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Bulls’ crushing loss to Heat has staying power

Kurt Thomas Bulls left looks Chris Bosh Heas Bulls lose 83-80 Game 5 Eastern Conference Finals United Center Thursday May

Kurt Thomas of the Bulls, left, looks at Chris Bosh of the Heat as the Bulls lose 83-80 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the United Center Thursday, May 26, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 3, 2011 1:40PM



This will sting for a few days, maybe longer. But it’s supposed to sting.

After 82 regular-season games, an improbable playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the time invested with every win, the heartbreak with every loss. No, the Bulls hangover will take a few days to get over. A few aspirin, a day or two lying around in darkness, but things will get better …

That is until the kick in the stomach that is the big picture hits the Bulls and their fan base.

And that sting that you thought subsided returns, this time digging in deeper, like a knife. It’s the realization that the Heat dynasty is in its beginning stages and won’t be going away anytime soon.

Not this year, not next year, maybe longer.

The road to the Eastern Conference Finals now starts and stops in South Beach, as this series and the Game 5 83-80 victory on Thursday, signified where the bar is set.

The Bulls were measured, weighed and then came up short. Three playoff games short.

If there was a time to put the Big Three on ice, it was this season, their genesis. If there was a team to do it, it was the upstart Bulls.

Let the chase begin now because that’s where the Bulls are in the pecking order — the hunter. The problem is the Heat is prey that will take more than a stone, a sling and some down and dirty defensive fortitude to run down.

LeBron James is 26, Dwyane Wade 29, Chris Bosh 27. They are signed with player options through 2016. The only other roadies that join “The Heatles’’ beyond the 2011-12 season are Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony.

As they showed from Game 1 of the regular season, up through these playoffs, they are evolving, only improving. Better at working together, better at trusting one another and better defensively.

If the Boston Celtics were the originators of the Big Three, the Heat might have taken it a step further and perfected it with a title this season, simply because its core came together with everyone still in their 20s.

The Bulls have a much different foundation.

The 29-year-old Carlos Boozer is inked through the 2014-15 season. That’s a lot of money for a defensively challenged player to work for a defensive-minded coach like Tom Thibodeau. Luol Deng, 26, is signed through 2013-14, Kyle Korver, 30, through 2012-13, Ronnie Brewer, 26, through 2012-13, Joakim Noah, 26, through 2016, while Omer Asik, Keith Bogans, Taj Gibson and C.J. Watson all have contracts through next season.

Then there is the star of the show in Derrick Rose, who undoubtedly will be on his way to a huge payday at some point next season.

With roster wiggle room at a minimum because of the CBA and an unknown salary cap, John Paxson and Gar Forman must get creative. Not just adding a piece here, a role player there, but bringing in a Robin to run alongside Rose’s Batman.

If the Bulls think that just sitting back with their current core group and hoping that a year older means a year better, they are fooling themselves. A year to mature won’t be the equalizer, more talent will.

The other concern that the Bulls need to be weighing? Every sport is a copycat league, and the NBA is no different.

Boston and then Miami were the first two Big Threes, but they’re going to be springing up all over now. The Lakers will try and add Dwight Howard to the Kobe-Gasol Show. New York wants Chris Paul to play alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov wants to have a Threesome before he moves the Nets to Brooklyn.

The league is changing, made up of a handful of mega-powers to do battle throughout May and June.

Rose and the other parts the Bulls have around him are nice if earning top seeds was the goal, but this about the ring.

It’s a pass/fail business, and if the Bulls want to run with the pack, staying near the front is a must.

“I don’t know what the Heat did wrong or the idea they didn’t do it the right way,’’ Korver said in early March. “I don’t think the players look at the Heat as a bunch of villains. It’s more media and fan perception. I look at it as a lot of excitement on the way.’’

“Excitement?’’ Maybe. But what’s now standing in front of the Bulls is a Heat dynasty. And it’s a cement wall that could be there for a long time.



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