Bulls

Bulls: Tom Thibodeau defends Joakim Noah going into Game 2

thibsdefendnoahforreal.png

Bulls: Tom Thibodeau defends Joakim Noah going into Game 2

CLEVELAND—

Considering the Mike Miller experiment predictably failed miserably in Game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going with Tristan Thompson at power forward for Game 2 of their series against the Bulls as they try to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole with two games in Chicago up next.

If Game 1 was a win on the scoreboard for the Bulls, it was also a win for them strategically and possibly psychologically, which is why Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has routinely chided the school of thought that says the Cavaliers are undermanned without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith.

“Any team with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving isn’t shorthanded,” Thibodeau has said numerous times.

Thompson is a menace on the offensive glass, especially when paired with Timofey Mozgov. In Game 1, the Bulls face-guarded him and kept him off away from creating second-chance opportunities, but that test will likely become much harder tonight.

[SHOP: Get the latest Bulls gear here]

“Yeah, well you prepare for everybody, all the possibilities,” said Thibodeau when asked if he was surprised about the report stating Thompson would start in the team's morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena.

“He played 37 minutes so we know who he is and how he fits in. He can play at the 5 and at the four and because of all the things LeBron can do, he has flexibility. The biggest concern is the rebounding aggression and we have to be ready for that.”

He only grabbed three offensive rebounds in Game 1, a victory for the Bulls’ game plan, and Joakim Noah was part of the reason why.

Noah’s struggles are certainly in focus, as his offensive confidence has appeared to wane—evidenced by blowing an easy point-blank layup, part of his 0-4 shooting night.

Knowing what Noah’s going through, as far as his surgically repaired left knee that was worked on in the offseason giving him trouble from night to night, Derrick Rose has been appreciative of the effort and not necessarily worried about the stats.

“With Jo, he’s giving us what he’s got. He’s been through a lot,” Rose said. “For a big guy having those injuries, it takes a lot. Just his energy, his presence is a lot. He’s a hell of a character, hell of a teammate and it kinda rubs off on people.”

[MORE BULLS: Bulls should expect a more aggressive LeBron James in Game 2]

But Thibodeau chooses to focus on the nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 29 minutes, and with Thompson’s presence meaning the Cavaliers will play bigger, at least in theory, means Noah will be just as important.

“I don’t want anyone to get lost in his scoring because it’s never been a strong suit,” Thibodeau said. “It’s all the other stuff he brings to the team. It’s not the emotion, it’s the activity. When he does that, he’s very, very effective for us. It’s how the team functions when he’s on the floor. He doesn’t have to shoot well to play well. It’ll come around for him. All players go through it. Don’t let it take away from the things.”

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

wendell.png
AP

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.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

lorin_bears_pats.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Moral victory for the Bears?

David Schuster, Adam Jahns and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Dave Wannstedt joins the panel to discuss the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots? Was it a moral victory? Is Matt Nagy crazy to say Mitch Trubisky didn’t play that bad?

13:00- Joe Girardi pulls his name out of the Reds managerial search and Jon Heyman reports that industry sources believe he might wait to see if there’s an opening in Chicago. What are the chances that he replaces Joe Maddon?

14:30- Adam Amin joins Kap to preview the Bulls/Mavericks game and discuss the lack of defense in the NBA.