Kobe Bryant is in the city of Chicago tonight, ready to face the struggling Chicago Bulls. Bryant, who messed up his index finger against Minnesota earlier in the week, has a supporting cast of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to help make up for the pain in his shooting hand. The last time these two teams met, the Lakers had 51 rebounds and pulled out a 15-point win at Staples Center.
The Bulls are coming off a 26-point loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday and have fallen to 8-14 on the year. The bright spot for the season so far is Bulls center Joakim Noah. The third-year pro averages a career-high 10.2 points and 11.8 rebounds a contest. Noah is developing into a leader for this young team, but will have to get control of his emotions.
Head coach Vinny Del Negro could be on the hot seat if the Bulls lose tonight. The second-year man seems to have lost the faith of his ballclub and the team has lost 10 of their last 12 games by an average of 18.8 points a game. To put that into perspective, 18.8 points is what Luol Deng scored a game in 2006/2007.
Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich has been back for three games, and the seven-year man has shot 5-for-27 during that time span, including 0-for-6 from behind the three-point line. Hinrich is currently sporting a PER of 6.7 and a TS% of 40.6%. Both career-lows.
Bulls guard/forward John Salmons has picked up his shooting some in December. He's shooting 41.7% from the field and 37.5% from behind the arc in his seven games on the month, up from his season average of 38.5% overall. Salmons has struggled with quicker shooting guards on the season, and will go up against the injured Bryant tonight.
Injured forward Tyrus Thomas is still more than a week away from returning. The Bulls want to let his arm heal, before putting him on the floor. Thomas has missed 18 games this season and might not be back until after christmas.
Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the two leading scorers for the Bulls, will each have a tremendously large offensive task at hand tonight, as the Lakers are a dynamic team consisting of a lot of good offensive players. For the Bulls to compete, it's necessary for both Rose and Deng to get involved in the offense early.