DEERFIELD, ILL.Joakim Noah wasnt in the Bulls locker room when the media entered after the teams overtime loss Saturday to Memphis, he wasnt available to reporters after Mondays shootaround at the Berto Center and he, like many players, has a personal policy of not talking to the media before games, so his take on Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeaus decision to bench him for the final 23 minutes of the defeat to the Grizzlies will have to wait.
Thibodeau, as he did after in his postgame press conference, professed that theres no controversy brewing when asked about the situation Monday.
Just a coachs decision. We were struggling, we were behind. The group that got in there got us back in it. It was more the way that unit was rolling. I just felt we were so flat, that group was either going to win the game or lose the game for us, he explained. They were the ones that overcame a big deficit and thats usually the case. In the first half, I always go back with the starters. In the second half, if were struggling, its going to be the group thats going well. Thats the way it is.
Noah understands. Hes been around and the team has to come first. Thats the most important thing. That happens. Its not a big deal, the coach added. Hes responded well since Ive been here, so I always expect that. I expect the best out of him.
Although Thibodeaus explanation holds water because of the ultimately-failed comeback of the quintet on the floorstarters Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler, who played in place of the injured Luol Deng, as well as reserves Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinsonit did raise eyebrows when he inserted backup center Nazr Mohammed, who hadnt previously played Saturday, into the contest after Gibson fouled out in overtime.
Now, while Noah appeared animated when taken out of Saturdays game, thats nothing new to observers, as the high-energy center always wants to be on the court. Gibson insisted that the teams closeness and belief in Thibodeau should quell any speculation that Noah would harbor any resentment.
Not really because we just look at Jo and Jos calling out plays, calling out different stuff, and we just keep playing. We understand that Coach knows what hes doing and when Coach puts guys in, weve got to keep rolling with whoevers out there on the court, so if Jos not out there, eventually hes going to come in. but unfortunately, Saturday night, he wasnt able to come back. But its a new game, new style of play, big game tonight, so weve got to focus on tonights game, Gibson said. If youre doing well, Thibodeau is going to let you play. Hes not going to take you out. If youre doing your job, hes going to let you rock out. Its all about just helping the team. Thats the way Thibs coaches. Its all about winning.
Noah wasnt edgy at all at Mondays shootaround. We had a great walk-through this morning. We were talking, laughing like we always do, running through plays. Thibs was calling out plays. I thought it was a great walk-through for him and our team, he continued. Disagreements between coaches and players happen all year long, but were like a family here. Weve been together almost three years, going on four, so guys just put that in the back of our heads. We understand that we have a goal, one goal, to win games and challenge for a championship. Its a long season. Things are going to happen, heads are going to get butted, but we all love each other and we all know its for the best of the team, and were men, and one thing about men, you have to just let stuff go and this team, we let stuff go and get ready for the next game.