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As The NBA World Turns

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The NBA returns to Los Angeles tonight with the city's beloved Lakers and its ignored Clippers taking to the court to start their regular seasons. The Lakers are in Denver to take on Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets and Kobe Bryant's bad memories, while the Clippers venture north to take on Jesus Shuttleworth and the Sonics. In a fitting tribute to the never-ending soap opera that is "the Association," LAist breaks down the rocky relationships that will likely determine the fate of LA's hoopsters this year.

KOBE & PHIL
When we last saw Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson together they weren't exactly on the same page -- the Zen Master was on page 325 of "The Idiot's Guide To Being The NBA's Greatest Coach," while Kobe was on page 23 of "Chicken Soup For The Accused Rapist's Soul." But what a difference a year without Shaq makes. Kobe now says he loves Phil and Phil swears he's removed the hatchet from Kobe's back and buried it deep beneath the Staples Center. If that's true, the Lakers are headed to the playoffs. If it's not? Well, you can always root for the Clippers.

KWAME & KWAME'S PSYCHE
The Lakers most high profile addition on the court this offseason had to be Kwame Brown, the former #1 overall draft pick whose career highlights in Washington basically consisted of two things -- being dubbed a failure by Michael Jordan and being kicked off the team during the playoffs last year. If the Lakers are going to contend for anything this year, then Kwame needs to finally develop into the player people thought he could be. But in order to do that, he's going to have to get over that minor detail that he's terrible and he knows it.

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SCOTTIE & LAMAR
Is Lamar Odom the next Scottie Pippen? He seems to have a similar set of abilities (minus the crooked nose), but we'll see. Pippen has joined the Lakers staff this year with the sole purpose of turning Odom into a clone of himself - kind of like creating a 6'7" Mini-me. The real question is whether Scottie be teaching Lamar how to play great defense, run the floor, and play second fiddle, or will he teach him how to refuse to leave the bench when the last play of the game is not called for him?

SHAUN LIVINGSTON & JASEN POWELL
There's a good chance that nobody knows who Jasen Powell is, but there's an equally good chance he is the key to the Clippers season. Powell, the team's trainer, needs to find some way to get Shaun Livingston healthy if the Clippers are going to really make noise this year. Livingston has teased fans early in his career with his potential, and if he can just stay on the court long enough to make a difference, the Clippers could actually be playing in May this year for a change.

SAM, COREY & CUTTINO
In Sam Cassell, Corey Maggette and Cuttino Mobley, the Clippers have three guys who are not afraid to take and make big shots. Of course, these are also three guys who are not afraid to take a LOT of shots. All three have averaged more than 10 shot attempts a game for their careers and it will be interesting to see if there's enough balls to go around to keep them all happy. Plus, with these three bombing away from the perimeter, how many shots does that leave for the team's best player, Elton Brand? If this trio can learn to play nice, the Clippers will be the kind of high powered team on which a different guy can beat you every night. But if it turns into a shooting contest, then the Clippers will become the kind of team that, well...the kind of team that the Clippers usually are.