This might come as a shock to some basketball observers, but Bulls center Joakim Noah carries a healthy respect for Dennis Rodman, the often eccentric rebounding machine who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
"I love Dennis Rodman," Noah said Monday at the Berto Center. "He was always a hero of mine growing up. Every time I see him, he shows me a lot of love and a lot of words of encouragement."
It might be a stretch to call Noah and Rodman pals. They have made a personal connection, though, which was renewed last Friday when Rodman had his No. 10 jersey retired by the Detroit Pistons during halftime of a game against the Bulls.
"Even during the ceremony, with everything going on around him, he comes by the bench and talks to me for a minute," Noah said. "He did that for me in Chicago. I've seen him a few times around.
"He's an unbelievable guy. There are not a lot of guys who go out of their way, especially from the older generation, to show love the way that he does."
Noah first met Rodman after the memorable 2009 playoff series against Boston. He wouldn't say where they met, but mentioned that he has seen Rodman working the night life.
"Watching that ceremony in Detroit, the thing that stuck out to me was how much his teammates said he was the ultimate sacrifice guy," Noah said. "He sacrificed so much to make the team better. When all of your teammates say that about you, I think that's the ultimate respect."
"He's been out of the league for a while and people still talk about him. You should see him out in the clubs."
Big man switch:
Joakim Noah returned to practice Monday after missing three games with a sprained left ankle. He's expected to play Tuesday when the Bulls host Phoenix.
While Noah was back, Carlos Boozer missed practice because of an illness. Coach Tom Thibodeau hopes Boozer will play against the Suns, but will have to wait and see.
Out of 76 games this season, Noah and Boozer have played together in 23 and never longer than nine games in a row. Needless to say, their personal chemistry isn't where it could be.
"There's no time or excuses," Noah said. "At the end of the day, obviously, we haven't played together a lot this year. But we're still the No. 1 team in the East. I think at the end of the day, I think it's going to be just fine."
Hall of Fame roster:
Besides Dennis Rodman, two others with strong Bulls ties will join the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Center Artis Gilmore starred for the Bulls from 1976-82, making the playoffs twice, then tacked another brief stay in 1987-88.
Tex Winter, creator of the famed "triangle offense," was an assistant coach with the Bulls from 1985-99.
"It says a lot about the history of our franchise," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Those three guys, they certainly earned it."
Added John Paxson, Bulls vice president of basketball operations: "I have perspective on Tex because I was able to see him in a unique capacity. Tex was the ultimate teacher of basketball, and I firmly believe that in a lot of ways it's a lost art."
Others voted into the Hall were former NBA players Chris Mullin, Arvydas Sabonis and Tom "Satch" Sanders; Stanford women's coach Tara VanDerveer; Olympian Teresa Edwards, Philadelphia University's Herb Magee; and Harlem Globetrotter Goose Tatum.