- The Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli were listed as game-time decisions for tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz, but coach Tom Thibodeau provided some updates. He said Noah will play and start. He was uncertain on Belinelli, whose status was to be determined after he warmed up. He must have looked OK because he is listed as active for tonight’s game.
- For the Jazz, sixth man Gordon Hayward will miss his seventh straight game with a right shoulder sprain. Utah backup point guard Earl Watson will dress for the second straight game and may make an appearance. He dressed, but did not play against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. He is more likely to play tonight, as Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said he’s “more” available than he was on Wednesday. The Jazz also play on Saturday night so Corbin may choose to save Watson’s return for one more day.
- The Bulls come into Utah limping after losing three of their last four games. The normally defensive-minded team is also licking some wounds after allowing 128 points to Denver on Thursday and 111 to the Indiana Pacers on Monday. Tonight is the last of a six-game road trip, and Thibodeau looks to finish strong. “We’ve been in position to win every game (on the trip),” he said. “You have to put that behind you, go out and try and win one.”
- The annual matchup with the Bulls is a special one in Utah. The Jazz lost to Chicago in their two NBA Finals berths. Since then, more fuel has been added to the matchup for Jazz fans as the franchise went through a makeover after the last time Chicago visited Utah two seasons ago. After a loss to the Bulls and well-documented dust-up between former coach Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, Sloan resigned and Williams was traded shortly thereafter. It was a franchise-changing night for Utah, and one that Thibodeau said he hardly recalls. “I have a hard time remembering yesterday,” Thibodeau said. “When you think of the Jazz, you think of how hard they play, how unselfish, how tough, what they stand for. They’ve been a gold standard in the league for so long. It obviously started with Frank Layden and you can’t say enough about Jerry Sloan as a coach.”
- Another reason Jazz fans are excited for tonight’s game is the return of former forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer was a controversial figure when he was a member of the Jazz because of the number of games he missed due to injuries and his perceived weaknesses on defense. Now that he plays for another team, Boozer is mostly loathed by the Utah fan base. But don’t count Corbin or forward Paul Millsap, the only player remaining on the team from when Boozer played in Utah, as people who have ill feelings toward Boozer. “Here, I thought he was a great player for us,” Corbin said. “He was hurt, but you can’t do anything about injuries. He’s a great individual.”