Predictions are about as valuable as the ones making them. And in this case, getting a perspective from former Lakers star and current K-CAL 9 analyst James Worthy
on how the Lakers will shape up in the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns bodes more importance than, say, hearing from me
After talking all things Lakers with 710 ESPN's Mychal Thompson and Andrew Siciliano Tuesday at Morton's Steakhouse as part of the ''Lunch With a Legend'' series, James quickly shared with me his thoughts on how the Lakers-Suns series might go.
Mark Medina: Why do you believe the Lakers will win the series in five games?
James Worthy: The Suns and Lakers have two contrasting styles. But I think if the Lakers play their game, the length and go inside, I just don't see how Phoenix is going to be able to contend with that.
MM: What's your take on the week-long lapse for both teams? How do you weigh the positive aspect with both teams being able to rest versus the momentum they have to somehow replicate?
JW: I'm torn. I think a couple days off is good, but more than three or four days is not good for any team at this time of the year. You just can't keep your momentum or your timing. You can practice against each other, but there's something about a game situation. I'm not sure how this happened. I think maybe the league didn't expect the teams to be swept like they did and it would be prolonged. Too much time is not good for anybody.
MM: What level of concern do you have with the news that Andrew Bynum has experienced more swelling in his right knee?
JW: I think he can obviously play through it. You have to have a strong mentality. If you feel pain, you have to make up your mind whether you can play with it or not. You can't talk about it as much and you can't be complaining about it. That's what concerned me. I heard him say it was the worst it's ever been the other day. That's not good. If you're going to say that, I would say maybe not play. But you have to know what moves are not painful. You have to go out and know what you can do. It's the defense that you have to react spontaneously. But you can play with that injury, maybe not 100% but you have to decide if you'll play with it. Once you decide that you'll play with it, that knee has to be strong to some extent in your mind.
MM: What do you make of the news that just came out where The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported that Kobe Bryant had a significant amount of fluid drained from his right knee?
JW: It's somewhat of a normal procedure sometimes when you have a knee drained... so long as it's not something you have to do every game. It doesn't surprise me that part of Kobe's conditioning is he's on top of everything. To have his knee drained is not a big deal, it's not like Andrew's, where it's constantly swelling all the time. It doesn't concern me about Kobe. Plus he can play with it. He's proven he can play with it. I'm not too concerned about that.
MM: You mentioned during the "Lunch With a Legend" that the playoff series will be predicated on which team imposes its philosophy, whether it's the Lakers playing at their deliberate pace or Phoenix's run-and-gun style. What does it come down to as far what the Lakers need to do to play their style?
JW: First, they have to expose Phoenix on the defensive end. They have to take away their strength by exposing them on the defensive end. Making them play defense will take away from their punch that they'll be able to deliver on the other end. When you have Andrew, Pau [Gasol], Lamar [Odom], maybe put Kobe and [Ron] Artest at the guards and make [Steve] Nash play either Kobe or Artest, you're going to have to deviate from the norm. That's up to the coaches. But I think the Lakers have to pound it inside. With that, they'll get them in foul trouble and will get to the line more. I think if they allow Nash to flow and they get those threes going, it could be difficult.
MM: What other X-factors do you see this in series, whether it be an individual performance or an overall area that's critical?
Worthy: The area that is most concerning for me is the bench. Phoenix's bench is scoring about 32 points per game and they are consistently doing that. The Lakers are at about 23. So when they're out of the game, [Jared] Dudley, [Goran] Dragic, really step it up with Grant Hill and some of those other players. That's going to be a concern. The bench has to continue to play. But I think [Amare] Stoudemire is a key factor for them and how he can put the ball on the floor and get our bigs in foul trouble. But other than that, their best lineup doesn't beat the Lakers, in my opinion.
Below are audio files of Worthy's conversation with Thompson and Siciliano:
Among the highlights:
Worthy's take on the Lakers-Suns series
James Worthy Part 1
Why Worthy believes Odom still needs to play more consistently
James Worthy Part 2
Worthy's recollections of the Showtime Era
James Worthy Part 3
What it was like for Worthy to play for Dean Smith and Pat Riley
James Worthy Part 4
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: James Worthy believes the Lakers will beat the Suns in the Western Conference Finals in five games. Credit: Los Angeles Times.