Previous ArticlesBulls ready for new year after another game to forget
Noah’s resolution is to simply keep grinding
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Jan 2
As 2014 begins, the Chicago Bulls have the ninth best record in the Eastern Conference. But only five games separate the Bulls from fourth-seeded Atlanta.
That’s part of why Joakim Noah says he’s optimistic as ever about the prospects of the New Year.
“We’re 12-18 right now, and we’ve lost a lot of close games,” said Noah following the team’s shootaround at the United Center on Thursday. “But overall I think we’re competing every night. We just have to keep getting better, keep improving, and I think we’ll have shot to play in the playoffs if we keep grinding. And in the playoffs, anything can happen.”
Noah said the team’s mentality is boosted by the fact that they’re about to enter their second game in a row with a healthy roster, aside from Derrick Rose.
“I think it’s great,” said Noah. “We’ve got to keep grinding. A lot of basketball left. I think that if we just keep grinding and keep our minds into it, it could be a helluva year.”
While at this point in the season the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat appear to be on their way to claiming the top two seeds in the East, three through eight are up for grabs. And that also enters into Noah and the Bulls’ minds.
When asked if he pays attention to the standings, Noah replied, “Yes, of course. It’s our job.”
Celtics visit with new look and leader
The Bulls get an opportunity to take on the team one spot ahead them in the East when the Boston Celtics are at the United Center Thursday night.
“They’re hard playing,” said Thibodeau of the Celtics. “They can spread you out; they’re a little bit different. [Jordan] Crawford is very explosive; [Avery] Bradley is the type of guard that can cause a lot of problems with his pressure and he’s shooting the three a lot better. [Jeff] Green is a tough matchup at the three because of his ability to post, drive and shoot. [Brandon] Bass is a high energy, tough matchup and you’ve got to be sure you’re taking care of that. [Jared] Sullinger is skilled. They’re a dangerous team.”
The Celtics roster is vastly different than it was a year ago. Familiar faces such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are gone, having joined the Brooklyn Nets, while longtime head coach Doc Rivers is now working the sidelines for the Los Angeles Clippers. In addition, Rajon Rondo remains out with a torn ACL he suffered last January.
While many expected the Celtics (13-18) to endure a down season, the team has played relatively well under first-year coach Brad Stevens.
“It just shows what having an edge can do,” said Noah. “A lot of guys counted those guys out. They’re competitive. They’re very well coached. They have a bunch of hungry players, guys that want to win.”
As for Stevens, he was named the 17th head coach Celtics history as a 36-year old last July after coaching Butler University, where he tallied a record 166-49 record and led the Bulldogs to two national championship games.
While many were surprised by President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge’s decision to bring him in without any NBA experience, Thibodeau was not.
“He’s a great coach,” said Thibodeau of Stevens. “Period. It didn’t surprise me. He’s a student of the game and he’s had great success at a high level in college. I thought it was a great hire for them.”
Thibodeau also applauded Stevens for the job he’s done this season.
“Terrific,” said Thibodeau. “He’s not fooling himself. I had the opportunity to work there and Danny Ainge saw what was coming. This is part of what they wanted to do. It was a great run with Kevin, Paul and Ray [Allen], and that came to an end. Now they’re moving forward and they’ve got some really good young pieces. People tend to forget Rondo is out. Rondo is the type of guy who makes everyone a lot better.”
Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau meets the media following shootaround (01.02.2014):
Audio—Bulls center Joakim Noah looks ahead to Thursday’s game against Boston (01.02.2014):