Bulls

Noah's return finally makes Bulls whole

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Noah's return finally makes Bulls whole

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
12:17 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com
TORONTOLadies and gentlemen, with no further adieu30 missed games was more than enoughJoakim Noah is back. After having surgery on his right thumb in December, the center will return to the Bulls lineup Wednesday evening at the Air Canada Centre, ironically the last place he played.

Noah was brief with the media after the conclusion of the teams shootaround Wednesday morning.

Its tough. Last year I missed some games with plantar fasciitis, as well. Very different situation. I think that were playing very good basketball, were a very competitive ballclub and Im very happy to be back, said Noah, who added that his only goal for Wednesdays game was to get a win.

Its just been a tough time. I had to be very patient. Thirty games is a long time, but Im very excited to be a part of it because our ballclub is very competitive and we feel like when were playing at our best, we can compete against anybody, he continued. But we obviously have a lot of work to do and I know I have a lot of work to do. I havent played a game in a long time.

I dont have many expectations. I dont really worry about the expectations. My only expectation is to go out there and give it all Ive got.

Noah has been diligently working to get himself back into shape and during his layoff, could often be seen working out before games and practices with either Bulls assistant coach Rick Brunson or going one-on-one with veteran reserve forward Brian Scalabrine. Still, there will be a difference between conditioning, taking contact and even full practices, and actual games.

Hell be back and hes going to start. Quality big man and he adds a lot in a number of different areas, in terms of how well he passes the ball, how well he rebounds the ball and his energy, so those are where his strengths are and again, I think it adds another quality big to what we have up front, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who told reporters that Noah would likely play in six to eight-minute intervals Wednesday. I just want him to go as hard as he can, right from the start, for as long as he can. Itll be similar to what Carlos Boozer went through. Hes been out for a long time. Hes been out for much longer than Carlos was.

Until he gets out there, we wont quite know, but I think his rebounding, his passing, his energy, those are all things I want him to bring, and then if we have to get him out a little bit earlier, well do that and gradually get him back to his starters minutes," continued the coach, who said Noah would start the game matched up with versatile Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani, a player capable of stretching the defense.

For Carlos, it was quicker," Thibodeau continued. "But Carlos was out a shorter amount of time. But Im not anticipating it being very long. Jos got a great motor, so I think hell adapt very quickly. He did a great job with doing all the conditioning he could possibly do when he was out.

Even with all of the anticipation about Noahs return, however, his teammates arent counting on him to be at top form immediately. Noahs intangibles will make an impact, even in limited doses, but with the Bulls finally whole, chemistry will be something that has to build again.

Were not trying to look at it like that. It could be hard because Jo missed 30 games. Just getting back to playing with him, it could take a little minute. Like tonight, were going to see how it goes tonight, said All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who has consistently expressed his optimism that the Bulls will get back to being more of a fast-break team. Hes a guy thats going to help us, though, with a lot of energy, rebounding, tipping the ball, doing extra stuff on the court. Its going to help us, but were going to see how it goes tonight.

Thibodeau talked about his big-man rotation, with veteran Kurt Thomas and rookie Omer Asik now having to split minutes at backup center.

Thats a hard read right now, until we see Jo out there and I can see how many minutes he can handle. I think we also have to keep in mind where were going for the playoffs and adding to the rotation right now would be difficult, but Im not ruling it out either, said Thibodeau. Whoever does play, I like the depth that we have up front and a big part of it will be the matchups.

Without saying it, Thibodeau implied thats more of a good problem to have than a drastic concern. With a full roster and in the thick of the chase for a No. 1 playoff seed in the East, the supposedly under-the-radar Bulls could be flying even higher very soon.

Perhaps Noah summed it up best: The potential is definitely there, but its all about putting the pieces together and playing our best basketball at the right time. I think its going to take a little time. Im just really excited about being able to get back on the court.

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.

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Zach LaVine continues All-Star push with historic outing against Cavaliers

Forget statement games, Zach LaVine is having a statement month. 

In 10 January games, the Bulls’ 6-foot-6 messiah is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 30.6 points on 50% shooting (22.8 attempts). 

To borrow a word from Jim Boylen, his latest installment — 42 points on 19-for-31 shooting in a game the Bulls clawed back from down 19 in the second half to topple the Cavaliers 118-116 — was “herculean.”

