Editor Ashley Wijangco gives her picks for the top Chicago Bulls games for 2016-17 season
The Bulls announced their schedule for the 2016-17 season Thursday, and with the amount of offseason news the Bulls were involved in this, there are plenty of notable games on their schedule. The additions of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade and the departures of Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, in particular, give Bulls fans plenty of games to look forward to the upcoming season.
There’s also the fact the Bulls missed the playoffs last season for the first time 2007-08 season. The Bulls had more than their fair share of games that they lost but should have won, and they’ll have a chance to redeem themselves against such teams.
Oct. 27: vs. Boston Celtics
Not only is this the Bulls’ home opener, but it will also be Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade’s debuts as Bulls. The game is also against Rondo’s first NBA team, so maybe it’ll help Rondo be even more motivated in his Bulls debut. It’s also worth noting the Bulls will have a nice challenge to open the season. They’ll be facing a young Celtics that is on the rise and now has a veteran leader in four-time All-Star Al Horford.
Nov. 4: vs. New York Knicks
As much as Rose was involved in trade rumors this offseason, his trade to New York still came as a shock. It gives Rose a fresh start after what turned into an injury-plagued time with his hometown team, and he’ll have a chance to set foot on the United Center court as a Knick for the first time early in the season. But Rose won’t be alone; his former Bulls teammate Joakim Noah will be alongside him, also returning to Chicago. Surely, Noah and Rose’s returns will excite the home crowd, but it’s likely the two former Bulls will be just as excited by the chance to defeat their former team.
Nov. 10: at Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade’s homecoming was one of the biggest headlines of the offseason, as many basketball fans, media and players couldn’t see Wade leaving the only NBA team he had ever known, the Miami Heat. But it happened, and Wade won’t have to wait too long once the NBA season starts to return to South Beach. He’s undoubtedly one of the Heat’s all-time best players, and surely the Heat fans will appreciate him being back, but maybe being back there will make Wade give the crowd a vintage performance.
Dec. 2: vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
There’s nothing like having to go up against the defending champions. The Bulls always look extra motivated to play whichever team LeBron James is on, and one could only expect to be even more motivated knowing he led his team to its first-ever championship — not to mention the fact the Bulls didn’t even get a chance at a title by missing the playoffs. While it may not be as exciting as the facing the defending champions, this game also marks the first time the Bulls will face Mike Dunleavy since he was traded to make cap space for Wade.
Dec. 6: at Detroit Pistons
Last season, the Pistons finished with a winning record and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season, and the Bulls helped them accomplish that. It started early on, in the Bulls’ third game of the 2015-16 season, when the Pistons defeated them for a 98-94 win. In the four games they played each other in last season, the Bulls won once. The series Chicago had with Detroit was just a prime example of how their season went: The Bulls failed to live up to their potential and the expectations placed upon them. If I can remember how the Bulls were dominated by the Pistons, then surely head coach Fred Hoiberg and all of the returnees can, too, and hopefully that motivates them into making sure that, this season, things go their way.
Dec. 13: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Chicago loved Tom Thibodeau. That much was obvious when Thibodeau returned to the United Center in late July for the U.S. Olympic team’s exhibition against Venezuela; when the P.A. announcer introduced Thibodeau, the crowd erupted into cheers, doing its best to show him appreciation. There’s a good chance the same thing will happen when he returns to the UC in December, but this time, he will be as head coach of the Timberwolves, the opposing team. It’ll be his first time in Chicago as head coach of an NBA team that isn’t the Bulls. And with the young talent he has in Minnesota, Thibodeau can surely leave Chicago fans wishing he was still theirs.
Dec. 25: at San Antonio Spurs
The NBA rarely schedules Christmas games that aren’t worth watching, and this one should be no exception. The Spurs may be without Tim Duncan, but they should still be great. Plus, the Bulls will go up against Pau Gasol, who signed with San Antonio in free agency after failing to win it all in Chicago. Let’s just hope this will be an instance in which the Bulls play up to their competition and not an instance where they let the Spurs walk all over them.
Feb. 8: at Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant is a Warrior now, giving Golden State its own Big Three. The NBA hasn’t seen such a Big Three since 2010 when Chris Bosh and James joined Wade in Miami, but the difference here is Golden State was already ridiculously dominant before Durant became a part of the equation. So even though the Cavaliers, as the defending champions, should be the team to beat, the Warriors are seen as such. The Bulls have held their own when visiting the Warriors in recent years, too. They gave them a scare last year but came away with the road win during the 2014-15 season.
Feb. 14: at Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have become a threat in the Eastern Conference, and last season, they had some tight matchups with the Bulls. Jimmy Butler, in particular, had a very memorable game in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre at the start of the year: After scoring just two points in the first half, Butler exploded for a 40-point second half, setting a franchise record that was previously held by Michael Jordan. Here’s to hoping Butler can find that kind of firepower when the Bulls visit Toronto this season.
The Bulls’ full schedule can be found on their official site.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.