What do they think they need to do to beat Miami?
Well, Jerry Buss and Phil Jackson already launched phase one of "Operation Beat the Heat" by circulating soundbites in the media about this current Laker team's strengths.
Jackson said that it takes more than talent to win, it also takes trust and teamwork. Meanwhile, Buss came out and said this Lakers team was the best he ever assembled. What?
The 1987 Lakers were the best team you ever assembled Mr. Buss. Remember? Magic Johnson. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy? Three Hall-of-Famers to LA's one?
Nevertheless, The Lakers added Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes to shore up the defense off the bench and Steve Blake to run the offense. The Lakers are hoping their bigs Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom just dominate the paint offensively and defensively, while Artest and Barnes put the defensive straight-jackets on LeBron and Wade.
They're hoping Kobe contributes not only big offensive numbers, but also big hustle plays and help contain Wade and that Pau nullifies Bosh's contributions. They're also hoping that their bench will outplay the Heat's bench and that Odom rides the momentum from the FIBA World Championships into the much anticipated matchup between the two teams.
Will their additions help them take down the Heat?
One of the things that Laker fans have been raving about for the last few months are the additions of Barnes, Blake and Ratliff, to strengthen the Lakers bench.
But, count me out as one of the endless experts lauding these additions. Theo Ratliff and Matt Barnes were both non-factors in the playoffs last year. Ratliff barely played during the season last year for the Bobcats (49 games) and in the playoffs against Orlando and Dwight Howard, was invisible, playing 12 minutes a game, chipping in 1.8 points, no blocks and a rebound.
Meanwhile, Barnes was equally invisible scoring six ppg and shooting 36 percent against the Bobcats and the Celtics.
I know what you're thinking, "Barnes' true worth is not offensively, it's on the defensive end." Well, he wasn't too impressive there either in the playoffs. Paul Pierce scored 24.3 points a game on 51 percent shooting against Barnes' "lockdown defense."
Now, Pierce is a great player, to be sure, but if Barnes was dominated by Paul Pierce, what does that say for his ability to contain Wade or James?
As for Blake, sure he's a solid offensive player, good passer and shooter, and a strong hustle guy. But he struggles against athletic point guards and is an inferior defender to Farmar. Remember that steal and dunk over Kevin Garnett that Farmar had in Game Six of the finals?
Those type of momentum plays were essential to the Lakers success. Blake gives them better point guard play, but they lose athleticism and defense off the bench at the point.
Other than Shannon Brown, the Lakers have no athleticism on their team and no consistent perimeter threats outside of Steve Blake, who is a pass-first point guard.
Speaking of Blake, my big question about him is: If the Heat decide to play this lineup: Wade, Miller, James, Haslem and Bosh. Who does he guard? He is a mismatch the Heat can exploit at the 1 and 2.
But couldn't LA counter with Kobe, Artest, Barnes, Pau and Bynum?
From a defensive standpoint, this is LA's best lineup. But offensively it could present problems verses the Heat. They have two offensive liabilities out there with only one offensive creator. If the Heat deny the post and force Kobe into either a tough shot or to give it up to guys that struggle to create their own shots, the Lakers offense will struggle.
Meanwhile, the Heat will have scorers at all-five positions as well as, two established fourth quarter performers who will be more open than they have throughout their careers. The Lakers would have to either leave Haslem or Miller to double Wade and James or play them straight-up which possibly giving Wade or James a good look.
Will the Lakers have the league's best record and home court advantage in a possible finals matchup against the Heat?
That's what a lot of Lakers fans seem to think, but I don't believe it will happen. I think the Heat will have the best record in the NBA. Remember, Kobe is still recovering from knee surgery and Bynum will not be back until at least December, so I anticipate a slow start of LA.
If the Heat do not win a title this year, they will lose to the Magic or Celtics in the Conference Finals. Although the Lakers are the two-time defending champions, I cannot pick them to beat the Heat in the finals without home court. Either the Heat lose before the finals or the Heat win the finals. To me, those are the only two scenarios I see right now.