Bulls

Noah dealing with injury by reflecting on past

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Noah dealing with injury by reflecting on past

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
5:21 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEWARK, N.J.Before Tuesdays win over the Raptors, injured center Joakim Noah held court in the Bulls locker room. But it didnt feel like old timesNoah doesnt normally talk to the media before gameswith a more somber look on the face of the charismatic New York City native.

Just being injured as an athlete, it sucks. It definitely puts things in perspective. It makes you appreciate the game a little bit more. I had to deal with that a little bit last year. Being injured is part of the process. Every athlete goes through it and its just how you deal with it, said Noah, who told reporters that hell get the cast off of his right handfollowing last months thumb surgerynext week. That Christmas one at home in New York was pretty tough for me, but theyre all tough. Even practices are toughI want to play in the games and Miami of course is a game I want to play in. I just want to be there with my teammates and improve as a group, and see how far we can take this thing.

Noah discussed playing in Toronto the night before he was scheduled to have surgery.

Usually injuries happen and you cant really play. I knew I was having surgery and I played that night. Its definitely a weird feeling, but hey, we won the game, recounted Noah. Doc said it wouldnt make a difference. I asked him if I could play and they were just like, Youre going to have surgery tomorrow, but if you want to play, I guess you can do whatever you want.

Although Noah cant play basketball, hes not sitting by idly.

Ive been working out for a little while. Dont tell anybody, thoughI want them to think I was just chilling on vacation. I will be back, said Noah. Ive been running and doing some conditioning, and doing some liftinga lot of core work, a lot of leg strengthening. Its hard to make everything game like. Theres nothing like playing in a basketball game, nothing you can do to simulate a basketball game, but Im doing the best I can, even with a cast on.

Just taking it day by day, controlling what I can control. I can do some running. Theres some things I can do out there. Work on my left hand, work on my in-and-outI cant crossover, but I can work on my in-and-out with my left hand. When it matters, Ill be ready.

For the perpetually active fourth-year player, watching his teammates play without him has been difficult, but hes gleaning some positives from the experience.

Am I learning anything? No, Im just learning that were a pretty good basketball team. The potential is scary. I think we definitely have a way to go and theres a lot of areas to improve on, but were still in a pretty good place right now, so weve just got to keep improving, stay humble, stay driven and not get caught up in any of the hype, even though I think were a little bit under the radar. But I think we have a chance to do something pretty special here and thats pretty exciting, explained Noah. Right now, I know Im not going to go on this road trip. Thibs thinks its better that I stay behind and just work out at the Berto, and right now, Im just focusing on that and well see how it goes when the cast comes off.

One of the more disappointing elements of Noah being sidelined is that his absence occurred after he and Carlos Boozer played in only a handful of contests together.

Carlos is obviously somebody who takes our team to a whole other level. We have a chance to do something special with the pieces that we have here and Ive never played with somebody whos that gifted offensively in the post, so Im very excited to hopefully learn a few things with him. Even when I was playing with him, I was hurt. I didnt really have a right hand, so Im excited to play with him when Im 100 percent healthy, said Noah.

Still, he thinks the close-knit teams burgeoning chemistry is one of the factors in the teams success thus far this season.

I think it means a lot. When you have teammates that respect each other, I think it really makes a huge difference. I think everybodys in it for the right reasons and I think thats very important, said Noah. Its not just a question about being close. Ive been on teams that have been very close and we couldnt win a game. Its more than that. Its about sacrificing for one another and not being selfish. At the end of the day, yeah, I think Ive been on teams that maybe weve hung out more, but that doesnt particularly mean youre going to win more basketball games. I think it helps to be close, but at the end of the day, playing for the right reasons are more important.

In the meantime, Noah is keeping himself occupied with, among other pursuits, filling in as a guest television analyst for Bulls games.

I was actually pretty nervous. Its tough. I had to cough at one point; I didnt know that you had to push a button. People are talking in the earpiece and I didnt know you had to keep talking while that goes on, so I had to learn a lot on the fly, but overall, people said it was pretty good. I was a little worried about it, but it was cool, he quipped.

After the teams slide when he was out last season, his noticeable impact on games and his popularity in the city, Noah knows hes not a forgotten man in Chicago or even elsewhere, as evidenced by his third-place position in the most recent balloting for the NBA All-Star Game.

Its cool, but I think theres a bigger picture than All-Star balloting and obviously as a player, thats humbling, he observed. Its not nothing, but at the end of the day, you have to look at the big picture and the big picture is to play at the end.

And for that to happen, a healthy Noah will be necessary.

The Starting Five

1. With the Bulls winning 14 of their last 16 games, it would be easy for the team to lose focus against some of their underwhelming opponents, such as the Nets, who Chicago is playing for the second time in less than a week. Luol Deng, however, believes the key to continuing the Bulls winning ways is to stay the course. Weve just got to stay humble. We know what were striving towards. Winning like this is new for a lot of us, so the main thing is really to know that it could be gone anytime. Weve just got to keep working hard and keep getting better. Its not really about our opponent each game. Tomorrow, Jerseys a good team, but its still about us, how were going to come out there and play tomorrowour main focus is us getting better. However the game goes, the main thing is did we get better that game or not and what did we do defensively, said Deng. A lot of times, you dont want to see teams right away, especially after you beat them. Guys get up for games like that and Im sure Jerseys waiting on us tomorrow. Then again, we can have the confidence that we beat themthe whole season so far has been fun. We work hard and its fun to see the results. Since training camp, weve been talking about how hard it was and were seeing results now, so weve got to keep staying with it.

2. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau shared his relatively humorous take on Noahs status. He can stretch andlets see what elsehe can run on the treadmill, he can do things like that and he can lift with his lower body. Its mainly all conditioning stuff, said Thibodeau, who added that Noah wouldnt be traveling with the team until we get closer to him coming back. While were practicing, hes working with our strength and conditioning peopleon game day, hell be down at the United Center early and hell be in back in the weight room, working out.

3. Noah also discussed three veteran players who have influenced him: Kurt Thomas and former teammates Ben Wallace and Brad Miller. Kurts somebody I grew up watching a lot of, when he used to play with the Knicks. Somebody I have great respect for. Probably one of the best post defenders, even to this day. I think that his post defense is very underrated. Its definitely one of the reasons why hes still around. Its definitely not his physique. I feel like Ive been lucky to have a lot of great vets since Ive been in the NBA, said Noah. I learned a lot from Ben Wallace, in terms of defensive body positioning and things like that. With Brad, I feel like I learned a lot about passing angles and even him, hes pretty slow on his feethe wasnt a great athletebut his positioning defensively, thats what he needed to be effective on defense. Brad was somebody who had a very high I.Q. and Kurt is kind of similar in that way. Hes not very quick on his feet, he doesnt have unbelievable bounce or anything like that, but hes somebody who understands positioning and angles.

4. An issue starting to gain steam nationallyas well as in Chicago, of courseis Derrick Roses MVP candidacy. Noah opined, I think that at first, when he said it in the beginning of the season, I think everybody looked at him like he was crazy, but hes somebody who has a lot of confidence in his ability and were playing at a pretty high level. I think that hes somebody who understands that the success of this team is going to determine a lot of things for him individually. I think that he understands that wellever since he got into the leaguethat its not about his stats, but its about the success of his team, thats whats going to bring everything.

5. Dont forget to follow me on Twitter at @CSNBullsInsider.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

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

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."