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2011-12 Game Preview #1: Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers

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Merry NBA Christmas, everyone.

It's a great time to be a Bulls fan, our team is featured on a showcase game, and in terms of talent (not 'hard work', 'grit', or other less-exhilarating stuff) they're actually the showcase team. Sam Smith is already talking smack:

Derrick Rose against Steve Blake, Luol Deng against Devin Ebanks, Carlos Boozer against Josh McRoberts


Yes, folks, that’s your post-Phil Jackson Lakers and they are in deep, deep trouble.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, predictably, and it, frankly, is how coaches must approach these things, talked about the Lakers before the team headed out West as if it’s the 1972 team that won 33 straight.

"They’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of experience. So we’re going to have to be ready," Thibodeau said. "They have great depth (Metta World Peace?). They have guys coming in who are experienced, (Troy) Murphy, (Matt) Barnes, Blake, McRoberts. Those guys have been through a lot of different situations. They’re going to be tough."

I really thought the tough part was having to listen to that with a straight face.

I thought Sam was laying it on a bit thick, but Forum Blue and Gold has the Lakers projected starters, and...well it indeed looks like a mismatch. And that's assuming Kobe is playing.

With Bynum on suspension, the Lakers lose what is their best way of slowing down Derrick Rose, a big waiting to hack him after he blows by a defender. And if the starters look underwhelming for the Lakers, it follows that their bench is even worse. In the preseason, new acquisition Metta World Peace is looking like just a washed-up Ron Artest (someone should research that player comp), and the guys Thibodeau mentioned (he forgot Jason Kapono!) are as chuckle-worthy as Sam suggests.

The Lakers do still have Bryant and Gasol. A way Bynum's absence further helps the Bulls is that they can throw their best defender, and a lot more of them subsequently, at Gasol without fear of retribution. Noah seems like the best bet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Boozer given first shot, with Thibodeau not exactly crestfallen if Booz picks up a couple early fouls. Meanwhile, Rip Hamilton will have his first chance to prove he can still defend as a 2-guard. One of Rip's oft-mentioned qualities is his fearlessness and antagonistic ways when it comes to defending the league's best, but that doesn't mean as much if he's lost a step. So while Bryant is slowed-down himself, it'll be interesting to see if Rip can give him trouble before we tout how he'll shut down Dwyane Wade.

Gametime is at 4pm, with some likely brief yet execrable ESPN studio show to start. Use this thread for better pre-game hype, plus Knicks-Celtics and Mavs-Heat.