Noah Works Through Wide Range Of Emotions Of Losing ‘Pooh’

Dealing with Derrick Rose's injury has been a big challenge for Joakim Noah. (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dealing with Derrick Rose’s injury has been a big challenge for Joakim Noah. (Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

MILWAUKEEDerrick Rose‘s second season-ending injury was a gut punch to the entire Chicago Bulls’ Nation. Among the players, though, no one seemed to be hit harder or stay doubled-over longer than Joakim Noah, the emotional center of that team in both senses of the term.

“I want to win with Derrick Rose,” Noah had said not long after “Pooh,” his point guard and pal, went down with a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. “…Him going down was just, it was really hard for me, hard for us. But we have to move on, and it’s not easy.”

It wasn’t easy for Noah and the Bulls to snatch back a game from the Bucks Friday night in Milwaukee, but they got it done. And Noah’s performance was the brightest thing about it, a sign that finally, he was back from the darkness of Rose’s sad absence.

The frenetic 28-year-old big man whose game is as intense as his face is expressive played his best game of the season, scoring 21 points with 18 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks to help Chicago to its one-point victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Noah saved his best for last, with 10 points, seven boards, two steals and all three swats in the fourth quarter, a period in which the Bucks shot 6-for-15, the other Bulls shot 6-for-15 and Noah hit five of six.

And when he was done scoring he really got busy: Swarming Milwaukee’s Gary Neal in a two-man trap with Mike Dunleavy and 19.2 seconds left, their team down 90-88 and most definitely not trying to foul. Noah got the tie-up, then won the jump ball over the seven-inches-shorter Neal, setting up Dunleavy’s extra-oomph 3-pointer – off the glass – to win it.

The Bucks inbounded with 5.8 seconds to go and O.J. Mayo raced upcourt, hero ball in mind. Jimmy Butler chased, funneling him just enough so Noah could step in from Mayo’s right to block that final attempt. The late loss, former Buck Dunleavy, the Milwaukee arena inverting cheers and boos with all the Bulls fans in the house – it was too much for some of the rankled Bucks to take afterward.

But it was fine, and high time, for Noah and his coach, Tom Thibodeau.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Noah said. “When you’re playing shorthanded, every game is a battle. It’s never easy. Just got to keep fighting. Stay strong. Tonight the basketball gods were on our side. We feel like they haven’t been. In a while.”

They had been 6-4, with Rose finally returned from his 17-month layoff (left knee ACL surgery), his rust flaking off, and Noah playing his way back after an October lost to a groin strain. Then disaster struck again, relatively speaking anyway, in Portland on Nov. 22.

The Bulls had lost eight of their 10 games since then, till Friday, and even if Noah was getting back physically, he suddenly was reeling emotionally. In the first five games after Rose went down, Noah – an All-Star last season – averaged just 8.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Chicago’s offense, obviously, got turned inside out – Luol Deng and Butler got or already were hurt, too, and Noah had a minor knee setback – but so did their spirits.

“I just think we’re all human,” Noah said late in the visitors’ dressing room Friday. “We’ve been through a lot this year. I was talking about it with Dunleavy. It’s crazy how level-headed he is every day. Comes with the same mindset, same mentality. Whether you win or lose, he’s the same. Derrick’s like that.

“I’m the complete opposite. I’m an emotional roller-coaster. You know what I’m saying? I’ve got to try to do a better job of dealing with my highs and my lows and try to be more consistent with the next play, moving on, things like that.”

Noah said there was no epiphany for him, no self-directed pep talk to get him over the hump in dealing with Rose’s loss. “Just got to find a way,” he said. “The games keep coming and people really don’t care about your well-being and how you feel mentally, things like that. So you’ve just got to go out there and get it done.”

Seeing the hated – for him, anyway – Miami Heat on Dec. 5 at United Center seemed to help, the electrodes of that East rival zapping some life back into Noah’s game (17 points, 15 rebounds) in the Bulls’ blowout victory. Otherwise, it’s just been time and Noah adjusting to the stark reality facing them all. They face it again Saturday night, wrapping up their back-to-back at home against Toronto (8 ET, League Pass).

“We’ve been through it for three years, and Jo is an emotional guy,” Thibodeau said. “But we talk about, there’s three parts of getting ready: The mental, the physical and the emotional. What you think and how you think really controls the emotional part of it.

“With his energy right now, it unites our team. It inspires our team. You make tough plays like that [tie-up], that gets the whole team going. So we were all disappointed, y’know, Derrick with the injury. But I think the belief and the challenge, moving forward with this team, we’re all excited about it.”

Players, teammates, friends, they’ve been getting there on different schedules. Noah looked Friday like he finally arrived.

14 Comments

  1. Bird33 says:

    LOL to Team3peat – the slip cover on your seat told me the C’s will be back in the finals within 5 years. I think I’ll listen to the slip cover – it actually watches the whole game ha ha ha . 3peat?? In your dreams, little man, in your dreams hee hee

    Indiana is going to pound Miami into dust in the paint :-)

    • spursfan2112 says:

      And then the Spurs win the West! Indiana Pacers-Spurs Rematch!!!! That I would see with Larry Bird at the Presidents chair!!

  2. RS says:

    I don’t know why, but I feel lke this Joakim Noah is behaving like a child, desperately wanting to win the NBA title. Grow up, man! If you need a superstar to win, then maybe you’re not meant to be a champion. What a wimp!

  3. theaandthea says:

    i’m not even a bulls fan and i feel the sadness and frustration of the bulls players and fans. really tough for the fans. the real ones, who are 100 % with the bulls since rose, and before, without infidelity. those who will stay quiet
    and of course rose, i’m not talking about him but obviously he has to deal with a lot

  4. freddy says:

    boo hoo….every team faced injury….Portland, LA, OKC, T Wolves….these guys need to quite crying and keep winning.

  5. Bird33 says:

    TT is a fantastic coach – I was really sad he left the C’s but was very happy to see him get the head coach job. Bulls fans are very lucky to have Noah – what grit, effort and talent. The guy wears his heart on his sleeve and leaves 150% on the floor every night. I’m rooting for the Bulls (unless they’re playing a team in green :-) to go as far as they can. Very sad to see Rose go down, too bad they traded the spark plug (Nate). Let’s hope Tom T, Jo, Lou, Kirk and the boys can give Miami a tough time along the way. The Bulls fans deserve it. Bulls fans actually show up BEFORE the game starts and stay till the end.

    In Miami, they’ve had to put white slip covers on the seats to make it look like the fans arrived before the opening tip in order to fool the television audience. On the plus side, the slip covers know more about basketball then the bandwagon…I mean Heat fans LOL.

    • Team3peat says:

      Are you mad bro!! Ten years is long time to stay mad. Yeah Thats how long it will take your celts to make the playoff.

      • Denholm says:

        watch them make the playoffs this year without pierce or garnett.. because they are a well coached, no egos team.

    • Mr. Hustle says:

      Nate left through free agency because he wasn’t gonna get
      minutes because Rose was coming back he wasn’t traded proves how much
      YOU know about basketball

  6. okc2014 says:

    Nobody but the Bulls (and maybe OKC) understands what Noah and this team are going through. What a tough time they have had. It’s not fair.

    • Another Heat Fan says:

      erm…what?
      i’m sure greg oden and the trail blazers understand…
      i’m sure kobe and the lakers understand…
      i’m sure tmac, yao ming, and the rockets understand…

    • Copycat Kobe says:

      Btw sam bowie, Larry johnson, terell brandon, penny hardaway, grant hill and a few more are shaking their heads right now

  7. This is emotional for Joakim Noah