The Season-Opener Has Arrived, Pistons Notes, LaVine Sounds Ready, and Other Bulls Bullets

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The Season-Opener Has Arrived, Pistons Notes, LaVine Sounds Ready, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Have you ever been hoisted into the air on a fluffy cloud away from all the world’s troubles and gross smells? Me neither, but I came pretty damn close last night!

The return of the NBA on Tuesday night was pure bliss. I couldn’t help but have a goofy smile on my face as I sunk into my couch and watched two perfectly picked marquee matchups open the season. To be sure, I’m leaps and bounds more excited to see the Chicago Bulls tip-off their campaign against the Detroit Pistons tonight, but excitement also comes with a bit of anxiety. So I’m actually rather pleased I got to pre-game tonight’s affair with a night of hoops where I had no dog in the race. Relaxing stuff.

Of course, it was also nice to watch the Bucks and Nets to get a better idea of who the Bulls will obliterate when the playoffs arrive. 

•   Starting the NBA’s 75th season with a Bulls-Pistons matchup just feels right. While both teams have fallen several stories since the heyday of this rivalry, both organizations have a new package of optimism sitting on the front porch. Chicago’s is quite a bit bigger after the historic roster overhaul that began at last season’s trade deadline, but the Pistons have one of the more hyped prospects of the past several seasons in Cade Cunningham ready to breakout. All things considered, I’m actually happy to know that is the case for Detroit. The sooner this central division matchup can go back to meaning something the better.

•   With all that said, even if Detroit’s No. 1 overall pick suited up tonight (Cunningham is recovering from an ankle injury), this would feel like Chicago’s game to lose. I hate to use “must-win” when addressing the “season-opener,” but considering the hype that has built up around the Bulls this offseason, I think it’s appropriate. The Pistons are still considered a rebuilding team, and the expectation is that they finish somewhere near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Chicago is trying to prove to everyone that they belong in the playoff mix. Doing that starts this week by taking care of the Pistons twice (tonight and Saturday).

•   The biggest concern for the Bulls will be Pistons’ top scorer Jerami Grant. In his two matchups against this team last season, he single-handedly kept the Pistons in the mix for much of the game. The battle between these two teams on February 17th, specifically, was rather epic. Grant scored a career-high 43 points on a 15-25 shooting to combat LaVine’s 37-point performance. Considering how many offensive weapons the Bulls have this season, we should see a more communal effort to counter Grant’s potential scoring, but he is still talented enough to give this group some fits if they start to lollygag.

•   One other name I’d keep an eye on is Kelly Olynyk. The versatile big man played some great basketball after he was traded to the Houston Rockets in the middle of last season. Not only does he have the ability to space the floor, but his aggressive 6’11” presence helped him score at roughly a 75 percent clip at the rim last season. The defensive-minded Isaiah Stewart will likely eat more minutes tonight, but it’s the potentially sneaky offensive efficiency of Olynyk off the bench that could be problematic for this undersized team (at least Tony Bradley is healthy now!).

•   It all comes down to the on-court production, but I love the mentality of this team so far. We talked about DeMar DeRozan’s veteran approach to the season recently, and I think it’s safe to say it is already rubbing off on Zach LaVine.

“You don’t want to put a cap on anything before you’ve even played a game. I’m not sitting here saying we want to be in the first round of the playoffs or we want to be … you go out there and have championship expectations; that’s what it is,” LaVine told Bulls dot com’s Sam Smith. “I haven’t made the playoffs; some of these guys haven’t made the playoffs. If you go out there are put a cap on yourself before you’ve even played, what are you doing? I think we’re practicing the way we see ourselves being; we want to be on that level to compete for championships.”

•   Sports Illustrated’s Chris Herring wrote up a great primer for tonight’s tip-off. The vibes around this team have drastically changed inside the city and around the country. Recommended reading!

•   So what will the Bulls rotation look like tonight? Will Donovan go with the same group of 10 we saw for much of the final preseason game? If so, does that mean Derrick Jones Jr. still has to prove he belongs? What about Alize Johnson? Also, we saw Donovan stagger his starters in mixed-and-matched duos at times, will we see him stick with a LaVine-Vooch and Lonzo-DeRozan pairing or try something new? Oh, and is Patrick Williams going to be given the green light for a full workload? I have a lot of questions, folks!

•   Chuck believes.

•   Good luck with that.

•   Pssh, Bulls’ will be better.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.