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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Joakim Noah has a message for Chicago Bulls fans who believe the team should tank games to slide into the NBA draft lottery.
"What do I say to those fans?" Noah told ESPNChicago.com after the Bulls' 128-125 triple-overtime victory Wednesday over the Orlando Magic. "I don't say nothing to those fans. It's all good. You're allowed to have your opinion. It's just ... that's not a real fan to me. You know what I'm saying? You want your team to lose? What is that? But it's all good."
|Joakim Noah had 26 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in a triple-overtime victory against Orlando.|
With Derrick Rose out for the season following another knee surgery, the Bulls are a team in transition. They traded All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers last week and may make more moves before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. But the Bulls have won nine of their past 12 games, including four of five since the Deng trade, and are just a game back of the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Noah, who had 26 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in 49 minutes against the Magic, said tanking is not on the players' minds.
"Do you really think we talk about it?" Noah said. "No way, man. No way. We don't talk about those things. It's like it's so far from our reality. You know what I mean?
"We play for a coach [Tom Thibodeau] that's ... it's difficult. It's difficult every day. We grind hard every day, and we give it our best effort every day. You know we're playing Orlando, they're down three guys -- we're fighting. It's different to have an opinion when you're, like, watching it from your couch compared to when you're out living it every day."
Forward Taj Gibson wonders what fans would do if they were in the situation the players face.
"Those people, if they were in our shoes, they wouldn't just lose," Gibson said. "The majority of time people just have their opinions and that's fine and dandy, but they're not on the court and they're not giving their heart and soul into this game the way we do. I respect their opinion, but we're not going to do that."
Gibson said the team has begun to view its situation like that of the fictional version of the Cleveland Indians in the movie "Major League." In the movie, the team's owner decides to make the organization as bad as it can possibly be to relocate it. The Bulls' situation is not as dire, but Gibson sees parallels.
"We understand it's kind of like the movie 'Major League,'" he said. "We've got that mentality where we believe in the locker room. We believe in what we think. And we're taking it one game at a time and we're trying to get those wins hopefully to see ... get a good, nice poster at the end of the year."
You're allowed to have your opinion. It's just ... that's not a real fan to me. You know what I'm saying? You want your team to lose? What is that? But it's all good.” -- Joakim Noah
In the movie, the players put together a cutout of the owner's body with the caption: "You guys stink!" After each win they pealed off a section of the cutout.
So who will be on the cutout for the Bulls?
"We haven't figured that out yet," Gibson said with a smile. "But that's kind of the way we're going at it. That's what Joakim started. Joakim said it, and I've just been running with it. Every game is like a test and we're fighting."
Noah declined to talk about the motivational tactic, but Gibson said the already demanding Thibodeau has been motivating players more than ever to get the most out of them.
"Thibs is, every day he's coming in he's kind of shocked, and at the same time he's so proud," Gibson said. "Because he's like, 'I believe in what we have, and I'm so proud of you guys. You already keep shocking me every time you step on the court. And I think we got enough, it's going to be a special year and we've just got to keep digging.'"