Rebounding machine Noah finds his groove

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Rebounding machine Noah finds his groove

After snaring a season-high in rebounds Sunday night at Philadelphia, then following up the performance by corralling 17 boards in a grudge match against Indiana, one might expect Joakim Noah to be exuberant. Not likely.

Im feeling good, feeling healthy, said Noah. Winning makes me happy. Its not about double-doubles. Its about winning.

Noah rarely talks about his personal accomplishments, unless hes being critical, but when it comes to his teammates and victories, hell fill up a whole tape recorder with delicious quotes. Earlier in the season, when he wasnt playing at what he considered to be a high level, it was obvious in both his body language and his comments to the media.

Now, despite his modesty, its clear that hes feeling good about himselfif that wasnt evident from his increasing frequent Tornado jumper attempts from the elbow and subsequent finger guns celebration after a makehis words might not reflect it, but the bounce in his step gives him away. But perhaps there was a reason for his slow start, as the lockout allowed him to get in excellent physical conditioning, though not find his rhythm, as he hadnt seen significant court time since his stint for runner-up France in the FIBA EuroBasket event.

At the start of the season, we had the heavy schedule and game conditions are a lot different. We had 14 games in 20 days and he was getting to a lot of balls, but he was bobbling. Now, hes snatching his rebounds with two hands in traffic, hes range rebounding, explained Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. His conditioning is great and I think the start of the season was more of a challenge for the big guys than it was for the perimeter players because its physical. Youre not going to get that type of contact other than in an NBA game. You can do all the conditioning you want, running and stuff like that, but its different.

Added teammate Derrick Rose: Jo, hes putting the effort in. Hes coming in, putting in his work, conditioning. It takes a lot of conditioning to go up there, for a big to chase down all the balls. Hes doing it and his confidencethats all I could say; in this league, all you need is confidenceand thats what he definitely has.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Jamal Mayers discuss the bottom six carrying the Blackhawks to a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Later, Mayers weighs in on possible targets with the NHL trade deadline just six weeks away.

Listen to the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast below:

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

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In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."