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Bulls’ home opener makes for instant drama

The Pelicans will visit the United Center on Oct. 22 and get an early look at what they really gave up in Lonzo Ball.

New Bulls player Lonzo Ball will face his old team, the Pelicans, on Oct. 22.
New Bulls player Lonzo Ball will face his old team, the Pelicans, on Oct. 22.
Tony Gutierrez/AP

It didn’t take point guard Lonzo Ball very long to learn about the true business side of basketball.

Some lessons came easy, such as when the Lakers selected the hometown kid No. 2 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Some might have felt more like a punch to the chest, first with being traded from the Lakers to the Pelicans after two seasons, then with being a part of a sign-and-trade that sent him from the Pelicans to the Bulls this month.

In Ball’s world, however, it’s just the plan. It’s a wave that a player has very little control over, so why not jump on it and enjoy the ride?

‘‘The way I live my life, I think everything happens for a reason and everything plans out the way it’s supposed to plan out,’’ he said this month. ‘‘So I think at this point in my life, it was time to be a Chicago Bull. I’m happy to be in Chicago.

‘‘Obviously, I got good vibes from the guys over there in New Orleans and stuff; it could have worked out. But, like I said, everything works out for a reason.’’

And it might for Ball. But the NBA loves a good storyline. So in releasing the 2021-22 regular-season schedule Friday, Ball’s change of teams wasn’t lost on the league.

After a busy offseason in which the Bulls added Ball, veteran scorer DeMar DeRozan and defensive pest Alex Caruso, they will try to match the hype when they tip off the season Oct. 20 against the Pistons in Detroit.

But it’s the home opener at the United Center two nights later that will go down as an early game to keep an eye on, with the Bulls hosting the Pelicans.

Yes, Zion Williamson is a must-see attraction, but it also will be a chance for Ball to show the Pelicans’ brass that it made a mistake in not considering him a core piece. The Bulls also will get reacquainted with Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple, whom they sent to the Pelicans in the package for Ball.

It will be an early-season test for both teams, but it won’t be the only circle-the-date game for the Bulls.

Oct. 28: Knicks at Bulls

It’s an event whenever former coach Tom Thibodeau comes back to Chicago, and he always seems to bring a few familiar faces with him. It will be yet another return to Chicago for Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, who still hold a place in the city’s heart.

More important, Thibodeau and the Knicks are one of the teams in the Eastern Conference the Bulls might be jockeying for playoff position with, if everything goes as planned. They are a hard-playing team and will give the Bulls an early indicator of just how tough they’ve become since last season.

Nov. 15: Bulls at Lakers

Yes, the Caruso homecoming game will be interesting, but not as much as the Bulls getting a taste of what an elite NBA team is supposed to look like.

The Lakers again are among the favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals and, if healthy, will show the Bulls just where the bar is set.

Dec. 11: Bulls at Heat

The Heat will be the ultimate hard-hat team this season, testing opposing offenses nightly. Jimmy Butler & Co. are in Chicago a few weeks earlier, so it will be a second meeting between the teams.

This one will be on a Saturday in Miami, however. And anyone who knows the league also knows that South Beach and everything that goes on there on a Friday night is almost undefeated.

March 18: Bulls at Suns

The Suns were a young team on the rise who were infused with championship potential, thanks to a coaching change and a capable point guard. The Bulls are trying to mimic that model.

Sure, Ball is no Chris Paul, but the hope is the Bulls still can make that jump and start making noise in the East.

April 6: Celtics at Bulls

The regular season ends with the Bulls playing five home games at the United Center before the season finale against the Timberwolves in Minneapolis. All five will be a challenge, but the Celtics might be a team the Bulls are neck-and-neck with at the time, so this game could have serious seeding consequences.