Bulls: Joakim Noah, Fred Hoiberg in delicate positions


Bulls: Joakim Noah, Fred Hoiberg in delicate positions

Joakim Noah is in a difficult, if not impossible spot this season.

Dealing with a new role, coming off the bench under new coach Fred Hoiberg, all while dealing with his looming free agency and wanting to place himself in the best position for next season and beyond.

He clearly feels like he can do more on the floor, as playing around 20 minutes a game isn’t sitting well with him. But he’s not going to rock the boat. Noah hasn’t before and he won’t do it now that his circumstances have changed.

“I don’t talk contract and I don’t talk future,” he said, parroting a reporter’s query about blocking the concern out about the future and focusing on his role at Bulls practice on Tuesday.

“How do you? Right now I don’t have a choice, I’m just focused on my improvement, it’s all I can do right now. I think the team’s in the right place," he added. "I’ve always been a team player. I’m not gonna change now.”

[BULLS ROAD AHEAD: Noah, in limited minutes, looking healthy]

And part of being a team-first player is the acknowledgement that he’ll have to split time with a veteran like Pau Gasol, a dependable rebounder and defender like Taj Gibson and someone who the organization is invested in, forward Nikola Mirotic.

Hoiberg rattled off all of Noah’s accomplishments, things Noah has done under previous regimes when he was a much younger player and the team structure was quite different.

And dealing with having an emotional player who holds so much sway in the locker room, coming in and having to diminish his role in such a critical year personally for Noah, is arguably his hardest task in his maiden voyage as an NBA coach.

“We’ve talked about this all along: The biggest issue with us as coaches is going to be our rotations,” Hoiberg said. “It’s not easy because we’ve got a lot of guys who can be effective out there on the floor. You just try to do the best job you can of trying to get the right combinations out there.”

Noah won’t give Hoiberg a bailout on anything, although he’s being as respectful as possible. He recoiled at the thought that playing 20 minutes a night can save his body for a playoff run, a school of thought former coach Tom Thibodeau had no interest in theoretically.

“No. I feel great,” Noah said. “Feel like I’m moving well and I feel healthy.”

He was moving quite well Monday against the San Antonio Spurs, and one could make the case he was the most impactful player on the floor wearing white, which of course begs the question of how Hoiberg should handle this delicate situation.

“He’s our emotional leader,” Hoiberg said. “He’s bringing great energy night in and night out. Doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, whether he’s on the bench cheering for his teammates or on the floor making big plays. But it was fun to see Jo go off like he did.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

It almost feels like Noah’s special nights are a microcosm of this Bulls’ team as a whole. Both, when actively engaged and emotional, can beat virtually any team in a given night except for Golden State, but predicting which team or which Noah will show up is a bit of a task.

Hoiberg’s changing of Noah’s role assuredly came with the blessing of the front office, and it’s a big part of his philosophy of keeping the floor spread. Before seeing Noah play this season, the idea was in his head.

“You think a lot about that when you watch the film,” Hoiberg said. “We watched all the games from last year. Watched all the different combinations, looked at the numbers for all the different combinations that were out there, and then you make the decision that you feel is best for the team and try to get your guys to go out there and buy in.”

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career


Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.