- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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MIAMI -- Earlier this season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson suggested that Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra's job could be in jeopardy, causing a stir throughout the sport. But around the same time, Jackson also made a positive prediction about the Heat that received far less attention when he said Miami was talented enough to become the first team since his 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to win 70 games.
Jackson's media session Wednesday in Miami, the day before Los Angeles will play the Heat and try to avenge its 96-80 disaster of a loss on Christmas Day, was much of the same from the Hall of Fame coach.
Jackson might have added more fuel to the fire Wednesday by not backing down from his "No Boys Allowed" quip about Heat players' crying after their loss to Chicago, but he did not completely bury the boys from South Beach. In fact, he still thinks they're going to win a championship.
First, Jackson clarified his comments made in Atlanta on Tuesday night about the Heat when he said: "This is the NBA: No Boys Allowed. Big boys don't cry. But, if you're going to do it, do it in the toilet where no one can see."
It wasn't an original phrase by Jackson, but rather a mantra that's been passed around NBA locker rooms for years.
"The NBA, 'No Boys Allowed' is what that's always stood for," Jackson said Wednesday. "At least, that's what I've been told by the players. This is what it's about and this is the game. We don't point your fingers at anybody else or the referees, but they come back to you. So that was the big deal when I was thinking about that."
"It took them four years to win a championship with that team," Jackson said, reminding reporters that Lakers team didn't break through and win a title until 1972 against Jackson's New York Knicks. "I don't expect this Miami team will take that long."
While Jackson preached patience as a remedy to bring Miami together, he also said that there has been too much emphasis placed on James' and Wade's roles rather than on the whole roster and coaching staff top to bottom.
"I think it's about the whole team," said Jackson, who has seen his team go on an eight-game winning streak after the All-Star break by relying on a balanced effort across the board. "I don't think it's about two people. I think that might be the problem. It's about a team and it's about people figuring in. There's a lot of good players on that team. Obviously the two that stand head and shoulders above that team are [James and Wade]. So, there's plenty of talent there and they'll figure it out."
While Jackson seemed confident the Heat would eventually find their footing, he admitted they are facing an obstacle that he's had to with his teams: the general public wishing for them to lose.
"It's been dramatic, it's been very dramatic," Jackson said. "I've always said that one of the reasons the Bulls were very successful, and the Lakers also, was that they engendered good feelings. People were rooting for them. They wanted to see them be successful. I think from what I've heard, this [Heat] team feels like they're being looked at to lose or they've been hoped at to lose. ... Nationally, if that's the case, that's a burden to carry. And then those games that are dramatic become bigger than they really should be."
Lakers forward Pau Gasol agreed that the Lakers enjoy having fans across the country when they visit road arenas, but said that the Heat could embrace their negative public perception and create an us-against-the-world mentality to break out from their five-game losing streak.
"To me it would be motivation just to prove everybody wrong," Gasol said. "That's always been motivational for me. I'd say, 'I'm not the villain. I'm just with a group of guys that got together and want to win and we're going to prove that we can win and play well and I think that people are going to appreciate that when that happens.' I don't think that would affect negatively, to me at least."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Phil Jackson softens on the Heat and thinks they can still win a championship.