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updated: 4/15/2014 8:21 PM

Road to playoffs? Bulls never backed down

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  • Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) drives against Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe (10) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Friday. The Bulls won 106-98.

      Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) drives against Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe (10) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Friday. The Bulls won 106-98.
    Associated Press

 
 

After everything that's gone wrong for the Bulls, the last thing Joakim Noah needed to hear was Monday's weather report.

Following the win over Orlando at the United Center, Noah was talking about how much he enjoys playoff time, when the games are intense and the weather is warm -- but his mood quickly deflated when told it was snowing outside. The video is easy to find.

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"That's some B.S.," Noah said. "It's snowing for real? It's snowing in April, man? That's ridiculous."

Well, it wasn't snowing in Charlotte, which is where the Bulls headed Tuesday for the final regular season game. They could still finish with the No. 3 or 4 seed, and could end up with either Brooklyn or Washington as a first-round playoff opponent. Game 1 will be either Saturday or Sunday at the UC.

Before moving forward, though, Noah looked back at how the Bulls were able to shake off the injury to Derrick Rose and trade of Luol Deng to win 48 games and maybe one more.

Asked if there was ever a meeting or a moment when the team rallied together, Noah credited coach Tom Thibodeau for being persistent.

"I think it was more Thibs than anybody," Noah said. "Coach told us every day, 'You've just go to believe we can do something special this year. We've got to believe.'

"For me personally, they were both really tough blows for me. I just knew through all this adversity, I wanted to show that I wasn't going to back down and I wasn't going to say that this season was a waste. I'm really, really proud of the way of the way we responded to all the adversity."

To recap, the Bulls lost Rose on Nov. 22 with torn cartilage in his right knee and traded Deng to Cleveland for draft picks in return on Jan. 6. Since Jan. 1, the Bulls have produced the best record in the Eastern Conference at 36-15.

"Do I wish things were a little different? Yeah, I wish Pooh (Rose) wasn't hurt and I wish Lu was still here," Noah said. "The fact that guys are going out here and working the way they're working every day … collectively, the work that we put in, I've never seen anything like that. I've never seen a team put this much work into a season."

One of the biggest reasons for the Bulls turnaround was Noah's transformation into a scorer and distributor. Since the all-star break, he's averaged 13.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and a startling 7.1 assists.

"I'm just playing my role," he said. "I think my coach has confidence in me making plays that maybe he didn't have in the past. My teammates have confidence in me. I'm touching the ball so much more than I have ever in my life. I don't know. It's just given me a lot of confidence."

Noah appears to be a lock to win defensive player of the year and has a decent chance to land on the all-NBA first team. Teammate Taj Gibson went as far as calling Noah one of the top three players in the league.

"We lost tons of games, we were way under. 500 and out of nowhere, we're just fighting through all that," Gibson said. "All the negativity, the trade, everything that happened -- we're still here.

"He's one of the main reasons we're playing the way we're playing. He's the one that gets the assists, rebounds, blocked shots, brings the energy, brings the heart, talks trash for us. Every day."

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