Cavs, Lakers still trying to find their way

Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24) at Los Angeles Lakers (14-23)

Venue: Staples Center, Los Angeles.

TV: 10:30 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pre-game at 10)

Projected Starters

CLEVELAND: C Anderson Varejao; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Luol Deng; SG C.J. Miles; PG Kyrie Irving.

LA LAKERS: C Robert Sacre; PF Pau Gasol; SF Wesley Johnson; SG Jodie Meeks; PG Kendall Marshall.

Pregame Notes:

* Who are the Cavaliers? We’re almost to the midpoint of the season, and we still don’t have an answer. They’ve been relatively healthy all season, they just traded for Deng, their key members have some experience together. Yet they lose Monday by 44 points at Sacramento.

* Before that, the Cavs won convincingly against Philadelphia and at Utah. Make sense to you? If so, congratulations. You’re living in an alternate universe.

* It’s one thing to lose by 17 or even 25 points. But 44 points is embarrassing for everyone associated with the franchise. I wrote last season that the Cavs had to limit the horrible losses or Byron Scott would lose his job. Scott lost his job. The horrible losses haven’t stopped.

* Cavs GM Chris Grant has assembled a team that features Irving, Deng, Thompson, Varejao and Dion Waiters off the bench. We all assumed it would take some time for the Cavs to adjust to Brown’s defense-first scheme. But that can’t be an excuse. The Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns have new coaches, too. They’re doing just fine.

* Basically, four seasons after LeBron James left, the entire franchise is on the clock again. Missing the playoffs is likely to result in sweeping changes. That’s the difficult truth.

* But if the Cavs make the playoffs, that means they played well in the second half of the season. Just getting in the playoffs would be exciting for the city and invaluable for the young guys. Most folks around the NBA will tell you that just ONE playoff game would make Irving and the others better pros next season. And you’re guaranteed at least FOUR playoff games.

* OK, on to the Lakers. They’re what happens when you try to win it all one season, then suffer countless injuries and a major departure (Dwight Howard) the next. Today, their leading scorer is Nick Young (16.3 pgg), who is sort of their Waiters off the bench. Young can take some shots that force Lakers fans to throw their remotes through the TV. But when he’s hot, he can be a sight to behold.

* Gasol (toe) is a game-time decision. Young (sore back) is probable. Xavier Henry (sore knee) is out. Steve Blake (torn ulnar collateral ligament) is out. Kobe Bryant (fractured knee) is out. Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) is out. Jordan Farmar (left hamstring tear) is out.

* Good grief. That was exhausting.

* The Cavs and Lakers were immersed in trade talks involving Gasol last week. The Cavs wisely opted for Deng instead. But Gasol could still be dealt before the Feb. 20 trading deadline.

* Here is what Gasol told reporters of the potential deal at shootaround: "It would have been different. It would have been weird. It would have been a process, just like it would if it happened with any other team. Then so quickly come back to the home that has been your home so long, and then it’s not your home any more, it would have been weird. It’s something that didn’t happen, something that might happen, but it still hasn’t."

* Gasol on why Brown was fired from the Lakers just five games into last season: "It’s hard to pinpoint one or two things. When he got let go, the team was new, everybody was trying to put it together. We had a pretty awful preseason. We didn’t win a game. Dwight came back from that injury. It was a bunch of things (influenced) it, and it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t a lack of interest or work from anybody. Everybody was trying to give their best, but it just didn’t quite work."

* This is the 103rd meeting between the Lakers and Cavs. The Lakers have won 16 championships. The Cavs have been to the Finals once.