Bulls

Bulls' Noah on Garnett: 'He's a Dirty Player'

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Bulls' Noah on Garnett: 'He's a Dirty Player'

Sunday, Apr. 18, 2010
2:43 P.M.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

CLEVELAND Bulls center Joakim Noah hasnt necessarily endeared himself to Cavaliers fans, and if Chicago somehow gets past top-seeded Cleveland to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals, a potential opponent might not be too happy with him either.

After Sundays Bulls practice in Cleveland, Noah was asked if he watched any other playoff games following Chicagos 96-83 loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday.

That was unbelievable yesterday, huh? That Boston-Miami game. Hes unbelievable, that guy? said Noah, referring to Celtics forward Kevin Garnett elbowing Miami swingman Quentin Richardson. Im going to say thishes a dirty player, man. Hes a dirty player. Thats messed up, man.

I dont know about a suspension, but hes always swinging elbows, man. I mean, Im hurting right now because of an elbow he threw, continued Noah, who obviously has a history with Boston from last springs epic Bulls-Celtics playoff series, although Garnett didnt play. Its one thing to be competitive and compete and all that, but dont be a dirty player.

He knows what hes doing. Its wrong.

Noah also pontificated about the city of Cleveland, in the wake of Cavaliers fans chanting, Noah sucks during Game 1, in response to Noahs pre-series shock the world comments after the Bulls regular-season finale, playoff-clinching win in Charlotte on Wednesday.

ClevelandI dont know about Cleveland, said Noah. There is nothing to do. Its bad, man. Its bad.

What, that Cleveland sucks? Noah, went on to sayin jest, when asked about whether the fans derision motivated himbefore turning serious. They played very well. Shaq is back and playing at a high level, and theyre on a mission right now.

Well see what were made of on Monday.

Although Noahs lightning-rod status may concern some, his teammates are supportive, knowing his emotion can be used to the Bulls benefit.

Oh, youve got to love him. I wish they were calling my name like that. Id love it, said Chicago point guard Derrick Rose. It would make me play harder. It should make him play harder. I just love playing away from home and shutting the crowd up, but its going to take some wins.

For that to occur, Noahs matchup against Cleveland center Shaquille ONeal must turn in the Bulls favor.

What do I have to do to wear Shaq out? Hopefully he wears himself out, Noah continued. Weve got to try to make it a track meet as much as possible.

You want me to give him all the credit in the whole world and then, what? said Noah, when asked about the difficulty of stopping ONeal, who dominated the paint, in contrast to the foul trouble Noah and Chicagos other big menrookie power forward Taj Gibson and backup center Brad Millerexperienced on Saturday. Guarding ONeal is as hard as it looks.

Despite their Game 1 loss, the Bulls were in high spirits during Sundays practice, continuing their theme of using the sessions to re-focus, loosen up and motivate themselves. For example, a round-robin game of one-on-one between reserves Jannero Pargo, James Johnson, Joe Alexander and Rob Kurz captivated the rest of the teamincluding Noah, even as he was being interviewed.

I remember when I used to do this with Tyrus and Big Pookie Jerome James my rookie year, said Noah. You get tired and you get really pissed off at the coaches. This is adversity in its rawest form.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Looking for culture reset, Bulls find themselves in the middle of more drama

Looking for culture reset, Bulls find themselves in the middle of more drama

It was supposed to be an uneventful and culture-resetting season for the Chicago Bulls, but that ended the moment Bobby Portis’ hand connected with the sweet spot on Nikola Mirotic’s face.

Now a light is shining on an unwilling franchise and rightful questions are again being asked about what led to the event, rather than the result.

Mirotic will be out four-to-six weeks with facial fractures and a concussion to boot and Portis was suspended for the first eight games of the season, leaving rookie Lauri Markkanen to man the power forward spot against the likes of Serge Ibaka and LaMarcus Aldridge his first two games.

Welcome to the NBA, kid.

It’s likely he received his wake-up call when he saw his teammates exchange friendly fire, though, considering the witnesses said Mirotic and Portis had been at it for awhile before Portis took one swing to conclude matters.

“Both players owned responsibility in the incident itself but only one player threw a punch. And that punch connected. For us, that is inexcusable,” Bulls Vice-President John Paxson said. “It’s not who we are.”

