Chicago Bulls: Joakim Noah

Despite slump, Thibodeau hasn't lost team

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
4:37
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Lost amid Derrick Rose's frustrated words after Monday night's latest poor performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers was the fact Taj Gibson may have spoken the most telling words of the entire night.

Gibson doesn't have the same clout that Rose does, but he is a six-year veteran who gives some of the most honest assessments in basketball. The power forward has been around for the entirety of Tom Thibodeau's five-year tenure with the Bulls, a fact that made his comments so telling in the wake of one of the worst stretches in the Thibodeau era.

"We got to practice harder," Gibson said. "We can't be taking days off. We're going to go through rough stretches, but we got to practice harder and we got to play with some energy."

A Thibodeau-coached team playing without energy and not working hard seems incomprehensible given the success that he and his team have enjoyed over his tenure. After all, hard work has defined Thibodeau's head-coaching career. For four years his players played hard almost every night. They played with a type of intensity and purpose that is not common on a nightly basis in the NBA.

But why, after the Bulls rattled off 13 wins in 15 games last month, would things suddenly take such a turn for the worse? Why would a team that usually plays so hard start rolling over and not fighting back for long stretches? Why would a team defined by intensity go long stretches without showing any?

"That's a great question," Thibodeau said. "We're going to continue to look at it. [We have] a lot of moving parts, hard to build continuity. We have to find some continuity. Maybe we look at different people. I'm going to think about it, study the film, and try to come up with some answers."

One of the strangest parts about the Bulls' recent slide is that neither Thibodeau nor his players seem to have any concrete answers how to fix the problem. Over the years when tough times arose for Thibodeau or his players, they just worked harder.

"The magic is in the work," the veteran coach is fond of saying.

But that doesn't appear to be the answer these days for a Bulls squad that is feeling the red-hot spotlight that comes with championship expectations.

If the Bulls aren't working as hard as they used to and they can't seem to find the right answer to fix their problems, the natural follow up is: Are the players tuning out Thibodeau?

As frustrated as Thibodeau makes them at times, and as much of a taskmaster as he can be, there isn't the sense that he has lost his team. His players hate his guts sometimes, but they are too proud to quit on him now. Rose, Gibson and Joakim Noah have invested way too much of their professional careers in Thibodeau's system to stop playing hard in the middle of a season.

They believe they can win a title with this group and they remain confident they can turn this around once they get fully healthy. If Thibodeau's principles have taught his players anything over the past five years, it's that they can't quit when times get tough.

"It comes from within," Gibson said. "There's nothing more you can say. It's all about how much heart you have and how determined you're going to be. Like Thibs said before, we got to practice harder. We can't take days off.

"Like Thibs said, everybody's got to put a little bit more into the jar."

If Rose, Noah and Gibson lead the way, the rest of their teammates will follow. If they decide to stop playing for Thibodeau, their teammates will follow that example as well. But if the latter occurs, it would fly in the face of all the hard work the three men have put in together over the past five years, especially the strong bond that Noah and Gibson have built within the city playing without Rose the past few years.

Thibodeau is by no means above criticism, and will become the fall guy for this team if he can't get his group out of the recent funk that it is in. But he is too solid of a coach, and his players have invested too much into his program, to believe that they will continue playing as poorly as they have over the past couple of weeks.

Noah trying to smooth his bumpy ride

January, 13, 2015
Jan 13
3:42
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Now 2 months into a season that followed knee surgery over the summer, Joakim Noah continues to work himself toward full strength.

He hasn’t been a liability this season, but he clearly hasn't been at his best, either, and while his repaired left knee seems to be the obvious culprit, Noah refuses to make any excuses.

“It's good; I've just got to keep working, keep getting after it,” Noah said after participating in a full practice Tuesday. “I'm feeling better and better so I've got to keep working.”

The reality, though, is that Noah doesn’t look as agile as he did last season when he was named the league’s defensive player of the year. In turn, the Bulls' defense has struggled, especially over the past week when the team lost three of four games, including defeats at home to the Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic.

Asked if he has been going through physical ups and downs this season with the knee, Noah simply answered, “No.” So has he been making a steady progression physically? “Yes,” he said.

