After initial stops in such worthy places as Indianapolis, Memphis and Brazil, the #TheReturn Express finally brings itself back home to Chicago, where tonight Derrick Rose played for the home fans at the United Center for the first time since tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs.
That moment — later photocopied and meme’d to death by jerks, Chicago Bulls haters and schadenfreude lovers alike — should be a polar opposite of what we see tonight, likely a relieved and excited UC crowd, filling the stands more-so than what’s typical for a preseason game and indeed seeing the Franchise back in action.
Some worrying bubbled up in the media recently due to Rose sitting out the Bulls’ game Saturday in Brazil in what seemed like a perfectly sober decision by the Bulls staff — they can’t help it that the NBA scheduled such a perfectly impractical preseason trip during this of all preseasons. The move itself looks like a good sign regarding how Rose will be treated going forward this season.
Speaking of going forward, lets take a look at the best set of Bulls home games this season, just in case you got shut out of tonight’s hot ticket. Inspired by Sidney Brown’s list of five Blackhawks home must-sees I’ve decided to drop 10 Bulls games for you, mostly because single-game tickets have been available and some of the more obvious picks here should be close to sold-out if not completely sold-out.
No worries, though, 41 games lie ahead and #TheReturn is back on schedule. Here are some of the more anticipated stops.
1) October 31st vs. New York Knicks — The home opener will be ten times what we see tonight, so it gets put on begrudgingly because I don’t really like this Knick team, not in the mid-90s “just let me get John Starks in a dark alley…” way but in the “Andrea Bargnani… really?” way. Still, the Knicks are a traditional rival and will be a team to watch all year due to everyone wanting to be able to properly diagnose how this year’s squad will fall apart.
2) November 16th vs. Indiana Pacers — Second of the four matchups with the Pacers, which may be the four most important games on the Bulls schedule, the second time in 10 days that these two teams meet early on — statements will be made.
3) December 5th vs. Miami Heat — The first test for the Bulls after the Circus Trip, the first time LeBron and D-Rose meet in Chicago since the Bulls beat Miami 96-86 on April 12, 2012, the first time Miami visits town since Nazr had to regulate on Bron and the Heat put the series away. The Association undercut the electricity of this game somewhat by scheduling Bulls-Heat on opening night but the UC crowd is going to show out for this one.
4) January 24th vs. Los Angeles Clippers — Up until last year the Lakers were still THE L.A. team to anticipate coming to Chicago but now all that attention has to go to the Clip Show, now featuring Maywood native Doc Rivers on the bench. It will be interesting to see just how far along this team will be under Doc’s leadership at this time. Regardless, save any crippling injuries, this will be a unique test for the Bulls’ depth and athleticism.
5) February 13th vs. Brooklyn Nets — Maybe the date with the most potential for ratchet shit talk and sneaky elbows and overall hurt feelings, especially with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the mix for the first visit for the BK to the CHI since saving itself in Game 6 of the first round last season.
6) February 21st vs. Denver Nuggets — Nate Robinson’s first game in Chicago since his glorious single season here, that’s all you need to know about it. I expect a 30 minute pre-game montage featuring all the times he made opponents mad in the name of the Bulls. We loved that dude.
7) February 26th vs. Golden State Warriors — Just a potentially fun matchup, that hopefully will be meaningful for both teams in the playoff chase at this point — this really should be a matchup between two of the best eight teams in the NBA. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Stephon Curry live at this point of his career and after his revelatory playoff run last year?
8) March 9th vs. Miami Heat — Folks will probably be saluting Biggie throughout the day but come nighttime it’ll be one of the biggest games of the season — will the inside track to home court be on the line? Will another impossibly long win streak be in the balance? Will D-Wade’s baby mama be protesting outside the UC? Stay tuned…
9) March 13th vs. Houston Rockets –Much like the Warriors game this will be a chance to see what should be an elite Western Conference team and one that will be playing for playoff positioning as well as a chance to make a statement against another strong team. This game is also towards the end of what is going to be a team-defining stretch of home games from 3/7 to 3/17, besides this and the Heat game there will also be visits from Memphis, San Antonio, Sacramento (don’t sleep — they whooped the Bulls in Sac-Town last year) and Oklahoma City.
10) March 24th vs. Indiana Pacers –The last regular season game versus Indiana and likely the last home game against a potential playoff team (Milwaukee and Detroit still have to visit, but ioono bout them). What could be interesting about this game is seeing how the two teams match up with each other at this point — who will play against each other individually?
Could we see Rose trying to challenge Paul George, or vice versa? Just how ramped up will these two teams be at this point and how much will they want to instill in the other team the fact that not only does the Central Division run through either Chicago or Indianapolis, but the entire Eastern Conference?
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and Kyle Means @Wrk_Wrt