Bulls still seek help up front Print
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Monday, 02 July 2007 23:52
NBA Headline News

 DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) -The Chicago Bulls introduced first-round draft pick Joakim Noah to the media Monday and if general manager John Paxson has his way, free agents Chris Mihm or Joe Smith could be next.
While the Bulls bolstered their frontcourt by taking the 6-foot-11 Noah - who led Florida to back-to-back championships - with the No. 9 pick, they're still looking for someone who can score down low.
Paxson said he has ``nothing going on right now'' with Minnesota, meaning the odds of a blockbuster deal for Kevin Garnett remain slim.
But the general manager said he talked to Smith on Sunday, when the free agent negotiating period began, and hopes to have him in for a visit this week. Mihm is scheduled to come in over the weekend.
Teams can't sign free agents until July 11, and barring a trade, the Bulls will have to settle for lower-tier players such as the 7-foot Mihm or 6-foot-10 Smith because they have no salary cap room. They will, however, have a mid-level exception expected to be about $5.5 million and a veteran's exception worth about $1.8 million.
Mihm had two ankle surgeries and missed last season after averaging 10.2 points on 50.1 percent shooting and 6.2 rebounds in 59 games for the Lakers in 2005-06. Smith, a 12-year veteran, averaged 8.5 points and 6.2 rebounds for Philadelphia last season.
Paxson also made it clear again Monday that he intends to match any offer for forward Andres Nocioni - a restricted free agent.
``We'd like Noc back,'' Paxson said. ``We're going to match offer sheets. We're not going to let him go for nothing.''
The team's energizer, Nocioni missed 28 of 29 games down the stretch in the regular season because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. After averaging a career-high 14.1 points in 53 regular-season games, he wasn't the same in the playoffs.
His minutes were limited and his shot was off, because of a throbbing foot and sore hip. The result was an 8.8 points scoring average and 36-percent shooting.
With Noah added to the frontcourt mix and rising star Luol Deng entrenched at small forward, Nocioni could find himself in a crowd - especially if Chicago adds another power forward.
Like Nocioni, Noah is an energizer dealing with an injury - to his right rotator cuff - but his shot is awkward.
``At Florida, they didn't feel like I needed to change my shot, and I think the reason why was because I didn't have to shoot the ball,'' Noah said during Monday's news conference with second-round picks Aaron Gray of Pittsburgh and JamesOn Curry of Oklahoma State. ``That wasn't my role. I'm definitely working on it. It feels a lot better.''
A more immediate issue is that rotator cuff, which he may have torn late in the season. Paxson said an MRI did not clearly identify a tear, but Noah went through pre-draft workouts at less than 100 percent.
There was little time for rehabilitation until now, and he and the Bulls hope to avoid surgery.
``I'm in a little bit of pain right now, and it's something that's been bothering me for a long time,'' said Noah, who saw team physician Dr. Brian Cole on Monday. ``It's something that I definitely want to get back to 100 percent before the season. I'm here and I'm ready to do whatever they want me to do.''
Paxson said surgery is a ``last resort'' and ``you can't make an assumption that it's torn because it's not been diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff.''
``Long term, we know everything to be fine, but in the short term, we just have to check it out,'' he said. ``I'm not worried about that today.''
 

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