Lakers to Play Howard’s Rockets on Opening Night, Gasol’s Bulls on Christmas

LOS ANGELES — Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have distinctly different legacies in Los Angeles, but these days they share a link: They're moving on in life as former Lakers, having left Kobe Bryant behind.

And in the established and admittedly irresistible tradition of NBA scheduling with a vengeful accent on the not-so-dearly departed, Bryant will be going up against Howard on opening night and against Gasol on Christmas Day in two of the Lakers' and the league's highest-profile games of the 2014-15 season.

Although the schedule won't be officially announced until NBA TV unveils it at 3 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday, the Lakers are set to face Howard and the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Oct. 28 and visit Gasol and the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 25, according to league sources. The games will mark the first times Bryant plays against Howard and Gasol as former teammates.

As an added boost to the old revenge angle, Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin (former Rocket) and forward Carlos Boozer (former Bull) can circle those same dates on the calendar. Even better!

The Dwight-less Lakers were relevant last year, too, playing (and beating) the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the NBA's TNT opening night showcase. With Bryant plotting his return, it's logical that the league thinks enough of the Lakers to feature them again on the opening Tuesday night broadcast.

But it's a testament to how much the Lakers' past remains prominent in their future when the NBA makes Bryant's first game back from Achilles and knee injuries last season against the guy who deserted him while he was down.

No matter how much diehard Lakers fans are ready to embrace Julius Randle and Byron Scott and savor whatever small victories they earn along the rebuilding road, the reality is that the Lakers' 2012-13 car wreck was massive enough for rubbernecking still to be taking place years later.

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