The one thing the Bulls havenâ€™t been come February is boring.
Last year, it was dumping Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis for veteran forward Otto Porter. Two seasons ago, Nikola Mirotic was sent out before the trade deadline.
Back-to-back years of being sellers â€“ sort of â€“ and now in Year 3 of this rebuild even more decisions to make with this seasonâ€™s trade deadline going down on Feb. 6.
Do the Bulls add? Or do they look to move the likes of a Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine, who are each restricted free agents this summer? Then thereâ€™s veteran Thaddeus Young, who was publicly unhappy with his minutes. Can he be packaged to a contender?
All questions that vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have to weigh.
January could sway that scale one way or the other.
â€œYeah, I think definitely itâ€™s that time of year where youâ€™ve got to kick this up,â€™â€™ Valentine said of the next four weeks. â€œWeâ€™ve just got to hold ourselves accountable to bring it each and every night. Thatâ€™s all we can do. We know what could happen if we donâ€™t.â€™â€™
That they do.
If the goal of a playoff appearance continues to shrink then it will be up to Paxson and Forman to continue moving pieces, and the way the schedule sets up thereâ€™s a good chance that playoff dreams will be crushed.
The Bulls have played teams with a .500 record or better 13 times so far this season, and have gone 1-12 against them. And as far as that one win, go ahead and asterisk that, considering the Los Angeles Clippers sat Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly and JaMychal Green.
Of the 17 games in January, nine come against teams .500 or better.
That doesnâ€™t exactly scream playoff push.
â€œI think we just have to trust in ourselves,â€™â€™ Dunn said, when asked about overcoming that obstacle against winning teams. â€œWeâ€™ve got a really good team here. Got a lot of pieces, a lot of talent. Weâ€™ve got to put it together in a sense of going out there and competing at a high level. Even when the shots not falling or we have a couple mishaps on defense, weâ€™ve got to be able to stay locked in, stay focused, and stay within the game.
â€œIf weâ€™re down 12, alright everybody has to have the same mindset, letâ€™s get it to six. If weâ€™re down 15, letâ€™s get it to 12. You know what Iâ€™m saying? Youâ€™ve got to play within the game and keep competing.â€™â€™
A lesson Jim Boylen has been trying to preach on an almost nightly basis, but is having trouble finding a foothold with this group.
To start the season, Boylen was trying to get this roster to embrace defense. They have, currently ranked sixth in the league in defensive efficiency. Getting them to finish games has been a completely different battle, however.
â€œWe just got to come out every night with an attitude of winning,â€™â€™ Valentine said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to come out with a different confidence, swagger about ourselves, and play hard for 48, really. I think weâ€™re talented enough, but weâ€™ve got to start coming out and showing it.
â€œI think we actually get hyped up to play the better teams. I just think we gotta get over that hump of that fourth quarter and the second half. We just donâ€™t play as well in the second half, kind of let up a little bit for some reason. Thatâ€™s got to be figured out.â€™â€™
Sooner than later. Feb. 6 is coming quickly.