Preview & Chat: The Chicago Bulls

Darius Soriano —  December 25, 2011

Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Devin Ebanks, Josh McRoberts, Pau Gasol
Bulls: Derrick Rose, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
Injuries: Lakers: Kobe Bryant (probable); Bulls: none

The Lakers Coming in: The new season is here, change is upon the Lakers and with that, an interesting vibe has surrounded the Lakers. Suddenly, they’re the team many are counting out as a viable contender to win the title. This is strange ground for a team that employs Kobe, Pau, and Bynum but here we are anyway.

However, where the outsiders looking in see weakness, those inside must see opportunity to once again exceed expectations. Remember, this is a prideful team that is coming off an embarrassing end to their last season and still possess championship aspirations. The off-season hasn’t been the smoothest but what would Laker basketball be without a little drama?

The Bulls Coming in: The Bulls continue to operate under the radar and I’m sure that suits them just fine. Derrick Rose signs a monster extension, it gets some national press for a day or two, and then everyone is back to talking about Lob City or Kobe’s wrist. They pick up Rip Hamilton to compliment the reigning MVP in the backcourt and it gets a head nod, a few “that’s a good move” tweets, and everyone moves on. Maybe it’s the understated nature of Rose or the fact that the glamour teams are still in Miami and Los Angeles, but in any event, this team just seems to go about its business with few heads turning.

However, now is the time for the Bulls to take the next step as a franchise and try to reclaim the heights that Michael Jordan left as a legacy for this team and that city. As mentioned, Rose is the game’s MVP, recognized as one of the elite players at any position. Deng has grown into one of the best two way players in the league, a title Jo Noah also possesses. When you add in the offensive virtues of Boozer and Hamilton, the coaching prowess of Tom T., and a solid bench this is clearly one of the teams to beat not only in the East, but in the entire league. Whether they can make the push in this shortened season, when their coach likes to play his starters heavy minutes, remains to be seen. But, make no mistake, they’re primed to make a run. And last year’s experience of falling short to the Heat will only make them stronger in the pursuit of their goals.

Bulls Blogs: By the Horns and Blog-A-Bull are two very good sites that deserve your time.

Keys to game: The Bulls will give the Lakers everything they can handle as their strengths directly attack the areas where the Lakers can be vulnerable.

Derrick Rose is the game’s premier penetrating guard and he’s surely licking his chops at the thought of being matched up against Fisher or Steve Blake in isolation on the weak side. With Andrew Bynum serving game one of his four game suspension, the issue is only exacerbated as Rose will have one less shot blocking big body to deal with when he put his head down to attack the tin.

The Lakers will need to play Rose smartly by backing off, encouraging him to take his jumper, while also showing him a second defender early and often in possessions when he’s working at the top of the key. In pick and roll situations the Lakers will hedge hard but the key is to try and make Rose pick up his dribble or pass the ball in order to deny him from getting the ball back so he can go back to work. Any possession that ends with a player not named Rose trying to create a shot for himself or a teammate is a step in the right direction.

That said, Rose isn’t the only Bulls weapon. Deng is a fantastic mid-range player that is very effective 18 feet and in both with his jumper and in going to the hoop. He’s not the most athletic player, but he’s smart with his movement and will find creases in the D if they’re made available to him. Ebanks will have his hands full chasing Deng around the court but the Lakers’ 2nd year pro has the length and foot speed to make Deng’s life a bit harder.

Of course, Boozer and Noah also pose problems for most teams. Boozer’s post game is still mostly left handed as he loves to drive to his off hand to try and finish at the rim or pull up after one or two dribbles to shoot his mid-range jumper. When he works the post, he’ll often settle for a fadeaway, but that too is a shot that must be respected and challenged as he can quickly find a rhythm. Noah meanwhile is one of the most active bigs in the league in going to the offensive glass and has great feel when operating in the middle of the floor as a playmaker. He’ll often serve as an outlet for Rose when he’s trapped in the P&R, so the Lakers must be aware of Noah making a catch at the FT line and then either driving hard for a shot at the rim or kicking the ball quickly to a shooter camped out behind the arc. Both Rip Hamilton and Kyle Korver will need to be marked in these instances.

For the Lakers to slow all these threats, they’ll need to have their heads on swivels and move as one on defense. Players off the ball must be aware of where Rose is at all times but also mustn’t get too caught up ball watching as every other starter on the floor can hurt the team should he shake free. The key will be bottling Rose early in the clock, turn him into a passer, and then hope that either Boozer or Deng have to create for themselves against the shot clock. One match up I’d like to see is for Brown to use Gasol on Boozer as he’s had problems with Pau’s length since his days with the Jazz. This would put McRoberts on Noah (edge Chicago), but Josh too is an active player that goes hard every minute he’s on the floor so he may be the best person to throw at the hyperactive Joakim from the opening whistle.

Offensively the Lakers will need to sort out their system and find the creases in one of the stingiest defenses this league has. Thibodeau thrives on containing elite wing scorers like Kobe, so moving #24 around to different parts of the floor and off screens to free him up should be a big part of the plan. Kobe will likely see a lot of Deng, so working the post against a bigger player may not be ideal but I trust Kobe to find what works – especially with his bum wrist – and go from there.

However, the Lakers also need to go inside early and often. Bynum may be out, but Gasol is still one of the premier big men in the league and whether he’s jousting with Noah (likely) or Boozer, he still needs his touches in order to both get his own shot and to facilitate offense from the low post.

Make no mistake, though, the Lakers are a bit shorthanded and will need one of their role players to have a good game if they’re to pull this one out. Blake will need to get hot from the outside or Ebanks will need to hit a few jumpers to loosen up the defense so he can drive (while also creating space for his teammates). MWP will need to hit some shots off the bench and a couple of threes from Murphy wouldn’t hurt either. Basically, it will take a team effort (something I’ll be saying a lot this season).

In any event, enjoy the game. It’s Christmas day, it’s our first real basketball in too many months, and the Lakers are due to win one of these holiday fests, right?

Where you can watch: 2:00pm start time on ABC. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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89 responses to Preview & Chat: The Chicago Bulls

  1. With little more than Derrick Rose and defense, the Bulls had the best record in the NBA–despite injuries either to Boozer or Noah for much of the season.

    Now they’ve added Rip Hamilton.

    This is their year!

    To get blown out by the Bulls on Christmas would be no surprize–nor would it be reason for doom and gloom.

    To beat them would be just amazing!

  2. Great preview. Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Hopefully this will be a good game, and like drrayeye said, “[…]To beat them would be just amazing!”

  3. “Lakers are due to win one of these holiday fests, right?”

    Not this year.

  4. Today I will be watching two things and not the score. 1) How the team is working together and 2) What the front office is doing prior to the trade deadline.

    We have a two year window before the CBA finally clamps down and I am curious what management is going to do with it.

  5. Lakers usually lose christmas day games…. But for them to win this one would be the best christmas gift for us Laker fans. Merry Christmas FB&G!!!

  6. Merry Christmas, FB&Gers!! I moaned and groaned when Brown was brought in, staffers were let go, etc., etc., etc.. But, one of the things that I do find exciting in sports is the unknown. Devin Ebanks starting on Christmas Day? Who would have predicted this, seriously? I’ve been watching a fair amount of Mike Brown interviews recently and and it’s such a different vibe from Phil – and while I’m a huge fan of P.J. and always will be, it’s kind of cool to hear so much info coming out of a coach – I’m totally looking forward to the season. And, I think this is a group that can win a lot of games. We may surprise some people.

  7. I’m back from my cruise and just in time. I will disagree on going inside to Gasol. Noah will most likley shut him down. Use him in pick and roll and let him play off the ball… But Gasol can’t score one on one against this undersized yet mobile Center.

  8. #5 There is no management (Jim Buss is a fool) and the CBA is making a special exception for Lakers and is not giving them a two year pass and rather is clamping down on them now (Stern nixes Paul trade).

    If Jim was willing to give up TWO bigs, Odom & Gasol, for an elite point gurad, Paul (which I think was a bade trade for the Lakers anyway), why wouldn’t he trade one big, Odom, for a legit starting defensive PG, I’ll never understand. That’s all we needed to win anyway.

  9. Lets go LAKERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just so everyone knows, I got money on the Lakers +4.5… wtf? We at home and losing all these Xmas day games and we get a +4.5 BRING IT ON!

  10. http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/217796/Jim_Buss_Lakers_Would_Be_Silly_To_Give_Up_Gasol_Bynum_For_Howard

    Now strut that Jim. We’ve drawn the line. Bynum it is, 2-3-4 picks it is Orlando. Otherwise, GTFO.

  11. the other Stephen December 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

    FOAR WOARREN!!!

  12. First of all Merry Christmas FB&G. As always Darius, great preview article.

    What an opportunity for Josh and Devin! What would be more amazing than a Christmas Day victory is to see Josh and Devin give promising numbers against Boozer and Deng.

    On paper I don’t see the Lakers winning a quarter, let alone the game but on hopeful spirits I see them grabbing the Bulls by the nuts and shoocking all skeptics that the CP3/Howard/Odom-less Lakers just beat the presumably best team in the NBA.

    Let’s aim for the jugular with these negative expectations of the Lakers in mind!

    Go Lakers! Ho Ho Hope we come out victorious.

  13. ‘You’d be kind of silly to give up two all-stars like that for Howard’

    This made me think of the Odom trade and I laughed, had to share.

  14. Nate Robinson just got waived by the Thunder, thoughts?

  15. #13 I agree giving Gasol and Bynum for Howard is just as silly as giving up the sixth man of the year for a trade exception.

    Too bad, the Knicks are out of expiring contracts. If the Lakers are merely interesting in dumping salary, as witnessed by the Odom trade (even the Paul trade was underhanded salary dump, that’s why Stern nixed it), then they should just trade Kobe to the Knicks and give the Knicks an instant championship.

  16. @14 – I personally don’t see Robinson as a good fit with the Lakers. He’s fun to watch but he’s so small, makes iffy decisions, hangs on to the ball too much.

  17. Off to Staples today– hard to see this as being anything other than a bloodbath, unless somehow: Sunday whites + ABC + no Drew + Christmas at home + Bulls are objectively very good and arguably even the second best team in the league + injured Kobe somehow proves to be some kind of ‘Six Wrongs Make a Right’ oddball calculus, but it’s been too long since I lost my voice cheering for my beloved team and it’s time to break that awful streak of being a grown-up…

    Still, I can’t help but remember bizarre games like the one against the Celtics when Kobe was hurt and I keep the faith, no matter what my analytical mind says…. After all, perhaps McRoberts and Troy Murphy will find inspiration and push around Boozer and Noah. (My God, I sound like Vic the Brick or Flea…)

    Wishing all here a happy holidays. Go Lakers– even if it ends badly, I still love you and welcome you home!

  18. It’ll be interesting to see how MWP does coming off the bench. Will he actually play to his strengths, or has he aged too much to the point where all he can do is try to draw fouls and jack up bad off balance jumpers.

    Also really curious to see how Ebanks does in non-garbage minutes, as well as if Josh McRoberts can complement our guys.

  19. I’ll be on a plane flying back to LA with no tv but Internet. Anyone know of a link for the game??? Pretty please???

  20. Celts lose; KG first cheapshot/fake fight of the year– NBA is back!

  21. Aaron – you won’t get a good enough bandwidth on a plane to watch a game.

  22. 22)
    Like Derek Fisher trying to stay in front of an able bodied player… I know it’s not gonna be likley and it probably will be ugly but I wanna give it a shot

  23. Twas the day of the NBA Season and all through the land

    Fans with concern how will Kobe’s wrist affect his right hand

    The NBA season was almost in doubt

    With the threat of being canceled by the lockout

    The lockout had caused a short camp for training;

    With the goal to be the champs that will be reigning

    Any Lakers trade will bring a great spotlight

    There will be no veto if his name is Howard, Dwight

    Now Kobe, Gasol, Bynum and Blake

    On Fisher, Morris, Barnes and Ebanks

    Metta World Peace was Artest, Ron

    Leaving people wondering if his offense is gone

    Will Kapono, Murphy, Walton, Goudeloock and McRoberts help in the season’s test?

    Will the bench be able to give the starters any rest?

    Coach Mike Brown is now guiding the team

    As they start the season with a championship dream

    And as this season’s journey begins

    May everyone at FB&G enjoy all the Lakers talk about the losses and many, many Lakers wins

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays

  24. Merry Christmas everyone. I too am intrigued to see Ebanks and McRoberts. However, I think a lot of people have given up on Troy Murphy and i think he can find a niche in a game like this. He had a forgettable year last year and is due for a bounce back. I’m still of the opinion that while the national media has declared the Lakers DOA, they’re playing possum. They’ve still got the pieces to compete. It’s a bit of unchartered territory, but I’m anxious to see how this team responds.

  25. I’m not sure what’s more detrimental to Dallas’ repeat hopes: losing Tyson Chandler or signing Vince Carter.

  26. odom goes 1-6 from the field, gets ejected in 3rd quarter.

  27. I just want to say Merry Christmas to the FB&G family. I am not to worried about today’s outcome. It’s Christmas. I can’t allow myself to go into my usual yell at the TV routine while watching the Lakers play. I’ll do that tomorrow. For today I will just kick back an enjoy from a distance.

    Side note: Miami looked extremely good in that Dallas beatdown.

  28. kobes handles have been terrible in this game and in his one preseason game

  29. Lakers did not dress Darius Morris for the game today

  30. Derek Fisher might be the only PG in the league who’s better at defending a fast break than running one.

  31. is goudelock already ahead of kapono in the rotation, or is this a match-up thing?

  32. Rose just heating up. Bad news. We need Fisher back in. Thats right aaron.

  33. McRoberts is getting eaten alive by Boozer.

  34. McRoberts and Murphy are playing very short. You can’t let a 20-pounds-lighter Boozer push his way right under the basket.

  35. Great white sharks have feet?

  36. Can someone post a first half analysis for those who couldn’t watch the game?

  37. The 3rd quarter is going to determine the game. The Lakers lost focus and Rose got himself and everyone else going at the end of the 2nd. Most was fostered by bad passing.

    Kobe is struggling with his handles even more so than normal. It’s going to be hard to get Gasol off offensively if there is not another threat to open it up for him. Noah has him handcuffed in the paint.

  38. McRoberts and Murphy hurt on D. They just seem weak through the hips, and have minimal ability to cover laterally. Just get killed on the blocks.

    On a more positive note, Kobe’s latest injury (much like his previous hand injuries) seems to only effect dribbling, not shooting.

  39. Magic clowning the Lakers.

    Lakers completely outclassed by Chicago.

    2nd unit: new faces, same garbage.

    I avoided the preseason games because they were going to be ugly. No avoiding this: Currently existing Laker roster is NO threat to reach the Conference semis (even with Bynum)

    Like Ebanks, Goudelock, and Gasol.

    I don’t envy Mike Brown.

  40. That kobe to ebanks fastbreak was something we’ve rarely seen the past couple of years

  41. i think that’s the first time i’ve ever seen boozer block a shot.

  42. You know what’s seen way too much? Fish taking it to the rack like he has game and athletic ability. Stop it!

  43. By contrast, that Fisher ‘fast break’ was something we’ve seen far too often over the years.

    Man, Kobe looks sharp tonight.

  44. Artest just looks washed up.

    I wish people would stop complaining about Kobe and turnovers. We all know the guy is playing injured like he has done countless times, he is turning the ball over like he has done previous years but the thing is he is the only guy on this roster who can create offense so what do you expect? Take it like it is

  45. Does the NBA think its audience is full of 13 year old girls? Why are they trying to push Beiber onto us?

  46. you’d better get up on goudelock.

  47. Did the lakers bench just extend a lead for the starters? Is this some sort of bizarre parallel universe?

  48. deng is expending a lot of energy trying to keep ron off the glass.

  49. ^^ totally what I was thinking

  50. I love McRobert and Murphy’s activity on the offensive glass, hustle for loose balls is one thing the team lacked last year.

  51. Seems like Mike Brown has the players fired up to play defense. I’m liking the effort.

  52. Stop the game! MWP made a jumper!

  53. This is some brutal free-throw shooting.

  54. Wow, Laker ball after a couple more missed FT’s, and this must be a bizarre parallel universe. Then, KB24 with the basket.

  55. jesus christ.

  56. Washed up, as someone above said. Artest looks like a shell of himself, so slow footed. I hope he has twenty pounds to shed and that’s it… Don’t know about him anchoring the second unit.

    And Kobe’s wrist seems to really be bothering him in. In between plays, he keeps extending his fingers. The offense is really stagnant, but they’re finding ways to the basket. The team defense is pretty good, and McRoberts seems like he’s buying in. Add Bynum and more reps and we’ll win a lot of ugly games.

    Derrick rose!

  57. Kobe with a crunchtime collapse reminiscent of games 1 and 3 against Mavs.

    Failed boxout and turnover fest. Single handedly guided the Bulls to victory.

  58. wow. that sucked.

  59. Way to give the game away.

  60. Too bad, it ended up very close at the end, but this team has hope.

  61. Glad Brown used Blake and Ebanks so much.

    Kobe needs to play off the ball more now, with the hand issues and age.

  62. We simply choked… We were not able to: score our FT’s, boxout properly and avoid turnovers in the final minutes. Kobe… ugh!

    This could’ve been a statement win without Bynum and instead we were left with a lot of doubts about our ability to win. These shouldn’t be mistakes made by a veteran team!

    On a positive note, I’m really happy with what I saw from McRoberts (except those 2 FT’s). Like him already.

  63. 4 straight missed free throws! This shouldn’t have even been close at the end.

  64. I put on the phone and I saw a 5 point lead with like 1 min left. And I just painfully watched the score for the bulls keep increasing until they took the lead by one while the lakers scored zip. Thanks lakers for this wonderful Christmas gift.

  65. I’m not that upset by the loss, I saw more heart from most of the LA players than I saw all of last year combined instead of a team going out there with a sense of entitlement. They took an Eastern Conference finals team to the wire and should have won, yes mistakes were made but you have to be encouraged by many things that happened.

    Ebanks looked Ariza-like and really provided much of what LA missed last year at SF. Murphy and McBob had some great tip outs and hustle plays out there, and Blake finally played showed some of the promise expected from him last year. Goudelock also showed some shooting the Lakers sorely miss. Overall just one loss, and without Bynum it doesn’t say a whole lot about this team.

  66. Also considering the shortened preseason, the game was much more smooth than I expected.

  67. Also glad Brown used Goudelock–hit the 2 3s.

  68. The journey does not begin well. A blown 4thQ lead, 4 missed FTs in clutch time, too many turnovers and missed FTs. I did see improvement in the Lakers transition defense.

    Lets see how the Lakers respond after this disappointing loss.

  69. Please Mitch, please… trade Gasol, that man never produces in the final minutes… Always the same, no free throws, an awesome full to a 3 point play… He ALWAYS dissapear in the clutch

  70. Oh my good heavens, our defense is going to be absolutely legit this year, ESPECIALLY when Drew gets back. I haven’t seen rotations that good since the 2010 NBA Finals.

  71. Gasol gets fouled, no call.
    Two Lakers stand there, hands up, do nothing, two free throws for the Bulls.
    Deng travels, no call, Bulls score.
    Kobe drives, gets fouled, no call.

    To be fair, if we made our damn free throws at the end, we would have won with 91. But I’m just tired of horrible officiating deciding games.

  72. Let’s wait until Bynum gets back before jumping to conclusions.

    Don’t forget that the Bulls had the best record in the league last year and, by all accounts, only improved upon that team this year.

    Tough loss, but I liked what I saw. Always liked McRoberts for his hustle and he’s shown that.

  73. Really liked what I saw out of Ebanks, McRoberts and Murphy, especially the rebounds. Over all a great game by the Lakers, just missed too many FTs, a turnover and and Rose made a great shot. But I liked what I saw. Will be interesting to see how the team looks in the next two games (conditioning-wise). Also will be interesting to see where the team is in a month once Bynum gets back and the the team has some time playing under Brown and with each other.

  74. @70 Lakers 8884 – I’m with you. I expect Kobe to have handle problems what with a torn-up wrist and fingers that look like they got shut in a drawer. And, I expect some sloppy play with 6 months off and 2 weeks of camp. But what’s impressing me is the hustle – these guys are coming to play. The combination of defensive energy and greenlighting role players to shoot is fun. Ugly at times, but fun. IMO.

  75. I thought everyone played very well. With the exception of the two same regulars suspects.

    When is someone from this team going to realize that Metta Ron is a clown and should be released and not in at the end of games. Also that Fisher can’t shoot, pass or defend and should never be put in at the end of games. You had that game won Mike Brown and went back to tbe two worst players on tbe team at tbe end.

    Play your best players and you win this game Mike. Keep playing bad players because of something they did years ago will mean a short tenure as a Laker coach.

  76. Gave the game away, but encouraging signs….far fall when we start grasping for moral victories, but I liked what I saw from the Murphy, McRoberts, Goudelock, Ebanks. I’m just a little confused about the rotations. I mean play Blake the whole 4th and then bring in Fisher who’s sat all that time the last 2 minutes? I suppose that’s something that’ll get straightened out and maybe a result of only 2 pre-season games. Quick turnaround, let’s see how they bounce back, but again gave the game away.

  77. Dave M, couldn’t agree more. It is one game so the sample size may not be great to draw analysis from, but last year I saw no hunger in the players eyes and tonight I saw guys with something to prove (even Kobe). Typically he would have settled for a last second jumper 99 out of 100 times, I was actually shocked he drove to the hoop and I think he was equally surprised by the defense being there. He may have made the wrong decision this game, but to show he’s not satisfied with settling for jumpers is very encouraging to me.

  78. @ 77 JM

    You have a good point. I was disappointed by the loss, but we are talking about the Bulls here. Plus Bynum was gone. If we keep playing like this I think we’ll have a good season. I just miss being the best of the best you know? I guess its time for other teams until we rebuild again.

  79. Kobe fan and supporter long time, but couldn’t agree more, work more off the ball, hard to win when drawing triple teams and still forcing the shot.

    For the love of all things decent, make a free throw!

    I’d rather get blown out than lose like this, can always write those off. This was stupid…would have been nice to win the first of the 3 in a row.

    Still, stories of the Lakers’ demise are a bit premature, they are going to be tough in the playoffs-just may be a 4, 5, or even 6 seed. No one cares where you started, just where you finish.

  80. I too don’t feel too bad about this loss. Definitely sucked to give away the game, but there’s quite a number of good signs for this team going forward.

    I really liked the energy of Ebanks, McRoberts, and Murphy. It felt like last year the Lakers got very few loose balls and 50/50 rebounds. This game seemed like the Lakers got quite a few tips that went their way courtesy of those 3.

    I’d feel worse if we weren’t getting Andrew back in 3 games. If this was the team we had going forward, I wouldn’t feel as calm, but Bynum will hopefully be a dominant force this year and be able to stay on the floor to give Gasol some rest.

    I also really liked the minute distribution. Fish played 23, Blake played 25, Mac had 35, Murphy had 23. I can only hope that Kobe won’t have to play 35 per game and Bynum coming back will give Gasol some rest so he won’t be playing 38 a game in a compressed season.

  81. that was a really tough loss to stomach.

    still, i thought the lakers did a good job of defending the pick and roll and i thought our guards did a good job in other departments like rebounding.

    ebanks’ efficiency is killer and i hope he keeps it up. i liked how assertive blake and goudelock were on O.

  82. Two more TO’s and Kobe could’ve had a double double…bwahaha

  83. I see a lot of Laker’s future games finishing this way….they’ll need to play a perfect game just to beat a good team.