After much anticipation for the start of the new NBA season, coupled with seemingly ad-nauseam analysis of a number of controversial storylines, its FINALLY time to play the games.
You would have to be living under a rock to not realize by now that the NBA is giving fans the best present imaginable, FIVE high profile matchups on Christmas Day. So many things have occurred since the announcement of these games, they have all seemed to take on a new meaning! Unreal.
It is probably wrong to perceive that the Bulls/Lakers matchup has lost some of its luster, but its tough not to head in that direction based on the utter chaos that the Lakers organization is cloaked in. Gone is the mystique of Phil Jackson and the triangle offense which saw so much success for this team. Nope, the Bulls won’t be watching the Lakers raise an 18th championship banner to the rafters on Christmas day. Rather, they will be facing a ballclub that appears to be facing a pretty rocky start to the 2011-12 season:
- The organization is smarting over commissioner Stern’s veto of their “thought to be green-lit” CP3 trade
- Subsequent loss of Sixth Man of the year winner from last season, Lamar Odom (to the Dallas Mavericks of all places, who saw THAT coming? Really?)
- Adjusting to new coach Mike Brown and a new system
- Embarrassing losses to the L.A. Clippers at the hands of newly acquired talent… Court visionaries Chauncey Billups and CP3
- Dealing with local and national storylines that are pitting the Clippers vs. the Lakers: Which team has the best “show” in L.A. basketball? Who will be the most popular? Who will win more games? etc.
- Kobe Bryant injuring his wrist in the pre-season opener against the Clips
- Andrew Bynum suspension for the first 5 games of the season because of his senseless J.J. Barea foul last season (Karma is a “b”)
You have to think that no matter what kind of front the Lakers present, some if not all of these storylines/wrinkles have not only affected the team’s preparation, but will also affect their play in the season opener.
The Lakers, led by Kobe are a tough, prideful bunch and I expect them to play the Bulls really hard on Sunday. The local talk has fueled them I think. After two losses in the pre-season to the Clips, they are NOT going to want to drop the opener, especially to the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls know it, are expecting Kobe to play despite his wrist injury and have been preparing to face all of them except Bynum.
Projected Starters for Lakers:
- 2 – Derek Fisher [G] 6′ 1″
- 24 – Kobe Bryant [G] 6′ 6″
- 15 – Metta World Peace [F] 6′ 7″
- 16 – Pau Gasol [F/C] 7′
- 9 – Matt Barnes[F] 6’7″ (unsure)
- Key Reserves: 6 – Josh McRoberts [F/C] 6’10” | 14 – Troy Murphy [F/C] 6’11”
Key Matchups: With the Lakers length being compromised w/o Bynum, the front court matchup I’m not all that worried about anymore. Pau is obviously still a beast on the block, however his confidence still looks to be a bit shaken after last season. Based on a small sampling of his pre-season performance, he is just not as dominant, similar to last season’s playoffs. Pau’s work used to be appear effortless, now not so much. Either way, I like our chances with Bynum seated for the contest. This will be a nice workout/challenge for our bigs.
What to Look For: Bulls defense contesting the Lakers wing and perimeter shooters… The Clippers, even in their wins played laughable defense with the exception of blocks in the paint and some steals. Our man-to-man “D” is superior to most in the league, look for it. Also, the speed of both Derrick and Rip should pose some problems for the less athletic Lakers. Kobe will want to have a big game and will be looking to score the ball. Finally, look for chippiness… McRoberts is a dirty player and I expect him to force the issue with the Bulls by playing tough and physical.
Game Time: Air time is 4CST on ABC… Can’t wait!