Chicago Bulls fans have been waiting quite a long time for the 2013-14 season.
After watching Derrick Rose go down with a torn ACL during the 2012 playoffs, Bulls fans weren't sure when they'd get to see their star point guard again. Unfortunately for all parties involved, it did not occur during the 2012-13 campaign, but as the saying goes, time flies. Now, Rose is ready to take the floor.
Many feel that Chicago poses a legitimate threat to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, and there is absolutely no love lost between those two rivals.
The Bulls' media day serves as sort of an introduction to what Chicagoans hope will be a season where their beloved team returns to glory.
Here are some highlights from Chicago's media day.
Derrick Rose Is Back for Real; No, Really
Naturally, one of the first things Bulls general manager Gar Forman addressed was the status of Rose, and if you needed any more confirmation that No. 1 is indeed healthy and ready to roll, Forman provided it.
Although Forman says that Chicago will be evaluating Rose, he states that the point guard should play in every preseason game and that his minutes will remain fluid throughout.
That's great news for the Bulls and bad news for the rest of the league.
Rose himself does not want his minutes to be restricted, and that right there should give Chicago fans all of the confidence in the world. After all, it was D-Rose himself who insisted that he was not ready throughout the 2012-13 season, so if he essentially says he is prepared to go all out, it's safe to say that we should trust his judgment.
Rose does not regret sitting out all of last year, and he feels that even with the ACL injury, his game will remain the same.
Tom Thibodeau shares similar sentiments, going as far to say that people who criticized him for taking the 2012-13 campaign off "don't know what the hell they were talking about."
Luol Deng's Contract Will Not Be an Issue
Sometimes, when notable players enter a contract year, it becomes a distraction. Will they re-sign? Will they walk? Will they negotiate a new contract during the season?
Well, if the Bulls' media day was any indication, the status of Luol Deng's contract will not be a topic of discussion this year.
Deng, who battled a very severe illness during the 2013 postseason and has thankfully gotten back into shape, appears focused on one thing: winning. It would be a shame for a player of Deng's caliber to waste a promising season worrying about his future, and the 6'8" forward appears to understand that.
As a matter of fact, Deng did not even want to talk about his contract, saying that "everything will take care of itself."
That is the ideal mentality to have, and knowing Deng's personality, he probably means it very sincerely.
The Bulls are Extremely Confident In Their Chances
The Bulls have endured some very unfortunate circumstances in the past two years.
During the 2012 playoffs, Rose went down in the very first game with the torn ACL. Then, after Rose missed the 2012-13 campaign, Chicago succumbed to even more ailments, as many of the team's players battled injuries and illnesses throughout the 2013 postseason.
Now, the Bulls are healthy for the first time in what seems like ages, and everyone is brimming with confidence.
Thibodeau doesn't anticipate that the pressure of will get to his group. As a matter of fact, he embraces it.
There should be reason for such high hopes, too.
The last time Chicago was healthy in the playoffs, it made the Eastern Conference Finals. The following year, it went 50-16 in the lockout-shortened season to claim the No. 1 seed before losing Rose.
The competition may be getting stiffer, as the East has improved from top to bottom, but with the return of D-Rose and their stout defense, the Bulls remain a legitimate threat.
Not many ball clubs have the fortune of being serious title contenders. The Chicago Bulls are one of the select few that do, and you can just feel the excitement in the air.
Whether it's from quotes by coach Thibodeau or tweets from Bulls fans, everyone in Chicago is thrilled about the prospects of the 2013-14 season and can't wait to get it started.
Plus, let's face it: the Bulls have waited long enough.
Three years ago, it seemed that Chicago was primed to become a perennial top-tier squad. Yes, it had just been ousted in five games by the Heat in the conference finals, but this was only the beginning. It was the mere precursor to a long period of sustained success, right?
Well, that's not exactly how it played out.
Again, thanks to bad luck, the Bulls saw their next two years basically go by the wayside. Two years of the careers of Rose, Noah, Deng and Carlos Boozer fundamentally went for naught, but during that time, Chicago has continued to build a solid foundation.
New faces like Jimmy Butler have burst onto the scene, and role players such as Taj Gibson and Nazr Mohammed have become an integral part of what the Bulls want to do.
Clearly, Chicago realizes all of this, but it also realizes that this won't last forever.
Deng's contract is up after the season, and who knows what will become of Boozer. If the Bulls want to win with this group, it is going to have to be now.
The attitude in Chicago is simple: it's all or nothing.
What To Watch For
Obviously, the main thing everyone will be keeping their eye on in training camp is the status of Rose. How does he look? Is his explosiveness back? How rusty is he? Will he ever be the same?
You have to think that Thibodeau will be able to denote fairly quickly where Rose is in his recovery. If Thibs feels like he can let Rose put the pedal to the metal to get himself into game shape as quickly as possible, he will.
However, if he sees that his point guard is a bit rusty and is still shaking off the cobwebs, perhaps he will strictly monitor his minutes in preseason to make sure he is fully prepared for the 82-game grind that lies ahead.
The fact of the matter is, the Bulls are thinking nothing short of winning a championship this season, and Thibodeau wants to be sure that all of the engines are running properly to do so.
Chicago would not consider making the Eastern Conference Finals a victory. It wants to win it all.
It should be exciting to see what type of Bulls team we will get.