<
>

Bulls' Joakim Noah: I want to prove I have a lot more basketball in me

CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah is hopeful that he will be able to continue his career with the Chicago Bulls after this season ends. Noah, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, spoke to the media for the first time since having season-ending shoulder surgery last week. When asked if his goal was to still play for the Bulls next year, Noah answered quickly.

"I hope so," he said. "Right now I'm not trying to focus on the future. I just had season-ending surgery last week. But this is all I know. So I'm looking forward to see what the guys are doing, and right now it's just all about taking a step back and just focusing on getting healthy, and then we'll go from there."

Noah initially suffered a slight tear in his left shoulder in a Dec. 21 loss to the Brooklyn Nets and missed almost a month. He returned to action on Jan. 11 but dislocated the same shoulder in a Jan. 15 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Noah said the surgery was performed in New York, and he returned to Chicago on Monday night.

"I've felt better, but it's getting better every day," Noah said. "It's tough being out here watching everybody compete. I just want to be out there and play, you know? ... It's not easy. It's very humbling to go through injuries as an athlete. This is the last thing you want. You prepare yourself for a long season, and then you get hurt. But it's part of it, and it's tough, but I'll bounce back."

Considered the heart and soul of the team by many within the organization, Noah has spent his entire nine-year career with the Bulls, who selected him with the ninth pick in the first round of the 2007 draft. He said he is hopeful that he will be able to continue traveling with the Bulls throughout the season.

"This is all I know," Noah said. "I've been here nine years, and I've been injured before. Maybe not in this position, this situation, but yeah, I'm looking forward to being around the guys."

Noah averaged a career-low 4.3 points this season. He admitted early in the season that he did not ask to come off the bench, a move first-year head coach Fred Hoiberg decided on during the preseason and stated during an interview with Grantland in late October. After a rocky 2014-15 campaign in which he never fully recovered from offseason left knee surgery, Noah spent his summer working alongside Alex Perris, his close friend and trainer, and tried to get his body back in order at the Peak Performance Project in Santa Monica, California.

Noah and his representatives were hopeful that, as he entered into the final year of his contract, he would walk into the upcoming summer's free agency with a much improved stat line. Now, at age 30, he said he is intent on showing the basketball world it shouldn't forget about him.

"It's not easy, but I know there's people out there who it's a lot harder for, so I'm not complaining," Noah said of his free-agency situation. "These are my cards right now. And it's all about how you bounce back. I just want to prove that I have a lot more basketball in me."

"I've felt better, but it's getting better every day. It's tough being out here watching everybody compete. I just want to be out there and play, you know? ... It's not easy. It's very humbling to go through injuries as an athlete. This is the last thing you want. You prepare yourself for a long season and then you get hurt. But it's part of it and it's tough, but I'll bounce back."

Joakim Noah

The one light-hearted moment of Noah's media session came when he discussed what he had seen from his teammates in recent weeks.

"I liked the win in Cleveland. I liked that one a lot," Noah said. "I thought we executed well. It's just good to see their crowd that upset, just walk out there with a win. Yeah, Cleveland was pissed off that night. Made me sleep better."

In other Bulls injury news, Hoiberg said Derrick Rose did not take contact in Tuesday's practice after leaving at halftime of Monday's loss to the Miami Heat because of hamstring and back issues. It is unclear whether Rose will be able to play on Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"He's sore this morning," Hoiberg said. "He did a little bit of the non-contact stuff that we did, but once we started scrimmaging and getting up and down, he sat out that portion of practice. ... We'll get him in here moving around [Wednesday] and then obviously the shootaround [Thursday] and warm up for the game and see how he's doing."

Hoiberg said he still isn't sure exactly when Rose was injured. He said no MRI was scheduled for Rose, and that the back tightness Rose experienced Monday was not an issue now.

"He was fine in shootaround [Monday]," Hoiberg said. "Over the course of the day something tightened up on him. He's kind of had an issue with the back of his knee, I guess, right where the hamstring tendon attaches there. He just had a little bit of soreness and had trouble exploding off it after those first 12 or 13 minutes, so he sat out the rest of the game."

Hoiberg said he was hopeful that E'Twaun Moore would be able to play Thursday after leaving Saturday's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers with a hamstring injury and missing Monday's game. The outlook was not as good for veteran Kirk Hinrich, who has missed the past fives games because of a quad injury. Hoiberg said Hinrich is "still not ready for full activity."

On the positive side at Tuesday's practice, Mike Dunleavy, who has missed the entire year after offseason back surgery, took contact in a full scrimmage for the first time this season. It remains uncertain when Dunleavy will return to game action, but Hoiberg sounded more optimistic than usual about Dunleavy's health.

"He was out there for the full practice today," Hoiberg said. "We did some things, worked on a couple of actions that we're going to see on Thursday night against the Lakers. And then it was just scrimmaging, it was getting up and down. I told him I'm sick of seeing him in 5-on-0. I'm sick of talking about it in a film session. We need to see it when we get up and down and get reps that way. It may cost us some legs in the games, but that's what we need right now, and it was good to see Mike out there competing with our guys."