Preps Talk

Noah 'most likely' out for Game 4; Thibodeau still confident

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Noah 'most likely' out for Game 4; Thibodeau still confident

PHILADELPHIAJoakim Noahs left-ankle injury isnt as bad as some feared initially there was speculation that the gruesome injury, suffered in the third quarter of Friday nights Game 3 loss to the 76ers, was a fracture, but postgame x-rays were negative but the Bulls center does have a sprain and is doubtful for Sundays Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Most likely, hell be out tomorrow, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday afternoon following a film session at the teams hotel. I havent gotten the grade yet, but its doubtful. Well see tomorrow, though.

Thibodeau, in his typical fashion, said Noahs status is day-to-day and whether backup center Omer Asik is a game-time decision, and although most observers are counting the Bulls, down 2-1 in the first-round series, out with superstar Derrick Rose was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Game 1 and now Noah who morosely hobbled through the hotel lobby on crutches and wearing a cast on his ankle unlikely to return, the coach is sticking to the mantras hes consistently preached all season.

Like Ive said all along, we feel we have more than enough. Next guy up. Got to get the job done, he said. Injuries are part of the game. We have more than enough to win with. Weve got good, quality depth. Were down 2-1 in the series. Weve got to find a way to win tomorrow.

It happens. You deal with injuries. Next guy has an opportunity to rise up and thats the way we have to look at it, and thats the challenge we all face right now. The game tomorrow, weve all got to get ready and we have an opportunity to rise, and thats what we have to do, continued the coach, who downplayed comparisons to the Knicks team he was an assistant for in 1999, the last lockout-shortened NBA campaign, during which New York advanced to the NBA Finals after star center Patrick Ewing was injured in the conference finals. Obviously I think theres always disappointment when you lose and I think thats a good thing. I think that tells you that you have the right players. I think the big thing is how we respond, to have the determination tomorrow to get the job done and I want us to have greater fight tomorrow.

Though Asik is quietly considered one of the upper-echelon defensive centers in the league, the second-year pro and native of Turkey is a light scorer, to say the least, and isnt used to playing heavy minutes. Fortunately, Philadelphia is a smaller team with only one post player possessing the size of a true center in perimeter-oriented Spencer Hawes, so the Bulls might be able to get away with playing power forwards Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer in the pivot to match up with either rookie Lavoy Allen, a natural power forward, or veteran Elton Brand when he slides over to center, as well as All-Star small forward Luol Deng at power forward when Sixers reserve Thaddeus Young is in the game.

Omer obviously can handle that position, but Taj has played both positions, so it gives you versatility there. So, we feel like well be OK, Thibodeau explained. We still have three bigs and we also have Scal, so we feel like we have more than enough.

Omer, hes better offensively than hes given credit for because of his rebounding, offensive rebounding, and his screening, and hes also a very underrated passer, he continued. Hes not accustomed to playing the starters minutes, so thatll be a little bit of an adjustment, but Taj has played a lot, Carlos, we can extend his minutes some and then we have the ability to put Luol at the four also.

Thibodeau also discussed the process that led to Noah returning to Fridays contest early in the fourth quarter after first being injured in the third period.

He thought he could go. Sometimes you can get through it. Obviously he was struggling, said Thibodeau, who noted that he wanted to his team to commit a foul to stop the clock and make a substitution as soon as he noticed how badly Noah was laboring. He just twisted his ankle and he has to be cleared by Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi. Fred clears him and we give it a go. Of course, hes got to want to play. If he feels hes able to play, he shows Fred that he can play or thinks he can give it a shot, then you do so and then, if not, then you dont.

Im relying on Fred. The games going on and I ask him if he can go or not go, so thats usually how it works, he added. Most guys, you can tell whether they feel like they can go or not go, but you just rely on your medical staff for that stuff.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”