DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Even Joakim Noah admits that he isn't going to have many games this season like the one he had on opening night. It's not the 10 rebounds, five steals, three assists and three blocks that surprise the happy-go-lucky big man; it's the 23 points he was able to rack up Wednesday night in a win over the Sacramento Kings.
"I probably won't score 25 points a game," he said with a wry smile after Thursday's practice.
Noah understands that more is expected out of him this season. That's why he spent the summer rehabbing his ankle injury with his trainer Alex Perris. That's why he spent a couple of weeks in Los Angeles working with Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That's why he didn't appear to be exhausted after playing 40 minutes in the first game of the season.
He is focused on improving his game and picking up the slack while Derrick Rose recovers from a knee injury. His teammates and coaches have noticed the subtle differences around Noah's game already this season.
"To me, he's put a lot of work into his conditioning," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's been healthy which is the big plus for him. He's practicing a lot better this year, too. He's putting a lot more time into film. He's coming in ready to go, I thought he had a great preseason. Just coming in and trying to improve every day."
As usual, Noah is just trying to do what he can to help his team. He's always believed he's been a little better than people have given him credit for offensively. This year, without Rose on the floor for much of the season, he's going to get another chance to prove it.
"I think I can do things offensively," Noah said. "Whatever's asked of me. I feel like I can make plays for other people and things like that."
That is exactly why Thibodeau trusts him so much with the ball. Noah's ability to see the floor opens up a lot of options for his teammates.
"He's got great vision and decision-making ability," Thibodeau said. "Both of our bigs (do), he and Carlos (Boozer). If we play through them in the post and you cut and you're open, you're going to get the ball. That's why it's so important for us to play through those guys ... we have to play inside-out, that's when we're at our best."
New roles still being formed: Thibodeau tried several different rotations Wednesday night and admitted that a few more could be in order as he continues to see which players work best together.
"The thing I like about those guys is they can play multiple positions," he said. "With Luol (Deng), he can play two, three and four. Jimmy (Butler's) more three and four. Kirk (Hinrich's) one, two and three. It does give us some flexibility."
Veteran guard Richard Hamilton admitted that Thibodeau has discussed minutes scenarios with some of his players.
"Everything is play it by ear," Hamilton said. "I think the one thing that he wants to try to do is just find out the best unit's out there and how he's going to manage the minutes of leaving guys on the floor and things like that. We talk about it. But right now it's kind of like an adjustment and learning thing for everybody."
The last word: Hamilton, on the Los Angeles Lakers' early struggles:
"You see the team that they got and for them to be 0-2 is definitely a surprise. Do I think they're going to panic? No. It's an adjustment period for them also. They've got a lot of new faces, a lot of new guys and everybody's trying to learn each other's game so it's going to take a minute."