Chicago has had the eyes of the NBA world on it since the start of the season. The much-hyped return of Derrick Rose and his subsequent loss to another knee injury; the trade of Luol Deng; the catch and release of Andrew Bynum, and now the talk of tanking have kept the attention on the city. Through all of that, the Bulls have marched forward.
Rose’s injury put forth a series of actions by management that brought some pain to players and fans alike. Now that Deng is gone, everyone fears a wholesale change and the thought of who is next is running through the Berto Center.
Amidst all this, the team has played respectable ball. While they are no longer considered contenders, they sport a decent 18-19 record, winning 9 of their last 12 games. They are just a game out of the fourth seed in the conference.
A large part of the reason for the good play is the strong leadership displayed by Joakim Noah. The emotional leader ever since he was drafted by the Bulls in 2007, he has taken the mantle as the face of the team (at least until we see who will be on the roster next season).
Noah represents the city well-a tough, hard-nosed player who gives it his all in everything he does.
When asked about the tanking situation, he answered in the way a true Chicagoan would want.
“We’re just going to give it everything we’ve got-there’s no tanking. When people in Chicago say, ‘Chicago Bulls,’ I want them to be proud of that. Even if there’s four guys hurt, no matter who’s out, we’re going to give 150 percent, win or lose. I know people in this city are proud of that….It’s just … that’s not a real fan to me. You know what I’m saying? You want your team to lose? What is that? But it’s all good.”
On Wednesday in Orlando, Noah played 49 minutes, scored 26 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, dished out 6 assists, and got 2 blocked shots and 2 steals. I heard he also sold some popcorn at halftime.
Playing for coach Tom Thibodeau, whose style is also grind-it-out, play 100% every single game, Noah has found a kindred spirit. “We play for a coach that’s… it’s difficult. It’s difficult every day. We grind hard every day, and we give it our best effort every day.”
Noah is the kind of leader every fan should want. He leaves everything he has out on the court every game and expects the same from his teammates. It is a pleasure to have a player like him during this down time. Let’s hope that next season management can surround him with a team that can reward him and the fans for standing by the team.