NBA also excited about return of Bulls’ Rose


Aug 6

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The NBA Tuesday unveiled its 2013-14 schedule, and most of the featured dates and games during the season involve the Bulls and Derrick Rose.

The season opens October 29 with the traditional ring ceremony for the champions, the Miami Heat. The Bulls will be the opponent in one of the three opening night games with the Magic playing the Pacers and the Lakers hosting the Clippers.

The NBA’s big regular season day is Christmas Day, December 25. The Bulls will begin the day in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. CT followed by the Thunder at the Knicks, the Heat at the Lakers, the Rockets at the Spurs and the Clippers at the Warriors.

Derrick Rose shoots jumpers at the United Center

Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls will tip off the 2013-14 season in Miami on Oct. 29 against the NBA Champion Miami Heat.

Plus, once the NBA goes to its Sunday ABC national TV schedule January 26, the Bulls will be featured on five of the eight Sundays with games against the Lakers, Heat, Knicks, and then the Heat and Knicks again, the latter in the final ABC Sunday national game of the regular season April 13.

It seems the NBA is expecting big things of the Bulls, and likely so are the Bulls and Rose.

Every team complains about its schedule at some point. But the Bulls’ schedule for 2013-14 seems reasonably benign as these things go.

Sure, as usual, there is a difficult start for the Bulls with 10 of the first 15 games on the road because of the traditional Western Conference trip in November. And while that is for six games over 10 days, only four are in the Western Conference. Those are four in five nights, a challenging stretch. But two are against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season.

Actually, that four in five nights is probably the toughest stretch of back to back games all season.

The Bulls this season have just 17 sets of back-to-back games, an unusually low total for them. And after the Dec. 10 through 14 stretch of four in five nights, which involves two against the Bucks and one against Toronto, the Bulls don’t have a four in five nights the rest of the season. The Bulls also have a rare home and home back to back with Boston March 30 and 31.

Although there will be caution with Rose’s return after not playing for about 18 months, the Bulls under coach Tom Thibodeau generally are well prepared for the start of a season.

If the Bulls could get off to a reasonably good start, they could begin to ride momentum as in their final 11 games of the season they play just one game against a team considered sure to make the playoffs, the Knicks.

The Bulls will play four games against the defending champion Heat with the first United Center game Dec. 5, a TNT national late starting game. Because of the Bulls’ obvious appeal to the TV networks, they have six local late starts, at 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.

One of those late games is another featured December game, December 18 in Houston, where Dwight Howard went as a free agent.

The Bulls will see the Rockets in Chicago March 13. That game is in the midst of perhaps the most compelling and entertaining stretch of games of the season, all at home, as the Bulls face over 11 days the Grizzlies, Heat, Spurs, Rockets and Thunder. Figure perhaps a Finals or conference finals preview in there somewhere. There’s also one game with the Kings.

But possibly the Bulls most competitive matchups of the season will be in the division against the Pacers, another title contender.

The Bulls are in Indiana the first week, November 6 and then host the Pacers 10 days later, November 16, at the United Center. The Central Division foes then don’t meet again until March 21 in Indiana and March 24 at the United Center with the division title and significant playoff seeding likely on the line then.

The highlight of the November road trip will be a Sunday afternoon game against the Clippers on the 24th with new coach Doc Rivers as the Clippers will be one of the top Western Contenders. The Bulls see probably their toughest back to back of the season when they face the Rockets and Thunder, whom many view as the West’s top two teams, Dec. 18 and 19, both on the road.

The other difficult back-to-back, though not on the level of the December games, is March 2 at home against the Knicks in a Sunday afternoon national TV game and then Monday night in Brooklyn.

As for holidays, the Bulls also will play at home New Year’s Eve, as they often do, 6 p.m. against Toronto, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 20, at home against the Lakers at 7 p.m.

The longest trip will be the February Western Conference road trip, January 29 beginning in San Antonio with six games over 12 days, though three of the teams weren’t in the playoffs last season. The Bulls conclude Sunday noon on national TV against the Lakers following two off days.

