For those who believe the Bulls will take the next step this season and advance to the NBA Finals, Sunday's showdown with the Oklahoma City Thunder could be a preview of what's to come.
A marquee matchup featuring the league's two best teams--and the only time the squads face off in the regular season--the matinee contest will be must-see TV for fans in the Chicagoland area and beyond.
"It's a big game, it's going to be exciting and we want to play against the best," said Joakim Noah. "They're a great team, we're a great team. Let's get it popping."
However, the charismatic center's boisterous sentiments weren't echoed by his coach. Tom Thibodeau, as one would expect, downplayed the upcoming affair.
"It's our next game. They're really good, it's going to be a great test for us and we've got to be ready. We've got to take care of the ball, we've got to play great defense. They've got great length, they're a well-balanced team, so we're looking forward to it," he said.
"They're a high-scoring team, they play in transition, they have a lot of weapons, but whenever you're facing a team like that, it's not only your defense. You have to play sound offense also, so we have to play a well-balanced game and defend, rebound, keep our turnovers down, share the ball, inside-out. That doesn't change from game to game."
Luol Deng, while taking a more humorous approach, took a middle ground between his coach's dourness and his teammate's excitement.
"They're a very good team. Even last night when I watched them, they played great. They've got so many weapons. Their big guys are really good defensively, block shots. It's going to take a total team effort, but we're going to go out there, play hard and try to win," said the first-time All-Star, who will likely be charged with defending two-time reigning NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant.
"When we play bad, you guys the media are going to kill us anyway, no matter who we play, so this game is for you guys, to hype it up and get everybody ready for it, but for us, it's another game we've got to go out there and play hard."
Regardless, despite Thibodeau's distaste for the media's labeling certain contests as "measuring-stick games," there will be plenty of analysis of what many believe could be an NBA Finals preview.