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Send out the Clowns: Circus Trip a success, Bulls return to UC, Boozer returns to Bulls

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Vanquished!
Vanquished!

With a 4-3 record on the Circus Trip (and oh, how close it was to 5-2) the meter on Bulls good-feelings is far higher than even when entering the trip. The Bulls not only kept their record over .500, but both showed continued improvement from what was going well before (Noah and Rose), and even improved a bit on things that weren't (bench production). The offense is continuing to look competent, and the defense at times has been spectacular.

With a few off days and a return home,  national outlets are taking notice. Luol Deng provided his annual "this locker room is great!" declaration. Everybody loves Thibodeau.

And it's all deserved praise. But the most exciting part isn't all the love and chemistry-sauce shown during the victories as much as them getting the victories without Carlos Boozer. Now that Boozer's practicing and possibly even coming back Wednesday, it changes everything, and most of all: expectations. I thought Mike McGraw nailed it in this piece about that: the goal is to be the top of the conference, and Boozer can get them there.

As much as it's great that the Bulls have come together thus far, it matters more how they potentially adjust to incorporate Boozer. With the victories they've accumulated against a very tough schedule with Boozer out, the Bulls have not only proven to be as good as the projected mid-tier of the conference, but worthy contenders alongside Orlando, Boston, and Miami by the time this season is over. For the first time in several years (and even then it was a bit of mirage) we're rooting for a team to be elite

It's a nice coincidence that that Bulls are facing Orlando and Boston this very week, but while winning either game is possible I won't see it as a true measure yet. There will be some acclimation pains to Boozer's return, and any projected massive bump in play with that return has to keep in mind that Taj Gibson has been playing so well it may not even be that noticeable.

(Not to say it won't be an improvement, don't you dare! Taj wasn't going to keep this up, and in fact may have sacrificed his feet this past month to do what he did. Getting others minutes down is a no-brainer improvement as well )

Nah, the true fun begins not this week, or even the next, but the extremely soft month-long stretch starting mid-December. By then Boozer should be well-integrated, and the Bulls can go on a serious winning run. So I'm aiming towards then with some rope given in the meantime: Boozer's return will be a huge boost, but may not happen immediately. Then again, this team has already blown away some major doubts in the face of perceived adversity, so maybe it's time to get real greedy.