Pau Gasol will return to Staples Center on Thursday night, visiting the Lakers (12-34) with the Chicago Bulls (30-17).
Gasol, who won two titles with the Lakers, left for Chicago during the offseason as a free agent. As a Bull, Gasol will represent the Eastern Conference as an All-Star starter next month.
The Lakers just lost their All-Star, Kobe Bryant, for the season with a torn rotator cuff.
Jimmy Butler (illness) and Mike Dunleavy (ankle) are questionable for the Bulls. Nick Young (ankle) is out, as are Julius Randle (knee), Steve Nash (back) and Bryant, who are all done for the season.
Gasol pairs with Joakim Noah in one of the more talented front courts in the NBA.
Noah, when healthy, is one of the best defensive centers in the league -- capable of guarding power forwards. Gasol is the inside scorer of the two but is playing well on both sides this season -- blocking 2.2 shots a night (up from last year’s 1.5).
The Lakers will find it difficult to score against the Chicago pair, while Gasol’s 18.3 points a night will be a challenge for the Lakers defensively.
Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill will start for the Lakers, with Ed Davis, Carlos Boozer and Tarik Black as options off the bench.
Both Taj Gibson and rookie Nikola Mirotic are strong players for Chicago off the bench.
Derrick Rose is still up and down, as he works his way through a mostly healthy season after years of struggles (primarily knee related).
When he gets hot, Rose is still one of the top scorers in the world.
On the season, he’s averaging 18.6 points with 4.9 assists a game while shooting 41.6% from the field.
Rookie Jordan Clarkson will be tested once again, in what should be the fourth start of his career.
The Lakers also have Jeremy Lin, Ronnie Price, Wayne Ellington and possibly Wesley Johnson to throw at Rose defensively.
The Bulls are one the best teams in the East. The Lakers are one of the worst in the West.
Put the road team down for the win.