Preview & Chat: Lakers vs. Cavaliers

Darius Soriano —  January 14, 2014

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.

Good times!

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.

Darius Soriano

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51 responses to Preview & Chat: Lakers vs. Cavaliers

  1. Question: If the Lakers only suit up 8 players and 4 of them foul out, what happens? Do they forfeit? Or do they pretend that they’re playing the Clippers?

  2. Since KB isn’t going tonight, I am looking for a “Fashion Alert” from Robert, in which he tells us whether Brown or D’Antoni has the nicer suit.

  3. The curious case of Cleveland could be instructive to those of us who think it’s super important for the Lakers to … you know what, so they can get an excellent draft pick.

    ’13 draft – picked 1st
    ’12 draft – picked 4th
    ’11 draft – picked 1st

    Current record on the season? 13-24

  4. Maybe only 8 guys tonight. Isn’t there a guy who just averaged 35 last week on Defenders? Why are they doing NOTHING in FO to help?

  5. Indiana just beat Sacramento by 24. Two nights ago, Sac beat Cleveland by 44. Does that mean that if Indiana were to play Cleveland, Indiana would be favored by 68?

  6. Marshall wud be fun to watch vs kyrie

  7. R-

    ’13 was seen as being a very weak draft, and many of CLE’s recent picks have been seen as going somewhat against the grain and were scrutinized/criticized heavily at the time. Also, Kyrie Irving is a very good ballplayer, and Tristan Thompson is OK. The larger problems with Cleveland’s drafts are Waiters and, as Darius notes above, Bennett.

    Trying to position for a higher pick in 2014 is neither a cure-all nor a sure thing. But “No one knows what is going to happen” and “Other teams have blown their picks” are not really arguments against it. I think that given the totality of the Lakers’ situation–personnel, place in the standings, lack of future picks, 2014 FA class, supposed quality of this draft–making moves that focus on next year, rather than this year, is the wisest course. That obviously does not mean that the players and coaches shouldn’t try, but I think the FO should make moves that look ahead, even if such moves add to the short-term frustration.

  8. Canton Charge vs LA D-Fenders

  9. Sorry but more I see of Marshall the less I see a NBA player. Guy shot 21% last year.

  10. This team can’t shoot. Pass or dribble. Other then that their great.

    Oh my!

    Cavs not much better.

  11. @Mid-Wilshire,

    Keep the calculations ready for what if Indiana play the Lakers

  12. rr – totally agree with all your points above.

  13. That’s the 3rd timeout called by Brown after. Laker score .

    Is that good coaching or bad?

  14. 40 pts. in one Q!

  15. Shooting %s, 2s/3s, 1st half

    CLE .511, .571 (4/7)
    Lakers .548, .412 (7/17)

  16. Lakers with 4 players in double figures in the first half lead by Meeks with 18 points, very good second quarter. Lakers need to have a strong start to the second half and avoid a slow third quarter start.

  17. Call a tine Out NOW and get Young in game. MD needs to not show up and talk at half time.

  18. Change the players!

    My gosh are you blind coach

  19. that´s right, MDA´s half time pep talk is working its wonders yet again…ugh –
    update: we´re crawling back into it

  20. Another slow start to the third quarter for the Lakers, been a problem all season long.

  21. Kelly is of no value. Wide open bricks.

  22. Terrible rebounding and Marshall keeps losing his man.

    Lakers may not win another game this month if they lose tonight .

    14 and 33?

  23. 4th worst record in the NBA.
    2nd to worst in the West. Worse then Sac now.

    Most income with TV deal and ticket prices in NBA.

    Congratulations front office.

  24. January is cooked. Looking forward to February…
    2015

  25. Good thing they cut Williams and kept Kelly who is shooting 25%.

    Remind me who was the last good draft choice Mitch made.

