What is usually a raucous beginning feels like an awkward ending.
For the first time in 14 years, when the Lakers open training camp Saturday they will be taking the floor in the middle of a Dodgers town.
The domination of buzz that began with the Kobe Bryant era in 1996 has at least temporarily ended this fall as the Lakers find themselves surrounded in dysfunction, confusion and blue.
Giant gold jerseys bearing No. 24 are being replaced by oversized blue shirts bearing No. 66. Lakers flags are being pulled out of car windows to make room for Dodgers flags. Worry about Steve Nash's legs have been muted over concern for Andre Ethier's shins. Bryant took a self-publicized high dive, yet more people were talking about the Dodgers going swimming.
This columnist will not repeat the assumptions that led to the long-ago mistake of calling this a UCLA football town. The Lakers-Dodgers climate change could end by next summer, when the Lakers will have the money and space to bring LeBron James to town. But since the death of Jerry Buss, the Lakers have no longer been the Lakers, so who knows what happens next? Meanwhile, with the best and richest lineup in baseball and the money to keep it going, the Dodgers have again become the Dodgers, a team that owned this city even through the Showtime era, a group that has the economic stability to own it again.
The Dodgers have a rich unified ownership group that has listened to fans. The Lakers have been unable to present the unified ownership front its fans so desperately want, and have instead regaled them with tales of one owner ripping another owner.
Many of the power brokers in town hoped Jeanie Buss would run the franchise, but her recent decision to publicly criticize brother Jim to sell some books raised some expensive eyebrows.
The Dodgers have a president, Stan Kasten, who is clearly in charge and accountable. The Lakers fans have no idea who is running the show, and telling them that Jeanie runs business and Jim runs basketball makes it even more confusing to the average fan straining to hear one voice.
The Dodgers have Magic Johnson. The Lakers lost him long ago.
The Dodgers have a strong personnel guy, Ned Colletti, who has been given the tools to win now. The Lakers have a strong personnel guy, Mitch Kupchak, whose hands have been tied by league rules and team chaos, and can you believe what he recently said about next off-season?
"If we can get done what we want to get done, then great," he said. "If not, then we'll move to the next off-season. And then we'll move to the next off-season. I know at some point in time we'll be able to put together a very competitive and attractive team here."
At some point in time? How many off-seasons was that? Has there ever been a more dire quote about the future of what Jerry Buss had built into the greatest franchise in professional sports?
The Dodgers have an everyday lineup that includes stars Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. One possible opening-night lineup for the Lakers is Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.
The Dodgers' games have become home to many of the Hollywood stars who are increasingly shying away from the Lakers. Several of the stars in the Chavez Ravine stands this season have been NBA players. One of them was Bryant.
When examining the unique Dodgers-Lakers relationship, it is often assumed that both teams have other, more important local rivals on their radar. Yet, contrary to popular belief, it could be years before the Lakers ever have to worry about the Clippers, because their fan base is so markedly different and blindly loyal. It's the same with the Dodgers and Angels, who also have diversity of geography.
The Dodgers and Lakers matter to each other because they attract many of the same fans and are thus working for the same dollars. Just ask anyone who attended Dodger Stadium one certain night this summer. Chris Paul was in the stands, and when the Clippers star was introduced, he was loudly booed.
Dodgers fans and Lakers fans are often one person, one wallet, one choice, a Dodgers game in September or a Lakers game in February, a new Dodgers cap or a new Lakers shirt, two teams loved by many, but a landscape that can be dominated by only one.
When Guggenheim Baseball bought the Dodgers two years ago, officials publicly talked about winning the baseball world, but privately they wanted to regain the town from the Lakers. When the Lakers were celebrating their five championships in the Bryant era, part of their quiet glee was that they had clearly stolen the town from the Dodgers.
Don't look now, but the Dodgers are stealing it back. The Lakers open their regular season Oct. 29 at Staples Center against the Clippers. That is also the day between Game 5 and Game 6 of the World Series.
Would a baseball day off ever generate more chatter in Los Angeles than an NBA opening night? Here's guessing the Lakers don't want to find out. Here's guessing the Dodgers can't wait.