Finally Noah Talks Of His ‘Brother,’ ‘No Tanking’ And Making A City Proud

VIDEO: Bulls keep rolling, drop ‘Cats

CHICAGO – Joakim Noah, rocked by the Chicago Bulls’ trade of teammate Luol Deng more than the rest, needed a minute, as they say, to collect his thoughts. He needed more than 7,000 minutes as it turned out, putting off the inquiring minds and prying eyes for five days and eight possible media sessions in the aftermath of Monday’s late-night, team-jolting transaction.

Finally, near the end Saturday night, Noah shared his feelings. One of the league’s most emotional players spoke softly, sometimes haltingly. This wasn’t just about basketball.

“The trade definitely hurt. But we’ve got to move on,” Noah said, sitting at his dressing stall after the Bulls’ 103-97 victory over Charlotte at United Center. “I feel confident in this team. We’re working really hard. A lot of people say this is a business and all that. This game is more than a business to me. I put everything I got into this. So … I feel like Lu is the same way, so it was hard for me to digest. That’s just my perspective.

“Everybody has a job. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not mad at the organization or anything like that. It’s just, my brother’s not here no more.

“I just needed a little bit of time to digest that.”

The passion Noah brings to his “job” separates him from some of the league’s clock-punchers. The meaning he finds in its essence, the bonds and the friendships, are dialed up for the Bulls center a little more than most. Lots of players accept, grudgingly or not, the “it’s a business” outlook because it offers a shred of Kevlar when dealings, like this one, turn rough.

Noah works without a vest.

“We’re just going to go out there and give it everything we’ve got. There’s no tanking. There’s no … None of that,” he said, with a little defiance. “We’re going to go out there and give 150 percent and when people say ‘Chicago Bulls,’ I want people in Chicago to be proud of that. Even if there’s four guys hurt, guys are hurting, no matter who’s out…”

The Bulls (17-18) won for the fifth consecutive time and have taken eight of 10, creeping up on the No. 4 seed in the East. They’re winning with the likes of D.J. Augustin and Tony Snell where Derrick Rose and Deng used to be, with Mike Dunleavy taking on Deng’s starting role and a 10-day pickup like Cartier Martin chipping in 11 points and 26 minutes barely 24 hours after his arrival.

Noah scored 19 points with 14 rebounds, a human Taser again with the energy zap, orchestrating the Bulls’ attack out top like he had tuxedo tails and a baton. In his last six games, Noah has averaged 12.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists. The three since Deng was sent packing to Cleveland? No dip whatsoever.

“All this adversity just makes me stronger,” Noah said. “It just makes me stronger as a person and as a player. I’ve never been so hungry. We’ve been through a lot. Derrick’s injury was really hard. Lu not being here is really hard. But we’re going to go out there. Like I said, there’s no tank in this team, and we’re going to go out there and really make this city proud.”

Some of the bigger-picture stuff, like coach Tom Thibodeau‘s strategic adjustments, management’s grand plan and how the changes in the team might impact Noah’s vision, he wasn’t ready to tackle. Asked, for instance, if he felt the Bulls’ front office still was trying to win, he said: “Yep. Yep. I think so. I don’t have to be happy with the decision that they made. Everybody has a job to do. … I wanted him to stay but I’ve got to live with it.”

Does he understand why Deng, who will be a free agent this summer, was dealt once he turned down a reported three-year, $30 million extension offer, the triggered pulled now rather than losing him for nothing in the summer?

“Uh, it’s hard to say. Because at the end of the day, that’s my brother,” Noah said. “He’s not here anymore. That’s how I see it. They see the game differently. They’re not out there on the court. They’re not out there on the plane. They don’t know how much Lu meant to me personally.”

Looking beyond this season, with the uncertainty over Rose’s health and level of play, Deng’s absence, amnesty speculation about forward Carlos Boozer and the slamming of this group’s window as a contender, was Noah getting a sense of their sudden new world?

“I’m not there. I’m not there,” he said. “That’s not my job. All I can do is help this team stay focused on the next day, the task at hand. Be out there on the court. Be a good leader. Keep everybody’s energy levels high.”

