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No need to panic: everything is going according to the Bulls plan

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As I said after the Bulls loss in Utah, it does matter that the Bulls are getting blown out on this road trip in addition to merely losing. It matters in that it follows that this Bulls team is not likely to perform up to a .500 record the rest of the way at this current level.

But even with Thomas and Hinrich's absence bringing this team's performance down to far below average, their record is still 6-8, and the games they've lost so far on the trip were games they wouldn't have been favored in preseason anyway. At least if you figured they'd be at or near 41-41 at the end of this season and tempered the game-by-game expectations accordingly.

They may sign a fringe player at guard to a nonguaranteed deal if Hinrich's out for an extended period, but with little room under the tax they likely can't even give a prorated vet minimum as it'd completely close their options later in the year if another signing is necessary. It's a testament to poor planning and cap mismanagement on the Bulls part that they assembled such nonexistent-to-poor depth, as D-Leaguers could likely give the Bulls more than what Hunter/Gray/Pargo currently provide, and at half the cost. The fact that they're counting on spots 10-13 on the roster means that the season already hasn't worked out for the best, but it doesn't mean you throw away guaranteed money, especially with such a tight budget going into the offseason. It similarly makes any trades very difficult to complete.

But while depth has become a real issue, and though they are boring to watch (and really hard to blog about), the Bulls aren't in a dire situation. Not yet. The early part of every Bulls season is always the toughest, and then they surge towards mediocrity and an early playoff exit. With more games against their eastern peers (and the Nets) as well as Tyrus Thomas returning, it will likely happen again this year. There may be cries here for an Iverson (or anyone) signing to help 'save' this season, but there's nothing to save. A meaningful season was punted on July 1st, and the narrative surrounding the Bulls is acknowledging more by the loss that they may have been just blowing smoke when saying they'd make a step up this season due to...I don't know, 'ball movement' or something.

The idea that a full season of Salmons ('fluke rule') and Miller ('old and out of shape rule')  would make a big difference has proven false. Hinrich was supposed to be a better complement to Rose (he can't be if the skills he provides are overshadowed by general suckage) and Rose himself was to be an All-Star now that nobody would be getting in his way on offense (wha?). The defense certainly looks ordinary again after a fast start, and that was one realistic hope for actual improvement.

But team improvement wasn't necessary in this grand franchise plan. In fact, the plan is not really a plan at all: it's to be lucky. The Bulls may be positioning (and not there yet, depending on some cap variables) to acquire a max free-agent, and it'll be tough for me to call it an achievement of the team if they're able to pull it off: it'll mostly just be a fortunate occurrence.

And if you look throughout NBA history for how teams become championship contenders, a lot of it is indeed luck. The Bulls already had more than their share given their improbable lottery victory two summers ago. But now, though seeing improvement from Noah and a bounce-back year from Deng is a big help,  they need another massive stroke of luck to be relevant again. Whether they get that or not, it stinks that it's not only what the franchise could use, but what they're absolutely banking on. Their front office is certainly not making their way back to the top by being good at their jobs.