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Dallas Mavericks

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Pau Gasol / Dirk Nowitzki
Image: Ronald Martinez | Getty Images
Pau Gasol / Dirk Nowitzki
Photo: Ronald Martinez | Getty Images

January 7, 2014 —- 5:30 PM (PST)
American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-20) go on the road to battle the Dallas Mavericks (19-15) tonight and seek to shake off a very ugly loss vs. Denver Nuggets on Sunday. They gave up 137 points to the Nuggets. That number is unacceptable regardless of the opponent, especially the Nuggets who are not a very talented team this year in comparison to the rest of the Western Conference teams.

The Lakers will not win any games for the rest of the season if they continue to not put any effort on the defensive end. For Lakers fans, they find difficulty remembering the last time the Lakers scored 115 points in a game and still lose by more than 20 points.

The Lakers have also released F Shawne Williams today, in a cost-saving move to save the Lakers about $1 million.

However, the Lakers have many positive things working for them at this moment.

Lakers PG Kendall Marshall had another productive night, dishing out 17 assists while adding 9 points. Marshall has thrived in giving his teammates open shots and make great passes that only a true point guard can make.  Without another ball-handler available for the Lakers, they hope that Marshall will not get injured by playing too many minutes.

Also, the Pau Gasol trade rumor is finally over! For now. After multiple rumors that Gasol was headed to Cleveland Cavaliers for former Laker C Andrew Bynum‘s contract, the Cavaliers threw a major curveball, acquiring Chicago Bulls all-star Luol Deng.

Despite all the trade rumors, Gasol has looked much better on both ends of the floor, having more energy and looking as healthy as he has been in years. Forum Blue and Gold’s Darius Soriano mentioned that in Gasol’s last 10 games, he is averaging 18 PPG, 10 RPG, 4 APG, 2 BPG, with a solid 51% shooting percentage. Those numbers are very identical to his average during the Lakers’ championship run.

The Dallas Mavericks look to close out their 3-game home series on a positive note after losing their first 2 games. After overhauling their roster every season after winning the 2011 NBA Championship, the Mavericks have finally stabilized their roster by signing  starting PG Jose Calderon and starting SG Monta Ellis to multi-year contracts this off-season.

However, the Mavericks are still built around their franchise cornerstone, PF Dirk Nowitzki. Highly regarded as the best “stretch-4″ to ever play the game, Nowitzki has seemed to regain his old form after having a very poor season last year. Nowitzki has averaged 22.9 PPG, and 6.5 RPG, and shooting 49,8% from the field.

With Calderon, Ellis, and SG Vince Carter having the ability to drive to the basket and create their own shots, the Lakers have to make sure they stayed focused on the defensive end.

Projected Starters

PG - Jose Calderon Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Mavericks]

SG - Monta EllisJodie Meeks [Advantage: Mavericks]

SF - Shawn Marion Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Mavericks]

PF - Dirk Nowitzki Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

C - DeJuan Blair Robert Sacre [Advantage: Mavericks]

Notable Bench Players

Mavericks: G Vince Carter, F Brandon Wright, F Jae Crowder, C Samuel Dalenbert

Lakers:  F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Mavericks: Out-PG Devin Harris 

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense, Defense, Defense: The Lakers failed on the defensive end vs. Nuggets allowing 137 points and clearly could not stop the fast break points, allowing 30 points, 22 of which came in the 2nd half. Now, we cannot expect the Lakers to give up 137 again, but if their defensive effort becomes as bad as it was on Sunday, tonight’s result vs. Mavericks tonight will result in a loss regardless of how well the Lakers play on the offensive end.

Bottom Line

Prediction

Hopefully the Lakers will play inspired basketball tonight knowing that Gasol’s still with the Lakers and that this season is not over yet. However, they are outmatched talent-wise by the opposing team again, so they have got to play very well on both ends of the floor, something they have not done so recently. Unfortunately, the matchup vs. Mavericks will not be much easier for the Lakers especially since the Lakers are trying to fix their defensive deficiencies.

Mavericks: 110-98

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Now that the NBA Finals have ended, the basketball world’s attention shifts to the off-season. Beginning with the NBA Draft yesterday and continuing with the beginning of free agency next week, the next three months will shape how the 2013-2014 NBA season goes down.

There might not be a team with a more uncertain future heading into the off-season than the Lakers. Will Dwight stay or will he go? (Here’s my opinion from yesterday in case you missed it)

Do you upgrade an aging roster? Stick to what you have? Get rid of everyone? What exactly should the Lakers do?

Let’s take a look at three options Los Angeles really has this off-season, and which is going to be best for the franchise.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

Re-sign and Build Around Dwight

The most obvious solution would be to go all in and put everything you have to bringing Howard back to Los Angeles. While injuries caused a dip in his production this season, there is no doubt Dwight is a top ten talent in the NBA and the best center in the league when healthy. Howard is a game-changer, especially on the defensive end of the court. With a player like that in the fold, you have a solid core for the next 5-10 years that you can build around.

With gobs of cap space coming in the summer of 2014, and a very impressive list of free agents, the Lakers could secure Howard and be back in contention within a year.

That is of course if the big man wants to be back in the Purple and Gold. Reports have recently surfaced that the Lakers are a long-shot to bring him back. According to ESPN:

Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skillset, one source said.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

Sign-and-trade Dwight for Depth

So if there’s no bringing him back, what can the Lakers do? Another idea that has been thrown around lately has been the concept of sign-and-trading Dwight to a team of his choosing to bring back some assets in return. While Howard would obviously have to agree to sign with the team he is going to, getting something in return is better than allowing Dwight to walk for nothing. (Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers can send a player out in a sign-and-trade, they just can’t bring a player in via sign-and-trade.)

