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After the metaphoric buzzer sounded to signal the NBA's trade deadline on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, the Bulls were one of only a handful of teams to not make a move. It marked the third-straight trade deadline that Chicago stood pat, a move that's yielded a wide range of reactions, from confusion to anger from fans. Despite there being rumors of the Bulls looking to trade Andre Drummond, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine prior to him undergoing season-ending foot surgery, Chicago pulled the ultimate surprise and did nothing.

Instead of becoming sellers at the deadline, the Bulls plan to move forward for the rest of the season with this current crop of players, a group that has Chicago sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 24-27 record. It's a confusing move from an outsider's perspective, given the Bulls have continuously tried to get this core of guys to work with little results. Injuries have certainly played a massive role, but at some point you have to wave the white flag. And yet, when Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas addressed reporters Thursday afternoon about the team's inaction, the message was the same one Chicago has been pushing to fans and other teams in the league for the past several years: the Bulls want to compete.

"The biggest thing for me is like you look at every option that's out there to improve your team, and we didn't see anything that was gonna make us better," Karnisovas said. "We would take a step back, which we don't want. We want to stay competitive. We have an obligation to this organization, this fan base and this city to stay competitive and compete for the playoffs. And that's what we're doing."

In terms of what exactly Karnisovas and the Bulls' front office were looking for in terms of trades, he hammered on the idea of looking for players who would improve the team right now in their quest for a playoff spot. 

"You always look to improve your team, and those scenarios were not coming up," Karnisovas said. "We spent obviously a couple of days, and we decided to stay with this group, because that gives us the best chance to compete this year."

The Bulls are likely to make the play-in tournament barring any other major injury or awful play, but past that the road forward looks rather hazy. If they manage to secure one of the final two postseason spots through the play-in round and lose in the first round, this team will then be in the exact same position as it was last year and the year before that, a franchise that just isn't quite good enough with the current roster to break into the upper echelon of teams. But amidst all the calls for this team to enter a rebuild, it seems as though Chicago will stubbornly continue forward by trying to remain just competitive enough to stay in the hunt for a postseason spot.

One silver lining is that the Bulls do control their first-round pick in this summer's draft, but given their insistence on fighting for a postseason spot that pick will likely fall out of the Top 10. And in a draft class that is widely considered to be on the weaker side, it's unclear how meaningful that pick actually is.

Beyond this season, regardless of how it ends for the Bulls, there will be some major decisions that need to be made this summer. LaVine will surely be mentioned again in trade talks, as will Alex Caruso, who is seen as Chicago's best tradable asset as an All-Defensive guard. There's also the looming free agency of DeRozan, who Karnisovas has said in the past and again on Thursday that he wanted to bring the 34-year-old forward back next season. 

"I love DeMar, he's huge for this team, for the city, for this organization," Karnisovas said. "He's been great for our young guys. He's been our closer, so I think he's wonderful for this team and hopefully when the time comes we have a chance to keep him."

With how Karnisovas talked on Thursday, it doesn't seem like the Bulls are interested in any major changes that take them out of playoff contention right now, or even in the immediate future. However, when asked if ownership would support taking a step back at some point, he did say team owner Jerry Reinsdorf would support whatever is decided.

"Yes, ownership is supporting me, whatever we decide, and moving forward whatever we decide to do with this team," Karnisovas said. "A competitive team in the Eastern Conference is what we try to accomplish and with 30 games to go we're looking forward to try to make the playoffs."

For right now it seems like the Bulls are content with being a middle-of-the-pack team despite the history showing this roster can't get this team out of the first round. We'll have to see if that tune changes this summer, or if Chicago will once again run it back in hopes of a different result next season.