The NBA season to date has featured teams that have dominated, surprised and disappointed. The Chicago Bulls have spent plenty of time in that third category but, even though they are 9-15 at Christmas, few teams are currently happier.

The Bulls started the season 0-9 and became the butt of jokes throughout the NBA. Ben Gordon, the No. 3 player selected overall in the draft, was beaten out for a starting position by second-round choice Chris Duhon, a Duke alumnus. Coach Scott Skiles was embroiled in daily dramas with his big men, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler.But wonder of wonders, the Bulls have won five games in a row, their longest such streak since 1998, Michael Jordan's last season with the team. They are 9-6 since their horrendous start. The mix of young players, which includes four rookies and second-year guard Kirk Hinrich, is starting to click.

Even Curry and Chandler, former symbols of the Bulls' discontent, are into it. Curry is shooting 59 percent during the win streak while averaging 18.2 points. Chandler is pulling down 8.8 rebounds per game in the same span.

\ CARTER CRAVING BIG RETURN: Former North Carolina standout Vince Carter is expected to make his debut with the New Jersey Nets on Monday night at Detroit, and he's got news for the people who think his skills, especially his gravity-defying antics, have eroded.

"I'm going to make a lot of people eat their words when it's time," Carter told reporters. "Don't be my friend later. Keep it like it is. If you hate me now, hate me later. I don't mind. My job is to go out there and play and bring another aspect to New Jersey Nets basketball."

Carter said he hoped his acquisition would persuade Jason Kidd to stay in North Jersey rather than seek a trade.

"I hope this changes his mind a little bit," Carter said. "I hope he gives it a chance and sees where it goes from there. I'm going to bring my game there and hopefully it is good enough for him."

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