DEERFIELD, ILL. A sight for sore eyes was at the Berto Center Tuesday morning: Joakim Noah, in practice gear, shooting free throws. Now, dont read too much into that, as Noah, coming off a badly sprained ankle in Fridays Game 3 loss in the Bulls' first-round series against the 76ers, hasnt done any running yet.
In fact, when asked about the centers progress, teammate Kyle Korver quipped, He pedaled really well. Looking real strong on those pedals.
While Noah was limited to just the stationary bike during the Bulls Tuesday-morning shootaround, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau called him a game-time decision for Tuesday evenings Game 5, a potential elimination game.
Moving around a lot better, said the coach, who noted that Omer Asik would again start at center. Well see. Maybe he gets better from now until tonight.
Its highly unlikely that Noah suits upthough with his heart and passion, dont completely rule it out just yet, as Korver echoed: I hope so. I dont know. It was a pretty bad sprain, but Jos a pretty tough guybut that doesnt mean the Bulls have given up hope.
Thibs had a thing on the wall the other day. It said weve won three games in a row 57 times over the last two years. You guys didnt know that stat, right? So we can do it for sure, but weve got to play really good basketball, said Korver, in a surprisingly jovial mood, given that his season could end in mere hours. Weve got to play inspired basketball, weve got to make hustle plays, weve got to get the crowd into it.
But Korver acknowledged that the Bulls miss both Noah and Derrick Rose, particularly the duos ability to manufacture easy baskets via the transition game, something theyve struggled with against Philadelphia.
For the most part defense has been fairly solid, but Derrick and Jo are two of the guys, when they get the ball, we go out and run, he said. Were not getting fast-break points, were not getting into our sets very quickly, so were having to take a lot tougher shots...I think thats where we miss them. We miss them in a lot of ways, but we miss them a lot in our ability to get out and run. Weve got a deep team, weve got a lot of bodies and one of our strengths all year has been getting out and running, and we havent been able to do that in this series.
Added Thibodeau, when asked about Noahs absence: Hes got an unusual skill set. He runs the floor, he playmakes, he can shoot, he can post. Theres a lot of things he can do. Big-time offensive rebounder. With that being said, weve got more than enough to win with.
We just have to play well. Everyone has to do their job. Emotions part of it, but I think you just have to concentrate on doing your job and you have to do it for 48 minutes, he continued. Im concentrating on our next game and then, whenever the season is over, which I dont want to think aboutIm just thinking about the gamebut thats lessons learned from the season something, at the conclusion of every season, you go through every aspect of the team and I dont think you can draw conclusions until everything is done. Hopefully you learn from every situation. Youre always trying to improve, so thats the way we approach things.