The New Jersey Nets have an all-star point guard, a future all-star center, a defensive minded cast of role players and a lot of athleticism. But they also have just one win.
In one of the rarest occurances in NBA history, the talented Nets lost a league-record 18 straight games to start the season. They currently sit at 1-19, but are catching the Bulls in just the right time. Chicago started off the year 6-4, but is now 7-11. Bulls center Joakim Noah got thrown out of Saturdays game against the Raptors, a game the Bulls lost by 32 points.
The Bulls have been playing short-handed, with both Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich sidelined with injuries. Thomas with his arm, and Hinrich with his thumb. In their place, the Bulls have used Taj Gibson, Jannero Pargo and Lindsey Hunter. Rookie James Johnson is slowly cracking the rotation, and is looking to contribute as soon as possible.
Derrick Rose, often compared to Nets point guard Devin Harris, is struggling in all aspects of the game these days. The 6'3 athletic point guard averages just 2.2 rebounds over his last five games, and is down in points, assists and shooting percentage as well. The second year guard is even up in turnovers - the stat he himself focussed on the most. Tonight Rose will match up against another athletic wing in Harris, and try to get his game back on track.
Luol Deng, ironically the Bulls' iron man for the season, will perhaps be the best card Chicago has to play for tonight. Deng has the ability comfortably outplay New Jersey's forward rotation on both ends, and will look to assert himself early.
Guard/forward John Salmons is slowly finding his game after a poor start to the year. Salmons is closing in on 40% shooting from the field, after being all the way down in the low 30's earlier in the season. Salmons has shot the ball at a 48.4% clip over his last five outings, including a 39.5% clip from behind the arc over his last ten.
Defensively, the Bulls will look to stop center Brook Lopez. The second year man is averaging 18.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and an impressive 82.4% at the free throw line. Lopez is a prime candidate to back up Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard at the All-Star game in Dallas in february, assuming New Jersey improves their record.
Lindsey Hunter, the oldest player in the NBA, holds a -2.9 PER and 11.6 minutes a game on the season. Hunter has connected on 15.4% of his shots, including 8.3% from behind the arc.