The teasing of Joakim Noah began early Wednesday, with Ben Gordon joking at the morning shootaround that Noah can't dunk so why bother throwing him a lob pass.
It continued before the Bulls' 109-97 victory over the Bobcats, with Ben Wallace claiming the rookie could be fined for wearing loose, plaid "pants that look like pajamas."
But there's something irrepressible about Noah and, suddenly, this Bulls team.
Several times this season, the Bulls have trailed by 12 points in the second half, rolled over and played dead.
But thanks to 56 percent shooting in the second half and an energetic, at times dominant fourth quarter from Noah, the Bulls rallied to outscore the Bobcats 54-30 down the stretch to run interim coach Jim Boylan's record to 3-1.
"Nobody's giving up," Wallace said. "We have our backs against the wall. Win or lose, we have to put up a fight, whether we're up 12 or go down 12. Right now, everybody's living in the moment. As long as we stay together, good things can happen for this team."
Wallace mirrored the performance of the team, sleepwalking through the first half only to finish strong with seven points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Boylan attributed the sluggish start to the Bulls not practicing on New Year's Day before flying here.
Whatever, the Bulls trailed 67-55 when Kirk Hinrich, playing on his 27th birthday, jump-started a 20-8 run with a 21-foot jumper.
Joe Smith, solid with 16 points, scored eight in the spurt. Gordon, who led the Bulls for the fourth straight game since moving to a reserve role with 22 points, added seven.
And then the Bobcats began falling in love with the three-point line.
When the fourth quarter arrived, in came Noah, who only knows one speed.
"Something I always try to provide is energy," he said.
Noah finished with a season-high 17 points, as well as six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. All but six points and the block came in crunch time.
Noah fed Wallace for a dunk to open the fourth and give the Bulls an 80-79 lead. He followed with a steal that led to an Andres Nocioni three-point play. Then came another assist to Wallace inside.
By the time Noah tipped in Nocioni's miss and followed with an actual post move and layup on the next possession, the Bulls' lead stood at 89-82.
"He has great hands and feet," Boylan said. "He can cover small or big people. He's a versatile guy to have on your bench because you can bring him off and use him in different ways. I thought his interior passing with Ben Wallace was a big lift for us. We got easy baskets in the halfcourt game."
Once again, the Bulls took care of the ball to the tune of making just 10 turnovers. And they dominated the rebounding battle 50-40.
Noah also played well here in a Dec. 5 victory, contributing eight points and two rebounds while playing the entire fourth quarter.
"As someone who is on the bench a lot, every time you have an opportunity you have to play as hard as you can," Noah said. "That's the only thing you can control."
Rookie razzing clearly is out of his.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun