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Image Credit: Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to take on the Sacramento Kings tonight with a current record of 25-49. While defeating the Kings is the primary focus of tonight, Bleacher Report columnist Kevin Ding certainly made headlines with his comments on Mike D’Antoni‘s future with the Lakers. In the column, Ding reported how D’Antoni may be around longer than most anticipate:

“D’Antoni has one more guaranteed season left on his Lakers contract, and the club is leaning toward retaining him despite some privately disgruntled players and massive public disdain. It’s not clear which way the organization will go with him.”

Financially the decision to retain D’Antoni makes sense. Going back to the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers made a huge financial commitment after firing head coach Mike Brown and consequently hiring D’Antoni days later. Until the Cavaliers signed Brown, the Lakers were due to pay the remaining salary on his contract while paying D’Antoni his salary in his three-year $12 million dollar deal. Add in the new $48 million dollar deal Kobe Bryant also signed and you can see why finances are key in this situation.

With this Lakers team being one of the few in history to not make the playoffs and have players speak out publicly about not retaining D’Antoni for next season, this could turn into a huge fault for the organization. Media, fans, and players alike have spoken out repeatedly about how a change in coaching needs to be made moving forward. Bringing D’Antoni back for another season would not only derail morale for the team but make a statement to potential free agents that seven seconds or less will lead the way in the team’s future.

The Lakers will soon need to make an official stand on D’Antoni’s future in regards to next season and potentially his fourth season as head coach. Luring free agents to Los Angeles will become increasingly difficult if they believe that not only the role players on the team are disgruntled, but star players like Bryant and Pau Gasol are too. Moving on is always something difficult to do, but in some situations it is a necessary part of life. If the Lakers are serious about reclaiming their position as one of the top franchises in the league then it is something they will have to do.

Stay tuned to LakerNation.com for more Los Angeles Lakers news and updates!

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Photo: USA Today Sports

January 14, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN

The Lakers (16-32) travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers (16-32) tonight.

Despite getting PG Steve Nash and PG Steve Blake back, they could not solve defensive deficiencies, allowing 109 points to the Timberwolves.

Nash, who played for the first time since November, played exceptionally well in his limited minutes, scoring 7 points and dishing out 9 assists. However, he will sit out tonight’s game since it’s a back-to-back.

To make matters worse, SG Jodie Meeks and F Jordan Hill left last night’s game due to injuries. Meeks, who will compete in the 3-pt contest during All-Star Weekend, suffered an ankle injury 2 minutes into the game and will miss the rest of this road trip.

Hill, who brings instant energy off the bench, suffered a cervical strain after colliding with his own teammate and his status for tonight’s game remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Mike Brown’s leadership despite having the Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng duo.

Deng, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls last month, has averaged 16.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.2 APG while playing with the Cavaliers.

A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.2 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead the Cavaliers, no reason exists for them to not be successful.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyrie Irving / Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Cavaliers]
SG – CJ Miles / Steve Blake [Advantage: Even]
SF – Luol Deng / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Cavaliers]
PF – Tristan Thompson / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Cavaliers]
C – Anderson Vaerjao / Robert Sacre [Advantage: Cavaliers]

Notable Bench Players

Cavaliers: F Earl Clark, G Dion Waters, F Tyler Zeller, PG Jarrett Jack

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, G Kendall Marshall, G Manny Harris, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Cavaliers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Jodie Meeks, GTD-F Jordan Hill

Keys for Lakers Victory

Rebound: If we evaluate the Lakers based on their last month of play, we can see that they cannot play defense and grab defensive rebounds. Therefore, the Lakers have to focus on not allowing the Cavaliers to grab a lot of offensive rebounds in order to try to limit their possessions.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers suffer from locker room issues and players who do not want to play there. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to maintain the health of their players. Hopefully, the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and relentlessness. They should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully come away with a victory tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 107-104

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Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

January 14, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Laker Nation can admit it. The Los Angeles Lakers (14-23) currently find themselves stuck in a dire state as they play the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24) tonight–their final home game before they embark on a 7-game, 12-day Grammy road trip. This will be former Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown‘s first game back at Staples Center since the Lakers fired him after five games last season.

They suffered a huge embarrassing loss vs. inter-city rival Los Angeles Clippers 123-87 last Friday in front of a national audience. The Lakers allowed the Clippers to score 43 points in the first quarter and were outscored 31-8 in the third quarter.

The only Laker who has played at a high level during this losing streak is C/F Pau Gasol. Ever since fully recovering from his respiratory issues, Gasol has averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.6 RPG in his last five games. Gasol has shown what he can do when he is fully healthy and receives the ball near the paint where he can attack, without getting double-teamed.

As the Lakers seek to get at least some if not all of their injured guards back within a few weeks, Gasol was injured vs. Clippers on Friday. Gasol, who has been playing very well since recovering from respiratory issues, received an MRI yesterday, which showed a moderate toe sprain. Gasol is listed as a game-time decision for tonight’s game, but many may hope he rests his toe tonight since they are far outside of playoff race and suffering bad luck with injuries.

