Bulls

Thibodeau's benching of Noah shouldn't be overblown

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Thibodeau's benching of Noah shouldn't be overblown

When Joakim Noah exited Saturday nights Bulls 85-82 overtime home loss to the Grizzlies at the 5:53 mark of the third quarter, a reasonable assumption was that he would return later in the period.
When that didnt happen, as a unit featuring Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer up front thrived, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus decision to ride that group made sense, especially as the home team made a fourth quarter push. Still, whether it was to give Boozer or Gibson a break, add some length on the defensive end, an additional rebounding presence, an offensive playmaker or simply some fresh legs, as time went by in the final stanza, it was puzzling that Noah remained glued to the bench.
But it could be overlooked as the Bulls clawed their way back into the contest and sent the game into an extra session, as nobody could argue that whatever magic the quintet on the court which also included backup point guard Nate Robinson, reserve shooting guard Marco Belinelli and second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, who replaced the injured Luol Deng in the starting lineup had, it was working. However, when Gibson fouled out of the game with 39.1 seconds remaining in overtime and Thibodeau inserted backup center Nazr Mohammed, who hadnt played a minute all evening, it was clear that something was up.
More: Bulls lose to Grizzlies at home in overtime
Just a coachs decision, Thibodeau explained afterwards, before confirming that Noah, who scored 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting in the opening period, had no health issues. Hes fine.
Noah wasnt around in the locker room to give his take on the situation, but the strong-willed center and the strong-willed coach, who both want to win as badly as any two people youll come across in the NBA, clearly dont see eye-to-eye. It might not be a lingering situation, as theyre both more concerned with on-court success than dragging out any perceived player-coach feud, but it wasnt the first, nor will it be the last time Thibodeau sits a key player for an extended amount of time, nor was Noah expressing his frustration during the course of a game, as was witnessed Saturday, an anomaly.
Hes done that before with other guys, Carlos Boozer, himself someone who knows all too well that Thibodeau will sit any player remember Derrick Rose, albeit coming back from injury, getting benched in favor of a hot-shooting C.J. Watson, in a home win over Miami last season, let alone Gibson and the departed Omer Asik playing ahead of Boozer and Noah? said. When a team is rolling, he keeps that team in there. That was the case tonight. We fought back and he just left that group in.
Related: Butler impressive in first career start
Taj Gibson chimed in: You never really know. Thibs just wants effort. Theres no excuses. Youve just got to go out there and do your job. Thats the one thing about our team. Were not an excuse kind of team. Were not going to act that way because we understand that it takes all of us as a whole to get through and make it to the playoffs. Its just one game. Theres plenty more games to go. I know were a team. Were sticking together.
I thought Noah was just so amped up to play in the game, but youve just got to go with whatever Thibodeau feels and learn from it, and keep pushing. I think Joakims been doing a great job all year long and hes going to continue to learn from this game, and keep pushing, he continued. It just didnt go his way a couple of times, a couple bad calls. But its not about him getting frustrated. He has to keep working through it. Thats with me being his teammate and I know thats what the rest of us are going to say. Weve just got to keep working our way through it and hold him down.
Between me, him, Carlos and Nazr, we all talk on the bench and tell him to stay with the same mentality. Just keep being aggressive, play your game, dont worry about the refs and just do your job. Youre doing a phenomenal job. No matter how many bad calls you get, youve just got to keep playing.
Noahs teammates arent concerned because behind the scenes, theyve seen this occur before, an inevitability with people as passionate as Noah and Thibodeau. But Saturday night, due to the Bulls loss to an excellent Memphis team, playing without their leading scorer in Deng and in their third consecutive overtime game, the first time thats happened to an NBA team since the 2006-07 campaign it will be magnified, for all the wrong reasons.
However, what can be examined is Thibodeaus praise of the group that led the Bulls ultimately-failed comeback. Obviously not all of the following can be attributed to Noah, but in typical Thibodeau fashion, a subliminal message can be parsed.
The hole got bigger and the group that went in there sort of battled back, so we were just riding it out, seeing if we could find a way to creep back into it and have a chance to win it in the end, the coach said. We have to be better, were capable of doing better and that being said, all it came down to was we had to make a free throw.
Just the spirit of the group, the fight, guarded people, organized. We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in and thats the way they play credit to them and you have to stay disciplined. You cant allow frustration to take you away from what youre trying to get done out there. Its one of those things where youve got to keep battling and battling and battling. In the end, whatevers necessary, thats what you have to do to win. You have to get in the fight, its physical and you cant get thrown around. When youre getting smacked, you still have to get your job done, Thibodeau continued. You name it. No defense, turnovers, poor execution. One thing led to another. Floor balance. When we made them feel our pressure, they had a hard time and when they made us feel their pressure, we have to respond better.
Knowing Noah, whether those words are delivered to him verbatim or not probably not, knowing Thibodeau, who uses much saltier language behind closed doors the message will be received and because of the centers unique motor, in the end, things will take a turn for the better very soon. Because when it comes to two competitors like the center and his coach, things might not always be rosy, but they both desire the same results.