The takeaway is that Noah doesn’t want to talk about it. He would rather deal with it on the court. He was supposed to undergo a simple arthroscopic procedure in May, but it was later revealed to be a more extensive repair than planned.

Coach Tom Thibodeau, not known for mercy when it comes to minutes, has at least been a little bit easier on Noah this season. The center has averaged 30.0 minutes this season, compared to 35.3 last season and 36.8 in 2012-13.

“It’s a work in progress,” Thibodeau said. “We knew it would be bumpy at the start because of the surgery. And then Jo’s game is unique. Really, a lot of it is timing, his passing at the elbow, his ability to put it on the floor, drive by people. The more he’s out there the better it’s going to be.”

As far as timing goes, Thibodeau believes Noah’s knack for rebounding is returning quickly, giving the coach hope that all parts of Noah’s game will be at their best soon enough.

In turn, the Bulls might have the defense they’re looking for when Noah is feeling better. And while talking about the team’s recent defensive struggles, Noah sounded like he could have been talking about his own issues, as well.

“This is our story and this is the journey,” he said. “In a season, there's always going to be ups and downs. When there's adversity, people show their true colors, always. That's just the way it is. We're going through something right now and we've got to stick together and make it work.

“The injuries, the new guys -- we can make excuses, but this is who we are. It's not going to change. So it's on us to fix it or it's not going to work.”

Bulls work on ABCs of better D

January, 13, 2015
Jan 13
3:09
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- A day after he blasted his team’s defensive effort, questioning who wanted to be in the inner circle and who was looking to get out, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau spoke in more measured terms Tuesday.

“The good thing about our team is they’ve been through a lot of things, so today they came in, had a good approach, we watched the film, I thought we had a very good practice,” Thibodeau said. “That’s usually the start of getting it corrected.”

The tone for the solid practice Tuesday was set immediately after the Bulls were drop-kicked 121-114 to the sub-.500 Orlando Magic. The Bulls gave up 58 points in the paint, scoring only 40 inside themselves.

"It's gotta be all of us," Thibodeau said immediately after the defeat. "We gotta decide what we want to be. There are no shortcuts in this. It's a tough league. If you want to do something special, there's a serious price to pay. And there's no getting around the work. It's really that simple."

The Bulls were torched to the tune of 63 first-half points and lost at home to a team with a losing record for the second time in five days.

After a practice that wasn’t especially long by Thibodeau standards, there seemed to be a better sense of what needs to happen.

“We've got to get better; we're not there yet, but it's fine,” Joakim Noah said. “We've got time. We've just got to keep working, get better as a team, figure out what works and what doesn't.”

There didn’t seem to be one particular place to point a finger. Transition defense hasn’t been at its best, Derrick Rose continues to be attacked on the pick-and-roll, and the Bulls are still working on a unique chemistry project that has some players (Rose and Noah) returning from physical ailments, while others (Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks) are still adapting to the system.

“Teams that play against us, they’re always gonna try to get to us before we can get set,” Thibodeau said, speaking specifically about transition defense. “When you look at your defense, you usually start with defensive transition, then you talk about your shell, then your halfcourt defense, then you break it down further to your low-post defense, your catch-and-shoot defense, your pick-and-roll defense, your isolation defense.

“All those things are team-oriented, so obviously you have to take care of the ball, the paint, react out, cover the line, finish your defense, and when you’re away from the ball, you gotta make sure that you’re thinking help and understand what your responsibilities are. You have to have the ability to do more than one thing. Often times the initial part was there and the secondary part wasn’t. For us we have to make sure it’s all tied together.”

Thibodeau preaches his defensive principles daily, so the message has been delivered often. If there is one obvious issue to blame for the team’s recent defensive woes, it has to be desire.

“There’s two things you always look at first: the intensity and then the execution, was it done properly?” he said. “Obviously, you can’t work on everything, so you try to prioritize the things that you feel need the most work.

“There are times that we’ve played great defense and great offense. Right now, for whatever reason, we’re low-energy, and we gotta get that corrected.”

The regular season is nearly 40 games old and nearing the midway point, so perhaps the Bulls are simply in a midseason lull, sitting somewhere between the energy that comes with the start of the season and the second wind that guides teams toward the playoffs. Their next test comes Wednesday, when they play host to the Washington Wizards.

