Bizarre season ends

Bizarre season ends Krause speaks of sound foundation for Bulls' future

So this is how it ends, with Charles Oakley and Eddie Robinson in street clothes, Tim Floyd elsewhere and 60 percent of the projected preseason starting lineup playing for Indiana.

So this is how it ends, with rookies Tyson Chandler (13 points), Eddy Curry (11) and Trenton Hassell (15) scoring in double figures and Jamal Crawford blossoming, Bill Cartwright in charge and a star in tow in Jalen Rose.

Rarely does a 61-loss season carry with it a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full outlook. But this Bulls campaign, which ended Wednesday night with a 112-106 loss to the Hornets in what likely will be the last regular-season game played in Charlotte Coliseum, qualifies.

How to assess a season in which the Bulls once again held the league's worst record for the majority of it but also got plenty of developmental minutes for Chandler and Curry?

How to assess a season in which the Bulls once again flirted with the league's worst offensive numbers but saw those numbers rise past Miami since the acquisition of Rose on Feb. 19?

How to assess a season in which the Bulls became just the sixth team since the league went to an 82-game schedule in 1967 to post three consecutive 60-loss seasons but also swept the two-time defending champion Lakers?

How to assess a season in which Floyd, general manager Jerry Krause's handpicked successor to Phil Jackson, left, but Cartwright slipped into the position as comfortably as one would into an old pair of shoes?

Here's one way to assess it:

"I feel a lot better now than I did a year ago," Krause said. "I think we've laid a very firm, sound foundation. There's a better core here."

Here's another:

"There's still plenty of work to do," Krause said.

The Bulls, led by Rose's 27 points, faded down the stretch to a desperate Hornets team that is expected to move to New Orleans but secured home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with its victory and losses by Philadelphia and Orlando.

"These are the kind of games we get next season," Cartwright said.

Until then, what a season this was.

From last June's draft-day trade of Elton Brand for Chandler to the early-season turmoil surrounding Floyd; from Oakley's $50,000 fine for criticizing Floyd following a franchise-worst 53-point loss in Minnesota to Ron Artest's manic intensity; from a wild melee between Brad Miller and Shaquille O'Neal in a stirring victory over the Lakers to the seven-player trade with Indiana, this season had it all.

Drama exceeded victories.

The low point? Perhaps Floyd's departure on Christmas Eve.

"I still have great faith in Tim Floyd as a coach and a person," Krause said. "It just didn't work."

The high point? That has to remain in the future.

"We're not that far away from being able to win," Cartwright said. "But we are going to have to grow up some and get some guys in here.

"A lot depends on the lottery. If we get the first pick, you have to consider who the best player is, whether it's a young guy or not. But there's a difference in a guy who can play and a guy who can play three years from now."

In other words, no more projects. The Bulls have plenty of those.

Until they become consistently productive, the playoffs remain a long way off.