Noah Hits His Stride Right off the Break

Article excerpt

Joakim Noah could have taken an easy path from the NBA All-Star Game to the Bulls next contest.

In less than an hour of flight time, he could have gone from Houston to New Orleans.

But Noah, and fellow all-star Luol Deng, returned to Chicago, practiced Monday at the Berto Center, then rode the team plane to the Pelican State.

On top of that, Noah has been suffering from plantar fasciitis in his right foot and claimed that he didnt sleep in four days while enjoying his first all-star appearance.

So Noah may not have been the first choice for player of the game, but he delivered 15 points, 17 rebounds and 5 assists as the Bulls returned from the break with a 96-87 win over the Hornets on Tuesday at New Orleans Arena.

"Joakim was everywhere, multiple effort plays," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "That probably was one of his best screening games since Ive been here.

"The biggest thing is he practiced great yesterday and he practiced great this morning. That, more than anything, told me he was going to be ready to go. Thats what we expect from him and thats what we need. As a leader of the team, thats what he needs to do. It was great to see the approach that he had coming out of the break. He didnt stay on the break, he was ready to go."

No doubt it was Thibodeaus decision to have a full practice in Deerfield the day after the all-star break. Deng also seemed to benefit, scoring a team-high 20 points, while Carlos Boozer contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Another factor for the Bulls was the return of Kirk Hinrich, who missed the last seven games before the break with an infected right elbow.

Hinrich produced 5 points and 10 assists, but seemed to set the tone for the offense. …