DEERFIELD, ILL.—All-Star center Joakim Noah got in some extra shooting at the conclusion of the Bulls’ practice Tuesday afternoon at the Berto Center.
On the heels of his seven-point, 15-rebound, five-assist night, albeit in a disappointing home loss Monday to San Antonio, it seemed like everything was normal, and according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, it was.
Noah’s ongoing battle with plantar fasciitis in his right foot might be painful, but even as he acknowledges the issue, Thibodeau dismisses concerns that the center could be held out of the lineup for rest purposes or even skip his debut appearance in the NBA All-Star Game, which takes place Sunday in Houston.
“I think he’s figuring it out. I thought his timing was much better in last night’s game. He’s got to handle the ball, he’s got to continue to work on the things he’s working on and hopefully with treatment and a little bit of rest over the break, it’ll be fine,” Thibodeau said. “Players have gotten through it before, so he’s had it before. I think he knows how to deal with it. We’ll go from there.”
Tuesday’s session wasn’t too work-intensive for Noah and his teammates, as the team prepared to travel to Boston for Wednesday’s game against the Celtics, their last contest before the All-Star break.
“As a team, we just watched film, walked through a couple things and we did some shooting and individual work,” Thibodeau said. “He’s done the individual part and the film.”
Hinrich to skip Boston game
Bulls starting point guard Kirk Hinrich won’t travel with the team to Boston and will miss his seventh consecutive game with a right-elbow injury, meaning he won’t be back in the lineup until after the All-Star break.
“We’re going to keep him here so he can focus in on the rehab,” Thibodeau explained. “He’s coming along actually pretty well, so for his rehabilitation, we just think it’ll be better for him to have the day here.”
Celtics rally, despite injuries
Thibodeau is obviously familiar with the Celtics from his time spent in Boston and even despite injuries suffered to All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and now backup Leandro Barbosa, he believes that the team is extremely dangerous.
That’s backed up by the Celtics winning seven straight games following Rondo’s injury before falling Monday night, but even in the floor general’s absence, Thibodeau thinks veteran Paul Pierce and fellow future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett will help pick up the slack.
“Well, everything worries me. But when you look at Boston, they’ve played without Rondo now for eight or nine games and Rondo is a great player, terrific player, and I think when you lose somebody like that, similar to what we’re going through, the way you respond is you have to do it collectively and they’ve done that. They’re playing very, very hard, very, very unselfishly, and we have to be ready for that,” Thibodeau explained. “Intensity’s a big part of this league. You saw it last night. San Antonio, down players and played extremely hard, and obviously won the game. We went on the road trip, we were down players and I thought we played with great intensity. The intensity part is critical. You have to play with great intensity.
“Pierce is so unique. It’s because of his ball-handling ability. He’s capable of running the point for them and they have a lot of interchangeable parts. Courtney Lee’s a good ball handler, Avery Bradley. They can run their offense through Garnett, as well. That’s the uniqueness of Pierce and Garnett. It gives you a lot of flexibility in how you can run your offense,” he continued. “Barbosa was playing well, but they’re a deep team, so they have a lot of interchangeable parts. They fit well together and they’re playing at a very high level.”
Cleaning up the offense
In Monday’s loss, the Bulls’ recent trend of their defense not living up to its typically high standards continued, but Thibodeau was also concerned about his team’s offensive execution.
Besides committing 19 turnovers, which led to 29 points for the Spurs, it was clear that the Bulls seemed out of sync.
“We’ve got a long way to go. We have to grind, we have to do it collectively, we have to play with great intensity, can’t take shortcuts. When we put the work into it, we give ourselves a chance,” Thibodeau said. “We have to get going defensively and right now, I would not just limit that to defense. I would also include the offense because the offense is a big part of that, so when you’re turning the ball over the way we are and there are live-ball turnovers, you’re gifting a team 29 points, you’re beating yourself basically. You give a good offensive team confidence like that, you’re asking for trouble. But we have to clean that up.”