BOSTON -- If Tom Thibodeau had his way, the Chicago Bulls would have three players representing the organization at All-Star Weekend in Houston next month.
The Bulls coach believes Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer have all done enough to warrant serious consideration with Deng leading the way, playing a league-high 40.2 minutes a game. Noah averages 12.4 points and 10.7 rebounds, and Boozer has made a strong push recently, averaging 22.6 points and 11.2 rebounds over his last 10 games.
They were not voted into the game by the fans, but will have the opportunity to make it as reserves when those players are announced next Thursday.
"Deng certainly to me, he's shown he should almost be a lock in my eyes based on the way he's played from the start of the season to the finish," Thibodeau said before Friday's shootaround. "I think Joakim started off great, sort of tailed off with the flu, but is picking it up again.
"And then Carlos has been steadily getting better from the start of the season to where he's playing great right now. I think all three deserve consideration. But those things are so political, you can make the case for all of them. I think when you win it helps and winning is the most important thing."
Thibodeau believes most coaches factor in winning to their vote, but he is realistic about the chances of getting all three players in.
"I think most coaches do," Thibodeau said. "And I think coaches will look at what a guy brings to the team overall. Have they done it consistently? And then some guys, it's a build up, too. I thought two years ago Luol deserved to make it and didn't make it, then he ended up making it last year. So sometimes it takes some time to build up to finally be recognized because people will tend to look at the entire season also. But you can make a case for a lot of guys and there's certainly a lot of guys that are playing well and also deserving, not just our three."
Deng, who is averaging 17.8 points and 6.5 rebounds, also is trying to be realistic about the group's chances. After making it in last season, Deng would love to be back, but he's not hung up on it.
"It's not the end of the world if you're not (picked)," Deng said. "As a player you always want to be an All-Star. i think it says a lot about your career, it says a lot about your team, people respecting your team and the record you have and what you've done so it's something that you want to have.
"If you're not an All-Star it's not the end of the world as long as you know you're having a good season, people appreciate what you do, your teammates appreciate what you do. You want to be an All-Star, but if you're not you still could have a great season without being an All-Star."
Noah remembers Boston series: As Joakim Noah started discussing what it meant to play in Boston, even he couldn't believe it had been so long since the exciting series the two teams waged back in the 2009 playoffs.
"It's always a great place to play basketball," Noah said recently of playing in TD Garden. "They have tough fans and it's a great basketball environment, especially with the history that we have with them, damn, five years ago. That's five years ago? (Shoot), man. I'm getting old."
Noah's math was a little off, but his feeling was still strong.
"It was special," Noah said. "Even though we lost, it was my first playoff series and just playing in those overtimes, those hostile environments, playing in games like that are the games that hopefully I can show my grandkids and things like that. Even though we lost I love those games because I feel like they gave me a shot, they gave me confidence to take my game to another level."
The last word: "I was very fortunate to be here. It's a great organization; to be part of a championship team ... it's a special place. I always respect that. I look forward to seeing these guys after we play, but I also know their spirit. It's a very competitive group. When the ball goes up I want to beat them just as badly as they want to beat me so I know what's at stake here." -- Thibodeau, on being back in Boston. He served as an assistant on Doc Rivers' staff from 2007-2010.