Bulls: Joakim Noah admits to frustration, trying to find his way


Bulls: Joakim Noah admits to frustration, trying to find his way

For a player who relies on energy and emotion, it’s easy to see Joakim Noah has had a hard time adjusting to a lesser role this season.

Coming off the bench, playing for a new coach and having his unorthodox skills marginalized to a degree seems to have taken a toll on his soul. But on those rare nights where he puts it together, he holds this Bulls’ team emotionally like few others can.

And the full Noah experience was on display in the Bulls’ 92-89 win over the San Antonio Spurs Monday at the United Center. He crossed over David West on the perimeter on the way for a layup, then a couple possessions later took Tim Duncan to the basket for another score.

Of course, his eight points don’t register as much as his 11 rebounds and seven assists or even his emotion that permeates through the team, but having him “at least look at the basket” makes things easier, according to Derrick Rose.

“I’m not gonna lie and say there hasn’t been a lot going on this year,” Noah said. “There’s been a lot of adversity for me. I have to be better to be a good leader for this team.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Being a leader is tough if the production isn’t there to match, especially if the production isn’t up to usual standards and the nights where it all comes together feels more like an anomaly than regular occurrence.

“He got his swag back,” Jimmy Butler said. “You could see by the way he’s walking around here. His spirits are high. That’s what we need every day. Everybody knows Jo is a high spirited, very emotional guy.”

His minutes, scoring and shooting are career-lows, so it’s likely hard for him to project confidence and energy when he doesn’t know how his game fits into this new incarnation of the only team he’s ever known.

Not to mention, the man is playing for a contract next season, all the more reason it appears he’s stuck inside his own head. When asked if the frustration stemmed from coming off the bench, a mini-controversy in itself from the preseason, he finally opened up after relenting with the media for awhile.

“It’s not that. I wanna play the whole game, you know? I never want to come out,” he said. “I understand this is my role now and I just have to accept it and be the best I can with what I can. Overall we just beat a very good team tonight. There’s been games where I haven’t played well, (where) I played like (bleep). I have to keep building on this, hopefully, play confident basketball and it’ll definitely be a plus for this team.”

[MORE: Bulls stout defenses masks ongoing offensive struggles]

There’s a lot of pride in those words, a lot of emotion coming from a player who’s spent his entire career feeding off it no matter the circumstances. So it’s why his teammates stand behind him, encouraging him because they can see the frustration — while also recognizing he can lift this team to a different level when he’s right.

“Jo’s like a brother to me, man,” Derrick Rose said. “He works hard. He’s one of the hardest workers in the league. You always got to tell him to get off the court after shootaround. Usually players go home after shootaround, he’ll stay there until like 2 o’clock just working on his game. But it just shows his dedication, it shows the younger players how hard you have to work, the work ethic you need to stay in this league this long. And he played great tonight. If anything, it can help his confidence.”

Coming off the bench, playing fewer minutes has been a task Rose empathizes with.

"I would think that would be hard for anyone to, you’ve got to get used to it," Rose said. "His attitude didn’t change, he’s been a great teammate and that’s what you need. He’s been very professional about it, so I can’t say anything about it."

There’s only been one game where Noah has had that type of effect and it came in a loss, which was the lethargic overtime showing against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a contest in which the Bulls failed to show up.

[ALSO: Bulls defense holds up late against Spurs in win]

But in the others where his energy has been palpable, the Bulls have emerged on the winning side. Unfortunately those nights have come few and far between, and one can never tell which Noah will show up on a nightly basis.

“Of course it’s hard for him but he’s doing what it takes to win,” Butler said. “He’s showing what it takes for the whole team to be successful.”

Said Noah: “It’s been very frustrating at times but I’m blessed for this opportunity to play for the Chicago Bulls, I’m a passionate player, I get frustrated sometimes.”

And it would behoove all involved to find ways for nights like this to become more of the norm than exception.

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

Chicago, IL (October 15, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – has announced it will launch Bulls Outsiders, a brand new, live, multi-platform, fan-interactive Bulls program that will provide a fresh take on that evening’s game and much more from three non-conventional sports show hosts.  Bulls Outsiders will make its network debut after the Bulls 2018-19 road/season opener this Thursday, October 18 (approx. 10:00 PM CT) immediately following Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois on NBC Sports Chicago+, via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, and -- on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). NOTE: Bulls Outsiders will also re-air on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel on this night at 11:00 PM; the majority of airings will also air live on the main channel location.

Hosted by three, die-hard Bulls enthusiasts – Matt Peck (@Bulls_Peck), David Watson (@bawlsports), and John Sabine (@jsabine214) – Bulls Outsiders will provide viewers with the hottest takes, insightful analysis, and spirited commentary from the fans' perspective. This new half-hour program will immediately follow the network’s dedicated, season-long presentation of Bulls Postgame Live for all 82 Bulls games this season.  

In addition to the lively post-game discussion with the show’s hosts, Bulls Outsiders will also emphasize heavy viewer interaction via fan engagement on a number of the network’s social media platforms including Twitter (@NBCSBulls; fans urged to utilize the Twitter hashtag #BullsOutsiders in their posts) and Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), which will enable Bulls fans to directly interact with the show’s hosts via comments and questions pertaining to that particular evening’s game, the key topics presented to them that night, or anything else they want to discuss from a league-wide NBA perspective. 

“Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue,” said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago. 

