Bulls hopeful Joakim Noah back Monday; Mike Dunleavy not as close

ATLANTA -- Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is expected back Monday night against the Washington Wizards as he continues to recover from a left shoulder injury.

Noah initially suffered a slight tear in his left shoulder in a Dec. 21 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. He did not travel with the Bulls in advance of Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, but coach Fred Hoiberg is hopeful that if Noah can make it through Sunday's practice he will be ready to face the Wizards.

"Hopefully we'll get him back on Monday," Hoiberg said before Saturday's game. "He's doing some activity today. We'll get him doing some live stuff [Sunday]. Hopefully he'll get through a full practice. That's the biggest thing with him right now, just getting through a live practice. Hopefully we'll get him back Monday."

The Bulls entered Saturday's game having won seven of their past eight, all without Noah. Hoiberg didn't sound concerned that Noah's reappearance in the lineup would cause chemistry issues.

"I don't think so," said Hoiberg, who did reaffirm that rookie Bobby Portis will remain in the rotation. "I think our guys are in a pretty good place right now. It's just going out and continuing to do the things that have given us some success recently. We can't go away from what we've done. We've been much better offensively, much more efficient offensively, we have to keep that going. I also think Jo will help with that and hopefully even step it up a notch."

The news is not as promising for shooting guard Mike Dunleavy.

The veteran has yet to play since having back surgery before training camp. Hoiberg acknowledged that Dunleavy isn't expected to play any time in the next few weeks.

Dunleavy was originally expected to be out eight to 10 weeks, but he had a setback during rehab.

"With Mike, hopefully we'll get him back on the court in the next 10 days or so doing some basketball activities," Hoiberg said. "Get him out there cutting and running and moving, and hopefully he'll respond well to that. But I think looking at it realistically he's probably still a good month away from being back ready to play, and you don't want to rush it. It may have happened the first time around when he had the setback, so it's making sure that he's 100 percent."

Hoiberg, who spent some time working in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office after his career ended, didn't think Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman were on the verge of any major moves as the trade deadline approaches next month.

"I don't think there's active aggressiveness," Hoiberg said of the front office's thinking. "I think those guys are doing their job, which is to talk to other front offices. I think obviously we're very pleased with the direction this team is going and hopefully we'll continue on an upward path. But that's the job in a front office, I've been there and lived that life for a couple years and you're always out there listening and seeing if there's some things that you can do to improve the roster long term. But as far as being active with it, no, I don't think so."