LOS ANGELES – Dwyane Wade(notes) walked down a couple flights of stairs without a limp before passing through a throng of fans on his way to the Miami Heat's bus. Wade didn't put his sore left knee through a strenuous test during the team's practice Friday at UCLA, but he's confident he'll be working on Christmas.
“My plan is to play,” Wade said. “I just want to continue to get better, continue to do my treatment and therapy.”
Few people will want to miss LeBron James(notes) lead the Heat against Kobe Bryant’s(notes) Los Angeles Lakers for the first time, and Wade doesn’t intend to be among them. The game is officially a sellout, but premium ticket brokers were still asking more than $16,000 for a courtside seat.
“It kind of like wasn’t a basketball game,” Wade said of the 2004 game. “The start was so dramatic: ‘Will Kobe and Shaq shake hands?’ It was kind of like being in a movie. Once the game started it was a great, competitive ballgame right down to the end. We won in overtime.
“A great Christmas game. One of my favorites I’ve played in so far.”
The Heat already dealt with the drama of James’ return to Cleveland on Dec. 2, and Wade calls Saturday’s meeting with the Lakers, “one of the most overhyped games of the year.”
“Everybody’s going to be excited, but it’s not a statement game,” Wade said. “It’s not a game that’s going to make a guy’s season.”
The Lakers come into the game off their worst loss of the season: a 98-79 beat-down from the Milwaukee Bucks at home. The defending champs are just 2-3 against teams with winning records this season. Pau Gasol(notes) sees Saturday’s game as a chance for the Lakers to “mark their territory.”
“It’s a competitive game. It’s a competitive opponent. It’s a home game for us. It’s a game that we definitely must win,” Gasol said.
A few storylines should add to the drama:
• Bryant didn’t talk to the media after Friday’s practice and hasn’t spoken since the Bucks loss. “He hasn’t been talking a lot – that’s why I’ve been doing a lot of talking,” Gasol said. “Kobe is pumped for the game. [The Bucks] game had something to do with it, too.”
• After the Heat began the season 8-6, Lakers coach Phil Jackson told a Chicago radio show that Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s days could be numbered. Spoelstra didn’t appreciate the comment and Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy criticized Van Gundy.
After Friday’s practice, Jackson said Spoelstra could now be “Coach of the Year.” Spoelstra shrugged without comment when told of Jackson’s latest remark. When asked about what Jackson said earlier in the season, Spoelstra said: “I didn’t take it one way or another. He was probably bored.”
“Michael Jordan and some of the other guys would say they would never have done something like that,” Jackson said. “They would have anticipated that their team would’ve built up the talent so they could get back to the championship. That’s kind of what everybody expected.
“Not too many players that have gone to the Finals like Cleveland did three years ago would [leave]. They’d want to redeem that opportunity. That’s his choice.”
• Lakers center Andrew Bynum(notes) has been coming along slowly since returning from right knee surgery, averaging seven points on 41.7 percent shooting and 4.6 rebounds in five games. He has yet to play more than 18 minutes in any game and had soreness in his knee at the start of the week.
“I’m coming along pretty well,” said Bynum, who has been coming off the bench. “The knee is doing fine right now. It was a little sore before, but we blasted through the treatment. It’s better.”