Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki will miss the season opener… (Harry How / Getty Images )
The Lakers finally get to work on Tuesday night, opening the season at Staples Center against the Dallas Mavericks.
The big question is whether or not Kobe Bryant will play after sitting out over a week with a bruised foot.
Coach Mike Brown said Bryant is a game-time decision. If not, Jodie Meeks is expected to get the start.
The Mavericks revamped the roster over the summer with players like O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and Eddy Curry.
Dirk Nowitzki will start the season in street clothes, recovering from a knee injury. Kaman is also out, which means Curry will likely start despite joining the team off a waiver claim just days ago.
The Lakers struggled through the preseason, losing all eight games. Even without Bryant, they'll be better once the season gets underway.
Will they make that leap on Tuesday?
The Mavericks had 10 players average between eight and 13 points through the preseason. Without Nowitzki, it's not easy to pinpoint exactly from where their scoring will come.
That can be an advantage for Dallas.
O.J. Mayo vs. Kobe Bryant would be interesting if Bryant plays (especially after the layoff). Mayo/Meeks is far-less compelling.
Can Howard against Curry qualify as "key" when the Mavericks center hasn't been a force in the league for a number of years?
By default, Steve Nash vs. Darren Collison is the spotlight matchup. The Lakers need a strong game from their veteran point guard, especially if Bryant sits.
The Lakers also need help from Jodie Meeks in Bryant's absence. Meeks should benefit from open looks. If he can cash them in, he'll help open up the floor for his teammates.
If Bryant does play, the x-factor is Howard. Is he truly ready for the regular season after sitting out so long with a back injury?
For the Mavericks, Jae Crowder has been impressive through the preseason. Through eight exhibition games, he's averaged 11.4 points a game on 47.2% shooting from the field.
Crowder is a 6'6" small forward from Marquette, taken as the 34th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. He may be a real steal for the Mavericks.
The Lakers are still learning how to play with each other. With Bryant they should be able to overpower the Mavericks.
Without him, the Lakers may not have enough guard support.
The Mavericks are vulnerable without Nowitzki but still dangerous.
Pencil this one in for the Lakers but have the eraser nearby, just in case.
A look at the Lakers' depth chart
Lakers: Week in review
The good, the bad and the ugly for the Lakers in exhibition games
You can email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.