Can the Lakers handle the Bulls?

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Can the Lakers handle the Bulls?

The start of the NBA regular season is finally just hours away with the Bulls playing the Lakers in Los Angeles Christmas day. The Lakers though, may not be as ready as they hoped.

They're a team coming off a poor season, losing four games to Dallas last May and taken out of the Western Conference semifinals. Have things changed? Will they be true competitors Sunday? They're a year older that's for sure but are they wiser?

What's definitely changed is the coaching situation. Phil Jackson lost his last four games as the Lakers' coach and has been replaced by Mike Brown. Things didn't fare so well after the lockout when they had a deal in place to get Chris Paul. The NBA wouldn't approve the trade and the Magic took away their hopes of acquiring Dwight Howard. Can the guys catch a break?

Distractions have filled the air with Kobe Bryant that could have an affect on the court. Bryant's wife filed for divorce and he sustained a torn ligament in his right wrist, with both possibly clouding his mind and becoming a recipe for disaster. But will it?

Bryant missed the Lakers' final preseason game Wednesday but practiced Friday and is expected to play Sunday. Will we see the same performance as last season, or even worse with all of his off the court issues? Let's hope so.

Bryant, 33, averaged 25.3 points per game last season, his lowest total since 2003-'04.

Let's not forget that Andrew Bynum's four-game suspension could also put a damper on things when it comes to stopping Derrick Rose. Rose isn't really the unstoppable type anyway.

I'm not too worried about the Bulls. They're coming off a season with the best record in the NBA and the core of their team is healthy and intact.

The Bulls are shooting 45. 1 percent from the field with the Lakers at 42.9 while the Bulls also have a rebounding advantage of 44.5 to 40.8. May seem like minor differences but with a distracted Bryant, could this be costly to L.A.?

What do you expect Sunday? Who will come out on top?

Bulls Talk Podcast: March is Nikola Mirotic's month

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: March is Nikola Mirotic's month

On the newest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Vincent Goodwill talk big Bulls win over the Bucks. 

The panel breaks down Nikola Mirotic's huge performance on Sunday and history of putting together a hot March. 

Later, Kendall tells how Magic Johnson motivated James Worthy and Vincent becomes the "Love Doctor." 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: Bulls explode offensively to beat Bucks; Blackhawks battle Lightning tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from a busy Sunday: 

Tonight on CSN: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning

Nikola Mirotic, Bulls show some moxie in road win over Bucks

Today on CSN: White Sox battle Dodgers in spring training game

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson's foot could keep him out until late May

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Nick Delmonico takes advantage of fresh start with White Sox

Cubs expect Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell to be ready for Opening Night

Owners to consider on and off field changes this week during NFL meetings