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 will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."