Bulls

The top five must-see games on the Bulls 2015-16 schedule

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The top five must-see games on the Bulls 2015-16 schedule

The NBA season is an 82-game grind, so one game usually doesn’t hold much more weight than the other. However, the energy for a few games will be higher than your ordinary Tuesday-night-in-February matchups due to rivalries or the novelty of seeing a player for perhaps the final time (Kobe Bryant).

That said, here are the top five must-see games on the Bulls’ just-released schedule for the 2015-16 season:

1. Oct. 27: Opening night vs. Cavaliers at the United Center. It won’t be revenge considering the Cavaliers took the second-round matchup in six games, but the Bulls could send an opening-night message to the Eastern Conference champs in Fred Hoiberg’s debut as coach in front of what should be a mad crowd on Madison. LeBron James and the Cavaliers won the last three games of their series after falling behind 2-1 in May, including two games at the United Center. It won’t necessarily signal if the Bulls are serious about contending in the East, not so early, but it will be an emotionally charged evening in the NBA’s season-opener.

2. Dec. 25: Christmas Day vs. Thunder in OKC. Both teams changed coaches in the hope of winning a championship, and Kevin Durant could be on a season-long revenge tour after missing most of last year due to a foot injury. If he’s fully healed and both squads are relatively healthy, it’ll be a star-studded Christmas Day game in Oklahoma City, where many eyes start to shift away from football and to hoops.

[MORE BULLS: Rose skips USA minicamp; Westbrook praises Rose's workouts]

3. Nov. 20: Bulls visit defending champs vs. Warriors in Oakland. Being one of the few teams to beat the 2014-15 champs on their home floor last season, the Bulls will travel early on to the Bay Area to see if the Warriors are on track for a repeat or if they’ll suffer from a championship hangover. Derrick Rose had one of his season highlights in their Jan. 27 matchup, an overtime win for the Bulls. Who knows if another classic finish will be in store this time around.

4. Feb. 21: Kobe Bryant’s last Chicago visit vs. Lakers. Assuming Bryant isn’t on the injured list, as has become custom for the league’s living legend in recent years, this trip could hold special meaning for both sides. Bryant followed in Michael Jordan’s footsteps and even flirted with coming to Chicago while demanding a trade from the Lakers in 2007. The Kobe Bryant retirement tour could be on full blast by that time, right after the All-Star break. A knowledgeable Chicago fan base should show its appreciation for perhaps the second-best shooting guard of all-time.

5. April 3: Playoff rematch vs. Bucks. The Bucks gave the Bulls way more than they could handle in their first-round matchup, where the Bucks clawed back from a 3-0 deficit to give the Bulls a serious scare. The Bulls wised up in Game 6 in Milwaukee, but it took a little steam out before Round 2 — while giving the young Bucks a belief headed into the offseason that they can compete with the experienced bunch. They’ve added Greg Monroe from Detroit, and Chicago native Jabari Parker should be healthy for Year 2. Could this be the next burgeoning rivalry?

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

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AP

Seven years ago today LeBron James slammed the Bulls' championship window shut

The Bulls couldn't have known it at the time, but when LeBron James blocked a Derrick Rose 3-point attempt in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, it was the closest those Bulls would ever get to the promised land.

It happened on May 26, 2011, seven long, long, long years ago today.

The game was an ugly one and certainly a fourth quarter the Bulls would love to have back. They took a 12-point lead on a Ronnie Brewer 3-pointer with 3:53 remaining. The Heat closed the game on a 19-4 run, with James' emphatic block on Rose the lasting image of the series.

James finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds, and added six assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes.

Rose went just 9-for-29, finishing the series shooting 35 percent from the field after being named league MVP over James.

It's probably unfair to say James and James alone shut the Bulls' championship window. Rose's ACL tear the following postseason realistically was the biggest culprit. But these Bulls had won 62 games, had homecourt advantage, had the MVP, the Coach of the Year and all the momentum. And still they couldn't get it done against James.

That win also sent James to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007. He's been there every year since, though that could change as he faces the Celtics on Sunday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.