Do Lakers' woes compare to Heat's in 2010-11?
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — You'd think the Miami Heat would know how the Los Angeles Lakers feel.
A newly assembled team of superstars struggling to meet high expectations and falling short under intense media scrutiny. It's what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh endured two years ago. And it's what Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are dealing with now.
But going into Thursday's matchup of the star-laden teams at Staples Center, the Heat apparently think there's no comparison.
A few days ago, James and Wade were asked about the Lakers' offseason moves and their struggles so far, and how it compared to the first year of Miami's "Big Three." Considering that they ended up in the Finals, the answers James and Wade gave to the Miami Herald were a bit provocative.
"No one will ever be able to compare what we went through," James said. "Even though they're not winning and they're losing a lot of games, it's still nowhere near what we went through.
"Yeah, right. That level of magnitude was nowhere near where ours was two years ago. Nothing. Nothing compares to it."
Wade chimed in with: "Because of everything that happened in 2010 with offseason signings, it was, automatically, just a lot of negative things that was said about us. [Los Angeles] didn't go through that at the beginning. They didn't go through anything negative about bringing those guys together, so ours started off bad and it stayed bad for a while, and then we got better."
There are a couple of Lakers who don't agree with that assessment.
When Bryant was informed of James' quote, his reaction was almost incredulous.
"What?" Bryant said after practice Wednesday. "What does it matter? What does he want — a cookie for it? It doesn't matter what he says."
Howard responded with a large smile, pausing a few seconds and then sarcastically saying, "Okay."
Later on in the interview, Howard circled back to the remarks and while he disagreed with James and Wade, he put some perspective on their comments.
"I would say that most people hated LeBron for ["The Decision"] and how he was leaving [Cleveland], going on TV and like that," Howard said. "So it was a little bit different situation. But as far as pressure, everybody expected us to go 82-0. We've had a lot of pressure on us."
Pressure as a Laker can also be defined every moment a player is in the uniform of a franchise that has won 16 championships. The Lakers are the only team with an all-time winning percentage of over .600 (.619) and they've won a championship on the average of once every three seasons since Jerry Buss bought the team from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979-80. And then there are the fans, who celebrate with every win and want to break up the team with every loss.
"We feel it every time we step on the court," Howard said, "and we can hear it when we miss a shot or (an opponent) scores, people get upset. It's a lot of pressure."
Kobe may have put it best when he described several weeks ago what it means to carry on the Laker legacy.
"We haven't had just great players in our organization," Bryant said. "We've had some of the greatest players in the history of the game as Lakers. Look at our retired jerseys. That tells the story right there."
The Heat don't have the same kind of history, but they faced enormous expectations and fan backlash when James and Bosh decided to join Wade in Miami in the summer of 2010. The Heat started 9-8 that season and struggled at other times before flaming out in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. They won the championship last season.
Great things also were expected of the Lakers when Howard and Nash came via trade to LA last summer. Instead, the Lakers are 17-21 and in 11th place in the Western Conference.
In the Miami Herald story, Wade admitted that he understood that there is pressure on the Lakers at all times.
"I know [Kobe Bryant] understands it," Wade told the newspaper. "That's the nature of the beast out in LA. I don't know if every player that comes through there understands what you're getting yourself into when you walk through those doors.
"It's the Lakers. They're America's team. I keep saying it. They're the standard of what the NBA has been for years, Boston and the Lakers. But the Lakers are in LA, the big market. So, from that standpoint, you understand it. You get it."
Maybe Kobe and LeBron can discuss the situation after the game over cookies and milk.