I remember watching Joakim Noah in college a couple years ago when the Gators were at the top of the mountain. I remember thinking to myself, this floppy hairdo dude is full of energy, is an excellent defender, and is pretty much the heart and soul of the Gators National Championship teams. While he was tremendous in college and made a big name for himself in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, I also remember thinking, can this guy’s game translate to the next level? His shooting motion was awful as the ball spun off his fingers like the Earth rotating on its axis in the solar system, he didn’t really have any low post moves, and lacked a real mid-range game. Through his first two years in the NBA, I looked like I was right about that. Noah averaged just seven points per game in both his rookie year and his sophomore year, but this year he has been a beast for the Bulls and could make his case for most improved player. I don’t know what he did in the offseason or if he is using a different hair tie, but his scoring is up from just under seven points per game to 10 points per game and his rebounding numbers have blossomed from just over seven per game to 12 rebounds per game, which ranks him second in the league. While his offense continues to be a work in progress, Noah is dominating the glass and protecting the paint just like he did at Florida. Noah has gone back to what made him a college star and he is finally starting to live up to his top-ten draft status.
Joakim Noah joined the Afternoon Saloon on ESPN Radio in Chicago to talk about what improvements he made to his game in the offseason, how he plans on improving his offensive game, and says he has an issue with LeBron James dancing as much as he does.
On whether or not there are moral victories at this point in the season for the Bulls:
“No, I mean, I think it always sucks to lose, but it was definitely a better effort. You look at the film, you look at everything, that’s definitely a situation where I feel like we got better last night. Just in terms of our effort and all that. We just gotta keep that up and if we can play with that effort and that energy every night, things will turn around for us hopefully.”
On what improvements he made this off season:
“I think that playing in the playoffs last year gave me a lotta -confidence and it was also a tool that I could just look at and say ‘okay, this is what I need to do to get better.’ It’s hard to say that when you’re not getting the playing time because you really don’t know. I feel like I was in a situation in the playoffs where I was getting pushed around a little bit and I knew that getting stronger was something that I needed to do. I lifted a lotta weights and I got myself into a better routine.”
On how he plans on improving his offensive game:
“I think you just gotta go out there and work. I feel like that’s definitely the next step in terms of getting better as player. I feel like I still have to get stronger in my legs. Maybe a couple more camps in the summertime. Do some more bigmen camps and maybe play with the French National Team. I’m not sure. Right now, I’m just focused on becoming a better player for the team right now and just focusing on right now and I’ll worry about that when the season is over.”
On the altercation between him and LeBron a few games back:
“Well I was actually on the bench, so I wasn’t really in his face. I just felt like it was situation where he was dancing, the game was over with and I just felt like it was a little disrespectful towards us. It doesn’t take away from his abilities as a player and what he does, but I just felt like it was a little bit too much. I was frustrated with the situation and I just let him know how I felt. That’s really all there is to say about that.”
On the lack of toughness on the Bulls:
“Yeah, I think we all have to take responsibility in that whole toughness aspect because I feel like a lot of times, we’re the ones getting punched in the mouth and we’re not the ones instigating anything. We definitely have to get tougher, but it’s not just one person in particular. I think it’s everybody.”
Listen to Jakim Noah on ESPN Radio in Chicago here (Audio beings at the 7:45 mark)