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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar likes these Lakers but is only lukewarm on the Heat

The NBA's all-time leading scorer, now a Lakers assistant coach, is impressed by the two-time defending champions' improved depth, and he questions oddsmakers' wisdom in installing Miami as this season's title favorite.

November 05, 2010|By Mike Bresnahan

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, likes what he sees from the Lakers.

He's not so sure, though, about those Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Ever since the Miami Heat became the favorite to win the NBA championship next June, Abdul-Jabbar has been shaking his head.

"I think it's crazy," he said Friday. "Miami doesn't have a team yet. They're still trying to find their identity. They've got a long way to go before they establish themselves.

"Orlando and Boston, they've been there, and they want to get back. Miami's going to have their work cut out for them. And there's probably some other [East] teams that will emerge as the season proceeds."

When the season started, Miami was a 7-5 favorite to win the title. The Lakers were close behind at 2-1.

It's understandable that Abdul-Jabbar takes a pro-Lakers angle, considering his background and the fact he's a special assistant coach for the team, but he likes the Lakers' depth this season.

"They've definitely improved the bench," he said. "It's going to take a lot of wear and tear off the starters. Those minutes that the bench guys put in, that could keep the starters from getting hurt during the season and they'll be fresher when the playoff season starts."

Abdul-Jabbar has worked extensively in the past with Andrew Bynum, who is expected to return around Thanksgiving from off-season knee surgery, if not a little later. Bynum will reclaim his starting spot at center and Lamar Odom will go back to the bench, a move that shouldn't cause any continuity troubles, Abdul-Jabbar said.

"'Drew will be able to fit in because he knows the offense. That's not going to be a problem," Abdul-Jabbar said. "It'll take him a while to get going on full blast, but he'll be able to step right in and do what he needs to do."

Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia last November but can be seen this season at most home games. He continues to have medical checkups every eight weeks.

"In fact, I just had one today," he said. "I'm doing very well and am in remission. There's no trace of it so far, so that's good. I've just got to keep it like that and do what the docs tell me to do."

Walton in, Ebanks out

Forward Luke Walton played his first game of the season after being bothered the past month by a strained right hamstring. He had 0 points and one steal in six minutes against the Raptors. Rookie Devin Ebanks and Bynum were on the inactive list.

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