Pacers no longer the Bulls' rival?

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. They may not like each other. They might battle each other for the Central Division title. But they are not rivals.

January 25, 2012 - The Pacers defeat the Bulls 95-90 at the United Center.

That win not only marked the end of Chicago's impressive home winning streak that season, it also ignited what ESPN Chicago writer, Jon Greenberg, described as "quite a rivalry."

Most Pacers fans probably recall these rather infamous quotes coming out of Chicago after Indiana's road victory:

"I'll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game. I can't wait to play them again." - Derrick Rose (via ESPN Chicago)

"When people talk about celebration I just feel like, 'You're not going to out-celebrate me.' Roy Hibbert cannot out-celebrate me. So if they want to see some celebration when we win, I can show them some celebration ... I know how to celebrate." - Joakim Noah (via ESPN Chicago)

Did the Pacers truly over celebrate? Fans and media may never know, but from Coach Vogel's perspective, the team was "just thrilled to get the win here. He later added that they were, "crushed that we didn't beat them last year in the playoffs."

Regardless, from that game on, the Bulls and Pacers have fought back-and-forth, rather bitterly, for Central Division supremacy (with the Bulls taking the crown in 2012 and the Pacers in 2013).

With former league MVP, Derrick Rose and former All-Star, Danny Granger back in the fold for their respective teams this season, it is expected to be an even tighter and more intense race for the Central Division title this season.

Rose admitted as much after the Bulls preseason victory (with regular season-like intensity) over the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on October 5, by stating:

"They proved their point to the league. They made a difference. They made it far last year to the conference finals and they have young players where, we're gonna grow old playing against each other in this league, especially with the team they have." - Derrick Rose (via Scott Agness of pacers.com)

Sounds like the continuation of a rivalry, right? Not so fast, prior to the Bulls' October 18 preseason match-up with the Pacers at the United Center, Derrick Rose told ESPN Chicago:

"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 it 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.

Rose added:

"If anything, by probably a year or two it could become a rival. But right now, people say it's a rival, I just don't see it right now. I think it was more like that rivalry feeling where we knew, we thought that they were going to have that same team for a long period of time. Then they end up going different ways, picking up different guys and I think this team, I think in the next year or two, if both teams have the same teams then that's when it would become a rivalry."

To Rose's credit, he is not discounting the Pacers as an Eastern Conference contender. He acknowledges that Indiana made a statement to the league last season by pushing the Heat to a decisive Game 7 in the ECF (which, by the way, is two games longer than the Bulls lasted against Miami in the ECF in 2011). Yet, for some rather inexplicable reason, he does not feel that a much improved Pacers squad is his team's current rival.

From Rose's logic, it appears that he does not believe that the Pacers can be termed as an official "rival" until they have battled each other in the playoffs for several seasons with the exact same rosters. So, apparently, the 2011 Pacers, (a team that barely squeaked into the playoffs) with Darren Collison at the helm, were more of a rival to him than the current team which is fresh off a season where they were one win away from the NBA Finals. Why? Simply, because the Collison led team played the Bulls in the playoffs.

Okay, so that makes sense, right...?

Apparently, the Indiana Pacers did not receive the memo on no longer being Chicago's rival.

At Media Day, Roy Hibbert, with his signature candidness, admitted outright to the press that while he respects Joakim Noah's tremendous talent, he does not like the Bulls' center.

Danny Granger holds a differing opinion to the Bulls star with regard to the rivalry between the two squads:

"I think Chicago will always be a rival. When you go to the United Center, it's crazy. They have a big home-court advantage there. They have a huge following, not only locally in Chicago, but nationally as well, and I think they'll always be a rival to us. We're really close, so a lot of times there's a lot of Bulls fans here, and vice versa. I think as long as we're in the division, we're going to be rivals."

So which is it Pacers fans? Are the Bulls currently the Pacers rival, not only in the Central Division, but in the East, or will they not truly be considered rivals until they have battled each other in the playoffs for several seasons (with the same players)?

More from Indy Cornrows:

  • NBA Previews: Southeast and Southwest Division links
  • Pacers Links: Pacers off to play Bulls; Copeland trying to cope with slow start and high expectations
  • Regular season win totals put Pacers in the thick of the East
  • Pacers release Ron Howard, Darnell Jackson to cut roster to 15
  • Pacers Links: Vogel trying to squeeze positives out of brutal preseason schedule
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