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If the Bulls were tanking, how could we tell?

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can’t believe we have to talk about this bullshit again

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Chicago Bulls Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Well, there was yet another double-loss for the Bulls last night. They got beat up by the Sixers outside of a 6 minute ‘rally’, and the Wizards put up over 150 points to beat the Pacers.

The Bulls are now 4 games back (they do own the tiebreakers) with just 7 games remaining. As unlikely as it is for the Bulls to win 7 in a row, it’s almost as unlikely for the Wizards to only go 3-4 in that time.

It’s pretty pointless to look at the strength of opponent, teams will be hurt or tired or proactively sitting guys, but here ya go, the teams ahead of the Bulls for the final two play-in slots, and their games remaining:

It’s also pretty pointless to concern ourselves with the Bulls organization actively trying to lose. We’ll know how they feel based on whether they activate Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic on Thursday.

It’s been over a month since the Bulls have had 2 days off, and LaVine looks to be cleared to play - a bit later than expected - but was still held out yesterday:

hope is he can return to game action when Chicago visits Charlotte on Thursday, coach Billy Donovan said.

LaVine has rejoined the team in full but will miss his 11th straight game when the Bulls host the 76ers at the United Center on Monday evening. LaVine did individual work over the weekend but isn’t yet in game shape, so he’s lining up for a return Thursday. The Bulls don’t play Tuesday or Wednesday, so LaVine will have a chance to practice in full.

“It’s just a matter right now of Zach and the medical, just with him being out for as long as he’s been out, getting his legs back under him,” Donovan said.

“We just need a little bit of a ramp-up time before he can join the team, certainly going into a back-to-back (Thursday-Friday) coming up after this game.”

Odd strategy, as to me there is no better ‘ramp-up time’ than a late season Bulls contest. We can only assume Donovan doesn’t see it that way, as he’s still - in his mind, anyway - coaching to win with DNP-ing any somewhat-interesting prospect on the roster.

Meanwhile, Vucevic has been dealing with a hip issue that’s cost him two games plus a really bad performance in another.

Vucevic had imaging taken on his hip, and it revealed “nothing significant,” Donovan said. The Bulls are unsure of whether Vucevic will be ready to play Thursday.

So we’ll know Thursday if the Bulls are embracing the tank. In this case it’s especially shameful as we’re to get agitated over the increase from a 20% to 32% chance of winning a top-4 selection and thus keeping the pick from conveying to the Magic.

The whole motivation is gross, but I am also not concerned about ancillary costs like ‘franchise attitude of competitiveness, or reducing the time of LaVine and Vuc playing together, or ‘upsetting LaVine before his walk year’ (this was a legitimate concern by semi-legitimate people concerning trading Thad Young, remember).

That said, I do expect LaVine and Vuc to play Thursday. The thing is, given how they’ve played so far together...they likely will keep losing! And they’re so far back already that it won’t take much longer for them to be mathematically eliminated and then you can sign Sean Kilpatrick.

Will that few-games delay crush their lottery odds and we should be clamoring for them to just park LaVine and Vuc on the bench the rest of the year? Oh god, I guess maybe, I can’t give a shit about something that’s literally luck. And this team can get bent for making me even care a little about it.