The plan for this Bulls season called for passion, Pippen and playoffs.
After four games, two of those already are missing and the third seems almost unfathomable, unless the Bulls move to the Catholic League.
At least the Bulls are getting creative: They lost twice Monday.
First the team learned it will be without Scottie Pippen for at least a week because of a sore left knee.
Then the Bulls stunk up the United Center, once again looking lost on both ends of the court in a 98-66 loss to Houston. In their three losses, the 1-3 Bulls have been outscored by 87 points.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye, indeed.
Bulls coach Bill Cartwright continues to insist that this is no time to panic. But after a dismal performance in which the Bulls committed 19 turnovers and shot 26.6 percent, his words are ringing as hollow as the team's preseason playoff prediction.
"Chicago, to me, is a young team with potential, but they play too much individual ball," Houston guard Steve Francis said. "That helped us a lot by them playing selfish.
"You're not going to win if guys think about themselves more than the team. And that's what it looked like to me out there."
Only Tyson Chandler, the human tourniquet, can be excused from yet another flat effort. Chandler had his third straight double-double with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
Eddy Curry missed all eight of his shots and didn't score until the 7-minute-55-second mark of the third quarter, hitting his first free throw in four attempts. He fouled out with 5 minutes 29 seconds left with one point and four rebounds.
"It's OK to miss shots," Cartwright said. "But you can still go out and get 10 boards. That's something he has to learn."
Kendall Gill missed all seven of his shots. Jamal Crawford shot 6-for-18 in scoring a team-high 19 points.
The Bulls setHouston opponent records for lowest field-goal percentage, fewest points and fewest field goals (21).
"We're talking playoffs," Donyell Marshall said. "But we're playing like we're going for the No. 1 [draft] pick."
The boos started early, at a timeout with 5:48 to play in the first quarter. They came more loudly and venomously as the Bulls slinked off the court staring at a 55-35 halftime deficit.
By game's end, what remained of the crowd of 17,792 really let fly.
Houston, paced by Francis' 19 points, shot 52.1 percent, including 9-of-15 on three-pointers.
Yao Ming finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, setting the tone early when he feathered a baseline jumper over Chandler and then dunked over Curry on the next possession.
At one point, Crawford ran into Curry while the latter tried to set a pick, turning the ball over to Francis for a breakaway dunk.
"I take this personally," Chandler said. "I'm giving this team all I can."
From the first day of training camp, the Bulls puffed out their chests and spoke of playoffs as if they were their birthright.
The chests don't look as swelled. It's time to find out what's inside them.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times