Joakim Noah was back at the Berto Center on Saturday after a trip to New York due to the death of his basketball mentor, Tyron Green.
Green, 63, helped coach several future New York City stars, including Lamar Odom and Chamique Holdsclaw. Noah often talked about how he'd ride the train from Times Square to Queens early on Saturday mornings to meet Green at a tiny gym.
Noah thanked Green on draft night and again when he made the all-star team. He did not speak to reporters Saturday and the Bulls distributed a statement.
"I am saddened by the passing of Mr. Green, who was like a second father to me," it read. "I will do my best to respect his life and his family in this time of grief and ask that everyone please do the same. I will miss him very much."
Noah was the last player on the court following Saturday's practice. After shooting jumpers, he walked around the floor dribbling a pair of basketballs and also dribbled one against the wall.
"It's a tough situation," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Everyone grieves differently. I thought he was very sharp in practice today. Hopefully he'll be fine tomorrow."
Cap could rise:
NBA salary-cap expert Larry Coon passed along some surprising news on his blog Friday: Next season's salary cap is now projected to be $5 million more than the original estimate.
That could be a boon to the Bulls, who would have more money to chase free agent Carmelo Anthony or perhaps be able to pair a lower-priced free agent with European star Nikola Mirotic.
Under this projection, the Bulls could offer Anthony a starting salary of around $16 million while keeping Taj Gibson. But in order to get to that scenario, the Bulls would have to unload Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, both first-round draft picks and put off the Mirotic signing until next summer.
Bulls do playoff prep:
A couple of Bulls talked Saturday about preparing for the excitement of the playoffs.
"I remember my first couple years going to the playoffs, it was real nerve-wracking," said Carlos Boozer, who has played in 78 playoff games. "It's like Christmas. You can't wait for tomorrow to come, so you don't sleep a lot. You're looking at the clock, seeing what time it is."
Added D.J. Augustin, who went to the Eastern Conference finals with Indiana last season: "It's a different intensity. The crowd is into it. It's harder to score. Everything is harder because guys know every play, every move. So it's going to be intense.
"I've been anxious the last couple days. The first minute into the game, it will all go away, but it's going to be hard to sleep tonight."
The Bulls are favored by most to beat Washington in this first-round series, a fact that Wizards center Marcin Gortat took in stride.
"Why would they pick us?" Gortat said, according to The Washington Post. "First of all, Chicago is an experienced team. The pressure is on them. I don't understand why we should be mad.
"At the end of the day, this is a good team and we've just got to beat them. We've got to focus on our team."