There was a time when the Chicago Bulls were seen as the only legitimate threat to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

With a roster loaded with veterans and All-Stars and a tough defensive-minded coach in Tom Thibodeau it appeared a half-decade of Eastern Conference finals between the Bulls and Heat were inevitable.

That was 2012. Since then 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose has missed a season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and the conference as a whole (particularly the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers) has reloaded. But going into the 2013-14 season the Bulls not only view their window as open but also possibly wider than ever.

Without Rose the Bulls performed better than most could have reasonably expected in the 2012-13 season. They won 45 games enough to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference. They upset the Nets in the first round of the playoffs with a seven-game series win. They lost to the Heat in five games but kept the series close despite dealing with numerous other injuries to key players.

Now with everyone healthy the Bulls might be more relevant than they have been since Michael Jordan last suited up at the United Center.