CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah is the guy on the Chicago Bulls who is most likely to say something off the script. Most of the players usually stick to the mantras that Tom Thibodeau throws at them, but Noah has moments where he says something the coach may not want him to divulge.
Noah, who isn't nearly as outspoken under Thibodeau's watch as he was when Vinny Del Negro was in charge, had one of those moments Sunday afternoon. When asked if opening up the regular season against the Miami Heat Tuesday means a little more, Noah couldn't hold back.
"Of course," he said. "Duh."
Throughout the past three years, Thibodeau has done his best to downplay any showdown with the Heat, but that shouldn't fool anyone at this point. The Bulls want to beat the Heat every time they play them. They don't like them. They respect LeBron James and Co. but they do not like them and how they carry themselves. They know that in order to win the East they'll likely have to go through Miami and every game against the Heat offers them a chance to measure themselves against the best.
"Every time you play against Miami it's a statement [game]," Noah said. "It's the beginning of our season, we're a hungry group. We've been waiting for this game for a long time. It's one of 82 but we know every time we play against Miami it's important."
That's the attitude that permeates through the locker room. That's why Derrick Rose said recently that the Bulls' only true rival is Miami. Ever since James and Dwyane Wade paired up, they have been the team to beat. They know in order to take the next step this season they must find a way to knock off Miami.
As they get set for Tuesday night's game there would be no better way to send an early message than by knocking off the Heat to start the season.
What's next: The Bulls practice at the Berto Center and then fly down to Miami Monday afternoon.
Watch out for: Noah (groin) and Kirk Hinrich (shoulder). The pair went through all of Sunday's practice and both said they were feeling good and sounded as if they would play Tuesday. Noah went as far as target="_blank">saying he was "100 percent" ready. Thibodeau will be anxious to see how they respond after missing the last week, even more in Noah's case.