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Category: Miami Heat

Things to watch in Lakers-Bucks matchup

6a00d8341c506253ef0134891b52d6970c-320wi1. Will the Lakers have the proper focus against Milwaukee? There are several reasons to think the Lakers' (21-7) meeting with the Bucks (10-16) at Staples Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. could have the makings of a trap game. The Lakers are coming off a six-game trip, and last season demonstrated, in nail-biters against Oklahoma City and Charlotte, that the team didn't always have the proper focus on its return home. Also, the Lakers are to play Miami on Christmas Day, and if indications from ESPN tell us anything, it's kind of an important game.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said the team hasn't even discussed this issue of focus and said he didn't see it as a problem. Guard Derek Fisher said he couldn't think of an instance, besides the Lakers' mail-it-in victory last month over Minnesota, in which the team didn't have the right attitude heading into a game. The Lakers have always had good perspective, talking about problems with a levelheaded and realistic attitude, but that doesn't always translate to the court. The start of the game will likely reveal their current mindset.

2. How will Andrew Bynum's knee respond? This is likely an area of concern for every game, considering how fickle Bynum's health can be. With his admission that his right knee remained sore after the Lakers' 120-110 victory Sunday over Toronto and Monday's practice, it'll be interesting to see whether this affects him to a significant degree.

Both Bynum and Jackson say they believe this is just a natural progression of Bynum getting back into shape, and that it's necessary to keep an even-keel about the situation. Bynum will continue to play off the bench under 20 minutes and won't start with the 30- to 35-minute range Jackson envisions until he's fully in shape. But Tuesday's game will prove critical because Andrew Bogut will prove a stiffer test than "the undermanned team" in Toronto that enabled Bynum to post 16 points on four-of-six shooting in only 19 minutes. With the Lakers beginning the tougher portion of their schedule -- starting off Saturday against Miami -- Bynum needs to walk a fine line, properly pacing himself back while also making sure he's pushing himself hard enough.

3. How does Brandon Jennings' absence affect the Bucks' dynamic? Milwaukee faces some long-term problems with Jennings expecting to miss four to six weeks because of a a fractured right metatarsal in his left foot. Jackson wouldn't divulge much on how that may change the Lakers' match-ups, but it's clear the Bucks are going to have to find ways to manufacture the team-leading 17.9 points and 5.5 assists Jennings provided in each contest. In the Lakers' 118-107 victory Nov. 16 at Milwaukee, Jennings scored 19 points on eight-of-13 shooting, thanks to uncontested drives to the basket and open mid-range jumpers. So instead of worrying about that, the Lakers will probably want to make sure they have the double presence on Bogut.

Jennings' absence puts the onus on Milwaukee to adjust (more so than on the Lakers wondering where to target the Bucks offensively). His injury puts another dent in Milwaukee's depleted lineup, which also includes the injured Carlos Delfino (sidelined since Nov. 6 because of a concussion) and Corey Maggette (concussion symptoms during Saturday's against Utah).

4. As with any game against a sub-.500 opponent, Tuesday night's matchup features a prime opportunity to build a large lead and grant the starters rest. However, this game presents a new wrinkle: It could mark Joe Smith's debut with the Lakers. He's not expected to handle heavy minutes, but seeing what he could provide for the Lakers couldn't hurt. His presence could determine whether the Lakers could absorb a limited Bynum (if necessary), whether he'd earn more playing time once Theo Ratliff fully rehabs his left knee and how quickly Derrick Caracter will be shipped to the Development League. Smith won't experience such an opportunity in the Lakers' upcoming games against Miami, San Antonio and New Orleans, so the Lakers may as well as give him some time Tuesday night.

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant moves to the basket against Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut, left, and guard John Salmons during the Lakers' 118-107 road victory Tuesday. Credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Kobe Bryant opens up on LeBron James, Chris Bosh joining Miami

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Kobe Bryant hates the question, hasn't really answered it at all other than a few platitudes here and there.

But on Thursday, he gave a little insight into his thoughts on LeBron James and Chris Bosh taking their talents to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat.

He said his first reaction was, "Wow. How did Pat Riley pull that [expletive] off?"

