CHICAGO — While new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t officially said that Joakim Noah will come off the bench in the team’s opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, the former All-Star center seems resigned to the fact he will be out of the starting lineup early in the season.
“It’s definitely an adjustment,” Noah said after Thursday’s practice. “But at the end of the day, it’s still basketball. I got to go out there, bring energy, and do what I do.”
Hoiberg said the Bulls will use the same lineup in Friday’s preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks in Lincoln, Nebraska, as they did Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers, when Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol opened the game.
“We’ll start the same way,” Hoiberg said. “If it looks good, [that’s] a pretty good chance that’s the way we’ll go on opening night.”
The hope within the organization is that injured point guard Derrick Rose (orbital) will be able to return against the Cavaliers. That still leaves Noah, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14, on the outside looking in.
“We’ve talked,” Hoiberg said of discussing the possibilities with Noah. “We talk about everything that he’s done. He was great, he was excited about playing with Taj [Gibson] last game. I think those two have a very good chemistry out there together. And [Noah] was the one that talked to me about that, about how well he feels he and Taj play together out there on the floor.”
Noah said at the outset of training camp that he didn’t want to be judged on his performance alongside fellow big man Gasol last season because he never felt completely healthy after offseason left knee surgery. The pair never seemed to jell, and Noah looked lost at times last season on the offensive end.
“I’ve played well with Taj in the past,” Noah said. “We just got to keep building. This isn’t about me, it’s not about Taj, it’s about what we can do to make this team better. It is what it is, and we got to go out there and find ways to make it work.”
Hoiberg also left open the possibility that even if he decides to go with a frontcourt pairing of Mirotic and Gasol to start the season, that could change at some point.
“Jo’s a pro,” Hoiberg said. “All our guys are at the end. Whatever we decide to do on the 27th, it’s not necessarily what we’ll do on Nov. 1. It’s just start [of the season]. It’s not an easy [decision]; however, we start on Tuesday, but it’s not an absolute. We’ll continue to play different lineups out there, combinations, and see what we like best.”
Noah, 30, is entering the final year of a $60 million deal.
“I’m down with whatever coach thinks is best for this team,” Noah said. “I’m a worker. I’m never going to stop working. So I’m excited for this team, we have a lot of talent, and just got to keep grinding, keep getting better.”
Rose, meanwhile, took some contact in Thursday’s practice and said there is a chance he will play against the Mavericks on Friday.
“If he does, it’s probably not going to be anything more than a five- or 10-minute stint,” Hoiberg said. “But we’ll see. If he’s going to play in the opener it would be nice to see him out there for a little bit of time in game action.”