OAKLANDConverse to the beginning of last season, when Joakim Noah was both a league-leading rebounding machine and a legitimate scoring threat, the Bulls centers impact on the floor has been much less prominent in the teams first two games.
Noah didnt reach double figures in either the dramatic Christmas Day comeback win over the Lakers (although he was limited by foul trouble) or Mondays troubling loss to the Warriors. However, dont expect the fifth-year pro to complain.
I feel good, said Noah, in a nod to the health issues that bothered him last season. I feel like Ive been working on my game all season. I feel prepared. I know what my role is on this team, so Im just trying to stay positive and when my number is called, be as ready as possible.
When asked to evaluate Noah, his coach offered both measured praise and criticism.
Some good, some not-so-good, Tom Thibodeau explained after the teams practice at the Warriors facility in downtown Oakland, prior to leaving for Sacramento, where they will visit the Kings on Thursday. Its like our whole team right now.
I thought he was active in the last game. I want him to be who he is. I think hes playing really good defense. His defense has really come around. His rebounding was better in the last game, but offensively, I want him to run the floor more. I think he can outrun people and hes a guy who can get us some easy buckets, so I want to take advantage of that.
Indeed, Noahs speed and ability to run the floor when compared to most of the leagues centers gives the Bulls an added benefit in transition, as does his offensive rebounding, when hes finishing effectively around the basket. Like Thibodeau, Noah is more concerned with the Bulls surprising lack of effort against Golden State, one of the rare times the typically highly-motivated squad appeared to rest on its laurels.
Im hoping that it gets better with time, but weve just got to compete harder than weve been competing. It was a great win against the Lakers, but weve still got to improve and play better than we have, defensively and offensively, he said. The more you play together, the better youre going to be and even though were on this team that played a lot of games together, that training camp is to put everything back into place. Were still a work in progress and weve got a lot of work to do.
I think we just need to keep grinding, keep a positive attitude and understand that teams are very good in the NBA, and its not because were the Chicago Bulls that were going to win games. Weve just got to go out there and get better. Losing the way we lost to Golden State, the effort we put out there wasnt very good. Its on us to bounce back and I think well do that, he continued. I think, underdog or not, it doesnt matter. Weve still got to go out there and compete. I think that we can compete harder.