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Monster M*A*S*H* at Staples Center

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Turns out it’s fitting that the Lakers and Phoenix Suns are opening their seasons on Halloween: Both are dragging battered limbs and other body parts into the Staples Center. And it’s going to be dark.

The start of the season brings optimism for most sports fans, but Laker fans’ hopes are tinged with worry. Foremost on the list of concern is Kobe Bryant’s knee — he had “minor” surgery back in July and is still moving a bit gingerly. Which, considering the acrobatics that make Kobe Kobe, could be a big hindrance. He’s going to play, and get his shots, but look for more passing and more of new sub Maurice Evans than Laker fans might prefer.

Also on the walking wounded list is off-season signing Vladamir Radmanovic, whose golden shooting hand now resembles something from Evil Dead II. He shot a horrifying 27.8% in the preseason and his hand likely will not be fully healed until off-season surgery. Then there’s the trio of Lakers whose bodies are so banged up they will be dressed up as bankers not ballplayers: centers Kwame Brown (shoulder) and Chris Mihm (ankle), plus guard Aaron McKie (everything below the neck) are inactive.

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The injuries to Brown and Mihm thrust young Andrew Bynum into the role of hero, asking the raw 19-year-old to start at center. On the bright side, Phoenix (and Golden State on Wednesday) is not a team with a dominating presence in the middle so Bynum may be able to gain confidence. He should have some, he shot 71.1% in the preseason.

The Lakers aren't the only team with injury questions about their stars on opening night. The Suns' Amare Stoudemire's knees are not 100%, so he will be coming off the bench; Shawn Marion's back has been bothering him, but he will play. Raja Bell's hip is bothering him but Laker fans aren't crying about that one. Steve Nash has chronic back problems, but that hasn't stopped him from torching the Lakers in recent years.

One difference between the two teams coming into the season is the Suns are considered playoff shoe-ins, the Lakers may have to improve just to hold their spot. If the rash of injuries amount to a slow start for the Lakers then the season could be in trouble -- 15 of the first 20 Laker games are at home (and one of the road games is the Clippers). Good NBA teams feast on the softer parts of the schedule, and for the Lakers that is the start of the season this time around.

The other scary thing for tonight - darkness. For one night the Lakers are trying the "lights out" look, dimming the lights around the court and brightening the ones on it (picture the look of an arena at a boxing match). Now that it will be harder to see where Halle Berry is sitting, theoretically more people will focus on the game.

Just hope that's not a horror show.

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AP photo by Reed Saxon