The Bulls did start the season 13-2, after all. So what is the difference between then and now?

“I'm not sure, I just know our defense isn't very good right now,” Noah said. “We've just got to keep working at it. We saw the film, the energy wasn't very good the last couple of games. We're playing against some tough teams so we've just got to come with the right mindset and come out with some W's.”

Rose, Noah held out of Bulls practice

January, 6, 2015
Jan 6
3:55
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Neither Derrick Rose nor Joakim Noah participated in practice for the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, but both are expected to be available for Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said both players were “sore” and offered few details. Asked if Rose was dealing with a sore hip, Thibodeau said, “It’s a little better today.” Noah is coming off knee surgery in the offseason and was not included in the team's injury report.

Rose scored 19 points and dished out nine assists against the Houston Rockets on Monday as he matched up against fellow Chicago product Patrick Beverley.

“I feel good; I feel fine,” Rose said. “I can't complain about anything. The hip is fine. I didn't feel it yesterday, so I guess that's a good sign.”

While neither practiced, both Rose and Noah did take part in extra shooting after practice was complete. In other injury news, Mike Dunleavy (right ankle) did not practice, while rookie Doug McDermott (right knee) had full participation, with his return to the court still undetermined.

Rose did admit to digging a little deeper Monday in his matchup with Beverley.

“That’s just Chicago basketball, man,” Rose said. “We’ve been really going after each other since high school and that was my first time playing against him in the pros ... and I guess y’all can tell by the way he was playing. That’s a Chicago thing.

“But if anything, you have to love it. If the kids who are from Chicago were watching yesterday, you have to see that both guys were competing and really trying to win that game. It’s deep, it’s very deep.”

Rose was not concerned about his availability Wednesday.

“Yeah, I should be able to play,” said Rose, who confirmed that the hip issue started after he bumped into Boston’s Avery Bradley during Saturday’s victory over the Celtics. “I’m not worried about it.”

Joakim Noah to sit out against Trail Blazers

December, 12, 2014
12/12/14
12:02
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said his right ankle is improving, but he will sit out against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

“I mean if I could play, I could play,” Noah said after the team’s shootaround. “But right now, my ankle is still bothering me. Yeah, I have to be smart.

“Yeah, it’s lingering, it’s lingering, but it’s the life we chose. And doing all the rehab and getting all the information, hopefully it won’t be too much longer.”

Noah originally sprained the ankle against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 2, and then sprained it again against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 3. He played against the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 6, but sat out Wednesday’s game against the Nets. He will miss his second consecutive game on Friday.

Noah was unsure whether he would be able to return to play against the Miami Heat on Sunday or the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. He described the injury as day to day.

"He's about the same, so we'll see where he is [Saturday]," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Thibodeau recently said Noah was also working through a knee issue as well, but Noah said his knee was fine on Friday. Noah had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after last season.

“The knee feels good,” Noah said.

Noah is averaging 8.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17 games this season.

Noah (ankle) out against Brooklyn

December, 9, 2014
12/09/14
2:29
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah will not play against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday due to a right ankle injury, the team announced on Tuesday.

Bulls forward Doug McDermott (right knee) was also ruled out against the Nets. Bulls forward Taj Gibson (left ankle) is considered probable.

Noah did not participate in the team’s practice for a second consecutive day on Tuesday. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it was an opportunity to give Noah another day of rest. Noah and Thibodeau were unsure whether Noah would play Wednesday after practice. The team later announced Noah would be out.

“I’m feeling all right,” Noah said. “My ankle is still bothering me a little bit, so I have to be smart. You know it’s a long season, and I’m taking it day by day.”

Noah had 16 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday after being a game-time decision. He is averaging 8.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17 games this season.

Bulls upgrade Taj Gibson to questionable

December, 5, 2014
12/05/14
2:40
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson, who hasn't played since Nov. 21 at Portland because of a left ankle injury, has been upgraded to questionable for Saturday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.

Gibson participated in practice Friday and coach Tom Thibodeau said the team will wait and see how he responds physically to basketball activity before deciding on his availability against the Warriors.

