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Noah tries ankle out but can't go

PHILADELPHIA (MCT) — As general manager Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau looked on, Joakim Noah tested his severely sprained left ankle before the game and then sat on the bench in uniform but missed his third straight game.

"He obviously wants to play," Thibodeau said before the Bulls' season-ending 79-78 loss to the 76ers. "Jo is a fierce competitor. But if he can't move well, that doesn't help us."

Noah didn't move well in warm-ups.

Thibodeau bristled when questioned whether playing Noah would further hurt him.

"Let me be clear on that: None of our players are going to be jeopardized," he said. "They have to be cleared medically by our training staff first. Then we make a decision whether they play. We're not taking a chance on any of our players."

As expected, Taj Gibson played after spraining his right ankle in Game 5. He had 14 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes.

"The doctors said I can't do any harm to it," Gibson said. "It's about how much pain I can take."

Heavy hardware: Gibson didn't know he had received a first-place vote for the league's Sixth Man of the Year award until a reporter informed him.

"Really?" Gibson said. "Wow. It's nice to get some recognition."

Thunder matchup nightmare James Harden received the most, easily winning the award with 115 of 119 first-place votes and 584 points. 76ers guard Lou Williams finished second and had the other three first-place votes.

Gibson finished sixth with 28 points overall. Kyle Korver landed on two ballots and finished 10th, while C.J. Watson got one second-place vote to finish 12th.

"He's huge," Thibodeau said of Gibson. "He has been a big part of our team for a long time. He can guard five positions. He's scoring effectively. He's playing at a very high level."

Perfect plan: Even the always upbeat Brian Scalabrine can't believe how well the plan for his 11th NBA season went. During last season's playoffs, he told the Tribune he would play in Europe if the pending lockout dragged. He played for Benetton Treviso and still returned to the Bulls.

"I believe going to Italy really helped me make this team," Scalabrine said. "You're practicing six hours a day, which I needed. It worked out so well that if I wasn't married I would go there, train for two months and then come back to try out for the NBA. Organized basketball with referees and coaches where you're running plays makes your mind sharp. It's a good way to go."

Scalabrine joked that the European movement was "the high-level guys and then Scal," in reference to Deron Williams, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith enacting similar plans. The veteran will monitor both playing and broadcasting options this summer.


(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune

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