Joakim Noah's activity a bright spot in Bulls' loss to Hornets


Joakim Noah's activity a bright spot in Bulls' loss to Hornets

As one would assume the Bulls take the next three games to play with some kind of regular season intensity, Fred Hoiberg would likely bottle up whatever inspired Joakim Noah to perform with the kind of fervor Noah displayed against the Charlotte Hornets.

Certainly the Bulls’ 94-86 loss at Time Warner Cable Arena won’t mean anything in the big picture, nor will Noah’s overall numbers of 12 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

But the spirit in which Noah played, and the fact he only had two made field goals, shows the kind of effect he can still have.

It wasn’t pretty with Noah and it still isn’t, but it was effective and impactful, as the Bulls played without Pau Gasol (rest) and of course, Derrick Rose.

[MORE: Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Jimmy Butler before season starts]

“Jo was very active,” Hoiberg said. “I thought he defended Al Jefferson very well, who’s a tough cover on the block. He was battling, he was active, enthusiastic on the bench.”

In the first half, Noah stripped Jefferson on his patented post move, ran the floor to catch a nifty bounce pass from Aaron Brooks for a dunk while beating the lumbering Jefferson downcourt.

“Yeah, I think I can do better,” Noah said. “I missed some free throws, missed some easy ones my teammates were giving me great looks. Could’ve had more.”

Then in the third quarter, he showed his intangibles, setting up Kirk Hinrich and Tony Snell for their first field goals by being a safety valve, setting quick screens so they could step into a dribble and easy jump shot.

“We all know how great of a player Jo is, we want him to continue to be aggressive and look to score,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored 18 in 37 minutes. “He passes incredibly well while playing defense on the other end. We want to keep his confidence high.”

Noah went to the foul line 11 times in the first half, due to his relentless activity and energy. The word “spry” could be used to describe his energy for the first time in quite some time.

It wasn’t enough to get the Bulls into any kind of consistent offensive flow, as they shot just 38 percent and missed 21 of their 27 three-pointers, most of which came in the second half as they mustered only 35 points.

[RELATED: Fred Hoiberg likes Doug McDermott coming off the Bulls' bench]

The slow pace led Hoiberg to say they took a step back, one that can’t be repeated too many times in the regular season.

“We were really good offensively in the first quarter (33 points), but from then on out we were not good at all,” he said. “Offensively we have to be better than that, we’ve been pretty good this preseason on that end. Tonight we didn’t play with any pace.”

Their perimeter defense was a problem early, as Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin and P.J. Hairston all had their way with the Bulls guards, which should be to Hoiberg’s chagrin after his terse statement claiming he’s nowhere near happy with where the team’s defense is to date, following their loss to Detroit last week.

Most came in the first quarter, though, and the Bulls rebounded to hold the Hornets to 42 percent shooting, but didn’t convert offensively.

“We did a better job getting stops,” said Hoiberg, noting the Hornets shot 63 percent in the first. “I thought even when we got stops, we weren’t getting out on the break and pushing it back at them. For whatever reason, we decided to play a slow down game tonight.”

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Walker scored 22 and was bouncy enough to get Hinrich fouled out in just 18 minutes of run, while Lin had a more rounded evening, scoring 18 with seven rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes.

Noah wasn’t the only bright spot, though, as Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis again played well in different spurts. Gibson played beyond his 15-minute limit as he scored 14 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes, hitting his first four shots and missing just one on the night.

Bobby Portis again made his case for a spot in the rotation, with 12 points and eight boards in 19 minutes.

But with the exception of Butler, the Bulls guards struggled on both ends of the floor, leaving Hoiberg with as much cause for concern as he does optimism with his big man who didn’t look so old Monday night.

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

The NBA preseason has finished and teams are finalizing their rosters before the beginning of the regular season.

For the Bulls, that meant claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers and signing him to a two-way contract.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the move.

Ulis, a product of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, was waived by the Warriors on Friday. He spent two years at Kentucky before getting drafted in the second round by the Phoenix Suns in 2016.

In two years with the Suns, Ulis made 58 starts and played in 132 games. He averaged just over 7 points per game in both seasons. Last season, Ulis also averaged 4.4 assists per game against 1.8 turnovers in 23.4 minutes per game.

The Suns waived Ulis after the season and the Warriors signed him for the preseason. He averaged 3 points and 1.5 assists per game in four preseason games with the Warriors.

The two-way contract means Ulis could be spending more time with the Windy City Bulls than at the United Center on game days, but backup point guard is a question mark for the Bulls. Cam Payne looks like he will get first crack at the role behind Kris Dunn with Denzel Valentine injured. Ryan Arcidiacono just made the team and could also figure into point guard minutes.

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Cuts during the NBA preseason aren’t exactly as gut-wrenching and tension-filled as they are in the NFL. NBA teams cut from somewhere in the late teens down to 15, and the potential for two-way contracts exist for those players who don’t make the roster. But for Ryan Arcidiacono, Saturday was filled with angst as he waited for a call. It never came.

“I was thinking about it. It’s like Hard Knocks when you’re watching. You don’t want to get that phone call,” Arcidiacono said Sunday before practice. “I was just thinking to myself after the game (Friday), nobody said anything to me. I was talking to (assistant) Pete (Myers) and he said, ‘Just get outta here, man. I’ll see you at practice on Sunday.’ I was still a little nervous on Friday night. Saturday morning I felt better after I talked to my agent and everything became more official.”

It’s quite the journey for Arcidiacono, who spent time both with the Bulls and their G-League affiliate in Hoffman Estates last season. In 37 starts with the Windy City Bulls, Arcidiacono averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 assists in 39.6 minutes. His two longest stints in Chicago came in late January and at the end of the year, and that 24-game audition was enough for the Bulls to re-sign him in July.

Arcidiacono found more comfort this summer in Year 2 with the Bulls. Though his playing time in the preseason was limited he showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the roster. It also helped that the Bulls find themselves thin at the point guard position behind Kris Dunn, with Cameron Payne struggling and Denzel Valentine on the mend with an ankle injury.

“I think last year really helped me with the two-way, getting acclimated with what Fred wants to do,” he said. “I think getting up and down with the G League. (Head coach) Charlie (Henry) really helped me a lot. Knowing our point guard situation, I just tried to be the hardest playing guy on the floor anytime I step on and the rest will take care of itself.”

It’s unknown whether Arcidiacono’s stint in Chicago will last. His contract will be guaranteed on January 10. He’s an important body for now with Lauri Markkanen out for the foreseeable future and Valentine still recovering from his own injury. But he’ll also have the opportunity to push Payne for that back-up role. Payne struggled much of the preseason, averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 assists on just 25 percent shooting.

“Arci has done a lot of really good things,” Hoiberg said. “I liked the way he looked in the game the other night off the ball. Defensively, made some really good solid plays and again, when there’s an open man on the court Arci’s gonna find him.”

He won’t move the needle on the Bulls’ season, and his minutes will likely be minimal once the season begins. But for now it’s a great story of persistence that gives the Bulls another hard-working body in practice.”

“Whatever our team needs, that’s what they’ll get from me,” he said. “Whether that’s being a backup or the third point guard spot, I’m just here to compete and make our team better and hopefully get us some victories.”