Bulls announce 2011-12 schedule, barring lockout

The NBA announced its league-wide schedule for the 2011-12 season on Tuesday. Of course, there's a good chance the schedule will have to be remade or erased entirely due to the severity of the lockout.

No one truly knows when basketball will be back to a city near you. But here goes anyways. (Again, this is all assuming the NBA season starts on time.)

The Bulls will open up their season with back-to-back road games -- at the Dallas Mavericks on November 1 and at the New Orleans on November 2. The Bulls/Mavericks showdown, the first of two games on TNT's doubleheader, will be on opening night in the NBA. Yes, Derrick Rose and company will watch the Mavs raise their championship banner, receive rings and celebrate before the game.

Hey, we know what happened the last time (2006-07 season) the Bulls went into another team's gym on their ring night -- a 42-point beatdown.

The Bulls will then head back to Chicago for their home opener -- and a rematch of the Eastern Conference semifinals -- scheduled on November 5 against the the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center.

After just six games of the season, the Bulls will embark on their annual circus trip -- a two-week (Nov. 13-26), eight-game road trip. And it's a tough one, at least in terms of travel: at Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bulls will face just three (of eight) playoff teams, however, the Clippers, Bucks and Wizards are expected to be better this season.

The second annual road trip of the season, due to the Ice Show, will be a seven-game trip from January 29 to February 12. Let's just say it's tougher than the first one: at Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics.

On the trip, the Bulls will face four (of seven) playoff teams -- with the Feb. 8 tilt being the second time the Bulls and reigning league MVP Derrick Rose get a look at rookie guard Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers' number one overall pick in the draft.

The heavyweight matchup will come Jan. 29 -- Bulls at Heat. Yes, it will take nearly three months into the season for us to see an Eastern Conference finals rematch, but it should be well worth the wait. The two teams will play again 10 days later in Miami before the Heat come to Chicago on March 14 and April 12.

As usual with the Bulls, the schedule eases up as the season goes on. The home-cooking months seem to be January and March, as the Bulls play 10 of 16 games at home in each month.

You can find the schedule, in its entirety, here.

Let's take a look at five other games of interest on the schedule:

Nov. 25 at Indiana Pacers: This will be the first matchup of the season between the two teams that locked horns in the first round of last season's playoffs. Although the Bulls came away with a five-game series victory, it was anything but easy. Aside from the Bulls' 27-point victory in the series-clinching Game 5, the Pacers played the Bulls very tough -- literally. There were plenty of hard fouls, and it took the Bulls until Game 5 to deliver their own blows. The Pacers could look a little different next season, as they have cap space and are among the teams interested in Hornets forward David West. With coach Frank Vogel back on the sidelines, there's no question Indiana will continue to be a very confident, even cocky, bunch. But the Bulls and their MVP will be ready.

Dec. 25 at Los Angeles Lakers: For the second consecutive season, the Bulls will play on Christmas Day, which is always an honor (just ask Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant). After drawing the New York Knicks on Christmas last season, the Bulls will face another marquee franchise next season in the L.A. Lakers. MVP Derrick Rose and company against former MVP, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant and company. Does it get any better than that on Christmas Day? Oh, wait, the Mavs/Heat Christmas Day showdown should be a good one, too.

Feb. 12 at Boston Celtics: Are the Celtics old and washed up? We'll see about that, however, Boston has long been a tough place for the Bulls to play. Luckily for the Bulls, two of three matchups with the Celtics next season are scheduled to be at home, where the Bulls went 36-5 in their 62-victory campaign last season.

Feb. 22 vs. Orlando Magic: Just like last season when Carmelo Anthony came to town, expect Magic center Dwight Howard to get a warm reception in what could very well be his final game at the United Center in a Magic uniform. I can already hear the Howard-to-the-Bulls hype that will surely take place when these two teams meet in Chicago next season, whenever that will be.

April 18 at New Jersey Nets: After winning 62 games last season, how many games will the Bulls win this season? Their season finale against the Nets should help tell you all you need to know about the 2011-12 Bulls, who will have to continue to take advantage of below .500 teams (37-7 last season). And the Nets, led by All-Star guard Deron Williams, shouldn't be a cakewalk next season, a critical year for the franchise as they try to persuade Williams to remain in New Jersey. It will be the second consecutive season the Bulls cap their season off versus the Nets. Let the games -- barring a lockout -- begin.

Number to look at: Counting NBA TV games, the Bulls will have 29 nationally televised (ABC, TNT, ESPN) games next season. One more than the Heat.

Filed under: Bulls Offseason

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