Who's afraid of LeBron James?
Sorry, that's a silly question. Everyone is — the man's blessed with more raw talent than any basketball player on the planet Earth. He's a better scorer, a better passer, a better rebounder, a better defender, a better pure athlete than anyone. He's a world-beater.
But would penciling his name into a different spot on the Miami Heat lineup card really make you fear him any more?
That's the question that was raised late this week, when a brief chat between Heat president Pat Riley and South Florida Sun Sentinel basketball reporter Ira Winderman yielded a few gems of wisdom on the team's plans for this upcoming season — most notably the notion that LeBron or teammate Dwyane Wade could switch to point guard.
LeBron is the most logical fit at the point — there's been buzz all summer about how the former Cavalier fits better in the Magic Johnson-style distributing, playmaking role than as a dominating scorer. LeBron can have the ball in his hands, running the offense, while Wade can score on the wing and Chris Bosh can be the Heat's presence inside. It all makes sense.
The reaction around the rest of the Eastern Conference — or, at least, around many of the media members who speculate about other East teams this time of year — has been panic. LeBron at point guard? A 6-foot-8, god-knows-how-many-pounds LeBron, humiliating guys half his size on every position? What does this mean for Jameer Nelson? What about Mike Bibby?
Oh God — what does this mean for Rajon Rondo?
In all honesty, the real answer is probably "not much."
Granted, the matchup on paper between the 6-foot-8 James and the 6-foot-1 Rondo looks pretty scary. The kid could get eaten alive. But Rondo has the wingspan of a power forward, coupled with the athleticism of a track star. He can stick with King James better than anyone, contesting shots and using his length to disrupt passing lanes.
And on top of that, Doc Rivers has the flexibility to tweak his defensive assignments if Rondo's not up to the job.
Imagine Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were to go with a lineup of LeBron at the point, Wade and Mike Miller on the wings, Bosh at power forward, and another big man like Zydrunas Ilgauskas or Udonis Haslem in the mix. Doc wouldn't have to stick Rondo on LeBron in that scenario — he can put Paul Pierce on LeBron, Rondo on the smaller Wade, and Ray Allen on Miller in a matchup of two spot-up shooters. He'd have all his bases covered.
The Celtics have always had an answer for LeBron, no matter what position he plays. "Point guard" is really a meaningful distinction in name only — LeBron always has the ball in his hands, anyway, regardless of what you call him. No matter where the Heat put the guy, the Celtics will be ready for him.
The Heat are simply doing what common sense dictates — they're putting their best five players on the floor. And honestly, what team among the Eastern Conference elites won't be ready for it?
You think the Celtics can't handle a big lineup? They've added three 7-footers this summer alone, in Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal and Semih Erden. When Kendrick Perkins gets back from injury, that'll be a fourth.
The Magic have Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass and Daniel Orton.
The Hawks have Al Horford, Jason Collins, Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith.
Show a little bit of size to a legit Eastern Conference contender, and they won't even blink. They'll rise to the challenge.
Tell the Miami Heat to do their worst — the rest of the East will be ready. The Celtics more so than anyone.
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