It says a lot about Chicago’s upcoming NBA season that as many people know when the Bulls are going to open as know when the Blackhawks’ season will begin.
But you’re forgiven for having no clue that the Bulls on Wednesday at home against Sacramento will play the first game of a season that couldn’t be less relevant if the Bulls were also locked out.
The NBA season can be an exercise in futility for the best of teams without a chance to win it all. The Bulls without Derrick Rose will merely be exercising.
And until the day Rose returns from a knee injury, with apologies to Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls simply aren’t a factor.
Of course, this is heresy to the likes of Thibodeau, who will coach the players he has on the roster, and he will coach them harder than any coach in the NBA.
To him, Rose will be out of mind, if not out of sight, until the day Rose is cleared to play.
The Bulls will win a lot of games, too, just as they always do in the regular season, because Thibodeau will ensure that his team plays harder, and with better defense, than any team in the league.
They will grind and they will fight and they will defend. They will wear teams down and discover ways to win games they shouldn’t win. It’s a Thibodeau trait, and we would expect nothing less.
It’s just that it doesn’t matter until Rose returns and even then it probably doesn’t matter much, either.
While it may be hard to remember now, there was a time last spring when many around these parts thought the Bulls could win the NBA championship.
That wasn’t the opinion here, but we’ll never know what might have happened against the Heat had Rose not been injured in the final minutes of Game 1 against Philadelphia — when he probably shouldn’t have been on the floor.
Prior to that moment, the Bulls thought they could give Miami a run for its Eastern Conference money, having earned homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight year.
But the Bulls couldn’t beat the Heat in 2011, and they would have had a similarly difficult time in 2012.
If the Bulls were healthy today you could probably pencil them in for another bout with Miami, but even with Rose they are still not a team built to beat the Heat.
At the same time, Boston got a bit younger and deeper this summer as the Celtics look to make another run. Indiana and Philadelphia also think they can compete for one of the final two spots in the East, and Brooklyn will be entertaining though probably not ready to face the West.
Regardless, Miami improved with the addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and will again save something for the postseason, an approach Thibodeau is unwilling to consider even with a full roster and Derrick Rose at 100 percent.
When he makes his comeback, the good news is Rose won’t be exhausted for the first time in April, but the bad news is not even Rose knows for certain how much confidence he will have on a rebuilt ACL.
The Bulls won’t allow Rose to play until his knee is 100 percent and seriously tested, but it’s easy to forget that last season Rose played only 39 of 66 regular-season games as he suffered numerous injuries, including a turf toe, foot strain, ankle sprain, pulled groin and back spasms.
If he’s entirely healthy, there will still be a roster that has played without him for several months, and it will take some time for all of them to adjust.
Add it up and it looks like a misplaced season for the Bulls, a playoff season but not one in which it’s reasonable to believe they can reach the NBA Finals.
That is stunning when you remember where they were on April 28 in the minutes before Rose hurt his knee. They had taken apart Philly in Game 1 and looked to be on the same path as the season before when they met the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
That feels like a very long time ago now.
Nevertheless, it will be incredibly exciting and a huge Chicago event when Rose comes back.
He will give Bulls fans hope again for another postseason run.
There will be big talk of big things, the hype breathtaking and the noise ear-busting.
Wake me when it happens.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.