Noah improving, but unlikely to play in Game 5

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Noah improving, but unlikely to play in Game 5

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.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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