Joakim Noah: Benching my fault

Updated: January 22, 2013, 2:16 AM ET
By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday morning that Joakim Noah understood why he was benched for much of Saturday's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. And after knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers later that night, Noah took full responsibility for his earlier actions.

Noah, who sat the final 22:53 of the overtime loss to the Grizzlies, said that it was his fault that he didn't play down the stretch because of things he said after being pulled from the game in the third quarter.

"Thibs would never ever talk bad or say anything bad about us in the media or anything but that was all me," Noah said. "He took me out and I was emotional about it. I was pissed off and probably said some things that I shouldn't have said. But you learn from it and you move on. That's just the mindset I wanted to have today, just move on from it. There's so many games and I didn't want (the benching) to keep lingering."

"He understands," Thibodeau said Monday morning. "The thing is he's been around.

"The team has to come first, that's the most important thing. Sometimes that happens in-game, not a big deal."

Noah, who scored six points and pulled down 13 rebounds in 35 minutes on Monday, acknowledged that he and Thibodeau are on the same page again. Thibodeau decided to stick with Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson late in Saturday's game. Once Gibson fouled out in overtime, Thibodeau decided to use Nazr Mohammed instead of Noah, leading to more speculation regarding whether Noah was injured or if there was a rift between the two. Noah cleared the air late Monday night.

"I have the ultimate respect for my head coach," Noah said. "It was my fault. I shouldn't have said the things I said. We moved on and we got a big win tonight and I'm happy about that."

When asked whether he and Thibodeau had spoken, Noah stated that he wanted to keep that between the pair. For his part, Thibodeau seemed much happier with Noah's effort and the way he carried himself.

"The way Joakim practiced and the way he came in early in this game, I knew he was ready to play," Thibodeau said. "He is doing a great job for us, he just has to keep improving. The road for us is not going to get easier. I don't want our guys to exhale and start feeling good. This is going to be a tough road. We have to keep battling and concentrate on the improvement."

Noah's teammate and friend Gibson thought Noah had already moved on during the morning walk-through.

"He wasn't edgy at all," Gibson said. "We had a great walk-through this morning. We were talking, laughing like we always do, running some plays, Thibs was calling out plays. I thought it was a great walk-through for [Noah] and our team."

Gibson knows Thibodeau's style isn't going to change, and he believes his teammates understand his method.

"If you're doing well, he's going to let you play," Gibson said. "He's not going to take you out. If you're doing your job, he's going to let you rock out. It's all about just helping the team. That's the way Thibs plays. He's all about winning."

And that was Thibodeau's message when he went with the group that was doing well Saturday.

"Just a coach's decision," Thibodeau said Monday. "We were struggling, we were behind, the group that got in there got us back in [the game]. It was more the way that unit was rolling. I just felt we were so flat that that group was either going to win the game or lose the game for us. They were the ones that overcame a big deficit, and that's usually the case.

"In the first half, I always go back with the starters; in the second half, if we're struggling, it's going to be the group that's going well. That's the way it is."

Gibson knows that over the course of a season players and coaches get into disagreements and he doesn't expect Noah's benching to linger over the Bulls.

"Yeah, it happens all year long," Gibson said. "But we're like a family here. We've been together almost three years, going on four, so guys just put that in the back of their head -- we understand we have one goal and (that) one goal is to win games and challenge for a championship. It's a long season, things are going to happen, heads are going to get butted, but we all love each and we all know it's for the best of the team and we're men. One thing about men is you have to just let stuff go. And this team, we don't hold grudges, we let stuff go. We get ready for the next game."

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.