Bulls: Joakim Noah's return could affect Portis, McDermott positively


Bulls: Joakim Noah's return could affect Portis, McDermott positively

It’ll be energy times two when Joakim Noah and Bobby Portis are on the floor together as members of the Bulls’ second unit, a duo that hasn’t been used hardly this season.

Noah’s return from a shoulder injury against the Washington Wizards Monday presented an opportunity for Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to play the two together, in what could be an interesting setup given Noah’s passing ability and Portis being willing to shoot from virtually anywhere.

“They’ll be out there some, together in the second unit,” Hoiberg said. “I think they’ll play well with each other. They’ve developed a really tight relationship and a good bond. Jo has really taken him under his wing and taught him a lot early in Bobby’s career, so I know those two are looking forward to playing with each other.”

[MORE BULLS: NBA Buzz - State of the Bulls]

Essentially, Portis has played a lot of the minutes Noah would’ve in the nine games Noah has been recovering from a left shoulder strain, nearly 21 per game. The frontcourt logjam prevented Portis from getting any playing time in the first 20 games or so, but injuries and a lack of energy on some glaring occasions forced Hoiberg’s hand in playing the rookie.

Now, Portis isn’t looking at the possibility of his minutes being cut, but of how Noah can make the game easier because of his basketball acumen, and the fact there’s no tape of the two playing together.

“Yes sir, for sure. The last time I played with Jo in a game was really my first time actually playing at the United Center,” Portis said. “That was against Brooklyn, and then he got hurt that game, and then he's been out. That's been a big piece of our team, missing him. Like tonight, we're going to be ready and just anxious to play.”

Noah seemingly adjusted to coming off the bench right before his injury, with a 21-point, 10-rebound game against the Knicks one game before he got hurt, and a 15-rebound, eight-assist game on Dec. 14 against the 76ers.

Even with the Bulls playing well and Noah’s minutes being monitored, Hoiberg is looking forward to having Noah anchor the second unit.

“I am excited. The biggest thing with Jo is I know he’s going to bring energy to the court,” Hoiberg said. “I know he’s going to bring rebounding to the court, and he’s always going to be down there defending. Plus he gives us more ball-handling out there. He was really good … I give him a lot of credit for kind of getting that second unit turned around. Again, we talked about him developing chemistry with Doug, Niko was in that lineup for a stretch, and now that will be Bobby, but Jo really is the leader of that second group. I think he’s taken pride in that role.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

One player who’ll really welcome Noah back is Doug McDermott, who has seen his scoring dip in Noah’s absence. McDermott was often a beneficiary of backdoor passes and open 3-pointers generated by Noah’s playmaking but in the nine games without Noah has only scored in double figures once.

He had a stretch where he scored in double figures six of eight games in early December, but things have changed in the time since.

“It’s been an adjustment for sure. We had a good little duo there, we knew each other’s game really well,” McDermott said. “Last year when I played, we played together quite a bit. Jo’s always looking at me. I feel like teams are guarding me differently. I hit a lot of shots to start the year. They’re not coming as easy. It’s been tough, but I’ll have to add more to my game to be successful.”

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

We've officially found the biggest Michael Jordan fan ever

There are diehard Michael Jordan fans.

And then there's this guy.

Forget anybody getting a tattoo of their favorite team's championship trophy. Forget the people who wait for hours in terrible weather just to catch a glimpse of their favorite player.

This dude has a constant, 24/7 reminder of "His Airness":

Yep, that is a full tattoo of a Jordan "23" jersey on his back, complete with a Michael Jordan "autograph" in the middle of the "2." 

Dedication at its finest.

Couple questions: 

A) Does it carry over to the front at all? And if not, is that a plan for the future?

2) Will one of his buddies get a "45" Jordan jersey tattoo or are we just gonna continue to pretend that era never happened?

D) What will that tat look like in a few years? That guy better stay away from the Doritos...

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.