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Chris Bosh

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January 23, 2014 — 5:30 PM (PST)
American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers (16-26) suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss Monday night vs. Chicago Bulls after allowing a wide open layup off an inbound pass with 0.9 sec left on the game clock.

Players on the Lakers were clearly out of piosition, and we cannot decipher from our television screen whether it was the player’s fault or the coach’s fault for poor positioning.

Nevertheless, they have to move on and play the 2-time defending NBA Championships Miami Heat tonight in a nationally televised game.

The Heat have coasted through this season and have suffered a few losses versus very mediocre teams by playing down to their level. Still, the Heat seem to be destined for either of the top 2 seeds in the east and seem to only focus solely on the playoffs.

Without G Dwyane Wade‘s service tonight, the ball will mostly be in F LeBron James and F Chris Bosh will run the show tonight. James, who averages 26.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 6.5 APG, has dominated both ends of the floor and continues to improve every season, now shooting at a career high FG % of 58%. Unfortunately, we will not have a James vs. Bryant duel this season as G Kobe Bryant still recovers from his fractured knee.

F Chris Bosh continues to play like an all-star this season, averaging 16.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG. Without having to matchup with any legitimate post players besides C/F Pau Gasol, Bosh should score a lot tonight if he plays aggressively and continues to drive to the basket.

Meanwhile, 2 Lakers have been on a tear for the Lakers despite their roller-coaster season.

The real Pau Gasol has finally returned to the Lakers.

I know Gasol has worn the Laker uniform since 2008, but we have not seen Gasol play this dominantly since the NBA championship run from 2008-2010. It must be correlated with PG Kendall Marshall giving Gasol the ball in his sweet spot, and Gasol has played with more energy on both ends of the floor as a result. In his last 5 games, Gasol has averaged 22.0 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 3.0 APG and 1.8 BPG on 53.0% FG.

Also, we cannot forget about F Nick “Swaggy P” Young‘s dominance coming off the bench. A clear 6th man award winner and the team MVP if the season ended today, Young has scored 29 points and 31 points respectively in his last 2 games after coming off a 1-game suspension.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Mario Chalmers [Advantage: Even]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Ray Allen [Advantage: Heat]
SF - Wesley Johnson / LeBron James [Advantage: Heat]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Shane Battier [Advantage: Heat]
C - Pau Gasol / Chris Bosh [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Heat: G Michael BeasleyPG Norris ColeC Greg Oden

Lakers: G Nick Young, G Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Heat: Out-G Dwyane Wade

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar

Keys for Lakers Victory

Rebounding: The Lakers absolutely have to limit the Heat to one possession and not allow offensive rebounds in order to have a chance at winning this match up. Allowing 19 offensive rebounds to the Bulls led to the Lakers’ eventual loss. Since the Heat already average last in the NBA grabbing offensive rebounds per game, the Lakers can absolutely ill-afford to let this team get extra possessions. We know when the Lakers are hot on the offensive end, they are very hot. However, the Lakers have to find a Heat player to box out and then crash the boards to not allow extra possessions.

Bottom Line

The Lakers should come out with a lot of energy tonight after 2 days of rest. However, since the Heat do not have Wade available tonight, expect the Heat to do so too. Hopefully, the Lakers play their game and do not let the Heat players intimidate them on both ends of the floor. If they keep the offensive rebounds allowed to a minimum, play good team defense, and shoot the ball well tonight, they will make tonight’s game competitive. If they do not, expect the Heat to dominate tonight at the Lakers’ expense

Prediction

Heat: 105-90

 

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Image: CHRIS TROTMAN | GETTY IMAGES

According to ESPNLA.com’s Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers are focusing on rebuilding around the two biggest free agents for 2014 – Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Image: Harry How | Getty Images
Image: Harry How | Getty Images

In accordance with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s prediction of a $62.1 million salary cap for the 2014-15 season, the Lakers will theoretically have about $51.5 million in cap space next summer.

Although the reality of pairing James and Anthony together is still a long-shot at this point, the Lakers have made it clear that they plan to try.

The Lakers have positioned themselves into making a realistic run at not just one superstar next summer, but possibly two in the same off-season.

By refusing to commit to any contracts past this upcoming season, the Lakers have maintained maximum flexibility to cash-in on the 2014 free agency frenzy.

A league source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN:

“It’s all wishful thinking at this point,” a league source said. “Teams are doing more wishing than LeBron is wanting right now.

“It’s not about where LeBron wants to go [to win]. He already has two rings. If LeBron moved to Reno, teams would come to him.”

James, who has an opt-out clause for next season, has not made it clear as to whether he plans to exercise his opt-out or not.

It seems that James has learned from his previous “decision” by refusing to discuss his future plans until the time comes.

Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

In addition to James, Anthony also has an early termination option in his contract after this next season.

One source close to Anthony’s situation told ESPN:

“It would make sense for him to exercise the early termination option on his contract after next season to become a free agent and secure either a four- or five-year extension.”

Although the Lakers have tons of cap space next season, there is nothing concrete to sell potential free agents on.

As it currently stands, the Lakers do not even have any current marquee players, like they would have had had Dwight Howard re-signed this off-season.

Not even Kobe Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract, is guaranteed to be in the fold after next year.

Bryant has said recently that he plans to play another two or three more seasons, but would need to take a major pay-cut for the Lakers to maintain enough room to purse two max-level free agents.

Bryant, however, recently told ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin that he intends to be involved in the Lakers’ recruiting efforts for 2014:

“It’s an open conversation, via text and also meeting in person and just picking up the phone and calling,” Bryant said of his involvement. “[The Lakers] have kept me in the loop pretty well.”

With Bryant at the head of the recruiting process, it could bode well for the Lakers’ pursuit of Anthony, in particular.

Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images
Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images

Bryant and Anthony developed a close relationship during their time together in the recent Summer Olympics, and have remained friends since.

The two superstars have also discussed potentially playing together in the past.

It should be interesting to see if the Lakers can in fact lure two max-level free agents next summer, in addition to re-signing Bryant at an affordable price.

The Lakers remain poised to do so, however, with Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre ($915,243) the only players on the books for 2014-15.

According to the ESPNLA.com’s report, the new collective bargaining agreement would allow the Lakers to waive the final year of Nash’s contract, so they could potentially “stretch” his $9.7 million out over three years.

This would mean that only $3.2 million would count against the 2014-15 salary cap, giving the Lakers even more cap flexibility.

As a result of this cap rule, the Lakers could then grant Bryant’s wish and extend his contract for another few seasons at between $10-15 million per season.

Even with Bryant making about $10-15 million per season, the Lakers would still theoretically have enough room to pursue two max-level players.

In addition to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the 2014 free agency class potentially includes Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, and current Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, among others.

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