“If that's not an all-star performance I don't know what is,” Boylen said. “He’s been a monster, man. He’s been a monster.”

To LaVine, there isn’t much supernatural about these types of nights; he’s been preaching his confidence and readiness to carry this team since day one. LaVine scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and on a night he conceded his legs were a tad worn, he attempted only six 3-pointers, instead finding most of his offense in the midrange and at the rim.

“Make or break time, we're not gonna get back in the game by just playing nicely. So I'm gonna attack their body, try to make them make a call. Had some tough finishes, made some tough shots, but I take that upon myself,” LaVine said. 

“Just playing the right way,” he added of his recent torrid streak. “I expect to. I put the work in for it.”

But All-Star berths and widespread acclaim aren’t dolled out based on individual point totals, alone, regardless of how effortless LaVine’s prolificity looks at times. And LaVine knows that. Casting the 42 points aside, he also finished the night with a team-high six rebounds, five steals and three assists. He was all-encompassing. Michael Jordan is the only player in Bulls history to post a line with those minimums in a game.

His contributions to a tightly clamped Bulls defense in the fourth were note-worthy for a player that's often advertised his motivation to grow as a two-way, all-around player. And most importantly, the game ended in victory.

“He [LaVine] wants to win. And he knows in order to win you gotta do multiple things in this league and I feel like he did that tonight,” Kris Dunn said. “He was guarding today, scoring the ball, getting rebounds, getting guys involved. We need that from him.”

LaVine lauded the Bulls’ new-look closing lineup of he, Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls ventured to switch pick-and-rolls with that lineup late, as opposed to their usual blitzing, and outscored the Cavaliers 31-14 in the final period while forcing 10 turnovers.

“We made a lot of defensive stops, we got in transition. Chandler [Hutchison] came in and made some really big plays. Kris Dunn on the defensive end was incredible,” LaVine said. “And that helped me even recently get in some passing lanes. We put it together in the fourth.”

Tonight marked LaVine’s third 40-point game of the season and tenth straight with more than 20. His 31 field goal attempts were a season-high, three more than he hoisted in his record smashing 49-point night in Charlotte. Night in, night out, the on-court production and responsibility acceptance is there. But behind the scenes, he’s ever-improving, as well.

“He's been talking in the huddles, he's been chattering, he's been locked in,” Boylen said. “He's bouncing back from maybe a poor moment or a bad stretch. He's bouncing back now, he's not playing backward at all. And that's what the great ones do.”

“I stepped into this year from the get-go using my voice more, and you know, I've never been a real vocal person but you know, when I say something I think my voice carries weight,” LaVine added.

LaVine isn’t getting ahead of himself. He called this win — however exhilarating — an “ugly” one and lamented the familiar lackluster play that dug the Bulls their 18-point halftime deficit to begin with.

Still, the statements are piling up. If his overall outing wasn’t enough, LaVine offered another one to the United Center crowd after his final bucket of the evening, an and-one finish through Collin Sexton with 16 seconds remaining to put him over 40 points and the Bulls ahead by four.

What did he say?

“You want the explicit version or the PG-13?” LaVine said with a chuckle. “This my stuff.” 

Continuing to stuff stat sheets, as he has been, is going to make All-Star jurors’ lives that much more difficult.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine makes All-Star statement in win over Cavs

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine makes All-Star statement in win over Cavs

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 118-116 win over the Cavs.

1:00        On Zach LaVine and his 42 point effort

2:00        Big Dave does LaVine highlites

4:20        Viewer comment on how much of a boost LaVine will get to his All-Star bid

7:30        On the new lineup in the 4th quarter

8:20        Viewer question on LaVine being the #1 option on a winning team

11:30     Viewer comment on if LaVine can lead Bulls into playoffs

14:45     Viewer comment on Markkanen in the 2nd half

16:30     On Boylen’s timeout usage at the end of the game

18:45     Breaking news: Kendall Gill wants to know if Matt Peck saw what Derrick Rose did tonight

21:45     Viewer comment on Bulls waking up in the 4th quarter

23:30     Viewer comment on if Thibs was coaching Kris Dunn

24:20     On Olympic swimmer Ryan Held wearing a Ryan Arcidiacono rookie jersey

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

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.