The release of the NBA schedule is always exciting, because even though we know all of the opponents, it means we're that much closer to the start of a new season. And of course, there's usually some interesting quirks in there as well.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 games on the Bulls' schedule for 2013-14 in chronological order with all times in CT. Also, no repeat opponents.
I mean, this one really goes without saying. After seemingly an eternity, Derrick Rose FINALLY makes his return to NBA games that actually matter. And it couldn't come on a much bigger regular season stage: Ring Night for the Heat. The Bulls are sure to be motivated watching the Heat celebrate their back-to-back championships, and we can only hope for a repeat of what happened the last time the Bulls were in Miami for a Ring Night. If you somehow don't remember, the Bulls thrashed the Heat 108-66 back in 2006, and Chicago would later go on to sweep Miami in the opening round of the playoffs.
Knicks at Bulls, Oct. 31, 7 p.m.
The Bulls' home opener is another high profile matchup, this one coming against the Knicks on Halloween. The Bulls owned the Knicks last season, sweeping New York 4-0 despite not having Rose. Luol Deng was awesome throughout the year against the Knicks, averaging 25.0 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 52.1 percent overall and 50.0 percent from three-point range. For the Knicks, we get an early look at the Andrea Bargnani experience, and there's also the chance that J.R. Smith won't be available due to knee surgery.
Bulls at Nuggets, Nov. 21, 9:30 p.m.
The Bulls tip off their annual Circus Trip in Denver against the Nuggets. The Nuggets likely won't be as good as last season, having lost Andre Iguodala while also dealing with Danilo Gallinari's ACL injury. But this game still will have quite a bit of juice, as not only is it the beginning of the Circus Trip, it's also the first time we'll see Nate Robinson in another uniform after his scintillating one-year run in Chicago.
Bulls at Cavaliers, Nov. 30, 6:30 p.m.
The Bulls end the Circus Trip with a game against the Cavs. On the surface, this is just a ho-hum Central Division game against a team the Bulls have dominated since LeBron James left Cleveland. But it's not just another ho-hum game. It should hopefully mark the first time ever that Rose and Kyrie Irving square off. Irving has been in the NBA for two years, but between his own injuries and Rose's ACL injury, the two have never faced each other. And I know many Bulls fans are chomping at the bit to see Rose put Irving in his place.
I'm grouping these two together because they're back-to-back roadies against two of the top teams in the Western Conference. First up, the Bulls get their first look at the James Harden/Dwight Howard tandem, a duo that should theoretically tear up the NBA. There's also the Omer Asik factor, although he could still possibly be dealt. The next night, the Bulls face the second-best player in the league in Kevin Durant along with his trusty sidekick, Russell Westbrook. Durant's simply a joy to watch almost no matter what, and the Rose/Westbrook battle is simply breathtaking in terms of athleticism.
Bulls at Nets, Dec. 25, 11 a.m.
A Christmas Day game against the new-look Nets will certainly give me plenty of reason to not spend time with the family and just watch basketball instead. The trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce made the Nets quite formidable, but I believe the steal of Andrei Kirilenko made them a legitimate threat. While I still think the Bulls are the better squad, the Nets will be a force to be reckoned with. They certainly shouldn't be a team that loses in the first round to an undermanned opponent.
Lakers at Bulls, Jan. 20, 7 p.m.
Yeah, the Lakers are probably not going to be any good this year, but playing them on Martin Luther King Day is still pretty cool. And based on what happened last year, we can expect a monster performance from Kirk Hinrich! Plus, Lakers schadenfreude.
Clippers at Bulls, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of Lob City make their one and only trip to the United Center in a game that should feature plenty of highlights. The last time Rose faced Paul, the Bulls' star torched him to the tune of 29 points and 16 assists in Los Angeles. The Clippers have some new faces on their roster, with J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley now key parts of their rotation.
Pacers at Bulls, March 24, 7 p.m.
This will be the fourth and final matchup between the Bulls and Pacers on the year, and it could potentially have major ramifications in both the Central Division and Eastern Conference. Many think the Pacers have passed the Bulls in the East hierarchy, however, I still think Chicago has the upper hand given a healthy Rose. Perhaps a rejuvenated Danny Granger changes that, but I'll believe that when I see it.
Some other schedule notes:
- The Bulls will be on national TV 33 times. That includes 10 games on ESPN, nine games on TNT, five games on ABC and nine games on NBA TV.
- The Bulls have 17 back-to-backs.
- Following that brutal homestand, the schedule lightens up a bit over the final month of the season. There are two games against the Pacers in there and also one in New York, but there are some cookies as well, including a pair against the 76ers and games to finish the year against the Magic and Bobcats.