Bulls

Bulls: Joakim Noah's return could affect Portis, McDermott positively

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Bulls: Joakim Noah's return could affect Portis, McDermott positively

It’ll be energy times two when Joakim Noah and Bobby Portis are on the floor together as members of the Bulls’ second unit, a duo that hasn’t been used hardly this season.

Noah’s return from a shoulder injury against the Washington Wizards Monday presented an opportunity for Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to play the two together, in what could be an interesting setup given Noah’s passing ability and Portis being willing to shoot from virtually anywhere.

“They’ll be out there some, together in the second unit,” Hoiberg said. “I think they’ll play well with each other. They’ve developed a really tight relationship and a good bond. Jo has really taken him under his wing and taught him a lot early in Bobby’s career, so I know those two are looking forward to playing with each other.”

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Essentially, Portis has played a lot of the minutes Noah would’ve in the nine games Noah has been recovering from a left shoulder strain, nearly 21 per game. The frontcourt logjam prevented Portis from getting any playing time in the first 20 games or so, but injuries and a lack of energy on some glaring occasions forced Hoiberg’s hand in playing the rookie.

Now, Portis isn’t looking at the possibility of his minutes being cut, but of how Noah can make the game easier because of his basketball acumen, and the fact there’s no tape of the two playing together.

“Yes sir, for sure. The last time I played with Jo in a game was really my first time actually playing at the United Center,” Portis said. “That was against Brooklyn, and then he got hurt that game, and then he's been out. That's been a big piece of our team, missing him. Like tonight, we're going to be ready and just anxious to play.”

Noah seemingly adjusted to coming off the bench right before his injury, with a 21-point, 10-rebound game against the Knicks one game before he got hurt, and a 15-rebound, eight-assist game on Dec. 14 against the 76ers.

Even with the Bulls playing well and Noah’s minutes being monitored, Hoiberg is looking forward to having Noah anchor the second unit.

“I am excited. The biggest thing with Jo is I know he’s going to bring energy to the court,” Hoiberg said. “I know he’s going to bring rebounding to the court, and he’s always going to be down there defending. Plus he gives us more ball-handling out there. He was really good … I give him a lot of credit for kind of getting that second unit turned around. Again, we talked about him developing chemistry with Doug, Niko was in that lineup for a stretch, and now that will be Bobby, but Jo really is the leader of that second group. I think he’s taken pride in that role.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

One player who’ll really welcome Noah back is Doug McDermott, who has seen his scoring dip in Noah’s absence. McDermott was often a beneficiary of backdoor passes and open 3-pointers generated by Noah’s playmaking but in the nine games without Noah has only scored in double figures once.

He had a stretch where he scored in double figures six of eight games in early December, but things have changed in the time since.

“It’s been an adjustment for sure. We had a good little duo there, we knew each other’s game really well,” McDermott said. “Last year when I played, we played together quite a bit. Jo’s always looking at me. I feel like teams are guarding me differently. I hit a lot of shots to start the year. They’re not coming as easy. It’s been tough, but I’ll have to add more to my game to be successful.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.

The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?

Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: