PHOENIX—When Joakim Noah said, “It sucks to be a reporter” after the Bulls’ win in San Antonio last week—which feels like ages ago, after the team dropped the next two games on its road trip, Saturday night in New Orleans and Monday in Sacramento—he meant days like this.
Noah himself wasn’t feeling too great after getting fined $15,000 for verbally abusing the referees in the Bulls’ 99-70 loss to the Kings, in which the team shot a season-low 28 percent from the field and the All-Star center’s double-digit rebounding streak was snapped at 18 consecutive games after his third-quarter ejection. On second thought, maybe the tedium of having to query him about the penalty the NBA assessed Noah, the first fine of new league commissioner Adam Silver’s tenure in his first week in charge.
“I think it was fair. It was a bad mistake on my part. I have to keep my cool under all circumstances. It’s unfortunate I have to pay for it,” Noah said before the Bulls took on the Suns at U.S. Airways Arena, interrupting his pregame routine for the sake of the assembled media. “I have to move on and just get ready for the game.”
[RELATED: Joakim Noah fined for expletive-laced tirade vs. Kings]
When asked if he thought a suspension could be levied—an unlikely occurrence, despite the profanity directed toward each individual member of the officiating crew—Noah put things in perspective.
“Yeah, but those aren’t things that I can control. I was ready for whatever consequences were going to be thrown my way. I’m just happy I’m able to play tonight and be there with my teammates,” he explained. “Just the way the game was going, I think I was just frustrated with that. I just have to do a better job of keeping my composure. I could’ve easily been suspended for a game and that would’ve been really hard for me just not to be able to be there for my teammates. So I can’t let things like that happen.”
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had less patience for the admittedly silly line of questioning.
“It’s a fine. To me, it was a frustrating game. It’s an emotional game sometimes. Obviously you don’t want to lose control of your emotions. It happened. I never thought it warranted suspension. So it was probably appropriate. So he got fined for cursing,” Thibodeau said. “It’s not a big deal. To me, you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. It was a nothing. Really.”
[NOTES: Boozer gets fourth-quarter minutes in blowout loss]
Ditto for reports out of Sacramento that Kings center DeMarcus Cousins called Bulls veteran Mike Dunleavy Jr. a “clown,” apparently in part due to bad blood between the two players dating back to the sharpshooter’s Milwaukee days.
“Come on. Really? I don’t pay any attention to that stuff. All right, we played poorly last night. Get ready for Phoenix. That’s all I’m thinking about,” Thibodeau said, rightfully alternating between a dismissive and incredulous tone. “I could care less what DeMarcus Cousins says.”
Thibodeau had one more opportunity to express his disdain with the press corps on hand, when his postgame comments from the previous evening were brought up for interpretation, coupled with Bulls general manager Gar Forman’s remarks about Carlos Boozer’s complaints regarding his lack of fourth-quarter playing time.
“Nah, I don’t work like you guys. What’s next, something that was said a week ago? That’s gone. When I say ‘fragmented,’ I’m talking about our team in the game when it’s not going our way,” he explained. “Not staying together. Trying to get out of a hole. You’re down 10, so okay: ‘I’m going to take my man. I’m going to do this,’ so now it leads to a turnover. So now they go down and get a fast break. So now the next guy comes down and says, ‘I’m going to try to do more.’ You can’t do that. It has to be within the context of the team working together. When we do that, we’re successful. Everything is five-man offense, five-man defense, stay together.”