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News » Next stop for Bulls: defending champs

Next stop for Bulls: defending champs

Next stop for Bulls: defending champs The Bulls are off and running on the annual circus road trip, opening with a 101-87 victory at Sacramento on Tuesday night.

Next up on the travel itinerary are the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center tonight. During a Chicago radio appearance, Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressed mock sympathy for the Bulls ? road woes.

"They?ve already made their circus trip successful because this is one of the hardest things they?ve had to accomplish, to get out of the blocks and win a game here," Jackson said on WMVP?s "Waddle and Silvy Show" on Wednesday morning.

"We have the Grammy road trip, last year we had the Ice Skating International road trip. With Staples, you?ve got a lot of things that come into the building, so it?s a big issue here in L.A. One thing about the Grammys, it smells better than the circus."

Not only did the Bulls get some classic Jackson sarcasm, they also are likely to see Pau Gasol. The all-star power forward, who dropped 34 points on the Bulls last year in L.A., plans to make his season debut tonight. He hasn?t played since an Oct. 9 preseason game because of a hamstring injury.

"I don?t know about a definitely. I won?t jinx it," Gasol told reporters after Wednesday?s practice. "But everything felt great and I don?t find any reason why I shouldn?t be able to play tomorrow."

With Gasol back on the floor, this game will be an even greater test for the Bulls ? improved defense. So far

this season the Bulls have held eight of their 10 opponents below their season scoring average ? some by a wide margin.

But the challenges don?t get much more daunting in the NBA.

Kobe Bryant was supposed to be nursing a groin injury, but he produced his 100th career 40-point game in Tuesday?s win over Detroit. New addition Ron Artest is averaging 11.7 points, while center Andrew Bynum is at 20.3 points and 11.8 rebounds.

Asked what worries him about the Bulls , Bryant replied, "Their speed. They?re a very quick team, very athletic, long, rangy. We have to make sure we control the pace of the game."

The Bulls practiced Wednesday at USC?s gym. After hitting just 2 of 12 shots for 10 points against Sacramento, Derrick Rose promised reporters he won?t cut his hair until he starts flashing more of his rookie standard of play.

Rose is averaging 13.4 points and 5.5 rebounds. That?s not terrible, but it?s a step below what he accomplished last season.

"Rose gives them a little bit of a push; an attack kind of guard that sets an aggressive tone for them," Jackson said on WMVP. "They?re having some trouble scoring. That?s OK, as long as their defense can hold them in games, and that?s really their signature right now is their defense."

The Bulls scored 100 points for the first time all season against the Kings. John Salmons had 23 points in that one, Luol Deng added 16, and Joakim Noah (15 points, 14 rebounds) collected his fifth straight double-double.

"We know we have a tough schedule," Salmons said after beating his former team. "We know this was a game we had a chance to get. We wanted to come in and get the win to start the trip off right and try to steal some on the road."

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Added: November 21, 2009


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