The Lakers finally get back to work on Tuesday night, opening the regular season against the Clippers.
It's been a long summer of rehab for Kobe Bryant who tore his Achilles' tendon in April. The goal was to make it back by opening night, but the veteran guard won't suit up Tuesday and doesn't even have a concrete timetable.
Meanwhile the Clippers now have a championship coach in Doc Rivers to help guide them to the next level -- but it's going to be up to his players to rise to the challenge.
Pau Gasol is expected to start at center for the Lakers. He'll match up against DeAndre Jordan, who is arguably the most important player on the Clippers this season.
Certainly the team will ride on the backs of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but Jordan is the key to the Clippers finding success defensively.
Gasol is one of the most skillful big men scorers in the league. If the Lakers can establish an inside game, they have a shot to upset the Clippers.
Jordan needs to start his campaign for defensive player of the year on opening night against Gasol and the Lakers.
Coach Mike D'Antoni is expected to start Shawne Williams at power forward opposite Griffin.
Williams wasn't even in the league last season but he's someone the Lakers have hopes will be a high-level defender and capable three-point threat.
If he can deliver on that, especially against a difficult offensive player like Griffin, the Lakers may be better defensively than expected -- although that's a lot to ask.
Offensively for the Clippers, Darren Collison running the second unit at the point is a threat the Lakers may struggle to handle.
The Clippers should hit 55 to 60 wins this season while the Lakers may not duplicate last year's 45-win total.
Head-to-head against the Lakers without Bryant certainly favors the Clippers.
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