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NBA 2010 Preseason: Chicago Bulls Could Win Central Without Carlos Boozer

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 16:  Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz attends Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 16, 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
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Brian ChappattaCorrespondent IIOctober 13, 2010

I keep telling myself not to get excited. It's just the preseason. It's just the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors. Those are teams the Chicago Bulls are supposed to beat. 

Yet I can't help but marvel at the depth and versatility of this Bulls team and ask myself: Just how good is this team without Carlos Boozer? How far could Chicago go if their second option never played this season?

Good enough to beat out the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers for the Central Division crown? Definitely.

Good enough to beat the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic or Boston Celtics for the Eastern Conference title? No chance.

Don't get me wrong—I want Boozer back as much as anyone. Replacing 20 points and 10 rebounds per game is a tall order for any squad.

This is not a knock on Boozer, but rather a testament to the quality of the group Gar Forman and John Paxson built this offseason. Only the truly elite teams could lose one of their stars and still play at a near-equal level. The Bulls are doing just that.

Against the Raptors, Derrick Rose had a solid showing with 23 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Joakim Noah nearly finished with a triple-double, as he had 16 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and a whopping +23 in the plus-minus column.

Yet what goes unnoticed is C.J. Watson dropping 12 points in 19 minutes and shooting 5-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-2 on treys.

And then there's Omer Asik, who scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The game before that against the Wizards he notched nine points and 10 rebounds.

These two guys are not starters. They're not the sixth or seventh men. But when they're asked to contribute, they're up for the task.

These two preseason wins improved the Bulls' record to 2-2, but more importantly reassured the players, management and fans that even in the absence of their prime offseason acquisition, the Bulls will be fine. They'll struggle against the elite teams in the West, but they would with Boozer in the lineup anyway.

I wrote in an earlier article that I can't see the Bulls coming out of November with a record better than .500. While I still believe that will be the case, I'd be less surprised if Chicago scores some major upset victories.

Blame my previous pessimism on my Murphy's Law mentality when it comes to Chicago sports. 

The Bulls may have a new coach and several new players, but one attribute of the previous squads is still with this team: resiliency. 

And as long as Chicago has that fighting spirit, I like the Bulls' chances. With or without Boozer in the lineup.

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