The Bulls seem to be losing touch with the Los Angeles Lakers.
They haven't won a game against the two-time defending champs since Dec. 19, 2006, which means Luol Deng is the only player on the current roster who has beaten the Lakers in a Bulls uniform. Since that victory, the Bulls have lost seven straight to the Lakers.
The Lakers kick off a six-game Eastern Conference road trip on Friday at the United Center, the last meeting between the teams this season.
"When a team like the Lakers comes into town, every team brings its 'A' game," said Bulls guard Ronnie Brewer, who knows all about playing the Lakers from his days in Utah. "There's an atmosphere about it that makes you enjoy the game of basketball. I think our team is excited about it."
It's been more than 12 years since Lakers coach Phil Jackson coached the Bulls. He's talked about this being his final year of coaching, but has changed his mind before.
"Every year, he always says he's going to retire. For some reason, he always comes back," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I think it's a smart thing, to try and get his contract (right). He's smart with that kind of stuff
"I always had a lot of respect for Phil Jackson. So being able to play against that team is always special."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was an NBA assistant coach for 20 years, but has never had a conversation with Jackson other than just saying hello.
Of course, Jackson has always had low turnover on his coaching staff. Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons started with Jackson in Chicago and are still with him. So Thibodeau never had a chance for a job interview or anything like that.
"You see it in other sports, particularly football," Thibodeau said. "When a team wins, usually the assistants move on. The way he runs his team, it's hard to argue with the success he had."
These teams met on Nov. 23 at the Staples Center, with the Lakers winning 98-91. The Bulls were in the game until the Lakers (16-6) unleashed a barrage of 3-point shots midway through the fourth quarter.
After beating the Bulls, though, the Lakers dropped their next four games. They lost on the road at Utah, Memphis and Houston, along with a home game to Indiana.
Now the Lakers have won three in a row, but needed a driving bank shot by Derek Fisher, released a split second before the final buzzer, to beat the Clippers 87-86 on Wednesday night. The win technically snapped a three-game road losing streak for the Lakers, even though they were in their own building.
There has been talk of center Pau Gasol wearing down under strain of heavy minutes. In his last eight games, which includes the first matchup against the Bulls, Gasol averaged 14.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in 40.9 minutes per game, while shooting 41.4 percent from the field.
Overall this season, Gasol is averaging 20.2 points, 11.7 boards and shooting 52.7 percent. The Lakers are hoping center Andrew Bynum will make his season debut next week after recovering from a knee injury.
"We're on a winning streak (three straight). We want to keep rolling," Deng said. "It will be a good game for us. We know they're one of the best teams, if not the best. We want to be at our best when we play them."
Bulls game day
Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers at the United Center, 7 p.m. Friday
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WMVP 1000-AM
Update: The Bulls have dropped seven straight to the Lakers, including a 98-91 loss at Staples Center on Nov. 23. Derrick Rose scored 30 points in that one, but the Lakers pulled away midway through the fourth quarter with a flurry of 3-pointers from Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. Through Wednesday's action, Kobe Bryant ranked second in the league at 26.6 points per game. The Lakers (16-6) have lost the last three games played outside their home arena.
Next: Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday at the United Center, 7 p.m.