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Chicago Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets game preview, lineups, injury report

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Meet the Nets!

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

[thanks to frequent contributor Zach Lee for today's game preview. Sign up! -yfbb]

Hello again from cloudy, rainy, cold, oh-holy-hell-winter-is-coming Brooklyn, New York, where the equally depressing Nets will host the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center to open their season and kick off a reign of ratings terror the likes of which we have never seen before.

After a satisfying opening night Bulls victory replete with new wrinkles, an evolving rotation and a healthy dose of #NoKirk, the hope here is that the Bulls come into the second leg of their season-opening back-to-back with enough energy to keep the lights on. Because let me tell you something, ladies and germs: the Nets are going to invent new words for blah by the time the 2015-16 season comes to a close.

Nobody can write about the prevailing sentiment surrounding the Nets as well as Brooklyn Game managing editor Devin Kharpertian, but if that piece is tl;dr let me break it down for you as quickly as possible:

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- The Nets starting backcourt tonight, making a combined $3m, will be Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington. With Jarrett Jack (also objectively harmful to a team's chances to win) out with a hammy, the Nets decision to part ways with Deron Williams during the offseason is even more glaring in basketball terms, if not equally understandable for team chemistry. Larkin's NBA career highlight thus far is being punted from the cellar-dwelling Knicks with Phil Jackson commenting on the diminutive size of his hands on the way out the door. That's a bummer of a basketball card. Ellington has always been a fantastic shooter but lacks NBA skills in virtually every other facet of the game. I'd hoped the Bulls would be able to snag him for bench depth at the minimum salary this offseason. Instead he's a starting 2-guard in Brooklyn. Well played, Wayne's agent.

- The crumbling adonis statue that is Joe Johnson suits up for the final year of The Contract That Produced A Million Wowees. He is making just shy of $25m this season, and by god that's great work if you can get it. The truth is Johnson is  a wonderful basketball talent who fans deride for "not caring enough" merely because he isn't particularly expressive physically and he makes the aforementioned zillion dollar contract. Injuries and age have rounded off the peaks and deepened the valleys in his game, but ultimately his skillset was never built for the new pace and space era of the NBA and was never able to make the adjustment. All that said, he remains a pro's pro and with the season just beginning, he is likely the Nets best chance at having one of their players take over the game in a way that benefits them.

- Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young got new contracts in the offseason at healthy raises, and frankly deserved them given their late season success together once Young arrived in the KG trade with Minnesota. Lopez is healthy for the first time since his initial years in the league and is clearly the Nets best talent. Unfortunately for him, his run of incredible success in the second half of 2014-15 was predicated on pick and rolls with Deron Williams, who can make the pocket pass as well as anyone in the game. Even a reasonable facsimile of that passing ability does not reside on the Brooklyn roster, meaning Lopez is going to have to make his own looks in the post. And for those of you that don't know, Lopez post moves often look like a bad improv groups attempts at doing a scene in slow motion. Thad Young is a solid NBA rotation player. He's the brightest star in the Brooklyn sky at the moment. Yikes.

- For the fiending NBA junkie, there is actually some intrigue on the Nets roster if you dig to the bottom of the dumpster. Failed lottery pick Thomas Robinson looks like he finally understands how his ferocious rebounding ability might fit on a team and Lionel Hollins looks like he'll give him heavy minutes, at least initially. Rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is an incredible athlete and defender and a brilliant personality on a team desperate for such things. Downside: he can't shoot a lick. The flotsam of Andrea Bargnani's career has surfaced on this side of the Hudson River for one more go at the NBA, and I for one will be watching to see if the definition of depressing can reach new limits.

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As for the Bulls, KC Johnson reported late last night that Joakim Noah had a knee contusion and his status would be determined by how well he responded to treatment. It should be an early look at the #NewBulls new stance on injury now that Thibs is chewing gravel at home instead of the Berto Center. In truth though, the Bulls literally have more than enough to win with should Noah sit precautionarily, even if it's a visible bummer-reminder that NOT ONE GAME CAN GO BY WITHOUT INJURY, CAN IT GOD?

- Derrick Rose is still seeing three baskets from blurred vision when he plays, so I'd like to propose that all his shots count for triple points just to make it fair. As long as he plays, I will remain pleased.

- Nikola Mirotic had a wonderful first game offensively, and you can see the newfound offensive freedom on the team most of all in the way he charges up and down the court and takes shots without the #lemonbooty-ness of yesteryear. It's also quite clear that Niko is objectively awful on defense, and I can't wait for Bulls twitter to start griping about it in 3... 2... 1...

Overall, this is about as winnable as they come for Chicago, and while their opponent is fresh while they are not, the talent disparity more or less demands a victory. The Nets entire season mantra is "Let's Make Sure The Unprotected Pick We Send to Boston Isn't That Good!". It's on the season ticket packaging and everything. Anything less than a Bulls win would take the starch out of last night's promising opening night victory vs. a half-mast but ever-competitive Cavalier squad. So let's not have that. Starch is good. Keep it in there, Bulls.