With the Bulls schedule now released the home opener is instant dramaJoe Cowleyon August 20, 2021 at 9:41 pm

It didn’t take Lonzo Ball very long to learn the true business-side of basketball.

Some lessons came easy like when Los Angeles selected the hometown kid No. 2 overall back in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Some may have felt more like a punch to the chest, first with being traded from those same Lakers after just two seasons, and then being a part of a sign-and-trade that sent the point guard from New Orleans to the Bulls last month.

In Ball’s world, however, it’s just the plan. It’s a wave that a player has very little control of, so why not jump on it and enjoy the ride?

“I mean the way I live my life I think everything happens for a reason and everything plans out the way it’s supposed to plan out, so I think at this point in my life it was time to be a Chicago Bull,” Ball said last week, when discussing his departure from the Pelicans. “I’m happy to be in Chicago. Obviously I got good vibes from the guys over there in New Orleans and stuff, it could have worked out, but like I said everything works out for a reason.”

And it very well may for Ball. But the NBA loves a good storyline, so in releasing the 2021-22 regular season schedule on Friday, that was definitely not be lost on the Association.

After a busy offseason in which the Bulls added not only Ball, but veteran scorer DeMar DeRozan, and defensive pest Alex Caruso, the Bulls will try and match the hype surrounding the new look, tipping off the year in Detroit on Oct. 20. But it’s the home opener at the United Center two nights later that goes down as an early game to keep eyes on, as the Bulls host Ball’s former team when the Pelicans come to town.

Yes, Zion Williamson is a must-see attraction, but it will also be a chance for Ball to show New Orleans’ brass that it made a mistake in not considering him a core piece, as well as the Bulls getting reacquainted with Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple, who were sent in a package for Ball.

An early-season test for both teams without question, but not the only circle-the-calendar games to keep an eye on for the Bulls.

Oct. 28 – Knicks at Bulls – Anytime former coach Tom Thibodeau comes backs to Chicago it’s an event, and he always seems to be bringing a few familiar faces with him. It will be yet another return home for Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, who still hold a place in the city’s heart.

More importantly, Thibodeau and the Knicks are potentially one of the teams in the Eastern Conference that the Bulls could be jockeying for playoff position with if everything goes as planned. They are a hard-playing group, and will give the Bulls an early indicator of just how tough they’ve become since last season.

Nov. 15 – Bulls at Lakers – Yes, the Caruso homecoming game will be interesting, but not as much as the Bulls getting a taste of what NBA elite is supposed to look like.

Los Angeles is again a favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Finals, and if healthy will show the Bulls just where the bar is set.

Dec. 11 – Bulls at Heat – The Heat will be the ultimate hard-hat team this upcoming season, testing opposing offenses on a nightly basis. Jimmy Butler & Co. are in Chicago a few weeks earlier, so it will be a second meeting, but this time in Miami on a Saturday.

Anyone that knows the league also knows that South Beach and everything that goes on there on a Friday night is almost undefeated.

Mar. 18 – Bulls at Suns – The Suns were a young team on the come-up that became infused with championship potential with a coaching change and then a capable point guard. The Bulls are trying to mimic that model.

Sure, Ball is no Chris Paul, but the hope is the Bulls can still make that jump and start making noise in the East.

April 6 – Celtics at Bulls – The regular season ends with the Bulls playing five home games at the United Center before the finale at Minnesota. All five will be a challenge, but Boston could be a team the Bulls are neck-and-neck with at the time, so this meeting could have serious seeding consequences.

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