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In first meeting since Nikola Vucevic trade, struggling Bulls fall to Magic

The Magic dealt Nikola Vucevic to the Bulls just before the trade deadline. Chicago was prioritizing the present. Orlando – which also sent Aaron Gordon to the Nuggets and Evan Fournier to the Celtics – was entering a rebuild.

But the Bulls are just 3-8 since the trade – their most recent defeat a devastating 115-106 setback to Orlando on Wednesday.

Vucevic played well against his former team, scoring 29 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Zach LaVine scored 30 points and dished seven assists.

Chicago just collapsed without LaVine, getting outscored by 18 in the nine minutes the star guard sat.

It’s not too late for the Bulls to succeed with Vucevic. He’s under contract two more seasons. Chicago clearly valued getting him under team control for the rest of his prime (give or take).

But winning more this season was part of the equation. The Bulls (15.5, 10th in the Eastern Conference) are in danger of slipping out of the play-in. They lead the Raptors and Wizards by just one game and Cavaliers by two games.

The Magic haven’t been great since the trade either, also going 3-8. But that’s why they got two first-rounders and the younger Wendell Carter Jr., who had 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block against his former team. This had to be a feel-good performance for him.

And a feel-bad loss for Chicago.