There are three games on the docket tonight — opening night for the association! — and the Lakers just so happen to be headlining in the 7:30pm PST slot (though Heat/Celtics certainly intrigues). The opponent is the Dallas Mavericks who, like the Lakers, are a dramatically changed team heading into this new season.
This Maverick team actually looks nothing like the one that won the championship just two seasons ago. The Mavs followed up the departures of Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barrea from a season ago with Jason Terry (Celtics) and Jason Kidd (Knicks) leaving this past off-season. The only meaningful pieces from that title team that remain are Dirk and Shawn Marion.
Into the mix, however, are some quality players to replace the departed. Darren Collison is now the lead guard and he’ll be joined in the backcourt by O.J. Mayo. Up front, the Mavs added Elton Brand via an amnesty waiver claim and picked up Chris Kaman as a free agent. Those four, Vince Carter, Brendan Haywood, Brendan Wright, Dhantay Jones, Roddy Beaubois, and the aforementioned Dirk and Marion form the (rather large) core of a team that the Mavs hope can again contend for a playoff spot and make a run.
That’s a ways off however, as it’s only October. It may also be wishful thinking. Dirk is currently out recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks (and as many as 6 weeks). Chris Kaman is also on the mend with a strained right calf but should be back after only a couple of games. Losing so much front court talent — especially Dirk — leaves the Mavs incredibly thin in the front court, to the point that they’ll likely start Eddy Curry at Center tonight. Yes. Eddy Curry. Add in any residual affect from waiving Delonte West and the Mavs are a question mark tonight and for the first part of the season. Which, in the crowded West can spell doom.
What’s not so much of a question is this Lakers’ team. Well, at least not a question in the same way. The Lakers’ injured star, one Kobe Bryant, has labeled himself 85% and, barring any setbacks before tip time, is likely to play tonight. He of course will be joined in the lineup by a bunch of other guys you’ve heard of because they’re quite famous. If you want to know more about them, simply read our season preview or any other number of things that have appeared at this site since early July. Really, go click away. We’ll still be here when you get back.
Tonight though, the journey begins. The Lakers are a bit banged up and would do well to try and get up early on an undermanned Mavs team, especially with the Blazers waiting in Portland to play spoiler in their home opener tomorrow night. That back to back would go over much smoother with a bit of rest.
A win would also be nice simply because this team hasn’t had one in a while. The last W the Lakers put up was in Summer League and those games count even less than the preseason games that don’t matter at all. Before that, go back to the playoffs of last season where the Lakers took one game off the Thunder. That was in May.
But this is a new year and it promises to be well worth our time while also keeping our attention. So, tune in (7:30pm PST tip time, TNT) and enjoy the start of the season. We’ve been waiting a long time for this, might as well enjoy it.