Heat host disappointing Lakers

LeBron James has tied a Heat record with four consecutive 30-point games. Will he break it? - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season started, this game was marked on the calender as a South Beach showdown around NBA contenders. The Lakers haven't held their end of the bargain, but it's still the Lakers, and there will still be an embarrassment of riches on the court as both teams feature a bevy of stars.

I'm really confused about what happened to the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

For one, this has never happened before. As in, if you think that this collection of talent has failed for a general reason, it's no more than an isolated incident.

People like to make a lot of asking questions about how ego's will mesh and how pieces will fit, as well as mentioning secondary factors like depth and coaching to make arguments about contenders.

Some of that may be valid, but we're still talking about something that is, at best, barely relevant to winning championships in the NBA.

The Lakers were supposed to win. A lot. Look at recent history. The 2003-04 Lakers brought in Gary Payton and Karl Malone, who still had plenty left in the tank, to play with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. People like to think of that experiment as a failure because they didn't win a championship, but that's a ridiculous claim to make when were talking about a 56-win team that went to the Finals.

The very next time a concoction of embarrassing amounts of talent was formed with the 2007-08 Boston Celtics and their trio of stars, that team won 66 games and a title.

Down here, we know what happened the next time this happened quite well.The Miami Heat brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play with Dwyane Wade, and as much as the sky was supposedly falling, the Heat won 58 games and a conference title, and bounced back to win the title the very next season.

Lot's of talent wins in the modern era. Top loaded teams with multiple stars get it done, regardless of what we want to make of coaching, depth, intangibles and chemistry. Not to undermine those things, but history tells us it's a players league and talent wins out when teams are generally top loaded. When team's have a collection of stars, secondary factors matter less and less.

So when a team that began the season with Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash is three games under .500 at the All-star break, please forgive my confusion.

They've had their share of injuries, and the team made a knee-jerk, shortsighted coaching hire five games into the year, but this is still unprecedented. We have been robbed of what was going to potentially be the best half court offense on earth.

That makes tomorrow's game between the Lakers (24-27) and Heat (33-14) at 3:30 p.m. on ABC kind of sad. Watching LeBron James and Chris Bosh front the post to try to limit Gasol and Howard in a battle of speed and technique against size and strength is more fun when both team's matter. Watching Wade and Bryant in a duel of the two best shooting guards in the game since Michael Jordan retired the second time is so much more fun when more is at stake.

We don't have that. Instead, we have a game between a contender in its prime and a shell of a Lakers team.

To be fair, the Lakers have had some pretty bad luck. The injuries have really limited their growth. But we're still talking about a team that should have it together by now and should be preparing to make a run at title.

Tomorrow's game profiles as a potential blowout.

That's fun for Heat fans, but not for the NBA.

NOTES

* LeBron James entered the game with a 30.7 Player Efficiency Rating, which is tied with last season as the third best mark of his career. Although James is as efficient as ever, his free throw shooting is still lagging behind. If he can continue to raise that, he may eclipse his career PER mark of 31.7 by season's end.

* LeBron and Dwyane took in today's University of Miami men's basketball game, which the team won over North Carolina, and UM president Donna Shalala introduced herself to Wade in a funny encounter.

* There is no update on Ray Allen or Chris Bosh's availability at this moment. Both missed the team's victory over the Clippers yesterday with flu-like symptoms.

* The Lakers have improved defensively after a bad start to the season and are an average defensive squad up to this point. They are 17th in the league in defensive rating.

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