By Paul M. Banks
On Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced that they picked up the 2010-11 season options for guard Derrick Rose and forward/center Joakim Noah. By exercising these options, both will be under contract with the Bulls for 2010-11. The Bulls -just like most of us who follow the team closely- realize that Noah has come a long way since June 2007, when he was formally (and publicly) introduced to the Bulls wearing a suit befitting a Dick Tracy villain.
In two seasons with Chicago, Noah (6-11, 232) has appeared in 154 games (86 starts) and averaged 6.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.2 apg and 1.13 bpg in 22.5 mpg; he has shot .520 from the field and .684 from the line. The Bulls selected Noah in the first round (ninth overall) in NBA Draft 2007. Last year down the stretch he started to become a rebounding force, and asserted himself even more during the first round playoff series loss to Boston. It was a legendary series where Noah truly showed a ton of toughness and prowess towards cleaning the glass.
I recently had an exclusive with Noah, and asked him what the key to his development as a rebounder was. “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.
The Bulls got hot down the stretch, about the same time that Noah improved his game dramatically. Therefore, he’ll be especially crucial if Chicago is going to improve upon their 41-41 record of last season. Perhaps the son of France’s biggest pop star/legendary Tennis Champion and runway model will benefit from being in Coach Vinny Del Negro’s system for a second season.
“I think he’s a lot more comfortable in what he wants from us as players, defensively and offensively. He’s got a pretty good sense of what certain players can and can’t do because he’s coached us. Last year, I think all we did was high pick-and-roll and this year we kind of have an offense set up, and that’s because we’ve been playing together for a little while,” Noah said.
So what is Noah working on specifically to help bring the team more wins this year?
“Footwork, footwork in the post, take my time more when I catch the ball in the post, even though our offense is not set for someone to catch it in the post, but when I do catch it, know what I need to do with it.”
He certainly can move for a 7 footer, and his athleticism should be an asset even though his jumpshot certainly is not. “I work on it everyday, it’s just not my strong point, but I also understand what my role is on the team.” Noah has a very optimistic outlook on the season which begins Thursday night. “I think the season is going to be fun. I like how the offense is going to have our bigs getting the ball a lot and making plays,” Noah said.
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