Not surprisingly, Phil Jackson's memories of the Bulls' annual extended November trip are more pleasant than what has happened since he left.
"We looked forward to it," the Lakers' coach said Tuesday night.
That's because his Bulls teams went 38-23 on the so-called "circus" trip as opposed to the unsightly 6-53 mark that the Bulls fell to since 1998 after Jackson's Lakers dropped a 116-109 loss on them.
Pau Gasol scored 18 of the Lakers' first 22 points and finished with 34, while Kobe Bryant tallied 21 points and six assists despite sitting for almost an entire quarter from late in the third to late in the fourth.
In his first NBA visit to Hollywood, Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 25 points and nine assists. Ben Gordon added 23 but shot just 6 for 22.
"We didn't have control of the game," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "They jumped on us and took control of the game. We had 21 turnovers. You can't do that against a team of this caliber."
Worse, the Bulls could be without Luol Deng's services Wednesday in Portland. Deng tweaked his left groin at the morning shootaround and played just 26 minutes after drawing the starting assignment on Bryant.
Afterward, he said he might have to be out for a bit.
The Bulls were in this game early despite Gasol abusing Joakim Noah, who drew two fouls in the first 3:39 and sat. Noah declined to comment afterward.
"This is a team that's relatively thin inside," Jackson said of the Bulls.
Bryant, who seemed content early to wreak havoc at the defensive end and set up his teammates offensively, didn't even score until the 8:18 mark of the second on a jumper over Larry Hughes. But that hoop kick-started a 21-4 run for a 57-40 Lakers lead.
By this point, Drew Gooden, who scored nine points in the first four minutes but didn't score again, also picked up two fouls including a flagrant. But the Bulls clawed back with Gordon scoring eight in a 14-4 run to make it 61-56 at halftime.
That's when Bryant became interested offensively. He scored seven quick points early in the third and later started toying with the Bulls. He leaked out for what could've been a breakaway dunk before inexplicably botching an alley-oop attempt to a trailing Trevor Ariza. But Bryant corralled the loose ball and dribbled out to the three-point line, sizing up a shot that swished through and brought a smile from Bryant.
"No one guards Kobe one-on-one," Del Negro said. "It's all trapping and double-teams. But no matter what you do, he's seen it all."
Rose hasn't, but carries the demeanor of someone who has. To hear him tell it, playing in front of Jack Nicholson courtside and against Bryant served as just another business trip.
Order some room service. Watch some movies. Hang with his brother and best friend, who travel to all his games. Visit his locally-based agent, Arn Tellem and Tellem's family. Lace them up. Compete.
It's this single-minded purpose and even-keeled demeanor that is drawing Rose attention around the league as much as his solid statistics.
"People from Chicago that stay in contact with me are hoping he's a (Chris) Paul, that he's going to be that kind of factor," Jackson said. "That's a big wish. But he's got potential."
Layups: Thabo Sefolosha has played just 7:50 in the last three games, including not leaving the bench against Dallas. "I don't understand all the time everything that is going on, but I try to do my job the best way I can," Sefolosha said without bitterness. "You have to stay ready." . . . Jackson is rooting for Bulls GM John Paxson. "John's one of my favorite players," Jackson said. "I hope they find success. It looked like they were recovering, they had a setback and then they got the first pick, another opportunity for the Bulls." . . . The Lakers held a moment of silence for Pete Newell, their former general manager and legendary basketball figure who died Monday at 93.
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