MIAMII – With the toughest part of his shoulder rehabilitation now behind him, Joakim Noah could be leaving New York and heading back to Chicago by next week.
Bobby Portis was all in on picking up Noah from the airport if need be.
“He’s been big for me,’’ Portis said of the influence Noah has had on him in this his rookie year with the Bulls. “Up until this point we’re still texting, still doing things like that, and at the same time he’s one of the big brothers on this team, not only for me, but for everyone. He’s that voice that we needed in huddles, in practice and even in games, just to get everyone going. He’s a guy that’s really embraced Chicago basketball. He’s the guy that helped bring this organization back to what it once was.’’
The Noah-Portis dynamic started very early in training camp, as Noah took notice of the intensity and work ethic of the first-round pick and instantly gravitated to it.
Before having season-ending left shoulder surgery in January, it was Noah that was another coach for Portis, teaching him the little secrets of the NBA game. In return, Portis ate it all up and went at the veterans hard in practice on a constant basis, doing his part to try and push the group.
“I’m a guy that comes to work every day and a young guy that wants to be respected by my hard work, and I feel like every day I came to work and played as hard as I could,’’ Portis said. “I felt like that kind of gained my teammate’s respect and my teammate’s attention. Jo’s a guy that always brings the hard work, too. So that’s why we hit it off.’’
Considering the Bulls will likely be fighting for their playoff lives the next six weeks, Noah’s presence – even in street clothes – will be welcomed. Anything will be welcomed at this point.
“Look, Jo is obviously one of the leaders of this team,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said Tuesday. “He’s one of the vocal leaders of this team, and he can definitely have an impact. He built a great relationship with Bobby, who has been one of the guys that’s gotten a great opportunity with Jo out of the lineup. So just to be there and to have him around, I think will be a welcome sight for our guys, and we’re looking forward to getting him back.’’