But then, just in case management had some lottery dreams, more crafty maneuvers and added overhauls in mind, Noah threw up a deft block. He essentially offered up his mission statement on Chicago basketball. No advanced analytics or clinical assessment of “expiring assets” welcome, thank you.

“This is a city that, when I come to the game, I see the guy selling newspapers on the street, it’s cold outside,” Noah said. “When he sees me driving by, he’s excited. You know what I mean? He’s excited, he’s like, ‘Let’s go Bulls, get it done tonight!’ I feel like I play for that guy.

“When I look at the top of the arena and Thibs is about to call timeout, I look up top and see a guy who looks this big [tiny], and he’s up cheering, jumping up and down, that’s the guy I play for.

“That’s what the city represents. There’s a lot of hardship here, a lot of adversity in this city. And I feel like whenever I play basketball, I want people to be proud of their team.”

32 Comments

  1. Im now a big Noah fan! :-)

  2. demagofrak says:

    count on noah to always cry in a public way and denigrate tough decisions, superstar when he can take any demagogic opportunist position to make him a so cool nice tourmented rebel

  3. #BullsFAnDAN says:

    Thanks Jo for making us so proud! You are the man. You hustle every game. Go Bulls! #Bulllsforlife

  4. PRDGi says:

    This is why I enjoy watching the Bulls. They are a team of heart, hustle, and muscle. Sure, they don’t have the top talent like LBJ, KD, and other superstars, but they sure are fun to watch! The Eastern Conference seems to be picking it up after a lousy start to the season, so I can’t wait to see how the seeding will turn out for the Playoffs. However, I’m still betting on the Heat/Pacers in the Conference Finals again.

  5. jaet says:

    Tell me what is the different between Bulls with and without Deng (don’t count Noah’s broken heart, please) ?? With Lu or without him Bulls are still to good to be in lottery and to bad, to be a contender. Bulls FO made a right decision, even if some fans don’t understand the purpose. BTW, did you see Sacto-Cavs game ? Sacto pick and Cavs swap could be more valuable than it seems to you.

  6. jumppong says:

    all heart Men.. for Noah

  7. Art says:

    How easy managers can brainwash fans! They started spreading the dirt rumor that Deng requested 15M per year. Now it’s about clearing some space. So Bulls could have this space if Deng agreed for $10M per year but couldn’t if he requested 11M?
    Don’t you still understand that Deng was traded for money? Bulls probably will not receive 1st round pick at all.
    How Noah feel about that? Should he tell the whole truth? To people who trust GarPax?
    Do you really care about Bulls? Ask Jerry Reinsdorf to sell the team to someone who needs success more than money. Loudly.

  8. cbulls13 says:

    I believe the “we need to tank” people are mostly just gloryhunters (aka bandwagoners). They don’t pay to see the games , they are not from the city of Chicago, they DO NOT love the game.

    Time for the “we need to” people (either “tank” or “resign Nate”) people to hop on some other team’s bandwagon or stfu.

    besides… we would bever be bad enough to be “riggin for Wiggins” or “sorry for Jabbari”. Would be mission impossible even if the management tried it.

    Love you Noah, Love you Bulls.

    • St. Lou says:

      It was a miracle to get the first overall in Rose’s year. Seems like the tank crowd is betting on lightening striking twice.

  9. Mario says:

    Joakim is one of the most versitile big men we have in the nba today! But his offense needs to get better! But seriously the way im feeling right now the bulls have to rebuild! I say keep Joakim, Taj, and Rose! Maybe Jimmy, but still not all the way sold on him just yet! And def amnesty Boozer’s sorry self! Never has been worth 80 + million and

    he never will! We’re gona have to take chances

    • Mario says:

      By taking a chance I mean wit the draft picks we’ve aquired, and through free agency! Im sorry Chicago! Im born and raised here! But thats just the way it is!

  10. Salim /Merciful1 says:

    There is no dignity in tanking! Great article.

  11. Patty says:

    I respect Noah’s friendship with Luol Deng.

    Noah, no matter what the Bulls’s organization feels and do, Luol Deng and you will always be brothers. They will never take that away. Donot allow the Bulls to take Your Joy away!!!

