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Bulls’ future looks more murky than perky

Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer  wipes his face as he stands with Joakim Noah (13) during time out first half

Chicago Bulls' Carlos Boozer wipes his face as he stands with Joakim Noah (13) during a time out in the first half against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal, Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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Updated: June 18, 2013 7:54AM



MIAMI — Thank you, Heat!

Thank you for putting the mess that was the 2012-13 Bulls down the drain and into the septic system.

The 94-91 victory LeBron James and the Heat earned against the Bulls in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Wednesday was needed and just.

Was the season fun for you, fans?

Yes, everybody on the Bulls plays hard. Yes, coach Tom Thibodeau is a good instructor and drill sergeant. And, yes, there were some thrilling games along the way.

There was the Game 7 victory in the first-round playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center. There was even the unexpected Game 1 victory in this series at American Airlines Arena.

But none of those things meant anything. The Bulls never were going anywhere this season. You knew that.

As soon as it became clear that Derrick Rose’s possible return from knee surgery was just a tease, it was over. Actually, it was pretty obvious long before that.

When somebody thought it would be a swell idea to tap Luol Deng’s spinal fluid — when all he had was the flu — the farce was sealed. Along the way, we had Joakim Noah’s bad feet, Marco Belinelli’s something, Rip Hamilton’s age and Kirk Hinrich’s general body.

But what we mostly had was no Rose.

So much was dim this season that it makes the Bulls’ future look darker, too. What was built for this season might not be built for next.

Certainly the bench, with Robinson’s and Belinelli’s contracts expiring, will have to be rebuilt, just as it was when the ‘‘Bench Mob’’ was scattered after last season. Robinson and Belinelli played so much this season because of others’ injuries that their status has soared, which means they likely will command more money than the Bulls can offer.

And what if, God forbid, Rose is the malingerer his harshest critics said he was this season? Those are the people who want to see him traded. Imagine the 24-year-old phenom the Bulls have hitched their wagon to not coming back ready to dominate again. As it is, Rose will have to earn Chicago’s respect again.

And what happened to the bright star that was Taj Gibson? He had two points and one rebound Wednesday. Even Noah looked terrible, with three points in almost 43 minutes.

It’s unpleasant to think the Bulls are coming undone, but maybe they are.

‘‘They made it extremely hard,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Bulls’ final effort.

That was nice. But just asking: Have you ever heard a winning coach say the other side stunk?

No team can lose the most valuable player of the league from two years ago and sail on to an NBA title. And that was the point for the Bulls, right? To win it all?

If simply being entertained is enough, then Li’l Nate was more fun than a beaker full of nitrous oxide. If all that’s needed is entertainment, then watching Carlos Boozer’s slow-motion jumper is riveting.

But the Bulls, theoretically, have been assembled to win the NBA title. Just like back in the Jordan years.

But how can anybody tell how good the team is when half the stars are injured and the lineup changes more often than a streetlight?

It would have been refreshing to have heard Rose say, months ago: ‘‘I’M NOT COMING BACK THIS SEASON.’’ And then to have added, ‘‘You guys have fun, and we’ll try again next fall.’’

In the preseason, I might have been one of the few who thought a healthy Bulls lineup (imaginary as it might have been) of Rose, Deng, Noah, Boozer and Hinrich — or maybe a mobile Hamilton or budding Jimmy Butler — could give the Heat a run.

Now we don’t even know who will start next season. Nor do we know how explosive Rose will be when he returns.

It’s the fog of surgery, the sadness of what might have been.

I remember when Jordan and his mates were destroying whole franchises, ruining their best chances at fame. Could the Heat be doing this to the Bulls? Could they be doing it to Rose?

One wonders if there’s a way to check for frailty, for lack of durability, in athletes. Nobody knows.

Maybe if the Bulls just start over . . .



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