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Joakim Noah might be best big in the East

Bulls center Joakim Noah who had 20 points tries block Magic power forward Glen Davis’ shot Tuesday night. | Gary

Bulls center Joakim Noah, who had 20 points, tries to block Magic power forward Glen Davis’ shot Tuesday night. | Gary Dineen~Getty Images

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:42AM



The landscape undoubtedly will change once injured big man Andrew Bynum can suit up for the 76ers, but until then, the case can be made that Joakim Noah is the best center in the Eastern Conference.

Noah entered Tuesday’s game against the Magic third in scoring (14.7 points per game) among centers behind Chris Bosh and Brook Lopez, third in rebounds (8.7 per game) behind Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood, second in assists (2.3 per game) behind Varejao, first in steals (2.67 per game) and tied for fourth in blocks (1.67 per game).

And Noah is still evolving, which has coach Tom Thibodeau excited. He took it upon himself to work out with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar this summer and is starting to understand the importance of film study and being a good practice player.

The product isn’t finished.

“[Noah] has done a great job watching film, which has helped him come into practice more focused,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s practicing as well as he’s ever practiced, and the one thing you learn about this league is, the better you practice, the better you play.’’

Noah doesn’t get caught up with where he ranks in the scheme of things; he just wants to win.

“That’s what we’re all grinding toward,’’ Noah said.

And that’s all Thibodeau can ask for.

“The best leadership you can have is what a player’s actions are,’’ Thibodeau said, ‘‘so if you’re doing the right things, you’re showing your teammates how serious you are about winning, your commitment to the team and your commitment to winning. Each year, he’s gotten significantly better in his approach to the game. I hope it never ends, and I don’t think it will because that’s Jo’s nature.’’

Closer-by-committee

Thibodeau reiterated that he’s not committed to any one player to finish off games, and the hot players will be used in the final minutes — starters or reserves.

“Yeah, I have a pretty good idea, for the most part, of how you’re going to finish games,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But if the game is not going well, you’re flat and you search. You’re just looking for energy. We’re going to use our bench, and if the bench is providing something we’re lacking and giving us our best chance to win, that’s what we’re going to do.’’

Around the rim

Hornets coach Monty Williams was fined $25,000 by the NBA for comments he made before the game Saturday against the Bulls. Williams was upset that Chicago native Anthony Davis couldn’t travel with the team for his homecoming because he suffered a slight concussion the night before.

“Now they treat everybody like they have white gloves and pink drawers,’’ Williams said, ‘‘and it’s getting old.’’

† The start time for the Nov. 17 game in Los Angeles against the Clippers has been moved from 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.



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