Lakers coach Jackson wary of next three opponents

The barnstormers have arrived at the soft portion of their nine-game trip, starting with today's game against the last-place Miami Heat.

Then it's on to Charlotte to face the Bobcats on Monday, and to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves on Wednesday, two more struggling teams.

Coach Phil Jackson cringed when the combined records of the Los Angeles Lakers' next three opponents was mentioned to him by a reporter.

The Lakers had just completed Saturday's practice at a recreation center, preparing to face the new-look Heat in a nationally televised game. A gaggle of screaming children waited just outside the gym, some seeking autographs.

Jackson declined to admit the difficult part of the trip was over for the Los Angeles Lakers, who have won four of the first six on their trek.

The fact that Miami has the league's worst record at 9-39 concerned Jackson. He also dismissed the fact that Charlotte is 18-32 and Minnesota is 10-38, suggesting they could be difficult challenges for the Lakers (32-17).

"We have to be careful with what we do," he said.

The Lakers have lost three in a row in Miami, but those Heat teams looked a good deal different from the one they will face today. Shaquille O'Neal is gone, having been traded last week to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.

Marion and Banks are expected to make their Heat debuts today.

"I think they'll get up and down," Jackson said of the Heat, who relied on a half-court offense with O'Neal on their roster. "They'll try to run. ... I think it's a good deal for Miami. It may take them a few games, but it will be exciting for them."

What's more, the Heat believes it has found a formidable one-two combination with Marion and Dwyane Wade.

Jackson and Jordan Farmar had several testy exchanges during the Lakers' victory Friday over the Orlando Magic.

Jackson was unhappy with Farmar's lackluster defense.

Jackson replaced Farmar with Derek Fisher for the game's final 7:39. Never one to hold a grudge, Jackson could be seen smiling and talking with Jordan Farmar as they walked from the floor together after the final buzzer sounded on the Lakers' 117-113 win.

They spoke again after practice Saturday, with Jackson offering defensive pointers to Farmar.

Jackson asked Farmar to tighten up defensively, particularly against 3-pointers from the corners.

"I think he's gotten a little bit passive defensively," Jackson said of Farmar, a second-year guard from UCLA. "As a consequence, he's a little bit behind the game. He's given us an infusion of energy, but we need that (better defense)."

Kobe Bryant did not practice, sitting out because of a dislocated right pinkie. He's unlikely to miss any of the next three games, having played the past three with the injury. Jackson said Kobe Bryant should skip the All-Star Game on Feb. 17, however.

No hard feelings

Bryant sits out