One player who did not participate in practice Friday was Joakim Noah, who has been bothered with his own (right) ankle sprain. Noah has injured the ankle in each of the past two games, but was listed as questionable for Saturday and is expected to play.

Doug McDermott, who is nursing a right knee injury, is also questionable.

With opener near, defense not finished product

October, 26, 2014
10/26/14
2:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While Chicago Bulls players might be happy that the preseason schedule is complete, the coaching staff would not mind more opportunities to fine tune the squad.

After a full collection of practice games when Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were on minutes restrictions, and Jimmy Butler sat out the tail end with a thumb injury, the Bulls never did get to put together a finished product in advance of Wednesday’s season opener at New York against the Knicks.

Butler was putting his thumb injury to the test with jump shots after practice Sunday, but head coach Tom Thibodeau said the guard ultimately could be a game-time decision for the first game of the season.

It leaves the defense in flux, but Thibodeau refuses to hinge the team’s success without the ball on one person. It did seem clear, though, that opposing offenses had an easier time of it in the final two preseason games that Butler missed.

“Well, (Butler) is important, they’re all important,” Thibodeau said. “In this league, you can’t guard individually. It’s very difficult. You guard collectively. We need him, and we need everybody. We can’t rely on Jimmy to do everything for everybody. We can’t rely on Jo, we can’t rely on Taj (Gibson). It’s got to be everybody tied together, and so we can’t leave it to chance.”

In the final preseason game Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Bulls’ defensive weaknesses were exposed.

“There were a lot of good things offensively in the Minnesota game, a lot of bad things defensively, and so that needs to be corrected,” Thibodeau said. “When you look at the numbers from the preseason, you know, we played like a .500 team. So if we want more than that we have to put more into it.’’

That 4-4 preseason record gets thrown out the window now as the regular season begins this week.

“I feel we have done some pretty good things on both sides of the floor, we just have to be more consistent with it and sustain those good efforts for a longer period of time,” big man Pau Gasol said. “But we’re about to open things up and understand that we have a tough schedule to start off with -- seven games in 10 days, if I’m not mistaken. There are a lot of back-to-backs, and a lot of games on the road next month so it should be challenging, but it will tell us exactly where we’re at and it will force us to be on top of our game.”

Gasol might have as much to prove to Thibodeau as anybody since he only has had eight preseasons games to show what he can do defensively, as well as daily practices. Gasol said earlier in training camp that he wants to be on the floor at the end of games, but that will happen only if his defense measures up.

“Well, more or less he told us that he is going to try and get a feel for the game,” Gasol said of Thibodeau. “We have three really good interior players that he feels comfortable that can finish off games. He said he’s going to put the guys out there he feels more confident and comfortable to win that particular game. We have to trust his abilities and judgment, and work hard to deserve to be out there.”

That’s a far cry from earlier in camp when Gasol said that if he isn’t seeing playing time late in games then he doesn’t have the trust of his coach.

“Nah, I don’t pay any attention to that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “I’m always going to do what’s best for the team. It’s going to be based on performance, so that’s the way it is here.’’

Thibodeau: Bulls have a lot of work to do after preseason finale

October, 24, 2014
10/24/14
10:54
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseDavid Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesThough the Bulls lost their preseason finale, "I feel like I'm in a good place," Derrick Rose said.

ST. LOUIS -- The bad outweighed the good for Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau in his team’s final preseason tuneup on Friday.

The good was represented by Bulls guard Derrick Rose playing a preseason-high 31 minutes, 37 seconds and again being aggressive offensively, finishing with a game-high 27 points. Center Joakim Noah also played a preseason-high 31:58 to go with 6 points, 17 rebounds and 9 assists.

The bad came in the form of the Bulls committing 18 turnovers, allowing 35 first-quarter points, being outscored 30-21 in the fourth quarter, blowing a 13-point lead in the game’s final eight minutes and losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves 113-112 at the Scottrade Center.

Thibodeau was in regular-season form when it came to his frustration over the defeat.

“We obviously got a lot of work to do,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what it reveals to you. Give up 30, score 21. Blow a 13-point lead. Turn the ball over like crazy.”

Even Rose couldn’t escape Thibodeau’s disappointment.

“We lost,” Thibodeau said. “He runs the team. He’s the point guard.”

