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Lakers vs. Rockets preview: The regular season begins

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Welcome back, NBA season. We've missed you.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers' regular season begins against the Houston Rockets Tuesday night. The 82-game journey is a grueling one, and the Lakers open it against Dwight Howard and James Harden. This will mark the first time Kobe Bryant will face Howard since his departure, which is already making for plenty of narrative leading into the season opener.

The Lakers are shorthanded already, down to two relatively healthy point guards and few wing options. Ronnie Price is out for the game, as well as Wayne Ellington. Depth has already proven to be an issue through preseason, though we'll likely see longer stretches for head coach Byron Scott's starters with the win-loss column starting to count for something.

Houston took a big hit this summer. They didn't just lose Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks, they lost assets in Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin for little in return, and even packaged up a pick to the Lakers to take on Lin's salary. Their quest to cut cap space and find a superstar to pair with Howard and Harden was fruitless, and their Plan B came in the shape of former Rocket, and Laker, Trevor Ariza. That's a downgrade from budding wing Parsons.

Los Angeles played Houston early last season in a game few have forgotten. Steve Blake drained a three over a closing-out Howard to seal the game, and the feel-good vibes that had the Lakers playing above their ceiling began. They didn't last long, but for a short period, the Lakers were exceeding expectations and it was a fun team to watch.

Then, of course, injuries sucked the fun right out of a Lakers team that was clicking against all odds.

This time around who knows what'll happen. Kobe begins his march to prove he's still Kobe freakin' Bryant, and that alone is worth watching the game. He has a huge stage to work with against the Rockets. This is a primetime game on opening day that he can claim for himself and the purple and gold. A win, and vintage performance, would be a huge gust of wind in the Lakers' sails as they begin their voyage across the NBA's seas.

The Rockets are a good team, and Howard will be a challenge for the Lakers' undersized frontcourt of Ed Davis and Jordan Hill. Harden is going to fight his way to the rim to draw fouls, so it'll be important for the Lakers' weakside defenders to be ready to protect the paint and react if Harden dumps it off to Dwight. Even without Parsons this Rockets team is good, but unless Harden's individual and their team defense significantly improves, they're not as good as they were last season.

No matter the result, the opponent, or the expectations, it's exciting that the NBA season is finally here. This is the beginning of a new season of Lakers basketball, filled with new aspects to enjoy and explore. Julius Randle's first taste of real NBA action, and Kobe Bryant's return begin. Let's enjoy a brand new season basketball. The association is back, and it should be an interesting season to follow along with.

Time: 7:30 p.m. PT

Station: TNT