Bulls

Bulls: Joakim Noah, Fred Hoiberg in delicate positions

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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.”

Our first look at the full NBA 2K20 roster models for the 2019-20 Bulls

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USA TODAY

Our first look at the full NBA 2K20 roster models for the 2019-20 Bulls

The release date of NBA 2K20 is near and as the September 6 release date gets closer, Bulls fans are finally getting a look at the full roster in video game form. 

Among the things that stand out in the video from Sports & Gaming Journalist Brian Mazique, the things that stood out the most was the new Zenni patch on the Bulls uniforms, which now has a light blue background to make the patch stand out a bit more. 

We had already seen how 2019 rookies Coby White and Daniel Gafford look but Thursday represented our first look at players like new Bulls Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky and the longest-tenured Bull, Brazilian big man Cristiano Felicio.

Young currently sports a short-haircut after having more an afro in the 2019 season, so only time will tell if 2K will update his look before the season kicks off on October 22. 

Also fully visible in the video are the overall 2K ratings of all players on the team including Satoransky (75), Young (79), Wendell Carter Jr. (78), Otto Porter (80), Lauri Markkanen (83) and Zach LaVine (85).

Based off of what we see in the video, NBA fans can expect to see the Bulls simulate pretty well in NBA 2K20 as the roster's veteran talent will provide some balance as the young core develops, much like what the Bulls front office is hoping for in real life. 

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Lauri Markkanen makes the top 35 NBCsport's 50 best players in 5 years

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen makes the top 35 NBCsport's 50 best players in 5 years

Over the summer the NBA team over at NBC Sports undertook a fun project in which they ranked the top 50 talents in the NBA in 2024. 

NBCSports.com's 50 best players in 5 years list is an interesting snapshot into the future of the league. Writers included Dan FeldmanTom HaberstrohRob DausterTommy BeerSteve Alexander, and Kurt Helin

While it is was fun to see where aging versions of Steph Curry (36 in 2024) and Klay Thomspon (34 in 2024) rank, the most interesting names on the list were the young talents who are projected to stars in the near future. Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen made the top 35, coming in at No. 34 on the list.

In the 2024 season, Markkanen will be 27 years old and theoretically, smack dab in the middle of his prime.

Coming into the 2019-20 season, 'The Finnisher' is on quite a roll. In his age-21 season, he averaged 20.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes and posted a career-best 55.3 true shooting percentage. 

The Bulls will need to Markkanen to step up his effort in terms of defense and rebounding, with the absence of Robin Lopez putting more stress on the frontcourt to pick up the slack in that department. Kurt Hellin acknowledged that if he can focus on consistency and commitment to D, the sky is truly the limit for Markkanen. 

The question is, can he [Markkanen] reach that ceiling consistently? He’s only 22, but he has yet to come anywhere near that.....If Markkanen can become a more consistent offensive force and better on the defensive end — he’s not a bad defender, he’s okay, but with his length and athleticism he should be a better rim protector — he can take over the role as the alpha on the Bulls

See the rest of NBCSports.com's 50 best players in 5 years list below:

Players 50-46

Players 45-41

Players 40-36

Players 35-31