Rose also wasn’t happy with the result, but put the game in perspective. It was another significant step in his return. He created for himself and his teammates within the offense and in transition. He knocked down 3 of 7 3-point attempts. He worked hard to defend Timberwolves point guards Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea. Just as important, his minutes increased again.

“Moving up, man,” Rose said. “Moving in the right direction. I felt good. Just trying to stay positive even when I do things wrong, just try to learn from it, try to learn from my mistakes and just try to make myself a better basketball player by using my IQ of the game.

“I feel like I’m in a good place. Just missing two years, coming back, being able to play again against all these great players and really go up against them. I don’t know if they would be able to do the same if they were in my shoes, but the situation happened with me and all I can do is try and be motivated by it and just try and move in the right direction every day. Stay positive.”

While Rose and Noah closed out the preseason strong, Thibodeau had mixed feelings about Pau Gasol's overall performance. The forward ended it on a low note as he committed seven turnovers and was pulled from the game in the fourth quarter Friday.

“Probably over-passing right now,” Thibodeau said. “Rather have that problem and get him to look to score more than have a guy who’s not unselfish. It wasn’t all on Pau. We have to play with an edge. We have to play defense. There’s no getting around that. You have to be in great shape. There’s no getting around that. You have to play with a lot more toughness. I know that.”

Rose agreed that the Bulls have some work to do, but said he didn’t think they were that far off from putting it all together.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Rose said. “I’m not concerned with the team. I know how hard we work as a team. Individually, I’m definitely not concerned with that. But as a team, seeing how everybody is focused. As long as everybody is focused on the same page, like I said, keep putting in that consistent work, that’s all you can ask for. That’s all you can ask from your team.”

Joakim Noah vows improved rebounding

October, 23, 2014
10/23/14
3:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Just because it is the preseason does not mean the Chicago Bulls have not taking the results seriously.

Red flags have been raised with the team’s rebounding as the Bulls have been beaten on the glass 314-312 in seven preseason games. Opponents also have 81 offensive rebounds to the Bulls’ 74.

It wasn’t expected to be this way, not with the 7-foot Pau Gasol joining the 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah in the frontcourt this season.

“Obviously, you’re always concerned about that,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Your defense and rebounding and keeping your turnovers down are three things you have to do to put yourself in position to win. You eliminate the ways you beat yourself first. Those are areas we locked into.”

While Thibodeau has yet to spell out what his chief concerns have been during training camp, no doubt the rebounding remains one of the biggest issues yet to be resolved.

“The turnovers have gone way down, the challenge of the shot has been there, the contact has been there,” Thibodeau said. “But then the fight for the ball hasn’t been there. You have to do all those things. That’s all part of establishing a multiple effort mentality. Part of that is your toughness and conditioning and discipline. Those are things we still have to work on.

Gasol leads the Bulls with 8.3 rebounds per game in the preseason. Noah has averaged 6.8 rebounds in the six preseason games he has played, well off his career mark of 11 rebounds per game, but he is also playing reduced minutes in the preseason.

“I think it will get better,” Noah said after practice Thursday. “Obviously, it’s been a concern right now of ours, but I think it’s going to be better and better.”

Noah, who is coming off offseason knee surgery, wouldn’t blame his minutes for his low rebounding totals. “I would never make excuses for rebounding,” he said.

So what is the answer?

“The answer is, it will get better,” he said.

If there is one chief focus heading into Friday’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves at St. Louis, getting after rebounds figures to be it.

“That’s what Thibs does, make sure that we’re ready for every second we’re together, whether it’s a meeting, watching film, whether it’s practice, a preseason game, staying in the moment,” Noah said. “We need this [last game]. We need this as a team.”

GMs like Bulls' current/future coaching options

October, 23, 2014
10/23/14
3:05
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The NBA's general managers have spoken and the Chicago Bulls are being thought of in high regard for the 2014-15 season.

In a poll at NBA.com, the league’s general managers were asked about a wide-range of topics, including who will win this year’s title (San Antonio), who will be named MVP (LeBron James) and who made the best offseason moves (Cleveland).

While the Cavaliers are considered the most likely team to face off with the Spurs in the NBA Finals, the Bulls were the second choice to win the Eastern Conference, holding 25.9 percent of the vote. The Cavaliers got 70.4 percent.

