Bulls returning to the Assembly Hall for preseason game

It’s been four years in the making for Kevin Ullestad. Ever since 2008, when the director of the Assembly Hall brought Champaign what was in many ways the perfect preseason NBA basketball game — the Chicago Bulls, who hold the rooting interest of most of the community — versus the Utah Jazz, which brought former Illini point guard Deron Williams back to town. Ullestad remembered the success and excitement in the city for that game.

“Very successful game and very well received by our market and our community,” Ullestad said. “Of course, there’s a lot of Bulls fans here and the icing on the cake was for Deron to show.”

Now, Ullestad delivered it again.

For only the seventh time in franchise history, the Bulls are coming back to Assembly Hall. They will host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 12 for a preseason matchup that already generated a lot of buzz around the community.

“We wanted to get the info out a little early and make sure everybody’s aware and get the excitement going,” Ullestad said. “This will be one of our biggest events we do all year … and this will be one of the tops as far as economic impact in the community.”

In many ways this game could be bigger. The Bulls are coming off a season in which they had the best record in the NBA, but former NBA MVP Derrick Rose will be out with a torn ACL. However, the Bulls will feature a lot of new pieces that fans will get a chance to see on display. And then it’s not something the Champaign-Urbana community gets to see often. Before the 2008 game the Bulls hadn’t played in Champaign since 1989. So for the past seven years, Ullestad has been trying to get on the Bulls preseason radar and maintain a working relationship with the Bulls having preseason games hosted in Champaign with a lot more regularity than in the past.

Ullestad says he believes NBA rules would likely prevent the team from making an appearance every year in Champaign, but knows that this event will bring a lot of publicity to the Assembly Hall.

“It’s a good marriage, a good relationship working with the Bulls,” he said. “It makes sense. … They’re excited about coming down and we’re excited to have them.”