Noah leads as Bulls go for six in a row


Jan 13

After missing last game with a left thigh injury, Jimmy Butler will be back in the lineup when the Bulls host the Washington Wizards on Monday while seeking a sixth straight victory.

“He looks good,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of Butler on Monday morning. “He went through the whole shootaround and feels a lot better. He’s ready to go.”

The Bulls are 8-1 against the Wizards in their last nine matchups at the United Center. And while Washington is 16-19 overall, the Wizards have proven to be a formidable team on the road, where they’ve won six of their last eight games.

“He’s one of the leaders of the team,” said Thibodeau of Noah. “He cares a lot about winning; he cares about his teammates."

“He’s one of the leaders of the team,” said Thibodeau of Noah. “He cares a lot about winning; he cares about his teammates.”

“They’re extremely fast,” Thibodeau said of the Wizards. “They’ve taken on some injuries but they’re playing well together. [Bradley] Beal and [John] Wall are a tremendous backcourt. [Trevor] Ariza has improved every year in the league. They’re big up front and they have quality depth.”

Chicago has size as well and its depth has been restored with healthy bodies back in the lineup, in addition to the recent signings of D.J. Augustin and Cartier Martin.

“We had so many people out early and now, for the most part, we’ve got a core that’s together,” said Thibodeau. “I think they’re getting comfortable in their groups. It’s been good, but we still have a long way to go and there are still a lot of things that we have to do better. We have to concentrate on the improvement and knowing our opponent well.”

Joakim Noah is another healthy body the Bulls are happy to have on the floor. After missing most of training camp and the preseason, Noah has played in 34 of Chicago’s 35 games, with perhaps his best stretch of the season coming as of late. In his last six games, Noah has recorded 12.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.17 blocks and 0.83 steals in 34.5 minutes.

Following Saturday’s win over Charlotte, Noah spoke at length about the state of the team following the trade of Luol Deng, what it means to play for the Bulls, and his mentality moving forward. On Monday, his focus was squarely on the Wizards.

“They’re just comments, man,” said Noah. “That’s just how I feel. I’m just excited for the game tonight. I think our team is locked in. We’ve got to come ready to go.”

Noah is encouraged by an opportunity for the Bulls, currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, to get back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 24. It would have been hard to envision such a scenario without Noah’s leadership.

“Everybody can be a leader,” said Noah. “You bring it on the defensive end; you make a hustle play; you workout hard. Those are all leadership qualities; you don’t have to be vocal to be a leader. Just bring it. That’s leadership in itself.”

Thibodeau said he strives to have a “team of leaders,” but acknowledged the extraordinary job Noah has done in that department recently.

“He’s one of the leaders of the team,” said Thibodeau. “He cares a lot about winning; he cares about his teammates. I think that (Noah’s comments) was a normal reaction. Jo has grown a lot. He’s been around and now he’s one of our vets. We count on his leadership and it’s more through his actions. His words were great, but it is his actions that are most important.”

Martin makes an impact

It didn’t take long for Cartier Martin to show what he can do, as the small forward who joined the team on Friday after signing a 10-day contract scored 11 points on 4-5 shooting, including 2-2 from long range, in 26 minutes against the Bobcats on Saturday.

“He’s one of those guys who had to scratch his way into the league,” said Thibodeau of Martin. “[He came in] undrafted and he’s proven himself with a lot of different teams. He went overseas, the D-League, all that stuff. He’s played well this season.”

Earlier this season, Martin appeared in 25 games (two starts) with the Hawks, averaging 6.6 points on 40.3 percent shooting from the field, including 40.5 percent from downtown, and 2.0 rebounds in 17.5 minutes. Thibodeau said he watched Atlanta play and liked what he saw in Martin.

“I think he’s a good fit for us,” said Thibodeau. “He’s one of those guys you can play him, you can start him, you can bring him off the bench, or you can not play him and he’s always going to be ready. That professionalism goes a long way and it adds a lot to your team.”

Rose making progress with his rehab

Thibodeau on Monday morning shared a brief update regarding Derrick Rose.

“He’s coming along fine,” said Thibodeau. “He’s off the crutches and he’s doing more and more, but he still has a long way to go. He’ll probably start traveling in the next couple weeks. He’s doing great.”

Audio—Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau talks with reporters following Monday’s shootaround (01.13.2014):

Audio—Bulls center Joakim Noah on fighting through adversity (01.13.2014):

What do you think? Leave a comment below: