Bulls: Lonzo Ball; Alex Caruso; DeMar DeRozan; Javonte Green; Nikola Vucevic
Lakers: Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington, Chaundee Brown?; LeBron James; DeAndre Jordan
Bulls: Patrick Williams (out); Out due to Health & Safety Protocols: Zach LaVine; Derrick Jones, Jr.; Ayo Dosunmu; Matt Thomas; Alize Johnson; Troy Brown, Jr.
Lakers: LeBron James (probable); Trevor Ariza (questionable); Anthony Davis (out); Kendrick Nunn (out); Out due to Health & Safety Protocols: Talen Horton-Tucker; Malik Monk; Dwight Howard; Avery Bradley; Austin Reaves; Kent Bazemore
It’s not uncommon for me to declare that a particular team, player or game “defies conventional analysis”. A good chunk of the time, I say this in an attempt to sound pithy or clever. Most of the rest of the time, I’m trying to preemptively excuse myself for feeling like getting my hands super dirty with actual analysis. In a moment, you may be inclined to level this very accusation at me. If you do, I won’t argue with you.
BUT SERIOUSLY, this IS a game that defies conventional analysis.
This evening, the Lakers are in Chicago to take on a Bulls team that’s playing its first game in a week having after having its roster decimated by COVID cases and Health and Safety Protocols. Tonight, a week after getting drubbed by the Heat in Miami, they’re back on the floor. Sure, they’ve had to postpone a home date with the Pistons and a trip to Toronto. And sure, they’re without one of their top two guys in Zach LaVine, plus a couple of rotation pieces in Derrick Jones Jr. and Ayo Dosunmu. On the bright side, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball are all good to go. A shorthanded team could do far worse.
At the same time, these guys have had a bizarre week, and may need a moment to reacclimate to hoops a usual. Trying to regain rhythm and continuity after a completely unexpected extended layoff, in absence of a frontline star and a fair bit of depth, is a tall order.
And then we’ve got the Lakers.
It’s been three weeks since LeBron’s dalliance with The Protocols kickstarted the Lakers’ own odyssey. So, he was out for Sacramento on November 30, and presumed to be out for 10 days… until he wasn’t. Everything was cool for a couple of weeks, until it was Russ. Like LeBron, he was in, didn’t miss a game, and then he was back.
In the meantime, Talen Horton-Tucker tested positive for COVID, and was joined on the Protocols roll call by Dwight Howard and Malik Monk. Then it was Avery Bradley. And then, on the heels of the apex of his young NBA career in Dallas – and the heartwarming, if wildly high-risk group hug that followed it – Austin Reaves was added to the list. And, just today, Kent Bazemore was added to the list. Add to that, of course, the non-COVID-related absences of Trevor Ariza (who should be back in the next week or two), Kendrick Nunn (who’s own flirtation with the Protocols has ended, likely with a false-positive) and Anthony Davis, and you’re dealing with a giant mess.
Welcome to basketball in the Uncanny Valley. Two teams of guys, playing the game they played their entire lives, five-on-five, and on 94’ by 50’. And yet…
What exactly is there to analyze here?
The gameplan tonight is a simple one: Get home safe. That’s priority #1. Get. Home. Safe.
Sure, the hope is that LeBron and Russ are clicking sufficiently to scrape out a win. But, with more than half of the roster unavailable, simply sustaining no new losses is a win in its own right.
This isn’t the usual standard of expectations in Lakerland. But then, what’s usual these days?
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet.