Now, like most Chicago Bulls fans, I envisioned the season opener against the Miami Heat a little bit differently than what reality shoveled on us by the sound of the final buzzer. After being thoroughly embarrassed by LeBron James and the Heat, the Bulls will look to remind the home crowd at the United Center just why this is a team that many believe will get their revenge on the Heat come May.
In the New York Knicks, they are about to take on one of the NBA‘s biggest questions marks entering the 2013-14 season. Although impressive for stretches against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, they managed to blow a 25-point lead before a late run allowed them to seal the victory at Madison Square Garden.
The Bulls enter their home opener at the United Center against the Knicks with recent history clearly favoring them as they managed to take all four contests between the two teams last season, culminating in a thrilling 118-111 overtime home victory on April 11. With the return of Derrick Rose to a lineup that already handed the Knicks and the various kitchen sinks, house appliances and long-range barrages they could throw at opponents last season, they will look to bounce back and scratch on the first of what hopefully will be many victories this season.
For the Bulls, the return of Rose on Tuesday night ended in anti-dramatic fashion as the star point guard scored only 12 points while struggling with his jump shot, showcased by his inefficient 4-of-15 from the field. That said, the team enters tonight’s contest with some positive takeaways from their less-than-stellar season opener versus the Heat.
For one, Carlos Boozer, a player many have regarded as a defensive weak link and potential amnesty candidate for the better part of two years, showed the kind of post presence and production that was expected of him after signing his five-year, $75 million contract in the summer of 2010. With concerns arising about the depth of the roster, these type of performances like the one Boozer provided on Tuesday night will be key in spreading the scoring responsibility and establishing a clear hierarchy on offense.
As well, with the attention that Jimmy Butler had been receiving in recent times along with the added pressure that comes with some praise, all eyes were on the third-year player out of Marquette on Tuesday night and he didn’t disappoint. With his 20-point performance against one of the tougher perimeter defenses in the NBA, Butler showcased the talents on both sides of the court that have Bulls fans so optimistic about this team going forward into the future.
As for the Knicks, a 90-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks saw a few key storylines begin for what should be an interesting season. With free agency talk rampant in the Big Apple surrounding their star forward Carmelo Anthony, a 19-point and 10-rebound performance was one of the leading causes for the win and, for at least one night, quieted the rumor mill. Although statements regarding potentially recruiting free agents to New York in the coming summers have been made by Anthony, it is clear that the status of his future with the team hovers over the city like a dark, ominous cloud that just can’t seem to decide whether to shower the city with rain. Outside of Anthony, great performances by Iman Shumpert (16 points), Tyson Chandler (10 points, five blocks) and Raymond Felton (18 points) gave the home town crowd something to spark prospective successes on for the team’s short term future.
Meanwhile, the two newest Knicks, Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani, will look to win over the Knicks fan base against the Bulls after virtually invisible performances in their season opener. Facing a tough opponent who plays a tough and physical style such as the Bulls are exactly the kinds of games that the Knicks envisioned they’d need World Peace most in, and tonight, they’ll have a chance to see just what they have in the veteran on that kind of stage.
With bad blood and highly-competitive contests in recent times for these storied franchises, the Bulls will look to ride the energy that always oozes from its fans at the United Center, while the Knicks look to make a statement against a fellow Eastern Conference contender on the road and remind many they too should be squarely in the NBA title conversation.