After a hectic Wednesday schedule, the NBA quiets down to two games on Thursday, but each are more than worthy of the national spotlight.
The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks open the TNT doubleheader in what should be Derrick Rose's first game back in the United Center. In the evening game, the Los Angeles Clippers welcome the Golden State Warriors to Staples Center in a Western Conference clash.
The main course: Knicks vs. Bulls
8 p.m. ET, TNT
Rose sat out Wednesday practice and Thursday's shootaround with a stiff neck, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called his point guard a game-time decision for his potential first game played in Chicago since tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs. But it seems that Rose is focused on playing and the neck issue isn't a big deal. He even gave a "hell yeah" statement to put Thibodeau's vague, worrisome comments to rest.
How will the Knicks handle Rose? New York's legitimacy as a contender in the Eastern Conference is up for debate. Owner James Dolan believes the Knicks should be a title contender, but whatever the case may be, they weren't in the conversation until last year, when Rose was recovering from his knee injury. Thursday's early-season game will give us a hint about how the Knicks attack Rose and vice versa. A gimpy Raymond Felton thinks he can guard Rose without help, per ESPN New York. So that's interesting.
Do the Bulls start fast? Chicago's season-opening loss to the Miami Heat seemed over within the first two quarters. Chicago scored 15 then 18 points, and in the second quarter, it allowed Miami to drop 37 points. The inconsistencies on both sides of the ball can't continue, especially to start Thursday's game. How the Bulls handle what could be an emotional introduction of Rose will go a long way.
In the end, Chicago wants less of this:
Rose looking like Noah told him he could wear sneakers to the lounge but they said no at the door pic.twitter.com/BcXl6MdOfT— The Beardsman (@WhyAmISoTall) October 30, 2013
Who starts and how will the new additions fit in? In the Knicks' season opener, both Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani came off the bench with relatively little contribution. Eachach played less than 20 minutes and combined for 10 points and six rebounds. Both seem to fit into the category of players who need extended minutes to be most productive, but it's a process for coach Mike Woodson to figure out their roles.
Reading material: Seth Rosenthal from Posting and Toasting saw different Knicks teams in the two halves of the season opener, and Blog a Bull previews the individual matchups for Thursday's game.
The dessert: Warriors vs. Clippers
10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
So the Warriors will be without Harrison Barnes for the second regular-season game in a row because of a foot injury. The loss of depth didn't hurt Golden State in their opener against the Los Angeles Lakers thanks to Klay Thompson's semi-literal on-fire performance. He hit 15-of-19 shots for 38 points in a 125-94 blowout of one Los Angeles team.
The Clippers had a much different experience against the Lakers. And their poor three-point defense could mean trouble against Golden State.
Does the Clippers defense figure itself out? Oddly enough, DeAndre Jordan was the only one showing some grit on the defensive end of the court in the opener. Tom Ziller broke down the Clippers' defensive woes that went against every thing that coach Doc Rivers stands for. Really, the interior defense crumbled, then the Lakers starting kicking the ball out, and then it was just bad. Golden State can do the same thing the Lakers did and probably do it better than, say, Xavier Henry. Chris Paul and company need to figure it out.
Clippers Fans Be Like… pic.twitter.com/3cvRLtLIWt— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) October 30, 2013
What's the matchup of the game? Before anyone announces that Jordan has arrived, one would think the Clippers center will need to provide his impressive defensive efforts on a daily basis during the regular season. It'd be a good start to put together a second strong performance against Andrew Bogut, who struggled in his last game. Bogut only played 18 minutes. He had four fouls, two points and eight rebounds, though chasing a small Lakers team around might have had a lot to do with his performance.
Reading material: Golden State of Mind discusses the defensive cultures of the Warriors and the Clippers, and Clips Nation wonders if the second game of the year can really be that significant.