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Bulls have plenty of winnable games early while waiting for Derrick Rose

The Derrick Rose-less Bulls open with half their first 30 games against non-playoff teams from last season. | Nam Y.

The Derrick Rose-less Bulls open with half of their first 30 games against non-playoff teams from last season. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: August 28, 2012 6:23AM

The success of this coming season hinges on the answer to the question every Bulls fan has been asking since Derrick Rose tore his ACL on April 28.

When will he be back?

Reports of the progress of Rose’s rehab are conflicting, with the only consensus being that his return will likely not come before the 2013 All-Star Game, which takes place in Houston on Feb. 19.

The league released its 2012-13 schedule on Thursday, and it plays to the Bulls’ favor. The first two months of the season are relatively light, while the toughest stretch occurs over the last two months.

Fifteen of the Bulls’ 30 games in 2012 come against playoff teams from last season. Only five of those are against teams that finished in the top four of their conference.

The Bulls first meeting against the champion Miami Heat comes on Jan. 4, the only meeting between the two teams prior to the All-Star break. The Heat travels to the United Center on Feb. 21 and March 27.

The “Circus Trip,” which runs from Nov. 14-24, will have the Bulls play four Western Conference teams before a game in Milwaukee ends the trip. Only one of those games, a Feb. 17 meeting against the Los Angeles Clippers, comes against a playoff team from last season.

The team’s easiest stretch of games precedes its toughest.

A Jan. 23 game at home against Detroit begins a five-game stretch in which the Bulls play Golden State, Washington, Charlotte and Milwaukee, none of which made the playoffs last season.

Immediately after, the Bulls have a six-game stretch that takes them to the All-Star Break, playing five playoff teams from last season. The only exception is a game at the revamped Brooklyn Nets, who re-signed point guard Deron Williams and traded for shooting guard Joe Johnson.

The game in Brooklyn on Feb. 1 is followed by games against Atlanta, Denver, Utah, San Antonio and Boston. The matchup against San Antonio is the only game played at the United Center during that stretch.

The toughest run of the second half starts with home game against the Nets on March 2 before games against Indiana, San Antonio, Utah and the L.A. Lakers.

The Bulls will host the Houston Rockets in the first Christmas Day game played in Chicago since the 1997-98 season.

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