  12. Rags to Riches says:

    Any NBA player wants to resurrect their career? Just sign with the Chicago Bulls, they will mould you into perfection and worthy of a lucrative contract,just ask the likes of Korver, Bellinelli, Watson, Asik, Lucas III, Nate and now Agustin who weeks ago was unemployed. And for Noah from now on I will call him LIONHEART!

  13. kazyrules says:

    What a beast! Jo – We love you man. You are the heart and soul of the Bulls! We need to win a championship and I want the poster with you holding up that trophy! Get beast, get it!

  14. Bird33 says:

    He’s my kinda player…old school in his loyalty and effort. Go Bulls!

  15. Fred says:

    Jo’s thoughts were inspirational and explain to Bull’s fans everywhere why the Bulls succeed even under adverse conditions. His emotional leadership is unequaled. Keep Thibs and Jo on the same page and the Bulls will continue to be fun to watch.

  16. fernando says:

    no tanking for the Bulls, Jo said it, we’ll be competing in april

  17. Dee says:

    We’ll said Jo… Play for us Jo. Play for us…

  18. okc2014 says:

    This article, along with Noah’s public statements in it, remind me of the after game interviews. Everyone speaks very general, saying all the “right” and positive things. I respect Noah and the Chicago Bulls. But I don’t think Noah “told it like it was” at all. Okay, this was his official public statement. I would love to be fly on a wall and here what he really thinks and says about all this. And I doubt it would resemble this article at all. I’m sure him and Deng have had private conversations and feelings and thoughts shared. But ultimately I agree with his statement that he wants to move on and start winning again for the Bulls no matter what. . He’s a good guy, a good spokesperson for the Bulls, a professional, and a great basketball player. Go Noah, Go Chicago

  19. OKC2014 says:

    This article, along with Noah’s public statements in it, remind me of the after game interviews. Everyone speaks very general, saying all the “right” and positive things. I respect Noah and the Chicago Bulls. But I don’t think Noah “told it like it was” at all. Okay, this was his official public statement. I would love to be fly on a wall and here what he really thinks and says about all this. And I doubt it would resemble this article at all. I’m sure him and Deng have had private conversations and feelings and thoughts shared. But ultimately I agree with his statement that he wants to move on and start winning again for the Bulls no matter what. . He’s a good guy, a good spokesperson for the Bulls, a professional, and a great basketball player. Go Noah, Go Chicago.

  20. Richard says:

    Noah has the biggest heart in the league! I was at last nights game and the bulls look better sadly since the trade. Something is clicking and its on all 4 cyclinders!

  21. Boris says:

    Noah WHAT A PLAYER!!! We love you too Joakim. Keep it up.

  22. Boris says:

    Noah WHAT A PLAYER!!!

  23. philippinesluvnba says:

    i’m not happy that the bulls giving up deng is a best player in the nba now and a great defender. so why they trade him for bynum, bynum is not healty 100% like when he is in the lakers. just like greg oden in the miami heat. bad desicion

  24. Vincent says:

    Tell it like it is Joakim, some things are bigger than business.

  25. NIKO M says:

    Ever since I was a kid Im a die-hard Chicago Bulls Fan, from the Jordan Era, to the Hinrich-Gordon era, and up to the Drose era. I really like the group of Rose-Deng-Boozer-Noah..unfortunately the team needs to clear some space so they traded Deng..All I can say is, Keep your heads up high team!! We still got Capt.Kirk , Jimmy Buckets, Boozer and Noah! The whole city of Chicago got your back! and even the fans around the world roots for you! Bulls all the way!

  26. Timothy Bladel says:

    Either tank or the newspaper guy won’t be cheering for a champion anytime soon.

  27. Timothy Bladel says:

    Trade everyone not willing to tank. We need another star, or the newspaper guy isn’t going to be cheering for a champion anytime soon.

  28. HoopDreams says:

    That’s why we love Noah here in Chicago!!! Go Bulls!!

  29. dustydreamnz says:

    The Bulls are doing better but I still think they’re going to battle. The starting 5 is decent but there’s not much on the bench.