The Bulls-Lakers matchup is one of the opening day headliners.
The NBA regular season is right around the corner, finally, and when the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers meet in a marquee Christmas day matchup, they'll do so as the products of two very different offseasons.
The Bulls won more games in the regular season than anybody in the league last season and they begin 2011-12 with the comfort of knowing the core of that tight-knit team is intact and that star point guard Derrick Rose -- extension in hand -- is going to be leading the charge for a long time. They brought in Rip Hamilton, whom they believe can help the team on and off the court.
For the Lakers, the story is less about what they have done this offseason and more about what they've almost done. The team discussed deals for Orlando Magic forward Dwight Howard and New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, and indeed had a deal for Paul before the commissioner's office put a kibosh on the trade. That not only deprived Los Angeles of a franchise point guard, it created problems within the team, as players who were on the way out suddenly were staying put. Lamar Odom was in the initial deal for Paul, and when it fell apart, a disgruntled Odom wanted out. He was later shipped to Dallas.
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum also surfaced in trade talks, and though they've expressed some confusion over the potential deals involving themselves, they've said they'll keep playing hard for the Lakers as long as they're there.
That's a lot of turmoil for one lockout-shortened preseason, and to make matters worse, Kobe Bryant will start the year banged up. Bryant has a right wrist injury that's been bothering him, but he's been practicing and figures to be a go on Sunday.
It remains to be seen how seen how these developments affect this Lakers team, but the first glimpse comes on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. CT when they host a Chicago Bulls team primed for a deep playoff run.