Bulls

Noah less concerned with scoring than righting the Bulls' ship

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Noah less concerned with scoring than righting the Bulls' ship

OAKLANDConverse to the beginning of last season, when Joakim Noah was both a league-leading rebounding machine and a legitimate scoring threat, the Bulls centers impact on the floor has been much less prominent in the teams first two games.

Noah didnt reach double figures in either the dramatic Christmas Day comeback win over the Lakers (although he was limited by foul trouble) or Mondays troubling loss to the Warriors. However, dont expect the fifth-year pro to complain.

Jo:

I feel good, said Noah, in a nod to the health issues that bothered him last season. I feel like Ive been working on my game all season. I feel prepared. I know what my role is on this team, so Im just trying to stay positive and when my number is called, be as ready as possible.

When asked to evaluate Noah, his coach offered both measured praise and criticism.

Some good, some not-so-good, Tom Thibodeau explained after the teams practice at the Warriors facility in downtown Oakland, prior to leaving for Sacramento, where they will visit the Kings on Thursday. Its like our whole team right now.

I thought he was active in the last game. I want him to be who he is. I think hes playing really good defense. His defense has really come around. His rebounding was better in the last game, but offensively, I want him to run the floor more. I think he can outrun people and hes a guy who can get us some easy buckets, so I want to take advantage of that.

Indeed, Noahs speed and ability to run the floor when compared to most of the leagues centers gives the Bulls an added benefit in transition, as does his offensive rebounding, when hes finishing effectively around the basket. Like Thibodeau, Noah is more concerned with the Bulls surprising lack of effort against Golden State, one of the rare times the typically highly-motivated squad appeared to rest on its laurels.

Im hoping that it gets better with time, but weve just got to compete harder than weve been competing. It was a great win against the Lakers, but weve still got to improve and play better than we have, defensively and offensively, he said. The more you play together, the better youre going to be and even though were on this team that played a lot of games together, that training camp is to put everything back into place. Were still a work in progress and weve got a lot of work to do.

I think we just need to keep grinding, keep a positive attitude and understand that teams are very good in the NBA, and its not because were the Chicago Bulls that were going to win games. Weve just got to go out there and get better. Losing the way we lost to Golden State, the effort we put out there wasnt very good. Its on us to bounce back and I think well do that, he continued. I think, underdog or not, it doesnt matter. Weve still got to go out there and compete. I think that we can compete harder.

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.