The man: Joakim Noah.
The numbers: 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
It was the first triple-double by a Bulls center since Artis Gilmore had 35 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocked shots on December 20, 1977.
Yeah. I’d say Noah is back.
Said Noah: “Obviously it’s a very humbling accomplishment. But we’re playing for more than that.”
All that and humble too.
If January was a tough month for Noah — and it was — February has been a revival. In 12 games, Jo averaged 11.3 PPG and 11.0 RPG while shooting a solid 53 percent from the field and fantastic 81 percent from the line (he went 7-for-7 on freebies last night). He’s also had five double-doubles.
What’s more: Last night’s 10-assists game bested his previous season-high of 7 from January 30.
Said Noah: “The only reason I was able to do it was because they were trying to get the ball out of Derrick’s hands.”
Again with the humility. On the other hand, his teammates don’t have to be humble about Noah’s accomplishment.
Said Rose: “He’s just like a guard, where he’s making great plays passing it to the corners.”
Added Luol Deng: “For a big man, he’s great at making decisions coming down the floor. A lot of big men will get a little hesitant having the ball in their hand, but he’s comfortable with it.”
That’s the thing about Noah. He’s comfortable doing pretty much anything on a basketball court as long as it contributes to winning. Scoring, rebounding, passing, defending, even taking it coast-to-coast on occasion. He is, simply put, a complete player. Maybe not great in any one statistical category — if only because “desire” and “heart” aren’t included in box scores — but he is a classic “Jack Of All Trades” kind of guy.
The triple-double was only part of the story. Jo energized his team and the home crowd with hustle and effort…and demoralized the Bucks in the process. It was nearly enough to erase the memory of his zero-point effort against the Nets a few days back.
Said Carlos Boozer: “He’s been a man child. You guys have seen the same thing I’ve been seeing. Dominating the boards, protecting the paint, passing the ball, scoring the ball, his offense has been phenomenal. Finishing every play. Obviously, great energy like normal. But he’s been playing like a man child.”
Speaking of Boozer, he and Noah have been playing much better together as of late, something that hasn’t always been the case. Carlos finished with a team-high 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting to go with 7 boards and 3 assists.
Having those two men playing well together is going to be absolutely vital come playoff time.
After all, it really is about the big picture with this team, isn’t it? We know they’re good. We know they’re going to win a lot of games. So the question is: Can they make it to the NBA Finals and win a championship?
The Bulls haven’t been healthy all season…and they’ve still been among the league’s best teams. And assuming Rip Hamilton and C.J. Watson are healthy and ready to go after the All-Star break, we could finally see this team start playing at full strength.
Things are going to get really interesting really soon.