Wow, it's actually starting. I think it's the lack of seeing Rose in the preseason, but I'm not quite ready. I just hope Rose is though. We'll have no idea until the game's underway how injured/rusty he is, or how many minutes he'll play (VDN says more than 20-25).
And it's not exactly the caliber of opponent he can ease his way back against. Not only the Spurs as a total group, but Tony Parker in particular, who'll really test Rose's lateral quickness and whatever increased defensive discipline instilled by camp Vinny this year.
Because remember, this is the new defensive-minded Bulls we've been told about. Throughout camp it was either that talking point, or the one about everyone really getting along. I hope we see it all tonight, it'll have to be a tremendous defensive effort to stop this version of the Spurs, who not only have a healthy big 3 (it is the first week, after all), but also have that group supplemented on offense by Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess.
So I'll certainly be looking for a better defense (and defensive rebounding), but also specific improvements from the Bulls offense to make up for the loss of Gordon. Will Hinrich hit a high % of his 3-pointers? Can Salmons and Deng get to the line? Who's taking the end-of-quarter (and end-of-shotclock when magical ball movement fails) possessions over?
And of course, the excitement that starts every season: what we'll see from Noah and Thomas. Sadly even at this stage of their careers, we really don't know. Though I'd be shocked if Noah isn't beasting out of the gate, even against the Spurs frontcourt. I'll be less shocked if VDN tries any early monkeybusiness with the top-7 rotation, but here's hoping he doesn't.
And the frontcourt they'll be facing now features DeJuan Blair! It's not an issue of teams regretting passing Blair. They all will, it'll be who regrets it slightly less. The Bulls had two shots at him, but it'll also depend on how Taj looks - I'm guessing James Johnson won't be getting significant time for a while - to determine just how bad of a whiff it is. Let's just say nearly the entire chapter of the Basketball Prospectus on the Bulls described how bad of a whiff it was.
The Spurs are already off to a good start, steamrolling the Hornets last night. So they're on the second game of a back-to-back, but it wasn't an especially hard night at the office for them. The Bulls will need every break they can get, so hopefully that combined with an opening night crowd (including me! I'll be tweeting!) can help.
This season will not be an easy watch, but for similar reasons it'll always be interesting. The Bulls are in a fight for these playoff spots from the outset, so every win that can be stored away truly matters. Getting one tonight would be huge, though that liklihood makes it more practical to merely root for them to look like they're on track this season.
(Gamethread is starting at 7CST (new starttime for home games this year), and we'll try an overflow thread every 1.5 hours)