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Noah's 'Earthball' part of game plan ... very small part
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/17/2009 12:02 AM

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Joakim Noah did something in Saturday's victory over New Orleans that he hadn't even attempted in weeks - knock down an outside jumper. His 16-footer struck nothing but net late in the first quarter of the Bulls' blowout win.

"I know that's not really my role to shoot jump shots," Noah said following Monday's practice at the Berto Center. "But if they're giving me an opening like that, coach tells me to keep the defense honest. I'm happy it went in."

Noah launched his unorthodox "Earthball" jumpers (the ball spins sideways, like a planet) on occasion as a rookie, but they have been a rare sight this season. Coach Vinny Del Negro consented that he made room for such a play in the game plan.

"He owes me money," Del Negro joked. "He works hard, so I'm going to throw him an opportunity, and it worked. When a guy works as hard as Joakim does, I'm going to give him a jump shot here and there. If it goes in we're all going to smile, and if it doesn't you guys are all going to say, 'Why would the coach allow him to take that jump shot?'

"It went in the other night and it went in today in practice, but I don't want him to get carried away with that too much."

Scoring probably will never be Noah's specialty, but he's playing as well as he has during two NBA seasons, averaging 10.4 rebounds since Feb. 4. Noah suggested he and Tyrus Thomas can learn from veteran center Brad Miller, who was acquired in a Feb. 18 trade.

"The only thing that really matters to me is winning," Noah said. "When you're winning, there's just a better atmosphere in the locker room and practice is a lot easier."

Bulls go green again: Get ready for the most confusing game of the NBA season. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the Bulls will again break out the green uniforms, while the traditionally green Boston Celtics wear their home whites tonight at the United Center.

The same matchup occurred two years ago, and Boston star Paul Pierce said it took him five minutes of watching video clips at halftime before he realized the Bulls were actually the green team.

The Celtics will be looking to rebound from one of their worst performances this season, an 86-77 loss at Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. Boston produced a season-low points and a season-high 25 turnovers. Starting guards Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined to hit 4 of 21 shots.

Boston has gone 6-5 with all-star forward Kevin Garnett sidelined by a knee injury. He may return later this week but is not expected to face the Bulls.

Asked if the Celtics are a different team without Garnett, coach Vinny Del Negro responded with some humor.

"Is that a serious question?" Del Negro said. "Obviously when you've got a Hall of Fame, superstar guy who controls the entire paint for you - you have star players, you have a huge advantage. I know we'll get Boston's best effort and we're going to have to come ready to play."

Bull horns: Tim Thomas was excused from Monday's practice because of a family obligation and would have rested his sore left knee anyway. - Following practice, Derrick Rose was fitted for new shoes by a pair of Adidas representatives.