The Works: Fathoming Noah
One day later, Joakim Noah's extension -- by some estimations, premature or overly large -- remains a mystery. After all, while Noah has been the second-best player from what was supposed to be the best draft class since 2003 (which was the best since 1984), and a linchpin of the Bulls' hot, young future. He may not be the most skilled big man around, even if he was in college, but Noah boards, defends and just generally hits the ground running like few players in the game today.
And yet the contract, which will pay the scion of French tennis royalty $60 million over five seasons, seems premature, excessive, maybe even silly. Noah has never strung together an entire All-Star-ish season like, say, fellow 2007 alum Al Horford; that doesn't make him Andrew Bynum coming off of a breakout marred by injury. Noah is always a factor and increasingly, a force. What's more, while the Bulls could have waited to see if Noah continued to progress and then snatch him up as a restricted free agent, they decided to spare the formalities and reward him now.
It's hardly the most calculating plan for the future. Calculating, though, is not the same thing as calculated. Sometimes, being decisive and seemingly rash is the most shrewd move possible. The Noah deal falls into this category: an agreement struck ahead of schedule because without Joakim Noah maturing into a $12 million man very soon, the Bulls are back at square one.
Funny how no one seems upset about Bulls' failure to sign LeBron
The Miami Heat's opening preseason game Tuesday against Detroit was treated with the same sort of pomp and circumstance reserved for Olympic opening ceremonies.
Whether the Heat's new lineup becomes an unstoppable force or a colossal failure, the NBA is certainly on the verge of something completely different.
It's easy to forget now that Chicago played such a prominent role in the 2010 free agent summer. The story changed so quickly: The Bulls seemed to have no chance at signing LeBron James when the season ended, then Cleveland's early playoff exit changed everything.
Suddenly, the Bulls seemed to be the favorites to land James and made their the final recruiting pitch in July. Then came the “Decision special, jersey-burning in Cleveland and a gaudy pep rally introducing James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Looking back now, it's seems a bit odd at how little disappointment there is or was in Chicago about losing out on James. Joakim Noah seemed to speak for the fan base when he stood outside the Berto Center with a smile on his face the night of the decision and said everything worked out great.
“I was in New York and Chicago this summer, Noah said this week. “It seemed to me that it's beneath those cities to beg someone to play for their team, put up billboards. But people are also hungry to win. I reached out to LeBron and tried to get him to come here.
Back in 2000 when the Bulls failed to reel in Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Eddie Jones as free agents, the negative backlash seemed to last for years. This time, with the stakes even higher, the reaction was quiet.
Deng finding new life under Thibodeau
Each day as members of the Bulls file out of the Berto Center they have to trek past a black stanchion emblazoned with the team's logo and website. As soon as practice ends, coach Tom Thibodeau makes his way over to the area, which is located on the side of the gym, and briefs the assembled media on the day's events.
After the rest of the players finish up their drills, one or two of the most popular players (usually Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah) walk over and answer questions. If another player is needed, a reporter just grabs them on their way out, but most players just glide past the mob and ease into the serenity of the private locker room.
Throughout most of training camp, Luol Deng has done just that.
Everyone wants to talk to Rose and Noah, and before he got hurt, Carlos Boozer made a couple appearances in the media zone as well. That's why Deng seemed a little surprised when several media members made a request to speak to him last Sunday afternoon.
"You guys want to talk to me?" he said with a smile as he walked over to the side.
In many ways, the entire episode represented the way Deng, who scored eight points in the Bulls' 88-83 loss to the Mavericks on Thursday, is being portrayed on this Bulls team. He is the forgotten man. He is the man most fans wouldn't mind seeing leave town if it meant landing a superstar such as Carmelo Anthony in his place. He is the man fans have both loved and questioned, especially after he signed his $70 million deal a couple seasons ago.
Lost in all the questions surrounding Deng and his future in Chicago is this simple, undeniable fact: If the Bulls win this season, Deng is going to have to be a major reason for their success.
That's exactly the way he wants it.
Return of Capt. Kirk strange for Rose
The Bulls return home Friday night for their first home game of the preseason, and they'll be a familiar face on the opposing team as Kirk Hinrich, now of the Washington Wizards, faces his former team for the first time since being traded back in June.
"Kirky, it's going to be strange going against him," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "He was a guy when I first came in put me under his wing, showed me a lot of things and was a good vet to me. For me to go against him, it's gonna be kind of weird, but it's the NBA."