Noah, Deng named All-Star reserves

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Noah, Deng named All-Star reserves

The Bulls will have two representatives in the NBA All-Star Game for the second consecutive year, as Luol Deng and Joakim Noah were named Eastern Conference All-Star reserves, it was announced Thursday evening on TNT.

"Im extremely excited to be recognized as an All-Star for the first time, Noah said in a statement released by the team. Its more of a team honor than an individual honor, because it would not have been possible without my teammates and coaches. I look forward to representing my teammates and the Bulls organization during All-Star Weekend.

The sixth-year center was named an Eastern Conference reserve based on averaging career-high numbers in scoring (12.2 points per game), assists (4.0), blocked shots (2.1), minutes (38.3) and free-throw percentage (76.9 percent).

Noah, a two-time college champion at Florida, is also regarded as an early-season candidate for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers and even rival Kevin Garnett of Boston, the East's starting center have recently supported the candidacy of Noah, who is viewed as one of the NBA's premier rebounders, as evidenced by his 10.9 per-game average and the 18 rebounds he grabbed in Wednesday night's 85-82 win over Detroit at the United Center, which included a save of an offensive rebound, leading to Marco Belinelli's game-winning basket.

Deng, who will make a repeat trip to the annual exhibition, which takes place Feb. 24 in Houston, leads the league in minutes per game at a career-high 39.8 a night and also averages 17.4 points per game to lead the 25-16 Bulls, currently the Central Division leaders and the fourth-place team in the East.

The small forward, a second-team NBA all-defensive team selection last season, when he made his debut All-Star appearance, is also widely considered one of the league's top players on that end of the floor and the Bulls' top individual defender.

A versatile, all-around talent averaging 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, Deng has missed the team's last three contests with a strained right hamstring, but hit a game-winning shot in overtime to beat the Raptors in Toronto last week in the last game he was able to finish, though he initially suffered the injury that evening.

Another Bulls player who was considered an All-Star candidate was power forward Carlos Boozer, last week's Eastern Conference player of the week and a two-time Western Conference All-Star when he played for Utah, was not selected to play in the game.

Joining Noah and Deng as Eastern Conference reserves are Miami's Chris Bosh and first-time All-Stars Tyson Chandler of New York, Jrue Holiday of Philadelphia, Kyrie Irving of Cleveland and Paul George of Indiana.

The Western Conference reserves are San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Memphis' Zach Randolph, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Golden State's David Lee and first-time All-Star James Harden of Houston.

The starters, voted in by the fans and announced last week, are Boston's Garnett and Rajon Rondo, Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and New York's Carmelo Anthony in the East, while Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers, Clippers duo Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and the Thunder's Kevin Durant are the West's starters.

Western Conference roster
Chris Paul, PG, Los AngelesKobe Bryant, SG, Los AngelesKevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma CityBlake Griffin, PF, Los AngelesDwight Howard, C, Los AngelesRussell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma CityJames Harden, SG, HoustonTony Parker, PG, San AntonioDavid Lee, PF, Golden StateZach Randolph, PF, MemphisLaMarcus Aldridge, PF, PortlandTim Duncan, PF, San Antonio
Eastern Conference roster
Rajon Rondo, PG, BostonDwyane Wade, SG, Miami
LeBron James, SF, Miami Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Kevin Garnett, PF, BostonKyrie Irving, PG, ClevelandJrue Holiday, PG, PhiladelphiaChris Bosh, PF, MiamiTyson Chandler, C, New YorkJoakim Noah, C, ChicagoLuol Deng, SF, ChicagoPaul George, SF, Indiana

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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