Expectations for the Portland Trail Blazers this season aren't quite high, but they'll try and start the 2012-13 campaign on a good note when they entertain the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at the Rose Garden.
Portland ended a three-year run to the playoffs last season with a 28-38 record and made some changes in the offseason. Neil Olshey came over from the Los Angeles Clippers to be the new general manager, while Terry Stotts will begin his first season as head coach.
The Blazers didn't do much roster wise to improve, but still have LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. They drafted talented point guard Damian Lillard, who is an early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Lillard led all NBA rookies with 16.2 PPG in the preseason.
"New pieces, new players, new locker room, new coach," Aldridge said during training camp. "Everything's new."
Big man Meyers Leonard also was drafted to add size down below. The young faces for the Blazers will be thrown into the fire right away against the star-studded Lakers.
Portland has a tough stretch of games to kick off the campaign, as it will take on the Lakers, Thunder, Rockets, Mavericks, Clippers and Spurs in the first six games. The Trail Blazers started 3-0 a season ago and haven't lost a season-opener since 2008.
The Trail Blazers are 31-11 all-time in home openers, including 11 straight home opening wins. They will play 12 of their first 19 games on the road.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles didn't get off to a good start and dropped a 99-91 decision last night to the Dallas Mavericks in the season opener. Darren Collison led six Dallas players in double figures with 17 points and Dirk Nowitzki didn't play due to a knee ailment.
Pau Gasol led the new-look Lakers with 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Dwight Howard ended with 19 points and 10 boards in his L.A. debut. Howard was acquired in a blockbuster deal over the summer.
"We haven't had an opportunity to really play together as much as we want, but we're going to get it," Howard said. "We're going to chip away, and we're going to get better."
Steve Nash also joined the Lakers and contributed seven points and four assists. Superstar Kobe Bryant shook off a balky foot to post 22 points in almost 35 minutes for the Lakers, who shot 49.4 percent for the game.
Los Angeles is hoping to avoid its second straight 0-2 start against Portland, which is 1-3 against the Lakers in season openers. Portland has won 16 of its last 20 meetings against the Lakers at the Rose Garden. Bryant averaged 25.3 points against the Blazers in 2011-12.
The Lakers won two of three meetings with Portland last season.