When word leaked that Joakim Noah had spent time over the summer working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and master of the skyhook — there was some rather eager anticipation regarding just what Noah learned from the legend. Specifically: Would Jo start dropping skyhooks this season?
The answer: Maybe…but probably not that many.
Noah’s words courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I feel a lot more polished offensively. I worked with Kareem for a couple of weeks, but just because I worked with Kareem doesn’t mean I’m going to be throwing skyhooks from everywhere. I feel like I learned a lot from him, someone who has an unbelievable knowledge for the game and very interesting guy.
“But you know how it is — you work with him and people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to come back with a skyhook.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.”
No. It really doesn’t work like that.
When people hear that somebody has spent time in the offseason working with and being tutored by a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or a Hakeem Olajuwon, they often expect a dramatic makeover in the pupils’s game.
A basketball player’s overall game isn’t created overnight, nor can it be changed overnight. The player might learn a couple new moves or how to better prepare for a game. But it’s more about tweaking than overhauling.
Two weeks with Kareem isn’t going to transform Noah into a 15-20 PPG player. A more reasonable hope — considering Rose will likely miss most of the season and therefore his shot attempts will be redistributed — is for Noah to score in the 12-14 PPG range. Although he’ll likely do that in a variety of ways, as he’s always done, including fastbreak dunks/layups, putbacks from offensive rebounds, the occasional post move and a jump shot here or there.
Kareem spent years and years honing and perfecting his footwork, body control, and, yes, his skyhook. Noah has had, what, a couple months to work with the knowledge Kareem shared? And, by Noah’s own admission, he hasn’t gotten much full-strength on-court work in due to recovery from his ankle injury:
“I’ve been trying to do stuff on the court the whole summer but I feel like I was able to go on the court 100 percent maybe three weeks ago, about a month ago. Just staying on it, working on it all the time. Just doing ankle rehab; it’s something that I think I’m going to have to do the rest of my career.”
Personally, I can’t wait to see Jo unleash a skyhook, and I’m really hoping to see an improvement in some of the little facets that comprise a post game (footwork, positioning, and so on). But I’m not expecting an extreme makeover.