The Bulls will also face Miami, as lately is often the case, right after the All-Star break in Miami February 23 and then a final game back in the United Center noon Sunday, March 9 on national TV. That will be the second straight noon Sunday game as the Bulls host the Knicks March 2.

In addition to that late April Knicks game, the Bulls also see the Knicks in the first home game of the season, October 31 in Rose’s first game in the United Center since his knee injury in the playoffs last year. And then the Bulls are in Madison Square Garden December 11 for a late local start.

That Rose United Center re-debut is part of a competitive opening stretch playing the Heat, Knicks, 76ers and Pacers with three of those four on the road. It will be, as usual, a difficult start to the season. But if the Bulls can endure into December, they could be on track for a strong season.

Here’s a look at the top 10 games of the season:

1. October 29 in Miami: Derrick Rose’s first NBA game since his serious knee injury April 28, 2012. It is Miami’s ring ceremony with commissioner David Stern hosting the festivities for the final time in his last year as commissioner. It’s generally a long pregame presentation, though the bigger national story likely will be waiting for Rose.

2. October 31 in Chicago against the Knicks: It’s Halloween, but the Bulls don’t want any frights as Rose makes his first playing return to the United Center since his horrific injury. And as Tommy Edwards belts out, “And now, from Chicago…”

3. November 6 in Indiana: Not likely to be one of the more celebrated national games. But it will be a big early test for both teams as they jockey for who can overtake Miami. Being an early season game, the Pacers will want to make a statement in their arena. It figures to set the stage for a tough, physical rivalry all season and into the playoffs.

4. March 9 in Chicago against the Heat: The final meeting of the season between the two teams, a Sunday national TV early start game. Last season’s late March game between the teams was a classic as the Bulls broke Miami’s 27-game winning streak. There should be many questions by this point of whether the Heat is capable of another title run and the LeBron James free agency which will hang over them all season.

5. March 24 in Chicago against the Pacers: Perhaps the last big so called statement game of the season as the Bulls play their final game against Indiana. Only a game against the Knicks will be left on the schedule against supposedly certain playoff teams. There still will be seeding and positioning, so the teams aren’t about to be resting quite yet. This one could be vital for that home court edge in the playoffs.

6. December 18 in Houston and December 19 in Oklahoma City: The first look at the new Rockets with Dwight Howard, and who knows if they’ll have dealt Omer Asik by then? The Bulls last season were overwhelmed by the running Rockets with Asik. But will they play that way with Howard? Houston’s play will be one of the big story lines of the season. The Bulls after the late start in Houston then travel north to see the somewhat forgotten about Thunder, whose trade of James Harden to Houston set the Rockets on the way to being a contender. It’s a big season for the Thunder after a short playoffs with Russell Westbrook’s injury. The Bulls won’t see a tougher 24 hours all season.

7. January 20 in Chicago against the Lakers: The Lakers with Kobe Bryant always are a big story as this also is the Martin Luther King Day game. Bryant should be well recovered from his Achilles injury by this time. But the question will be all season whether this is Bryant’s last season as a Laker. The Lakers do not figure to be a contender with the loss of Howard. And with the contracts of Bryant and Pau Gasol expiring and LeBron James a free agent there will be much speculation about the Lakers moving on without Bryant.

8. December 25 in Brooklyn: The Bulls have the Christmas Day tipoff game against the new look Nets with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Presumably, this won’t be too early for the elderly duo to wake up. It is the first of just three games with the Nets this season as they come to Chicago just once, February 13 in the last game before the All-Star game, February 16 in New Orleans.

9. December 5 in Chicago against Miami: Of course, every game against the defending two time champion Heat is an event. But there also will be curiosity about whether Greg Oden can play. The one time heralded next great center is trying a comeback in Miami on a minimum salary. The Heat has said he won’t have to play early, but perhaps a month into the season he’ll be ready to go some and worth a look at whether the Heat pulled off a coup or an Eddy Curry redux.

10. November 11 in Chicago against the Cavs: Not that a lot is expected, but it will be interesting to see whether Andrew Bynum can play. And if he can along with Anderson Varejao and point guard Kyrie Irving, the Cavs have a chance to be a surprise team of the season. Plus, they have No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett.

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