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updated: 12/25/2013 4:34 PM

Bulls could mess up one of best opportunities in sports history

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  • Carlos Boozer, left, and Joakim Noah relax as the Bulls close out the host Brooklyn Nets 95-78 on Wednesday.

      Carlos Boozer, left, and Joakim Noah relax as the Bulls close out the host Brooklyn Nets 95-78 on Wednesday.
    Associated Press

  • Can you imagine Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau smniling with a 9-point deficit? Can you imagine him smiling with a 9-point lead, or a nine-game winning streak? Mike Imrem ponders the questions.

      Can you imagine Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau smniling with a 9-point deficit? Can you imagine him smiling with a 9-point lead, or a nine-game winning streak? Mike Imrem ponders the questions.
    Associated Press

 
 

After the presents were opened, Christmas Day essentially became a waiting game.

The Bears-Packers showdown isn't until Sunday. The Blackhawks are on holiday. Pitchers and catchers don't report until mid-February.

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Wait, wait and wait some more.

So, what to do in the meantime?

Hey, look, the Bulls are playing in Brooklyn at 11 a.m., so far from prime time that ESPN's fifth-string announcers did the game.

Why watch this atrocity? Because it's sports and it's on TV, that's why.

Bad basketball had to be better than sweeping snow off the driveway, clipping the dog's eyebrows or making gurgling noises after falling face-first into a tub of eggnog.

So bad basketball it was -- even though the highlights figured to be promos for the premiere of "True Detective" on HBO and for the return of "Justified" on FX.

The game turned out to be even more depressing than anticipated: The Bulls won 95-78.

This team simply couldn't find a way to lose to an opponent that had some players wearing black-and-white striped socks up to their knees.

If the Bulls aren't careful they're going to mess up one of the best opportunities in sport history.

Other bad NBA teams are trying to tank themselves into position for one of the gaudy prospects in June's collegiate draft. Look, tanking is a bad thing. Too many season-ticket holders pay too much money to watch teams pretend to be playing basketball.

The beauty of the Bulls is they shouldn't have to lose on purpose. They should be able to lose naturally. They should be able to lose by playing as hard as possible.

Against the Nets, the Bulls were without two starters -- Derrick Rose and Luol Deng -- who were presumed starters when the season began. Joakim Noah always is an injury waiting to happen. Jimmy Butler returned to the lineup despite suffering from turf toe that had him saying he needs "a new right foot." Carlos Boozer is healthy, but sometimes it's difficult to tell.

So the Bulls shouldn't have trouble qualifying for the draft lottery and maybe even to select local hero Jabari Parker as their next great hope.

Or is losing a lost cause for the Bulls?

It is if Wednesday was any indication, because five players from your local YMCA could have beaten the Nets. All of your Y-mates could have turf toe and still dominated this particular opponent.

That's the risk of playing in the NBA East. The conference has so many pathetic teams that even the potentially pathetic Bulls will have trouble qualifying for the lottery.

The Bulls' record is 11-16 and they're still hanging around the fringes of the playoffs because other alleged contenders like the Nets and Knicks are 9-19.

One scene from the Bulls-Nets game demonstrated why the Bulls find it difficult to miss the playoffs despite themselves.

The Bulls started on a little third-quarter surge to go ahead by 9 points, so Jason Kidd called a timeout. As the teams returned to the court, the camera caught the Nets' rookie head coach smiling on the bench during a conversation with an assistant coach.

The Nets proceeded to botch their next possession, the Bulls scored on their first and the game's outcome pretty much was decided before the period was over.

Can you imagine Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau smiling with a 9-point deficit? Can you imagine him smiling with a 9-point lead? Can you imagine him smiling with a nine-game winning streak?

Because the Bulls are intense if nothing else and Thibodeau is intense if nothing else, they're liable to make the playoffs.

Maybe the Bulls will have to try to lose on purpose after all, even if it isn't recommended here.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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