Los Angeles Lakers: Rashard Lewis
MIAMI – When sizing up the Los Angeles Lakers for a potential NBA Finals showdown, few teams in the league are as equipped with tape measures as the Heat.
Miami's two key offseason acquisitions bring a combined three seasons of experience from facing Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Co. in the NBA Finals. Now, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis see a far more potentially dangerous Lakers team developing in Los Angeles, with the additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, than any of the previous squads each of their teams met from 2008 to 2010.
“They've got a lot of great players over there, Hall of Fame players,” Lewis said. “But we feel like we can match up with not just one particular team, but anybody in the league. We've got guys who can play multiple ways, and a team that can play multiple styles, regardless of opponent.”
The Heat's combination of experience, flexibility and versatility are considered their main strengths with a roster anchored by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Barring injuries, conventional wisdom suggests the Lakers are capable of matching -- perhaps even surpassing -- the Heat's star power in would shape up as the most anticipated NBA Finals matchup in decades.
But Lewis and Allen believe that a series with so much at stake against the Lakers, or any opponent out west, will ultimately be decided by the team with the more reliable supporting cast. That was the case last season, when even the best postseason of James' career might have come up short had it not been for Bosh's late-playoff return from an abdominal injury or Shane Battier's breakout play early against Oklahoma City or Mike Miller's magical shooting display in the Game 5 series clincher in the Finals.
By adding Allen and Lewis to a supporting cast that already proved to be deep and effective enough to win a title, the Heat think they took significant steps to further compliment their catalysts and boost their chance to repeat.
Heck, I'm sure there are people die-hard enough to want analysis on how their Big 4 and improved bench change things against Sacramento.
Then there are matchups of interest to everyone who loves, or likes, or even thinks he might one day show some interest in basketball. Ten months or so out, it's easily the sexiest of potential 2013 Finals -- Los Angeles vs. Miami. L.A.'s foursome of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash vs. the current champion and its Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, with the newly added Ray Allen now tossing in 3-pointers from around the arc.
This year, Kobe Bryant will be reaching for more than the ball. With a juiced-up roster, a Finals matchup against LeBron James and the Heat is possible.
Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’Lakers: What was the reaction in Miami to the Howard trade?
Tom Haberstroh: I was talking to someone with the Heat staff this summer and they didn't think the Lakers saw eye-to-eye with the Heat, even with Nash. But that came with one qualification: "Unless they get Dwight.”
Miami fans reacted like so: "Uh oh," but are still basking in the glory of the championship, so they aren't all that panicked. If the Heat DIDN'T win the title and the Lakers loaded up like this? I think they'd be calling for Erik Spoelstra's head first and then they'd be calling David Stern's cell phone "for basketball reasons."
BK: Given that Andrew Bynum was pretty good already, why would they be that much more concerned about Dwight? (I mean, beyond the obvious reason -- that he's a better player and is among the league's truly dominant forces, particularly defensively.)
What specifically about the matchup doesn't the staff like?
Haberstroh: Simple -- Steve Nash's pick-and-roll partner.
With a talent like Howard, you can't think of him as "just" an upgrade for Bynum. Baseball kind of works like that, but basketball doesn't. Because of the synergy between him and Nash, the Lakers' offense just got so much more dynamic. That is, if Kobe Bryant complies.
BK: I think he will -- I've said/written a few times that if this roster doesn't meet expectations, Kobe's ego won't be a primary factor -- but obviously the personalities we're talking about here are very strong, so there are no guarantees, even if everyone wants to row in the same direction.
Tom, when LBJ and Wade hooked up there was obviously an adjustment, but from your perspective how much of it was based on finding a rhythm, and how much was based in that idea of compliance? That both had to be willing to let it work?
Jordan Farmar played a key role in the Lakers' win.
There wasn't a ton of hoopla heading into last night's 98-92 Lakers win, a rematch of last season's Finals. Land O' Lakers' cutting edge technology revealed the fans' overall indifference, but the teams nonetheless managed to provide some excitement contrasting the dim buzz. After a first half spent controlling the action (if sometimes tenuously), the third quarter saw the Lakers come apart at the offensive seams. Poor ball movement creating poor shots creating opportunities for Orlando to forge a 20-2 run, despite balling against some impressive purple and gold defense.
With just a few minutes left in the frame, Phil Jackson called an eventually game-changing timeout and tossed Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown into the action. That's when the game began swinging in the Lakers' favor, largely due to the performances of the reserve guards and Lamar Odom. The trio was singled out by Brian as the evening's biggest stars, and he wasn't alone in that assessment. ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin felt the backup backcourt duo stole the entire show, maintaining the "bright lights" roll Brown began the night enjoying:
- The night Brown set a career high in points with 22 belonged to him to begin with. The attention meter swayed Brown's way before the game even started as the fourth-year guard playing on his fourth NBA team was surrounded by a throng of media hoping to get a sneak preview of what Brown had planned for All-Star weekend after news broke earlier Monday that Shannon will indeed be allowed to dunk in the dunk contest. It's been less than a year since Brown came to L.A. after being included as a throw-in in the Vladimir Radmanovic-Adam Morrison swap and here he was, in Hollywood, as the center of attention when he couldn't find consistent playing time on lottery-bound Charlotte last year. "I think about it all the time when I recap everything I've been through," Brown said. "I'm just very grateful. Very grateful, thankful and very humble. I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunity."Opportunity is one of the three words Lakers coach Phil Jackson used to describe the formula that's been the key to Brown's success. The others are maturity and responsibility. "He's a young man who's very diligent about his work," Jackson said. "He puts in the effort and it's paying off for him."