Joakim Noah was not only selected as the league’s best defensive player, with 35.7 percent of the vote, he was also voted the league’s third best overall center behind Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol.

As for coaching, Tom Thibodeau was easily voted the coach with the best defensive schemes, earning 92.9 percent of the vote. The Bulls were obviously selected the league’s top defensive team, getting 85.7 percent of the vote.

(Read full post)

Final dress rehearsal looms for Bulls

October, 23, 2014
10/23/14
2:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- If he has even the slightest spare minute of time, the sense is that Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will use it to figure out a way to make his team better.

So if there is court time available and another NBA team sitting at the bench on the opposite side of the arena, you can bet that Thibodeau will take advantage of it.

With the Bulls’ final preseason game approaching Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at St. Louis, Thibodeau isn’t looking at it as an opportunity to take it easy on his starters and see what his bench can give him for 30-plus minutes.

“In general, you don’t want to skip any steps; this is your final test,” Thibodeau said after practice Thursday. “You can use it, and as you do with every game, analyze the things you’re doing well, the areas you need to lock into to improve and clean up.

“I don’t want us to get wrapped up in 'This is the last preseason game' or 'The start of the season.' Just concentrate on exactly what is in front of you, what are we trying to get accomplished today and lock into that. If we do the right things and put the right amount of work in, things will take care of themselves.”

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Thibs forced to consider minutes limits

October, 22, 2014
10/22/14
2:31
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will not commit to a minutes restriction plan for any of his players, especially when there still is a week of preparation time remaining before the regular season begins.

Yet, with Derrick Rose returning from essentially a 2-year absence and Joakim Noah coming off knee surgery this offseason, Thibodeau will be forced to take a road lesser traveled for him: Keeping playing time to a reasonable level.

“We’ll just see how it goes,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got some guys where it’s a situation where they need to work, they need to play. But they also need to do what they can handle. It all plays into it.”

With the Oct. 29 season opener at New York fast approaching, Thibodeau no longer seems as high-strung about the preparation process as he did earlier in camp when he didn’t feel the team was coming together fast enough.

“We’re not there, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Thibodeau said Wednesday. “We all have to do more. It’ll be here before you know it. Every game reveals something to you. I think we learned a lot from the Cleveland game (Monday). It was good for us.

“There was a lot that happened: back-to-back, an injury (playing without Jimmy Butler), minutes restrictions. That tells you everyone has to be ready. And you have to find a way. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to know what they have to do when they get out here.”

Noah continues to insist that his knee continues to get better and was asked if he experiencing any pain.

“Nope; none at all,” he said. “In the beginning, I was a little bit more uncomfortable, I was a little limited. I still have to get my strength back; I have to get the strength back in my leg. I’m just trying to manage practicing, playing. But overall I’m happy with where it’s at.”

He also knows he doesn’t figure to be ready to go from tip off to final buzzer by next week.

“There’s a plan,” Noah said. “We’ll just take it day by day and see how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Thibodeau might like to get the most out of his players physically, but he isn’t blind to Noah’s situation. One major hurdle cleared was having Noah play in games both Sunday and Monday.

“He’s a work in progress,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s starting to feel better. You can see his timing is coming around. For him, that was his first back-to-back. That was good. He has to work at it.”

Rose enjoys challenge of LeBron, Cavs

October, 20, 2014
10/20/14
10:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Derrick Rose does not like talking about one-on-one matchups. Like his coach Tom Thibodeau, he knows games are won and lost as a team. But that doesn't mean Rose didn't have a little extra motivation to perform well Monday night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"It's basketball," Rose said. "I've been competing my whole life. I'm used to the stage, I'm used to playing against very good people, very good talent, and that's all they got on that team is talent, so you know, when you play against them, you know you got to come out here and ball."

Rose and Thibodeau got a firsthand look at James' new running mate, Kyrie Irving, this summer, when the trio represented Team USA in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball.

"Kyrie, he's a young guy that's gotten better and better," Thibodeau said. "He's a star. He's a superstar.

