Reality check time

What did Wednesday's loss to the Nets mean for the Bulls?

Chicago Bulls Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant
(USA Today Sports)

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Are you like me? Do you love watching the NFL playoffs but also hate the nagging feeling that the Bears should be appearing in them more years?

My adopted teams this year are the Bills, Rams and whoever ends up beating the Packers in the NFC title game.

Thursday's scores
Hawks 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
DePaul 96, Seton Hall 92

Tonight's schedule
Warriors at Bulls (6:30, ESPN)
Michigan at Illinois (8, FS1)

Northwestern at Michigan State (11, FS1)
Loyola at Indiana State (6, CBS Sports Network)
Ducks at Hawks (7:30, NBCSCH+)
Bulls at Celtics (7:30, NBCSCH)

No games

What did the Nets loss tell us about the Bulls?

(USA Today Sports)

You thought this would be easy?

While Wednesday's 138-112 blowout loss to Brooklyn provided plenty of reason for those looking to slam the brakes on the Bulls bandwagon, I think there were two immediately visible benefits.

  1. Bulls fans needed a little dousing! Hey look, I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to getting over our skis with this team. We went from "Hey, it'd be nice to avoid the play-in game" to "aaaay, so maybe we could make the Finals?" faster than Ayo Dosunmu pushes the ball up the floor. I'm not saying we should lower our sights, or not be excited or that this team isn't capable of special things. What I'm saying is that a mid-January reminder to stay grounded is better than being caught offguard by a trap door in late-Aprile or mid-May.  Many things still need to go right for the Bulls to maximize this special group.
  2. The Bulls needed a reality check, too: We just watched the White Sox coast through a season unchecked, only to see their flaws immediately exposed in the playoffs by the Astros. Improving this team's interior defense will likely require a difficult conversation about trading the potential of  Patrick Williams or figuring out a creative way to get the most value out of swapping Coby White. But if the first two wins over an undermanned Brooklyn obscured the Bulls' matchup problems with a healthy Nets team, Wednesday was a stark reminder there's no solving the challenge that Kevin Durant presents.

Admittedly, injuries have left a giant asterisk hanging on the Bulls right now. Alex Caruso hasn't played a full game since December 19. Javonte Green is still out a week or two with a groin injury. Derrick Jones' Jr. injury at the start of the Nets game (right knee bone bruise) will cause him to miss the next 2-4 weeks.

Still, what do the chances of a Bulls team playing with a full deck look like? The top-level play of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, plus the perimeter defense provided by Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso (once he's back) should keep the Bulls on a path to bulldoze the conference's bottom half.

But they'll probably also continue logging some big wins and disappointing losses against the top contenders. That's because t was true before this week and it will remain true going into the playoffs: This Bulls team as presently constituted is going to need some luck to make a deep run. That's true for any contender, but especially one that lacks a deep front court and might not be able to make the necessary roster fixes by playoff time.

Next: Golden State tonight at the United Center and a trip to Boston on Saturday night. The Warriors were blown out in Milwaukee last night and have already ruled Klay Thompson out for tonight's game. Golden State beat the Bulls 119-93 in San Francisco back on November 12.

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The team announced on Thursday it had interviewed Cleveland VP of football ops Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for its open GM position. The team also interviewed an internal candidate — Champ Kelly, the team's director of pro scouting.

  • The team said it has interviewed four total people so far with Browns VP of personnel Glenn Cook and former Eagles coach Doug Pederson interviewing on Wednesday.
  • Other scheduled interviews that have been reported: Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland (today), Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett (Saturday), Colts DC Matt Eberflus (Monday)

News and results

Hawks: Kurashev wins it in OT
That's three straight wins for the Hawks after Thursday's 3-2 win. Never mind the fact they needed overtime and two breaks on a replay review of Philipp Kurashev to beat a seven-win team.

DePaul: Upsets Seton Hall for first Big East win
Hey hey! A conference win for the Blue Demons! Even more impressive: The 96-92 home victory over the 20th-ranked Pirates came with leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty playing sparingly down the stretch with a groin injury. DePaul is now 10-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big East.

1. Details on Thursday's talks between MLB and the players union, which lasted about an hour and seemingly didn't solve much. MLB Trade Rumors

2. Andy Dolan on Jon Lester as the Cubs great rides into the sunset. Pointless Exercise

3. Paul Sullivan thinks the Cubs should retire #34 in Lester's honor. Fine by me as long as 1) They retire #8 and #21 first and 2) They put Kerry Wood's name on the flag, too. Tribune

4. Michigan is in Champaign tonight, but how many Wolverines will there be? The team hasn't played in 10 days and has been holding practices with seven players and just one coach. M Live

5. WNBA free agency opens on Saturday. James Kay has five predictions, including Allie Quigley retiring Tribune

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