MILWAUKEE – Energy?
That was still inconsistent in the 106-101 loss to Milwaukee.
Happiness? Well, that search still continues for veteran Joakim Noah.
A source said on Tuesday morning that Noah remains unhappy with his current standing in the organization, and “still hasn’t moved past losing his starting job’’ late in training camp. The source went onto say that Noah “hasn’t been a distraction by any means, but isn’t the biggest [coach Fred] Hoiberg fan these days.’’
This is not the first time that this has been brought up this season, with Noah feeling like he would be better served as a starter or at least on the court more often in crunch-time.
Privately, the Bulls have hoped that winning games would cure a lot of Noah’s woes, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case. It also didn’t help that the Bulls went 7-2 without Noah during a recent shoulder injury, and that he’s been the subject of trade talk.
As far as Hoiberg was concerned, Noah’s been very accepting of his new role, and was even taking pride in the fact of how the second unit has been coming together this season.
Then again, it also wasn’t an easy decision for Hoiberg, especially with Noah owed $13.4 million in the final year of his contract and headed for free agency.
In his second game back from the injury, Noah again had a minimal role, playing 15 minutes and scoring just three points while grabbing seven rebounds in the loss to Milwaukee.
Then again, the Noah drama had to take a backseat to the latest injury for the Bulls (22-15), as Derrick Rose was forced out of the game with the Bucks in the third quarter with left patellar tendonitis, tried to return in the fourth after receiving treatment, and was pulled out quickly when he was obviously hobbled.
“We’ll get him back [to Chicago], re-evaluate him [Wednesday], and go from there,’’ Hoiberg said of the Rose injury. “Again, it’s too early to tell [how serious it is].’’
Not that this Bulls team hasn’t had its share of concerns lately. The defense is still shaky, especially as far as communication and in the transition game, and energy still comes and goes far too often with this group.
The latest problem? Turnovers, as the Bulls had 17 more against Milwaukee, which led to 30 points.
All problems that remained hard to explain.
“We’ve got to come together as a whole,’’ Taj Gibson said. “Everybody just has to do their job, be mentally ready, physically ready, and get it corrected. That’s all. We had a good couple weeks, good wins, took a step back, but just got to correct it.’’
Jimmy Butler did his part.
Not only did the guard score a team-high 30 points, grab eight rebounds and hand out six assists, but kept the Bulls in it late, drawing a three-shot foul with 38.5 seconds left and his team down 100-96. Butler made two-of-three to cut it to two, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton showed off his clutch gene, nailing a tough jumper with Butler in his face to extend the lead to four with 16.7 seconds left.
After Butler missed a reverse layup in traffic, Giannis Antetokounmpo all but iced the game with two free throws, handing the Bulls their third-straight loss.
“It starts with communication,’’ Hoiberg said. “You have to communicate in transition. You have to communicate your ball-screen coverages. You have to talk things out and we haven’t done a consistent enough job with that.’’