Noah Comes on Strong Again Though Bulls Lose


May 3

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BOSTON–The Bulls didn’t win the playoff series with the Boston Celtics. But it looks like they may have found a center. No, maybe not Shaq. But perhaps at least in the Tom Boerwinkle, Clifford Ray, Nate Thurmond genre, good enough to seriously compete with.

Joakim Noah, a question mark since being drafted No. 9 overall in 2007 with issues with teammates, an apparent lack of conditioning and questionable attitude, emerged in this series as a keeper for the Bulls.

With 15 rebounds in the Game 7 loss, Noah ended up the leading rebounder in the series with 13.1 per game. It was the third consecutive game Noah had at least 15 rebounds, thus getting better as the series progressed. He even delivered a hard foul on Boston pest Rajon Rondo that had Rondo stretched out from some time, though Rondo seemingly was trying to extend the moment.

Noah also had two more blocks and concluded the first round third among all playoff NBA rebounders behind only Dwight Howard and Carlos Boozer and fourth in blocked shots behind Kendrick Perkins, teammate Tyrus Thomas and Howard.

Noah’s emergence is a boost to the Bulls and their never ending search for a center. It hardly seems Noah ever will be a low post threat. But his activity and hustle suggests the kind of player he was billed to be coming out of college and give the team the chance to seemingly fill the two most difficult positions, point guard with Derrick Rose and center with Noah.

It seems likely the team will consider options regarding the power forward position as coach Vinny Del Negro again didn’t use Thomas much and often favored smaller lineups without Thomas. You could play with two hustling inside players who’ll set screens and rebound and block shots and devote your scoring to your perimeter players. But the belief now is the Bulls may want to upgrade to a more offensive option to play alongside Noah.

“I feel like I know what I have to do to get better as a player,” said Noah. Obviously, I have to get stronger. Kendrick Perkins was really strong out there. He was pushing me around too much. I feel like I have a lot of strength to gain in the offseason, especially in my lower body. Get better offensively. Maybe get some right hooks and left hooks. Work on that. I feel I have a ways to go with that.

“It’s going to take a lot of hard work this offseason because I feel we have an opportunity to do something good with this unit if the Bulls decide to keep it in tact,” said Noah. “I feel like I learned a lot from this playoff experience. Even during the tough times. It makes me who I am, the good times and bad times

“The thing that’s hard now is the season’s over, Noah said. “That’s always tough. I think we have a chance to do something special. It’s hard right now because we had so many opportunities. Even today we had so many opportunities to win this game. Guys want to win real bad. It’s hard it’s over just like that. We had so many great moments the last two weeks.”

Noah is expected to play for the French national team this summer in a commitment which could last four to six weeks. Luol Deng is slated to play for Great Britain, but that’s in question with his stress fracture. Deng still says he’s not sure what will happen. Ben Gordon also could play for Great Britain, and said, “I’m on deck. I don’t know if it’s going to be this summer or the summer after that. I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen with my contract situation.”

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