Bulls Notes: Joakim Noah, France lose to Spain in EuroBasket title game

Bulls center Joakim Noah ended his first international competition in defeat as his French national team lost on Sunday, 98-85, to Spain in the EuroBasket 2011 gold medal game. Both teams had already qualified for the 2012 London Olympics by advancing to the tournament’s title game.

Noah, who fouled out late in the contest, posted 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block. Spurs point guard Tony Parker led France with 26 points, and averaged a team-high 22.1 points for the tournament.

Although France had four players in double figures, Spain’s balance, depth and star power proved to be too much. Juan Carlos Navarro, a former NBA sharpshooter, dropped 27 points and was named the event’s Most Valuable Player, while NBA players Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon added 17 points each. Mavericks guard Rudy Fernandez, who garnered interest from the Bulls last offseason, scored 14.

France will get a boost in the 2012 Olympics, though, as Dallas’ Roddy Beaubois, New York’s Ronny Turiaf and Phoenix’s Mickael Pietrus are all expected to be healthy and ready to join the squad next summer.

Noah, who had tournament averages of nine points and eight rebounds, embraced his role as France’s defensive anchor, but the 6-foot-11 center shot just 41 percent from the field, which left something to be desired from France and Chicago fans. Following France’s friendly matches, it seemed they would utilize him more in the post than his American team does, but that gameplan was quickly squashed as his post-up opportunities were few and far between. On the bright side, it seems Noah continues to make strides at the free throw line, knocking down 26-of-32 (81.3 percent) attempts from the charity stripe.

Noah will be joined by Bulls teammates Luol Deng (Great Britain) and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Derrick Rose (USA) in London. Although a group of Bulls fans questioned Noah’s participation in EuroBasket, there’s no question he faced much better competition than pickup games could have provided.

Rasual Butler set to return to the States: Bulls free-agent swingman Rasual Butler, who signed with Gran Canaria of the Spanish ACB League on August 22, is headed back to the United States. According to various reports, Butler, a nine-year NBA veteran, is leaving the Spanish club due to personal reasons.

“I want to thank the club, the coaching staff and my teammates for the weeks I spent with them. Unfortunately I have to go back to (the) States. I really would love to stay,” Butler said.

Added Gran Canaria GM Himar Ojeda: “It affects us, really. It is a setback. He is (a) very good player.”

Although Butler’s agent, Andy Miller, claimed his client’s deal with Gran Canaria contained an out clause that would allow him to return to the NBA if the league-imposed lockout ends, after officially signing with the team, Butler was adamant about playing out his one-year contract.

“I want to have a good year here. I was not great last season in the NBA, so I come highly motivated to (have) a good year here,” he said.

“I came to Gran Canaria to play all season. When (it’s) completed we’ll see what happens.”

In his first game with Gran Canaria, Butler put up 12 points and five rebounds. While he’s not likely to return to the Bulls, he may be a cheap, reliable option if the NBA shifts to a hard salary cap.

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