A Chicago native scored the first basket — in fact the first five points — of the Bulls’ preseason-opening win over the Pacers. That same South Sider also led the team in blocked shots and tied for the high rebounding total in Monday’s win over the Grizzlies in St. Louis which should let you know that the player isn’t Derrick Rose.

Nazr Mohammed 36 started the Bulls’ first two exhibition games in place of injured All-Star center Joakim Noah and while his statistics weren’t gaudy the veteran has proved that even in his 16th NBA season he still has plenty to contribute. When Noah returns from his strained groin Mohammed’s minutes will likely dwindle but his disposition won’t change.

“That’s my job. As a backup center your job is to be ready and step in and start if you have to. But also be ready to not play on a certain night” he recently explained to CSNChicago.com “Be ready to come in play 15 minutes 20 minutes — whatever is asked for — that’s your job as a backup so I’m definitely ready for it. I feel like I’m in better position because I know what’s going on.”

A year ago at this time Mohammed was enjoying an even more impressive preseason particularly on the offensive end of the floor. But when the regular season started he struggled his playing time was reduced and he eventually fell out of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s regular rotation. Instead of sulking Mohammed put in extra work and when the coach finally came back to him during the team’s injury-plagued season he played well and didn’t look back becoming one of the most reliable players on the squad. Now in his second season back in his hometown after re-signing with the Bulls during the offseason the Kenwood Academy product is more at ease in the system knowing his specific role.

“It’s just an easier feel when you know exactly what we’re doing. You’re comfortable with the guys. They know what you can do you know what they can do” he said in a raspy voice the result of taking an elbow to the throat in a spirited Bulls’ training-camp practice. “When Coach says something now I know what he’s talking about now instead of thinking and reacting so it’s definitely a better feeling coming in this year.”