W2W4: Bulls Open 50th Season vs. Cleveland


It’s finally here: the start of the NBA season. Three games are set to take place on Tuesday night, including a playoff rematch between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. That being said, here’s a few things to watch for in Tuesday’s season opener.

Tuesday marks the day when games in the NBA actually begin to count. There wasn’t any other way than for the Chicago Bulls to begin their season than against the biggest thorn in their sides for the last five seasons.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to Chicago for the first of many potential meetings with the Bulls on Tuesday night. It may be just the first game of 82, but whenever the Bulls lock horns with a team that features LeBron James, it’s always must-see television. The Bulls have found regular season success against James, but in the last six years, a James-led team has knocked the Bulls out of the playoffs four different times.

Cleveland will be shorthanded on Tuesday night, as Kyrie Irving (knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (wrist surgery) will be inactive for the Cavaliers. James (sore back) was a question mark leading up to Tuesday’s game, but all signs point to the four-time MVP playing against the Bulls.

The Bulls will be missing Mike Dunleavy (back surgery), but Derrick Rose (orbital bone surgery) will be active and will start for the Bulls. Rose returned to the hardwood this past Friday for the first time since the facial surgery on Sept. 30 and showed some small glimpses of his former self.

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“I’m just glad to be back playing,” Rose said after Monday’s practice. As for how many Rose will play, there’s no restrictions, but the Bulls will remain cautious on how many minutes the former MVP will play. “We’ll be a little careful and play it by how he feels out there,” Hoiberg said.

Here’s a couple things to watch for on Tuesday night, as the Bulls look to avenge an embarrassing 21-point loss at home against Cleveland last May in Game 6.

How effective will Derrick Rose be in limited action?

Sure, it’s the first of 82 games for the Bulls, but these games are the type of games that the franchise focuses on. Even in just 10 minutes last Friday against Dallas, Rose looked like a guy on a mission to prove he is who he says he is.

There’s no telling how much Rose will play tonight, but the focus should be how effective he’ll be on the floor. Against Dallas, he made four of his six shot attempts and took only one three (at the end of a quarter). Rose looked quick and picked his spots to attack the basket. Against the 18th-ranked defense in the NBA last season, look for Rose to pick his spots to attack and keep the pace moving for the Bulls during his time on the floor.

When Rose is looking push the pace, the Bulls are a much more dangerous team offensively.

The King vs. (One of) The LeBron Stopper(s)

It’s not easy to keep LeBron James down, but not many have done it better than Jimmy Butler has in the past. James’ shooting percentages came nowhere near his overall numbers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, and that’s in large part to the defense of Jimmy Butler.

With James active for Tuesday’s game, Butler will be matched up with James for a majority of the game. James averaged an astonishing 26 points, 11 rebounds and a shade under nine rebounds in the playoffs last year against the Bulls, but he only shot 39.9 percent from the floor, including an abysmal 10.7 percent from long range.

If Butler can provide on both ends of the floor and get James off his game again, the Bulls will be in fantastic shape.

The new-look Bulls rotation

Starters: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol

With a new starting five for the Bulls, it’s going to be interesting to see how new Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg utilizes his rotation in the opener. He now has Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson paired together off the bench, while guys like Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis will be battling for minutes this season.

On Friday night in the preseason finale — and will Rose playing with a small minutes restriction — seven players played more than 20 minutes against Dallas. Cleveland is missing two key pieces to their rotation, so the amount of depth for both teams could come into play on Tuesday night.

The best part about this? There’s 81 more to go after this one. (And a few more chances to try and keep Tristan Thompson off the offensive window.)

Next: Derrick Rose will start for Bulls without minute restrictions

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