The NBA season tips off tonight with the Los Angeles Lakers playing host to the Dallas Mavericks in a Western Conference showdown.
You may recall the Mavs sweeping the Lakers en route to the 2011 NBA title. Last season, both teams lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.
Now it seems each team is headed in opposite directions. While neither has young talent to spare, the Lakers added veteran All-Star Steve Nash and premier big-man Dwight Howard in the offseason. Dallas gained a valuable center in Chris Kaman, but the L.A. clearly made the biggest splashes of the summer.
The key to any NBA game is matchups, and unfortunately, injuries will limit the star talent that a Mavs vs. Lakers game typically provides.
Here is the latest news on injuries that will affect tonight's contest.
Chris Kaman, Dallas: Out
The Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that Chris Kaman will not participate in tonight's game with the Lakers, leaving journeyman Eddy Curry with the tough task of going up against Dwight Howard.
This is significant for several reasons, but chief among them is that Kaman, a former All-Star himself, provides experience and toughness that cannot be replicated easily.
You also have to expect Dwight Howard to come out hoping to make a statement. For him, it's been an offseason filled with turmoil, and nothing shuts up the doubters like a big game on opening night at the Staples Center.
This is a huge loss for the Mavericks, who could be in for a long night in the paint.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles: Questionable
Earlier today, ESPN LA reported that Kobe would be a game-time decision.
Obviously not having Bryant on the floor takes away the Lakers' main offensive option and a guy that can score from anywhere. But does anybody really think he'll sit this one out?
Kobe has long been known as one of the tougher players in the league, and it wouldn't be like him to skip a chance to start the season off with a bang.
So much is expected of this Lakers team, and a dominating performance in their season-opener would resonate around the league. This is pure speculation, but don't be surprised to see Kobe on the court when the game begins.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas: Out
While it's a positive sign that Dirk is expected to miss just a couple more weeks (as reported by ESPN Dallas), not having Nowitzki on the court severely hampers the Mavs' ability to be productive on offense.
Missing your star player is never good, but when you consider that Kaman is also out, the Mavericks' frontcourt looks to be in huge trouble.
Only the very best power forward-center duos will be able to keep up with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, and the Mavericks have that with Dirk and Kaman, but tonight it appears both players will be out of action against the surging Lakers.