Joakim Noah struggles as France advances to EuroBasket semifinals

Joakim Noah's French team advanced to the EuroBasket 2011 semifinals following a 64-56 victory over Greece on Thursday. In 27 minutes of action, he recorded five points and eight rebounds. Once again, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker led France with 18 points.

Although Noah -- who missed France's last game due to a calf injury, according to France coach Vincent Collet -- is averaging nine points and eight rebounds for the tournament, he's shooting a paltry 41 percent from the field, including a 1-for-8 showing against Greece.

Noah is shooting 84.6 percent from the free throw line, an area he's worked on improving the past two seasons with the Bulls, but his field-goal percentage leaves something to be desired. In fact, he has knocked down only 4-of-23 (17 percent) shots from the field in his past three games.

In addition, the 6-foot-11 center has grabbed double-digit rebounds just once in eight games for France, while scoring in double figures on three occasions. Still, Noah, the only Bulls player remaining in the tournament with Omer Asik (Turkey) and Luol Deng (Great Britain) eliminated, had a key steal late in France's win Thursday, and is having a blast in his first international competition.

"I'm loving it," Noah told ESPN's Mark Woods. "It's exciting to win the games. We're playing well. This is a great team. We stick together.

"I feel very privileged to be able to play basketball like this," he said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I feel I'd be playing on the biggest stages in the world. The first time I landed in Lithuania, I saw this country with forests everywhere. Here we are in a beautiful arena. You can't complain too much. This is unbelievable."

During France's friendly matches, Noah looked like the player we saw before the thumb injury that sidelined him 30 games last season, but he's had a tough time offensively in the tournament. Yet the energetic, team-first Noah continues to stay positive and soak it all in.

Next up, France will face Russia on Friday.

NBA lockout update: The NBA owners and players union met Tuesday in what was built to be a critical meeting if professional basketball is to be played come the fall. However, both sides said there was zero progress, something they had made in previous bargaining sessions, leaving the 2011-12 season in limbo.

"I think coming out of today, obviously because of the calendar, we can't come out of here feeling as though training camps and the season is going to start on time at this point. The way it looks right now we may not start on time," players union president Derek Fisher said. "We can't find a place with the league and our owners where we can reach a deal sooner rather than later."

Added union executive director Billy Hunter: "We're a bit pessimistic and discouraged at one, the ability to start on time, and we're not so sure that there may not be further damages or delay trying to get the season started. The owners are not inclined at this stage to move off the position where they've anchored themselves."

As for the NBA's point of view, which hasn't changed since day one: It wants to implement a hard cap over the league's current soft cap.

"Well, we did not have a great day, I think it's fair to say that," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "On the other hand, we did say that it is our collective task to decide what we want on the one hand on each side, and two, what each side needs if we choose to work ourselves in such a way as to have the season start on time. That's still our goal.

"We know how to negotiate over dollars when the time comes, but they so conditioned any discussion on our acceptance of the status quo, which sees a team like the Lakers with well over $100 million in payroll and Sacramento at 45. That's not an acceptable alternative for us. That can't be the outcome that we agree to."

Yes, an agreement can be made between the two sides, but concessions have to be made. If the owners stand firm in their demands for a hard cap, you can bet on regular-season games being missed -- if not entire season.

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