Brotherly love: Justin and Jrue Holiday will walk NBA prospect Aaron cross stage at draft

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USA TODAY

Brotherly love: Justin and Jrue Holiday will walk NBA prospect Aaron cross stage at draft

Here's a cool story to get your week started off right.

Per Yahoo's Shams Charania, the NBA for the first time will have its green room invitees walk across the stage with two family members prior to the draft.

For UCLA guard Aaron Holiday, his brothers will accompany him.

Aaron, a 6-foot-1 guard, is projected to go off the board sometime late in the first round. It's pretty neat that his brothers will be in attendance, both Justin of the Bulls and Jrue of the Pelicans.

And there's a chance Aaron gets to play with Justin. The Bulls hold the 22nd pick in the first round (ironically from Jrue and the Pelicans) and Scott Phillips has Aaron as one of the five players the Bulls should look at with the 22nd pick.

Writes Phillips:

Aaron Holiday, G, UCLA: This potential pick would already have ties to the Bulls as Aaron's older brother, Justin, is currently on the roster. After three stellar seasons with the Bruins, Aaron is now hoping to become the third Holiday brother in the NBA (brother Jrue is with the Pelicans).

Smaller than his older brothers at 6-foot-1, Aaron makes up for his smaller size at the point with an absurd 6-foot-7.5 wingspan that enables him to play bigger on the defensive end. A talented perimeter shooter who never shot below 41 percent from 3-point range during his three years in Westwood, Holiday has shown that he can run a team on the ball or play as a shooter off of the ball. It should also be pointed out that Holiday was a selfless teammates at UCLA. Opting to come off the bench his sophomore season so Lonzo Ball could start, Holiday was great as both a starter and a sixth man during his college career.

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

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The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard, but what would a potential deal look like?

The Bulls aren't trading for Kawhi Leonard.

Let's get that out of the way before continuing on.

At this stage in their rebuild the Bulls are interested in acquiring pieces - they dealt a Kawhi-like Jimmy Butler 12 months ago for three core parts - and have two picks in next week's NBA Draft.

The Spurs will have myriad options on where to send Leonard, the two-time All-Star and 2014 Finals MVP, and offers will pour in from everywhere. Leonard could also dictate where he plays next season, as he has one year remaining on his deal and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. Certainly a team giving up the assets required to get Leonard would want to know their All-Pro intends on staying.

So that's why. Whichever team deals for Leonard (assuming he is dealt) will be able to put together a more enticing package than the Bulls could (think Boston, the Lakers, Philadelphia). Leonard also reportedly prefers to play in Los Angeles or New York. No mention of Chicago.

But! It's Friday afternoon and we can only churn out so much draft content before our own heads begin spinning. So we figured we would put together the best deal the Bulls could offer for Leonard.

First off, the Bulls would need a gaurantee from Leonard that he intended to re-sign. Like Butler, Leonard wouldn't be able for the supermax extension if he leaves the Spurs. Instead, Leonard could sign a five-year, $188 million max deal with the Bulls, averaging $37.6 million per year.

The Bulls would get a 26-year-old All-Pro just about to enter the prime of his career. Make no mistake about it: Kawhi Leonard is a superstar. It's easy to forget because he played in just nine games last year, but Leonard is just a year removed from a season in which he averaged 25.5 points on 48 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals in 33.4 minutes. Oh, and he's won two Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016.

The Bulls would have Leonard through his age 31 season and would give the Bulls a souped-up version of Jimmy Butler, and perhaps one that could get them closer to contention in an Eastern Conference that may be without LeBron James.

The price would be steep. All-Rookie Lauri Markkanen would be the centerpiece of any deal. The Spurs have utilized versatile, small-ball lineups well in the past and adding Markkanen would be like a cheat code for Gregg Popovich. He'd slot in well next to LaMarcus Aldridge, who played 62 percent of his minutes at center last year, according to Basketball Reference. That was the most minutes he had played at center since his rookie season.

The Bulls would also have to include the 7th and 22nd picks in next week's draft, which only makes the deal more unlikely (from 0.01 percent to 0.005 percent). San Antonio could pursue a wing like Mikal Bridges or Kevin Knox and add him to a core that would include Dejounte Murray, Markkanen and Aldridge. The Spurs also have the 18th pick, so they could conceivably have five core players (Markkanen, Murray, 7, 18, 22) 21 years or younger to complement the 32-year-old Aldridge, who bounced back in a big way last season (ironically without Leonard).

Adding Justin Holiday's $4.615 million salary to the deal makes the money work and gives the Spurs another perimeter shooter.

What would the Bulls look like? Well, needless to say they would have found their wing.

Building around Leonard would include Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis. With Markkanen gone, Portis would be in line for a significant contract extension and a much larger role in the offense; his per-36 numbers were on par with Kevin Love's and Joel Embiid's a year ago.

PG: Kris Dunn
SG: Zach LaVine
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Bobby Portis
C: Robin Lopez

Alas, this deal is not happening. We can only hope to have angered some of you at this hypothetical, fun mock trade.