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updated: 3/9/2014 7:22 PM

Noah provides just the right imbalance for Bulls

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  • Miami's Michael Beasley goes up for a shot during the fourth quarter Sunday, but Bulls center Joakim Noah has other ideas. Noah finished with 5 blocks.

      Miami's Michael Beasley goes up for a shot during the fourth quarter Sunday, but Bulls center Joakim Noah has other ideas. Noah finished with 5 blocks.
    Associated Press

 
 

When Doug Collins coached the Bulls, he talked about NBA players who imbalance the court.

They did big things at a small size or were big guys with point-guard skills or were unique in some other manner.

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Joakim Noah is that player for the Bulls these days.

The Bulls' center has developed enough versatility to imbalance the court.

Noah is a conglomerate of Bulls players of the past: He can pass like Tom Boerwinkle, rebound like Dennis Rodman and when asked even play 94 feet of defense like Horace Grant.

At 6-feet-7, Scottie Pippen was a point forward on six Bulls championship teams. At 6-11, Noah is a point center on this Bulls team.

Noah isn't the offensive threat at center that Artis Gilmore was for the Bulls, but he has incorporated some nice moves in the lane to go with that goshawful midrange jumper that goes in more often than it should.

"They feature him more (now)," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday in the United Center. "He's always had that skill set."

As often has been the case this season, Noah's all-around game was on display as the Bulls beat the Heat 95-88 in overtime.

Noah scored 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He compiled 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocks. He switched on defense to help hold LeBron James to 17 points on 8-of-23 shooting.

But statistics don't explain how Noah imbalances the court in the Bulls' favor. His fire does.

"I don't know what we would do without him," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "He's a great leader. He puts his team on his back every night."

That's how it looked on this night, uh, make it afternoon. When the Bulls seemed ready to fall off the horse, Noah reminded them how to ride.

The Heat went ahead by 12 points late in the third quarter, and the Bulls could have quit against the NBA's defending champions.

Joakim Noah doesn't quit, however, especially not with his father, tennis great Yannick Noah, in the building.

So Noah kept doing what he always does as his dad kept cheering him on: He hustled, trash-talked the Heat, barked at game officials and fought for every inch of respect possible.

"He's one of the best big men we have in the game," James said. "We have to respect him offensively and defensively."

If there's anything that resembles the Bulls' premier role model of all -- Michael Jordan, of course -- it's Noah's refusal to accept defeat.

Regardless of the score, Noah is maniacal on the court. He tries to be everywhere that the Bulls need him and wants to do everything they need.

James referenced "the Chicago Bulls' style of basketball" and described it as "tough, hard-nosed … you have to be ready to play the game no matter who is on the floor (for the Bulls)."

Grinding is the only way the Bulls can compete with Miami. They are without Derrick Rose (injured) and Luol Deng (traded), and the Heat is trying to win a third straight NBA title.

History indicates that the Bulls can stay with Miami during the regular season but not during the postseason.

Still, it's doubtful the Heat would want to play the Bulls in the playoffs. Miami would prevail, but the series would be a slugfest for however long it lasted.

The reason for the hard knocks? Mostly Noah pinballing around the court for 48 minutes or longer to set the tone.

He isn't the league's "M-V-P!" as fans chanted Sunday, and he isn't even an all-NBA center.

But Joakim Noah does imbalance the court for the Bulls.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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