The Chicago Bulls begin the 2012-13 season without former MVP Derrick Rose, but at least they start with the underwhelming Sacramento Kings in the Windy City.
Rose tore the ACL in his left knee in the fourth quarter of the first playoff game last season against the Philadelphia 76ers. The top-seeded Bulls, who have finished first in the East the last two seasons, won the game Rose got hurt, but lost the series.
Rose had surgery in May and was expected to miss eight to 12 months in recovery. The 2011 MVP hinted that he might not be able to return for this season, which would cripple any chance for Bulls' success.
"I think about it everyday," said Rose. "I think about certain situations, if I come back early will we have a great chance of winning it? Without me or with me, our goal is the same and that's to win a championship."
Well, Derrick, that goal is unattainable without you.
The Bulls couldn't get by the eighth-seeded 76ers in last season's playoffs. Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton are not the same players they used to be. Joakim Noah is an excellent rebounder, low-post defender and energy guy, but not an offensive threat. Kirk Hinrich is a good replacement for Rose, but isn't Rose.
The brunt of the responsibility in replacing Rose will fall on small forward Luol Deng. The Duke product made his first All-Star team last season when he averaged 15.3 points per game, almost three assists and 6.5 rebounds.
The Bulls will struggle offensively, but their defense is stout. They have led the NBA in fewest points per game allowed in the last two seasons.
That makes the Kings an interesting opponent for Chicago Wednesday night.
Sacramento finished sixth in points per game last season on the strength of DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans.
Cousins averaged 18 points and 11 boards a game last season. Evans chipped in 16.5 points and almost five rebounds and five assists. Evans will be playing this season to impress since Sacramento won't give him a contract extension.
First-round pick Thomas Robinson should contribute some as well.
The Kings will have a tough season without much stability. The roster has a lot of combustible elements, highlighted by Cousins, and the team doesn't know where its long-term home will be.
The Maloof brothers, the owners of the Kings, had a deal in place for a new arena in Sacramento, but pulled out of the agreement. So will it be the Sacramento Kings? Maybe the Seattle Kings? How does the Anaheim Kings sound? The Virginia Beach Kings has a ring to it.
Chicago has won seven of the last eight meetings, including four in a row.