From Mitch Lawrence, Fox Sports: A Lakers-Heat showdown in Tinseltown might be just what all NBA fans want for Christmas, but here’s what we have to say about a Lakers-Heat Finals for this June: Bah! Humbug! Call me Scrooge, but just because the league’s two marquee teams are playing on Saturday doesn’t mean that Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and the two-time defending champs will automatically be going up against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. It’s not just me, either. There are a number of pro basketball experts who can see other teams representing the East and West in another six months when the Finals are played.
From Dexter Fishmore, SBNation: chadenfreude travels quickly in the NBA. It was less than a month ago that we were all pointing and laughing at the Miami Heat and their 9-8 record. Anonymous sources inside the Heat organization were sniping at coach Erik Spoelstra, and on his podcast Bill Simmons was, in all seriousness, discussing with Dan LeBatard whether Miami would eventually need to trade away one of their Large Three. A 12-game winning streak has a way of silencing such concerns. Instead, it’s now the Los Angeles Lakers who are inviting ridicule. Since starting the season 8-0, they’ve gone a rather undominating 13-8. More than a third of the way into the regular season, they boast just three victories against teams in the top half of the league standings. Their laggardly play bottomed out Tuesday night (at least we hope it bottomed out) in a catastrophic 19-point home beatdown at the hooves of the Milwaukee Bucks.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: There’s a natural tendency in sports, as in many things, to find absolutes in situations inherently fluid. What does it mean? What does it prove? The urge is always to fast forward to the end of the movie. The regular season, for the Lakers a process of prepping to reach and win a Finals, is one in which everything matters in the aggregate, but for an individual game to have season altering significance is absolutely the exception to the rule. The Lakers had one two seasons ago, when they beat Boston on Christmas Day in a rematch of the previous June’s NBA Finals. “We were embarrassed,” Phil Jackson said Tuesday on the importance of that day. “It was an embarrassing final game in that playoffs, and guys wanted to prove something.”
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Lakers forward Ron Artest stared at the camera and spoke in a confident and inviting manner. “Talk to somebody about it. I did,” Artest said in a new public service announcement titled “You Can Do It” to promote mental health awareness. “Take the first steps and be a champ.” Artest approached the lectern at the Target Terrace in L.A. Live on Tuesday and shared his personal story in the same open manner. “It feels like I’m playing in a game, an intense, emotional game that I love. The passion for the game, I give that same passion to … mental health issues,” Artest said before donating a $50,000 check to Pacific Clinics. “It feels good. It’s hard to explain, but it feels good to have a chance to give back, to give someone else a chance.”
From Billy Witz, Fox Sports West: When Kobe Bryant lowered his shoulder and ran over Andrew Bogut, it was out of frustration. When that didn’t make him feel better — he was whistled for an offensive foul — Bryant tried a different form of release. He yelled an expletive at one referee, earning a technical foul. Then he shouted more profanity at another referee, earning a second technical. If Bryant was tired of watching the Lakers get gutted by a short-handed Milwaukee Bucks team, he was not alone. A few minutes after Bryant headed to the showers, the rest of the Lakers had boos rain down on them as they left the court after a 98-98 loss to Milwaukee.