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The Bulls' Mirage

By George Ofman

Are you really excited about those Bulls? Are you thinking maybe first round of the playoffs and beyond?

Are you sleeping with Mark McGwire?

It's certainly been interesting to see the Bulls win three straight road games (quite a feat) and win them against decent Western Conference foes. And it's clearly encouraging to watch the growth of Derrick Rose, who is being given more latitude to close games, and he is.

But do me a favor: Don't see this as anything more than what it really is. It's all about next July, not now.

Actually, it could be all about next month if the Bulls manage to pry Chris Bosh from Toronto and sign him to a long and lucrative deal. Now, if that happens, wake up McGwire because the Bulls could be something more than a first-round punching bag.

For now, though, I'm going to assume they don't make a big splash until the free agent period begins if they manage to splash it up at all.

Here's a team that manages to lose its first two games of this long trip to teams they should have beaten, particularly Golden State, which looked like a pick-up team trading baskets on some beaten-up, inner city hard court. Then they go out and stun the high-scoring Phoenix Suns, outlast the Houston Rockets and tame the aging San Antonio Spurs, all with a patchwork lineup because someone passed the flu around the locker room as if it was PED. Give Vinny Del Negro some credit, even though he loses style points for those first two debacles. He's letting Taj Gibson mature because Tyrus Thomas won't. He's letting Kirk Hinrich start and shoot. He's even giving James Johnson some minutes.

So tell me, how does a team shooting 44 percent before these three games suddenly shoot 52.5 percent? I know - it's planter fasciitis. Joakim Noah has it. So does Gibson but not Brad Miller, the behemoth who has played more like a dead log than an NBA veteran. Yet there he was scoring 25 while Noah was ailing. Maybe the Bulls have figured out how to suddenly play on the road? Maybe Del Negro has suddenly learned how to coach? Maybe the Bulls are the 43-win team I predicted before the start of the season.

But it still doesn't mean much except another year off the calendar.

This franchise must make a significant move by next off-season or it's doomed to mediocrity for years down the road.

Sure, it's fun to watch them play like this, but it doesn't happen very often. The Bulls are still a jump-shooting team in desperate need of big talent, both in size and contribution.
If they can find a way to get Bosh, they're better. If they can sign Joe Johnson, they're better. If they can find a way to convince Dwyane Wade to return to his roots, they're much better. But the team of John Paxson/Gar Forman has yet to pull the trigger on a deal to steal the Bulls from several years of malaise.

Until then, don't get too excited. The Bulls are still a mirage until further notice.

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George Ofman is now with WGN radio after a 17-year run with The Score. He also blogs for ChicagoNow under the banner That's All She Wrote. Comments welcome.

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