Noah, Robinson help Bulls grind out a win over the Pistons

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Noah, Robinson help Bulls grind out a win over the Pistons

Perhaps no team deflects more individual praise than the Bulls and while they couldnt have come from behind 17 to defeat the Detroit Pistons 85-82 extending their winning streak over their Central Division rivals to 17 without the collective efforts of the team, its clear that the energy of Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson continues to be an asset as valuable as any they possess.

Down 68-57, Robinson scored nine straight points during a 22-5 run to start the fourth period.

While his shot selection has been questioned at times, his effort, heart and intentions are always in the right place. On nights where he has it going, hes capable of a scoring outburst that only feeds his undeterred confidence.

Thats Nate, Thibodeau said. He made a lot of big time plays for us. Hes not afraid and I like and respect that about him.

Robinson finished the game with 11 points, seven assists and played the entire fourth quarter.

For me, my biggest asset to the game is energy, Robinson said. Thats something that I always pride myself on doing is playing as hard as I can and bringing the energy no matter if the place is rocking, or the place is dead. For us, we needed the lift. I just had to force the crowd to get out their seats and give us a little boost.

Its that Peter Pan theory: you cant fly without happy thoughts, he continued. "For me, I just always think about my kids, even though Im supposed to be focused on the game. For me, any little happy thought I can get. I just feel like Im invincible and unstoppable.

Added Noah on his neighboring locker room teammate: We need Nate to be aggressive offensively. This is not the first time hes carried us offensively in situations like that. I think that the more pick-and-rolls we put him in, especially when were getting stops, than hes able to do his thing. I think everything was about this game was flat. The energy in the building was quiet and Nate came in, did his thing and really got us going. This isnt the first time hes done it. Hes won a lot of ball games for us."

Noah played the entire second half and finished with 10 points and 18 rebounds, while having his hands full with Detroits frontline of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

It was Noahs hustle to save a loose ball from going out of bounds, off a bricked Marco Belinelli shot, to a driving Belinelli for the games winning shot and ensuing free throw.

I stayed with the play, Noah said. The basketball gods were on our side, we got a little lucky. Something thats not really a great play, because if Detroit gets it, its a four-on-five fast break. But I kept it in play and fortunately we got it. I didnt really see it but I had the cheerleaders pom-poms in my face. Marco made the layup to seal it.

The Bulls were so caught up in Belinellis score that they didnt even think to go help up Noah, who stayed courtside, waiting for his teammates to come help him up. It took forever, right? Noah joked about his teammates slow reaction to help him upright.

Incredible, quite frankly, I dont know how he got to it, Thibodeau said of Noahs save. Jo was something. 18 rebounds, he didnt come out in the second half, great hustle plays. I thought our team spirit was terrific. The way that unit was finishing the game, it inspired everybody.

With the coaches votes for All-Star reserves being announced on Thursday, the Bulls have three potential candidates in Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Noah.

Never one to harp on individual praise and recognition, Noah wouldnt say if he felt he had earned a spot, but said he would be honored and only time will tell.

Robinson was more forthcoming.

Definitely. He just plays hard, Robinson said. His game might not look All-Star material, but hes a hell of a player.

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

Stan Bowman mum on Artemi Panarin contract talks

In July, when asked how contract talks were going with star forward Artemi Panarin, general manager Stan Bowman said he wouldn’t negotiate through the media.

He reiterated that on Tuesday.

“Obviously Artemi's a big part of our team. We're excited for the season he had. We're looking forward to him building on that as well. Then the negotiations will be what they are between his agent and myself,” I respect Tom [Lynn, Panarin’s agent]. He's a very knowledgeable guy, and Artemi put a lot of faith in him. And Tom and I will work to get something done.”

Panarin is entering the final year of his current contract and is coming off a monster rookie season in which he recorded 77 points and took home the Calder Trophy. Panarin took home plenty of bonus money thanks to that season, too.

The 24-year-old could certainly command a hefty price, which would once again be a major concern to the cash-strapped Blackhawks. The salary cap is at $73 million for this season, a small increase from 2015-16 ($71.4 million). Factor in another likely small increase next season and the large contracts the Blackhawks are already doling out – Brent Seabrook’s eight-year deal with a cap hit of $6.875 kicks in this season – and could Panarin be another one that gets away?

But Bowman remains optimistic.

“We're always confident,” he said. “You go into a negotiation expecting to get a deal done. That's the way I've been in the past and that's the way I am now.”

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

The earrings were gleaming from Jimmy Butler’s ears, as he was his usual-disarming self with a playful smile and wink during his question-and-answer session with the Chicago media.

At a point, he took a deep breath as he looked around the Advocate Center with some of his new teammates walking around, some of whom had to carry nameplates because they weren’t recognizable faces in this new setting.

And because new faces are in town, it means two things: some faces left town and for Butler’s sake, the new ones will only know him as “Jimmy Butler, All-Star”, not the guy who was a late first-round pick, not the player who couldn’t get off the bench.

Butler didn’t bring up his comfort level, but when asked, he didn’t deny things appear to be a bit easier this time around.

“Does it make me feel more comfortable? I mean, to an extent, yeah, because then you can never say how you may have think that I’ve changed,” Butler said.

Butler’s ascension rubbed some the wrong way last season, and it’s been spoken about ad nauseam, whether it was true or not. But the moment of honesty wasn’t so much a shot at Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, who departed for the Knicks in various forms; however it was an admission to his level of security, one that perhaps can lead to a more peaceful existence with all the core pieces.

The one way he’s always lead and will always speak to, is by example and work ethic. It’s one that turned him into an All-Star and Olympian.

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“I think everybody that’s on this roster now just knows how hard that I’ve worked to get to this spot that I’m at,” Butler said. “They’ve seen it. They’ve witnessed it. All they’ve been around for me is this point of my career. I don’t know if it sounds bad. But I think that all these guys look at, ‘If Jimmy works like that and if I work like that, I’ll be in the same position that he’s in.’ I’ll be more than happy to let you have that position because I think hard work can get you anywhere that you want to get to.”

So with that, Butler volunteered himself to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, to be the sacrificial lamb of wrath if need be. Easy to say if he doesn’t actually believe Hoiberg is capable of going from nice guy to madman at a moment’s notice but Butler laid it out for the record.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo add championship receipts to a locker room that needs it, considering the Bulls want to play their young pieces. Wade and Rondo, the Bulls privately believe, will help Butler deal with everything that comes with a new role of leadership — and by proxy, Butler’s relationship and expectations of Hoiberg.

“He was put in a position last year he wasn't familiar with and I think we'll see growth from it,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The great thing about Jimmy is you know he comes in each and every day and gives 100 percent. He gets better every year and I think we'll continue to see that growth in his game and him as a person. I think that experience with USA basketball was real positive for him.”

Whether the trio lives up to the “Three Alphas” nickname remains to be seen, but after having a locker room with too many low-pitched voices, perhaps the change in pace — any change in pace — will be a welcome one for Butler.

“The Alpha thing, I think we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to have something to say,” he said. “As long as everybody is listening and is willing to take some criticism if you’re doing something wrong, just like if you’re doing something right I’m going to tell you, there’s good and bad in everything you do. At the end of the day, as long as we win games, it won’t matter.”