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Bulls need to keep an eye on the prize. No, playoffs is not the prize.

This Bulls winning streak was so improbable, it literally hadn't been done before: the first time ever a team has won 5 straight road games against winning teams. They not only beat good teams, but often pretty handily.

This is the performance that could've been expected before the year: a very solid 1-7 rotation (now 8 with Taj an unforeseen solid contributor), a coach that won't try and screw it up by coaching, and Derrick Rose making a leap into stardom. Up until a couple weeks ago, a lot of things derailed that expectation: injuries exposed the awful back-end of the bench, and veterans Hinrich, Salmons, and Miller were playing far below their career norms.

But the path of a near-.500 season has been re-solidified, and the top 8 in the East looks fairly set (though only a few games out, tough to see squads like the Bucks or Knicks making much of a run), with the Bulls in that group and likely to stay. That's a fairly ideal result to the placeholder season that this is meant to be: be a playoff team, be a 'team on the rise', show off your new all-star in Derrick Rose, and get him help in the offseason. Success.

So it's a bit alarming, if admittedly embellished by my own paranoia, to sense the general tone around the team raised not to content competence, but to cherished success. David Haugh's column on Gar Forman is not meant to be read into that much, it's a weekend fluff profile on a guy who works hard and doesn't see his kids much. But there are some worrisome nuggets thrown in there, as well as in other post-road-trip-delirium, and news of trades turned down that has me worried that the promise of this playoff surge obscuring what should be the ultimate goals of this season: get maximum-salary cap flexibility, and get Rose another star to play alongside.

Part of that goal does involve being a playoff team, but as I've said before: while a playoff appearance is a nice perk going into free agency, you have to have the cap room to even get in the game. The Bulls recent success has raised my expectations to guaranteed first-round sweep (or lottery) to maybe giving a team some trouble in the first round. Pretty much like last year, which means fun but ultimately unsatisfying.

They've banked these wins, and Derrick Rose masks a lot of deficiencies, to the point where they will likely make the playoffs regardless of whatever 'chemistry-altering' a deadline deal causes. Given that the Bulls are seeking the cap flexibility in a deal, it's difficult to expect them to pull off one that also helps their present cause. But that's a risk they should be taking, as the stakes of getting top-level talent this offseason is more important then fighting for a 6-game exit over a 4-game one.

Because while it's been a great week as a Bulls fan, there's no reason to not be on guard for a future letdown (I'm especially worried my trip to the UC on Tuesday will be a dissapointment), and if that did happen: does the plan going into the deadline change again?

I hope instead the Org. is being consistent about what they want, and in that respect last week doesn't change things much.