Personally, I think the NBA would have done better to schedule the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat for the season opener. Not only because an Eastern Conference Finals rematch would have been a great way to start the new season, but also because the Chicago Bulls are at a severe disadvantage with it being Derrick Rose‘s first game back. Not to mention the fact that it’ll be against one of the league’s most imposing defenses on the road. “Welcome back to the NBA, Derrick Rose! Your first game back will not only be a road game, but it will be an incredibly hyped road game in Miami against the defending champions and the greatest player in all of basketball! Sound good?”
The NBA usually has pretty great prime time matchups. As much as I think Rose’s return could have been even more anticipated had it come in front of a jam-packed United Center in Chicago, however, Heat v Bulls is still a fantastic season opener. It’s a rivalry game featuring two teams that don’t like each other. LeBron James, the greatest player in basketball, versus Derrick Rose, who many see as LeBron’s foil in the East. It’s a battle between two gritty, skilled defenses with a ton of buzz, resentment and anticipation surrounding it.
Here’s the thing, though. In the age that we live in, every entertaining sports game we watch quickly becomes THE GREATEST THING TO GRACE OUR TV SCREENS, EVER on Twitter. Passionate sports fans make the NBA what it is, but it’s not the pre-game hype that concerns me; it’s what comes afterward. Because if you think about it, this game is going to be blown out of proportion either way.
If the Miami Heat win, people will immediately question the Chicago Bulls and where they belong in the East. You can already see the questions on the tip of the tongue: “Is anything different about the Chicago Bulls? Can they really compete with Miami in a seven-game series? Is Derrick Rose really back?” You know it’s going to happen, despite the fact that it’s Rose’s first game back in more than a year and even though it’s the first game of an 82-game season.
On the other hand, if Chicago somehow comes into Miami and the Heat have a championship hangover, Derrick Rose’s return will similarly be blown out of proportion. Rose will be heralded as the second coming of Michael Jordan, the Bulls will immediately be elevated to championship contender status and people will forget that the Heat still have the best player in all of basketball. Entertaining as he is, Derrick Rose is not that player.
I’m honestly not sure which scenario is worse for the Bulls. If Chicago drops their first game against Miami, Rose’s return will be seen as somewhat of a disappointment since basketball fans have been anticipating it for more than a year. And although he hasn’t played a regular season game in over a year, Rose has looked fantastic in the NBA preseason, so a loss would still be a disappointment. Obviously for the Bulls, coming into Miami and watching Rose excel in a rivalry victory would thrill Chicago fans to no end. But it’s important to remember that as awesome as it would be to watch LeBron and Rose trade blows in the season opener, we really just want everyone to be healthy when the postseason rolls around.
With that in mind, this isn’t a must-win game for the Chicago Bulls, despite the fact that it certainly seems like one with all the hype and anticipation. It’s not a must-win for either team, to be honest. Even if the Heat lose in Rose’s debut, wouldn’t that be the kind of wake-up call they need to shift gears and reassert their status as title favorites?
Both fan bases and every NBA fan fully realizes the significance of this game. It’s a chance for both teams to make a statement, it’s another chapter in this ongoing rivalry and it’s Rose’s opportunity to silence the critics who condemned him for waiting so long. No matter the outcome, if it’s a close game, it’ll remind us all of why we love the NBA so much. But it’s a long season. So no matter who wins this rivalry matchup, both teams are still going to be in great shape come playoff time and the first game of the season should still be taken at face value. Enjoy the game, everyone. Just don’t read into it too much.