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Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers was disallowed by the league last year, but Los Angeles landed in the same dominant position this year when it acquired Howard. He can help Kobe Bryant contend as he eases toward retirement and help the Lakers remain in contention for the next decade.

The Celtics are on the downswing with the departure of Ray Allen and the aging of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but they’re still a popular draw, scheduled to appear in 19 national games. But they’re not as attractive as the once-moribund Los Angeles Clippers whose 23 national appearances place them second behind the Heat, Lakers, Thunder and Knicks.

As for the Wizards, we understand they’re not eye-candy for TV executives. In Washington’s lone ESPN game, the matchup is against the equally-unsexy Detroit Pistons. It’s probably best for everyone involved that the Wizards be kept undercover.

But prime time has begun for the NBA, extras and leading roles alike.