The Lakers host the Cavs in what will be their last home game for a while. Shortly after tonight’s contest ends, the Lakers will board a plane for Phoenix where they will start their annual Grammy Road Trip. The team will play its next 8 games on the road including their lone trips of the year to Boston, New York, and Miami. Seeing those names on the schedule makes me miss Kobe Bryant a bit more as its those games – against the hated Celtics, at Madison Square Garden, and against the champion Heat – that Kobe always tries to bring a little extra to the floor. Instead he’ll be on the sideline wearing a suit, likely rubbing his eyes a bunch in frustration.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Tonight the Lakers host Cleveland, a team who has its own set of struggles to deal with. Before we get to that, though, let’s hash out the Lakers’ ills:
- The Lakers have lost 10 of 11 games.
- Pau Gasol is a game-time decision after an MRI revealed a strained toe on his left foot.
- Xavier Henry suffered from soreness in his knee after working out over the weekend and will not play tonight.
- With so many Lakers hurt, the team only had 8 players available for practice yesterday so assistant coach Mark Madsen suited up.
The Cavs can sort of relate, however. They’re not dealing with the same type of injury woes, but they are dealing with their own issues. They came into the year as a team primed to make a move into the playoffs. They added had the #1 pick in the draft, gambled on Andrew Bynum, and hired Mike Brown to replace Byron Scott as the head coach.
What’s occurred, however, is the Cavs not living up to any of that preseason hype. They are currently 11 games under .500 and have lost 3 of their last 5 games including a 44 point drubbing by the Kings on Sunday night. Anthony Bennett – the player they selected #1 overall – can barely get off the bench and has a PER of 1.1 (yes one point one). Andrew Bynum has since been traded for Luol Deng (a player I really like), but they also gave up some draft picks in the process with no guarantee Deng stays beyond this season since he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. In other words, the pressure is on big time in Cleveland and while they’re not out of the playoff race in the dreadful East, it is time for them to start to make good on the promise and potential of their roster.
All in all, then, this game marks a contest between two of the worst teams in the league at this moment. Yes, the Cavs have Kyrie Irving (and now Deng). And, yes, they will surely start to play better soon. But right now they’re a bad team. Just as the Lakers are.
What this means for the quality of this game remains to be seen, but I’d argue one of the bigger stories heading into this contest is Mike Brown’s return to Los Angeles to coach against the Lakers after being fired last season than anything that is supposed to happen on the floor after the ball tips. Maybe this is the result of not having Kobe and with Pau being banged up. Maybe it’s the fact that both team’s records are what they are. Maybe it’s because it’s the middle of January and we’ve officially entered into the part of the year where teams start to hit that wall before heading into the all-star break to refresh before the final push of the year. Whatever the reason, though, what should have been a game between two teams fighting to try and make the playoffs is now a game between two teams still trying to figure out what their end game this season will actually be and, ultimately, how that influences next season.
Anyway, try to enjoy the game. My hope is that Pau is healthy enough to go, but if he’s not the Lakers will only have 8 players available for action: Marshall, Meeks, Johnson, Sacre, Kaman, Young, Hill, and Kelly. That’s it. Is that enough to beat a Cavs team that just lost by 40 to the Kings? My gut says no, but I’ll be watching just to make sure.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.