The Los Angeles Lakers are recreating LeBron’s version of the Miami Heat

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 18: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with LeBron James #23 during the NBA preseason game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 18, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 18: Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with LeBron James #23 during the NBA preseason game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 18, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) – Los Angeles Lakers /

The Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James are recreating the Miami Heat’s blueprint from 10 years ago

After a disappointing first-round playoff exit last season, the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James are looking to the past for their future success. Not just because the Lakers are older than any other NBA team.

But because the Lakers are following the same blueprint that got LeBron his first championship while he was on the Miami Heat. Like the Lakers going into this season, Miami had a disappointing season 10 years ago, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.

That offseason, there was a lockout as the NBA and the Players Association were negotiating a new CBA. While the lockout took place, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra paid a visit to then-Oregon football coach Chip Kelly. Spoelstra was impressed at Kelly’s innovative no-huddle spread offense, which mostly defines college football today.

Spoelstra then adapted Kelly’s offense to the basketball court, dubbing the new Miami offense “pace and space” in an effort to maximize the talents of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

The changes were drastic. That season, LeBron and Wade both moved from the wing to co-piloting the offense as the primary ball-handlers. Chris Bosh moved from power forward to center. Miami added three-point specialists Ray Allen and Shane Battier to surround the LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio in crunch time.

They also implemented a hyper-aggressive, switch-everything defense with LeBron and Bosh being able to switch onto opposing guards on all ball screens. This highlight montage goes to show how difficult it was to score on their defense when LeBron was locked in.

The end result: Miami won two straight championships in 2012 and 2013. Ultimately, Miami’s success helped create the “position-less” brand of basketball that defines the game today.

Once the Lakers brought in former Miami assistant coach David Fizdale to replace Jason Kidd on the coaching staff, it was clear this would be the direction they were headed in.

With their past history, Fizdale and Head Coach Frank Vogel would know better than anyone else as to how to construct this new-look roster in Miami’s image. Vogel was the head coach for the Indiana Pacers during their playoff battles with LeBron’s Miami squad.

This season’s Los Angeles Lakers are reshaping the team to become the LeBron-era version of the Miami Heat

Four things must happen if the Lakers are to successfully reinvent themselves in Miami’s image.

  • Anthony Davis must move to center like Chris Bosh
  • Russell Westbrook must accept a secondary role like Dwyane Wade
  • LeBron James must be the LeBron James of old
  • Veterans such as Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, and Wayne Ellington must shoot around 40% from three-point range this season

Losing was the motivation behind Miami’s drastic change, just as it is for the Lakers. The question is not if they are willing to accept the changes.

The Lakers have said all the right things. Ever since Rob Pelinka took over for Magic Johnson, the Lakers have always aced press conferences.

They have also done all the right things.

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Anthony Davis has bulked up. Russell Westbrook changed his shot (for the better). His release point is now lower so he can get more arc on his shot. More arc means there will be a more consistent trajectory on his shot.

All the veterans truly are ring-chasing. Carmelo Anthony is long overdue for one. Rajon Rondo, Trevor Ariza, and Dwight Howard rejoined the team for a run at another one.

But for this wholesale reimagining to work, LeBron James has to play like he did in Miami. If the offseason is any sign of things to come, LeBron is trying to get to that level again.

LeBron has slimmed down according to Pelinka. Per Pelinka, LeBron’s weight loss is intended to preserve his overall longevity.

"“I think the thing that stands out is just his fitness level,” Pelinka said this week. “He’s slimmed up. And we all know LeBron studies the greats, and he adds things into his game, and I think going into this stage of his career, he’s made a decision to come back a little bit leaner, and I think that’s going to translate in his explosiveness and quickness.”"

LeBron’s decision to slim down this offseason will also extend his playing career. Less weight means there is less pressure on the joints, bones, and muscles to perform optimally.

By all accounts, this weight loss is more sustainable than in 2014. LeBron’s performance clearly suffered when he lost all that weight back then. Even though he was on Cleveland, he mysteriously went to Miami for two weeks and regained all that weight back.

Also, for the first time since he left Miami, he will wear #6 this season. The mindset is certainly right – but mindset goes nowhere without ability.