If you had to guess what was atop the Christmas lists of both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, I can guarantee that you will find the exact same thing: An NBA Championship.
It’s not tough to guess. These guys are two of the most competitive athletes in the world today, so what more would they want than another ring? Time is running out for Bryant, who looks as though he has just a couple of years left. James, on the other hand, may have only reached the halfway point in his career with the way he’s playing.
As the Los Angeles Lakers host the Miami Heat on Christmas Day, each team sits in a completely different place. The Heat trail the Indiana Pacers by just a game and a half in the Eastern Conference, while the Lakers remain two and a half games out of the playoff race altogether out West.
The Lakers have gone just 3-6 since Bryant returned from his achilles injury, which isn’t a good sign. Prior to his return, the Lakers were above .500 and playing pretty well. The chemistry had been flowing between a lot of guys that we really didn’t believe were going to do much damage without the Black Mamba.
In six games this season, Bryant has averaged 13.8 points per game on 42 percent shooting while turning the ball over a whopping 5.7 times per game. The only plus has been his 6.3 assists each contest. Aside from that, he hasn’t been close to himself — and that was to be expected.
The tough part for Los Angeles in this one, though, is that they will again be without Bryant due to a knee injury – - and will be without him for a few weeks.
If the Lakers can get a win against a high-flying Heat team on Christmas Day, without Bryant, that might just propel them back to winning ways. Anytime you beat a team like Miami, it can give you a confidence like nothing else. There is simply just something about the Heat that makes them a league-wide favorite the last couple of years.
Oh, yeah. That “something” just so happens to be having the best player on the planet teamed up with another future Hall of Fame player, Dwyane Wade. Miami, though, may be without Wade if head coach Erik Spoelstra decides to keep him out again due to continued soreness in his knees.
A week ago, Wade won Eastern Conference player of the week as he averaged 26 points per game on 60 percent shooting. He was clearly feeling just fine then, but the coaching staff and trainers have a plan implemented to keep him fresh throughout the year and will be the ones deciding his status on Christmas Day.
What will beating the Lakers mean for the Heat? Well, it simply means that they are keeping pace with Indiana, who has struggled a bit more over their last 10 games, giving way to Miami to inch closer and closer. The regular season doesn’t typically mean a lot to the Heat, but this one will surely be a measuring stick for the Lakers going forward.