The Washington Times-Herald

Local Sports

October 24, 2013

Pacers not Bulls are challengers to Heat

Elite level talent is so rare in sports, when you get a hold of it, you have to take full advantage. The Chicago Bulls saw how valuable that talent can be when shooting guard Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL in the first round of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia. Last season turned into a soap opera of when Rose would return to the court, and he never did. Yes, the Bulls beat the Nets in seven games in the first round before losing in five to eventual champion Miami in the next round. Rose is such a special player that he makes Chicago one of the top five teams in the NBA when healthy.

All indications are he is back to 100 percent as he has torched opposing defense's in the preseason. I know what you're thinking — it's just the preseason. Rose needed to prove he could still move the way he did before the injury and thus far he has proved that without a shadow of the doubt. All last season we got to see the Adidas campaign chronicling Rose's comeback, and Tuesday evening we'll finally get to see No. 1 back on the court. Of course, Rose's first game back will be at American Airlines Arena in Miami following the Heat's ring ceremony and banner raising to celebrate their second consecutive NBA title.

Since Rose last stepped on the court in a Bulls uniform the entire NBA landscape has changed. LeBron James is a two-time champion and no longer thought to be inferior in clutch moments. James' team, the Heat, have taken the mantle as the league's dominant favorite to become the first team since the 2000-2002 Lakers to win three straight titles. The Bulls were a major regular season challenger to Miami in LeBron's first season with the Heat, but the Bulls went out meekly in five games in the 2011 East Finals. Nothing has changed to make you think the Bulls are any closer to dethroning Miami, but another challenger from the midwest has emerged — the Indiana Pacers.

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