Preps Talk

Thibodeau: Noah understands benching

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Thibodeau: Noah understands benching

DEERFIELD, ILL.Joakim Noah wasnt in the Bulls locker room when the media entered after the teams overtime loss Saturday to Memphis, he wasnt available to reporters after Mondays shootaround at the Berto Center and he, like many players, has a personal policy of not talking to the media before games, so his take on Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus decision to bench him for the final 23 minutes of the defeat to the Grizzlies will have to wait.

Thibodeau, as he did after in his postgame press conference, professed that theres no controversy brewing when asked about the situation Monday.

Just a coachs decision. We were struggling, we were behind. The group that got in there got us back in it. It was more the way that unit was rolling. I just felt we were so flat, that group was either going to win the game or lose the game for us, he explained. They were the ones that overcame a big deficit and thats usually the case. In the first half, I always go back with the starters. In the second half, if were struggling, its going to be the group thats going well. Thats the way it is.

Noah understands. Hes been around and the team has to come first. Thats the most important thing. That happens. Its not a big deal, the coach added. Hes responded well since Ive been here, so I always expect that. I expect the best out of him.

Although Thibodeaus explanation holds water because of the ultimately-failed comeback of the quintet on the floorstarters Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, who played in place of the injured Luol Deng, as well as reserves Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinsonit did raise eyebrows when he inserted backup center Nazr Mohammed, who hadnt previously played Saturday, into the contest after Gibson fouled out in overtime.

Now, while Noah appeared animated when taken out of Saturdays game, thats nothing new to observers, as the high-energy center always wants to be on the court. Gibson insisted that the teams closeness and belief in Thibodeau should quell any speculation that Noah would harbor any resentment.

Not really because we just look at Jo and Jos calling out plays, calling out different stuff, and we just keep playing. We understand that Coach knows what hes doing and when Coach puts guys in, weve got to keep rolling with whoevers out there on the court, so if Jos not out there, eventually hes going to come in. but unfortunately, Saturday night, he wasnt able to come back. But its a new game, new style of play, big game tonight, so weve got to focus on tonights game, Gibson said. If youre doing well, Thibodeau is going to let you play. Hes not going to take you out. If youre doing your job, hes going to let you rock out. Its all about just helping the team. Thats the way Thibs coaches. Its all about winning.

Noah wasnt edgy at all at Mondays shootaround. We had a great walk-through this morning. We were talking, laughing like we always do, running through plays. Thibs was calling out plays. I thought it was a great walk-through for him and our team, he continued. Disagreements between coaches and players happen all year long, but were like a family here. Weve been together almost three years, going on four, so guys just put that in the back of our heads. We understand that we have a goal, one goal, to win games and challenge for a championship. Its a long season. Things are going to happen, heads are going to get butted, but we all love each other and we all know its for the best of the team, and were men, and one thing about men, you have to just let stuff go and this team, we let stuff go and get ready for the next game.

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.”