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Forgetting is hard work as Joakim Noah, Bulls move on

Bulls center Joakim Noah completes second quarter dunk as Chicago Bulls host HoustRockets Monday April 2 2012 United Center Chicago.

Bulls center Joakim Noah completes a second quarter dunk as the Chicago Bulls host the Houston Rockets Monday April 2, 2012 at the United Center in Chicago. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 5, 2012 11:45AM



Day 2 of training camp, and there it was — a reminder for Joakim Noah of how tragic last season ended for the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

‘‘It was very hard to go out the way we did last year,’’ he admitted Wednesday.

The reminder was Derrick Rose, who went through shooting drills with the team but looked nowhere close to getting back on the court and practicing with them. The timetable for the return of the Bulls’ No. 1 player is anyone’s guess.

Noah’s goal is to move on.

‘‘We put in a lot, a lot of work in this program, just grinding and grinding all year to get to a good position for the playoffs, and I felt like we were definitely ready,’’ Noah recalled of the 2011-12 season. ‘‘Injuries happen, and it was disappointing. You’ve got to move on.’’

Moving on for Noah meant not watching a game of the NBA playoffs once the Philadelphia 76ers eliminated the Bulls. It also meant realizing that with Rose and his repaired anterior cruciate ligament on the shelf, the Bulls collectively have to make up for the loss.

So when legendary NBA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reached out to Noah this offseason to work out with him, the 6-11 Noah jumped at the opportunity.

‘‘I feel a lot more polished offensively,’’ Noah said. ‘‘I worked with Kareem for a couple of weeks, but just because I worked with Kareem doesn’t mean I’m going to be throwing skyhooks from everywhere. I feel like I learned a lot from him, someone who has an unbelievable knowledge for the game and very interesting guy.

‘‘But you know how it is — you work with him and people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to come back with a skyhook.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. But I’ll tell you what: At 65 years old, though, his skyhook is still nice.’’

It might be. But even with Noah improving his offense, there are still 21 points a game to make up with Rose out.

That’s why Noah put in extra work, Carlos Boozer came into camp in better shape and veteran Rip Hamilton hired a physical therapist to get him in a better place.

It’s about holding down the fort until Rose gets back, and then maybe the rash of injuries that spoiled last season can be forgotten.

‘‘It was just bad how it ended because there were so many injuries,’’ Hamilton said. ‘‘When you lose with your best players on the floor, yeah, you can take that on the chin. ‘Yeah, well, all right, we had our best players out there, played hard, left it all on the line.’ But when stuff like that happens, it’s unpredictable, and that’s when sometimes you say, ‘What if? What if we were all healthy, what would have happened?’ ’’

Fortunately for the Bulls, coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t live in that world. He’s taking a handful of new faces and hardening them in his no-nonsense, defense-first system.

With or without Rose, that doesn’t change.

‘‘[Derrick’s] doing his job, and we have to focus on the guys that are here that have to perform right now, study our opponent, study our team,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But he’s doing well. He’s fine.’’



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