Noah: 'True colors' will show in adversity

December, 14, 2013
12/14/13
11:00
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah, the emotional leader of the Chicago Bulls, delivered a personal challenge of sorts to his teammates after an embarrassing 99-77 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night.

"Losing sucks," Noah said as he sat dejectedly in front of his locker. "There's no question about it. But it also shows people's true colors. Who's willing to keep fighting through the adversity or who's just going to say, 'You know what? I don't want no part of this, and I'm just going to take bad shots and just not care at all about making winning plays or playing defense and things like that.'? So everybody has to stick together. Everybody has to jell and keep fighting together."

[+] EnlargeNoah-Gibson
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh"Losing sucks," said a frustrated Joakim Noah, left; he remains confident the "high character in this locker room" will fuse the Bulls together.
For the first time in a while, it looked like the Bulls had stopped fighting together, especially toward the end of the game. Tom Thibodeau said he didn't want to use the fact that his team was playing its fourth game in five nights as an excuse, but maybe he should have. Battered by injuries and inconsistencies, the Bulls looked lifeless down the stretch and appear to be on the verge of another breaking point in a lost season.

So often over the past few seasons, the Bulls, despite any injuries, have managed to pull together to win games. Now, they seem to fall apart more quickly than ever. Their offense, which wasn't running efficiently even when Derrick Rose was in the lineup, looks worse than ever. Their effort, which has been so consistent in four seasons under Thibodeau, is running hot and cold all the time now. Some nights, players want to play all the way through, and some nights, players look like they are going through the motions.

Although Noah didn't call anyone out by name, many fans will look at his comments and guess that he was referring to Carlos Boozer. The veteran power forward was just 4-for-18 from the field Saturday and has been playing poor defense over the past few weeks since Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. Boozer has never been a good defender, but his effort has been noticeably lackluster in recent games, as was the case in 27 minutes of play on Saturday night.

Whether Noah was referring to Boozer directly or not, though, shouldn't obscure the fact that the Bulls, as a group, have been bad since Rose went down. Boozer isn't the only problem on this flawed team that was built to win around Rose -- not play another season without him.

The Bulls just aren't very good right now.

Even when they get all their starters back and on the floor together, things aren't going to change all that much for a team that has a serious problem scoring baskets and is still in an emotional rut over Rose's latest injury. The Bulls are 3-10 in their past 13 games and can't seem to find any answers. They have too much pride to roll over in most games, and Noah, at least outwardly, remains convinced that his teammates will rise to the challenge of turning this lost season around.

"I think everybody will," Noah said of continuing to fight together. "I think everybody will. That's the makeup of this team. There's high character in this locker room. It's tough to lose, but it's all about how you deal with adversity."

The problem for the Bulls, as Noah and the rest of his teammates know, is that the pride this team has taken in regards to dealing with adversity in the past is starting to wear very thin.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5