- Nick Friedell, Chicago Bulls beat reporter
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Joakim Noah doesn't take losing well. That doesn't make him all that much different from most NBA players, it's just that he seems to take it more personally.
After Saturday's practice, he was asked to compare his feelings between the playoff loss of 2009 when the Bulls were dropped out of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals by the Boston Celtics and in 2011 when they fell to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
"Losing is always hard," Noah said. "And the closer you get to your goal ... the goal is always to win a championship, the goal was to win a championship even three years ago. Even though we probably had less of a chance. You go into a season believing you're going to win the championship. [Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau] always says that. Now, who's willing to do all the things that have to be done to win? I think that maybe two years ago I really didn't know what that meant. As you grow and get experience, you start realizing, this is what we need to do."
Noah even experienced defeat over the summer in the European Championships when his French team lost the championship to Spain.
""Of course, beating Spain in the championship would have been great, but we definitely lost to a better team. That's the truth,” Noah said. “We lost to a better team. They had a lot of experience. They'd been playing together for a long time. But there was definitely positives out of it as well. We qualified for the Olympics. People in France were very proud of that team. Just the way we competed, people were proud of that. And we get to represent France for the Olympics and that's a big deal. French basketball is probably the fifth or sixth [most popular] sport out there. We just gave it a little light and people are happy about that."
Obviously, Noah is also glad to finally be in training camp after such a prolonged lockout.
"It's great," he said. "It feels so good to be back. We're a very hungry group. It's exciting to be just competing against one another. I think we kind of know what Thibs is asking, what he wants. We have our defensive principles, those aren't going to change too much. It's just exciting to be reunited and working."
Noah seems convinced that his team can take the next step in its development this season.
"We've experienced a lot when you talk about what we did last year," he said. "Coach always talks about going through the fire together and I think we did that last year, and I think it's going to help us. You learn from your experiences, good and bad, and that's what makes your unit stronger. At the same time, last year was last year. We're just staying focused on a good training camp and that's really it."
Brewer impresses Noah: Ronnie Brewer has been open about his desire to earn the starting two-guard spot during training camp and it's clear that he has impressed at least one of his teammates recently.
"I think Ronnie's playing really well right now," Noah said. "Carlos [Boozer] is looking really good, I think he's slimmed down a lot, lost like 15 pounds or something."
Noah believes his teammates have come back in pretty good shape -- and with a purpose.
"When you lose the way we lost in the playoffs last year, it just makes you hungry to work on your game and we all know what's at stake here," Noah said. "We just want to get better as a group and see how far we can take this."
Noah also praised the work ethic of Bulls rookie Jimmy Butler.
"He's a hungry kid," Noah said. "Very, very attentive. His defensive principles are really good for a rookie. When I was a rookie, I was completely lost out there. I had no idea what was going on. Everything was just so, so new to me. But he picks things up really, really fast and it's such a big learning curve. But, you see him right there, he's the last one in the gym, just trying to learn. That's a positive."
Bulls not affected by Paul decision: It felt like most NBA fans were up in arms Thursday night when word started trickling out that Commissioner David Stern had nixed the Chris Paul-to-the-Los Angeles Lakers trade. For their part, the Bulls didn't seem to care much about what had happened.
"That's all part of what goes on in the league," Thibodeau said. "Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't. All I know is, for us, we have to play against him whether he's in New Orleans or some place else. He's a great player and that's about it, I really haven't thought about it that much."
Same goes for Noah.
"To be honest, I don't care," he said. "That has nothing to do with us, so whatever they do, they do. As long as it doesn't affect the Bulls, I don't really care."
The last word: Thibodeau, on the tempo of Saturday's practice, just the second of the Bulls' young season.
"It was pretty good in terms of energy. Still, [we've got] a long way to go. A little bit better. It moved a little bit better today than it did [Friday]. But defensively, there's a lot of things we have to clean up."
Any loss, especially in the playoffs, doesn't sit well with Joakim Noah.