Surrounded by small children at the Major Adams Community Center, walking distance from the United Center, aside from his seven-foot height, Bulls’ All-Star center Joakim Noah fit right in.
Noah, whose Noah’s Arc Foundation regularly hosts events at the facility, was in town Friday to announce an anti-violence initiative in Chicago and aired a public-service announcement which also featured teammate Derrick Rose. But while the focus of the day was off the court, Noah did address his occupation, beginning with the Bulls’ active offseason.
“I’m really excited. I think Gar [Forman, the Bulls’ general manager] and ‘Pax’ [John Paxson, the Bulls’ executive vice president], they did a really good job. It just makes you want to work hard and be ready as possible for the upcoming season,” he said. “Even when we sucked, I always felt like we had championship aspirations. I don’t go into a game thinking we’re going to lose, ever. I don’t care who we play against. But obviously, we feel like there’s a lot of things that go into it. You’ve got to be lucky, the chemistry has to be great. A lot of things need to go your way to win a championship. So we feel like we’ve dealt with a lot of adversity and I think that adversity is going to help us in the long run because our team is hungry, our team is working—it’s the middle of the summer and guys are working out every day—and only time will tell, but it’s exciting.”
One of the reasons for Noah’s optimism is the arrival of veteran big man Pau Gasol, whom his new teammate helped recruit in Los Angeles during the early stages of NBA free agency.
“I think it’s going to be great and Pau is somebody who’s very, very smart. His father is a doctor, I think. He’s somebody who comes with a lot of experience,” Noah said about Gasol. “Not just a great player, but somebody who cares about the community, as well. So I’m excited to see him help us, as well. Try to slow down the violence and help the kids out here in Chicago. It’s very humbling to play with somebody who’s won championships and his pedigree, he’s somebody I can really learn from.”
Noah also spoke about the aforementioned Rose’s progress in recovering from his second major knee injury and subsequent surgery.
“I’m really proud of him because he sacrificed his whole summer. He sacrificed a lot to be the best that he can and that’s all you can do. People’s expectations, all that stuff doesn’t matter,” Noah explained. “I’m proud of him for putting in the work that he put in to be in the best position possible and he’s doing a lot of things. He’s helping us out, too, with our foundation and I have nothing but love for him.”
As for his own health, Noah, who quietly had knee surgery after the season, said he’s doing well, as exhibited by dunking in the community center’s gym.
“Rehabbing every day. Usually, I go out a lot more and really don’t do anything the first month and a half after the season. But I had to start rehabbing right away and I think that it all goes together,” he said. “I think that the better we do on the court, the bigger our foundation gets and the more work we can do in the community. So I know that they go hand in hand, but all this stuff that we’re doing in the community gives me strength. It makes me feel like playing for more than just winning and losing.”
A major part of the Bulls’ free-agency strategy, Noah also reflected on the organization’s failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony.
“No, I think he did the right decision for him. We obviously recruited him pretty hard, but I think that he had to make the best decision for him and I’m really excited about our team the way it is,” Noah said. “I think we’re deeper and I think those are things that—me personally, I can’t control where another man goes—so if he feels that New York is the best position for him, I’m happy for him. But at the end of the day, what I care about is this city and the Chicago Bulls.”
The league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year also shared his thoughts on LeBron James’ return to Cleveland.
“Good for LeBron. I’m happy for LeBron James. He gets to go home and people are happy over there, but I really hope that we can kick his [expletive] as many times as possible,” Noah quipped.