Bulls

Ten games to mark down on Bulls 2016-17 schedule

Ten games to mark down on Bulls 2016-17 schedule

The Bulls had as busy an offseason as any team in the NBA, which means there will be plenty of headliner games on their 2016-17 schedule, which the league announced Thursday.

Here are ten that all fans should have circled on their calendars:

1. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah return to the United Center (Nov. 4)

For the first time in a decade the Bulls are without one of Joakim Noah or Derrick Rose. Arguably the two most crucial pieces to the Bulls' run in that span, Rose was dealt to New York less than a month before Noah signed with the hometown Knicks in free agency. Seeing both players competing inside the United Center in different uniforms for the first time - they've combined for 491 games in Chicago - will be a sight to see. And despite Rose's injury-prone career irking some fans, expect both players to receive standing ovations upon their introductions from PA announcer Tommy Edwards.

2. Hosting LeBron James and the champion Cavaliers (Dec. 2)

With the Cavs, LeBron James has played 35 regular-season games against the Bulls. But he's never faced them as a reigning NBA champion. Even with Kevin Durant joining the 73-win Warriors, the Cavaliers are the team to beat in the NBA until further notice. And they're certainly the team to beat in the East, as James has won the conference each of the last six seasons. The Bulls took two of four from the Cavaliers last season, and could gain a real confidence boost by doing so again. It will also mark the first meeting between Dwyane Wade and James, two close friends, since Wade joined the Bulls. It's always must-see TV when those two go up against each other.

3. Dwyane Wade returns to Miami playing for the opposition (Nov. 10)

Wade spent 13 years in Miami, playing a combined 524 regular-season and postseason games in South Beach. That will change this season, as he makes his return to Miami wearing a different uniform for the first time. As emotional a return as it will be for Wade, who is sure to receive a standing ovation, it could wind up being an important game for both teams battling for positioning in the Eastern Conference. 

4. Tom Thibodeau takes his Timberpups to Chicago (Dec. 13)

The former Bulls coach already returned to the United Center this summer as an assistant for USA Basketball. But when he brings with him the most talented group of young players in the NBA, expect some serious competition. With the previous two Rookies of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, as well as Zach LaVine, rookie Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves will prove to be a stiff test under the defensive-minded Thibodeau. Remember, too, that the Bulls were heavily interested in acquiring Dunn before this year's draft. Thibodeau and the T-Wolves took the Providence guard with the fifth pick.

5. KD, Steph, Draymond and Klay bring their superteam to the Windy City (March 2)

Like they did to most teams last season, the Warriors entered the United Center and stepped on the Bulls' throat from the opening tip in January. They led by 16 after the first quarter and cruised to a 31-point victory, extending their record to 39-4 on their way to 73 wins. All the Warriors did this offseason was add the game's best scorer in Kevin Durant, making Golden State's only trip to the Windy City must-see. 

6. Bulls open the season with new-look Celtics (Oct. 27)

The Bulls and Celtics were reportedly discussing a deal for Jimmy Butler on draft night, but nothing appeared close to getting done. Instead, the Celtics hung on to their core, drafted Cal's Jaylen Brown and wound up signing All-Star big man Al Horford in free agency. That's put them right in the thick of the Eastern Conference hunt, and it should create an electric atmosphere on Opening Night. It'll also pit two former Marquette teammates together in Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder. Free agent acquisition Rajon Rondo also spent the first nine years of his NBA career with the Celtics.

7. Bulls will play on Christmas Day for the 21st time in franchise history (Dec. 25)

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo this offseason made the Bulls a team to watch this season. And the NBA rewarded them by slotting them in for the late afternoon game on Christmas Day against the Spurs. It's the 21st time they've played on Christmas, sporting a 13-7 record that included an impressive road victory over the Thunder last season. It's the seventh straight season they've played on the holiday, and it will mark the Bulls' first matchup against Pau Gasol, who left for San Antonio in free agency this summer.

8. Pau Gasol and the Tim Duncan-less Spurs arrive (Dec. 8)

The Spurs will be ushering in a new era of basketball this season after Tim Duncan's retirement. It'll be the first time since 1996 the Bulls square off against a Duncan-less Spurs. But Gregg Popovich's team isn't necessarily getting that much younger. They grabbed Pau Gasol in free agency - two years after the Spaniard almost chose the Spurs over the Bulls. It'll be an emotional return for Gasol, who always spoke highly of Chicago and his time with the Bulls. It was simply time to move on after two seasons in Chicago. Still, he'll receive a nice ovation from the fans after he averaged 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games for the Bulls. He also made two All-Star appearances during his time with the Bulls.

9. Looking to keep the streak going against the Raptors (Jan. 7)

It has to be one of the oddest winning streaks in basketball, but the Bulls have reeled off nine straight victories - spanning three seasons - against the Raptors. That's the same Raptors team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and re-signed DeMar DeRozan to a max deal. They'll face each other four more times this year, and if they can win the season series again - another sweep seems unlikely - it could pay off significant dividends if they met in the postseason. This matchup will also pit Team USA members against each other, with DeRozan and Kyle Lowry representing the Raptors in Rio, and Jimmy Butler doing the same for the Bulls.

10. Anthony Davis comes to Chicago, plus a battle of rookie All-Americans (Jan. 14)

It's always a fun homecoming when Chicago native Anthony Davis returns. And this time he's bringing company. Not only will E'Twaun Moore be making his first appearance in Chicago since leaving the team in free agency. Oklahoma sensation Buddy Hield, who the Pelicans selected with the No. 6 pick in June's NBA Draft, will go toe-to-toe with former Michigan State sharpshooter Denzel Valentine. It will pit college basketball's two best players from last year against each other in what should be a high-scoring affair.

Here's a look at the Bulls' entire 2016-17 schedule. Click to enhance the image.

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

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USA TODAY

Bulls turn to Cam Payne as they take on Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -- The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.

Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.”

The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.

Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.

“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”

Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne.

He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.

“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”

After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.

“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”