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posted: 2/12/2010 12:01 AM

Here's what Bulls need to do coming out of all-star break

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  • Joakim Noah's energy and strong play has been sorely missed as he battles a foot problem.

      Joakim Noah's energy and strong play has been sorely missed as he battles a foot problem.
    Associated Press

 
 

Six Flags might want to ask Brad Miller to help brainstorm on the creation of the next great thrill ride.

The Bulls headed into the all-star break with a disappointing 107-87 loss to Orlando, and Miller was asked to sum up the first half of the season even though the Bulls have played 51 games and have 31 left.

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So it's not really the midway point, but that's not important.

"It was a roller coaster," Miller said. "One of the tallest, steepest, fastest, accelerating, decelerating, never know what's going to happen. We've tried a little bit of everything, for sure."

Looking back, the Bulls actually got off to the best start (6-4) of the post-championship era, then hit a dismal stretch where they lost 11 of 13, including a couple of 30-point blowouts. They also were the victims in New Jersey's only road win so far this season on Dec. 8.

That wasn't even the worst of it. The Bulls nearly made NBA history by squandering a 35-point, third-quarter lead against Sacramento on Dec. 21. The largest comeback in the record books is 36 points.

Once their record bottomed out at 10-17, the Bulls caught fire. Starting when Tyrus Thomas returned from a broken arm on Dec. 26, the Bulls went 13-5 through the end of January with a stunning five-game winning streak on the road against Western Conference playoff contenders.

Since the trip ended, the Bulls had to play six games in nine days and won just twice. Thomas was suspended for venting angrily after a game and injuries to key players hang over the team like a dark cloud.

So while the Bulls are off until hosting New York on Tuesday, here's a to-do list for the remainder of the season:

Get healthy: The Bulls got a glimpse of life without both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah on Wednesday, and it wasn't a pleasant sight.

Rose fell on his back and tailbone after a hard foul by Dwight Howard, and it's anyone's guess how long he will be sidelined.

He could be fine by next week or could miss a few games. He's supposed to be the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan in 1998 to participate in the All-Star Game, but even that's in question.

The Bulls spent the first half of the season learning that their best strategy for success is give the ball to Rose and get out of the way. Playing without him doesn't figure to work as well.

Meanwhile, Noah took the past week off to rest a sore left foot. He had a procedure done in which blood was injected into the afflicted area in an attempt to speed the healing.

The Bulls are hoping Noah feels better after the break, but when Andres Nocioni suffered from plantar fasciitis in 2007, he needed two months off.

Endure the trade talk: The trade deadline hits next Thursday, and the Bulls are hoping to clear more cap space for this summer. That means unloading mainstay Kirk Hinrich for an expiring contract. Then again, it might not happen.

A deal to actually make the Bulls a better team right now is unlikely. The goal is to sign a couple of top-level free agents this summer.

Don't give Thomas away: Tyrus Thomas has played well in two games since his suspension, so the Bulls shouldn't feel any rush to get rid of him for nothing in return.

Players vent anger all the time in pro sports. The real issue is getting him to play consistently well, and maybe sitting out a game was a way to push his reset button.

"I think for the most part I do a good job of playing well when I'm given the opportunity," Thomas said after the Orlando game.

If the Bulls can get a first-round pick or a useful player in return, that's one thing.

If not, there's no reason he can't finish the season in a Bulls uniform. Thomas will be a restricted free agent this summer, so trading him won't help with cap space.

Play well at home: After the break, the Bulls play 8 of 12 at the United Center. There are some tough ones in there - Portland, Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas and Utah, while Cleveland visits twice after March 19.

But if the Bulls can win at home, they should have no problem making the playoffs.

Roll on the road: There's one unusual road trip in the middle of March - back-to-backs against Orlando and Miami, then Memphis and Dallas, with three days off in between.

Other than that trip, all the remaining Bulls road games could be described as winnable. They go to Washington twice, New York, Minnesota, Indiana, Detroit, Philadelphia and New Jersey, before finishing with playoff rivals Toronto and Charlotte.

The toughest part of the Bulls' schedule is over. If they get healthy and play the way they have since Dec. 26, they have a good chance to finish well above .500 this season.

Then again, there is one obvious lesson about the Bulls this season: Nothing is automatic or easy for this team.

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