  26. Well, if they lost this one, which of the next 7 will they win?

    As others on the blog know, I haven’t been the biggest supporter of Pau, by a country mile. However, tonight marked a crossover to my demanding that the Lakers rid themselves of him. I didn’t watch the entire game, but from what I saw, he certainly wasn’t the big man we need. He can still score beautifully, but he is slow to defend (putting it mildly) and he has small and rather weak hands. This means 1) his man goes around him as if he is a statue, 2) he can easily be stripped of the ball, and 3) he doesn’t grab rebounds, but simply bats them and hopes one of his teammates will be there to actually collect the ball. All he does defensively is take up space better used by some other player.

    Now Pau wasn’t the only reason we lost tonight, but he certainly had a lot to do with us getting ‘smoked’ in the rebound department. Win, lose, or draw it is time for him to move on. If he remains it is only to insure we get a better drafting position and are able to fully use his salary. If he is there at the end of the year, I fully expect the front office to renounce his contract so they can pursue someone of more value.

  27. FYI

    Worst record in Laker history was 30-52 in 75. Interesting that Stu Lantz, Pat Riley and Kevin Love’s dad were on that team.

    Very good chance this team beats that record.

  28. Very good chance this team beats that record.

    Indeed.

    CLE was 13/17 on 3s.

  29. You’re right Ko, just spot on.

    What worries me about the “tanking” (which apparently is forced, not planned) is that there are no sure “franchise altering” players in this draft.

    Also, Does anyone think that Sacre played 11 minutes too long? Look at that stat sheet…

    On the Ryan Kelly subject, I believe that since we’re paying him for the remainder of the season and we’re not making the playoffs, we should give him a couple of months of play time to see if he belongs in the NBA or not. So far, it’s a clear no, but there’s still time to turn it around.

  30. The one thing about tonight’s game is that the Lakers played hard. That sequence where Pau fell down and gave up the ball to a wide open uncontested shot is what killed us.

    14-24

    I wonder if we can ever win 25 its been awhile since we won.

  31. When Pau fell down on that offensive rebound, he was passing the ball to Marshall. Kendall as a fatigued rookie pg, he just did not have the wherewithal to move to give Pau a passing angle to get him the ball. Still, the effort was there.

    I’d blame too many missed free throws as one of the basic factors that caused the loss. The Lakers still don’t have the fundamentals to win close games. Meeks missed two freethrows in the 4th quarter, and that was the game difference.

  32. If the Lakers played in the East, they would be 2 games out of the playoffs… something is awfully wrong on the east coast.

    I am very happy to see the players keep grinding and fighting. They can keep their heads up after this.

  33. Since this year is a waste – I don’t even like watching the Lakers with the $200 NBA TV given their losing ways – the Lakers might as well tank tank tank.

    I want them to have the worse record in the league.

    I want them to play the minimum number of active players in the game.

    The remaining Laker players should simply have fun. The rest should take a vacation.

    With a top-5 pick, another superstar player with the cap-room the Lakers have, and Kobe finally being in good health, next year the Lakers can make some progress.

    Hopefully, Pau realizes he has gotten old and stays for a reasonable contract – say $9 Million a year.

    Hopefully, the Lakers retain some of the young players who show they are game to play hard. They are the glue to the new 3-star Lakers.

    And Hopefully, they choose their lottery pick well.

  34. Can we have a mid-season poll on who do we want to see in a Lakers uniform next season? We would get some interesting results, for sure (assuming everyone gets a reasonable contract within our cap space limitations).

  35. Win lose or draw it is time for him to move on.

    Craig W, re Pau:
    I still see Pau as a highly skilled big man, hard to find in the league, so I can’t fault him for the Lakers’ current plight.

    However, here’s someone who agrees with you:

    http://m.si.com/3783229/time-for-free-falling-lakers-to-let-go-of-pau-gasol/?comments=on#comments

  36. It will actually be poetic and kind of funny to watch the Boston-Laker game. Two great franchises trying not to be too obvious as they via not for the crown but a bunch of ping pong balls!

    Hope Stern is happy.

