Noah accounts for actions, excels vs. Lakers, Howard

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Noah accounts for actions, excels vs. Lakers, Howard

After the Bulls 95-83 win Monday night over the Lakers at the United Center, Joakim Noah was in a good mood.

He contributed 13 rebounds and a season-high six blocked shots to the victory and helped hold Lakers counterpart Dwight Howard to an eight-point, nine-rebound evening.

But on top of Noah feeling good about the win, the charismatic center stepped up to the plate and told his side of the story about Saturday night, during which he was benched for the final 22 minutes and 53 seconds of the Bulls overtime loss to Memphis.

Thibs would never, ever talk bad or say anything bad about us in the media, but that was all me. He took me out and I was emotional about it, I was expletive off and I probably said some things that I shouldnt have said, Noah acknowledged. But you learn from it and you move on, and its just the mindset that I wanted to have today. Just move on it from it. Its so many games and I didnt want it to linger.

I have the ultimate respect for my head coach, he continued, noting that any reconciliation between himself and Thibodeau was between the two and not something hed share with the media. It was my fault. I shouldnt have said the things that I said. We moved on and we got a big win tonight. Im happy about that.

For his part, Thibodeau lauded Noahs performance, joking that Noah would agree with the notion that benching him Saturday provided him with extra energy MondayNoah quipped, Sometimes I feel like Im ready to go and I have a bad gamebut on a more serious note, he asserted that he believed the centers preparation for the game tipped him off to the fact that hed have a good night.

The way he came into practice this morning and the way he started the game, I knew he was ready to play. He was terrific. Hes doing a good job for us. Hes just got to keep improving, he said. The road for us isnt going to get any easier and I dont want our guys to exhale, and start feeling good. This road is going to be a tough road and weve got to keep battling, concentrate on the improvement, get ready for the next game.

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Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

Nikola Mirotic reflects on pump fakes, maddening March, future in Chicago

If there's a more maddening player in the Eastern Conference than Nikola Mirotic, that player's psychologist should be getting paid double considering Bulls fans have been talking to themselves about Mirotic so much over the past three years.

And as they've reached no conclusion on Mirotic, along with many other sage minds, only one thing is for certain: March is his month.

Meaning it's the month where it becomes maddening to watch him play and probably equally as maddening for his teammates who've watched his inconsistencies for the better part of four months or so.

Averaging 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds in 41 career March games, it's the only full month where Mirotic averages in double figures for his career—meaning there's a lot of inconsistencies to wade through to get to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2014-15, he emerged as the NBA's best fourth-quarter scorer that month when the Bulls were without both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Last season, he came back fresh after an appendectomy took a big chunk of his year.

This year, there's no big macro reason. He's just playing definitively, making quick movements and it's paying off as his two best scoring games took place within a four-day span (28 against both Detroit and Milwaukee).

"Right now, you see I'm shooting without hesitation," Mirotic said to CSNChicago.com. "Just catch and shooting. It's a great feeling."

No word on whether Mirotic hears the fans in the arena or the twitterverse screaming for him to ditch the pump fake that he actually admits it got in his head, but this season has been a roller coaster of the most dramatic kind, as the Bulls are still vying for playoff positioning with eight games remaining in the regular season.

"Sometimes, especially when I'm reading you guys (media), Niko pump fake, pump fake," Mirotic said with a smile. "Okay, no more pump fakes, just fire that ball. I'm laughing because you guys are (right)…that's true. You guys want me to shoot. It doesn't look good when you pump fake every time you have a wide-open shot."

Being penciled in as a training camp starter due to the need for floor spacing, Taj Gibson quickly outplayed Mirotic for the power forward spot. Then Mirotic's up and down, down and up, season began.

Kind of like his pump fake that often drew more defensive attention for it's predictability than effectiveness, stability has been hard to find for a player many have been waiting on since the day he was drafted in 2011.

"I know the defenses are ready for my pump fake so now just like, shoot the ball," Mirotic said. "I've been spending a lot of hours working on my shot before practice, after practice, trying to catch the feeling."

Better late than never or too late?

That's the question surrounding Mirotic and he knows it, being aware of his status as a restricted free-agent-to-be, along with his trade value a month ago being so low, the Bulls could only get a future second-round pick for him from teams.

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With the Bulls having so many questions going into the future, who knows if they want to go through the up-and-down, down-and-up cycle with a talented player yet again, with a big-time financial commitment.

In a sense, Mirotic knows he's left plenty on the table as far as his play through the years and seems to be content with playing with a sense of freedom as the season concludes, whether he's back with the Bulls or not for next year and beyond.

"I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls," Mirotic said. "Whatever decision they make. It's been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here, I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, I wanna go there and play for the Bulls. The history they have. For me, it's a dream come true. Whatever decision they make, I make, whatever. I don't know. The years here have been great. I know it's been up and down. It's been a pleasure and I just wanna finish right."