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updated: 10/3/2012 7:18 PM

Bulls' Noah tutored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in off-season

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  • Bulls center Joakim Noah took advantage of working with former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the offseason.

       Bulls center Joakim Noah took advantage of working with former Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the offseason.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Kareem Abdul Jabbar

      Kareem Abdul Jabbar
    Associated Press

  • Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the leading scorer in NBA history.

      Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the leading scorer in NBA history.
    Associated Press

 

As one of the Bulls' most popular players, Joakim Noah no doubt receives plenty of invitations during the summer -- but there was one he couldn't refuse.

He spent two weeks working with legendary center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles.

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Asked what sort of connection led to this opportunity, Noah wasn't even sure.

"I don't know. He reached out to some of my people and it was just an unbelievable two weeks, being able to work out with him," Noah said Wednesday at the Berto Center. "Very humbling."

Noah and Abdul-Jabbar have plenty in common. Both 7-footers essentially grew up in Manhattan, then headed to a warmer climate for college and won multiple NCAA titles -- Kareem at UCLA and Noah for Florida.

When drafted by the Bulls in 2007, Noah was infamous for his sideways-spinning jumper, but his offensive skills have improved every year. He averaged 10.2 points last season.

"I've been working on every part of my game," he said. "I feel a lot more polished offensively. You work with (Kareem) and obviously people think, 'He's going to come back with a sky hook.'

"Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. I'll tell you what, at 65 years old, his sky hook is still nice."

So, maybe Taj Gibson was a little off when he suggested that Noah unleash the sky hook during Tuesday's initial practice of training camp.

"He tried to, but I was able to block it," Gibson claimed.

Noah took more than hook shot lessons during the time he spent with Abdul-Jabbar. The NBA's all-time leading scorer was soft-spoken during most of his career, but he was something of a rebel when it came to training and preparation, refusing to tape his ankles because he felt it put more stress on the knees.

"It was great learning about his routine and things he did to get prepared for a season," Noah said. "He's somebody who did a lot of yoga and somebody who was very involved in the community. Just spending a little time with him was cool. His knowledge is unbelievable."

While working with Abdul-Jabbar was a nice bonus, Noah is disappointed he skipped playing in the Olympics for France. He backed out because of a lingering ankle injury that he suffered in Game 3 of the Philadelphia playoff series.

"We had to fight really hard just to get to the Olympics," Noah said. "We qualified at the Euro championships the year before in Lithuania. That was no easy task. It was very disappointing to me, but I knew it was the right decision."

Noah said his left ankle, which turned sideways at a right angle when he stepped on the foot of ex-Sixers forward Andre Iguodala, didn't feel 100 percent until three weeks ago.

"Ankle rehab is something I'm going to have to do the rest of my career," he said.

Noah played in all but two games last season until missing the final three playoffs contests with the sprained ankle. Backup center Omer Asik jumped to Houston this summer, so the Bulls could use some Abdul-Jabbar-style durability from their big man.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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