Then he had another thought.

"I said I've got to get my knee healthy, that's what I said."

Bryant has shot poorly in exhibition play, making only four of 28 shots (14.3%) during a slow, methodical return from offseason surgery on his right knee. He practiced Thursday and said he would play Saturday and Sunday in the Lakers' first back-to-back exhibitions this season.

He said the Heat had the potential to be "great," but he wasn't entirely motivated by Miami's new look, even though Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Heat, not the Lakers, as the favorite to win the NBA championship.

"I don't need it," Bryant said of the added incentive.

-- Mike Bresnahan

Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Andreu Dalmau / European Press Agency.

NBA 2K11: How a Michael Jordan Lakers team would fare with Boston, Miami; 95-96 Bulls superior to current Lakers

Lakers forward Ron Artest says he can't wait to buy NBA 2K11 because it features his rap single "Champion." Lakers forward Kobe Bryant says in an ad he can't wait to buy the newly released video game so he can add Michael Jordan to his team. And I couldn't wait to play it either so I could see how such a scenario would turn out.

NBA players, Bryant among them, like the video game because of its realistic game play and graphics.

You may be left scratching your heads about how on earth I maneuvered a trade involving Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic for Jordan from the '95-'96 Bulls team. It's like this: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak somehow acquired Pau Gasol and a second-round pick from Memphis in 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie and two first-round picks. So don't consider this far-fetched, even if the Lakers prove unsuccessful in getting Vujacic off the books before this season's trading deadline and the move puts the team way over the luxury-tax threshold.

With M.J. and the Black Mamba side by side, I pitted the Lakers against the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, the two Eastern Conference teams I thought had the best shot in meeting the Lakers in this season's NBA Finals. The results: The Lakers beat Boston rather handily, 103-85, but lost to Miami 105-99.

I also matched up the current Lakers team with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that still holds the regular-season record for most wins (72), a feat this year's Lakers team, Heat team or any team won't surpass anytime soon. And the Bulls proved their dominance in that one, with M.J. dropping 56 points in a 114-106 victory over the Lakers.

Clearly things didn't turn out the way Bryant would've imagined in the ad below.

Below the jump, watch the highlights for yourself.

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NBA general managers predict the Lakers will three-peat and that Kevin Durant will take league MVP over Kobe Bryant

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This news may be met in this corner of the blogosphere with a collective "tell me something I didn't know" attitude, but I'll tell you anyway: According to a preseason survey, the majority of NBA general managers predict that the Lakers will three-peat.

Granted, the fine print makes it clear that not all 30 general managers voted. The percentages are based on a pool of respondents to each question. But it's not as if the results come from Mitch Kupchak voting repeatedly, like Yao Ming's fan base relentlessly votes for him to be in the All-Star game. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel.

There are plenty of the GMs that like Miami's chances (33.3% say the Heat will win the title), and there are serious doubts about Boston's chances to offset their 2010 NBA Finals loss (3.7% say they believe the Celtics will return to the Finals and win).

Among the other findings (below the jump):

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The Times' Mike Bresnahan and Mark Medina tackle some Laker questions

The Lakers are officially underway. They're finally playing basketball, providing glimpses of how the roster might shape up and giving the fans of the L.A. Times' Lakers blog something to keep them from going insane (or so I hope).

But this is one game. As much as I detailed five things to take away from the Lakers' 111-92 loss Monday to the Minnesota Timberwolves, it's one exhibition game. I don't want to say my post was a waste of time to read and write, but you have to take it for what it is. The Lakers have seven remaining pre-season games and the ring ceremony/opening night isn't until Oct. 26 against Houston.

That leaves time for The Times' Mike Bresnahan and myself to dive into a few questions after the jump.

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Poll results show Laker fans feel strongly confident about a three-peat

54398053-1Our economy is in disarray. There's uncertainty over the Afghan war. And political tensions remain high. There are plenty of things for people to be upset about these days, and the polls certainly show it. But the polls here at the L.A. Times Lakers blog reveal upbeat attitudes about one thing, anyway: the Lakers' chances for a three-peat.

The Lakers are coming off a second consecutive championship, making the off-season more relaxing, the free-agency process known as "The Decision" more laughable and causing the urge to start up the season to spike. Not to worry, though, folks. Training camp starts Saturday, meaning you can stop rewinding Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, playing out imaginary Lakers games in your dreams and searching miles and miles for any morsel of Lakers news.

Magic Johnson once said to the L.A. Times' Chris Erskine, referring to the Lakers after they won their 16th championship: "It's the only thing the people can trust. They trust the Lakers."

So what kind of trust do you have in the Lakers for the 2010-11 NBA season?  Poll results show that 96.15% of you believe the Lakers will three-peat, so you may as well start planning for another parade. The reasons vary. I listed multiple factors that seemed to work in the Lakers' favor, including talent, experience, off-season acquisitions, Phil Jackson and the seemingly inferior competition. Instead of singling out one variable that will push the Lakers over the edge, 63.49% of you said all of the above -- all these qualities make the Lakers tough to beat.

For those who want a seat at the NBA Finals, well, start thinking about booking flights to South Beach or Boston. Most of you are ready to fly 3,000 miles to Chowder City, with 57.52% predicting the Celtics will rematch the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Finals. It'd be a compelling series for sure, what with Shaquille O'Neal up against Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest duking it out again with Paul Pierce and the Lakers hoping to close the series gap to 17-12. But then there's the 36.91% of you who think the Lakers will be taking their talents to South Beach and proving which team is really super.

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Caught in the Web: Lakers' training camp starts in five days

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We're going to have a live chat today at 4:00 p.m.

--The Times' Mark Heisler explains how the Miami Heat has reshaped the NBA.

--True Hoop's Henry Abbott introduces you to Russell Hicks, who will be trying out at the Lakers' training camp.

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr wonders which Laker would be a good candidate on "Dancing with the Stars."

--Fox Sports Southwest's Mike Fisher argues that the Lakers made the second-most significant off-season moves among Western Conference teams.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky break down a few Lakers-related topics on their latest podcast, including teams that could threaten the Lakers, Kobe Bryant's Q rating and the possibility that Andrew Bynum could play limited minutes.

--The Orange County Register's Jeff Miller details why LeBron James is nowhere near Bryant's level.

--Sports Illustrated has a pretty extensive photo gallery of the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

--AOL Fanhouse's Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller take Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to task for proclaiming his team has more depth than the Lakers.

--Lakers.com's Mike Trudell asks Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks numerous on-and-off-court questions. I'm particularly intrigued with the 2Pac/Biggie debate involving who's the better rapper. It's a topic I'll surely follow up on once training camp starts.

--Lakers.com lists Derek Fisher's Game 3 performance against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals as the second-best moment of the postseason.

--The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn reports that when Bryant boasted in his post-Finals news conference that he has more rings than Shaq, Celtics principal owner Wyc Grousbeck immediately thought of acquiring him.

--Forum Blue and Gold's Jeff Skibiski explains why he misses Byron Scott.

--Silver Screen and Roll's DexterFishmore lists the greatest Lakers of all time from numbers 24-29. Hmm, something tells me Kobe is somewhere in that article.

--The Lakers Nation's Kam Pashai argues Lamar Odom elevated his stature with his effort in the 2010 FIBA World Championships.

--Lakers of Fire's Garrett Wilson evaluates the San Antonio Spurs, and whether the Lakers should be concerned about them.

--Laker Nation's Trevor Wong rates the Lakers' top five shooting guards of all time.

Tweet of the Day: "Did a gurl jus really yell I LOVE YOU EBANKS to me in front of Subway lol LA is crazy" -- DevinEbanks3 (Lakers forward Devin Ebanks)

Reader Comment of the Day: "I do get tired of the 'fair-weather' fans at games, though; they're the ones texting all the time during the game. Seriously... DURING the game?! They're also the ones who turn and stare at me when I start cussing out players, refs and coaches (not real vulgar, just enthusiastic and creative). On the other hand, I once got a 'thumbs up' from Jack when I laid into Larry Bird during a regular season game. I felt I had 'arrived.' " -- 63Footer

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers fans have enjoyed images of the championship run. But they're ready for another season to start. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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