a warm July day …
I spot the college girl eating a cinnamon roll the size of her head. That is not so odd in itself, for
kids her age are connoisseurs of the worst crud in truly disgusting proportions. What is amazing is
that I spotted her at all.
To actually see a college kid home for the summer is like spotting Garbo in Manhattan. My initial
reaction on seeing my daughter: Is that really her? Do I approach her? Would she be appalled if I asked
for an autograph? Or, do I just respect her privacy and treasure this little sighting like some sort of
keepsake?
That’s the way seeing the college girl leaves me. She’s a busy kid, working two jobs and handling two
sets of friends — the old ones (high school) and the new ones (college). So I can understand why she
doesn’t have time for someone like me (who barely drinks at all).
Then suddenly: “Dad, want to go to Neptune’s Net?”
Neptune’s Net is the near-legendary eatery, of course. It is without peer among Los Angeles
restaurants, offering abundant portions of fresh seafood in a rustic, almost prison-camp setting.

“Yesssssssss!” I yell, not wanting to appear too eager.

An hour later, we are in the car on the way to Malibu, a place so evocative they named a Chevy after
it.
“Is that the ocean I smell?” the little guy asks as we pull out of the driveway. “Or is that just me?”
“That’s just you,” I say.
On a warm July day …
I watch the little guy practice his tennis serve.
“Ready, Dad?”
“Ready.”
“Here goes!”
To watch a 7-year-old serve a tennis ball is to renew your faith in the almost limitless potential of
the human body. The toss itself could wind up almost anywhere — in his ear, over the fence, in a
trailer park six miles down the road. There is nothing routine about the way a 7-year-old serves, which
is what makes it so remarkable and entertaining.
I’m not even sure quite how he accomplishes it, this serve, for the motion resembles a very complicated
pretzel made by a very drunk baker on what would be his last day of employment. In super slow motion,
you could probably map it, but in real time it is almost a mystery to the human eye.
This much we know: When the racquet head finally comes crashing down, a thunderous act of violence that
opens fissures in the Earth’s atmosphere, the racquet glances off the top of the boy’s head, his elbow,
a passing pigeon, and once in a blue moon, the tennis ball itself, which by now is several inches
behind him and just below the nape of his neck.
If I tried to hit a ball like this, which as I noted, is behind him and out of sight, I would wind up
in traction for three months, then they’d throw a sheet over me and sell me for spare parts.
But the little guy somehow manages to connect.
“Ace!” he yells when it ricochets off a Buick.
I don’t know, looked a little wide to me.”

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