  37. If Kobe comes back at the end of this losing streak that we’re about to witness…
    Scenario 1- Kobe and Nash come back and the Lakers go on a TEAR! They win 80% of their remaining games, about 30, and the Lakers get to 35-40 wins! This puts them out of the top 10 for the lottery. OR

    Scenario 2- Kobe and Nash come back, but Kobe goes into full on “chasing history” mode. He jacks 25 shots a game and literally steals the ball from Nash on some possessions. THINK TEEN WOLF. The Lakers only end up going 22-60 and finish in the bottom 3 records in the league.

    My question is- Does Kobe get more hatred in Scenario 1 or Scenario 2?

  38. FWIW, Embiid has replaced Wiggins at #1 on Chad Ford’s draft board:

    “The most important part of the college basketball season is still in front of us, and both Wiggins and Parker have strong support among certain NBA franchises and could go No. 1 depending on who wins the lottery.

    However, there’s a growing number of talent evaluators who believe that Embiid will be difficult to pass up with the No. 1 pick. Size matters in the NBA. So does athletic ability, production and upside. Embiid checks all four boxes.”

  39. Dane: “I am very happy to see the players keep grinding and fighting.” Well we have some young – 1 year guys, so yes they are still trying. But to be 30th in Rebounding (now updated from tied for 29th) and 30th in TO differential is not acceptable and does not qualify us as a gritty, hustling, team. Injuries can’t be used to “entirely” explain those categories. This is concerning moving forward.
    Moving forward: So if win about 30 games (although 25 would be an interesting number indeed), then what? Are we going to say that the system is fine, the coach is fine, there is no issue reintegrating Kobe with coach/system (sit the year discussion pending), and let the ping pong balls and free agents fall where they may, and voila – instant contenders? I guess that is a plan. I hope we did not pay expensive consultants to formulate that.

  40. not sure if it was the foster farms chicken, but vomiting from both ends last night is what I picked up somewhere after halftime. aw, but it was close, right? good job, right? another attempt at trying to win before we lose.

    still a little lightheaded from the fuselage, but feeling a little bit better, thank you very much, present day lakers. can hardly wait for another bout with the chicken; sitting in the freezer, freezing their little behinds. waste not, want not, right? where exactly did it all go sour? front office, I’m speaking to you.

    Go lakers

  41. Heat /Warriors/ Celtics trade leaves me wondering what the counter moves for the Warriors will be. They got Crawford and Brooks. I don’t see them holding on to both. Brooks is following a Gerald Green-like career at the moment. Celts got some conditional picks.

    I guess the Heat can use another perimeter defender. I haven’t watched them much this year but since defense is basically all Douglas does well then I guess they’re going to save money while Douglas sits on the bench as the 13th man.

    If MDA is getting another year, they really need to move Kaman and Hill.

  42. Saying the system is the problem, with the current roster and injuries on the Lakers, would seem to be a totally self-serving observation.

    I am not saying MDA is the answer, but neither is his system part of the problem – IMO, of course.

    For what we were trying to accomplish this year, this may be the best system and best coach available – IMO again. I know that may not sit well with a segment of the bloggers, but the organization’s short term goals may not align with what some of us want. We have a lot of talent on 1-year deals and we need to see if they can become NBA rotation level players. My guess is the front office is now able to make some judgements.

  43. Craig W: To be clear. I want MD to finish the year. Continue with the system if that us what he wants to do, although some “pace” adjustments would be nice as per the previous thread. Then at year end – we decide. However – I don’t think too much is going to change between now and then. In fairness to MD – are we going to blame him further for more losses (they will come – that is for sure)? Alternatively does he get a free ride? So the input for the “decision” is clear already. I don’t think much will change unless our targeted FA either endorses or condemns MD (and that did not change the FO’s mind last year).

  44. would seem to be a totally self-serving observation.

    IMO this applies to your calling out Pau earlier. The things that you mentioned about his game–lack of aggressiveness on the glass, slow feet on defense–are precisely the things that Hill brings to the table. Additionally, since Cleveland rotates three slightly undersized bigs who are not major post-up threats, Cleveland is a good matchup for Hill. In fairness to D’Antoni, Hill was in foul trouble, but MDA could have played him until he fouled out–but chose not to. And of course many people have suggested playing Hill more to alleviate the rebounding problems, a suggestion at which you have scoffed repeatedly.

