The new 2011-12 Bulls schedule

According to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell, Joakim Noah is feeling 100 percent healthy after battling thumb and ankle injuries last season.

He’ll need to be.

The Bulls updated schedule for the abbreviated 2011-12 season has been released. And it’s challenging. In fact, early on, it’s downright brutal.

The schedule opens with a four-game road trip that begins on Christmas Day against the Lakers in L.A. and runs through Golden State, Sacramento, and back through L.A. for a match-up with the Clippers.

Eight of the team’s first 11 games are on the road, and 11 of their first 17 overall. That 17-game stretch has five sets of back-to-back games.

On January 9-11, the Bulls play three games in three nights, at home against the Pistons, versus the Timberwolves in Minnesota, and back home against the Wizards.

On January 29, the team will embark nine-game road oddessy against the Heat in Miami followed by stops in Washington, Philly, New York, Milwaukee, New Jersey, New Orleans, Charlotte and Boston.

By the end of that trip, the Bulls will be 30 games into the season, with 20 of those games being roadies.

Things even out a bit over the next month, thanks largely to a couple of six-game home stands. But still. All those early road games could really wreak havoc on Chicago’s record. Especially considering the season’s late start and the fact that it’s going to take extra time for teams to really gel.

Obviously, it’s easier to gel at home than on the road. But it is what it is.

By the end of the season, the Bulls will have played 33 games in the United Center and 33 games outside of the Windy City,with 17 sets of back-to-back games and the one stretch of three games in three nights.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. As rough as the first 30 games will be, the degree of difficulty should taper off during the second half of the season thanks to the higher number of home games. And ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh tweeted that the Bulls actually have one of the easiest schedules in terms of opponents’ win-loss percentage.

So there’s that.

Friedell has more details about the schedule and ChicagoNow’s Doug Thonus points out that the Clippers, Lakers and Thunder will not visit Chicago this season…therefore no Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant.

Sorry, Bulls season ticket holders.

All that said…finally! A season! Free agency begins in two days…

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