In preparation for the hiring of the program’s three primary hosts, NBC Sports Chicago reached out to a number of notable local (and vocal) die-hard Bulls fans who stood out among the vast Bulls social media community. Candidates who responded back with interest were simply asked to shoot a one-minute video on their phone and offer up their take on Chicago native/Simeon Career Academy H.S. grad Jabari Parker joining the Bulls via free agency.  From there, the initial two dozen candidates were narrowed down to eight, who were then all brought in for in-studio auditions. Following the lengthy on-camera process, Cross, along with Bulls content producer Kevin Anderson, finalized their decision and welcomed Peck, Watson, and Sabine to the NBC Sports Chicago family.  

“It was an intricate process in choosing our hosts, but there’s no doubt Matt, David, and John have a great chemistry and solid individual strengths,” added Cross. “I’m also excited about how Bulls Outsiders will take fan interactivity to a brand new level and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be able to deliver this show to the passionate and undeniably-dedicated Bulls fan base.”

Please note the following Bulls Outsiders host bios:

Matt Peck - Podcast host/writer for ‘Locked On Bulls’

Age: 31

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, IL

Favorite Bull of all time: “MJ, obviously…but Rodman is a very close second.” 

Favorite Current Bull: Lauri Markkanen 

Favorite Bulls moments: 

1st place – “1997 NBA Finals Game 1. MJ hits the game-winner at the buzzer after Karl Malone misses 2 FTs...Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays."

2nd place – “2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1…Bulls blow out the ‘Heatles.’ Taj destroys Dwyane Wade's soul. And has a FILTHY put back dunk late with the route on. The Madhouse goes insane. We all leave that night thinking we were about to win the title.” 

David Watson - Bulls writer/podcast host for BawlSports.com

Age: 39

Hometown: Chicago, IL                            

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: Michael Jordan

Favorite current Bulls player: Lauri Markkanen

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan Flu Game in ‘97…Noah dunk on Paul Pierce in ’09 first round Game 6 Triple OT…oh, and that Pippen dunk on Ewing in the ’94 playoffs.”

John Sabine - Actor, copywriter, and improviser…he has performed with The Second City IO and The Improvised Shakespeare Company.

Age: 34

Hometown: Originally from Dallas, TX…has lived in Chicago for the last 11 years

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: “Pippen or Rodman, it's probably Rodman. Is it weird it's Rodman?”

Favorite current Bulls player: “Lauri Markkanen, but really Bobby Portis. I want to be friends with Bobby Portis.” 

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan's return from baseball. As a kid I couldn't understand, I said "wait ...he just decided to not play and now he decided to play, but like he has a new number and he's still awesome...what?!’ or…either 2013 Round 1 Game 4 against the Nets 3OT, Nate Robinson. It was a Marvel Movie.” 

REMINDER: NBC Sports Chicago will carry the 2018-19 Bulls HOME OPENER on Saturday, October 20 (Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light at 6:00 PM; Bulls vs. Pistons tip-off at 7:00 PM; Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois at approx. 9:30 PM, which will immediately be followed by Bulls Outsiders at approx. 10:00 PM).


Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Healthy in October for the first time in three seasons, Zach LaVine entered training camp as the $78 million man looking to justify one of the summer’s largest deals that many criticized.

And just a few days into camp, the spotlight homed in on him further when the Bulls lost Lauri Markkanen to an elbow injury.

LaVine responded to both challenges, putting together a preseason performance that not even the most optimistic expectations could have included.

In just 22.3 minutes he averaged 17.8 points on 52 percent shooting, made 44 percent of his triples and got to the free throw line a team best 4.8 times per game. In short, he looked much more like the potential franchise-building piece the Bulls believed they were acquiring 19 months ago.

“I’m my hardest critic, so there’s nothing on the outside that I haven’t told myself of where I want to be at. You want to tell the doubters on the outside I told you so, but it’s mostly coming from a place where I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for.’’

The fifth-year shooting guard was fluid, attacked in a variety of ways and looked like part of the offense, something that at times was non-existent during last year’s injury-riddled comeback season. Taking shots in rhythm, attacking the rim instead of settling for contested jumpers, running the floor. LaVine looked a lot like the player who shot 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep before the ACL injury in 2017.

“I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season. I think last year still, I was trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played,” LaVine said Monday at the Advocate Center. “I’d play two good games and two bad games. I felt like that up and down was a little bit with the consistency of not playing. Now that I’m back fully I think that’s where I should be.”

The offensive uptick is a sight for sore eyes, especially with Markkanen on the mend. But where LaVine can quiet his harshest critics – including himself – is on the defensive end.

It’s just a five-game sample size, but LaVine’s individual defensive rating of 97.3 was better than the team’s overall 100.2 rating. A year ago, LaVine’s defensive rating was 113.9, the worst on the team, and worse than the team’s overall 110.4 mark. They’re baby steps, but steps nonetheless for a player who knows what the book says about him on that end of the floor.

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” he said. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

The preseason is one hurdle cleared, but they get much taller and difficult to get over when Thursday and the Philadelphia 76ers come around. No matter who starts in the frontcourt – Fred Hoiberg isn’t ready to announce Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. yet – or if the Bulls get good Jabari Parker instead of preseason Jabari Parker, all eyes will be on LaVine.

It’s the contract. It’s being the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butle trade. It’s how well he played before the injury and how dominant he looked in the preseason. He’s off to a good start and knows now is this time to build on it.

“There are a lot of things you want to reach and get better at every year, and I put a lot of work into this offseason,” he said. “I have a lot of things to prove and want to get better at, and yeah, I feel like it’s just motivation for yourself when you want to accomplish things.’’