Sports media outlets have used every type of injury-related synonym in the books to describe the Chicago Bulls all year and into their first round playoff series against Brooklyn.
As the two teams prepare for their Game 7 clash, however, the heart and soul of this Bulls team, Joakim Noah, only wants to call Chicago one thing: Winners.
“We’re a team of fighters,” Noah said, according to ESPN, after the Bulls’ 95-92 loss in Game 6 on Thursday night. “We keep getting punched in the face but we fight back. I’m proud of this team, and we’re going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we’re going to win.”
The members of the Bulls actually (relatively) healthy enough to play echoed Noah’s optimistic outlook.
Little man Nate Robinson has shown more heart and grit than anyone over the last several days, pulling off Jordan-esque buzzer beaters and playing sick just like Mike — even throwing up on the sidelines.
“We just got to play through it,” Robinson said. “Regardless of being sick or not, our guys, we all play our asses off. We got to continue to do that.”
“There was a couple times I had to throw up during the game,” Robinson said. “But I didn’t know if they were going to call a foul on me if I threw up on Deron Williams and played through it. But I don’t know; we got to check the rulebook on that one.”
Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng both missed Thursday’s Game 6. Forward Taj Gibson played limited minutes with the flu, as did Nate-Rob. Noah continues to nurse plantar fasciaitis in his feet.
The only player, of course, who has been totally, completely, medically cleared to play but will probably be in street clothes is star point guard Derrick Rose.
One player who has benefited from Rose’s season-long absence is second-year former Marquette star Jimmy Butler.
“[Our confidence is] going up,” Butler said. “It’s sure not going to go down. They know they got to win Game 7; we know we got to win Game 7. Same style of basketball; it’s going to be a fight. The tougher team is going to get the win, and we go in wanting to be the tougher team.”
Gibson should hopefully be at or near full strength. Not that he really cares. The power forward and indispensable bench performer is going to be playing, no matter what.
“We just got to go there, put our boxing gloves back on and tell everybody ‘be ready to play,'” Gibson said. “It’s no time to be hurt, sick; it could be the end of the season. So we have to go out there, just put forth a lot of effort. There’s no time to worry about small things; we got to just push the limit.”
Without their superstar floor general, the Bulls have been fighting all season long. Now, that fight comes down to just one game.
And the team is taking its lead from a new leader and new voice: Noah’s.
“I’m ready to play,” he said. “I want to go play right now. Those are my emotions.”