Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

January 3, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Many Lakers fans have gotten torn with this “million-dollar” question as the year 2014 begins.

Should the Lakers tank or not?

As our own Laker Nation columnist Johnny Navarrette stated exceptionally well in his piece “Struggling Lakers Face Critical January Schedule”, the Lakers have a high possibility of tanking, intentionally or not, thanks to a combination of multiple injuries and a very tough schedule moving forward.

The ship for the Los Angeles Lakers (13-19) is sinking quickly  as they face the Utah Jazz (11-24) tonight. The Milwaukee Bucks looked like the San Antonio Spurs during the New Years Eve beat down of the Lakers that many unfortunate Laker fans had to witness.  This will be the 3rd of a 4 game home series, which is supposed to be the easiest series for the Lakers on paper. However, the Lakers have already lost the first 2 games, so they would have to win these next 2 games to salvage this series.

To make matters worse, Lakers PG Jordan Farmar is now out for at least 4 more weeks tearing his hamstring again vs. Bucks. The injury to Farmar leads PG Kendall Marshall, who played in the D-League a month ago, to lead the Lakers as the only healthy ball-handler on the roster.

Tonight, expect the Jazz can cause the Lakers more problems tonight like they did during their last meeting a week ago. The Jazz outrebounded the Lakers 43-37 and held them to 30.4 % shooting from behind the 3 pt. line. Jazz F Gordan Hayward showcased his all-around talents vs. the Lakers, scoring 24 pts, dishing out 9 assists, and grabbing 5 rebounds  on the Lakers and has averaged a very solid 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.8 APG this season. With 1 healthy ball-handler available for the Lakers, expect Jazz rookie PG Trey Burke who averages 13.7 PPG and 5.0 APG, to go off for another career high tonight as the Lakers have been playing their worst basketball in ages.

Projected Starters

PG - Trey Burke / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Jazz]

SG - Gordon Hayward Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Jazz]

SF - Richard Jefferson Nick Young [Advantage: Lakers]

PF - Marvin Williams Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C - Derrick Favors Robert Sacre [Advantage: Jazz]

Notable Bench Players

Jazz: G Alec Burks, F Jeremy Evans, PG John Lucas III, C Enes Kanter

Lakers:  F Wesley Johnson, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, F Shawne Williams

Bench Advantage: Jazz

Injury List

Jazz: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar Probable-F Wesley Johnson

Keys for Lakers Victory

Play Relaxed: At this current moment, zero expectations exist for the current Lakers roster. Instead of trying really hard to live up to the “Lakers” name, the Lakers have to play relaxed, which should lead to a higher shooting percentage. Lately, the Lakers have not defeated any teams since their shots cannot fall through the rim. Furthermore, the Lakers have zero ball-handlers on the floor outside of Marshall. Hopefully, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni decides to run his offense mainly through C Chris Kaman and C/F Pau Gasol, who are now arguably the best play-makers on the Lakers right now. Lakers shooters, notably G Jodie Meeks, F Shawne Williams, and G/F Nick Young, should be able to receive uncontested shots if Gasol and Kaman can play well from the post and create open shots for the Lakers perimeter players.

Bottom Line

After the worst loss of the season for the Lakers, they are now officially in “rock bottom”. Fortunately, they cannot get any worse from their current state and only have room to improve. After 2 days off, look for the Lakers to come out with a lot of energy and prove that they are trying to win every game. Right now, difficulties exist for fans who try to make a case that the Lakers can come away with a victory tonight vs. Jazz. Hopefully, the Lakers can somehow play very relaxed tonight and come away with a victory to start the 2014 year right.

Prediction

Jazz: 95-85