Joakim Noah’s Game Matures As He Does
Joakim Noah is the kind of player you love to hate, and always has been, really, dating all the way back to his time at the University of Florida, where he won two national championships and the distaste of most of the country. Between his flamboyant hair, hipster fashion sense and celebrity pedigree, pretty much every NBA fan outside of Chicago still hates the guy six years later, but as he’s proven in his first All-Star season, it doesn’t matter how you feel about the guy; he’s going to work his tail off every night to help the Bulls get as many wins as possible.
“I think I’ve always been a worker,” Noah said in Houston. “I always work hard every summer just trying to improve my game. Learning from new people, always being open-minded to different strategies and things to improve, whether it’s from other basketball players or people from other sports, I think it just helps to be open-minded to different things.”
Part of that for Noah has been a weight-lifting regimen that has allowed him to add several pounds of muscle in each of the last few offseasons, but his hard work extends beyond bicep curls and bench presses. Noah has also gone a long ways towards ebbing some of his former summer silliness, and the result has been an entirely more focused, more mature basketball player.
“I think that the last six years now, I’ve gone through a lot,” Noah said. “I’ve experienced a lot. In six years, lots of ups and downs. Just to be a part of [All-Star weekend], it’s an unbelievable feeling, knowing where I came from and remembering what I did. I remember in my rookie year when I was coming in, I used to get booed. So to be here, on the biggest stage, it’s pretty special.”
To be fair, he still gets booed, but he’s now got the pedigree to back up the heel personality he seemed to enjoy so thoroughly earlier in his career. Noah says Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has done a lot to get him more focused, and anybody who’s familiar with the way Thibodeau coaches knows that’s absolutely true.
“Thibs helped me a lot,” Noah said. “He has confidence in what I can do. As a playmaker, being able to make plays at the elbow when I really don’t post up as much, I’m pretty proud of that.”
In truth, Noah has quite a bit to be proud of, and assuming he can keep his plantar fasciitis in check not only this season but for the rest of this career, he should continue to improve and find more ways to shut up his critics. Love him or hate him, Joakim Noah is a guy that just wants to win basketball games, and the older he gets, the clearer it is that he’ll do anything to make that happen.