Bulls

Noah progressing, aims for return after break

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Noah progressing, aims for return after break

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
3:28 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW ORLEANSHeading into the fifth and final game of their current road trip, the Bulls are obviously focused on finishing the five-game swing on a positive notenot only would put them above .500 on the trip, its the teams last contest away from home before All-Star weekendbut even with their tremendous collective focus, its hard not to look toward the future. Specifically, after the aforementioned annual midseason break, when sidelined center Joakim Noah is slated to return to the lineup.

Im very excited. Just working out, got some tape on my hand instead of a cast, can shoot a little bit and get back on the court as soon as I can, said Noah, who can be observed after Bulls practices going up against veteran reserve forward Brian Scalabrine as he adjusts to taking contact following December surgery on his right thumb, prior to the teams Saturday morning shootaround at New Orleans Arena. Its been good., just getting used to contact again. Obviously Im still not where I want to be, but Im just working hard on it every day.

Noah, who confirmed he expects to come back by the teams first game after the All-Star Game (Feb. 23 at Toronto), says that his conditioning is improving and hes starting to regain his shooting touch.

Its not great, but Ive been working hard at it every day, so I think Ill be ready to get back on the court, said Noah, who often works out on the court before games under the watchful eye of Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson, prompting All-Star point guard Derrick Rose to say the coaches are working him like a horse.

The Tornado his unique shooting form is coming back in full effect.

Still, he isnt completely sure what his immediate impact will be, although his high energy level, hustle, defensive prowess and knack for rebounding should ensure he benefits the team, even if his offensive game is slow to return.

Ive never been out that long, but Im working as hard as I can and when Im out there, Im going to give 150 percent. Well see how it goes, said Noah, who has had the chance to observe the team from a sideline vantage point during his absence. I feel like were a pretty good team and well get better. Well definitely get better. We have a lot of things to improve on and well see where it takes us.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has been pleased with the centers progress.

Hes doing great. Yesterday, he went through virtually the entire practice. Hes pain-free, still working on his timing, which is to be expectedgetting bumped a little bit; its body-on-body nowso thats the next phase of his rehab. Hes shooting the ball well from 15, 17 feet, going through all his post-up moves. Hes coming along very well, explained the coach Saturday morning. He hasnt done live scrimmaging yet, but theres parts of practice that are somewhat more halfcourt, where youre structuring body-on-body, pick-and-roll defense, different defensive coverages and things like that. So, hes been cleared to do that, but he hasnt been cleared yet to do the scrimmaging part, which would probably be the next step for him.

Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi has laid out is a plan for progression, so he cleared him for some contact and the next phase will be the total live contact, he continued. Hes been very engaged. Hes done a lot of conditioning, hes come early to stay with the offense and sort of walk through things there, so hes been working on that and then hes done a lot of post work with his left hand and things of that nature.

Hes done a good job with that and then of course, the past few weeks, hes a little bit more. I think the big thing is, once he starts playing, how long will he be able to sustain a high level of play? I think thatll come quickly. I think what he has done is hes done a great job of his conditioning, so hes done as much as he could possibly do.

Thibodeau added that he doesnt expect the teams game plan to be drastically altered with Noahs return, although his presence would certainly help.

Its not going to change a lot. I think itll change from an energy standpoint. I think extra possessions, great offensive rebounding and playmaking ability. I think when teams are trying to get the ball out of Derricks hands, he has the ability to make good decisions with the ball.

Rose, however, believes that the charismatic center will aid the Bulls in getting back to playing more in transition, as he is more fleet of foot than 38-year-old big man Kurt Thomas, Noahs replacement.

Its going to be more of an up-tempo type of game. With Kurt, youve got to slow things down a little bit. You cant keep running up and down with him, but hes been doing a great job for us, said Rose. Joakim, when he comes back, I think well be getting more easy points and fast-break points.

At the same time, Rose is keeping hisand the teamspriorities in check with only three games to go before time off (if not for him, then the rest of the squad) and the second half of the season.

If we finish everything right, well have a lot of confidence before the All-Star break. Everybodys getting ready for that, but weve just got to stay focused, knowing that weve got three games left and weve got to keep balling until that time comes.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's 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.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: Michigan State's Miles Bridges

NBA general managers were fully expecting to see Miles Bridges declare for the 2017 draft after a solid, but unspectacular freshman season at Michigan State. Bridges arrived in East Lansing as one of the nation’s top prospects, and his impressive leaping ability led to a number of highlight reel plays for Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Problem is, Bridges didn’t show much versatility to his offensive game because of an inconsistent outside shot and inability to create shots off the dribble. Bridges probably would have been a late lottery pick last year on athletic talent alone, but to his credit, he decided to go back to Michigan State for his sophomore season and work on some of his weaknesses.

Unfortunately for Bridges, he really hasn’t shown much improvement year to year. Yes, he’s leading the Big Ten in free throw shooting at 89%, but his other numbers are basically flat from season to season. Bridges averaged 16.9 points a year ago, 17.1 this season. He shot .486 from the field in 2016-17, .477 this year. Even with all the work he put in on his 3 point shooting, his percentage has dropped slightly this season, from .389 to .376. Rebounding is also down slightly, from 8.3 to 6.8. 

Bottom line, Bridges is once again projected as a late lottery pick.

How does he fit for the Bulls? It’s no secret small forward and center are the two positions of need heading into the 2018 draft, and the 6-7 Bridges would give the Bulls another athletic frontcourt player who fits the pace and space game Fred Hoiberg prefers. Bridges could be a real weapon running the floor with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for alley-oop dunks, and he should continue to improve as a 3 point shooter.

The Bulls are hoping to land a top 5 pick to add one of the elite players in this draft, and unless the Pelicans drop into the late lottery, Bridges will probably be gone by the time that selection comes up. He’s probably a bit of a reach in the 6 to 10 range, but if positional need and athletic potential are the most important factors for the Bulls, Miles Bridges could be the choice if they don’t improve their position in the current lottery watch standings.

Personally, I would prefer either Kentucky’s Kevin Knox or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (no relation) over Miles Bridges as a small forward prospect, but all 3 players offer different skill sets that could be helpful to a young, developing team like the Bulls.

The dream scenario would be drafting a young center like Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mo Bamba with a top 5 pick, then coming back to add one of those 3 small forward prospects with the 1st rounder they acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade with New Orleans. We’ll all have to wait until the lottery is held on May 15th to see if the Bulls are in position to add two more foundation pieces to their rebuilding project.