2013 Chicago Bulls schedule: Derrick Rose's return makes early games paramount

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls are hoping to bring another championship to Chicago; their superstar needs to play like an MVP again for that to happen.

The Chicago Bulls' 2013 narrative will center largely around former MVP Derrick Rose's return from his knee injury. The Bulls made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals last year without Rose, but essentially the same team had the best record in the Eastern Conference two years in a row with Rose in the lineup.

Rose will have to mesh with a few new teammates, including Mike Dunleavy, and get comfortable on his surgically repaired ACL. Joakim Noah had a breakout season last year, but one of the best two-way big men in the league should have no problem meshing with his old running mate again.

Rose gets thrown right into the fire as the season begins, but every game for the first month or so will be must-see TV as we watch him play NBA games for the first time since April 2012.

Five Games to Watch

Oct. 29 at Miami -- The league-wide opener is always a must-watch regardless of the teams playing, but watching LeBron James and the Miami Heat get their rings and the banner in the rafters makes Derrick Rose's first regular season action that much more tantalizing. All eyes will be on Rose's knee, and sports talk radio will be pretty much insufferable no matter the result, unless the game's an instant classic.

Dec. 11 at New York -- By this point, if everything goes according to plan, Rose will be fully healthy and will have shaken off the rust. That will set up perfectly for a big-time matchup in Madison Square Garden. Something special always seems to happen when big stars play at MSG with a lot to prove.

Jan. 24 vs. Clippers -- Chris Paul and the Clippers make their only trip to the United center of the season, and if Rose comes back 100 percent from injury, it will be a matchup of the two best point guards in the league.

March 21 and 24 vs. Indiana -- The Central Division appears to be a two-horse race, and the Bulls and Pacers play twice in four days in the home stretch of the season. Health permitting, these games will have massive implications for playoff positioning. The teams match up extraordinarily well -- they're both hard-nosed defensive squads anchored by stud centers in Noah and Roy Hibbert -- and the games will have playoff-level intensity.

Tough tests

March 2 to March 17 is one of the most difficult stretches for the Bulls. Sure, seven of the nine games are at home but seven teams of the nine teams during the stretch -- New York, Brooklyn, Memphis, Miami, San Antonio, Houston and Oklahoma City -- are playoff teams from last year. They also travel to Detroit during that stretch to play the upstart Pistons who, after signing Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the offseason, look like another playoff team.

Easiest stretches

The first three weeks of 2014 look like Chicago's easiest stretch. They play five teams -- Boston, Phoenix, Charlotte, Orlando, and Philadelphia -- who are already looking toward the 2014 Draft. The other four teams--Atlanta, Washington, Milwaukee and the Lakers--aren't exactly the toughest of tests. The Bulls could legitimately win their first 10 games of 2014.

Important schedule facts

Back-to-backs: 14

Season opener: Oct. 29 at Miami

Longest road trip: Six games (Nov. 21 - Nov. 30)

Longest homestand: Six games (March 7 - March 17)

2013-14 schedule

OCTOBER
@ Miami Tuesday, October 29 2013 8:00 PM EDT coverage
New York Thursday, October 31 2013 8:00 PM EDT coverage
NOVEMBER
@ Philadelphia Saturday, November 02 2013 7:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Indiana Wednesday, November 06 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Utah Friday, November 08 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Cleveland Monday, November 11 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Toronto Friday, November 15 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Indiana Saturday, November 16 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Charlotte Monday, November 18 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Denver Thursday, November 21 2013 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Portland Friday, November 22 2013 10:00 PM EST coverage
@ Los Angeles Clippers Sunday, November 24 2013 3:30 PM EST coverage
@ Utah Monday, November 25 2013 9:00 PM EST coverage
@ Detroit Wednesday, November 27 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Cleveland Saturday, November 30 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
DECEMBER
New Orleans Monday, December 02 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Miami Thursday, December 05 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
Detroit Saturday, December 07 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Milwaukee Tuesday, December 10 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ New York Wednesday, December 11 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Milwaukee Friday, December 13 2013 8:30 PM EST coverage
Toronto Saturday, December 14 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Orlando Monday, December 16 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Houston Wednesday, December 18 2013 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Oklahoma City Thursday, December 19 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Cleveland Saturday, December 21 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Brooklyn Wednesday, December 25 2013 12:00 PM EST coverage
Dallas Saturday, December 28 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Memphis Monday, December 30 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Toronto Tuesday, December 31 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
JANUARY
Boston Thursday, January 02 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Atlanta Saturday, January 04 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Phoenix Tuesday, January 07 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Milwaukee Friday, January 10 2014 8:30 PM EST coverage
Charlotte Saturday, January 11 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Washington Monday, January 13 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Orlando Wednesday, January 15 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Washington Friday, January 17 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Philadelphia Saturday, January 18 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Lakers Monday, January 20 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Cleveland Wednesday, January 22 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Clippers Friday, January 24 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Charlotte Saturday, January 25 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Minnesota Monday, January 27 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ San Antonio Wednesday, January 29 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
FEBRUARY
@ New Orleans Saturday, February 01 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Sacramento Monday, February 03 2014 10:00 PM EST coverage
@ Phoenix Tuesday, February 04 2014 9:00 PM EST coverage
@ Golden State Thursday, February 06 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
@ Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, February 09 2014 3:30 PM EST coverage
Atlanta Tuesday, February 11 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Brooklyn Thursday, February 13 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Toronto Wednesday, February 19 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Denver Friday, February 21 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Miami Sunday, February 23 2014 3:30 PM EST coverage
@ Atlanta Tuesday, February 25 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
Golden State Wednesday, February 26 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Dallas Friday, February 28 2014 8:30 PM EST coverage
MARCH
New York Sunday, March 02 2014 1:00 PM EST coverage
@ Brooklyn Monday, March 03 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Detroit Wednesday, March 05 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
Memphis Friday, March 07 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Miami Sunday, March 09 2014 1:00 PM EDT coverage
San Antonio Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Houston Thursday, March 13 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Sacramento Saturday, March 15 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Oklahoma City Monday, March 17 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Philadelphia Wednesday, March 19 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Indiana Friday, March 21 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Philadelphia Saturday, March 22 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Indiana Monday, March 24 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Portland Friday, March 28 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Boston Sunday, March 30 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Boston Monday, March 31 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
APRIL
@ Atlanta Wednesday, April 02 2014 7:30 PM EDT coverage
Milwaukee Friday, April 04 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Washington Saturday, April 05 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Minnesota Wednesday, April 09 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
Detroit Friday, April 11 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ New York Sunday, April 13 2014 1:00 PM EDT coverage
Orlando Monday, April 14 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Charlotte Wednesday, April 16 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
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