Heat Check: Battle of LA features shorthanded rosters; Thomas Bryant seeking improvement inside bubble

Clockwise: LeBron James (23) and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) celebrate in the fourth quarter against the LA Clippers at Staples Center. The Lakers defeated the Clippers 112-100. (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports). Jayson Tatum (0). (Photo: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports). Jimmy Butler (22). (Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports). J.R. Smith (5). (Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports). Thomas Bryant (13). (Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports).

By JOHN LIKANJE

Heat Check is a weekly recap of the best basketball writing and analysis the internet has to offer.

  • The Miami Heat restart their season on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets. They sit in fourth place in a top-heavy Eastern Conference with seven of their eight seeding games against playoff teams. The Heat still have the depth and personnel to make a deep postseason run.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers have one of the toughest regular-season schedules in the bubble. Not only do they face seven teams currently in a playoff spot, half of those teams are seeded fourth or higher in their respective conference. But depending on how the Los Angeles Clippers perform, the Lakers only need two or three wins to secure the No. 1 seed in the West. Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of their schedule.
  • J.R. Smith and LeBron James can’t seem to get enough of each other. Recently, the former Cleveland Cavalier teammates reunited after Smith signed with the Lakers in the wake of Avery Bradley opting out of the restart. Here’s a more in-depth observation at how valuable of an asset he will be.
  • Jayson Tatum was enjoying the best season of his three-year career before the season’s suspension. The Boston Celtics small forward took advantage of the four-month quarantine to undergo a body transformation.

  • The Lakers signed Smith in late June in response to Bradley’s absence. Then they lost Rajon Rondo to a thumb injury suffered during practice in the bubble. Lakers fans shouldn’t be discouraged by their lack of depth in the backcourt. They already have answers at the end of the bench in guys deserving of more playing time.
  • The Clippers will be without sixth man Lou Williams for two games due to league violations while outside the bubble. Tuesday evening, the No. 2 seed in the West learned that they won’t have backup center Montrezl Harrell for Thursday’s reopening matchup with the Lakers as well.
  • A Rochester special: former Bishop Kearney star Thomas Bryant will get much-needed experience in the bubble with the Washington Wizards. The Wizards have a tough schedule, especially for the back half of their slate (Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder). Expect Bryant’s game to drastically improve next season. Here’s a breakdown of his playing style from FanSided writer Kenneth Wilson back in December.

You can also find John at fansided.com/nba.

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