Shaq won't even play after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, suggesting the gods are ready for fresh programming too.
Everything has changed since their first meeting in 2004 with O'Neal and the Heat on their way to 59 wins and Bryant and the Lakers on their way to a 34-win wake-up call.
O'Neal won his fourth title last spring, but it doesn't feel like it with his current team traveling under .500 like a submarine. Meanwhile Bryant is winning back his place among the game's superstars and the Lakers are turning it around.
Aside from that, season's greetings and let's get r-r-r-ready to r-r-r-rumble!
-- MARK HEISLER