The 2016-17 NBA season is right around the corner for the Los Angeles Lakers with the storied franchise set to embark on a new era without superstar Kobe Bryant leading the way. Although Bryant will no longer be dawning the purple and gold uniform, the Lakers have a talented young roster and a new head coach in Luke Walton that has sparked optimism leading up to season opener in October.
On Thursday, the NBA released the full schedule for the 2016-17 campaign. Among the most anticipated games is the first game of the season. The Lakers will get the Walton era underway against the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:
Am told Lakers set to open 2016-17 season by hosting the Houston Rockets, now coached by former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, on Oct. 26.
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) August 11, 2016
At first glance, the Lakers starting the season off against the Rockets is a bit of a head scratcher. Dwight Howard, who has been arguably the most hated opposing player among Lakers fans since he left Los Angeles, has moved on yet again by signing with the Atlanta Hawks. Howard was usually the biggest draw, but now former Lakers head coach, Mike D’Antoni, is calling the shots from the bench in Houston making this somewhat of an intriguing matchup.
The season opener for these two teams marks the first time D’Antoni will coach an NBA team since leaving the Lakers, and it will also be the first time in 20 years Bryant is no longer part of Los Angeles franchise.
Along with the season opener for the Lakers leaking ahead of the NBA schedule release on Thursday afternoon, the team will also play on Christmas Day once again. It will be the battle for Los Angeles for a second straight year with the Lakers and Clippers facing off at the Staples Center on Dec. 25.