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Reality of being lottery team smacks Bulls in face

NEW ORLEANS – Lockers still need to be cleaned out by the Bulls after this Wednesday’s season finale, but souls were beginning to be cleaned out on Monday.

Call it the aftermath of officially being eliminated from postseason play for the first time in seven seasons.

“Kind of speechless, but at the same time like I said a couple of days ago we put ourselves in this position and as men we have to deal with it,’’ veteran Derrick Rose said, after the players woke up in New Orleans knowing their fate was sealed about 12 hours earlier thanks to Indiana’s win over Brooklyn.

“When you look at everyone else who is making it and you are on the outside, it hurt a little bit, but it gives you reason to go in the gym and really a reason to work on your game,’’ Rose said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had motivation to work on our game every day, but missing the post season is a great reason why.’’

Rose didn’t feel the need to work on his game against the Pelicans, however, as it was announced that he would sit the final two games. Considering his injury history, a good decision.

The point guard wasn’t alone, either, as first-year coach Fred Hoiberg also shut down Taj Gibson, E’Twaun Moore and Pau Gasol for the final two games.

Gasol was actually going to have an MRI on his right knee Tuesday, making sure that the big man is not only healthy for the Olympics and Team Spain, but also as he is set to opt out of his player option and explore the open market.

Gasol had said back in February that his top priority was returning to Chicago, but according to sources he has cooled on that idea and the feeling from the team might be mutual.

Either way, expect the only real change throughout the organization coming with the roster. Sure, the coaching staff could see a minor tweak, but for the most part the on-the-court personnel will take the fall for the now 41-40 season after the 121-116 win over the Pelicans.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing,’’ guard Jimmy Butler said of the season. “The only thing you can say is you have to learn from it. We know what we were capable of this season. Obviously, that didn’t happen. It is what it is now. You can’t pick just one area. It’s not always on the floor as well. I think that’s the majority of it. I think whenever we step out in between those lines, we have to be together, we have to compete start to finish.’’

Butler was again asked about the ability to play alongside Rose moving forward, and seemed to have reached a limit on that question.

“C’mon, man, that [bleep] always comes up when people lose,’’ Butler said. “I’m tired of talking about that bull[bleep]. I ain’t answering that.’’

One of many questions that can’t or won’t be answered by the Bulls as they are now a lottery team.

“The first person I’m looking at in this whole situation is me,’’ Hoiberg said. “I have to be better. I have to get our guys to play more consistent basketball. It will be a long offseason. Hopefully, we’ll come out prepared in the fall and learn from some of the things that happened this year and be better.’’