NBA Saturday: Bulls Lose Noah, Deng?
Bulls’ Win Over Knicks A Costly One
It’s been a newsworthy week for the Chicago Bulls, with head coach Tom Thibodeau announcing that Derrick Rose was doing a little bit more in practice (non-contact stuff, but still), and the rest of the Bulls really starting to establish itself as the best team in the Central Division.
A second win this season against the conference-leading New York Knicks on Friday night went a long way towards establishing that, but it was a costly win for Chicago, who may have lost Luol Deng to injury and could potentially lose Joakim Noah to a suspension.
Noah and Knicks center Tyson Chandler got tangled up in the fourth quarter of what already had been a very physical game, and following a few aggressive elbows from Chandler, who was positioning for a rebound, Noah lost his cool and appeared to try and headbutt his counterpart.
The two then did a little tango, with teammates coming into to break up the scuffle, and both players were ejected.
After the game, Noah was asked whether he thought he’d see a suspension for the fray.
“Suspension?” Noah asked. “For what? What did I do?”
A reporter mentioned the alleged headbutt, and Noah responded, “He headbutted me. Come on guys, I’m trying to play, man. I love this game.”
We’ll know soon enough Noah’s short-term fate, but the fate of Deng, who injured his shoulder despite scoring a team-high 29 points and a season-high 13 rebounds, is a little murkier. He and Jason Kidd got mixed up in the third quarter, leading to some kind of tweak in Deng’s shoulder, and though he stayed in the game, Deng ended up in a lot of pain after the win.
“We’re going to check again [Saturday], but I don’t know exactly what it is,” Deng said. “Something with the ligament there, I don’t know if I sprained or … we’ll see. It’s almost like a pulled muscle. I never had anything like this, but it just feels like a pulled muscle or a sprained tendon. I really don’t know.”
Thibodeau seemed to think he’d be fine, but it’ll take some medical testing for anyone to come out and say that for sure. Meanwhile, the Bulls are 15-10 and atop their division and one of the top-four teams in the conference. Some of that momentum could take a dive if Noah and/or Deng miss some games, but it doesn’t sound like the team is particularly worried about either situation.
And anyway, what really matters for the Bulls is getting Derrick Rose back on the floor, which is still a ways away. But he is practicing more, and the Bulls are doing well without him. At some point in February or March, Chicago could transform into a really interesting team for the season’s homestretch.
Leandro Barbosa Struggling Without Minutes in Boston
There was a good chunk of time at the tail end of this past offseason when Leandro Barbosa was the last big hope teams had of adding a free agent that actually could contribute in a significant way to his team, which is partly why it was so surprising to see him end up with an organization in the Boston Celtics that really didn’t have a whole lot of need at the two guard spot.
Even though Avery Bradley, a starter for Boston in stretches last year, has been injured all season, the Celtics had already brought in Jason Terry and Courtney Lee to help fill the void left behind by Ray Allen. Barbosa already feels like something of an afterthought on this roster, playing a career-low 12.1 minutes per game, and those minutes could dwindle even further once Bradley returns.
It has been a challenge for one of the league’s most likeable characters, but he’s pragmatic about his situation and not the least bit bitter.
“It is difficult because I came here late. They had the team built already,” Barbosa said. “But it was a big opportunity for me to be on the Celtics. I took that opportunity and whatever I have to do as far as the minutes I get, I’m going to try and do my best to help this team get victories. If I’m not in, I just try to forget about the game and hope I get an opportunity the next night.”
At the very least, Barbosa thought the decision to latch on with the Celtics would keep him in the hunt for a ring, something that many of his other notable suitors couldn’t even come close to promising.
“I definitely came for a championship,” said the former Sixth Man of the Year. “It’s a dream that every NBA player hopes to one day be on a championship roster. It’s not easy. It’s really hard to get to that level, and we have to work a lot for that to happen.”
Barbosa doesn’t seem to have much of an idea as to why former employers like Phoenix and Indiana, either of which could’ve used him this season, didn’t push harder for his services, claiming that the Celtics really just were the team that wanted him the most. It might not always seem like that with the minutes he’s getting, but Barbosa swears it’s the truth. His camp didn’t come knocking on Danny Ainge’s door, either; it was the other way around.
“They called me,” Barbosa said. “They gave me the opportunity and I was very appreciative that they wanted me to be a part of this team… I knew that my game would fit with this team. I wasn’t really worried about the amount of minutes I would play.”
It hasn’t been a banner season for Barbosa, as that career-worst playing time is hurting a lot of his other numbers, too, but his positivity makes him a great locker room leader, not that Boston is necessarily short on those. He’s a great guy to have around, and his influence goes beyond what he does the court. Still, he’s got a lot to give on the court, too. He just probably isn’t going to get much of an opportunity to show it while he’s a member of this team.
But at least he’s in the hunt for a ring. He wouldn’t necessarily have that were he playing out the season in, say, Cleveland. At the end of the day, that’s what Barbosa says matters most, and at this stage in his career, it’s easy to believe him.
MarShon Brooks Takes Step Back in Joe Johnson’s Shadow
By most standards, MarShon Brooks had an undeniably successful rookie season as a New Jersey Net. He scored 12.6 ppg in almost 30 minutes a night, and even though the Nets struggled in their last season in Newark, he was absolutely a tremendous bright spot for them, someone fans looked forward to seeing grow in his sophomore campaign when the team moved to Brooklyn.
Except things haven’t really worked out that way. Thanks to the trade that brought in Joe Johnson, Brooks has taken a backseat to the team’s second-leading scorer. He’s down to 11 mpg, and while he’s scoring more efficiently this season, it’s hard to do a lot with so little playing time.
“I try to not let it affect me,” Brooks said about his waning P.T. “The minutes weren’t given to me last year. I earned my minutes last season. I knew my role was going to change because [Johnson] is an All-Star. He’s been an All-Star for quite some time. He’s a very good player and I knew it would be less of an opportunity. I didn’t know how much of an effect it would have, but I knew it was going to make a difference in my role.”
That role has been shopped into about a third of what it once was, but Brooks is still trying to make the most of his opportunities.
“Whenever my name is called, I just go out there and give everything I’ve got,” he said. “I’ll just provide energy in my time… Coach (Avery Johnson) knows what I can do. When I go out there, when I get my opportunities, I just have to make them count.”
Johnson does know what his talented young scorer can do best, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still things he could work on.
“He’s a young player. He needs to take care of the ball, play good defense and continue to work on his intensity,” Johnson said when asked how Brooks could get more minutes. “But he has a bright future with this team.”
Deep down, Brooks knows that. Plus, it’s easy to stay positive when he remembers that he’s being paid good money to play a game he really loves.
“I don’t forget the fact that I’m in the NBA. I’ve got a good job,” he said. “I try to come to work every day and just get better.”
That’s truly all he can do while he waits out his new situation in Brooklyn. Success in the NBA is only part skill; the rest is opportunity, and what looked like a great one of those for Brooks a year ago is something else entirely in 2012-2013. His time may still come; it just might have to come with another team.