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NBA Preview: Bulls only true threat out there to LeBron’s Heat

Updated: December 1, 2013 7:07AM



Outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern isn’t stupid.

Of course, he wanted the Bulls sitting on the visitors’ bench on opening night in Miami.

After all, there’s history in the ­making.

The Heat is trying to become the fourth NBA franchise to three-peat. Standing in the way is a Bulls franchise that did it twice in the ’90s.

One team looking to make history facing off against the team that has the best chance to deny it.

The Pacers, Nets and Knicks are all looking to make noise in the Eastern Conference, but a healthy Derrick Rose makes the Bulls the only true contender that can stand up to LeBron James and Co.

“It makes them a championship contender,’’ Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of the Bulls having Rose back. “Anytime you have a Tom Thibodeau-coached team that has warriors like Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson and [Carlos] Boozer, and Jimmy Butler now has become one of their warriors, and you add an MVP-caliber player like Derrick Rose to that culture, they’re not just an Eastern Conference contender but a championship contender.’’

Apologies to the Western Conference, but while there are at least seven teams that have the talent to make it to the Finals, none has the firepower needed to slow down the Heat.

No, this is about the Bulls and Heat.

With history on the line.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Predicted order of finish:

1. Bulls

2. Miami Heat

3. Indiana Pacers

4. Brooklyn Nets

5. New York Knicks

6. Atlanta Hawks

7. Cleveland Cavaliers

8. Detroit Pistons

CONFERENCE FINALS

Heat over Bulls in seven games.

ALL-EASTERN FIRST TEAM

G: Derrick Rose, Bulls

G: Paul George, Pacers

F: LeBron James, Heat

F: Carmelo Anthony, Knicks

C: Joakim Noah, Bulls

EASTERN CONFERENCE pickS

MVP: Derrick Rose, Bulls

Comeback player of the year: Derrick Rose, Bulls

Rookie of the year: Victor Oladipo, Magic

Coach of the year: Tom Thibodeau, Bulls

Coach on the hot seat: Mike Woodson, Knicks

Most underrated player: Thaddeus Young, 76ers

Most overrated player: Joe Johnson, Nets

Big-name trade candidate: Rajon Rondo, Celtics

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Predicted order of finish:

1. Los Angeles Clippers

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Houston Rockets

4. San Antonio Spurs

5. Golden State Warriors

6. Memphis Grizzlies

7. Denver Nuggets

8. New Orleans Pelicans

CONFERENCE FINALS

Thunder over Clippers in five games.

NBA FINALS

Heat over Thunder in six games.

ALL-WESTERN FIRST TEAM

G: Chris Paul, Clippers

G: James Harden, Rockets

F: Kevin Durant, Thunder

F: Kevin Love, Timberwolves

C: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies

WESTERN
CONFERENCE
PickS

MVP>>> Kevin Durant, Thunder

Comeback player of the year: Dwight Howard, Rockets

Rookie of the year: Ben McLemore, Kings

Coach of the year: Doc Rivers, Clippers

Coach on the hot seat: Mike D’Antoni, Lakers

Most underrated player: Tiago Splitter, Spurs

Most overrated player: Blake Griffin, Clippers

Big-name trade candidate: Pau Gasol, Lakers



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