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Dwyane Wade

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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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Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

December 25, 2013 — 2:00 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ABC
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-15) look to shock the world today as they face the reigning back-to-back NBA Champions, the Miami HEAT (21-6) in another Christmas Day matchup. The Lakers are coming off another very disappointing loss vs. the Phoenix Suns, a game in which fans had to witness C Miles Plumlee score 22 points and grab a career-high 20 rebounds while Gerald Green also scored 22 points and made 6 wide open 3-pointers. Lakers Mike D’Antoni got so frustrated after the game that he made an ill-advised comment, obviously taken out of context stating that “if [Lakers fans are] discouraged, find another team to root for” while trying to defend his players. D’Antoni apologized for that comment, explaining that it came out of frustration after yesterday’s practice.

However, the Lakers finally got some great news; they finally have a point guard. PG Jordan Farmar has fully recovered from a torn left hamstring and will start for the Lakers tomorrow. Farmar, who has shown a great improvement from his first stint with the Lakers, has shown he can effectively be a team leader both on and off the floor. Farmar has averaged a solid 9.2 PPG and 4.4 APG in only 18.9 MPG, all statistics that will greatly increase since the Lakers will depend heavily on him without another true point guard other than the newly acquired PG Kendall Marshall.

The Heat are on their way to another top seed in the playoffs in their quest to win a 3rd straight NBA Championship. Reigning MVP F LeBron James, has blossomed into a true all-around player, which came mainly from greatly improving his post game, which now leaves smaller players who used to be able to guard James very vulnerable in the post. A back injury has slowed James statistically so far this season, who averages 25.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.6 APG, which are not up to his high standards. Heat G Dwyane Wade has played very well so far this season while avoiding injuries, averaging 19.9 PPG and 4.8 APG while shooting a career-high 54.1% so far this season. Although Wake has scored a career-low in terms of points per game, his high field goal shooting percentage has shown that he is still having a very great season. For the Heat however, regular season statistics are irrelevant as long as they are fully healthy once playoffs begin.

Projected Starters

PG - Mario Chalmers Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Even]

SG - Dwyane Wade / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Heat]

SF - Shane Battier Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Heat]

PF - LeBron James Shawne Williams [Advantage: Heat]

C - Chris Bosh Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

HEAT: F Udonis Haslem, F/G Michael BeasleyRay Allen, PG Norris Cole, C Chris Andersen

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungG Xavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Feed the Bigs: The Lakers have one asset that the Heat do not have: Multiple post players who can score. Although the Lakers are a run and gun team, it will be up to Mike D’Antoni to delve away from his usual style of play to take advantage of Gasol and Kaman’s ability to score. The Heat lack size in the post, playing undersized big men like Bosh and Haslem as centers. If the Lakers slow the game down and use their advantage over the Heat, they could have a fair chance at making the game competitive.
  2. Keep James and Wade out of the Paint: James and Wade will be impossible to stop if the Lakers defense lets them drive to the basket. Both superstars are able to finish very strong inside the paint while finding shooters like Allen and Battier. Although both players, especially James, have greatly improved their jump shooting skills, the only chance the Lakers have at keeping the game close is to force both players to settle for contested jump shots. Otherwise, they will run circles around the Lakers defense like how Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Lakers last game.

Bottom Line

For the Lakers to have a chance of winning tonight’s game, everything would have to go right for them and for everything to go wrong for the Heat. If the Heat’s jump shots are off and if the Lakers can keep the heat away from drives to the basket, maybe the Lakers can keep this game close. Although I expect the Lakers to play inspired basketball today, the Heat’s talent and skills will most likely be too much to come away with a victory.

Prediction

HEAT: 117-98

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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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