    The reality is that the Lakers’ issues are complex, and all aspects of the organization, including Jim Buss and Mike D’Antoni, should be examined and held accountable. Harshly criticizing players but leaving the FO and coaching staff entirely alone makes no more sense than going the other way.

  45. I am angry with this team right now. This is not because we are loosing, but because I’m seeing a general lack of hustle that I find troubling. While some will say it’s the coaches fault for not inspiring his players (I partly agree), I think that players on 1 year deals need to be out there hustling like there is no tomorrow because, in fact, for some of these guys there may be no tomorrow.

    Regarding Pau: I think his body language tells us that he is done w this team and may be looking for a change of pace and role. Sadly, skilled 7 footers with generally well rounded games are hard to find. While I think Pau’s Laker days are numbered, it would not surprise me to see h resign with the Lakers. On fact, I hope we do because I think a certain team in MN will be moving a key asset this off season or next year and Pau would be a great addition to that team for a variety of reasons.

  46. @Robert, I do think that injuries explain most of those stats. As long as MDA wont play Hill more, then we will get killed in rebounding.

  47. KenOak: If Kobe comes back at the end of this losing streak that we’re about to witness…
    ___

    A third option is that Kobe comes back and hurts himself again. What does that do to any FO plans about next year if Kobe can’t stay on the floor?

  48. I have to agree, I am puzzled why Hill doesn’t at least average 25min/game on this team. IMO, he is not a 30+ min/game player, but he should be able to average 20-25 min/game easily. I also think he should be somewhat fresh and in the game at the end, unless match-ups dictate otherwise. His strengths would seem to outweigh his weaknesses for this team. Yes, I hold MDA accountable for this.

    With Hill and Kaman being somewhat underutilized by MDA – I do understand that Kaman somewhat duplicates Pau – I also recognize this as a weakness in our coaching. This may be more evident on the Lakers because we have almost always had competent big men and many of the best ever have worn our colors.

    I say all this to indicate I am mindful of MDA’s weaknesses. Still, we are in a somewhat new NBA age and we are going through a period where we absolutely must evaluate quite a number of possible rotation players. This is best done when those players are actually playing on your team. Developing and playing new players is something most Laker coaches in the past have not excelled at – we demanded championship contention every year – but the new CBA and increased openness of NBA play (in large part evolved by MDA) require we change. This may not be the objective when we accumulate more assets, but it is the way we will evolve to obtain those assets. Therefore, I do support MDA and what he is doing this year.

  49. Often read about Mike getting another year?

    Really? Not only did he perhaps wear put his best players by over playing and wear them down but his offense is wrong for Kobe and any big.

    Finally the 30 win season must be blamed on someone. Jim is not taken the knife which leaves Mitch or Mike as scapegoat.

    I give it 99% MD is not back next year.

  50. here’s one man’s opinion on what ails the lakers:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAJ8gF3D2xk

    there might be others….

    Go lakers

  51. we are in a somewhat new NBA age

    To an extent, but in many respects, not really. The NBA will always be about obtaining elite players. Rotation players/bench players are not all created equal–the Lakers found that out the hard way last year when they had Ebanks, Morris and Duhon on the roster all year. But the idea that “developing rotation players” is the key to obtaining assets/building a franchise is very questionable. The key to the Harden deal was having Martin, and he was not a guy that Houston “developed.” They had some other decent young guys to throw in, which helped, but IMO that was not the key to the deal. They needed to have Martin to get Harden. As I said in preseason, I don’t think this year’s pickups–Farmar, Young, Henry, and Johnson, and Kaman–were part of some grand strategy or retooling based on changing conditions. Those guys–all of whom were pretty good pickups for the money–were what was out there for a capped-out team with some PT to offer.

    The best short-term defense of D’Antoni is very simple: the team has been competitive when Blake and Farmar have been out there. Since MDA’s system is very PG-driven, not having them, even though they are not that good, is a big deal.