LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Two elite teams who made significant moves in the offseason meet at STAPLES Center on Tuesday when the Los Angeles Lakers try to beat the Dallas Mavericks at home for a 26th straight time.

The Lakers, who had won the previous three NBA titles, finished fifth in the Western Conference in the regular season and lost to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in six games in the Conference semifinals.

In an effort to further their quest for a fourth ring in five years, Los Angeles signed free agents Gary Payton and Karl Malone, both among the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, to bolster a starting lineup that already featured superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

But Bryant is to stand trial in Colorado for rape, and he missed most of the preseason because he was not in shape after offseason knee surgery. He averaged 30 points per game last season but no doubt will be distracted this campaign, and the Lakers need every bit of production from him because the bench is rather thin.

On Sunday, O'Neal and Bryant got into a war of words when Bryant took exception to the center's assertion that he should defer somewhat on offense while he works his way back into shape. Bryant responded by saying if it was O'Neal's team, as O'Neal said it was, than he shouldn't have appeared fat and out of shape to camp last season.

The Mavericks won a franchise-record 60 games last season before losing in the conference finals in six games to the Spurs. But like the Lakers, they, too, were not content with their lineup and made a series of offseason moves.

They got rid of their most fearless playoff performer, guard Nick Van Exel, in a trade with Golden State. In that deal, the Mavericks acquired high-scoring forward Antawn Jamison and brawny forward Danny Fortson, who is expected to provide some of the interior toughness they were lacking.

Just a week ago, Dallas pulled off a stunning trade with Boston, acquiring All-Star forward Antoine Walker and guard Tony Delk while shedding disappointing forward-center Raef LaFrentz, who has a substantial contract.

The Mavs conceivably could start five players who averaged between 17.7 and 25.1 points per game last season: guards Steve Nash and Michael Finley, Jamison, Walker and 7-foot forward Dirk Nowitzki, who could move into the pivot.

The Lakers won three of four games against the Mavs last season, including a memorable 105-103 triumph here on December 6 in which Los Angeles rallied from a 27-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Los Angeles has won 25 in a row over Dallas at home since December 12, 1990.