After spat, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau sees the Joakim Noah he knows
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org January 22, 2013 10:51PM
Bulls center Joakim Noah lays in a shot in front of Lakers center Dwight Howard in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Los Angeles Lakers NBA game Monday January 21, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and center Joakim Noah never did have that sit-down meeting after sparring late in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
It was obvious Tuesday that it was no longer needed.
Thibodeau said he and Noah are just fine.
‘‘You know, 95 percent of what Jo does is good, so no one is perfect,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But that’s gone. I thought he played a terrific game [Monday] night [against the Los Angeles Lakers], and I just want him to keep improving, keep doing the things he’s doing for our team.’’
The two had words Saturday, with witnesses confirming Noah snapped at Thibodeau when he removed him from the game for what was described as a ‘‘flat performance.’’
Thibodeau had the last word in that back-and-forth, benching Noah for the final 23 minutes. Afterward, Noah ducked out without addressing the media, visibly upset.
He took ownership of it Monday.
‘‘Thibs would never talk bad or say anything bad about us in the media, but that was all me,’’ Noah said. ‘‘He took me out. I was emotional about it. I was [ticked] off. I said some things I shouldn’t have said. You learn from it and move on. That’s the mind-set I wanted to have. It was my fault. There are so many games. I didn’t want it lingering. I have the ultimate respect for my head coach.’’
Thibodeau called Noah’s self-awareness a further sign of his maturity.
‘‘He’s maturing with his experience, and I think he’s been in a lot of situations now, so he continues to grow, and that’s what I want him to do,’’ Thibodeau said. “I want him to keep getting better every day from now until the end of his career. I think the great players do that.’’
A day after seeing the Lakers’ drama up close, Bulls guard Richard Hamilton chose his words carefully Tuesday when talking about the dysfunction.
While the Lakers look like a team about to implode, Hamilton said he believes they will sort it out sooner than later.
‘‘I just look at it as they have a lot of guys on that team that can play, a lot of guys that have been in this league and done a lot of special things,’’ he said. ‘‘When you see them struggle the way they’re struggling, you just feel like with the type of players they have, they will figure it out.’’
Forward Luol Deng (strained right hamstring) again was held out of a light practice. Considering the Bulls host the Detroit Pistons, whom they have defeated 16 straight times, on Wednesday night, there’s a good chance Thibodeau will stay with Jimmy Butler and let Deng keep healing.
‘‘Game-time decision,’’ Thibodeau said.