"Every time I do his workout," Joakim Noah said. "He always makes me do things that I didn't think we're possible."
No, the All-Star center wasn't talking about grueling individual session at the Berto Center with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. But scenic locale aside — it took place in beautiful Malibu, Calif. — Noah's rigorous training with surfing legend Laird Hamilton was just as demanding as any series of drills his coach could have put in front of him.
Noah has frequently discussed his summer work with Hamilton, but on Saturday's premiere episode of the revamped "NBA Inside Stuff" — airing weekly on NBA TV, the updated version of the classic Saturday-morning basketball show is now co-hosted by recently-retired NBA player Grant Hill, instead of the iconic Ahmad Rashad — fans can get a glimpse of what the workouts entail. Included is swimming underwater with weights — and without breathing, as detailed by an exchange between Noah and Hamilton.
Hamilton, very matter-of-fact, instructed Noah, "So, the next (drill) will be no breath on that side."
Noah, pleadingly, responded, "I need a breath, bro."
Hamilton deadpanned back, "You don't. You don't need one. It's overrated."
Finally, Noah, talking to the camera and apparently out of Hamilton's earshot, replied: "Breathing is very underrated."
All jokes aside, Noah spoke almost reverentially of Hamilton, especially when you consider the charismatic center's appreciation for uniqueness.
"I started this training a couple years ago, when I met Laird. Laura's crazy. He's a freak of nature," Noah explained. "He was the one who started the whole big-wave surfing thing. There were big-wave surfers, but there were areas where people didn't think it was possible and he made it possible."
With that type of background, it makes it easy to understand why Noah has embraced the training.
"I think part of the reason why I'm able to push him is because, first of all, I wouldn't subject him to anything I wouldn't implement for myself, so I'm coming from a real, genuine point of view," Hamilton said. "We always say, 'Do what you can't do, so you can do what you want to do.'"
Noah has clearly taken Hamilton's advice to heart and coupled with the practical nature of the training, which reduces potential aggravation to the plantar fasciitis that's plagued him during his NBA career, it appears that he's in it for the long haul.
"Very different type of training. It's great for your cardio, and you can also work on your explosive training with no impact. There's a lot of pounding in what we do with basketball, so just being able to train like this, it's perfect," Noah explained. "This is a perfect workout for me. I'm going to do this for my whole career, and I think it's going to help me a lot.
"When you're underwater and you're exhausted, and you know you have a ways to go and you can't get that air, it kind of reminds me of just being really, really tired at the end of a game," he continued. "It gives you so much appreciation for breathing."
It certainly isn't conventional — when it comes to the free-spirited Noah, little is — but if it can help the high-energy center play at a high level and preserve his health, something that's already been an issue at this early juncture of the season, it might be worth Bulls fans taking a closer look.