Bulls draw short straw on 2010-11 NBA schedule


Aug 10

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Well, I was excited about the beginning of the Bulls 2010-11 season. Until, at least, I saw the full schedule released by the NBA Tuesday.

Yes, yes, I know. Everyone has to play 82 games, though not Shaq, for sure. And everyone plays the same amount at home and on the road.

But this schedule will get you to be more scared of clowns than ever.

The opening, traditional “circus trip” is a bear. It opens with the so called Texas Triangle of Houston, San Antonio and Dallas in four days, and then Lakers/Suns and Nuggets/Kings (the latter the only non playoff team on the seven-game trip) in back to backs, four overall in five nights.

And once again the Bulls are getting a brutal schedule of back-to-back games with 23 for the season, far more than all the top contenders. The Lakers, seemingly being set up for a three peat, have just 15 sets of back to backs while Boston and Miami have just under 20 each.

So take a look at that first Western Conference trip: Three in four nights in Texas and then four in five nights in California, Arizona and Colorado. And those are some big, square states out there that take some time to traverse.

I know every team likes to complain about its schedule, at least to set the bar a bit lower. But I can’t recall seeing many like this one for the Bulls.

They are on the road for both Thanksgiving (an off day in the four in five nights) in Denver, and on Christmas Day in New York as part of the big Christmas Day game bonanza.

Happy Holidays! Who did they upset?

Of course, I guess that’s better than a few years back when the only holiday the NBA scheduled the Bulls for was Jack Haley’s birthday.

The Bulls always have had a difficult opening stretch, and the schedule does ease up some in December.

But the Bulls open the season on the road Oct. 27 in raucous Oklahoma City, where the Lakers struggled to win in the playoffs, and with nine of their first 15 on the road including 10 against playoff teams from last season.

And they aren’t patsies. The Bulls first eight road games are in Oklahoma City, Boston, Houston (Brad Miller’s revenge? Though he’s rarely in shape in November.), San Antonio, Dallas, the Lakers, Phoenix (the return of Hakim Warrick?) and Denver.

It won’t ruin the season, but, especially with a new roster being put together with a new coaching staff you’d like to get off to a good start to, at least, limit the scrutiny and get a good feeling about the season. The White Sox, for instance, showed this season you cannot count teams out in the first few months.

After opening in Oklahoma City, the Bulls open at home Oct. 30 against the Pistons and newly signed Tracy McGrady, who should fit right in with Ben Gordon and a roster filled with guards. Hasn’t Detroit suffered enough?

The Bulls do play six of their first eight at home, so they have a chance to get a cushion before the beginning of the Western Conference road trip. That home stretch ends Saturday Nov. 13 with Kirk Hinrich’s first return to Chicago. So far the networks don’t seem quite as excited as they do about LeBron’s return. Though Kirk may do some mean trash talking to change that. Perhaps even change his name to Doce (12) or Kurt. The game also will feature No. 1 overall pick John Wall.

Wall has been compared with Derrick Rose and it will be something of a coming out season for Rose as he begins to get in the conversation with the top players in the game. So he will be watched in games against Kevin Durant, the opener, and then at the end of the November trip against last year’s point guard sensation, Tyreke Evans.

What’s also unusual about that November Western trip is in recent years the Bulls have usually come home around Thanksgiving for a few days and then gone out on the road to play an Eastern team. This time they will be out for 13 straight days.

And it’s not like it’s easy after that as they host Orlando Dec. 1 in the first home game back. Perhaps someone will finally at least refuse to hug Dwight Howard because of his assaults on Derrick Rose last season. They then go to Boston and return home to play Houston, Oklahoma City and the Lakers with a trip to Cleveland stuck in there a few days after LeBron James’ first return to Cleveland Dec. 2. Vinny Del Negro returns with the Clippers Dec. 18. No word on any banner retirement ceremony yet.

The Bulls don’t see James and the Heat until Jan. 15 at home and have just three games with Miami this season, again at home Feb. 24 and in Miami March 6, a likely Sunday national TV game.

January will be the time for the Bulls to make a run if they can this season. They have 11 of their 16 games at home. Seven of those games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season, and there are two against the Cavs, who are not expected to this season without James.

One of those games against non playoff teams, but a tough one, is in Memphis, where the Bulls play in the Martin Luther King Day game. It is one of the great days in the NBA to be in Memphis then. I’ve been there for that game and been to the King museum and it’s humbling experience and honor for the Bulls to play in that game.

The February “Ice Capades” trip is somewhat easier with just five Western Conference games, including the Clippers and Warriors. But there’s an entertaining Eastern Conference road trip in March that could decide positioning against the Bucks, Wizards, Hawks, Magic and closing in Miami.

So the message is to be patient. Though we know no one is going to be.

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