But when there is no discernable identity, and there’s a coaching staff who’ve witnessed these two go at it for well over two years you have to ask if this is who the Bulls are.

Not in the way of fighting but a team that collectively stands by idly while a situation builds and builds before it explodes, then is forced to clean up the carnage while having to explain and react to an unnecessary event.

Jimmy Butler, gone. Ditto for Derrick Rose. Tom Thibodeau? Dumped too before he picked up what the Bulls didn’t want in Butler on draft night, jump starting this process of the Bulls headed to Parts Unknown.

All have been blamed at some point for the state of affairs. Rose’s knees, Butler’s mouth, Thibodeau’s unwillingness to bend.

Butler took a tongue-in-cheek shot directly across the bow of his former franchise when asked about the incident involving his former teammates, saying “All I know is I’m not to blame for this one”, a nod to the narrative surrounding his trade to Minnesota.

Now who’s left to blame and what happens from here is anybody’s guess.

“When’s the right time to step in? I saw it on the best teams I played on, where you had that competitive spirit,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to have it to have any chance at all. So sure, looking back on it, would we have handled the situation differently? Maybe. I don’t know.”

Both Paxson and Hoiberg expressed the rightful disappointment in Portis while also saying Mirotic had a hand in what occurred. Portis will ultimately bear the responsibility, with his eight-game suspension coming at the worst possible time as his option for next season hasn’t been picked up yet, as it’s hard to see he and Mirotic sharing the same space in a locker room whenever Mirotic returns.

And if he is still around, it’ll be on the players to keep a team from splintering — as if the expected losing won’t be depressing enough.

“As teammates, we're certainly supporting Bobby and supporting Niko,” said Robin Lopez, a de-facto leader on a young roster. “We're going to let them know that what they did, the way they messed up, wasn't right, but we're definitely supporting them.”

Lopez, along with many others, said the confrontation has been brewing for some time, that the pushing and shoving wasn’t anything new. From a human standpoint it’s understandable to sense tension as Portis has been itching for playing time for two years after playing behind veterans, anxious to cement himself on a team that drafted a player at his position four months ago.

Mirotic came in as a golden boy of sorts, handed a starting spot by Hoiberg two years ago and given every chance to snag a starting spot last year before Taj Gibson aggressively stepped in.

His up-and-down performances were rewarded with a $12-plus million deal this offseason and although players usually don’t count each other’s money, they take note of who’s favored and who isn’t.

Mix in competition and ego days before the season began and it’s not surprising something was on the horizon.

But it’s up to a coaching staff to step in, as assistant coach Randy Brown did before the parties were separated in the hope things would settle down.

They didn’t, and now Hoiberg will start yet another season having his aptitude to coach a professional team questioned before he can call an official play or lay out a rotation — because Portis laid Mirotic out on the Advocate Center floor.

Hoiberg desperately wants to change the narrative surrounding his first two years, eager to prove his system can work and that he’s capable of commanding a team that plays hard and organized on a nightly basis.

Whether this is an omen or a random event, it certainly doesn’t bode well for Hoiberg to his detractors.

He stood to the side while Paxson addressed the media, appearing both bewildered and shocked he was having to address such a rare situation a little more than 24 hours before his season-opening cleanse was to occur.

“I’m very disappointed in what happened,” Hoiberg said. “Now, my job is to not let this moment derail us. My job is to get these guys prepared to go out and fight and play as a group, and I’m confident our guys will do that. They’ve shown that going all the way back into late August.

“I’m confident our guys will rally around each other. I’ve seen how much these guys care for each other, and we’re going to go into Toronto tomorrow as a group. We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to grow from this. We’re going to compete, I promise you that.”

It’s clear the Bulls want to extricate themselves from the past couple years and now recent events, but when things are swept under the rug they have a funny way of reappearing at the weirdest times.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Could the Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic fight have been prevented?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Could the Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic fight have been prevented?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski and Vincent Goodwill react to Bobby Portis’ eight-game suspension and how the Bulls handled the incident with Nikola Mirotic. Mark and Vinnie also discuss how the injury and suspension thrusts Lauri Markkanen into the starting power forward spot and the impact on the rest of Fred Hoiberg’s rotation. Plus the duo previews the season opener against the Raptors.