Los Angeles Kobe Bryant and Lakers coach Phil Jackson haven’t really checked out the Miami Heat much this season. They’ve caught late-night highlights and maybe logged a few minutes with a game from the opposite coast, but not a whole lot more.
It’s finally time for the two-time champions to get an up-close look at their most intriguing challengers.
When LeBron James, Chris Bosh and — maybe — Dwyane Wade take on the Lakers in the NBA’s Christmas showcase at 4 p.m. today, most players in both uniforms hesitate to pile any extra significance onto a television-manufactured event. Most minimize every aspect of it, saying it’s no more than a holiday amusement for fans seeking a break from present-opening and eggnog-drinking.
Wade might miss the game with a sore knee.
“I don’t think it’s a measuring stick for us,” James said. “It’s just another game.”
Yet competitiveness usually trumps Christmas for elite NBA players.
Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher concede both teams are anticipating the marquee matchup as a chance to gauge their readiness for bigger games in the months to come. And if they eventually face each other in June for the biggest prize of all, even better.
“The personalities that are going to be matching up in this game, I don’t know if it can get any bigger,” Fisher said. “Although there will be other games in this regular season that can mean more, from a personality standpoint and a star power point, I don’t know if it can get any bigger.”