Joakim Noah is the NBA’s Leading Rebounder

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By Paul M. Banks

Just before the season tipped off, I wrote a column asking if Joakim Noah would make “the leap” this season. I saw something in him during the preseason that made me believe it would happen. Now bear in mind that making the leap forward for someone like Noah isn’t about scoring. It’s defined by becoming a dominant defender and rebounder- Or basically answering the $64 million question that Ben Wallace resoundingly did not. Noah is now giving the Bulls exactly what they paid a lot of money for, but never got in the Wallace signing three years ago.

At just under 12 boards a game, Noah is ahead of both Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace for the number one spot in rebounding. By also averaging over 11 points a game, he’s put out a double-double every night. And he’s setting a new career high in blocks so far, so I guess the answer is yes, Noah is indeed making the leap.

I recently had an exclusive with Noah, and asked him what led to his cleaning the glass like Windex this year (but not in those words). “I think it was just minutes, just being out there. The way it is in this league, the more time you’re on the court, the more productive you’ll be. You’ll pick up on things after games, crafty moves, holding someone’s arm, doing some dirty things down there that maybe you weren’t accustomed to doing when you were in college,” Noah responded candidly; and sounding a bit like Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer in their primes.

Another significant reason for his development is the ten pounds he gained from hitting the weight room hard this season. “It was something I needed to do in order to help the team this year, it was something I needed to focus on in the off-season, I feel like in that series against Boston, I was being pushed around a little too much, and now I feel a lot stronger, and I feel I’ve put on good weight cause I’m still running the floor well,” Joakim stated.noah

And given his role within the Bulls offense, which emphasizes the drive-and-kick in most offensive sets, He’ll get lots of opportunities to grab offensive boards. “Oh, the drive and kick game is huge. We’re a team that at all five positions on the court, we can play that draw and kick game.”

But perhaps more than schematics, or even physical development, Noah’s mental growth is contributing to his new found superior statistics. “I think he’s made another step- both physically and mentally. He’s starting to understand what it takes,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said about the third year center.

Noah, the former Florida Gator loves watching his old college team, but he also enjoys taking in a lot of NBA games on television, but he obviously doesn’t view the game the way we do.

“I look at the game differently now than I did in college or when I was coming into the league. You have an admiration for the players you grew up watching, and now they’re like your enemy. There’s no admiration anymore, sometime in my first year I felt like I would see guys like Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe, and you’re like oh my God wow, I grew up having the jersey of some these guys on, I once had a Garnett jersey on.” He said.

So I then inquired about him viewing these NBA superstars as heroes, and now they’re his peers. ‘Not peers, definitely not peers,” he responded.

And that shows a tremendous out of humility and maturity on this part. With those two traits, expect him to continue his fantastic play this season. And Noah’s career arc should continue trending positive.

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  1. Bulls-Jazz tonight at 9:30. My hometown team that I cover versus my favortie player in sports….what a Thanksgiving treat!!!

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