The Bulls' schedule is big news if you're starved for basketball like I know I am. Only 75 more days until the season is officially underway, but who's counting? Anyway, for most fans, their eyes shoot directly to two specific dates: Opening Night and Christmas Day. Of course, there are 80 other games, so before we get to the undercard let's set our sights on the main event.
Oct. 27 vs. Cleveland at the United Center
The NBA season kicks off with Bulls-Cavs at 7 p.m. CT on TNT. Would it have been nice to get a cupcake like the Knicks and obliterate them? Of course. Blowing out the Knicks is never not fun, remember the season opener last season? But beyond the competitive aspect, getting Bulls-Cavs is definitely the game people want to see. Last season, Bulls-Cavs on Oct. 31 drew a 3.1 over night rating, which is the third-highest rated regular season game ever on ESPN.
Personally, there's no team I'd rather start with than Cleveland. Although LeBron James' rivalry with the Bulls started while he was a member of the Miami Heat, whatever team LeBron is on is a rival to the Bulls. LeBron's been to five straight NBA Finals. LeBron's knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs in three of those years. LeBron's the gatekeeper to Eastern Conference supremacy. Bottom line: LeBron isn't going anywhere and the Bulls can't expect to go around him.
For some, the bad taste of last season's Game 6 defeat at the hands of Cleveland might still be lingering. And that's totally reasonable, I know I'm still not over that loss. But the good news is that the slate for the 2015-16 Bulls looks pretty clean. Tom Thibodeau is out, Fred Hoiberg is in. I know I speak for many when I say that I've been eagerly anticipating Hoiberg's debut.
Dec. 25 vs. Oklahoma City at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Hey, what if I told you the last time Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose went head-to-head was Dec. 6, 2010? How does that make you feel? You don't need to answer that. All I know is that -- barring injury, of course -- watching Rose, Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler run and jump and make baskets and the like on Christmas Day will be splendid. The one downer is that the game is reportedly set to be an afternoon game (1:30 pm CT). So, um, bet the under, if you're into that sort of thing.
The Best of the Rest
- I'm all in on Bulls-Warriors Nov. 20 at Oracle Area. The Bulls, as you might remember, picked up an improbable victory in the Bay last season. That game, to put it eloquently, made zero fucking sense. The Warriors weren't on their game but it wasn't like the Bulls were on theirs, either. Derrick Rose had a points-turnovers double-double and missed 20 shots for Christ's sake. Things got weird. I highly doubt anything will top what we witnessed last season, but I'll settle for at least another Rose game-winner.
- Bulls-Clippers on Dec. 10 at the United Center. For whatever reason, it feels like there's always a December game that comes a couple weeks after the circus road trip versus a Western Conference power which serves as a great barometer for the Bulls. This feels like that game. It's one of those it's-too-early-to-really-matter-but-it-kinda-does-matter games.
- Bulls-Bucks on Jan. 12 at the BMO Bradley Center. Bulls games in Milwaukee have such a distinct characteristic to them, very college-like. And depending on who you ask, the crowd is generally pro-Bulls. Milwaukee is improving, though. Keep in mind its young star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is suspended for the first game of the 2015-16 season for hip-checking Mike Dunleavy during Milwaukee's Game 6 defeat to Chicago in the playoffs. This has the potential to be a fun little rivalry, and one can only hope that two of Simeon High School's finest finally get the chance to square off in the NBA.
- Bulls-Heat on April 7 at American Airways Arena. Miami's one of those teams that is far too dependent on health to reasonably be considered a threat, but this game could definitely sneak up on us. If -- big if -- Miami is healthy, they'll be right there in the East. It's a game that's late in the season, so maybe we'll see one or both of these teams jockeying for playoff seeding. Plus, it's Miami. Beating Miami is as satisfying as it is beating the Knicks, except it takes actual effort to beat Miami.
Other Tidbits and Information
- The Bulls only have one four-games-in-five nights set (thank heavens) and 17 back-to-backs (not bad). Hilariously, one of the back-to-backs in late March is a home-away set with the Knicks. You'll notice the NBA is making a concerted effort to minimize the rigors of the 82-game schedule, which is seriously awesome.
NBA 2016: Pelicans play 28 games more rested than their opps, most overall. Celtics have 15 games with more rest. pic.twitter.com/QXrjtNsbLI— Ed Küpfer (@EdKupfer) August 12, 2015
- Fret not, friends. The notorious, horror-filled circus road trip in November is but a mere four-game stretch with no back-to-backs, spanning 10 days total. This screams too good to be true. Maybe so, but I can't complain. For now.
- The longest road trip of the season spans seven games, six of which are against Western Conference opponents. It comes in late January and bleeds into early February. The good news, however, is that the Bulls start the road trip playing the Lakers and then the Clippers at Staples Center, so minimal travel there. From there, they get Utah (a likable sleeper), Sacramento (?), Denver (tank mode) and Minnesota (too young, years away from being good). So, not the worst road trip ever, I suppose.
- The NBA was kind enough to allow the 76ers participation for another season. So even if things go catastrophically wrong, you can chalk up at least four wins right there.
- As of now, the Bulls are tentatively scheduled for 23 nationally televised games, fifth most in the league.
I think that pretty much covers the meat and potatoes. But for good measure, we'll slap a poll on this bad boy and allow for you to partake in the most sacred and serious of sporting traditions: predictions!