This season of low expectations began with three-time All-Star Derrick Rose getting left off the ballot as he rehabilitated from surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
It reached its midway point with the Bulls on pace for a surprising 50 victories and placing Luol Deng and Joakim Noah on the Eastern Conference All-Star team Thursday with the release of coaches' voting for the reserves.
The Feb. 17 game in Houston will be Deng's second straight All-Star appearance and Noah's first. It also will mark the second straight year two Bulls will be participating. Last year, Rose and Deng were the first Bulls teammates to appear since Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan in 1997.
Speaking of history, Noah is the first Bulls center to make an All-Star Game since Artis Gilmore in 1982. He also becomes the 15th player in franchise history to be so honored.
"It's always a credit to the individual player for the commitment they have made to get to this level," said John Paxson, who acquired Deng's draft rights in 2004 and drafted Noah in 2007 as executive vice president of basketball operations. "In Joakim's case, he plays with an energy and enthusiasm that is highly valued in this league and he's a winner.
"Luol has been the model of professionalism and consistency since he was drafted and has gained the respect of people all over the league. It's also a credit to (coach Tom Thibodeau) and his staff and the work they have done with our team and the culture that's in place. It's a positive day for the Bulls' organization."
The selection prompted unabashedly appreciative strings of comments on both players' Twitter timelines. Noah thanked everyone from teammates to parents to youth coaches and friends. After his emotional outburst that led to Thibodeau benching him last Saturday, Noah also added this humorous perspective.
"Thanks for dealing with all my (expletive) to Thibs and the whole staff," he wrote.
Deng recognized Noah's first-time selection and opined that Carlos Boozer, who leads the Eastern Conference in double-doubles, should have made it as well. Jimmy Butler could be in Houston for the Feb. 15 Rising Stars Challenge featuring top first- and second-year players.
Deng and Noah bask in glow of All-Star status
Chicago Tribune | Jan 25