"He played great for Team USA. He can shoot, he can break you down off the dribble, he can make plays. I thought his defense was excellent throughout [the tournament]. He did a really good job. He's right up there at the top of the league. There's not much he can't do. Obviously, handling the ball [and] pick-and-rolls. He can play off the ball, too. But he's a very good player."

While it was clear from Rose's play that he was more amped than usual for this contest, the former MVP said he's feeling good as he gets set for the regular season. Monday's game marked the second set of back-to-backs he has participated in this preseason.

"After every game, Jen [Swanson] always tells me I should feel like I always do [even] more," Rose said. "That's how I feel right now, even though I played the back-to-back. Both games were hard, [but] I feel like I could always go out there and play again. Just taking my time, listening to everything that they tell me to do and really listening to my body and conditioning my body -- that's key."

Noah enjoys being at Ohio State: Joakim Noah likes being booed. He enjoys playing the role of villain to fan bases throughout the country. He took more pride in that role than usual Monday night at Schottenstein Center, the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, the team the University of Florida, led by Noah, defeated in the 2007 national championship. Noah admitted to looking up at Ohio State's runner-up banner that hung in the rafters.

"It's because we won the championship," Noah said of the boos. "And then we beat them in football. It's all good, though."

Noah also took pride in the fact that Monday's game marked the first pair of back-to-backs he has participated in this season, as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

"I feel good, and I feel like I can do more," he said. "I'm just happy. Compared to how I felt two weeks ago, I feel like it's just progressing, and that's a positive."

The last word: Noah, on Rose's 30-point performance: "It's big, especially with everything that he's gone through. He's the fastest guy on the court, by far. ... I like his mentality. He's aggressive, and I think we're going to be really good."

Rose's performance brings joy to locker room

October, 20, 2014
10/20/14
10:09
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The most noticeable part of Derrick Rose's 30-point explosion was the impact it had on the rest of his teammates. The Chicago Bulls lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the smiles that lit up their faces while they talked about Rose performing at the highest level again. They watched as Rose drove to the rim and knocked down jumper after jumper in the first half. They nodded in appreciation as Rose's cuts opened up the floor for everybody else. This was the man they've been waiting to see, waiting to play with since Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. This is the man who can lead the Bulls to a championship. Most importantly, this is the man who gives them hope.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteDerrick Rose's vintage effort against the Cavs served as a reminder to LeBron and the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the East if they can stay healthy.
"It [brought] up old memories, man," Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said happily. "Just a good positive thing to take from this game. Derrick looked great."

For the first time in almost a year, Rose looked once again like the player he used to be before his initial ACL injury in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. He looked like the type of player who could put a team on his back and carry it to a different place. For the Bulls, watching Rose dominate offensively was like watching an old favorite movie for the first time in a while. His play brought up the confidence level of everybody around him.

"You're talking about an MVP-caliber player," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So it makes the game easy for everybody. He's getting easy baskets in transition, he's attacking in the pick-and-roll, he's in the paint making plays, so it's a positive."

It's also a large negative for the rest of the league if Rose can continue turning back the clock like this. While there is no such thing as a statement game in October, Rose offered up a large reminder to LeBron James and the rest of the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the Eastern Conference if they can stay healthy.

Rose didn't want to come out and say this was his best preseason game to date, but it was obvious after listening to those around him speak: This wasn't just Rose's best game in the preseason, this was Rose's best game in a while. He wanted to send a message to James and Kyrie Irving, the player who started ahead of him on Team USA this summer, that he can still be the dominant force he used to be.

"The team is feeling more comfortable with me being on the floor," Rose said. "Feeling comfortable with me just picking my spots, getting people involved and just trying to pick spots in the game where I can really affect the game."

Rose is such a transcendent talent, and so important to the Bulls' future, that he has the ability to affect more than just the game. On this night, he affected the entire organization's mood. The relief from Bulls personnel throughout the building was palpable. This was the man they hoped they would see again. This is the man who can deliver them to where they want to go.

"It feels great," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Rose's performance. "Just seeing him move like that is big for our team. He's definitely one of our big guns -- he's our big gun -- so just to see him play like that, I know how hard he's worked to get there. I just feel like if we just keep improving we can do something special."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
20.4 3.3 1.8 39.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 12.1
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.8
BlocksP. Gasol 2.1