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It's the most wonderful time of the year

October 28, 2008 |  9:44 am

Laker_fan Every 365 days or so, right around this time in late October, roundball enthusiasts start feeling a beautiful butterfly dance in their guts.  Why?  Because that's when their favorite hoops squad start hitting the hardwood after a summer vakay.  And for Lakers fans, the kickoff comes 24 hours ahead of the masses, with a Lakers-Blazers season opener (7:30 pm PT, TNT), a contest that should provide both entertainment and perhaps a sneak preview of a renewed rivalry in the works. 

After years spent looking like a roster that would fit in at Oz, the Blazers are now family friendly and saturated with young talent.  In particular, many a retina will be fixed on the back of seven footer Greg Oden, whose pro debut has been anticipated with a zeal that made The Dark Knight look like an indie flick.  Some feel The Bearded One will provide a nice litmus test for how "back" Andrew Bynum is from injury and whether he can pick up where he left off before last season's injury, in a peas and carrots relationship with Kobe Bryant that could bring to light the greatest of expectations.  And really, why wouldn't fans shoot the moon with their hopes and dreams?  Between 24, 17, the presence of Pau Gasol and a roster deep enough that Phil Jackson feels no immediate pressure to lock down a starting lineup or rotation, the Lakers are hungry and consider the O'Brien trophy the only suitable sustenance out there.  With any luck, it'll be prepared as a dish served cold.