Here's an overview of what's in store for the Bulls during the coming months of the 2012-13 NBA season regular season:
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The Bulls have been one of the NBA's best draws for years. Did the league return the favor by trying to ease up on the early-season schedule while Derrick Rose is out? It sure looks that way.
A 4-0 start seems conceivable, with Sacramento, Cleveland, New Orleans and Orlando on the opening slate. The Bulls play six of their first seven at home and the annual circus road trip is more of a fun fair compared to most years -- just five games long, one playoff opponent and the last stop is Milwaukee.
There are some mild highlights to the December schedule. The month opens with a playoff rematch against Philadelphia. The Bulls see Central Division rival Indiana twice and host Omer Asik's return to Chicago with the Houston Rockets on Christmas night. That will be the Bulls first Dec. 25 home game since the Michael Jordan era.
The first meeting against the defending champion Heat will happen in Miami on Jan. 4. No national TV, though, since Rose is not expected back by then. The new-look Lakers visit the United Center for a late-night (8:30 tipoff) Martin Luther King Day contest on TNT. Meanwhile, Kyle Korver returns with Atlanta Jan. 14.
The Bulls' first visit to Brooklyn is on Feb. 1. When the all-star break arrives, the Rose watch figures to be cranked up to full volume. Will the former MVP return in time to play against Miami on Feb. 21 at the United Center? TNT must think so, since the game is a national broadcast. The Bulls first game after the all-star break is at New Orleans two days earlier.
All right, league officials definitely expect Rose back by Mar. 10, because they sent the Bulls to L.A. to face the Lakers for a Sunday afternoon ABC broadcast. The Big Ten Tournament is back at the United Center for the first time in a while, so the Bulls get a rare late-season West Coast trip, which also stops in Sacramento and Golden State. Miami is back at the UC on Mar. 27.
The Bulls will play six of their last 10 on the road, which is unusual. But New York (home) and Miami (road) are the only April opponents that made the playoffs last year. The regular season ends against Washington at the UC on Apr. 17.