By Argie Grigorakos
With the start of training camp quickly approaching for the 2014-2015 NBA season, rosters are being finalized and the anticipation of a very compelling campaign is growing. Schedule makers have a difficult task organizing a fluid schedule, as NBA teams share venues with other sports leagues, such as the National Hockey League. Even though obstacles may present themselves, the NBA must correlate with the NHL and other stadium showcases (e.g. Concerts) so conflict doesn’t present itself. Even though the situation may prove to be a difficult task, NBA officials do not lack the knack of picking certain days for key match ups. Usually, Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Day are reserved for key matchups, and must see events. Based on individual matchups, and star players finding themselves on new teams, the Chicago Bulls have a plethora of intriguing match ups at important times of the season. Listed below are the 10 most interesting , and exciting matchups to follow closely for the Chicago Bulls in the 2015 season:
Oct. 29 @ New York Knicks: The evening will present the official return of Derrick Rose. Yes by the date listed, he will have already accumulated several basketball minutes playing for the USA National team in Spain at the World Cup, and NBA Exhibition contests, but the start of the regular season makes it truly official as he once again steps into the role of team superstar at the “Mecca” of Basketball, Madison Square Garden. The Bulls will be facing a familiar face in Carmelo Anthony, a player that flirted with the idea of joining the Bulls months before. The Bulls will try their hardest to make a statement to the Syracuse alum in the battle, putting him on notice that he made a huge mistake.
Oct . 31 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Many exciting elements will present themselves this particular evening. Derrick Rose will make his home debut for the regular season, and he and his teammates will be hosting the new look Cavaliers that includes All-Stars LeBron James and Kevin Love. Many are picking the Cavs as the favorites in the East with the Chicago Bulls being their biggest challenge. The Bulls will play with great energy, and the enthusiasm in the building should be electric. This contest should be a hotly contested affair.
Nov. 21 @ Portland TrailBlazers: The return to the sight of Derrick Rose’s last knee injury a day before its one year anniversary. The Bulls have struggled in Portland, losing 10 of its last 12. It will be interesting to see how Derrick reacts to the building that hosted his last NBA game for the 2014 campaign. Will he be tentative or passive? Will he struggle? Plus the contest will match up a talented young point guard against Derrick, in Damian Lillard. Rose will have a lot on his plate this evening from a emotional perspective as well as a competitive standpoint. It should be a intriguing night.
Dec. 23 @ Washington Wizards: The Bulls will be facing off against the team that easily dismantled them in the 2014 NBA playoffs. The Bulls will be reloaded for this much anticipated re-match, as Derrick Rose will be matched up against John Wall. Also the presence of newly acquired Pau Gasol will join Joakim Noah in the frontcourt to battle Nene and Marcin Gortat. The bigs will definitely present an exciting match up, which will be must see TV for all viewers. This contest should definitely be different from the games of last spring.
Dec. 25 vs. LA Lakers: The Christmas day games are usually the most anticipated contests of the season as the NBA seeks to match up teams that have a storyline attached to them. The Bulls/Lakers contest will have Pau Gasol matched up against his former team, one that he won 2 NBA championships with. Carlos Boozer will make his return to Chicago where he faced constant harsh criticism. Carlos experienced very few ups, and many downs. How will the United Center crowd react to the Power forwards return? Many storylines will present themselves during this holiday match up. Also, Kobe Bryant the “Black Mamba” will be making his first return to Chicago after tearing his Achilles in 2013, and fans in the UC will have the opportunity to see an all-time great do what he loves doing once again, that is playing basketball.
Jan 25 vs. Miami Heat: The Bulls will be looking forward to facing a familiar face, Luol Deng. It will be the first time Loul Deng will be playing in the United Center wearing an opponent’s jersey, which should fill the arena with a loud buzz. Deng joined a bitter Eastern Conference rival for the Bulls, who went through some major changes to say the least. The Heat will look to bounce back after losing the “King” to the Cavs, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the challenge. The Heat are still a formidable challenger in the Conference, and it will be fascinating to see how Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh play as first and second options.
March 1 vs. LA Clippers: The afternoon will match up 2 anticipated championship contenders, which will provide a day of highly competitive basketball. There will be very compelling individual match ups in this contest at every level imaginable. Long time friends Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers square off from and X’s and O’s standpoint, and arguably the 2 best point guards in the game, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul go head to head. Derrick Rose has had the advantage in the individual match up with Paul, as the Chicagoan has gone 5-0 lifetime against the smaller clever point guard. Throw in the front court match up of Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah, and this showdown will definitely not disappoint. This battle will also be a great measuring stick for DRose, as the match up with Paul can possibly show if he is truly back to an elite form.
March 5th vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: The United Center will welcome the 2013-2014 leading scorer to the arena Kevin Durant, with Derrick Rose’s friend Russell Westbrook. Like Derrick Rose, Westbook tore his meniscus in his knee and seems to be back to his old form. 2 highly skilled and athletic point guards will go head to head, and it will be interesting to see the approach each takes in order for their respectful teams to pull out a win. Will Westbrook try to outdo Derrick to show he is the better player at the expense of the Thunder? Only time will tell. Pau Gasol will also be playing against a team that aggressively courted the 7″0″ tall Spaniard this summer. There will be 5 All-Stars on the floor this March evening, which will definitely provide an exciting night of NBA basketball. This match up may be a prelude to the 2015 NBA Finals.
March 8 @ San Antonio Spurs: Another measuring stick on the schedule, but this time for the whole team not an individual player. Matched up against the defending champs, the so called “Spurs of the East”, by several national media members, will be tested and patience and great discipline will be required. The Bulls bench will be matched up against a very formidable second unit, arguably the best in the Association, thus the Chicago reserves will need to bring their all to win the match up. There cannot be a lack of concentration this afternoon by the visiting team. Any NBA fan will be anxious to see a DRose and Tony Parker match up, quite possibly the 2 quickest players in the league. Also, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah will have his hands full with 5 time NBA champion Tim Duncan.
April 5 @ Cleveland Cavaliers: A full circle from the October 31st contest, the Cavs and Bulls will face off one last time before the playoffs begin. This time around the Cavs should have built great chemistry as a unit, and the face off may have home court advantage on the line for the up and coming playoffs, should they meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. The United Center will have a playoff atmosphere, and the game will be a great appetizer for what’s ahead 2 weeks later in the 2015 NBA playoffs.