Bulls

Bulls: Joakim Noah 'feeling good,' could return Monday

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Bulls: Joakim Noah 'feeling good,' could return Monday

Joakim Noah could make his return to the Bulls' rotation Monday night against the Washington Wizards.

The reserve forward, who has missed nine games with a sprained right shoulder, did some on-court work after the Bulls' film session Sunday afternoon at the Advocate Center. He'll go through his usual routine at Monday morning's shootaround before a determination is made, but both Noah and Fred Hoiberg felt confident in the 30-year-old's status.

"Feel good. I’m happy I got to practice a little bit today, play a little 1-on-1, and I’m excited to get back on the court," Noah said.

Noah suffered the injury Dec. 21 in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the Bulls' third straight defeat and sixth in their last 10 games at the time. Since then the Bulls have won seven of nine and vaulted to second place in the East; that stretch included a six-game win streak, snapped Saturday in a 120-105 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Though no stranger to injuries - he missed 15 games last season - being sidelined the last three weeks took a mental toll on Noah that has him anxious to get back on the floor. Speaking with media briefly Sunday at the Advocate Center, Noah used the word "excited" four times.

"Just being on the bike, (the) side of practice for a couple weeks, it’s as humbling as it gets for a player to be injured," he said. "I think we’ve been playing really good basketball and I want to be able to help our team.

"I’m confident in my shoulder being all right and I’m excited to get back on the court."

[MORE: Bulls 'humbled' by loss to Hawks on the road]

How he'll fit into a rotation playing its best basketball of the season is another question. Rookie Bobby Portis saw an uptick in minutes following Noah's injury and played well, averaging 7.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game. With Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic already entrenched in their roles, Hoiberg will need to divvy up minutes without upsetting the chemistry of a team playing its best basketball.

But Noah's pending return also comes at a good time, as the Bulls will begin a four-game-in-five-nights stretch Monday night.

"It’s a grind. We’ll find a way to get through it. You got to give your guys rest when you can," Hoiberg said. "Couple guys may enter the rotation and hopefully getting Jo back will help with that. It’s hard but you’ve got to manage those minutes as best you can and just take it one day at a time."

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

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Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.