"Without a doubt," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "They're the champions and to not have Shaquille [O'Neal] here to play in this game, and without us being at full strength, takes some luster out of the game. It still should be a good basketball game.
"Dwyane Wade's a sportsman of the year by international standards, United Nations. Then we've got Kobe [Bryant], who was the scoring champion. We'll put on a show."
O'Neal and the Lakers' Lamar Odom are out with knee injuries.
Jackson had other observations of the Heat, including one on O'Neal.
When asked about Bryant's tireless work ethic, Jackson paused for a couple of seconds and picked at O'Neal's lack of one in past times.
"The only person I've ever had that hasn't been a worker in the fortunate times I've been coaching is probably Shaq," he said. "He's the one guy that didn't really like to work. I know Pat [Riley] got him working here. ... We had a hard time getting him to work. All the other players -- Michael [Jordan], Scottie [Pippen], Dennis Rodman, all those guys that we had, Horace Grant, they're all hard-working."
Jackson apparently wasn't fond of the Heat's roster last season either.
"I still am amazed they won" the title, he said. "I told Pat that was a remarkable job to bring that team to the championship level. Dallas had them looking cold in the water and they came back and won the day."
-- Mike Bresnahan