The past few weeks with the Bulls have been a strange experience.
Even after losing Derrick Rose to another knee injury and trading top scorer Luol Deng to Cleveland, they've won five in a row and eight of the last 10 games.
Two guys who weren't even on the roster a month ago combined to score 31 points off the bench in Saturday's 103-97 victory over Charlotte at the United Center.
Point guard D.J. Augustin attacked his former team for 20 points and 12 assists, while Cartier Martin, in his first Bulls' appearance, chipped in 11 points while helping fill in for the injured Jimmy Butler.
After the game, center Joakim Noah (19 points, 14 rebounds) settled into his locker room chair and talked about the Deng trade, why he waited five days to speak to the media and the passion that drives him to keep playing hard.
"The trade definitely hurt," Noah said. "A lot of people say this is a business and all that. This game is more than a business to me. I put everything I've got into this. I feel like Lu was the same way. It was hard for me to digest.
"That's just my perspective. Everybody has a different job. I'm not mad at anybody. I'm not mad at the organization or anything like that. It's just my brother isn't here anymore. I just needed a little bit of time to digest that."
Noah did a nice job of articulating how Deng's departure dug into his competitive nature.
"That's my brother and he's not here anymore. That's how I see it," Noah said. "(Management) sees the game differently. They're not out there on the court. They're not out there on the plane. They don't know how much Lu meant to me, personally.
"Like I said, I'm not mad at anybody. At the end of the day, the games keep coming. We're just going to go out there and give it everything we've got. There's no tanking, there's none of that. I'm going to go out there and give 150 percent."
How long the Bulls can keep this up is anyone's guess. Noah said he thinks a high playoff seed is a realistic goal. The injuries always seem to keep coming, though. Butler succumbed to the bruised thigh he suffered on Friday in Milwaukee, but probably won't be out long.
Oddly enough, every player who scored for the Bulls reached double figures against Charlotte. That included Mike Dunleavy with 17 and Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich with 12 each.
The Bulls (17-18) let a 15-point, third-quarter lead evaporate. But after the Bobcats took a brief 73-72 lead a minute into the fourth, Augustin and Noah led the Bulls on a decisive 11-0 run.
"We just want to represent," Noah continued. "I feel like when I come to the game, I see the guy selling newspapers on the streets. It's cold outside. When he sees me driving by, he's excited. He's like, 'All right, let's go Bulls. Let's get it done tonight.' I feel like I play for that guy.
"When I look at the top of the arena, when teams call time out, I see that guy who looks this big and he's up cheering, jumping up and down -- that's the guy I play for. To me, that's what the city represents. There's a hardship in here, a lot of adversity in this city. I feel like when I play basketball, I want people to be proud of their team.
"I don't have to be happy with the decision they made. I wanted him to stay. I've got to live with it, go out on the court and give it everything I have."