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Lakers vs. Clippers preview: The first bounce of 2013-2014

Welcome back, NBA. We've missed you.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Showtime: 7:30 p.m. PT

Plot: The NBA is back after a summer-long hiatus. Players, coaches and more have moved, leaving the NBA landscape changed. As it goes every year. All slates are cleared, all records are the same.

The Miami Heat will try for a back-to-back-to-back championship run that can't be ignored, featuring four straight NBA Finals appearances. The Thunder will try to shake off a disappointing playoff run that was cut short when Russell Westbrook went down after banging knees with Patrick Beverley. The Bulls welcome back their ultimate weapon, Derrick Rose, after a year of built up anticipation amounting to a second-round playoff exit. The Nets acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, swindled Andrei Kirilenko, and are all-in this season. Houston looks to begin a new era that began with a fleecing of Sam Presti and ended with a decision from Dwight Howard that won't be soon forgotten.

The journey for both Los Angeles teams will likely end up very different, but it begins tonight and together under the lights of the the Lakers-themed version Staples Center. The banners the Clippers controversially covered up will stand at attention as the Doc Rivers-led team takes on big brother.

Silver Screen and RoundtablePredictions for the 2013-2014 season

The Clippers begin their season with high hopes, new leadership and perhaps the best roster ever constructed around Chris Paul. The Lakers begin without Kobe Bryant on the floor and no timetable on his return released to the public.

The stakes that were so incredibly high for the Lakers last year have all but dropped to the bottom. There's no need to show Dwight Howard why he should be a Laker, he booked it. There's no realistic title aspirations, the team is starting Nick Young and Shawne Williams. After a period of title or bust that truly began when Pau Gasol slipped on a purple and gold jersey the Lakers face something more akin to Nike's famed "just do it" slogan.

Just go out and play. Just go out and do your best. Just go out and prove the doubters wrong. It's not unreasonable to be down on the team's chances, and it's not unreasonable to hold onto faith that this new batch of Lakers can band together and form a bond that is greater than the sum of their parts. There's no wrong way to view this season, much like an unwrapped Reese's peanut butter cup.

The only suggestion I can give is enjoy the taste once you bite in, because there's 82 games to rumble and bumble through.

Enjoy the bounce of the basketball on the hardwood. Enjoy the nights where the team pulls together to outmatch cores that should be better, on paper. We sat and watched this happen last year far more often than expected, consider it a revenge tour so to speak. Enjoy the nights when the team forces an overtime on a ridiculous Nick Young spinning fadeaway (it's bound to happen).

It begins tonight with a hallway game that has been more hype than substance forever and likely always will be, even with the short-term success of the Clippers franchise over the next batch of years.

The long-view? The final season of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol's contracts with the Lakers begins tonight. Tick tock, front office on the clock.

On this soundtrack:

Roundball Rock - Live (Have probably used this in the past but it's the GOAT)

- Drew

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

- Interested in the latest with the Clippers?  Check out Clips Nation.

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