Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol

Rockets center Dwight Howard greets Lakers forward Pau Gasol before the start of their game in Houston. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images / November 7, 2013)

Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' visit to Houston to play Dwight Howard and the Rockets on Jan. 8 just doesn't hold the same national appeal.

On Thursday, the NBA announced that the game will not be aired on ESPN as originally scheduled.

In its place, ESPN will show the Minnesota Timberwolves hosting the Phoenix Suns.

Bryant is sidelined with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of action for about six weeks.

Howard spent one tumultuous season with the Lakers before signing with the Rockets in July.

The Lakers defeated the Rockets, 99-98, in Houston on Nov. 7 when Steve Blake hit a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left.

The Jan. 8 game will now start at 5 p.m. PST.

Bryant is expected to be available to face the Rockets at Staples Center on Feb. 19.

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Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.