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The big question now at 1901 W. Madison St. is whether impatient Bulls fans will avoid the United Center like a Loop detour.

With King LeBron James abdicating his Cleveland throne for La-La Land and other Cavaliers ready to jump ship, the Bulls' playoff chances look good next season after going home early two of the last three.

But their slow, agonizing rebuild must speed up.

They have to re-sign restricted free agent Zach LaVine, whom Sacramento and Atlanta reportedly are aggressively pursuing — or Bulls management could see shorter lines at the ticket window.

Patience runs thin among the common fan when tickets are expensive, athletes earn exorbitant salaries and championships are seemingly bought, not earned. 

The Bulls want to bring back LaVine and scrappy guard David Nwaba on multiyear deals. But management also wants deals that make fiscal sense long term.

It’s been reported the Bulls’ preferred annual salary for LaVine is in the $14 million to $16 million range.

If they lose LaVine's services, the only reason to spend an expensive night at the UC is Lauri Markkanen. No, thanks.

The Bulls drafted Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr. and Boise State guard Chandler Hutchison in the first round. They both fill small needs and make executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson very happy, but so would most first-rounders.

"You hope you draft players who become stars," Paxson told us on draft night. "Last year, drafting Lauri, he has a long way to go but we believe he has the potential."

Meanwhile, season ticket sales have dropped during the rebuild or tanking, whichever you prefer to call it.

Is the organization worried?

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"Our total number of season tickets has declined slightly over the past two seasons, but increases in group and single-game ticket sales have combined to maintain our overall strong attendance," said Keith Brown, who heads up sales and marketing of the Bulls' season, group and individual game tickets.

To Brown's credit, they have led the NBA in home attendance for nine consecutive seasons, including the last two — barely edging out Cleveland and Philadelphia in 2017-18.

"The United Center's seating capacity for Bulls games is 20,917, and our attendance has averaged 21,716, 21,866, 21,821, 21,680 and 20,776 over the past five seasons," added Brown, in his 26th year with the franchise.

Sellout streaks at the old Chicago Stadium and now the UC were impressive, but so were most of those Bulls teams.

The streak of 315 straight regular-season and home-playoff sellouts began in 2009-10 and ended Nov. 17, 2017, against the Hornets.

During the dynasty years of their six championships, the Bulls sold out 610 consecutive games from Nov. 21, 1981, at the archaic Stadium to Nov. 7, 2000, at the United Center.

"I do think I can bring fans back to the United Center," Carter Jr. said on draft night. "The type of effort I give and my type of play — I bring a lot of energy to the game — I believe the fans will love it and come to the games to see."

However, it still comes down to having LaVine in the fold.

He showed potential last season, averaging 16.7 points while shooting 38 percent from the field. His play was spotty in just 24 games, showing the need to be a more willing defender and consistent shooter.

But LaVine was coming off a major knee injury and playing under a minutes limit. When healthy, he's an all-star caliber player but not a franchise player.

You've seen the onslaught of free-agent signings for ridiculous money this week and there will be more.

LaVine wants his cut, but do the Bulls feel like playing Santa in July?

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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