The San Antonio Spurs reclaimed their spot atop the Western Conference. Dwight Howard is two teams removed from the Orlando Magic. And the Indiana Pacers have seized control of the Central Division, and with it, have become legitimate rivals to Rose's Bulls.
Again, though, Rose isn't willing to read the writing on the wall.
He told ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell that the Bulls do not have an NBA rival inside the Circle City:
People say that it's a rivalry, but I don't really see it. I say the team that is more like a rivalry is when Darren Collison was on the team. That one was more like a rivalry, but this team is a great team. They've already proven themselves last year by making it to the Eastern Conference finals.
Well then, that settles things, right?
First off, the Pacers have raised their profile since the Collison era, a period I would not have recognized without Rose's comments. Led by rising stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert, Indiana made its first Eastern Conference Finals run since 2004.
And Pacers point guard George Hill—or perhaps "new Collison" in Rose speak—has since fired back at the former MVP, via Hoopsworld.com's Lang Greene:
I don’t know how [Rose] can say we’re not rivals yet because we’ve been just as successful as they have been. But all I know right now is we’re the Central Division champions and for them, they have to come through us to get that. But if that’s what he believes, then that’s what he believes.
If Rose is right, that's bad news for the Bulls.
The collapse of sports rivalries often happens when they become too one-sided, and right now the Pacers have enjoyed more than their fair share of success in this matchup. Indiana not only captured the Central Division crown last season, it also held a 3-1 edge in its regular-season series with Chicago.
But if Hill is right—and his side seems to have the most credence—then the Pacers-Bulls rivalry will be can't-miss drama in 2013-14.
These two teams will meet for the first time on Nov. 6. It would not be a bad idea to go ahead and lock that in your DVR now.
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