Bulls’ 2022-23 schedule released, and it all starts on South Beach

Facing former Bull Jimmy Butler in Game 1 of the regular season is never an easy task, but it could go a long way in setting a tone for just how tough this roster will be — continuity and all.

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Jimmy Butler

In the eyes of the NBA schedule-makers, the Bulls still aren’t Christmas Day-worthy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have more of a national presence during the 2022-23 season.

The league released its regular-season schedule Wednesday, and after ending a four-year playoff drought, coach Billy Donovan and his squad earned 14 nationally televised games.

That might not be viewed as great news considering how poorly the Bulls played on the national stage last season, but it’s definitely a step up for the team brand.

For several weeks last season, the Bulls sat atop the Eastern Conference standings, playing like a team that could make some noise in April and May. But the only noise was a thud. They finished sixth in the East and were escorted out the playoff door by the Bucks in the first round.

Injuries played a part, but so did a brutal second-half schedule. Either way, the Bulls couldn’t escape a combined 2-21 record against the top four teams from each conference.

So the offseason response was ‘‘continuity’’ with a splash of veterans Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic, then the addition of first-round pick Dalen Terry.

Vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley thought the sample size for their core group wasn’t large enough, and they wanted to give it one more look with the hope of staying healthy this time around.

It’s a gamble the front office was willing to take considering the contract situations of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. LaVine signed a max extension, but DeRozan comes off the books after the 2023-24 season, and Vucevic could be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

If it doesn’t work, it’s an easy wipe. If it does, then there’s flexibility to add.

Either way, here’s a look at the five (or six) most intriguing games to keep an eye on:

At Miami — Oct. 19

Welcome to the opening game of the 2022-23 season. Jimmy Butler’s Heat will be testing that Bulls mettle quickly, finding out just how physical and grinding they can be. Miami will be a great early obstacle for the Bulls.

At Milwaukee — Nov. 23

The Bucks ended the dream last season — as faint as that dream really was — beating the Bulls in five games in their first-round series. Expect Milwaukee to remain one of the Eastern Conference favorites, and if the Bulls want to be the men, they need to beat the men.

New York — Dec. 14, Dec. 16

It’s the weird two-game series against the same team, as the Bulls host Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks on Wednesday, then Friday at the United Center. Thibodeau has made life difficult for his former franchise since he was fired, and expect more of the same. On paper, the Bulls are more talented, but Thibodeau seldom cares about paper championships.

Philadelphia — March 22

At a critical juncture of the season, the Bulls play in Philadelphia two days earlier, come home for yet another showdown against Joel Embiid, then have to head out to the West Coast for games in Portland, then against both Los Angeles teams.

Memphis — April 2

A Sunday afternoon showdown with Ja Morant could help the Bulls get ready for the playoffs — assuming they’re in that situation. Morant will be an MVP candidate and could be looking to make a statement in Chicago that day.

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