This should be fun.
For the first time since Michael Jordan owned this city, the Bulls head into a playoff season as a serious championship contender.
It’s not nearly the done deal some fans are expecting, which is why everyone should be reminded to enjoy the journey — every moment of it — for however long it lasts.
When you look around the NBA, though — particularly the Eastern front, where the battle will be waged for the first three rounds — it will be tempting for fans to say, ‘‘Why not us?’’
There are signs that this postseason is setting up nicely for the Bulls. Between their injuries and their curious trade of center Kendrick Perkins, the Boston Celtics look older but not wiser. The Big Three juggernaut that was envisioned with the Miami Heat at times has looked like a chair that’s missing a leg.
And if the Bulls end up seeing the Los Angeles Lakers or San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, they won’t be intimidated.
But first things first. As they have done all season, the Bulls are taking it one step at a time. And that means the Indiana Pacers.
‘‘They’re a good team,’’ guard Derrick Rose said. ‘‘They beat us the last time we played them. They play well together, they play hard and they have a lot of threats. When you play a team like that, you never know what’s going to happen.’’
For all the Bulls have accomplished during the regular season, questions remain. Questions that only can be answered under the spotlight of the playoffs.
◆ Rose tossed off Pacers forward Danny Granger’s comment that he rather would face the Bulls than the Celtics because ‘‘they go as Rose goes. If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance of beating them.’’
Credit the guy for being honest. And know that the Bulls disagree.
‘‘We’ll see,’’ Rose said. ‘‘The other guys on this team can play basketball. That’s his opinion. I’ve got winners on my team, and winners know how to win.’’
The Bulls don’t have the clear-cut second and third options that so many championship teams have. But they have a wave of other options that not only includes Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, but also dangerous role players such as Kyle Korver and Taj Gibson.
Will that work in the playoffs? We’ll see.
◆ The Bulls, who are 1-5 in playoff series since they won their last title in 1998, don’t have much experience in their new role as a team that’s expected to be successful. They say that doesn’t matter.
‘‘I wouldn’t call it so much pressure,’’ Deng said. ‘‘Expectations are higher, but we’re well-prepared. Throughout the season, everything we did is to build up to what we’re going to do in the playoffs. With the way this coaching staff gets us ready, we’re going to be prepared.’’
While this Bulls team doesn’t have experience as a playoff favorite, it has playoff experience. And a trademark of this team is its competitiveness. That helped it stay consistent all season and should help it overcome any postseason butterflies.
‘‘Guys are really looking forward to the playoffs,’’ said guard Ronnie Brewer, who gained playoff experience with Boozer and Korver on the Utah Jazz. ‘‘A lot of people are being put in a different situation. Derrick and Joakim and those [returning] guys were in the playoffs, but they weren’t a high seed. For Booz and Kyle and myself, we weren’t as high a seed. But there’s a good buzz in the locker room. Guys are very excited about playing.’’
Some experts wonder whether Rose has enough experience to lead the Bulls on a deep playoff run. They might need to take a closer look at his work ethic, his experience in clutch situations this season and his background as a winner since high school.
We’ll find out soon. The proof is in the playoffs.