With reports that Chris Paul and Howard want to form their own super team, the most talked about sign-and-trade has D12 going to the Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin. Which sounds like a decent deal, except for the fact that the Lakers don’t want to send Howard to their rivals (if you can even call them that) down the hall, and the contract owed Griffin is going to become increasingly tough to justify if all he ever does is dunk and make Kia commercials.

If the Lakers are going to move Howard they need to take advantage of this opportunity and bring in a young talent that can help transform the franchise. A trade that gets the Lakers younger and more talented in exchange for Dwight would be the main objective of the franchise.

So what trade accomplishes these goals? That’s easy. A three-way trade between the Lakers, Clippers, and… (drumroll please) the T’Wolves! Minnesota happens to have a very talented young power forward who most people (Minny included), don’t expect to stick around past his opt-out after this season. A trade sending Dwight to the Clippers, Blake Griffin to the Wolves and Bledsoe and All-Star Kevin Love to the Lakers makes sense for all involved.

Paul and Howard get to team up in Clipper uniforms, Ricky Rubio gets the perfect alley-oop target, and the Lakers get two young, dynamic players to upgrade their roster. Which sounds like the perfect trade, meaning it will be almost impossible to pull off.

Andrew Wiggins 2

Blow it Up and Start Over

So if Dwight doesn’t want to come back, and the Lakers can’t get the right assets in return with a sign-and-trade, what option lies behind the proverbial door number three?

Blow it all up and rebuild. Let Dwight walk. Trade Pau. Amnesty Metta. Don’t bring Kobe back to play this year. Tank, tank, tank, tank, tank. (Then fire D’Antoni, I beg of you.)

If we’ve learned anything from the OKC’s and Spurs of the league, it’s that drafting talent is as important as signing talent. Unless you have Lebron James, you just can’t win in the league today without cheap, young talent.

In Los Angeles, it’s title or bust every season for the Lakers. And with a championship looking less and less likely next season, blowing it up for a franchise-changing lottery pick (Andrew Wiggins anyone?) could be the best route to take.

With ridiculous amounts of cap space next summer, the Lakers could potentially have a great, young talent on a rookie contract and two or three max players in the starting line-up with him. Doesn’t that seem like the best option towards a quick rebuild back into title contention?

The Lakers have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. Will they look for instant gratification again, or decide to finally bite the bullet and rebuild for the future? Either way, you can guarantee it will be an interesting summer in Laker Land.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie, and Laker Nation contributor. Follow him on Twitter over at @ItsBelal_A

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Dwight Howard is a seven-time NBA All-Star. Dwight Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Dwight Howard is five-time All-NBA First Team player. Dwight Howard is not the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.

There have been many superstars throughout the history of the NBA. None of them have been as indecisive and immature as Dwight Howard.

As is often times the case in a results-driven league, Howard’s talent has caused many to dismiss his lack of maturity on the court, his child-like behavior off of it, and his overall lack of self-awareness in his constantly changing mindset.

Howard wanted out of Orlando, then he wanted to opt-in, then he wanted out again. He also only wanted to go to Brooklyn, then he was happy to be a Laker, then he was frustrated, and now according to ESPN, he wants to run away from difficulty again and head to Texas. But not before putting the blame on the Lakers, like he did to the Magic.

Howard’s major problem with the Lakers is the system that coach Mike D’Antoni employs… Howard also does not want to be second fiddle to Bryant for several more seasons.

Dwight is blaming the coach and the system for his shortcomings, this sounds familiar doesn’t it? D’Antoni in no way has done a good job with the Lakers, and his system is very much to blame for the short-comings we saw all season long, but for that to be the reason Howard leaves Los Angeles is ridiculous.

This is especially true when you consider the fact that Howard is looking at Houston as an option. You know, the team who launches three’s at a record-pace and runs exactly none of their offense through the low-post. Yet that system doesn’t seem to be an issue to Dwight.

imagesThe Dallas Mavericks also seem to be an option. A team with an aging star in Dirk Nowitzki that will be Howard’s team to call his very own a year from now. And to a self-centered man like Dwight Howard, being handed the keys to a franchise without delivering any results sounds like the perfect deal.

It’s time for Laker fans to face some realities. Dwight Howard is not the type of player to lead you to a championship, and in a city where success is measured by titles do we really want to hitch our fortunes to him? When someone shows over and over again that they refuse to accept responsibility for their decisions, that they refuse to grow up and act like the professional they are expected to be, they are not the type of player you want leading you into the future.

Do the Lakers as a franchise want to commit over $100 million to someone who has shown no commitment, and to some extent only shown disrespect to the greatest franchise in sports today? Howard’s contract will determine the immediate and long-term future of the Lakers, and could end up being one of the most important decisions the franchise ever makes. Do you really want to risk all of that on someone who you can’t trust to stick to a single decision?

Los Angeles has been spoiled with Kobe Bryant for the last decade and a half. Bryant is a superstar who takes challenges head on, who enjoys overcoming difficulty and who only wants to win. Howard is the complete opposite of that. He runs from challenges and criticism. Howard wants nothing but adulation from his fan base, regardless of the results he brings.

Dwight Howard wants all the praise that comes with being a franchise player, while playing like a secondary All-Star and acting like a child who is never at fault.

Even if he regains his pre-injury form, Howard will never be the type of player to lead you to a championship. The Lakers should let this spoiled brat tuck his tail and run to Texas.

Good riddance.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie and Laker Nation contributor. You can follow him on Twitter at @ItsBelal_A

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Former number two overall NBA draft pick Michael Beasley worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers for a second time Wednesday.