However, according to ESPNLA.com’s Beto Duran, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni expects him to play tonight.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Brown’s leadership. However, they still seek to make the playoffs this season, evidenced by their acquisition of All-Star SF Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls for disgruntled C Andrew Bynum‘s contract. Deng, who was supposed to be a major piece in the puzzle for a potential Bulls dynasty before PG Derrick Rose‘s unfortunate luck with injuries, has averaged 18.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG while making his mark as a very high quality on-ball defender.

A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.1 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead his young team quickly, expect to see the Cavaliers in the playoffs this season.

Projected Starters

PG - Kyrie IrvingKendall Marshall [Advantage: Cavaliers]
SG - CJ Miles / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]
SF - Luol DengWesley Johnson [Advantage: Cavaliers]
PF - Tristan ThompsonPau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]
C - Anderson VaerjaoRobert Sacre [Advantage: Cavaliers]

Notable Bench Players

Cavaliers: F Earl Clark, G Dion Waters, F Tyler Zeller, PG Jarrett Jack

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Cavaliers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Start Over: Hopefully having 3 days off helped the Lakers players clear their mind and start over. After losing 10 out of their last 11 games, they have to play tonight’s game as their 1st game of this season. Mentally restart their season at 0-0 and forget about what has transpired in the past month. They currently have played with no confidence, energy, heart, or passion since SG Kobe Bryant‘s knee injury, so they have to get back on track mentally to play like they did during the 1st month of this season prior to Bryant’s return.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers seek to effectively incorporate Deng into their team while they battle locker room issues. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to find healthy players to put on the floor, primarily point guards. Hopefully, the three days off will help the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and edge. Regardless of whether Gasol plays or not tonight, they should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully win tonight’s game, and carry some positive momentum into their Grammy road trip.

Prediction

Lakers: 93-90

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Courtesy Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PRESSWIRE

Amidst the controversial “Death Stare” video circling online that features Bryant scowling at his head coach, Kobe says he still supports Mike Brown.

In a recent press release, Bryant spoke out about the video and the way it was interpreted by fans.

I don’t give a (expletive) how it was interpreted,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m too old to deal with that stuff. I really am. I’ve been (Brown’s) biggest supporter.”

Brown has been under a lot of pressure recently after the Lakers earned their fourth loss in five games to start the year. Fans have criticized the new Princeton Offense that the Lakers have implemented this season. Under the new offense, the Lakers have averaged just 97.2 points per game, which is 15th in the league.

This has been Bryant’s worst start to a season in his 17-year career.

Bryant continued to voice his frustration about the attention the video has received.

“God, people are bored,” he exclaimed.

 

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Courtesy Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Jodie Meeks was benched for for the second time this season against the Utah Jazz. After averaging only two points per game in the three matches he’s played in, some might argue that the Lakers’ choice to bench him was the right one. But during these times of distress, it wouldn’t hurt the Lakers to reconsider their decision and allow the sharpshooting Meeks to play more often.

Mike Brown has decided to play Devin Ebanks in the two guard spot this year instead of Meeks. The reason being he wants his second unit to be a lengthy, defensive minded squad. But Ebanks hasn’t been much of an improvement from Meeks this year.

In his four games, Ebanks has averaged just 2.5 points per game in just over 10 minutes a game. In terms of defensive production, Ebanks been as inefficient, totaling one block and zero steals.

When Meeks was brought in, he was supposed to be one of the offensive threats in the Lakers’ bench. So far, fans have too to see that. His lack of production is not entirely his fault, however. In just three games, Meeks has only been on the floor for an average of just over seven minutes a game.

But as history has shown, when given the right amount of playing time, Meeks performs.

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Courtesy Getty Images

In some corners of Laker Nation, the first week of the NBA season has been one filled with confusion, disappointment, and, most of all, panic. From the Lakers 1-3 start, to Mike Brown’s shaky rotations, to Steve Nash’s role in the offense and suddenly significant injury, there has been plenty to over-analyze about the Lakers star-studded team.

In a season that has six more months until the real, meaningful Laker games, the one question that keeps popping into my mind is: why stress? Why are we so worried about a slow start out of the gate in what really amounts to season-long marathon? There are plenty of reasons that Laker Nation has a long, long time before hitting the panic button is necessary.

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Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The finger pointing begins.

At 0-3, the Lakers are off to their worst start in over 30 years. With this unusually slow start to a Lakers season, fans have started to play the blame game already.

Some have blamed the new offense for the team’s struggles, other have questioned the lack of production from the bench, and some have gone as far as blaming the team’s chemistry for the terrible start.

But in the midst of all the finger pointing, anger, and confusion, there is another person who also shares blame for the winless start: Mike Brown.

This is something Brown has become all too familiar with since joining the Laker family. Even before his first game as a Laker coach, the man dealt with criticism and controversy. Some of it was excessive, but some was earned.

After all, the coach has led the all-star filled Lakers to two consecutive seasons with at least an 0-2 start.  Since his reign, his teams have been stagnant offensively. To the surprise of many, even this year’s team has struggled to score despite the fact that the new Princeton Offensive was implemented to make the Lakers’ execution more fluid.

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It remains to be seen if the Lakers will be a playoff contender this season, but if anything, it will surely be the best...