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Ira Winderman: LeBron has forfeited right for patience

By the end, the patience had run thin, razor thin.

The patience with a teammate who wasn't there for 28 games during the regular season.

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The patience with a center who at times came up small.

The patience for a coach who ran the same defensive schemes that the San Antonio Spurs burned for open shot after open shot after open shot.

The patience with a front office that made reducing the luxury tax a priority.

Or you could believe the Madison Avenue spin, which assuredly is playing on your television right now.

By the end of his Miami Heat tenure all indications were LeBron James' patience had run out with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley/Micky Arison. He essentially left without a clarifying word to any.

And that's fine. When you're bigger than the game, you have that right.

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LeBron James can do anything he wants.

But what he can't expect from others is what he has shown precious little of himself:

Patience.

The self-acknowledged quest is to one day become viewed as the greatest ever. The perspective requires championships. Kobe totals. Jordan totals. Perhaps, though, not Russell totals.

And that makes every season LeBron James plays, especially now that he turns 30 in December . . . THE MOST IMPORTANT SEASON OF HIS CAREER.

He'll claim different, because the pressure at times the previous four seasons grew surreal, where two championships in four years drove him to look for something better.

So now he is preaching patience, quoting Aaron Rodgers in a tweet about how everyone should relax, downplaying what initially was reported as a spat with Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving.

When you're LeBron James, when you, correctly, talk about how there should be no maximum salary for your services, you can't expect anything less than maximum inspection.

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ESPN's Heat Index has become ESPN's Frigid (?) Index. Many of those who covered him in shorts in Miami are now covering him in long johns in Cleveland.

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And if there truly was a perspective of patience, if there truly was a long view, would Heat Saturday night opponent Andrew Wiggins have been so quickly dispatched to the Minnesota Timberwolves, would patience have run so thin with Anthony Bennett, would the draft pick acquired from the Heat for James after the first relocation been so readily passed along? Would the old-and-older tandem of James Jones and Mike Miller been summoned? (And possibly the oldest of all free agents, Ray Allen, eventually be added?)

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To a degree, patience was in place before any of the fervor arrived. The hiring of David Blatt was inspired. What he had accomplished on the international stage was significant. But the hiring of Blatt this past summer was similar to the Brooklyn Nets' hiring of Jason Kidd in the 2013 offseason, before Kevin Garnet and Paul Pierce were brought in and championship mode was activated. In each case, a neophyte NBA coach was instantly asked to stand among the elite.

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Now that takes patience, just as it did with Erik Spoelstra, who had not won a single playoff series before James was added by the Heat.

The type of patience James is seeking is based on his Heat experience, of how 9-8 in 2010-11 and of how four- and five-game losing streaks that followed still led to the first of four consecutive NBA Finals.

Had James stayed, the Heat would have been favored for a fifth consecutive Finals.

But he wanted some things else: Relocation and renovation.

He got both.

But what he can't have is patience. He has moved well beyond the mile marker.

IN THE LANE

RATINGS GAME: Sometimes you get too close and lose perspective. Enter Sports Illustrated's Basketball Greatest, the magazine's coffee-table book of NBA rankings. Included in the various top-10 ratings were players with various lengths of Heat tenures. So where does the greatest player in Heat franchise history stand? The book has Dwyane Wade at No. 4 all-time among shooting guards, behind the top three of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West, and ahead of, in order, Clyde Drexler, Allen Iverson, George Gervin, Oscar Robertson, Sam Jones and Reggie Miller. At small forward, LeBron James was ranked No. 2 to Larry Bird. At center, Shaquille O'Neal slotted in No. 5 behind Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Hakeem Olajuwon. At point guard, Gary Payton came in at No. 9. In the coaching section, Pat Riley came in at No. 3, behind Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach. Ray Allen ranked atop the list of 3-point shooters (with Heat almost-original Glen Rice at No. 7), with Payton No. 5 on the list of defenders (and James eighth on that list). As far as games, the Heat's Game 6 (Ray Allen 3-pointer) overtime victory against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals was ranked second all-time to the Boston Celtics' triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals. On the all-time list of franchises, the Heat ranked No. 8, which says something for a franchise that just turned 27.

OVER THERE: A glance at the league leaders in the Chinese Basketball Association, which is into its first week of play, shows just how significant the exodus has been by borderline talent lured by guaranteed dollars. Former Heat forward Michael Beasley went into the weekend sixth in both scoring and rebounding. Beasley's team, the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks, opened 0-2, with Beasley's team falling to one led by former Florida State guard Von Wafer, despite 33 points and 15 rebounds from Beasley. Among other former NBA players among the CBA scoring leaders are Dominique Jones, Al Harrington, Jamaal Franklin and Lester Hudson, with Shelden Williams, Hammed Haddadi, Andray Blatche and Chris Singleton among the rebounding leaders. Metta World Peace stood as the early leader in steals. Because of the shorter schedule in China, most of the exports will be eligible to return for the final two months of the NBA regular season, if there is interest.

NEW AGE: Among those in attendance at the Heat's road opener last weekend against the Philadelphia 76ers was former Heat part-owner Billy Cunningham. Cunningham who helped guide the Heat's front office during the franchise's first seven seasons but is best known for his time playing for and coaching the 76ers, admitted being intrigued by the 76ers staking their entire outlook on hoarding future draft picks and cap space. "I tell you what, I tip my hat that they have the fortitude to try it," Cunningham told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I don't think I would have had the fortitude to try it." To a degree, Cunningham said the 76rers are starting from scratch like the expansion Heat.  "We took a player from this team and that team," he said of the 1988 expansion draft and basically what the 76ers have assembled, "and tried to build up some draft picks. It's hard. It's not an easy chore. Plus, you've got to get lucky."

NUMBER

3. Heat players who have scored at least 100 points in their first four games of the season. Chris Bosh fell short this season at 98. It was done by Dwyane Wade (2004, '09), LeBron James (2011) and Alonzo Mourning (1996).

iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat or facebook.com/ira.winderman

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