The trip to play the defending champs and the Kevin Garnett scream machine on Friday is bound to draw more attention. But Bulls fans shouldn't overlook the home date with Memphis the following night at the UC.
Barring a late injury, it will be the league's first meeting of top-flight rookies with Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo on the floor. This has the potential to be a memorable season for NBA rookies.
Last year was not rookie-friendly. Seattle's Kevin Durant made a big impact with a bad team, averaging 20.3 ppg. The second-leading rookie scorer was Clippers forward Al Thornton at 12.7 ppg, while four others barely slid into double digits – Memphis' Juan Carlos Navarro, who fled the NBA over the summer; Seattle's Jeff Green, Houston's Luis Scola and Atlanta's Al Horford.
This year during preseason, no less than 11 rookies averaged in double figures while five others averaged at least 9 points per game. There is no guarantee that these players will match that production during the regular season, but some could conceivably fare better as their minutes and NBA experience increase.
Here are the rookie leaders in preseason scoring:
Michael Beasley, Mia. 16.4
O.J. Mayo, Mem. 15.4
Eric Gordon, LAC 14.6
Russell Westbrook, OKC 14.3
Derrick Rose, Bulls 13.9
Mike Taylor, LAC 12.4
Rudy Fernandez, Por. 12.0
Brook Lopez, NJ 11.8
Greg Oden, Por. 11.5
JaVale McGee, Was. 10.1
Brandon Rush, Ind. 10.1
Darrell Arthur, Mem. 9.8
Marreese Speights, Phi. 9.6
DeMarcus Nelson, GS 9.5
Jerryd Bayless, Por. 9.4
Roy Hibbert, Ind. 9.3
Taylor is the point guard who was the first player drafted straight from the D-League, after spending a short time at Iowa State. He and Gordon combined to score just 5 points in the Clippers' ugly loss to the Lakers on Wednesday.
I noticed a number of rookies playing major roles in Wednesday's games. When Miami made a futile comeback against the Knicks in the fourth quarter, Beasley (9 points) wasn't in the game, but former Kansas point guard Lionel Chalmers was. Memphis hung in against Houston while using three rookies (Mayo, Arthur and Marc Gasol), a second-year player (Mike Conley) and a third-year player (Rudy Gay) in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota's Kevin Love and Milwaukee's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have played well, but weren't among the preseason leaders.
Some might look at Rose's 11 points and 9 assists in the opening win over the Bucks and see that as an ordinary performance. But only Steve Nash and Chris Paul had more assists in the first two days of the season.
Despite the strong competition, I think Rose will end up winning rookie of the year easily.