Lakers Vs. Rockets: A Preview Of Opening Night

(Sports Network) - All the stars will be out tonight in Hollywood, where the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will raise their 16th championship banner to the rafters before hosting the Houston Rockets in the season lid-lifter for both clubs from Staples Center.

Los Angeles beat the rival Boston Celtics in seven games to win its second straight title and fifth since the 1999-2000 campaign. Led by superstar Kobe Bryant, the Lakers return a strong core of players in search of another three- peat. The 2010-11 season could also be the last for head coach Phil Jackson, a winner of 11 NBA titles as a coach and owner of a .705 regular-season winning percentage. Jackson also has 225 postseason wins under his belt.

Jackson said that he was leaning toward retirement after guiding the Lakers to their second championship in a row, but is back despite health concerns and looks to record his 12th NBA coaching championship. Jackson accepted a pay cut to return to the Lakers and has a career record of 1,098 wins and 460 losses over 19 seasons, having won six titles with Chicago and five more with LA.

His teams have finished no worse than third in a division at any time. Jackson has never had a losing record in any season and his 11 titles are the most in league history, two more than Boston's Red Auerbach. He had the luxury of coaching Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, who averaged 27.0 points last season. Bryant underwent surgery to repair a balky right knee, but opted not to have his broken right index finger repaired.

Bryant has stated that his finger still bothers him and undergoing additional surgery would have pushed his recovery time back even more. Bryant has helped the Lakers to at least 57 wins in each of the past three seasons and five straight playoff appearances. Bryant earned finals MVP honors for the second straight year and will not have young center Andrew Bynum by his side since the big man is still recovering from right knee surgery.

"Everything is going well with the knee," Bynum told the team's site. "I started doing a lot more cardio stuff, lifting legs, getting back into shape. When I come back, I want to be ready to go, so I'm working really hard to get there."

Bynum is expected to miss a few more weeks, leaving inside work to Pau Gasol.

Houston Rockets All-Star center Yao Ming is familiar with rehab and battling his way back to the hardwood. The 7-foot-6 Yao hasn't played since breaking his foot against the Lakers in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals back in the 2008-09 campaign. He has been limited by injury over the last few years and missed all of last season.

The Rockets missed the playoffs for the first time in four years last season and added big man Brad Miller in the offseason as insurance to Yao. Head coach Rick Adelman likes his team's depth and has a solid nucleus with Kevin Martin, Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola. Martin led the way with 21.3 points last season and also appeared in 22 games with Sacramento.

Finishing third in the Southwest Division in three of the last four years is something the Rockets would like to change in 2010-11. That's easier said than done when a team is locked in a division with Dallas, San Antonio, New Orleans and an improving Memphis squad. Adelman seemed optimistic on his team's preparation for the season opener at Los Angeles and Golden State.

"I think we're ready to go," Adelman was quoted as saying on the Houston Chronicle website. "We'll see where we stand. Once we start the regular season, you'll get a feel for where we are, especially with the two teams we're starting with."

Adelman's club will see first-hand what a ring ceremony is like when the Lakers receive their jewelry for last year's accomplishments.

Los Angeles took three of four meetings with Houston last season and has won seven of the past eight matchups between the teams. The Lakers have won their last two season openers, while Houston dropped its 2009-10 opener. The Rockets defeated the Lakers, 95-93, to kick off the 2007-08 campaign.

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