Joakim Noah's honesty and coach Scott Skiles' sarcasm collided Wednesday, though it was an indirect hit.
Late Tuesday night, following the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Noah suggested in the locker room that the Bulls were not playing in unison.
"The teams that we're playing are not the high-caliber teams," Noah added Wednesday at the Berto Center. "We need to step it up. We've got to play together way better because you can tell we're not playing as a team."
True as the assessment may have been, Skiles took exception when he heard the comment.
"I don't know. If I had just played my first game, I'd probably keep my mouth shut, to be honest with you," Skiles said.
After sitting out three games with a sprained right ankle, Noah made his official Bulls debut against the Clippers. The 6-foot-11 center produced 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in 19 minutes.
"It's obvious we're not playing to our ability," Skiles added. "I may have a little problem with the phrasing of (Noah's comment), but the point is probably spot-on. But again, it probably should be someone else speaking for the team."
The Bulls knew what they were getting when they drafted Noah with the No. 9 pick in June. He has a flamboyant personality and isn't afraid to speak up. He also was an important part of Florida's two national championship teams, so he knows something about winning basketball.
When the Bulls rookie first heard about Skiles' response, he reacted as though he'd been ordered to make a batch of homemade doughnuts for the veterans.
"I just felt that we didn't play in sync," Noah said quietly. "I don't have a problem with Coach Skiles. OK, if he feels that way, I'll shut up."
One shot for high-scorer: Here's one interesting tidbit from Tuesday's loss: Luol Deng led the Bulls in scoring with 22 points but attempted just 1 shot in the fourth quarter even though he played the entire second half.
Overall, the Bulls hit 4 of 18 shots in the fourth quarter and couldn't hold a late lead.
"We only have so many timeouts to remind the guys what's going on," Scott Skiles said. "We definitely need to have a better head about ourselves there."
Smith steps up: In the last two games, power forward Joe Smith has a combined 31 points and 17 rebounds, while shooting 59 percent from the field.
"I think you could make the case he's been our best player so far," Scott Skiles said. "He's been consistent, hasn't looked phased by a whole lot out there, and he's just kind of playing how he plays."
Smith sat out Wednesday's practice because he felt some soreness in his right knee, but he didn't think it was a big deal.
Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons at the United Center
When: 7 p.m.
Radio: WMVP 1000-AM
Update: This is just what the winless Bulls don't need right now, a 3-0 Pistons team playing like it's already the second round of the playoffs. Richard Hamilton missed the first two games, but Chauncey Billups (19.7 ppg) and Tayshaun Prince (19.7 ppg) picked up the slack. Newcomer Jarvis Hayes and power forward Jason Maxiell both have played well.
Fast fact: After losing 12 straight to Detroit at the United Center from 2000-06, the Bulls won both home games during the regular season last year.
Next: Toronto Raptors on Saturday at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw