Chicago Bulls at Miami Heat, tonight at 7 PM CT, TNT (Tickets)
According to some website I Googled (appspot.com), it has been exactly one year and six months since April 28, 2012.
Every Bulls fan probably has that date etched in their heads, of course it's the last day that Derrick Rose played a real basketball game for the Bulls.
He took a lot of crap for not coming back last season, including from me. Now he got lucky that Deng and Hinrich got hurt in the playoffs, the Bulls had no chance to beat the Heat without them, even if Rose came back.
How different would things be if Deng and Hinrich had been healthy and the Bulls would have won 2 or even 3 games against the Heat? We all saw how much better the Bulls were with Hinrich and Deng vs the Nets, that team almost certainly could have at least gotten another game vs the Heat, wouldn't you think?
Would an 85%* Rose in last season's playoffs be enough to push the Bulls past the Heat if they had gone 7 games without him?
*I'm assuming Rose was about 85% mentally, he was by all accounts 100% physically*
That's the question he'll never have to answer, and why he will, long-term, eventually walk away from ACLgate with it not really ever being mentioned. Really, all his absence did was allow Nate Robinson to become a folk hero to many Bulls fans for the two improbable wins he played a huge role in securing.
So Derrick gets to debut his new game tonight in Miami (TNT, 7 PM CT) as the NBA season kicks off tonight. The season actually starts at 6 CT as the Magic are in Indianapolis, but the whole NBA world is looking forward to the Main Event.
Tickets in the lower bowl can still be had for $236 about 5 hours before gametime, that's actually pretty reasonable for a season opener of this magnitude. Heat/Bulls is always big, but the ring ceremony and opening night (and of course Rose's return) make tonight's game much more huge than it really is (in the big picture).
This new-look Bulls lineup (the same 4 guys with Jimmy Butler) makes their official regular season debut together, as Joakim Noah says he is 100% to play tonight after missing all but one preseason game with a groin injury. Kirk Hinrich is also expected to play after missing the last few preseason games with a concussion and a shoulder injury.
Rookies Tony Snell and Erick Murphy make their NBA debuts, though neither is likely to play. He'll be the 5th big, and 4th big Nazr Mohammed shouldn't play but a few minutes (dependent on Noah's conditioning level). LeFlop James plays so much PF that the Bulls will certainly have Luol Deng playing some 4 tonight, so a 5th big will almost certainly not be needed. Though I'll add that Thibs might just throw him out there for 30 seconds or so at the end of a quarter just to get his NBA feet wet.
Snell has a better chance of actually playing- the more Deng (or even Mike Dunleavy) play at PF, the more Jimmy Butler plays SF, and the more Kirk Hinrich plays SG. If Kirk is in any way limited tonight, Snell might see minutes ahead of Marquis Teague (who could play a little PG with Rose sliding to SG for a few minutes). And there's the feet wet thing as well.
So buckle up folks, it starts for real tonight. This should be the most fun Bulls season since 1990 or 1991, depending on whether or not we get past the Heat in the playoffs and win a championship (1991), or if there's one more year of losing and learning (1990).