Debating Lakers-Bulls (in a joyful holiday mood of course)

Finally, a chance to insert a Nick Van Exel picture into a post!

Vlade Van Exel: Full disclosure, I have been a Laker fan since I was 8. The starting five when I began watching them was Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Cedric Ceballos, Elden Campbell and Vlade Divac. As you can probably tell, I had to be a true fan of the team to endure those uninspiring years.

The Lakers’ current team is much better than that mid-90s team was, but it does have its flaws. Lamar Odom’s incredible versatility will be missed. The point guard situation is still abysmal. There is no legit backup shooting guard. Kobe and Pau aren’t getting any younger. And it remains to be seen how the team will adjust to Mike Brown’s system.

That being said, I still think the Lakers will emerge victorious over the Bulls on Christmas Day. Here to debate with me is ToniPippen, a staunch Bulls supporter if you couldn’t tell already. Toni, give me the lowdown on the Bulls and why they supposedly have a chance.

Toni Pippen: My disclosure: I grew up in “the era” when Michael Jordan & Co. took six championships, beginning with a 4-1 championship series thumping over Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers in 1991. However, I also stood by the Bulls when we from MJ to Brent Barry as our shooting guard. I’ve watched the team’s gradual ascendance with John Paxson (who hit the game-winning shot over the Phoenix Suns in the ’93 championship series) as general manager with an exceptionally strong defensive team built around Derrick Rose.

Derrick Rose's new wingman

Some have said that Rip Hamilton is not “the answer” at shooting guard, and the comparisons to MJ are unfortunate. We should be careful when defining success for Hamilton. This is Rose’s team, but he needs scoring help from someone who can hit shots, particularly at key moments at the end of games. Hamilton gives them that.

Bottom line: the Chicago Bulls are ascending and the Lakers are quite obviously descending.  Kobe’s latest injury doesn’t help a story-line that showcases numerous distractions for the Lakers including but not limited to: a new coach, Metta World Peace, no Lamar Odom and an estranged Pau Gasol – whose current relationship with the Lakers was fully explained by Vlade already.

Vlade Van Exel: All fine and good, TP, but naturally, I don’t agree with any of your points. No chance the Bulls are winning today and here are a few reasons why. Some of them are basketball related, some aren’t. Read ’em and weep.

1. Kobe’s good for 40. The Black Mamba thrives on people telling him he can’t do something. It’s his psychotic competitiveness. So when he hears people saying he is going to be distracted by the whole divorce thing, that he’s getting too old, that he can’t do it without a good point guard, that his wrist is going to hold him back, that he was only No. 19 in Yahoo’s preseason fantasy rankings, all he does is soak it in and use it as motivation. And wait to strike. Might be trouble for Rip Hamilton.

2. Kobe locks down Derrick Rose. Bold prediction, but I think Bryant defends Rose for a good portion of the game today in a similar fashion to how he defends the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo. Just like Rondo, Rose is a sub-par shooter who thrives on getting into the basket and either finishing himself or kicking to teammates for open jumpers. Derek Fisher isn’t so good at guarding those types. Bryant, who is an excellent defender when he tries, has the size and strength to limit Rose’s forays into the paint. And just like the Celtics’ Ray Allen, Chicago’s Rip Hamilton is an undersized shooting guard that runs around screens to spot up for open jumpers. Fisher is good at defending those types. Look for these defensive assignments to have a big impact on the game.

3. Josh McRoberts will posterize at least three Bulls. Can’t wait to see this guy in action and get extended minutes filling in for Andrew Bynum, who starts serving his five game suspension today. He is a lefty with nice size, a high motor and mad hops. See below.

4. Rip Hamilton won’t be able to see out of his facemask. At some point that thing has got to hinder his vision right? And negatively affect his shooting percentage? I think today is the day.

Seriously, Jo, maybe get a haircut or something?

5. Joakim Noah is ugly. Ugly people just don’t do well in Los Angeles. They either have to get five plastic surgeries to correct the problem or get out. Noah doesn’t have time for a trip to the doctor at this point, so I’m thinking a terrible game is in store.

ToniPippen: Vlade: These points are interesting; they’re also erroneous and categorically false.  Here’s why:

  1. Kobe’s good for maybe 30 if he jacks up thirty shots.  I remember the Black Mamba’s performance against Rip Hamilton when Kobe didn’t have the disadvantages you’ve already listed – think back to Lakers vs. Pistons in 2004.  It wasn’t pretty.  The Bulls are the best defensive team in the league.  I’m not going to say Kobe is going to get shut down, but this nostalgia of him taking over games is just that: the past.  Last year, Kobe had several opportunities to take more shots than he did but he passed that up.  I see Kobe’s season resembling last year’s, not the championship years.
  2. Derek Fisher is the slowest point guard in the NBA.  I know it’s a harsh thing to say about a good character guy in this league, but it’s the cold, hard truth.  Unless he’s matched up against Jason Kidd, this weakness gets more exposure than a Lindsey Lohan cover page.  The Lakers match-up problems at point guard will be more exposed than ever considering there’s a new Clipper in town.
  3. With no Lamar Odom and a suspended Andrew Bynum, the Lakers are looking light up front against a deep Chicago front court.  And no, Josh McRoberts cannot fill the void of either Odom or Bynum.  The only posterizing involving “high motor” Josh McRoberts features a confused, big, white man looking up at 2010 MVP Derrick Rose dunking on him.
  4. Rip Hamilton embraces his face mask.  When he puts that thing on, he’s ready to go to work.  Honestly – can you imagine Hamilton playing without a mask? If slow-man Fisher has to guard Hamilton (assuming Kobe guards Derrick Rose), the masked man is going to have a very, merry Christmas.
  5. Rumor has it the Lakers tried to move this game back in the schedule, but David Stern vetoed it, creating all sorts of drama and distraction for the Lakers.  (Okay this isn’t true, but tell me that Stern’s veto of the deal for Chris Paul is still not on the minds of Los Angelenos?)
  6. Like the Chicago Bulls, Santa Claus wears red and white.  ‘Tis the season.