Noah at the center of it all for Bulls
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There are many reasons lately for why Bulls center Joakim Noah has been charged up. The Bulls have won 10 of their last 14 games, and Noah is the biggest reason for that.
Joakim Noah's string of 12 consecutive games with double-figure rebounds is the longest of his career. But perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the energetic center has led the Bulls in assists four times during that stretch.
"Joakim is doing just about everything. Laundry, everything," coach Tom Thibodeau joked after Saturday's victory over Philadelphia. "You can't play any better than he is playing right now."
Noah is doing just about everything for the Bulls these days and is the biggest reason they've won 10 of 14 games despite losing Derrick Rose to a knee injury and trading away Luol Deng.
He always sets the tone for the Bulls through his energy and intensity. His defense is invaluable because few 7-footers in NBA history can match his lateral quickness. Now he has added improved passing to his arsenal.
After beating the Sixers, Noah made a telling statement about his health. He missed most of training camp with a groin injury and has been plagued by plantar fasciitis throughout his career.
"I haven't felt healthy like this in a long time," he said. "My feet don't hurt. My body's feeling good."
Thibodeau repeatedly has stressed how missing training camp was tough to overcome, and Noah agreed.
"I think I put in a lot of work in the summertime," Noah said. "The third day of camp, I got hurt. It was a weird injury, groin, I had never had that before. It was an unfortunate setback. I feel like it's all coming together."
Noah does have a decent chance of being selected for his second straight All-Star Game. But here's a different question: Is this the best stretch of Noah's seven-year NBA career?
During the past 10 games, Noah is averaging 13.9 points, 14.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists. Here are some other contenders for his best performance:
•Feb. 28-March 21, 2013: These were the last 10 games before he sat down with plantar fasciitis last season. He averaged 14.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
•Jan. 30-Feb. 16, 2012: This one started about a month into the lockout-shortened season. Noah produced 13.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
•First 10 games of the 2010-11 season: Bulls fans will recall this was while newcomer Carlos Boozer was sidelined with a broken hand and started the shaky claim Noah and Boozer didn't play well together. Noah was at 15.4 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists in this stretch.
•Last 10 games of 2009-10, including the first-round playoff series vs. Cleveland: This was one of the first times Noah showed what he's made of by asking the perpetual question, "What's cool about Cleveland?", getting booed and outplaying Shaquille O'Neal in the short series. Noah averaged 15.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Assessment: Noah is clearly passing the ball better than he ever has in his career, a skill that has improved with experience. Also, the stats demonstrate this is the best rebounding of Noah's time in the NBA.
Scoring, Noah has done better. He has been decent lately, but the tornado jumper kind of slid off his list of weapons during his injury downtime last season. He hasn't rebuilt the confidence in the midrange shot, which can make the Bulls' pick-and-roll offense even more effective.
Of course, with his assist total growing, Noah is responsible for more points than ever.
"He's been winning us games," teammate Jimmy Butler said. "That's what Jo's been doing, on both ends of the floor. He's been huge -- leadership role, energy he brings, making shots, defending, passing the ball. He's an all-star. He's playing like it."
Added Thibodeau: "To me, he is playing as well as any big in the league. The big thing he's doing right now is making quicker decisions, which is helping our offense a lot."
•Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.
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