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Bulls to open 2022-23 season in Miami, host Cleveland for home-opener

It looks like the NBA once again is the Grinch Who Ruins the Christmas Games.

Last year, five of the 10 teams playing on Christmas Day, the NBA’s premier in season game celebration day, had sub-.500 records on Christmas Day. 

Hey, anyone know what channel "It's a Wonderful Life" is on?

Viewing at home was one of the surprise and most enjoyable-to-watch teams of the early season, the 19-10 Bulls who that day were in second place in the Eastern Conference.

So did the NBA blow it again Wednesday with the official release of the 2022-23 schedule that again omits the Bulls from the 10-team Christmas Day feature?

Inquiring and somewhat observant minds think so.

So once again perhaps that chip is getting boulder large on those Bulls’ shoulders with that much more motivation for the 2022-23 season.

Watch out Bucks and Celtics, and 76ers and Heat and...?

Yeah, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

The Christmas Day reveal of the usual suspects that include LeBron, Giannis, Steph, Luka, Nikola (the other one), CP3, Joel and Ja is one of the highlights of the NBA schedule which has the Bulls opening Oct. 19 on the road in Miami.

The Bulls then go to Washington before returning for their home opener Saturday Oct. 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s just the second time in the last 10 years the Bulls begin the season with at least consecutive road games.

The Bulls will open the season against the Miami Heat in South Florida on October 19.

With an opener against Eastern Conference regular season wins leader Miami, it’s potentially a more daunting start than last season when the Bulls won their first four games with a welcoming schedule that included two games with last place Detroit as well as the wing clipped Pelicans, then toothless Raptors and overhyped-as-usual Knicks. This season the Bulls play three in four nights to start the season and then get Eastern Conference champion Boston at home following Cleveland before a break with Indiana and San Antonio.

But once again, like last season, the Bulls face one of the most difficult closing stretches in the league.

The Bulls, whom most of the Las Vegas gambling services predict will be battling for a play-in spot with most over/under estimates at 43.5 wins over/under, close the regular season with seven of the last 12 on the road. The difficultly, however, particularly accrues because of the opponent. In those last 12 games, nine are against teams projected to win more games than the Bulls this season with a 76ers back to back, the Lakers and Clippers curiously three times in four days as well as the Bucks, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Hawks.

That series of games in four days against the Los Angeles teams is one of the peculiar oddities of the Bulls schedule. The Bulls close a short, three-game Western Conference trip with a Lakers/Clippers back to back March 26 and 27. The game on the 27th is a Monday night game. And then the Bulls host the Lakers in the United Center Wednesday March 29 in the middle of that rugged concluding stretch.

That kind of schedule might lead to some early season rotation tinkering.

Last season, Bulls coach Billy Donovan appropriately pushed the team early. It was a wise strategy for a team that hadn’t had a winning season in five years. The approach may have caught some opponents by surprise. But more importantly it likely provided a boost of confidence and momentum that propelled the Bulls to be among the East leaders through the All-Star break.

Though injuries were a factor, the Bulls slumped to close last season. So it’s possible Donovan could choose to go with a deeper playing rotation earlier in the season to help players endure later in the season and presumably into the playoffs.

Being a losing team since 2015-16, the Bulls were a rare sight on national TV and shut out again in the featured TNT games in 2021-22. This season, the Bulls get three TNT Thursday games, all in the second half of the season. One will be difficult for Bulls All-Stars, assuming they have some. That’s because the Bulls will be among the few games the last night before the All-Star break with Milwaukee in the United Center. The All-Star weekend festivities begin the next day, Feb. 17, in Salt Lake City. The Bulls then return from the All-Star break Friday Feb. 24 with an ESPN home game against Brooklyn and its mystery roster. That’s an unusual 9 p.m. local start. The Bulls play seven ESPN games in addition to the three on TNT.

This also is the season when the Bulls return to Paris, France, this time for a regular season game. You know Joakim Noah is going to be around somewhere. Too late to get Adam Mokoka on a two-way contact again?

The Bulls played a preseason game in Paris in 1997 as part of the old McDonald’s Championship, which was when the NBA began to step into the pool of international basketball tournaments. The first series was 1987 through 1991. Then after the 1992 Dream Team, the Open continued in alternating years from 1995 to 1999.

Holding off the threat of Olympiacos lead scorer Artūras Karnišovas with 19 points, the Bulls were able to hang on for a 26-point victory in 1997. Future failed Bull Dragan Tarlac had 14 points for Olympiacos. The NBA team won all nine McDonalds games.

This time it counts in the standings with the Pistons the “home” team Thursday January 19.

The Bulls start that week Sunday afternoon in the United Center against the Golden State Warriors. Then they leave for France, play Thursday and then play again at home the following Monday Jan. 23 against Atlanta in the first of a back to back with Tuesday in Indianapolis.

It’s yet another potential complication for roster planning  considering the recovery time from a game in Europe.

That trip also takes the Bulls out of the league’s other premier viewing attraction, Martin Luther King Jr Day, Monday January 16.

Like those clustered Los Angeles games in March, there’s another big city curiosity with the Knicks in Chicago for consecutive games Wednesday Dec. 14 and Friday Dec. 16. The Bulls then go on the road for four games leading up to Christmas with the last in New York. That makes it the entire season series of three games with the Knicks within 10 days in December. 

The Bulls have three of those unusual sets of consecutive games against the same team with Cleveland New Year’s Eve in the United Center and then in Cleveland on Jan. 2. And that Philadelphia series March 20 and 22 that begins the seven road games in the last 12. That pair follows a demanding back to back in the United Center against emerging Minnesota and Miami, adding to that grinding last month. It’s three in four nights to then begin that closing run with seven road games in 12 with a pair of back to backs. The Bulls play 15 back to back sets for the season.

The longest road trip of the season is six games around Thanksgiving beginning in Milwaukee and then five Western Conference teams, though with rebuilding Oklahoma City and Utah. And then to Phoenix and Golden State.

Some of the featured home games in the United Center are the champion Warriors Jan. 15, Miami and Jimmy Butler March 18, the Clippers with presumably-if-not-resting Kawhi Leonard and Paul George Jan. 31 and the Suns March 3.

Early in the season, the Bulls host the Celtics on Oct. 24, the 76ers on Oct. 29, Zion and the Pelicans on Nov. 9, MVP Nikola Jokić and Denver on Nov. 13, No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero’s Magic on Nov. 18, Boston again on Nov. 21, Luka Dončić and the Mavericks on Dec. 10, Milwaukee’s first game in the United Center on Dec. 28 and Brooklyn on Jan. 4.

The last regular season game is in the United Center April 9 against the Detroit Pistons.

And it all begins in about two months. Perhaps leading to a happier New Year?