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Kemba Walker

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

January 31, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Rumors of potential future Laker superstars, a Laker legend’s criticism of Lakers management, and even coaching rumors have become hot topics in the last few days in Lakerland.

However, the Lakers (16-30) face off vs Charlotte Bobcats (20-37), who find themselves in the 8th seed by accident in a terrible Eastern Conference.

All three point guards, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar, participated in practice for the first time in months due to their various injuries. The Lakers only true ball handler for the entire month January has been PG Kendall Marshall, who got signed by the Lakers from the D-League in December.

Those three point guards will not play tonight, but all seek to return simultaneously next Tuesday, which will cause a logjam at point guard.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Bobcats have players who can cause a lot of problems for the Lakers again, especially on the defensive end. C Al Jefferson leads the Bobcats team who has shown signs of improvement this season despite a subpar record. Jefferson bring a veteran big man presence to a team that has been lacking a highly skilled big man for years, averaging 19.3 PPG and 10.5 RPG, which could have arguably got him into this year’s all-star game.

PG Kemba Walker, who scored 24 points vs Lakers in their last meeting, will not play tonight as he continues to recover from suffering a sprained ankle a few weeks ago.

To close out the 4th quarter, we expect to see former Laker PG Ramon Sessions and SG Gerald Henderson to close out the game in back court, which hopefully would not cause the Lakers defense as much turmoil as any of the Lakers’ opponents this month.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Ramon Sessions [Advantage: Even]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Gerald Henderson [Advantage: Bobcats]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Michael Kidd-Gilchrist [Advantage: Bobcats]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Josh McRoberts [Advantage: Even]
C - Pau Gasol / Al Jefferson [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Bobcats: F Bismack BiyomboF Cody ZellerG Chris Douglas-Roberts, Anthony Tolliver

Lakers: Nick YoungG Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Bobcats: Out-G Jeff Taylor, Out-G Kemba Walker, Out-C Brendan Haywood, GTD-G Ben Gordon

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: The Lakers have scored more than 100 points 11 times in the last 20 games, a very respectable number.

The problem?

The Lakers have allowed 100 or more points in 18 out of the last 20 games.

The result?

The Lakers have a 3-17 record in their last 20 games, which puts them near the bottom of the standings. Mike D’Antoni needs to try different lineups to see if anything would work. Maybe inserting C Chris Kaman into the game might help alleviate some defensive deficiencies.

Bottom Line

The Lakers will not win any games consistently playing one of the worst defense in NBA history. If the keep the Bobcats under 100, they win. If not, chances are they will increase their losing streak to 6 games.

Prediction

Lakers: 107-103

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Kobe Bryant

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