“I want to take on everybody.”
That’s the pull quote for the article ESPN The Magazine’s Molly Knight wrote about Joakim Noah. For the article — which really is a must-read for Noah fans, by the way — Knight visited Jo’s house, was put through “a series of physical and emotional tests” by Noah himself (seriously), and finally got to do an interview with Chicago’s crazy-haired center.
By all accounts, Noah is a goofball and an amateur comedian. But that pull quote? He wasn’t kidding around. The dude is completely serious. He wants to take on everybody.
Noah left the University of Florida after helping lead the Gators to back-to-back NCAA titles. And remember: his stock was so high after the first national championship that he probably could have declared for the 2006 NBA draft and been chosen first or second. Instead, he made a pact with teammates Al Horford and Corey Brewer to return for a crack at another title.
And they did it.
Noah was a winner out of the box, but some people were scratching their heads when the Bulls selected him with the ninth overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft. He didn’t really fit the team’s immediate needs (which were for a low post scorer or an athletic two guard who could defend and create shots). And let’s face it: He looked and acted a bit like a clown.
Said Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey: “When they picked him and how he showed up looking like he did, I thought, This is a joke,” recalls the . “He looked like a big goof. I thought he was soft, I thought he shoots like a little kid. My impression was that all this passion everyone talked about was a lot of energy signifying nothing.”
Noah’s rookie season was rough. He was late for some practices. He got into a verbal altercation with then-assistant coach Ron Adams, which earned him a one-game suspension from the team, which his teammates then voted to increase to two games. (A confused Noah said, “I didn’t know players could suspend each other.”) He got into a spat or two with then-teammate Ben Wallace. Worst of all, he just wasn’t playing all that well.
By the time he was arrested for marijuana possession in May of 2008, people were calling him a bust. Now, just a couple years later, Noah has signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension with the Bulls, who apparently refused to include him in a trade for superstar Carmelo Anthony.
My how times have changed.
Last season — despite a nagging case of plantar fasciitis — Noah transformed into one of the best centers in the league…although anybody who watched his steal-and-dunk against the defending champion Celtics during the 2009 playoffs will tell you the transformation began before that. And now, advanced metrics tell us that, despite conventional wisdom, Noah’s energy and intangibles (not to mention very real basketball skills) are worth more than ‘Melo’s scoring if you think in terms of wins and losses.
And that’s what really matters, right?
Having Noah around is like a promise to Bulls fans for a wild and crazy ride. Let’s enjoy it.
The Bulls have waived guards John Lucas III, Kyle Weaver, and forward Roger Powell, reducing their active roster to 13. According to John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times, Kyle Korver (ankle cyst) and Noah might play in tonight’s preseason finale against the Pacers at the United Center. If you’re a fan of lady pyramids, check out this commercialof Derrick Rose’s signature shoe, the Adidas AdiZero.