The Lakers start the 2013-14 regular season Tuesday night at home against the Clippers.
Kobe Bryant is still out, recovering from April surgery to repair his torn Achilles. The Lakers will have to get through at least the first week of the season without their all-star guard.
Tuesday vs. Clippers
The Clippers may be the best team in the Western Conference.
Chris Paul is one of the top closers in the league, certainly one of the few players who can go toe-to-toe with Bryant (even if the two play different positions).
The Clippers have athleticism, depth and shooting with players such as Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes.
Where the Clippers have a lot to prove is inside defensively. Can Griffin and Jordan anchor the team's defense?
Can the Lakers take advantage of their size with Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman?
The Lakers are going to have a difficult time against the Clippers this early in the season, especially with Bryant in street clothes.
Wednesday @ Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are rising stars in the West. Last season, they advanced to the second round of the playoffs behind the leadership and shooting of Stephen Curry.
The team has size with Andrew Bogut and David Lee but also athleticism with players such as Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson.
Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry were major parts of last season's run, especially Jack, who often played point guard down the stretch with Curry at two-guard.
Will the Warriors have the same composure down the stretch to close out games?
The back-to-back won't do the Lakers any favors. Steve Nash may sit out as a precautionary measure.
Friday vs. San Antonio Spurs
The Lakers will have to run a gantlet in their first three games, playing three major Western Conference playoff contenders.
The Spurs were seconds away from an NBA title in June, and though they pace themselves a bit over the regular season, San Antonio is still a true championship contender.
While the Lakers have a lot of new faces to integrate, the Spurs benefit from a largely consistent roster with just minor tweaks.
It would take a near-perfect game to beat the Spurs. With no Bryant, the Lakers could start the season 0-3.
Sunday vs. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are somewhat of a mystery after Josh Smith's departure to the Detroit Pistons.
The Lakers could be starving for a win after three losses to open the season.
Atlanta has a number of solid veterans, including Al Horford, Elton Brand and Paul Millsap. Jeff Teague is a capable point guard, and Kyle Korver is a dangerous shooter.
Though it will be an up-and-down season for the Lakers, the first "up" may not come until the fourth game of the year.
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