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Bulls win fifth straight behind Joakim Noah, who misses Luol Deng

Updated: February 13, 2014 6:58AM



Forget the NBA being a business, this was personal.

All-Star center Joakim Noah broke a five-day silence to make that clear after a 103-97 victory by the Bulls against the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night at the United Center.

While Noah wasn’t pointing fingers at his organization for trading Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he wasn’t thrilled with the decision.

“The trade definitely hurt, but we got to move on,’’ Noah said. “But I feel confident in this team. We’re working really hard, but a lot of people say this is a business and all that, but this game is more than a business to me. I put everything I’ve got into this.

“So I feel like Lu was the same way. It was hard for me to digest, but that’s just my perspective, that’s my side of the story. Everyone has a different job, I’m not mad at anybody, I’m not mad at the organization or anything like that. It’s just that my brother isn’t here anymore. I just needed a little bit of time to digest that.’’

Maybe, but digesting the opposition sure hasn’t been a problem for Noah, who seems to be on a ­crusade to prove everyone wrong since Deng was traded.

The victory against the Bobcats was the latest example, as the Bulls (17-18) won their fifth in a row and third since Deng was shipped out, and Noah again was a big reason why, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Bigger yet, he scored 13 in the final quarter, crushing the visitors whenever they seemed to be building momentum.

But that still didn’t mean he had to understand management’s perspective to move Deng.

“They see the game differently than out there on the court,’’ Noah said. “They’re not on the court, they’re not on the plane. They don’t know how much Lu meant to me personally. But like I said, I’m not mad at anybody.

“The games keep coming. We’re just going to give it everything we’ve got. There’s no tanking, anything like that. We’re going to give 150 percent and when people in Chicago say Chicago Bulls, I want [them] to be proud of that. Even if there are four guys hurt, four guys out, we’re going to give 150 percent win or lose. I know people in this city are proud of that.’’

This has been a season in which the Bulls were picked to challenge the Miami Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy, only to lose Derrick Rose for the season after 10 games, as well as have a training room full of players in and out on a game-to-game basis.

Then came the Deng trade, and Noah’s silence. He has spoken to management, but that still didn’t ease the hurt.

“Trading Lu is something I won’t understand,’’ Noah said. “But I have to live with it.’’

And what the rest of the Bulls have to live with is more rumors. The latest was a report out of New York that coach Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks are going to become a match next season.

“That stuff is ridiculous,’’ Thibodeau said. “First I was being traded … I couldn’t care less about that stuff.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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