Bulls: Joakim Noah prognosis 'tough on everybody right now'


Bulls: Joakim Noah prognosis 'tough on everybody right now'

Though the Bulls went 7-2 without Joakim Noah earlier in the year, Fred Hoiberg acknowledged the differences this time around.

The Bulls announced late Saturday that Noah, who separated his left shoulder Friday night against the Dallas Mavericks, will require surgery that will keep him sidelined four to six months. And while the Bulls are familiar with not having Noah in the lineup - he missed nine games with a strained left shoulder - the reality that the emotional leader's season is likely over has been difficult for the Bulls.

"It’s tough. He’s such a passionate kid. He’s a big-time leader of this team. He gives so much energy," Fred Hoiberg said Sunday at the Advocate Center. "Even when he wasn’t playing he was always keeping guys’ spirits up being around here. And I know he’ll continue to do that. I feel bad, the fact that he’s going to have to have a surgical procedure to fix this. But at the end of the day Jo’s going to be fine.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

"But it's tough on everybody right now."

Noah wasn't in attendance at practice Sunday and is still seeking opinions on who will perform the surgery, so no timetable has been set for his rehabilitation. Hoiberg said Noah is expected to make a full recovery once the surgery is performed. Both Hoiberg and center Pau Gasol said the team has been messaging Noah, and the hope is his injury won't result in an emotional hangover like the one the team suffered Friday night, scoring 77 points in a home loss to the Mavericks.

"We had some of that," Hoiberg said. "You could see it in the second half, just seeing Jo at halftime. He was obviously very down and our guys, each one of them went in and talked to him. Hopefully you get that out of the way and now you can focus at the task at hand."

They won't have any time to let up with a difficult stretch in front of them that includes 10 of their next 12 on the road, and six of the next seven against teams with winning records. 

"We have a tough stretch coming up, we understand that," Gasol said. "A lot of difficult games, but we have played better when the challenge has been bigger. So let’s see if we can dig in and all work as a unit and really take this challenge as an opportunity to prove what we’re made of and how far we can get."

Hoiberg acknowledged that rookie Bobby Portis will have an increased role in Noah's absence. When Noah missed nine games between December and January, the Bulls' first round pick showed promise, averaging 7.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game. Portis has averaged just 7.4 minutes in the last four games since Noah's return but again will see a considerable jump and be asked to anchor the Bulls' second unit frontcourt. Hoiberg also mentioned that Cam Bairstow and undrafted rookie Cristiano Felicio may also be called upon to eat up minutes. Bairstow has appeared in just eight games, while the 6-foot-10 Felicio has played four minutes in two games while shuffling to and from the D-League.

[MORE: What's next for Joakim Noah, Bulls after season-ending surgery]

"I think knowing you’re going to be out there for an extended period probably will help with (consistency). Bobby, again, his minutes have been up and down. Obviously not being in the rotation early and then going out and taking advantage of minutes when a couple guys were out, and now being back in that role," Hoiberg said. "There’s some guys that haven’t really played at all that will need to be ready, and I’m confident those guys will do that.

"Everybody’s got to be ready to fill in for what Jo gave us, which was a lot. Our best low post defender, one of our best playmakers on our team, a guy that always generates ball movement when he’s out on the floor and just passion and energy. And that’s going to have to be picked up by the group collectively, that’s not just one guy."

Mike Dunleavy gets in non-contact work

Mike Dunleavy was seen running at practice Sunday at the Advocate Center. He was also working with assistant coach Jim Boylen on defensive drills for the portion of practice open to the media. And while Hoiberg said Dunleavy still isn't ready for contact, he's pleased with the sharpshooter's progress.

"Mike did some non-contact stuff today. He was out there, did some of our 5-on-0 stuff, some of the defensive shell work, he was out there participating in that," Hoiberg said. "Still no contact for Mike. Hope to get him on the floor doing some contact work in the next couple weeks."

Trade doesn't appear likely for Bulls

Hoiberg said a trade doesn't appear likely for the Bulls in the wake of Noah's injury.

The Bulls were rumored to have been shopping Noah, an unrestricted free agent at season's end, as well as Taj Gibson. And while the team has a need for a wing, losing Noah suddenly thins the frontcourt.

"You’re always listening and making calls," he said, "but I don’t think there’s anything serious out there."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, the Bulls Outsiders team of Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine join Kevin Anderson to talk about the series premier of ‘Bulls Outsiders’ Thursday night. Hear about how the show came together and what they are hoping to bring to the Bulls fanbase this season. They’ll also share their bold predictions for the season including two potential end-of-season award winners from this roster.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “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.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.