EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kobe Bryant has missed the last week of practice with an injury. His teammates still don't know their new offense. And the Los Angeles Lakers just finished the first winless preseason in franchise history.
Ready or not — and most signs point to not — the Lakers' regular season has arrived.
Bryant sat out Monday while his teammates went through a lengthy workout ahead of tonight's opener against Dallas. It's the first of four games in six days for a star-studded club with championship aspirations, but plenty of work ahead.
"I think all of us are ready (for) the popcorn and the lights to come on tomorrow," said Dwight Howard, who played in just two preseason games while returning deliberately from back surgery. "It's not going to come overnight. We all understand that. We just have to stay patient through the whole process. We have to keep working, and we'll be fine."
Bryant might not be fine for a bit longer. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history is resting his right foot, which was bruised and strained last week, and the Lakers won't decide whether he'll play against the Mavericks until game time.
He showed up at the Lakers' training complex Monday for treatment and practice, yelling at his teammates from the sideline while Jodie Meeks ran with the Los Angeles' starters.
"We've got to worry about that when it comes, but I can see him playing tomorrow, definitely," Metta World Peace said of Bryant. "When Kobe is hurt, whether it's the preseason or the playoffs, he plays. … Kobe has never been afraid to be hurt and play. I think his mind is different from other people."
MAVERICKS DUMP WEST: The Dallas Mavericks are moving on without guard Delonte West, and their starting center for tonight's season-opener on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers will likely be someone who wasn't even on the roster a week ago.
The Mavericks waived West on Monday, the eve of a second straight season with a major roster makeover. West was part of the first retooling a year ago, and figured to be a valuable role player again before two suspensions in as many weeks for conduct detrimental to the team.
Dallas had to dump West to make room for Eddy Curry, a journeyman center who was picked up last week after San Antonio let him go. Curry likely will get the start against the Lakers because Chris Kaman and backup Brandon Wright are battling injuries.
West, who has bipolar disorder, indicated in a series of tweets after the second suspension that his future in Dallas was in doubt. The eighth-year pro was involved in a pair of locker room incidents during the preseason. He was on his second straight one-year contract for the veteran minimum, which was $1.2 million this season.
THUNDER PICK UP JACKSON'S OPTION: The Oklahoma City Thunder have picked up Reggie Jackson's option, keeping the guard under contract through the 2013-14 season.
General manager Sam Presti announced the move Monday. Jackson averaged 3.1 points and 1.6 assists in 45 games as a rookie last season after he was selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2011 draft. He served as the Thunder's backup point guard after Eric Maynor was shelved by a season-ending knee injury but was dropped from the rotation after Oklahoma City signed veteran Derek Fisher.
Jackson has been competing with Maynor for the backup point guard in this year's training camp.
AEG SPORTS EXEC JOINS BLAZERS: The Portland Trail Blazers have appointed AEG Sports executive Chris McGowan as the team's new president and chief operating officer.
McGowan helped guide the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy as chief operating officer of AEG Sports.
"With his demonstrated leadership with the Kings and Galaxy, I am confident he will find ways to improve the Blazers' business performance, which is key to the team's overall success," Blazers owner Paul Allen said in a prepared statement.
McGowan, who joins the Blazers on Nov. 12, succeeds Larry Miller, who was with the Blazers for five years before he returned to a position at Nike in the offseason.
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